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I ran into an old friend recently.

It was one of those funny situations where you see someone out of context: a teacher at the grocery store; your boss in a Target clearance aisle. I hadn’t seen M., the girlfriend of a friend I met through my sister, since last New Year’s. We were in Hallmark.

The last time we saw each other, in those newborn hours of 2015, I was still adjusting to the idea of being pregnant. It seemed a strange concept . . . almost an embarrassing one. Despite being 29 years old, married and independent and financially sound, the admission that I was expecting was always accompanied by my own nervous laughter.

In fact, I’d been whispering it. A friend pointed that out. “I’m pregnant!” I’d hiss, raising my eyebrows, even if everyone in the room already knew the state of my womb.

I told M. at the New Year’s party, her eyes lighting up. She confided that she was anticipating a marriage proposal in coming months. And though we hadn’t seen each other in almost a year, M. is so easy to talk to that we can pick up where we left off.

“So,” she said in the card store, hands cross delicately on a counter, “you had your baby?”

I blinked at her. A beat of silence passed, then two. Paper wishes of “Happy birthday!” and “Merry Christmas!” and “Happy Baptism!” hemmed us into a corner. My own stack of cards drooped in my hands.

“Oh wow, yes,” I said. “Are we … not Facebook friends?”

For two 30-year-olds in 2015, this was . . . bizarre. Almost unimaginable. But I wracked my brain to think of any posts I’d seen from M. in recent months — photos of a tropical vacation, news of a job offer — only to draw a blank.

“Oh, I’m not on Facebook,” she said. “Do you have a boy or a girl?”

To see a friend — in person, in the flesh — and tell her the news of my son was . . . well, it was invigorating. Just as she’d shared in my happiness with my in-person pregnancy announcement, the news of Oliver’s birth brought on the same excitement.

M. and I don’t trade texts or tweets; we don’t “like” each other’s lunches or comment on cat videos. Just as I knew nothing of her engagement (her boyfriend had indeed popped the question), she knew nothing of my baby. M. hadn’t seen our mutual friends in months, either.

How rare it is to tell — really tell — my own stories now. I’m so used to divulging my experiences on Facebook, Twitter, through my column and this blog — to prepare vignettes of my life for public consumption; to frame my anecdotes in an Instagram square. Nothing feels private — not unless you work hard to keep it that way. Everything is in a feed.

Telling M. about Oliver and watch her eyes crinkle? That brought me joy. And when I saw her ring (on her actual hand), it was all I could do not to jump up and down with her.

This is not to say I’m going ghost online. I love keeping up with friends and family through social media . . . and would be pretty bored without it. But that chat with M. definitely got me thinking about the nature of connection — and how I might want to be more present in others’ lives.

Thumbs-up emoji. Hands clapping emoji. Pink heart.

Celebrating year two


Two years ago today, Spencer and I joined hands before family and friends and officially became the Johnsons.

It’s a strange and wonderful thing, being married. Braiding your life with someone else’s, creating a home, starting a family. Welcoming our son in the spring changed us forever, but we were a duo before becoming a trio. And we are a twosome still.

We were able to sneak in a “date” yesterday. Spencer was out on work-related errands, and I had a little time before deadline to take an early break. It was spontaneous (not my strong suit), and also pretty wonderful. Oliver was at day care. We haven’t been alone in a restaurant in months — and when Spence climbed from his car without the ever-present car seat, we both laughed.

“This is weird,” he said.

And it was. But by dessert — the denouement of a meal free of diaper changes, fussing or crying with one of us pacing the restaurant with an infant while the other scarfed down their food, well . . . we were good with it.

Our second year of marriage has been filled with so much love — love laced with deep exhaustion. It was, of course, the year we became parents.

The best thing to come out of 2015 — aside from our actual child, of course! — is the deep joy I feel seeing my husband become a father. As I wrote back in April, you can’t always know how someone is going to react to trying circumstances until you’re in them — and Spencer has proved time and again to be a loving, patient, devoted dad to Ollie and spouse to me.

First dance

We said “in sickness and in health,” and we meant it. If there was any mystery left in our marriage, it was definitely shucked in the ambulance taking us to Baltimore and, soon after, in the delivery room.

But there’s a comfort to that: a sense of wellbeing that comes from knowing someone doesn’t care if you have more gray laced in your hair these days or haven’t yet bothered to brush your teeth. That familiarity is what makes our house our home, and I love nothing more than plopping Ollie between us on Sunday mornings so we can drink coffee in our pajamas.

Our evenings aren’t as exciting as they once were. I’m lucky if I can stay awake to watch an hour-long drama on the DVR. We both come back from work depleted, and then we have an adorable 7-month-old (!) seeking more of the time and energy we don’t always feel we have to give.

But no matter how ornery or broken I feel, Spencer knows how to step in, put an arm around me and say, “It’s OK — we’re in this together.”

What a wonderful thing to know you have a partner, a teammate, a fan waving a sparkly banner for you on the sidelines. To know the world can be hard and unflinching, but you won’t breathe any of that when you shed your coat at the front door.

When I come in carrying the remnants of my work day, I almost always find Spencer snuggled with Ollie over the evening news. They both look up at me, two sets of sweet dark eyes, and smile.

There’s nothing in the galaxy I would trade for those moments.

Happy anniversary, Spencer! You make home the absolute best place to be. xo


How to help a preemie parent: Prematurity Awareness Month

How to help a preemie parent

Until my son was born two months early, “prematurity” was a foreign concept to me. I knew friends of friends who had preemies and had heard stories over the years, sure, but did I think it would happen to us? With our first child? Not for a minute.

But who does?

When we took a childbirth class in late March at the hospital where we’d once planned to deliver, we were the couple with the furthest due date (June 5). Everyone else looked ready to pop. In reality, as I developed severe preeclampsia just weeks later, we probably delivered first. Oliver was born at 32 weeks gestation in April.

By the end of this month, Ollie will have been out in the world longer than I was ever pregnant. This milestone brings a bittersweet mix of joy and relief, sadness and longing. My pregnancy went so fast, ending so abruptly. I’m still working through my complicated feelings about that . . . but that’s a post for another day.

After our sweet 3 pound, 9 ounce baby boy came into the world, friends and family rallied around to offer support and strength. Though I wasn’t always in a good place to receive it, I did feel it — including from my friends here in the blogging community.

Many friends contributed to a GoFundMe started by sweet Trish and Lyndsey, and we were so thankful for your encouragement and donations. I don’t know if I ever issued a public thank you, but if I didn’t, please know how deeply we appreciated that incredible kindness. It came at the absolute best time, and we thank you so much.

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. We definitely know why I had a premature baby, though the exact cause of preeclampsia itself is unknown. Of the nearly 4 million babies born in the U.S. each year, preeclampsia affects approximately 200,000 expecting mothers. Less than 1 percent will have to deliver their baby before 34 weeks gestation . . . still, I was one of that group.

Preeclampsia is defined as a potentially life-threatening pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to the kidneys or other organ system, according to the Mayo Clinic. Left untreated, it can lead to seizures, stroke and maternal and fetal death. The only “cure” is delivery of the baby and placenta.

In my case, my blood pressure began trending high around 30 weeks. I was monitored at home and admitted to two hospitals before doctors finally decided it was too risky to both my life and the baby’s to continue the pregnancy. The morning I was induced, my blood pressure was greater than 200/140. We needed to get the baby out immediately.

So we did. He’s here, he’s perfect, and we love him dearly. Never for a moment do I take for granted how fortunate we are to have such a sweet, healthy child, especially in light of his two-months-early arrival.

But I am still sifting through the emotional impact of that early, traumatic birth, as well as my own lingering hypertension issues. Much of my energy of late has gone toward getting a handle on the anxiety and PTSD I feel in the aftermath of Ollie’s birth. Every day is a process, a step forward.

Help a parent

Though we’re very clear on what caused my son’s prematurity, many women will never know for sure what caused their early labor.

An infant is considered premature if he or she is delivered at less than 37 weeks gestation. According to the March of Dimes, 500,000 babies are born prematurely in the U.S. each year — about 9.6 percent of births. More than 15 million are born too early globally.

Most preemies will spend time in the NICU, the specially-staffed and outfitted intensive care unit for infants requiring support after birth. Our son was in two NICUs for almost a month combined before he was ready to come home.

Since April, I’ve received messages seeking advice on helping other new preemie parents — and no matter what I’m doing when they come in, I drop everything to respond.

Being just six months into our parenthood journey, my memories of our preemie’s delivery and the NICU experience are fresh . . . and if I can lend support to a family faced with a premature birth, I absolutely will. I need to.

I can only speak to my own experience, of course, and do not speak for all preemie parents. What helped me may hinder someone else, and it’s always best to take your cue from the parents themselves. We all have different ways of coping with stressful experiences, and there is no right or wrong way to do so.

But in honor of Prematurity Awareness Month, I compiled my thoughts on helping the moms and dads you know who welcome their children much earlier than expected — and what you can do now to be the support that helps see them through.

Congratulate them

After a friend or loved one welcomes a premature baby, your first step is easy: send your good wishes. They just had a baby! That’s amazing!

Because many premature infants will face immediate medical issues and be admitted to the NICU, there may be a gut instinct to “tread carefully” when discussing their newborn. But don’t do that. The parents want to receive your congratulations and positivity.

Though he was, of course, fragile and different, I didn’t want our 32-weeker to be treated that way. Desperately did I want to feel normal: just a normal mother who had welcomed a normal baby. Sensing others’ sympathy absolutely broke me in half. There is definitely a time for soothing words and compassion — but for me, immediately after birth was not it.

In the beginning? Try to be upbeat. Hopeful. Enthusiastic. They need it.

Make them a meal

Our son was delivered at an urban hospital almost two hours from our home. After I was discharged, we began the arduous task of commuting — in D.C.-area traffic — to see him each day.

The most frustrating part of daily life involved having to feed ourselves. I got angry — actually angry — at having to constantly stop to eat. I didn’t want to eat; I didn’t want to do anything but sit next to Ollie’s isolette, watching his chest rise and fall, and pump what little breast milk I could at his bedside. That was it.

My husband was amazing, taking care of all logistics . . . but we couldn’t bring ourselves to go grocery shopping until right before Oliver actually came home. There was something too “normal” about going for groceries — something that threatened to break my heart. How could I do anything “normal” after what we’d been through?

I couldn’t. So we didn’t.

We needed to eat, though. Eating became a daily chore — and we spent a small fortune on take-out and hospital meals in the month Oliver was in Baltimore. I would have loved a home-cooked meal, but we were barely home to eat one.

If you want to help a preemie parent, offer to bring them food. Make a casserole, lasagna, a Crock Pot full of soup — something they can eat and reheat, if needed, to feed themselves again.

When babies are born, friends and family often gather to form a “meal chain” for the exhausted new parents. Even if their baby isn’t home, they still need that love and support . . . trust me.

Food is about more than nourishment. For a preemie parent, it tastes of comfort and compassion and warmth. Make muffins they can eat on the drive to the hospital, or protein-rich cookies to tuck into bags for snacks.

If you’re not a cook, offer to meet them at the hospital for a meal or to take them to a local restaurant. As time wore on, Spencer and I craved companionship and support at the hospital. We needed a distraction. Company provided that.

Reach out, but give them grace

If your texts, calls and emails go unanswered, understand the maelstrom of highs and lows they are experiencing. Don’t take offense if you don’t hear back quickly . . . and don’t take that as a sign that you should stay away, either.

Though I didn’t always have the emotional energy to respond to messages, I read every single one (and usually cried — but that’s not a bad thing). Knowing people were thinking about and praying for us was a great source of comfort. It helped us feel less alone at the hardest time in our lives.

If your preemie parent friend is anything like me, they might be uncomfortable asking for help. Though I eventually accepted — and welcomed — any and all assistance, it can be hard to reach out.

Statements like “I’m here if you need anything” are well-meaning, but they’re not always helpful. Be specific. Say, “I’m thinking about you and want to help. Can I give you a ride to the hospital this week? What night can I bring you dinner? Do you need help with laundry or dishes?” If they have other children, offer to come spend time with them, help with homework, etc.

Don’t let “not knowing what to say” keep you from saying anything. Just say something, even if it’s “I’m thinking of you” and “I’m here.”

Ask for a delegate

My sister became a point-of-contact immediately after Oliver’s birth. She contacted my friends, work, etc., and became the go-between for family and friends seeking updates.

Understand that preemie parents might not always have the energy to give updates about their baby, especially if they’ve already issued many that day. If you know another family member or friend who might have news, reach out to them instead.

It’s still totally OK (and very welcome!) to send a “thinking of you” text to the parent, but that will save them from having to go into the nitty-gritty — especially if they’ve had a tough day.

Make them a care package

One of the kindest things done for us after Ollie’s birth came in the form of a care package — one from a virtual stranger. Jessie, a friend of my sister’s, had a premature child years earlier. After learning of Oliver’s birth, she arrived at our house one morning with a bag of presents.

I cry just thinking about this woman’s kindness. I actually can’t think about it much, because it almost hurts — in a good way. Preemie parents are truly a tribe.

In this bag were goodies for our new baby, yes — but just as many for us. She was the first person we talked to who really understood we were going through something uniquely hard and painful . . . which made sense, of course. She’d been exactly where we were, and came out the other side with a beautiful child.

To put together a collection of support-related goodies for a preemie parent with a child in the NICU, you could include . . .

  • Portable snacks like trail mix, Rice Krispie bars and peanut butter crackers. We threw them into a diaper bag for our journey each day, and frequently snacked on those when we didn’t have the time or energy for a hospital meal.
  • Bottled water
  • Hand sanitizer and/or hand wipes
  • Unscented hand lotion. Your hands dry out quick from all that scrubbing in, trust me!
  • Magazines. Everyone needs a little mindless entertainment and distraction now and then.
  • Preemie clothing. As it’s unlikely your friend planned on having their baby early, they probably don’t have clothes for him or her. One or two onesies is enough; babies aren’t initially able to be dressed in the NICU and, with any luck, their child will be close to wearing newborn-sized clothing at discharge. Preemie clothes can be tough to find, but we had luck at Walmart and Target.
  • A blank journal or notepad. Mine came in handy for jotting down notes from doctors and random thoughts when I needed a private outlet.
  • Gift cards for gas, food or the movies/Netflix. Though your parent friends won’t initially want to take time for themselves, this may help remind them they’re allowed to get a real meal or decompress with a film.

These are just suggestions, of course. You know your friend best. If she loves to knit or crochet, include skeins of colorful yarn she can bring to the hospital. If he loves chocolate, bake homemade brownies and pack them in individual plastic bags.

And if you want to really surprise a new mom, bring her a new top. Chances are her pre-pregnancy clothing will not fit, and no preemie mom wants to even look at her maternity clothes . . . let alone wear them.

Six months after birth, maternity clothing is still a painful trigger for me — and one of the first things I had to do after getting out of the hospital was buy new shirts and pants.

I felt completely broken, inside and out, but a few tops that actually fit my swollen body — and weren’t maternity wear, reserved for the lucky women who were still pregnant — gave my spirits a boost.

Encourage them to find support

Though the initial weeks after birth were too chaotic and consumed with Oliver’s needs to worry about our own, there came a time when I was ready to reach out. And not only was I ready, but I was desperate for support.

A quick Google search for “preemie parents” yields half a million results — but I’ve found the most support on Facebook. If your preemie parent friend seems open to it, send them a note with links to Life After NICU and Parents of Preemies Day. Great resources are also available at March of Dimes, Preemie Babies 101 and Graham’s Foundation.

On Facebook, not only do other parents ask questions (many of which I’ve had myself!), get real responses and find camaraderie, but both groups frequently post stories of little ones who have gone on to do great things — and share photos of preemies hitting all sorts of milestones. The atmosphere is one of celebration, and I look for updates daily. Those “happy stories” were crucial to getting me through the early weeks of Oliver’s hospitalization.

Everyone is different, of course. Some parents want to talk about their prematurity experience (I do, clearly!), and others don’t. For some parents, it will be too soon to reach out in the aftermath of their early delivery and NICU experience . . . but don’t let that stop you from trying.

Continue to be there

Remember their journey doesn’t end when their child comes home. He or she may face continued health issues — apnea, oxygen support, etc. — and will likely be isolated at home, especially for the first few months. That means your friend may be isolated, too.

Being a parent to a newborn is incredibly hard. It is frequently overwhelming with moments of the purest joy, but can also be lonely. Being a parent to a preemie newborn? It’s all of those things wrapped into a package tied with a ribbon of anxiety, plus physical and emotional exhaustion. Your friend will need love and support.

Don’t take it personally if you’re not immediately invited to see the baby. At the hospital, NICU rules are strict and often family-only with no children permitted; only two people were ever allowed in Ollie’s NICU at a time, and one always had to be a parent.

When their baby is finally discharged, parents face dueling emotions: excitement and joy that their child is finally coming home, and fear at the thought of caring for them away from the calm guidance and experience of the NICU staff.

The risk of infection — especially during cold, flu and RSV season — is especially worrying for preemie parents. They will likely plan to sequester their child, letting him or her get acclimated to the outside world with limited exposure to others for weeks or even months.

If your friend is able to take a break from the needs at home (and oh, how they will need a break), offer to meet them out for a quick lunch, coffee or just to help run errands. Tell them you’re dropping off a meal (remember, food is important!), but emphasize that you know they’re concerned about the risk of infection and will stay outside.

If you don’t live nearby or can’t come in person, continue to send messages of support. After Ollie came home and my husband had to return to work, I was often overwhelmed by loneliness and worry. My early entrance into motherhood was a shock to my system, physically and emotionally, and I was unprepared. Each note of encouragement really bolstered my spirits.

More than anything . . .

Just be there, and let them know you’re there. Reach out as much as you can with the understanding that it could be hours, days or even weeks before you hear back — but your words still matter.

The fervent prayer of the preemie parent is that, with time, love and patience, their babies will grow from vulnerable infants we can hold in our hands to healthy, happy, curious and loving children.

Be a trusted friend to us on that journey. We need you.

It’s about the eyeliner, but it’s not about the eyeliner

Stitch Fix modeling

Stitch Fix modeling

Every morning, I put on the same dull eyeliner and think: Why am I doing this?

I’d already found a different brand I love. Purchased faithfully for years, I finally used up the last of my beloved black eyeliner pencil — but rather than replace it, I decided to make do what what I already had.

That’s a very sensible idea, of course — in theory. Thanks to years of Birchbox subscriptions, I had a serious backlog of makeup samples. When the clutter got bad enough, I decided to sort through them a few months back (a modified KonMari, if you will). I purged what was open and old, then passed along new samples to coworkers. If I haven’t tried out a blush in three years, do I really need it? (No. The answer, I told myself repeatedly, is no.)

So I threw out my beloved Mally eyeliner pencil, the one worn down to the nub, and tried to get by with one of the random “waterproof” pencils wedged in my makeup drawer.

It seemed silly — and wasteful — to buy another $22 eyeliner duo . . . especially now with a baby (and his associated costs). I have all these products here just gathering dust, and they’re already paid for!

I’ve followed the same basic makeup routine — concealer, blush, Chapstick, eyeliner, mascara — since middle school, and have been on the hunt for the “perfect” products since earning my first paycheck. Once I was making my cool $6.75 an hour as a Michael’s cashier, I had some cash to blow on my makeup experiments.

And experiment I did. I spent years trying to find the right eyeliner. A complementary color for my olive skin tone, something dark but not too dark. A product that looks as fresh at 6 p.m. as it did at 6 a.m., and hopefully doesn’t cost a fortune. Something that my oily skin will not destroy in no time — a product that never winds up smudged beneath my eyes.

And I found it: Mally eyeliner. But I talked myself out of replenishing it, thinking that money would be better spent on incidentals for the family.

I talked myself out of thinking it mattered, this relatively small purchase that actually makes a big impact on my day. In wanting to be resourceful with my heart in the right place, I made a choice — daily — to apply makeup that I did not like, that didn’t work well, because I didn’t think it mattered.

But this morning, I was done. After an extremely stressful month at work, one filled with lay-offs and huge changes and more anxiety than I’ve felt in years, I was tiredly getting ready for another work week and thought: I can do better than this.

I can do better than a few rushed minutes to myself each morning, stolen before Oliver wakes up.

I can do better than treating myself like an afterthought: someone wearing frumpy clothes with tangled hair, a woman hiding behind her new mom identity to rationalize her sloppiness.

I can do better than this eyeliner that will quickly fade, doing nothing to make me feel happy and confident.

And it goes even deeper, of course. Post-pregnancy, I’ve struggled with buying new clothes — again. Between an almost 40-pound weight loss, pregnancy (and purchasing maternity wear), and adjusting to the 30 extra pounds I’m now carrying after birth, I feel guilty and frustrated rebuilding my closet . . . again.

But what’s the byproduct of that refusal? Every day I feel unpolished, either squeezing into clothes that feel too tight or wearing the same few “larger” tops over and over. Pair that with my makeup situation, and frankly? It ain’t good.

Having a baby is lovely (and amazing), but also quite strange. Your life changes in every possible way — right down to how you look and feel about yourself. Though I’ve never obsessed over appearances, I can recognize I haven’t been taking care of myself over the last six months. Like: at all.

And it’s time to change that, I think. We’re all familiar with maternal guilt, and this sense that we have to give it all — every bit of our energy, time, money — to our children. But there must be a way to reserve a little for yourself? If only to be the happy person — the strong, capable parent — you know you can be?

I need to get back on solid footing. I need to start caring for myself again. That’s something the nurses discussed in the NICU — “self-care” — but it was totally irrelevant to me back then, this idea that I would need to look after myself the way we had to look after our vulnerable baby.

But Oliver is no longer so vulnerable. He’s a hulk, actually — and I have to stop using that preemie parent identity as my defense. It serves no one. And since he’s sleeping through the night, I can’t blame exhaustion for why I’m not making strides to feel better.

It’s time to do that for myself.

With a few clicks, my favorite eyeliner is back on its way to me. I’ll head to the clearance racks at Kohl’s and get creative with my budget, investing in a few new pieces of clothing to switch up through fall and winter. And I’ll check out Goodwill, too, as I’m dropping off bags of the belongings that no longer serve me. I have lots of them.

I’m going to place all my favorite “small” clothes in bins, labelled for when I’m ready to pull them out again. But in the meantime, I don’t need those sizes taunting me. My closet shouldn’t be three-quarters full of items I cannot wear. Just seeing them daily — a harsh compare-and-contrast as I stand before my full-length mirror — is depressing.

I will get back to a good place. It’s going to take time and dedication — but I can make small steps to feel good each day. I may never again wear a size six, but I will get stronger. It could take months (or years), but I want to be healthy: for my husband, my son. Myself.

And while I battle my way back? Well, at least my eyeliner will look awesome.

Room for new things


I have a new desk at work.

It’s a simple thing, really: changing spaces within an office. In the eight years I’ve been with my company, I have moved within the building four times and been seated in four different departments. I’m no stranger to packing up my paper clips, highlighters and bric-a-brac, but this move is different.

For the last six years, I shared an office with two people who were my teammates. When you sit with someone for eight-plus hours a day, spending more time with them than you do your own family, it’s wonderful if you can get along. It’s even better if you are friendly, and the best if you become close friends.

I miss them.

I’ve been given new responsibilities and am tackling new challenges, and that feels good. I’m writing more than ever, and moving into a new phase of my career.

My new responsibilities are awesome, and I love the corner of the newsroom where I hang my metaphorical hat each day. My desk is new and clean, and I’ve quickly adopted a minimalist approach to my workspace.

After being a pack rat, an office hoarder of sorts, I shocked myself by . . . completely changing this time. Totally a 180.

Back when I had a physical office of my own, I treated it like an extension of my living room. Artwork hung on the walls; freestanding lamps took the place of fluorescent lighting. It had a cozy, homey feel, a refuge of sorts. And given I had no windows or natural light, it could also feel like a cave.

Hence all the lamps.

But that was three moves ago. I haven’t had my own office since 2010 or 2011, yet until last week? I was still carting around all those old photographs and trinkets from my larger space, never bothering to pack them up and take ’em home. I was surrounded by boxes, actually: boxes of random belongings from years and years ago.

After a while, you stop seeing stuff. It becomes a part of the background, a backdrop to your daily life; you forget about the Christmas decor on which you’re propping your swollen pregnant feet (hey, it was actually a good footrest), or the boxes and boxes of tea — so much tea — you must paw through to find a stupid spoon in your drawers.

Last week, I cleared it out. I spared nothing. I’ve been reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but haven’t extended any of her principles to my own home yet. I’ve been afraid to take the plunge, scared of starting the tidying process, but at work? I was ruthless. It was time.

I easily purged half of my belongings without thinking about it, bagging up tons of stuff I’ve been moving from desk to desk for years. Why did I still have it? What purpose did it serve? Who did it benefit?

No one.

Though I must confess that those belongings are now at home in a spare room waiting for me to bag most up for Goodwill, the physical act of getting them out of my office and away from where I sit all day, brainstorming and writing and working, has made such a difference for me — a major difference.

Everything feels scrubbed clean and new. My workspace is tidy, dust-free, uncluttered. I love having a desk clear of papers and junk and Post-Its, a place I can spread out the newspaper or my planner and not knock over ten random objects.

Why didn’t I do this ages ago . . . years ago? Why did I let myself sit each day surrounded by so much clutter? I can’t say, really. Force of habit? Laziness? Regardless, I’m never doing that again.

Though I’m still not ready to extend Kondo’s tidying principles to our home, this first cleaning hurdle at work was a powerful one.

Being a “stuff” person, I never thought I’d see an empty surface as anything but that: unfinished, barren, dull.

But now I see cleanliness and possibilities . . . room for new things.

Life-changing magic, indeed.

Book chat: ‘Why Not Me?’ by Mindy Kaling

Why Not MeActress and writer Mindy Kaling is my vision of a talented Everywoman.

Confident but approachable, warm and vivacious, Mindy is someone I aspire to be more like. I love her sass, her wit, her style . . . and also love that she “doesn’t look like most women on TV,” a statement Mindy herself ponders in Why Not Me?, her second memoir.

I went into this book hoping the Mindy I know and love — wise, funny, a little quirky — would shine through, and she absolutely does. Her memoir is a collection of short stories about many topics, including her days on “The Office”; the hard work and long hours behind “The Mindy Project,” her (awesome) TV show recently picked up by Hulu; and many anecdotes about friendship, college, growing up, looking for love, self-confidence and more.

Though the only uniting thread seems to be Mindy’s insistence that we should be ourselves regardless of what anyone thinks and work hard for what we want, that was enough. That totally worked for me. This 240-page book left me feeling motivated and renewed, like I’d just had a cleansing cryfest with an old friend.

Plus? It’s funny, but in a warmhearted way. Mindy is hilarious. I especially appreciated that, while she is grateful women see her as a realistic role model, she’s not afraid to admit that, at times, she does wish she were thinner, bolder, more confident or [insert societal standard or adjective here]. That vulnerability is appealing — and also comforting. It’s more than okay to love and accept ourselves while still striving to improve.

If you’re a fan of Kaling, Why Not Me? is a book you’ll likely savor. Having not read her first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) (I know: way behind), I can’t compare the two — but this short, easily digestible and enjoyable series of stories definitely feels like you’ve invited Mindy over to give you advice on being a bad boss lady while she still owns up to some of her foibles. I totally dug it.

4 out of 5

Pub: 2015 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Copy borrowed from my local library