Captivated by the power of sharing stories.

I was a hyper child. I spent a lot of time in my early teens creating a list of synonyms for hyper.

Effervescent. Enthusiastic. Gregarious. Energetic.

I was, and still am, quite enthusiastic.

The simultaneous learning of a mother and her sons.

Early in my mothering days, I was aware of wanting to give my sons language to express emotions, especially a range of emotions.

Some of this was informed by what I knew about how boys can be socialized at early ages with messages to “man up,” “suck it up,” and “rub some dirt on it” (“It” being pain, sadness, weakness, disappointment, vulnerability, fear, and anxiety to name just a few).

This, however, was mostly a front.

I was more concerned about my own limited emotional range and wanted my boys to be able to understand and feel their inner worlds…

But not in the way you might think.

I’m a 48-year-old woman in Southern California and I’m fascinated by aging, but not the gray hair and wrinkles aging.

Rather, I am absolutely astounded at the ways in which my perception of a numerical age is so vastly different from my experience of the numerical age.

Quite simply, 48 doesn’t feel how I thought 48 would feel.

I’m too young to have kids in college, right?

I teach at a nearby community college. This past week, during a conversation about musical tastes, a student shared the year her father was born relating it to the music he enjoys.


This student. This college student has a dad who…

Spring 2021 Contest Finalist

When dreaming big leads to new discoveries.

The sun hadn’t appeared for weeks. My walk to the number 40 tram, the first leg of my three-part commute (tram, train, bus) to Klosterneuburg was chilling. In the eleven months of this routine, much of what I wanted to accomplish had been realized. I was uncomfortable, with a modicum of self-knowledge under my belt.

Then, it started to snow.

I had never seen a fully formed snowflake before. There was snow every winter of my childhood, but I had never actually seen a snowflake, like the cutouts made in kindergarten.

And there, in the middle of a cold, gray…

Living one day at a time.

I’m generally not a fan of clichés, the reduction of wisdom into simple phrases for cross-stitched samplers. But as it turns out, I seem to be clinging to one particular cliché for dear life these days.

One day at a time.

I am known to use various iterations of this sentiment: “Let’s just do today.” Or, “I’m going to focus on Tuesday, then I’ll do Wednesday (if it’s a Tuesday).” Or this family favorite, “Be here now.”

The idea here isn’t an end-all erasing of anything I might look forward to in the future. Anticipating and dreaming is fun.


I put my bathing suit on anyway.

I love being in water.

Fully submerged, swimming in it, frolicking like a young child. Especially cold water; the kind of cold that immediately heightens all the senses, elevates the heart rate, causing an undeniable awareness of being alive.

I have been known to yell those exact words, “I’m alive!” Frankenstein-like as I walk from the waves after a long swim in the ocean. This is sometimes greeted with everything from utter amazement to sheer bafflement to near horror as some of my friends watch in disbelief. “How can you do that?!”

I’m invigorated. Energized. Alive!

I’m not picky. Cold water is my favorite but…

How self-reflection resulted in owning the pet I said we’d never have.

I have a very strange relationship with a snake. This dawned on me one morning while I was whispering to the one in my son’s room through a mesh screen as it moved towards the top of its cage.

When I watch this creature, I often wonder, what was I so afraid of?

This relationship has developed slowly, but consistently, during my daily visits to make sure it is still in its cage after it escaped just one month into its arrival at our home. The escaping is what I had initially been afraid of.

We have this snake because…

We’re just doing today.

Recently my husband and I had a rift; a simultaneously seismic and common-place one for a marriage of 22 years. It was enough to cause us both to stop, turn towards one another and assess the state of our union. We both deemed a sit-down check-in valuable.

We are committed to long-term success but encounter pretty reasonable hurdles and challenges for two humans choosing coexistence. We both agree we are each other’s person (thank you Grey’s Anatomy for that word choice). We like our brand, the Ream Team. So, we’re staying put.

But sometimes we hit bumps in the road…

I relive my own childhood insecurities from elementary school.

Something dawned on me this morning while helping my son with online school. It is a small step towards understanding the sheer fury I feel while trying to coax an uninterested child with Down Syndrome to do school work.

I write this not only as an illuminating observation for myself but as a possible explanation for what other parents might be feeling during this moment in time when we thought our children would be gloriously away at school for 6 hours and are instead in our dining rooms.

It just occurred to me that I am listening to the teacher…

When an in-law becomes a good friend and extends radical hospitality.

There is a little corner in Los Angeles where radical hospitality lives. I took advantage of this space after a near-desperate call to my sister-in-law to see if the small place in her backyard was open and available. Within minutes she replied, “Yes, of course!!!”

That much of her life and work is guided by these two words, radical hospitality, made the asking even easier.

Tucked under an enormous oak tree, this once-dilapidated garage offers calm to a tumultuous spirit.

It is no small thing, this dear friendship with my sister-in-law, my husband’s stepsister, a world-renowned artist. We eyed each…

Mandy Osterhaus Ream

Woman in middle age. Professor. Mom to one surfer and one kid with Down Syndrome. Fireman’s wife. Writing about all of it. Instagram @mandyosterhausream

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