Monday, July 24, 2017

Hot Water

Our hot water heater went out on Friday. This sucks, obviously. I'm not psyched about spending money on a hot water heater and installation. Unexpected expenses make me feel a level of out of control that always makes me cry. And I don't enjoy the extra time it takes to boil water so I can take a bath in one inch of water. Neither do I enjoy heating up water on the stove to wash dishes. But, as things that interrupt our routines tend to do, it causes me to think.

I ponder a full tub of hot water, a full sink, water as it had poured before over dishes to rinse them. How much water is it? How much water do we use? How much do we need? I mean, really need?

I think about this video I watched about people having water delivered by a bus driver who volunteers her extra time to bring the water. I think about the shortage, about the damage to water. I think about getting by with 7 gallons of cold water for a week. I think about the connection between women and water. We are the water bearers. I think about our society's treatment of women drought really any wonder?

I think about waste and water and how good it feels to be clean. How powerful and able I feel when I'm clean. How organized and calm my mind feels when the house is clean and organized. And how I don't work to make this happen, not really. I do the cleaning, sure. But I'm not the one out protecting our water.

I think how the timing of this is bad because I just left my job and so our family income is down. But then the timing is good because it's not winter when the water comes from the tap just barely above freezing. It's good timing because we'd just washed all the laundry. I'd just washed the floors. It's good timing because it's easy enough to walk to the rec center, swim and shower afterwards.

I think about the value of spending time boiling water and the considerations I gave to how full to fill the pot. I think how carefully I have to walk with a full pot of water in my hands, lest a drop sloshes out and burns my foot or worse, my kid's. But neither do I wish to waste the energy heating a half full pot. I fill it and take careful steps, tighten my core and take tiny penguin steps, making sure the kids are out of my path. I rinse dishes in one pot's worth, carefully planning which to rinse and wash first to keep the water cleanest the longest.

I consider whether this inconvenience need truly impact my happiness. What truly matters in making a happy life? What level of convenience do I need? It's nice to have big, clean spaces but is it what builds my life into a happy whole? I suspect not. I suspect what makes life grand is more than hot water that's boiled or not, more than clean floors. It must have something to do with wind in my hair and sun on my legs. Or time listening and touching. It must have to do with time spent on a rocker and friendship and conversation. It must have something to do with deliberation, even if it's over something like boiling water and taking penguin steps to the bath.

I feel calmer sometimes after doing these tasks, taking this time, thinking about small things and big things and how they are sometimes the same. I feel like it's valuable to think about the things we use daily. Our lives are a wonder compared to most other points in human history. Hot water can just pour and pour. Until it can't. I think.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Stop Licking That Author Reading in Denver on June 10!

Stop Licking That Author Reading in Denver on June 10!

Who: Parents, grandparents, readers, kids
There will be a separate simultaneous story time for kids so adults can enjoy the interactive reading
When: Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 10:30 AM.
What: Listen to excerpts from my new novel, Stop Licking that in a gorgeous, hip bookstore in Denver. I'll share tips like ways to use duct tape on your toddler's winter wear, and why to teach your kids to blow snot rockets. We'll play a game of telephone and maybe, just maybe, play SuperVALLEY Girl Says!
Signed copies available at the event.
  • 1 (303) 455-1527
  • 4353 Tennyson St.
    Denver, CO 80212

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Blue that shows through

You have to spray away the muck when you can. This morning I washed the car on my way into the office. I pulled under the white and blue painted concrete and lifted the nozzle to spray away all the grime of the past weeks. Mountain cars get a special level of dirty and return quickly to that state.
And yet.

As I sprayed away the grime, I saw the flaws it filled in for. The dirt was over the nicks and marks of rocks that have chipped away at the burgundy paint. A scrape here or there from where the kids dragged a stick along the side body, suddenly glares in the sun, freshly exposed. One of the fog light covers, a perfect sphere, without the mud, its cracks scatter the promise of clarity.

I rest the muscles of my hand for a moment, releasing the grip on the hose, considering whether I could repaint the car myself this summer. Nevermind the many more pressing chores on my list of things I won't get done, I wonder about this one. I could paint the car. A vision of papered over windows and carefully taped pieces flits and I imagine spraying paint, renewing the car's exterior. I imagine us as those people who can keep things nice. The ones who take on projects and keep their yards free of clutter, the ones who refinish furniture and keep annotated baby books. At times I regret how we can't be those people who meticulously care for things, keeping organized stacks and shelves, de-cluttered counters and clean shower stalls. We have a light bulb that's covered by a sarong for one of our light fixtures. We just aren't that.

I think of a woman who lived next door to us when I was a kid. She rented the house with her 3 kids who were often dirty. I don't remember her name. I don't know why I remember her wearing jean shorts. I remember her Gremlin changing colors though. One day it was blue and then she came outside in her jean-shorts and taped paper over the windshield and passenger windows, followed by the rear and driver's sides. She taped the wheels and then had a small handheld sprayer she used to paint the car white.

I think of white trash when I think of her, even though her kids were among my favorite in history to play with. We had a staple gun fight in the basement, followed by throwing matches we struck against the box at one another. Her daughter taught me about makeup and hairstyles and we watched MTV for hours. Her name was Cassandra and she knew dangerous things like how to throw a shawl of hair over your shoulder and disregard being called sharp words like "slut."

I watched their mom repaint that car and invented a boyfriend she was hiding out from. They'd run away from him and he'd never know it was them because she'd made the car white instead of blue. I always watched that car when she'd pull in at the end of the day and wondered if I really saw, or only remembered the blue showing through that white Gremlin's exterior.

I think of this as squeeze the handle and go back to spraying away the grime of our lives half-assedly. I won't paint the car. But maybe I'll get a new windshield. Maybe I'll look out through an unpitted, new windshield, and lie to myself about the cleanliness of our view.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Gomez's kidneys

When Gomez was 4 months old, he spiked a very fever in the middle of the night with no other cause. I called my mom to come over so we didn't have to wake Mars & take him to the ER with us. She came right over and off we went.

Gomez had no other symptoms. Just a high fever. So they sent us home and we followed up in the next day and week with trips to see his doctor and then specialists to find out what was going on.

It would turn out he had a kidney malformation of the ureters that caused a reflux that meant he would have chronic bladder and kidney infections. They put him on daily prophylactic antibiotics and waited to see if it would get better.

It didn't. So at 11 months, he had major kidney surgery.

Now I know many people who have kids with really serious illnesses and this is not that. All along we were fortunate and knew that this was a highly fixable and routine abnormality. I knew he'd be okay in time and with help.

Still, it's a lot to see your baby have his entire abdomen cut open. It's painful to watch your baby try to stand up and walk with 9 tubes coming out of him including an epidural. I'd never even had an epidural. It was terrifying to watch him not eat or drink because of the pain.

For the last 4 years, we've had ultrasounds for Gomez, first at four months to see how bad the reflux was, and again later at 10 months, then surgery, then more ultrasounds since to make sure the surgery was successful and to monitor the amount of scar tissue in his belly.

Every follow up ultrasound has come back with the doctor asking us to follow up in 6 months or a year. He's wanted to keep an eye on it. He's had concerns about the scar tissue.

This was the first one that Rob took Gomez in for. They got up and left the house at 7 this morning to take him to Denver to see how the scar tissue is doing, to be sure the ureters aren't leaking, to be sure he's okay. Meanwhile, Magnus and I had a special breakfast together at our favorite local spot. Then I dropped him at school, and went to work.

20 minutes ago, I got a text from Rob saying that Gomez is cleared. It's finally over. Gomez is fine.
I had no idea how much that little bit of worry existed. I didn't realize how much I worried that he could need to have additional surgery. I knew it was there but didn't think much of it, back there gnawing away at my stability until I read the text.

I literally can't stop crying from gratitude and relief. I think I might be worse at handling good news than bad news because I literally bawled at this news.

I wrote about his surgery in my book but the story wasn't really over until today. It's over. It's over. It's over.

What freakin' awesome news.

Amid my crying and celebrations, I received 2 additional texts from Rob.
#1 was a picture of the upcoming shows at a theater in Denver. We've been having an ongoing disagreement about whether you can refer to "Bone: Thugs in Harmony" as "Bone Thugs" which I argue is not okay and he says is. And they're coming to DENVER! So there was that picture.
#2 Gomez says his birthday is on the Fourth Bewakens.

So let's all celebrate by listening to bad 90s rap and eating cake. THE FOURTH BEWAKENS & I miss my uncle Charles, ya'll...

Monday, March 20, 2017

FREE Kindle copy Stop Licking That Today ONLY!

Stop Licking That is FREE today on Kindle. But it won't be for sale for long. I'm pulling it from the market after this week. Get it today while it's still available. (Also, Between Families is just $0.99.)
Here's the longer explanation. When I planned the release of this novel for spring, my schedule was set to be light. My plan was to promote this book during the spring and have it ready to rock as a great summer read.
Instead, my pay-the-bills full-time job has had me incredibly busy and I just can't promote this the way I'd like to. So that has meant treating this book as an afterthought and plopping some attention over to it now and again.
That's just not good enough. This book deserves my attention. It doesn't deserve to turn into a rotting fish tank which is sort of what it feels like could happen. See also the actual fish tank in my house which desperately needs a thorough clean.
In the interests of that, I'm going to pull it off the market temporarily until after graduation when I'll be able to devote more focused energies on writing & promoting. So, if you want the Kindle version, you can get it free today or for $2.99 the rest of this week. It'll go back up in summer when I can put it out on all platforms. The price will be higher. I'll send out another update when I'm up and running for summer. I will not pull the paperback. You can still buy that whenever you'd like.
Thanks for reading and understanding. I hope you get a copy while it's around and read and review it! And if you don't have time until summer, I certainly can't judge that! Because I don't either.
 And to thank you for reading this far, I'll tell you a funny story.
(Important info for this story: My husband's name is Rob. My dad is gay.)
SO last week I started having an autocorrect affair. It started with texting my mom. I texted her about Ron.
Her: Who's Ron?
Me: My LOVER!!!!
Her: Who's Ron?
Me: --...
Her: Who's Ron, your dad's boyfriend?
Me-OMG THAT"S SO FUNNY because that means my dad has stolen my autocorrect lover!
And then I picture an eye-rolling teenaged, snotty-cuss of a version of myself yelling "Jesus, Dad, I can't even have my own boyfriend!" *stomps down hall and slams door*
I did finally text her back to clarify who Ron is. No more mundane fake-lover that my dad is trying to steal.
Finally, my kids got 2 baby chicks to be kept at my mom's house. Their names? Sparkle & Fartrock. Happy Spring!
Peace y'all,

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

In the wake of recent attacks on St. Louis Jews

My heart is with all the Jewish families in St. Louis. I used to live right by the cemetery that was attacked and ran past it 4-5 times/week. I made my route in such a way in order to pass it twice. Passing it always made me feel connected and I often stopped there to stretch. I didn't mean to trivialize a sacred place by stretching there but to be present with so many lives that had passed, thinking of what they'd done. I was keenly aware that many of those stones likely represented holocaust survivors. And some were older and there's something comforting about things that have been in one place for a long time.

Running for me is where I use my body to slow my mind and think more clearly. It was vital to my overcoming seizures in my early twenties when I lived in U City. Each day, I had a goal to run and I did and I felt control over my body and my mind, when I was struggling to have control over either. I was in college and needed to get through a lot of academic material. I used running to process and brainstorm. I gained writing habits and routines that I use to this day, running there. I'm heartbroken and this was my minimal connection to the 170 gravestones that were maliciously knocked over. I can only imagine the feelings of those with loved ones there. And this on the heels of bomb threats to the J the week before. It's just too much.

Our loved ones we've lain to rest are sacred in our minds. This broke into a mental space and a physical one. It cracked into something sacred and that's unacceptable.

I remember when a high school friend was the victim of anti-semitism early on in college. She had gone away to school to a rural section of the state, outside of what I then thought of as the safe-haven of St. Louis. I was completely floored and incredulous that someone would target someone for being Jewish. I knew so many Jewish kids. They were in my honors classes, arguing their points about literature. Jewish holidays at school meant classrooms were emptied. It was noteworthy and taught me a lot about considering other people. Even now if I try to tease out all the people I know who are Jewish, I can't because they are so many and so large in my life.

I remember going to a Jewish cemetery in Prague and sitting down with the prayers all around, the mossy headstones stacked nearly atop one another, weighty with WWII even 50 years later. I remember touring a concentration camp and how embarrassed I was at the emotions that flooded me and that it took everything I had at 20 to hold back my tears and horror. I hid my tears but I could not hold them in, even when I was younger and "tougher."

I remember walking through the Anne Frank house and wanting to sit on the floor alone for hours. I remember late night talks with another high school friend about her trip to Israel where she was selected to go as a religious community leader. I remember my high school boyfriend going to Israel to serve in the army. I remember so many connections to this community.

I'm so, so grateful to have grown up parallel to such a vibrant Jewish community. To the Jewish community, I hope you feel the support of all of us who sat next to you and took prom pictures with you. I'm incredibly sorry to hear that anti-semitism is alive and exists at this level of powerful.

I know you though. I grew up with you. Together we are more powerful than they are. My thoughts, heart, tears, and prayers are with you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Stop Licking That, my new novel, FREE on Amazon today. Happy Valentine's Day!

Stop Licking That, my new memoir is FREE today on Amazon. Get your copy ASAP!

If you prefer paperback, you can order one below. It's not quite up on Amazon yet but soon...

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Kindle Version of Stop Licking That Out Today!

Stop Licking That came out today. Get your Kindle Version here.

Download a copy and help me get a fancy best-seller button, please!!

My friend sent me a yelling text where she was mad because she accidentally started reading it when she was supposed to be studying medical terminology. HA!

Praise for Stop Licking That (which is funny to type)

There were so many moments when I thought “yep, exactly. Written by a real mom and a damn funny person. I appreciated that “Stop Licking That” got serious too. Because those moments are important and deserve attention.
-Ruth Hendricks, Early Childhood Professional and mother of 2

As a Mom and Psychotherapist, “Stop Licking That!” is a must have.  Karin Mitchell tells the ridiculous and rash parts of parenting that are both hilariously honest and heart-wrenchingly truthful.  She tells the stories that every parent can relate to without feeling an ounce of shame. It’s refreshing to read about the same triumphs and disastrous fails we have all experienced on our adventure as parents. “Stop Licking That!” will absolutely be added to my shelf of must-have books!
-Sammy Charytoniuk, Licensed Professional Counselor and parent

“Karin has such a way with words. Reading this brought back that my friends and I, in High School, had licking contests. The essence of the game was to lick something your competitor was not willing to lick, like the game chickin, but with bacteria, disease, and filth being the epicenter. It was pretty foul, and hilarious. Also probably an explanation for why were often ill in high school.”
-Drew Mikita (AKA Chicken Licken), Associate Professor Psychology and doggy daddy

“I laughed out loud so hard my husband came up to ask me what was the matter.”
-Michelle Woods Pennisi, childbirth educator and doula and mother of 2

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

In response to Betsy Devos's Embarassing Purchase of Education and our Government

I sent the following letter the principal of the elementary school where my children go today.
Dear Educators at __________ Elementary School,

In my opinion, our senate did not demonstrate that they value what you have gone to school for, what you have studied, and what you know today by its sanctioning of Betsy Devos. My initial reaction was to want to pull my kids out of school and protest tomorrow. I wanted to drag my kids somewhere and post signs about what an embarrassment for us.

But upon further reflection, I believe a better idea is to tell you how much I value you and to continue to trust you with my children and their education.

The truth is, there are 8000 skills you've developed in the work you do. From teaching how to get 25 kids to put on their coats, boots, snowpants, mittens, and hats on, plus packing their back packs, to teaching them to resolve conflicts. You've taught kids how to decode a word for the first time and how to divine the author's intention in an entire selection. You teach them to create and play and kick a ball. You teach them manners. You teach them morals. You teach them to code and be aware of their thinking process as they solve problems. You have classroom management skills and interpersonal skills to deal with us, the parents.

All of you who put IDEA into action, hold a special place in my heart. For this law has truly made America better. Seeing a whole cross section of our society improve their outcomes has been the greatest gift of my professional life. Remember before IDEA? I don't. But I remember studying the institutionalization of children with disabilities and how parents were told that their children couldn't learn before the federal government required a Free Appropriate Public Education for ALL children. Seeing these kids who started with you, move on to's the right thing to move us forward as a nation. I don't care so much about how we score on standardized measures as I care how we treat those who needed our help. Did they get it?

I feel like at this school, they did. You implement this law on an ongoing basis and make our country better.

Our kiddos, you care for them and push rigor and expect things of them. You nurture the best parts of kids. ALL kids. What you do is the most important work there is. You raise the next generation.

Getting the required degrees impacts your ability to do this great task. I know how meaningful my degree continues to be 15 years after graduating with my undergraduate degree. What you choose to study and pursue and do, it impacts how you proceed through the world. And our district pushes teachers to pursue excellence. You tirelessly study how to be better at teaching and I value that. You attend ongoing teacher in services and earn master's degrees and participate in team coaching. These things matter.

It is important to me to try to do something additive after seeing this vote today. So I thought of who has touched my life most in the field of education and it is absolutely this school. So tomorrow, I'll send my kids there. Because I know teaching degrees matter. Public Education matters. Experience and expertise matter. And you have it.

Thank you. I value you.

And know if you need to commit to any sort of direct action in the future, that this parent will have your back.

With warmest respect,
Karin Mitchell

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What's YOUR sense of Humor?

In preparation for the launch of my new book, Stop Licking That, I thought I'd look at some types of humor. Stop Licking That, mostly has Life is Silly, Situation Distiller, & Potty Jokes I think. But what tickles YOUR funny bone?


Which style best matches your sense of humor?

Life is Silly, let’s laugh- You see the humor in the situation when you drop a full coffee on your boss’s toe.
Situation Distiller- You’re the one who cracks a joke when things start getting too serious or awkward and we all thank you for that.
Self-deprecating- You make fun of yourself to make people laugh. It’s worth it.
Junkpunch funny- you laugh at slapstick, whoopee cushions, and when someone gets hurt.
Punny- you laugh at this joke “Why don’t cannibals eat clowns?” “Because they taste funny!”
Seriously funny- You don’t smile or laugh at your own jokes and you slide them in at just the right time to catch others unawares and crack. Them. Up.
Smartipants- Your jokes are funny and you think of the unlikely, witty line that drives them home. Often timely jokes and sometimes political are your favorites.
Quirky- It just hits your funny bone and a few others and you can’t stop laughing. Meanwhile those who don’t get it watch on in confusion. You might like Salad Fingers or cult niche humor.
Potty jokes- seriously ya’ll, farts are funny
Jokes about others- you laugh the hardest while railing on your buddy. You don’t get offended if someone makes fun of you either (otherwise, it just makes you a dick.)
What Style is Stop Licking That? Read it and tell me! Preorder it here!
Click here to enter for a chance to win these rad books!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Last Day of 10 Days of Great Women

This last 10 days, I've highlighted the GREAT Americans I know who have fought for our progress as a nation. I specifically be looked at the women in my life who impacted my ability to see progress, women who have inspired me, women who have pushed me to be better.

So far, I've highlighted
And as I thought through who they each were, there were times when it mattered that they were female. But mostly, mostly, as I look at the list, and the attributes that caused me to inspect these women in the first place, it was not gender-based.

Every listing could have been male or female. The athletes, the teachers, the scientists... every last one is an example of an exemplary human. Every one of the people who inspired me, did so by deeply using some aspect of their humanity. They used their muscles and their minds. They used their drive and their ambition. They were true to themselves.

This is why being a feminist is really just believing that women are human, that they are deserving of equal rights and privileges, equal intellectual abilities and drives. That they are great humans who use their muscles and their minds to inspire people and lead great lives.

Great Women are Great People.

There have been hundreds of humans who have influenced me and pushed me to this point in my life. But today is not for them. Today is for the people who will press me forward into tomorrow.

And in honor of those who stand up for what is right, even when it's hard, especially when it's hard, today, the final day, Day 10 is for the Demonstrators.

Thank you for organizing, for driving, and donating, for having lengthy conversations during which you engage in point-by-point debate to move forward an agenda of betterment.

Demonstrators act on the belief that standing up is a patriotic act. Demonstrators seek to push our nation toward progress, toward greatness.

And that is why I have built this argument for you. You push forward ideas, you push forward equality, you demonstrate greatness. Whether you carry signs or make crafts with kids, whether you link arms or chant or write quietly. You act. You Change The World.

I'll see you tomorrow.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Day 9 of 10 Days of Great Women

Today, Day 9 of 10 Days of Great Women is for the Writers.

Few things have shaped me more, inspired my ambition, engaged my curiosity, and compelled my mind more than writers. I could list a hundred writers but my goal with this project has been to highlight people I've had direct contact with and whose work has impacted my ability to see progress, inspired me, and pushed me to be better.

So when I think of the women who have done this for me, I specifically think of Gina Sheridan. She was the first person I knew who blogged. Get this, I learned about it from knowing her on Myspace and it sparked an interest in writing again for me and pushed me to write regularly. I've never been a successful blogger and that's okay with me. Because I can put things here that I don't want to turn into a book. I learned that because of Gina.

I think of the way she's continually pushing people to respond with compassion, the way she engages with her community. But in this post, I name her because of her writing. I have enjoyed her writings about her childhood, silly blogs about her family, and the way she's shaped a book out of the best parts of working in a library. Most people would have written complaints, by accident they would have slipped in. But Gina set an intention with this book that was value based. She values the place a library holds for a community. And that value is in the book.

Through Gina, I met her sister, Kendra. She writes a sex blog that challenged my thinking. I had pretty traditional ideas about sex and monogamy but have always been interested in sex, so her blog was perfect for me. I'm open minded and her blog is well-written and mind-blowing. She tackles topics I'd never thought of and creates a community for people who are shirking societal stereotypes about sex. She has also been supportive and kind and I have appreciated learning the world through her eyes.

And it's important to mention that both of these women write very well. They use specific detail, great word choice, they choose interesting topics and bring great perspective to their writing. Their writing is the sort that's worth seeking out. And their support has meant the world to me.

So today is for you, Writers. Without women writers, our country and our community and our lives would not be what they are. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, your details, and your perspective.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Day 8 of 10 Days of Great Women

Yesterday got me thinking about listening. First there was the bit from my post about how much I value a doctor who listens to me. Then in a meeting at work, we were talking about the tendency of people to put a hand in front of their mouth while eating. In examining why young people do this we came up with a few things:

1. This may be nervousness at being in a different social situation while eating and an attempt to be polite.
2. We all do this when we're too excited to wait and start talking while eating in a restaurant.

This led me to think how I behave differently at a networking lunch vs. one with friends. I listen better at a networking lunch. I'm so excited to see my friends and family, that when we eat together, I am more likely to interrupt and have partial conversations.

But maybe I shouldn't do that. Because listening is so, so valuable. And I listen better at a networking lunch than with my most cherished people. That thought gives me pause.

I think of times when I've really listened to people, where instead of trying to impart something to them, I've sat back and tried to ask questions and make comments that spur them to continue talking. I think of how I gain from those experiences of not just remaining politely quiet for the other person's turn, but not having anything I myself want to say, so that I can just listen.

Then I think of the people who have done that for me. And these people hold a special place in my heart. At times they have been the unlikely relationships but the other person's timing and listening skills have let me get close to them.

I make friends frequently and quickly, but rarely do I get close to people. I'm excellent and shooting the shit and keeping things on a level where I've only shared things I would with most anyone. I'm not great at the deeper relationships anymore. It's something I lack in my life which has had an insular focus on my husband and kids these last years. And that's what happens when kids are little. But as my kids are getting older and more independent, I can see a hole opening up. A space where I need friends in my life.

So today, Day 8 of 10 Days of Great Women is for you, The Listeners.

The Listeners have found their way into me when I didn't have that hole open. They have been the improbable friendships and I'm so grateful to them.

I think of the running partner I had back in college in St. Louis. She was in her forties when I was in my twenties but she took a lot of time on runs to listen to me and provide direct and valuable feedback. She didn't dismiss my concerns or my problems but really listened. Plus she kicked my ass at running.

I think of the woman I work with who I was so afraid would be too socially conservative to like me but now is my greatest ally. She aslo showed me my own bias there as she's not at all socially conservative in the way that I assumed her to be. She was the first person I saw on my son's first day of Kindergarten and I cried and told her all about it even though I didn't yet know her well. She is a master of listening and this is what makes her great at helping students and what makes her a great friend.

I think of my mother-in-law who is particularly gifted at listening to you without making you feel judged. I've talked to her about big world issues and concerns about my own parenting as well as jokes. She listens to children which is also a special listening skill that I greatly value and respect. If you want to grow a plant, give it sun and water, if you want to grow a great human, give it love and your attention. Listeners like my MIL do this.

I think of my midwife. She was a great listener. I thank her for all the space and time she allowed us to talk and share that experience with her.

I think of my friend and doula who has shown up time and again to help me with my kids, and who has listened to the small daily trials of my life. I miss seeing her all the time and I'm so grateful for the years that we spent where we saw each other regularly.

Thank you, Listeners. Your ears create time and space for those of us who run HIGH energy to slow down and breathe and let out our stories, share our fears, and release our stresses. Today is for you and all the progress the space you create brings forth.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Day 7 of 10 Days of Great Women

In the final days leading up to the Women's Marches across the nation, I'll be highlighting the GREAT Americans I know who have fought for our progress as a nation. I'll specifically be looking toward the women in my life that have impacted my ability to see progress, women who have inspired me, women who have pushed me to be better.

When I was a kid, I remember going to the doctor and I remember that was a "man's" job. As I was growing up, stereotypes were being broken left and right. I was regularly told that I could be anything that I wanted to be and I absolutely believed that. My parents put forth great effort to make sure I knew I was smart so I knew one day I could grow up to be a woman and a doctor.

But knowing something is possible isn't the same as seeing that it's the norm.

English has a pronoun problem that I learned about from listening to people refer to professions. They used to all be referred to as "he." Here's what I mean. If you have to replace post master with a pronoun, you have to choose he or she; the silly grammarians still haven't yet accepted "they" and they definitely hadn't accepted it when I was growing up. "He" was what was typically used. Here's an example.

"I'd like to speak with the post master. When will he be in?"

Really the post master might be a woman, no? But we default to "he."

In certain fields we're far more likely to default to "he" than "she."

Doctors are one of those fields. My pediatrician was a man. The doctor who saw me when I fractured my skull was a man. The hearing specialist I saw about my lost hearing from my skull fracture was a man. But then, one day I got a PA when I got my period and she was a woman. And suddenly I could talk to her. She felt relatable in a new way to me.

When I moved to the mountains I saw female doctors everywhere. My family doc is a woman, the pediatric dermatologist is a woman, the ER doc I met the other day is a woman, and on and on.

So today is for the Doctors. For me, the fact that you're female matters. I respect the work you did and the sacrifices you made to become doctors differently than I do men. For the men that sort of sacrifice was assumed. For you, it was bigger, less supported, less seen as you grew up and looked at the role models around you. And because of you, little girls growing up will see it differently.

Women doctors feel easier to talk to. I feel more comfortable and imagine them understanding my feelings and circumstances differently. I believe they listen better to me and take my concerns to heart. Whether these are real or perceived doesn't so much matter. My gratitude for and trust in them is what matters.

So today, Day 7 of 10 Days of Great Women is for you, Doctors. Thank you for your sacrifices. Thank you for your intelligence and your years of hard study. Thank you for listening and for healing us when we are sick. And thank you for changing the assumed pronoun of "he" to "they." Take that, grammarians!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Day 6 of 10 Days of Great Women

In the final days leading up to the Women's Marches across the nation, I'll be highlighting the GREAT Americans I know who have fought for our progress as a nation. I'll specifically be looking toward the women in my life that have impacted my ability to see progress, women who have inspired me, women who have pushed me to be better.

My aunt Carole was the woman I wanted most to be like when I grew up. I wanted to be like her because she was infamous for being the smartest woman many people knew. I love smart women and I wanted to be like her. She read voraciously and people said that was some of how she knew so much. So I've read voraciously. She taught me to play cards and that taught me teamwork and strategy. I loved being her partner, largely because we always won but also because she knew just exactly what you should do in each situation and taught it to me.

She was a lawyer and she used that big brain of hers to do a lot in the world. She never backed down from an argument if she knew she was right which was most of the time. She was always right. I saw that as such a desirable attribute because she backed her arguments with lengthy examples of her knowledge. Her arguments were based in fact. Her positions were based in compassion. But she was unrelenting.

I have many women lawyer friends in my life and I like to have arguments and discussions with them. They tend to come with facts and information and do not typically back down easily. They WILL change their minds with a discussion. I tend to be a driven by information and logic and so I appreciate people who are this way and who do not take it personally if I disagree with them.

To understand an issue, I need to argue it, to examine multiple angles. I will often take a side in a discussion just to see how it holds up against another person's thoughts or opinions. Some people take that as a personal attack, but rarely lawyers.

I have an intense need for fairness. Lawyers seem to understand this and remain even as I get more heated in my pursuit of equity. I appreciate that.

So today, Day 6, is for the Lawyers in my life.

For my friend who out of college worked for the Attorney Generals office and has written law book chapters and taught law school and hopefully will one day be a judge.

For my friend who has fought for asylum seekers and heard in deep detail the horrid stories that have sent us the weak and the weary to this great country.

And most of all, for my late aunt who shaped my life in such major ways. She had to overcome gender stereotypes and work most of her career with men who she had to reprove and reprove her worth and knowledge to. She was so incredible and paved the way through the boy's club for all of us.

Today is for you, Lawyers.

Thank you for arguing with me, for following up your arguments with facts, for responding point-by-point instead of sidelining a discussion for a piece of random information that is unrelated to the point at hand. For legislating and shaping the law of our communities, for defending those who need it and prosecuting those who need it. I love to think and fight through ideas with you, whether I agree with you or not. I learn my way through it because of this type of discourse.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Day 5 of 10 Days of Great Women

In the final days leading up to the Women's Marches across the nation, I'll be highlighting the GREAT Americans I know who have fought for our progress as a nation. I'll specifically be looking toward the women in my life that have impacted my ability to see progress, women who have inspired me, women who have pushed me to be better.

Day 5 is for a very special kind of woman, the kind of woman who had to get her outsides fixed to match her insides. The kind of woman who many Native American tribes have many names and more reverence for: a woman who was born A Man, or a 2-spirit.

When I was about 24 years old, I met this man at work who was to train me in what happened in the residences where the kids I taught lived. The kids I taught had significant problems. Many of them no longer had parents. This man was phenomenal with kids and he worked well with his colleagues. He had a smile that spread pure joy through me, kind brown eyes, and long brown hair. He threw the football with the boys and warned me of the ways that this particular kind of kid could manipulate but did so with compassion. I liked him.

We went out one night together to a party and I realized that I really liked him. We were hitting it off really well when he stopped me and told me he had something important to tell me.

He was transitioning and becoming a woman. At the time, I didn't really care. I had some really silly ideas about it, like that it didn't matter because at that point he still had the equipment that I prefer. I didn't realize how uncomfortable it would be for him to be attracted to me with that part of his body. I certainly didn't realize the repercussions of dating someone in the midst of such a change.

I did not break it off but it didn't last. He couldn't handle it. And while I thought I could at the time, I probably realistically couldn't have. He was about to be she and that was far more important than some fleeting romance. If I'm really honest about it, I was pretty hurt. I really liked this person and I liked her for who she was. I was willing to try to manage that sort of change.

But the timing wasn't right and now I'm glad. I'm married to the man I'm supposed to be married to and we have 2 beautiful children. Nikki is fine, I imagine, I hope. And she changed the way I see transgendered people.

It often seems to take a personal knowledge of another's experience to really see things. For me, it took finding out my dad was gay to get over my own adolescent homophobia and become who I am today. And meeting Nikki further opened my mind.

I recently learned that a guy I went to high school has transitioned to be a woman. I know it's a source of joking among many of my former classmates. But all I can think is, what courage it takes to become who you are.

For most of us, the courage to pursue our professional dreams is too much and we toil away at a job instead. I can only imagine the stakes then when it's actually WHO you are and not just the profession you wish to pursue.

Transgender people know what gender they are from toddlerhood. They try to tell their parents about the confusion but the parents rarely understand, rarely listen and honor what their child is telling them. It's confusing out of such young mouths.


If you're looking for a book to help you understand, read Raising Ryland by Hillary Wittington. It does a great job showing you how to treat a person who is 2-Spirited. The answer? Like a person. A whole, complex person.

Isn't that what we all want as women?

So today, Day 5 of 10 Days of Great Women is for you, 2-Spirited Women. You helped me understand another path to the female experience and instilled a new level of compassion in me. Certainly that's the stuff of Great Americans.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Day 4 of 10 Days of Great Women

In the final days leading up to the Women's Marches across the nation, I'll be highlighting the GREAT Americans I know who have fought for our progress as a nation. I'll specifically be looking toward the women in my life that have impacted my ability to see progress, women who have inspired me, women who have pushed me to be better.

I know I need to do this and that we all need this march because when I searched for an image for this post, all the images of "Triumphant Women" were in bras. What on earth? That's what you think, google? We have work to do.

Today is Day 4 of 10 Days of Great Women and it is dedicated to those who have triumphed over great challenges in their early lives.

I have worked with a lot of children who faced adversity. I spent several years working with abused children both teaching and working as a caseworker for Social Services. Along with my colleagues, we put our hearts and souls into the hopes of children finding their path to success despite the adversity they'd faced.

Sadly, many, many of the kids I worked with are in jail today.

Since I've worked with these kids, I've spent a lot of time thinking about those who thrive despite great obstacles in their early lives. It's hard to put your heart and hope out as a line to children, desperately hoping that they'll grab tight with both hands promising that you'll pull them in but worrying, it's hard to do that, unless you can think of some you have seen "make it."

I know many such women and today is for them.

I think of the woman I know who had a meth lab blow up in her house and still no one thought to talk to her as a child about this. I was once at a rest stop with her as she explained she used to live there. "Where?" I asked. She had lived at the rest stop when her family was homeless. She'd been abused and sometimes stole glassware from a local college to sell to those who cooked meth at her house so she could use the money to go buy food. She is a successful, well-adjusted professional woman today and a fantastic mother.

I think of the woman I know who had both parents with serious addiction problems and despite that, has spent her life helping others and fostering love and belonging for animals, children, strangers, stragglers. She's the sort who gives away groceries to strangers who she can see needs it. She'll show up to help a stranger from the internet by bringing them diapers.

I think of the woman I know who left her problem-ridden home to raise herself starting in middle school, who managed to rent a storage space and live in it until she graduated from high school. She works hard for her community and is always the first to say yes and help in a crisis. She's the one I can call and I always know she'll help; I can tell her anything no matter how long since we last talked.

I think of the woman I know who has been in dangerously violent relationships twice and has managed to get out, risking everything to move on and smile wide, laugh full-throated. She saved her children and got her degree. I think of how hard she had to work to raise her kids and to get her degree and how hard she continues to work, hoping to help incarcerated youth one day.

When I think of these women, I think,

"There is so much hope."

There is hope in the world and I know it because I've seen them make it happen. There is a chance for every child, for every person, no matter how hard their circumstances today. I think of how they have managed to raised well-bonded children, in loving homes. I think of the sense of love and belonging I feel when I'm near them. And these are among the things that make them great.

So today is for you, The Overcomers, The Triumphants! May you know your worth and continue to generously share it with those of us who need to see how women can thrive, no matter where they started.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Giveaway: 5 Funny Books and a Silly Swag Pack

Click here for a chance to enter to win all this. No purchase necessary. Just enter your email address to enter!

Day 3, 10 Days of Great Women

In the final days leading up to the Women's Marches across the nation, I'll be highlighting the GREAT Americans I know who have fought for our progress as a nation. I'll specifically be looking toward the women in my life that have impacted my ability to see progress, women who have inspired me, women who have pushed me to be better.

Today is Day 3 and it is for the Women Scientists in my life.

STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) are largely thought to be male-dominated fields. And clearly there's a lot of data to support that. But in 110 years of Nobel Prize history, 40 women have gotten the prize. the first of which was Marie Curie who won for BOTH Physics and Chemistry.

So if the numbers are heavily male in the field, and yet so many prizes have been awarded to women it makes you wonder if that might not be a reflection of some feature of these specific women? Is that they were better able to communicate their findings and theories? Were they better at working on teams and advancing the ideas overall?

I'm no historian, and especially not in this area, but I'll tell you that I know and admire many female scientists and the ones I know are great at communicating the information they've gathered. They're experts at teacher others this information. And they're spectacularly skilled at working on teams to focus on and advance ideas.

So today is for the Scientists.
I spy on your ideas and love this. I do this in part because the areas where I was naturally talented were in math and science but I never pursued them. I like hearing what's going on in your fields.

My mother is a veterinarian. She let us dissect things my brother found dead on his paper route in our backyard. She guided us through and attended my school to help with frog dissection and still takes my call or text to quickly give me answers to many anatomical questions I have. She taught me that the body is nothing to fear, but is instead, a fascination.

I have a number of friends and family members who are scientists as well. There's Kelley who has worked on research regarding the protocols for blood used in transfusions as well as Alzheimer's research. Who wouldn't admire a woman who finished her advanced degree with her children alongside her and has gone on to do such amazing work. That's what my mom did but dang, if that's not a tall order.

I also enjoy long substantive conversations with Dr. Anna Prescott who has her PhD from Dartmouth and will take the extensive time it takes to explain all the elements of psychology research. It's complex and fascinating to learn about how conclusions are arrived at and which types of research are being worked on. I could talk to her forever.

I feel similarly about talking with my friend Dr. Terri Niehoff Holzen and Dr. Kristina Prescott. They have both studied evolutionary biology and taught for years. They also happen to have similarly elastic and hilarious facial expressions which makes it way better to hear about research that's a bit hard to follow. And try camping or adventuring outside with moms who double as biologists! They'll talk at length with you about bugs and handle and photograph them with your kids as well as make up a story to go along with it.

Today, Day 3, is dedicated to you, Scientists. I consider you great women for chasing your own curiosity and for the grit to stick with long and challenging degree paths as well as rewarding the curiosity of others with published papers and shared ideas and findings. To ideas!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Day 2, 10 Days of Great Women

In the final days leading up to the Women's Marches across the nation, I'll be highlighting the GREAT Americans I know who have fought for our progress as a nation. I'll specifically be looking toward the women in my life that have impacted my ability to see progress, women who have inspired me, women who have pushed me to be better.

In the 1800s, public support of universal education swelled and our concept of education today is still routed in what were founded then as common schools. They are now known as elementary schools and it is one of our greatest sources of strength as a nation that we offer quality education from an early age.

The less egalitarian part of starting up all these schools and educating everyone was a need for cheap labor. In the face of the need for teachers, women were targeted to fill that workforce gap.

And so began 200+ years of unjust pay for arguably the most influential roles in our society. For who cannot name a great teacher who influenced the their life and their thinking?

So for Day 2 of 10 Days of Great Women, I choose teachers in my life.

Dr. Eichhorn was my 9th grade English teacher. She was my teacher 3 more times by the time I left high school. I never skipped her class and she taught me the nuances of meaning in a book. She read us each and every page of Beloved allowed and painstakingly helped us draw out its deepest meanings. I fought through other books and attempted and failed to find the hidden themes. I loved learning about time periods through stories and art that gave a full picture of a time and a people. I owe her a great debt to this day for inspiring me to be a great reader.

In my undergrad program, I had Nikki Murdick (also a PhD.) She made me laugh in class with stories of difficult behavior in kids and both the obvious and less conventional means of intervening in problem behavior in kids. I remember her telling a story about a kid who had to wear gloves because of sensory problems and her cutting off a little bit of the fingertips each day to acclimate him to not wearing those gloves. I also remember a certain story about adults chasing a kid in circles around a building. I owe to her, a lot of my choices in working with tough kids and more importantly, feeling like I could figure out how to help those kids perform academically. She has pushed for justice and presided as a hearing officer in due process hearings for Special Education cases for (I think) 20 years. She's worked her entire career to help people with developmental disabilities and that's not usually something that gets you glitzy notice. But let's be clear: it is doing the work that matters.

In my graduate school program I had Elisabeth Kinsey who went way above and beyond to help me with my book, Between Families. She met me in person multiple times for coffee and to talk through the book. She also volunteers her time to teach online for a school in a 3rd world country where the computers are guarded 24 hours/day but armed guards in order to keep them from being stolen. She was excommunicated from the Mormon church and is writing a memoir about that while helping students and also working toward a PhD. I owe her for teaching me to be a better and more planful writer.

While these are some of the teachers in my life, they are the tip of the iceberg in terms of great women. There are also the teachers I've seen in my children's lives like Erica who taught my younger son to share and be away from his family, and Mrs. Bartelt who so clearly loves my older son for just exactly who is that he is thriving in 1st grade. These early teachers are the biggest influencers outside the family for children. They are informing how my children view education for the rest of their lives. These are great women.

And they are not the tip of the iceberg either. I still didn't touch on my friends in the profession like Meghann who has worked for 13 years in special education or my editor who is a special education teacher now. Or my friend Liz who teaches at my kids' school and constantly stops whatever she's doing when she runs into students to catch up with them and really look them in the eye. I didn't get to mention yet my family members who are professors that teach everything from Psychology to Biology to Reading Education.

While it's been underpaid for over 200 years, education has offered women the chance to influence future generations, to teach the love of learning, to teach people to be good people.

So today, Day 2 of 10 days of Great Women, is devoted to you, teachers.

"If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people." -Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

10 Days of Great Women

Like many women in America right now, I'm feeling the impending loss of a great leader in the face of the incoming anti-feminist leadership. I recently responded to an email from a woman who told me it was time to make America great again with the following

"Gross. When exactly was the time that you'd like to return to in American history? Before women could vote? When people with disabilities were institutionalized? The phrase "make America great again," is offensive to all the progress this country has made. It is unpatriotic and despicable to imply that we should rewind the progress of our greatest Americans."

And so, in honor of all the GREAT Americans who have fought for our progress, I'm highlighting women in my life that have impacted my ability to see progress, women who have inspired me, women who have pushed me to be better.

Today is Day 1

Women's soccer is one of the greatest sources of pride in my femininity in life. I feel strong; I feel driven to be stronger; I feel inspired by the professionals; and I feel patriotic at the leadership the women in my country have taken in the sport.

During the summer, I drive an hour or so each direction to play women's soccer for this fantastic team that I love. We've played together for about 2 years and in that short time, I've watched them form a deep, close-knit group of support. I live far away so I'm not in that inner circle but I witnessed from my vantage point, the speed with which women can form strong, supportive bonds.

I remember the first season playing this game in my head where I tried to figure out who was straight. I've done this most of my life because my dad's gay and learning that came as such a huge shock to me, that it's this little challenge I play where I try to guess who is straight and who is not. That first season, it was less obvious who was and who wasn't which orientation. But now the women are as comfortable with each other as a dozen sisters and everyone just is who she is.

I thought of these women a lot as the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric came out in the election. I wanted to see their reactions and joy at electing the first woman president, and looked forward to seeing photos of them celebrating. And then when that didn't happen, I wished to be with them in solidarity as women, as those who support diversity.

These last two years since we first started playing, I've loved watching them hang their arms around each other's shoulders in facebook photos. I love to see who went out together and how they support each other if someone is moving or has a breakup. I love when they've been drunken fools together. But more than anything, I love when it's just us. Just the girls. On the field with a ball. And we're pushing to be better and stronger and faster. And as 22 women on the field each Sunday, we do that.

So Day One of 10 Days of Great Women is dedicated to you, Optimist's United. As it says on our jerseys, "Friends for Life."