Lean Out and Get a Life

I am a working woman in my 30s who has never read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. I’m a rare bird, but now that you’ve spotted me, you can check me off your list.

Like a lot of women, I had a very basic, visceral reaction to Lean In that made me an instant skeptic. For me, though, the problem was less about the privileged position Sandberg was writing from at the time, and more about the fact that she was using her prominent position to tell us all to work harder–as if Americans weren’t already working themselves to death.

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5 Reasons to Keep Shopping at L.L.Bean

My boyfriend is hard to buy gifts for. Not because he “has everything”–in fact, it’s just the opposite. He makes an effort to shop ethically, which, mostly means not supporting brands that use sweatshop labor. For the first year or so of our relationship this meant he mostly shopped at second-hand stores or bought things made in America. That’s not easy these days. But over the past few years a handful of brands have made their way onto his “approved” list, and–for whatever reason–they are mostly outdoorsy brands, like Patagonia, that have a commitment to the environment and the workers in their factories.

L.L.Bean is one of those brands. There’s a store not far from my home, and at first, he was skeptical. He knew the company makes their Bean boots in Maine, but couldn’t quite wrap his mind around how the company keeps prices reasonable without exploitative labor practices. Then he had the chance to ask an actual employee, who explained that because Bean doesn’t sell merchandise through third parties and goes direct to consumers it can keep its prices down. Meanwhile, it stays committed to making some of its most popular products in the U.S.  Continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving: No Hard Feelings

I’ve been listening to this song a lot lately, and have yet to get through it without shedding a tear or two. I’m a sucker for a simple song of gratitude. I hope it brings some joy to your day–which may be spent arguing about politics with your family.

And maybe, when you’re done, give some thought to the folks at Standing Rock. Set aside, for a moment, the problem with the pipeline and what it would mean for the environment on a global scale, not just for the people at Standing Rock. It is a national disgrace that indigenous people-or any people–are still being treated this way by the government. If you can’t get away from work to help support them in person, please consider donating.

Pokemon Go Teaches Us a Lesson About Racism

A couple of days ago I went to visit a friend, and she told me a story that stuck with me as the single most of-the-moment tale I’ve ever heard. I decided it needed to be told to a wider audience.

You’ve heard about Pokemon Go, right? If not, you have somehow successfully avoided the internet, the local news, and pop-culture as a whole for the past week, and I salute you. Basically, an augmented reality game meant for children has taken over the world, and adults are now wandering around staring at their mobile devices looking for “hidden” cartoons.

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Not Easy Things

Today I turned on NPR and heard Tom Ashbrook talking to Dennis Lehane and Ray Maliozzi (otherwise know as one of the “Car Guys”) about Boston, their hometown. This was funny (not HaHa funny, but you know…) because I’d been thinking a lot about Dennis Lehane’s The Given Day since Monday, when a friend who had been manning a water stand along the marathon route posted a Facebook update that alerted me to the unfolding situation in Boston.

The Given Day is about one of the most turbulent times in Boston’s history, the early 20th century. The Boston police strike of 1919 resulted in several nights of looting and rioting. And, of course, we’ve all learned about things like the Boston Massacre and the of course the battle of Lexington and Concord, which Patriots’ Day commemorates.

As I listened to Lehane this morning I learned about an editorial he’d written in the New York Times. “Messing with the Wrong City” put into words something I’ve always thought about not just Bostonians, but New Englanders in general: “Bostonians don’t love easy things, they love hard things — blizzards, the bleachers in Fenway Park, a good brawl over a contested parking space.”

We don’t love easy things.

If we did, we’d move somewhere with better weather. We would root for a baseball team that didn’t break our hearts year after year.

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What’s The Pope Got To Do With Me?

Apparently there is a new Pope, which is nice, but only because I am so sick of hearing about the Conclave and the lack of a Pope. I have never been less interested in a news story than I am in this one, in large part because it does not effect me… at all. 

I honestly can’t imagine a story that has less to do with my life than whether or not there’s a Pope and who he is. I am not a Catholic. If I was a Catholic, I’d be a pretty awful one, going well beyond “lapsed” to straight up “heretic.” Whenever I hear a news report about someone standing watch outside the Vatican waiting for the smoke to change colors I wonder about them and their sanity. Do they have jobs? Bills to pay? Friends and family with real life problems?  Continue reading

Oscar Pistorious and the Consequences of Paranoia

My new security system.

For the record, I don’t believe for a minute that he accidentally killed his girlfriend. I think this is yet another case where what could have been another case of domestic abuse turned into murder because of the availability of guns. But let’s, just for a moment, pretend we buy his defense. Basically, he’s yet another person who has become so terrified of the outside world that even inside a high-security gated community, he slept with a gun under his bed and has repeatedly…repeatedly…mistakenly thought his house was being invaded by intruders. Here’s what Slate has to say about that:

There’s no record of any burglary-like incident at Pistorius’ home. The two incidents he has acknowledged were false alarms. A year ago, the New York Times reported that according to Pistorius, “a security alarm in the house had gone off the previous night, and he had grabbed his gun and tiptoed downstairs. (It turned out to be nothing.)” Three months ago, Pistoriustweeted: “Nothing like getting home to hear the washing machine on and thinking its an intruder to go into full combat recon mode into the pantry!” These episodes gave Pistorius plenty of warning that his hair-trigger reactions were rash.

That’s right, the man damn near shot his washing machine! Continue reading

The Truth About Working From Home


I work from home. I spend the first part of the day in my pajamas. Around lunchtime, I take the dog out for a nice, long, head-clearing walk. I listen to a lot of NPR and podcasts to create the illusion that I have people to talk to. But it hasn’t always been this way.

I’ve worked in my share of offices, large and small. Before I started working from home full-time I worked in a very small office. Since our company’s home-office was several states away, so we were basically working remotely. When I started, there were five of us who came into the office on a regular basis. When our company finally decided it was a waste of money to keep our office open, there were only two of us left — and my co-worker had abandoned the office long before it closed. That winter we were getting large amounts of snow a few times a week, and more often than not I couldn’t get to the office. It quickly became clear that I did not need to be in the office every day.

So I moved closer to my friends and family, and decided to go into the office once a week just to check the mail and whatnot. It wasn’t long after that that we got word we’d be closing the office. Continue reading

My Trees Are Gone & #Snowpocalypse Is Here

It’s been a big week here at my house. I started out the week getting the giant, terrifying pine trees behind my house taken down. It pains me to see a tree cut down. I am, after all, a bit of a tree hugger, but these things were a danger to themselves and others. For half the summer, my dog ends up looking diseased because I have to cut big patches of her fur out thanks to the sticky sap from the trees. Any furniture I put in the yard would be covered with the same sap, and then there were the needles… Oh the needles.


But that’s not enough reason to go to the trouble and expense of cutting down seven trees (three of which were absolutely huge, and the rest were more like weeds). But every time the wind blew branches came down. So far they’d missed the house, and anyone driving on the private road behind my house, but it was just a matter of time. I mean, the really big trees were probably damn near twice as tall as my house, and they were not pictures of health.

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How to Make a Difference in the Wake of Sandy Hook Tragedy

Sandy Hook — From the Newtown Bee.

This morning this story from the Newtown Bee popped up in my newsfeed:

“The story is over. The families are burying their loved ones. Please leave our towns.”

These were the sentiments of State Representative DebraLee Hovey during a Capital memorial service December 19, but they represent the comments of a growing throng of Newtown residents, merchants and officials, as well as a number of survivors who have contacted The Bee in the days since the Sandy Hook School rampage.

I’ve been following the Bee on Facebook for quite some time. I have a deep respect for truly local newspapers. I’m a bit biased as I worked at one of these papers when I was fresh out of college, but these papers do a better job covering what’s important to its readers than just about any other news outlet. Sometimes that just means sitting at town council meetings, and relaying the facts in a way that people can understand. Sometimes it means being the only media outlet grieving families will turn to.  Continue reading

The Cultural Dog Fight: Violence in the Media

A few weeks back I was watching the Sons of Anarchy season finale with my cousin and her friends, when I quickly put my hands over my dog’s eyes and told her not to look. The guys from SAMCRO had stumbled upon a dog fight — pitbulls were ripping each other apart. We were all aghast, as were the guys from SAMCRO. They even took the losing pitbull home — dog-lover and straight-up-psychopath Tig, saved the dog from the owner who was about to kill it — stitched him up, and now the guys of SAMCRO (murderers all!) apparently have a new club mascot.

Now, let’s be clear: this is a violent show, where minor characters die is ghastly ways all the time, and where major characters often reach heartbreaking ends. In this past season we saw the daughter of a major character get burned alive, and then another major character get his head bashed in while in prison (this after his wife and father died at the hands of “the bad guys” in his beloved club). Yes, we were all horrified by these scenes, but we also cheered when villains finally met their makers at the hands of the people they’d wronged. (Some people even make mildly deranged YouTube videos about it.)

The people in this show are awful human beings who often operate by a “code,” which serves to make them more likable to the audience — which can’t get behind things like killing women and children… or, apparently, dog fighting. This reminded me of a scene in The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, where a soldier (clearly suffering from PTSD) shoots a water buffalo. We know that this soldier has recently watched his best-friend blown to bits while they are both in-country in Vietnam.

I remember talking about this scene in college. I remember crying while reading it. And mostly I remember arguing with a supremely stupid girl (I also had to fight with her when she insisted “Hills Like White Elephants” is not about an abortion) about how this juxtaposition — the death of the water buffalo vs. the death of the friend — is intended to show us how numb we can be to violence. After all, I cried when the water buffalo died, but barely flinched when the friend was killed.

At least I understood how dumb my reaction was. Continue reading

Food for Thought

If you haven’t already read this blog post, I urge you to do so.

I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

-The Anarchist Soccer Mom

This post also made me think of a book I read a few years back called We Need to Talk About Kevin. It’s worth a read — or, you can watch the movie, though I haven’t seen it.

Close to Home: Thinking About Newtown

My view of Newtown.

I used to work in Newtown, Connecticut and I lived just down the road in Monroe. I volunteered at the pound, and every once in a while I drive the hour or so back there to visit one of my favorite restaurants. It’s a beautiful town. Exactly what you think of when you picture Connecticut. Beautiful old homes line the main road, and Ram Pasture Park is the kind of place where you see retrievers running in the snow, geese sitting on the pond, and where you can still picture actual rams grazing in the grass. And then there’s the infamous flag pole, which confounds drivers.

I was never really a part of this community, but I know people who are. It’s a community much like the one I grew up in. So when I saw the news today, I was shocked. Sad. Angry.

I sat here watching the news for a while, watching the images of children marching single-file through the parking lot. Listening as elementary school children, with pearl earrings, reported what they’d heard and experienced. I looked at the faces of the newscasters I grew up with as they stumbled over their words, struggled to figure out what was going on, and tried the explain what the hell had happened. Cried with the parents who sobbed as they retrieved their children from the school…or worse.

Eventually I decided to get up and walk the dog. We took the long route, and I streamed NPR to my phone, listening to the news as I walked. It was an unusually beautiful day, today. Not warm, exactly, but not cold. It was clear and sunny, and not so windy that your nose and ears throb. It made me think about 911.  Continue reading

Beat Reporters & Fiona vs. the Foot Tickler

Earlier this week I read a post by the hero of reporters everywhere, David Simon. Simon, most famous for bringing us The Wire, wrote a blog post called “Why Beat Reporters Matter.” As a former reporter, who now edits a magazine about digital media (including journalism), and happened to write a funny, lighthearted novel about a reporter, I came at the article with a wealth of opinions on the subject.

Simon wrote:

The sinecure of professional prose journalism, which is now threatened by a new economic model, was the only place in my city where resources were once allocated for an independent, unaligned voice to spend years in the bowels of a civic institution — long enough that I began to understand what a statistic might represent, and what it might not represent.

Let’s face it, I was a reporter at a community newspaper in a smallish town. I did cover the police for a while, but that mostly meant reporting DUIs. I am no David Simon. But this got me thinking about, oddly enough, Fiona vs. the Foot Tickler. Continue reading