I just spent the last three months on sabbatical. It’s an amazing benefit, and I honestly still can’t believe it’s something I got to do. If you want to catch up on how I spent my sabbatical, you can use the menu above – just click on Sabbatical and see all the sabbatical posts! It’s desperately boring, but don’t let that stop you.

I came into the office today, even though I don’t start back until Monday, because I just spent three months out of the office, and I have to reacclimate. Some of it is hooking up my computer again (I took my laptop home with me and set up a non-work user profile, so I never saw email and work Slack), and some of it is sitting in my chair in the middle of the room and just sort of slowly twirling around. I had a folder set up to catch all incoming email during my time away, and I just deleted all 2,267 emails I got. I cleared out Slack, replying back to a few people and dipping my toe back into the firehose.

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don’t you smile at me you devil

I had some plans for my sabbatical. After speaking to a lot of people who had already taken theirs, and hearing a lot of different advice, I wanted to shoot for things that I actually wanted to do, and would be reasonably able to do — as a parent, I take kids to school and I pick kids up from school. I make dinners and help pack lunches — being absent would be untenable. So, my plans therefore needed to be something I could do during the school day, and be the type of thing I like. I settled on a plan of reading, painting, and learning to ski. We didn’t get much snow yet (although the local ski place does have snow), so I haven’t skiied yet (spoiler alert). I may still work on that on my flex days. I did, however, read and paint. I read 34 books on my Kindle, and the same 6 books to Grant at bedtime every night. I painted two small paintings and the kitchen, which were vastly different undertakings.

Here’s one painting (first in progress, then finished):



Here’s part of the painted kitchen:


It’s lavender and white; very soothing.

The highlights of the sabbatical were trips — we went to Lake Placid, Hawaii, and Hamilton (the show, not Ontario (sob)). Again, check out the sabbatical menu item to dig into those things more.

I learned some things about myself on this sabbatical. Here goes:

Sleep. I don’t sleep enough. Not even close. I could sleep 40 hours a day and still get a solid 8 hours that night. I don’t fall asleep very easily, and I typically can’t go back to sleep once I’ve gotten up. I’m fine on 6 hours, but more is nicer.

Anxiety. I already knew that I have it, because I’ve been getting medicated for it for awhile, but stepping away from work didn’t change my anxiety one bit. There’s something almost calming knowing that work isn’t adding to your anxiety! Unfortunately, that means that something else is. Something that actually added my anxiety (and I realize this is the worst first world problem) is disappointing people with my sabbatical plans. Sitting around reading is a let down for a lot of people, even if it’s my perfect day. I ended up not telling most people that I was on sabbatical.

Children. I love my kids, but I remembered that I fundamentally and irrevocably changed when I had them. I will never be who I was at 29, beyond emotional and intelligent growth; my baseline stress level will never be lower than it is on a “good enough” day. The person who I am now doesn’t have it all together all the time, and isn’t comfortable without being in control. Messes make me anxious and general disorder makes me antsy. Not being able to hold my kids’ hands at school when they’re having a bad day makes me irritable.

Motivation. I need clear projects to tackle and accomplish. Without something to plan, start, work through, and complete, I feel depressed. It could be reading a book, or watching all the Harry Potters, or painting the kitchen. I unpacked a lot of our house during my sabbatical, and I made friends with the people at the dump. None of that was on my list to do over my sabbatical, but I also couldn’t sit still with those things hovering, waiting for someone to take them on.

Inspiration. I thought I’d paint more; I really love it. One of the (many) reasons I’m not a professional artist is that I don’t do it if I’m not in that mindset. On the other hand, I found myself doing things that surprised me, like breaking down all the cardboard boxes and taking them to be recycled. That isn’t me. Or, that isn’t part of who I thought I was. I didn’t expect to campaign for someone running for Congress. I didn’t expect to leave Bob and the kids at home and go out to a bar to watch the midterm results. I didn’t expect to do crafts with the kids (I even bought a glue gun!). And yet. With extra time, I found myself feeling inspired.

Children (reprise). I was able to spend more quality time with my kids. The time we spent together was gratifying, a lot of the time (they were ingrate wretches part of the time too, but that’s normal). Henry and Eleanor are interesting and complex, and they only get more so each day. Henry struggles with his emotions, but has started making firm friends. Eleanor is a smart ass who can’t always focus. We celebrated their birthday and they tried new things at school. Grant was hospitalized for surgery and got hand foot mouth during my sabbatical (bookending it, as it so happens). He is our little beastie boy who will smother you with a hug or possibly smash you with a table leg — it depends what’s on hand. He wants to shoot hoops constantly and his giggle is the most infectious thing about him (which, if you’ve been around HFM, is really saying something).

Self. As I said, I learned a lot about myself. I forgot for a long time who I have inside. When I became a mother, that became my dominant personality trait, even though it’s not one that’s easy or natural for me. It’s a struggle to be eternally patient and to know what to do even a quarter of the time. You figure it out, and it gets easier, but it is a difficult personality to assume when you mostly want to sit quietly and be introspective. For a long time, I was either a mother, a wife, or an Automattician. I think we caught glimmers of more, from time to time, but I found it hard or impossible to nurture other interests when I invested so wholly in parenting. I’m not saying I wish I weren’t a parent (I don’t wish that; I’d never wish them away), but I am saying I wish I had known better how to balance it. Mothering is still my dominant personality (it’s probably at around 80%), but now I know that I can grow my other selves. I can be less single-dimensional. This is basically exactly like the end of The Breakfast Club.

“But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain … and an athlete … and a basket case … a princess … and a criminal.”

I found that I’m someone who hauls stuff to the dump. I move heavy stuff around the house. I do laundry. I cook. I clean. I go to rallies. I read 30 books. I paint. I adopt kittens. I day trip. I dye my hair pink. I give myself permission to try more things, and to be more.

More Hamilton

Since I’ve still got Hamilton ringing in my ears, I thought I’d go on a bit on my thoughts about it. Unfortunately, I’m not particularly knowledgeable about theatre (ditto music), so my thoughts are likely cringingly naive — I’m ok with that. Read on at your discretion.


The show is amazing, and I loved it. The music is enjoyably complex – you can understand it at a first pass, but with each subsequent pass you learn more and hear more and it continues to add depth and provides chiaroscuro for the characters. “Alexander Hamilton” starts out with a few bars that could be military march, or a reinterpretation of the Imperial March, and then slides in with what — to me — sounds like the opening to a tango. Then within a few notes, it becomes rap. It neatly sums up what you might be able to expect; war, refinement, grit and determination.

The opening number also (obviously) introduces Alexander Hamilton. It tells his story, or rather Aaron Burr tells it, with help from the rest of the cast, which sets up Burr’s role as occasional narrator to the audience. I’m not well versed enough in theatre to point out antecedents in this role, so the only one that comes to mind is Puck from a Midsummer Night’s Dream. However, Burr’s narration is more inner-monologue than direct address. The opening also summarizes who Alexander Hamilton is before he arrives in New York, and then gives a broad overview of the rest of the play and each character’s involvement with Hamilton. Importantly, everything swirls around Hamilton, as it does again later during Hurricane; call it foreshadowing and some neat parallelism — that is, Hamilton on his way up vs Hamilton on his way down.

Speaking of parallelism, the closing song parallels the opening (Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story), and Eliza describes how she worked to establish Hamilton’s legacy. The songs bookend the entire show and carefully spell out every highlight.

Something else I liked quite a lot was how the cast was deployed. It’s a concise group with eleven in the ensemble (of the show we saw at least), which also covered the characters  Philip Schuyler (also James Reynolds and the Doctor), Samuel Seabury, Charles Lee, and George Eacker. What I liked the most was the re-use of principal characters. This might be common throughout theatre, but all I know is what I’ve seen and some Shakespeare, so to me it’s not common in modern shows. I really appreciated how in the beginning of What’d I Miss, Burr introduces Jefferson (previously Lafayette), by saying “You haven’t met him yet, you haven’t had the chance, cause he’s been kicking ass as the ambassador to France.” It’s very “ok, he looks familiar, but (wink) he’s someone you don’t know at all (wink), and here’s his name from here on out.” Loved it. Lafayette becomes Jefferson, Mulligan becomes Madison, Laurens becomes Philip Hamilton. There are additional re-uses, but these are big characters. There’s a little bit of changing one hat for another to achieve the effect, but they are such different characters style-wise (that is, singing/rapping/interacting with each other) as to truly be who they then are. John Laurens and Philip Hamilton are actually not that dissimilar, and both participate in a duel; there’s indeed something fitting about having Hamilton’s best friend later portray his beloved son. Similarly, there’s something devilishly delightful about Jefferson twisting the knife about Hamilton leaving Lafayette out in the wind, when Jefferson was previously Lafayette.

There was a lot of camaraderie fostered by the cast with the audience. King George encouraged a sing-along and was pompously ridiculous so everyone felt clearly indulgent with the indulgent king. George Washington emceed the cabinet debates — I mean battles — to the audience. When the Reynolds Pamphlet surfaced, the politicians crowded the edge of the stage to query the audience and the orchestra.

Two things I loved in the show that you don’t get just listening to the soundtrack was the hurricane in Hurricane, and the rewind scene in Satisfied. Particularly, Satisfied takes us back to the previous song and retells it from Angelica’s point of view (rather than Eliza’s), all in the middle of her maid of honor toast. It’s the best example of showing what a character is thinking during a particular moment that I’ve ever seen (although, again, limited experience). Similarly, in Hurricane, Hamilton compares his current predicament with the hurricane that hit his island when he was a boy, so we see the hurricane whirling around him in slow motion.

The ensemble is really extraordinary for how they effectively create appropriate connotation for each scene. Terrified soliders, check. Aggressive soldiers, check. Students, sailors, a hurricane, even the very bullet that kills Hamilton himself; check, check, check. Their costumes are just enough of what you need to get the idea. They’re the watercolor sketch in the margin that leaves the impression you need to contextualize the moment.

And really, all that doesn’t even scratch the surface. What I really loved is that the show is much, much smarter than I am. I don’t feel like I have it’s number — it’s still entertaining me, it’s still making me think. Perhaps the intention is to cause people to remember the difficult and complicated Alexander Hamilton, but I personally have been fully enchanted by the work itself, and once more Alexander Hamilton comes second.

Lucky Seven

Tuesday, Nov 1, 2011


Thursday, Nov 1, 2012


Friday, November 1, 2013


Saturday, November 1, 2014


Sunday, November 1, 2015


Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Wednesday, November 1, 2017


Thursday, November 1, 2018


Seven! When I was pregnant with Henry and Eleanor, someone told me that in his culture, it was very lucky to have twins, and to have boy/girl twins was the luckiest of all. Seven is supposed to be a lucky number, auspicious in several cultures; it is also a prime number. The past year with these two has been amazing and wonderful — they’ve grown up a lot, but still take wonder in everything. They’re a fun and (dare I say) easy age. They work hard, and they screw up sometimes, but they try. They care deeply for each other and those around them. One example: while trick-or-treating last night, a little girl dropped her candy bag and lost a bunch of candy. It was dark and the kids were up a hill, and all the grownups were waiting down in the driveway. The little girl lost it. She started crying and screaming – she was really in a panic. Ele helped her pick up a little, and donated two of her own pieces of candy to the little girl’s bucket. She came down and told us what she had done, and skipped off to the next house. I’m very proud of both of these two, and I feel that they are lucky. They’re lucky to have each other, and they’re our lucky charms, because our life has been both incredibly hectic and at another level ever since they showed up on the scene all those years ago in 2011. The day they were born, those 15 minutes where a quiet Henry was joined by a squalling Eleanor, our entire world changed. We went from a family of two to a family of four in one fell swoop. Well, not fell — it was a marvelous change, not a savage one… although, in a way it was savage. Irrevocable, full of pain and fury, screaming, crushing, sudden. But it was all those things and also golden and mild, tender, loving, bewildering. A day of awe. And each day there have been moments of each ever since.

Tricky Diction

Guns are a blight.

A study in the American Journal of Medicine found that “Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the United States’ gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. And, even though the United States’ suicide rate is similar to other countries, the nation’s gun-related suicide rate is eight times higher than other high-income countries, researchers said.”1

The same study goes on to say that it has been found that when people expect their opponent to be armed, they’re more likely to respond with deadly force. Meaning, if you think someone has a gun, you’re more likely to attempt to kill them rather than incapacitate them.

The NRA is a massive problem. People assume that because the NRA doesn’t contribute much money directly to candidates, they don’t influence elections. This is at best naive, and at worst, purposefully oblivious. What the NRA does is independently spend money for candidates instead – to the tune of more than $145 million. They fear monger, as if there is actually something worse than the more than 12,000 gun deaths so far this year, or that there is something worse than the 533 children killed by guns so far this year. Or the more than 1,300 unintentional shootings so far this year. The number of gun deaths is rising every single year. The number of little kids killed by guns rises every year. The NRA would rather you believe you are in immenent danger unless you have a gun, but the reality is that the NRA wants a gun in every hand, and a bullet in every body.

People really like two arguments. One is that they like to hunt, and they should be able to have their guns, because they’re responsible. The other is that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. I’ll get to the second amendment.

Gun hunters don’t need guns. They want guns. They don’t need guns to hunt. If they genuinely enjoy hunting (or need to hunt for food), they can use a bow. There is no credible argument to complaining that they don’t like hunting with a bow, only with a gun. That means they like shooting a gun, not hunting.

Guns actually are killing people. Guns have killed nearly 70,000 Americans since 2014. 3,200 of those Americans are under the age of 11. I can think of a thousand dreadful things, and trading those children’s lives so you can own a gun is worse than all of them put together.

When people argue that if more people had guns, then we’d all be safer, what they’re saying is that we’re murdering the wrong people, and should definitely be murdering (to be clear), just different people. We should be murdering the people who we think have guns. Stand your ground! Get murdering! In order to legitimize guns, let’s just shift who’s in the crosshairs. When you argue for more guns, you’re advocating for specific people to be shot; not certain people you designate, but these other people who you would prefer to get shot – they should definitely get murdered.

More than 90% of Americans support gun reform, but we will never get it when politicians know that by publicly rejecting gun reform after mass shootings, the NRA will give them free advertising (most often by creating attack ads against any pro-gun reform opponents) during the next election. People are, by and large, idiots when it comes to TV. They are inclined to believe what their TV tells them. We know this because Fox News, which is actually designated an entertainment channel (not a news channel), is very popular. In the way that tabloids are very popular. Fox is accurate 10% of the time. Their stories are false or mostly false 59% of the time. The rest of the time, their stories are a mishmash of what suits them, true or false.

Gun reform is not about you. Gun reform is about us. When you say you should get to own a gun because of the second amendment, you’re being incredibly selfish. You’re saying you’d rather that 3200 little kids get shot with guns than you give up your gun, because that is the direct consequence of the system we have now. We’ve tried the old “everyone gets a gun just in case we need a milita again” thing for 242 years, and that genuinely isn’t working. Now, if we had mandatory military service for everyone who owns a gun, then we may be more in the spirit with the original amendment – which not a single person actually cares about. And we have a standing army. It’s enormous, you all. $600 billion a year enormous. We don’t actually need all of you with your guns to come a-running (and frankly, if your argument is that you will protect us with your dumb guns in an emergency, you’re doing a terrible job – you’ve failed 70,000 times in 5 years). Further, if you believe that the government gets it right every single time (that is, the second amendment is sacrosanct), you are saying it was right when it said people of color weren’t people, and that women were too dumb to vote. Those are things we’ve had to change, that the government decided once. This is another of those things. And maybe you are a selfish racist misogynist! That might be your thing! It is certainly how I think of you, knowing you’d rather have your gun – which again, is the reason that babies are dying – than vote for anyone who supports gun reform.

Continue reading “Tricky Diction”

The best show in town

On Friday nights, we put the kids to bed, open a bottle of wine, and take turns picking songs for hours. Sometimes, we riff off the other person’s choice (maybe the same time period, maybe the same theme), and other times we make a sharp break with what came before. We strictly alternate, and don’t reveal what we are going to play ahead of time. The hours fly by as we talk and argue about songs and music and musicians. We play whatever we are in the mood for, and no one has veto power. Here’s this past Friday’s playlist, when all was said and done.

Shooting the moon (Ok Go)
Lose yourself (Eminem)
Telephone (Lady Gaga, feat Beyonce)
Wouldn’t it be nice (The Beach Boys)
God only knows (The Beach Boys)
She’s a rainbow (The Rolling Stones)
Wish you were here (Pink Floyd)
Positively Fourth Street (Bob Dylan)
Suspicious Minds (Elvis)
Wonderful Tonight (Cream)
Unchained Melody (Elvis)
Juke box blues (Reese Witherspoon)
The sound of silence (Disturbed)
Leaving it up to you (George Ezra)
Landslide (Smashing Pumpkins)
I still believe (Frank Turner)
Superstition (Stevie Nicks)
Good Times Bad Times (Led Zepplin)
Layla (Eric Clapton)
Ophelia (the band)
Bridge over troubled waters (Simon and Garfunkel)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (R E.M.)
Where the streets have no name (U2)
Sugar we’re going down (Fall Out Boy)
Say it ain’t so (Weezer)
Army (Ben Folds Five)
Innocent (our lady peace)
I’ve just seen a face (The Beatles)
Good Riddance (time of our lives) (Green Day)
Seven Nation army (The White Stripes)
Once in a lifetime (talking heads)
I’m gonna be (500 miles) (The Proclaimers)
Into the mystic (Van Morrison)
Evangeline (Emmy Lou Harris feat The Band)
Long back veil (Dave Matthews Band)
Country road (Jack Johnson)
Living on a prayer (Bon Jovi)
Are you gonna be my girl (Jet)
The unforgiven (Metallica)
Hey ya (Outkast)

Grant’s surgery

Grant went in to Oishei for his tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, and ear tubes today (or, as those in the know call it, a T/A/Tubes).

He was ok with the waiting area. He was annoyed by the vitals area. He was happy again in the pre-op room. And then we waited. It seemed to take forever, but it was about 2 hours. It typically takes 45 minutes. The doctor and one nurse said his tonsils were “humongous.” He struggled to come out of anesthesia, in part because he had two doses of morphine, for some reason, and in part because the pneumonia is apparently back. So he struggled to metabolize the anesthesia. I cuddled him on his recovery room bed, and he drooled all over me.

He refused Motrin, but gladly drank several sippies of juice. He fought off falling back asleep, once we were able to go to his real room, but eventually he couldn’t hold out any longer.

If his pulse ox stays up, we will be able to go home tomorrow.