When “it” means everything, including morning coffee.

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A Toxic System

There is a fundamental belief that guides me. It’s a paradigm around which I make most of my daily life decisions; a framework I use to evaluate every element of my experience. It is a toxic, insidious, oppressive system that issues hard judgments if I fail, even though failure or success can change on a whim. I haven’t always been conscious of this system.

But I’m hoping awareness will lessen the grip it has on my inner world.

What is this driving force that shapes my days? It is the need to get “it” right. It’s a rather vague idea…


Captivated by the power of sharing stories.

The author listening for a story. Victoria, Canada.

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.


Navigating hard things on vacation.

Photo by the Author.

We were visiting the Big Island of Hawaii for the first time, in the middle of our week vacation, and I was angry at my son for having feelings.

More specifically, that he was having very particular feelings I didn’t like while we sat in a restaurant beside the beautiful Magic Sands beach in Kona, Hawaii. Below us, turquoise waves crashed against the lava rocks. Beachgoers braved the shore break. My son was pissed.

He was frustrated at the boundaries I was setting about lunch together; angry I had said no, he couldn’t body surf while we waited for the…


Can you get to the nearest beach?

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Over the past crazy months, I’ve read and watched and listened, becoming more and more irritated. The tension that accompanies a divided country limping out of a pandemic has gradually seeped into my skin, my shoulders, my gut. It’s ever-present.

And I see this irritation mirrored in people around me.

A person in my community noticed this same thing when she asked on our local Nextdoor Neighbor app “has anyone noticed how grouchy people are today?”

“Yes. Yes, I am.” I wanted to reply if I was someone who replied on apps like this. I sometimes wonder if this grouchiness…


It isn’t pretty.

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Simply Ridiculous

It has suddenly occurred to me that my current status is simply too ridiculous not to record.

It is a cool evening in Southern California after a warm day. I am using this to my advantage with a whole-house fan (we do not have central air conditioning) that draws in air from any open windows and expels hot air out of a vent in the attic.

This larger fan is assisted by two small fans strategically placed in my bedroom for more circulation around my always-glistening brow; one fan sits mere inches from my face.

Recently plagued by recurring headaches…


Answering this question while meeting my daily 1000-word goal.

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Goals are good

This is simply a writing exercise to meet one of my goals: writing 1000 words every day this summer. Rarely have I had such a goal, except for say, brushing my teeth or drinking coffee.

I often read insights and advice from fellow writers like Shaunta Grimes. Many repeat the wise words that regular writing is a good discipline. David Sedaris talks about this in his Master Class. For me, 1000 words a day is a helpful mark to reach.

However, to complete this goal, I periodically find myself in ambivalent spaces like this one right now. I have multiple…


Finding healing in the craziest place.

This is not the author. Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

I Will Never

Do you have a “never” category in your life? A list of things under the heading, “I will never…?” I do. Sky diving. Marathon. Hot Yoga.

I am emphatic on these points. Certain. Unwavering. There are just some ways in which I simply do NOT want or need to push myself. I stand firm on these things.

But somehow (I’m open to the theory that I was drugged), I recently found myself taking deep breaths in a room heated to over 100 degrees, waiting to begin a yoga class. How did this happen?

My Own Private Summers

It is important to know that I…


The house doesn’t just hold my memories; it holds my DNA.

Photo by Eirik Olsen on Unsplash

The message came from across the country via Facebook. “We are selling Cedar Avenue,” he wrote. The timing was uncanny. In just a few days from reading this, I would be back in Virginia visiting my family.

“It would be incredible to come see the house, if possible,” I replied. “Would that work?”

“Terrific!” he said. “We would love to meet you.”

My connection to the current owners happened only a few months ago when my mother spontaneously, and with determination, decided to knock on the door of our house on Cedar Avenue, a house we hadn’t lived in since…


I’m so glad I didn’t take it with me.

Photo by Jacob Morrison on Unsplash

I am wrapping up a week-long visit to my favorite place, to my home state, to my roots. Virginia. Virginia holds a special place in my heart and soul. So much so that in my early 40s, I decided it was time to get the tattoo I had wanted for years. I chose the Virginia state flower: the dogwood. I love Virginia.

Part of the great enjoyment of Virginia is the vivid colors in nature. Lush green trees line every road. The skies are dotted with bright white clouds against a dynamic blue. And it is fun, in theory, to…


Not all the time. Just right now.

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

It happens more often than I care to admit.

There are moments when I am suddenly, overwhelmingly, hit with one thought: I want to be someone else.

For a long time, I wanted to be Gwyneth Paltrow. (This probably isn’t quite past tense yet.) Sometimes it’s Joanna Gaines. Sometimes I want to be one of my friends.

Sometimes I unintentionally (read “intentionally”) feed this when I’m scrolling through Instagram. In a nod towards masochism, I tend to scroll more when I can feel this desire to be someone else coming on. I see a fellow mom with a child with Down Syndrome and I imagine life is better in…

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. mandyosterhausream.com

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