Thursday, November 14, 2013

4:11 and the sun is setting in my office. The light slants across my keyboard, and I’m typing away. Listening to a conference call with some of the most annoying people I’ve ever met. The big boss around here is leading the call and is So! Perky! And! Fake! I can’t stand people like this. To sum it up, this is a woman who makes more money than the president of the united states, and still talks in baby talk like she’s just a gosh-darn, good ol’ gal y’all. And then can turn mean as a snake in 20 seconds.

But, eh. I’ve dealt with worse, I’ll deal with many more like her in the years to come.

Elizabeth posted this quote this morning, and I very rarely ever stop and consider the weight of words of a quote anymore. It feels like I’ve heard every platitude under the sun by now, and these days, I feel too rushed and frantic to pause.

Do not be overwhelmed by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

-The Talmud

Working in healthcare policy right now is very hard. It’s been hard, from almost the moment I had this dropped in my lap in 2006 and it took off into this career I’ve grown into. This city is in firing squad mode about, and I have friends and colleagues in the government that feel more like indentured servants than employees. One testified on the Hill yesterday, and since his summons to appear before Congress came, he’s slept on the floor of his office. It just sounds like a nightmare over there right now. Don't get me wrong -- this needs to be fixed. It should have never happened this way. Things could have been done so much better.

I touch Obamacare’s reimbursement/insurance/payment issues in my career, but it isn’t specifically my day job, and I’ve been guarded from the onslaught of criticism. But our time will come. 2014 will be our heavy lift; it will be our triumph or our downfall. I know I am being cryptic, and it’s nothing secret, just nothing worth going into.

Work is consuming me. So much (not the public stuff, more like office dynamic stuff) is going wrong and I feel like I’ve been on a steady decline all year as far as morale. And now I’m sitting at the bottom. My coworkers all bring their complaints and problems and hurts to me because I’m senior to them, but I’m not their boss. So I have the pleasure of listening and being dragged in, but having no authority to fix anything.

Ah lah, as Mary Moon would say.

The other night I dreamed I was prepping the CMS Administrator for her appearance before Congress. I had been emailing with her during the midnight hour the night before, and she had gone before Congress that day, and I guess this creeped into my mind at rest. I was sitting across from her and she kept asking me questions I couldn’t answer, and getting more and more mad and insistent. Uh, paging Dr. Freud please. I can’t quite figure out what all this means. Geez.

And I don’t have the answers. Things with this law aren’t perfect, things that we’re doing on our end aren’t perfect either. We’re slowly turning a ship in the middle of the ocean. S.l.o.w.l.y. I can’t be burdened with the enormity of it all.

But nor do I feel free to abandon it either. I’m seven years in, and I feel entrenched in this. Invested. Stuck. Honored. Lucky. Caught. Attached.

I suppose this all seems very dramatic, the ravings of a mid-level employee, mid-level in life. But it has been consuming me for so long that I’m putting my head up to realize that life is too short for all of this, surely. I can’t be dreaming about the office every single night. I need more.

No good way to end this, so I’ll leave a snapshot of my view, and know I am thinking of each of you as I type these words.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Every Day

Every day feels frantic.

I’ve entered the point where I was when I moved here, almost 4 years ago. And when I moved away from DC the first time, 8 years ago. And when I graduated college and moved to DC, 10 years ago.

What was senior-itis apparently transitioned into stagnant-itis with every few years bringing pretty seismic shifts in my life. Leading up to them was this anxious, frenzied feeling of quiet desperation (I know that sounds dramatic but it’s the best way I can think to put it) of “Something is going to change, it’s going to change in a big way, but I don’t know when/what/where and how any of it will occur.”

4 years ago, I actually went to the doctor and got on anti-depressants which I JUST weaned off of this summer. I was well past the point of actually needing them, and basically just was taking them to avoid the side effects. But that’s all done now, and I don’t feel that they’re needed to weather this similar….transition, whatever it may be.

4 years ago was different; I was different. I am a very, very different person than I was when I moved here, and that’s a very good thing.

My job is not going well. Beyond the government shutdown—has anyone heard the government is shutdown?—and the rollout of Obamacare—have you heard that some people don’t like that?—and the nitty-gritty work that we are in the middle of with health IT—you probably, actually, haven’t heard of that—things feel confusing and smothering and mad. Just mad. Mad crazy and plain mad, with my  blood pressure constantly on the rise.

Does anyone watch “The Middle?” The littlest kid, Brick, has a tic where he whispers under his breath what he is thinking or the last word he says. I’ve developed a Brick-like tic where I whisper “Fuckers” every single time I see John Boehner on TV and whoever he happens to be with. Add Michelle Bachmann to that list. And Eric Cantor. Fuckers. Life-alterers and destroyers and laughing all the way to the bank when this is all over with their book deals and TV gigs. Fuckers.

My health is also not going well. My cholesterol is up, my blood sugar was too elevated, etc etc. Doctor’s orders were a low-carb, high protein diet so I’m trying to figure out what the hell I’m going to eat. For an insane moment, I thought of using my blog to document my food and exercise. Then I realized that that would make me want to kill myself, as that is just so boring and I wouldn’t do that to you faithful few who come around to hear my thoughts. Like those are so exciting!

Every day, I look for jobs in Louisville, or in cities in Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina. I would move within that radius. I don't necessarily want to move "home" right smack in the middle of my family, but I  want to stay within a day's drive of them. I want to get to where I can get a patch of dirt. I want a home. I want to put down some roots. I love my leaky basement apartment in the most historic neighborhood in DC. But I can't live there forever.

I see dozens of jobs I could qualify for easily, right here in DC but they’re few and far between anywhere else. They’re there. They just take time and work to find, and for better or worse, my life has been here and focused nationally. It’s hard to pick someone like that who isn’t in tune with a state’s government, political players, and whole environment. But I’m trying.

Every day, I don’t see much. I apply for what I do see. I don’t date (what’s the point?), I play softball with my various co-ed teams, I come home, I get drinks with friends, I take out the trash and toss the cat in the air and catch him when I come home (he … loves it). And every day I feel like at any point, it’s all going to stop and change.

Something is. What? When?

Every day. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Texts with Dad

Sums up my work life, and my relationship with my (can't say enough good things about) father.


This has been a tough month. I've been working crazy long hours, have been traveling around from big towns to small ones (I was flying into Mobile at 8pm, watching the darkness below and I thought --Shit, are there even cabs here?) I am home for a good long time. Fall softball starts on Tuesday. Time to get myself back for a minute.

I've been ready to leave, lately. Thinking thoughts of what's next. I'm ready to buy a home, settle down, get a patch of dirt. In DC, that's just not possible. Especially not in the area I'm in now -- trust me when I say I'm practically stealing my apartment from my landlords who are happily coupled up in Cape Cod owning a B&B and basically being the biggest gay stereotypes there are. I love them like crazy, and vice versa, and so they let me stay. I take care of the place, and they are happy because their history is here. Their life as a couple, their first ten years together.

And now, my own history is here. New Years Eve will mark four years here. Almost 7 years total of being in the DC area. When I was being introduced on Tuesday before I spoke, I heard "Stephanie has over ten years experience in...." I have been in a stage of life longer than ten years! Jesus! I haven't done anything for ten years other than attend my county school system.

It's been a tough September, and here are a few pictures of my neighborhood tonight. I took a walk to remember exactly what I'd miss, so that I can enjoy it now. I'm weird like that.

Monday, August 26, 2013


For a little while now, I've debated pulling the plug on this whole blog. Something always stops me, but something these days also stops me from writing too. I don't know if I could call it "writer's block" since it's not as if I usually say anything profound enough to be considered a real "writer" -but, it's there, just the same.

So much has happened this summer to make me very grateful for the people in my life. I wish sometimes I could write out each day as it happens, but I just don't have time. I don't have time to blog at work and at night, I often want to leave the heavy thinking to tomorrow after a full day of often very intense work.

The thing that would make me saddest to shut down would be to feel like I was losing each of you - you wonderful women, who came along during these years, and always read and encourage me to keep going, keep pushing. Those that I have now known for years, those that I have grown close to and become friends with offline and into real life.

One of the biggest things I'm glad about after observing the blogging world from afar, is that I am so, so glad I never tried to monetize or expand this blog. I'm glad I never advertised; I'm glad I never wrote for "an audience." I'm glad I never decided to become a brand; I'm glad I never wanted to fill a niche. I never shared this space with my family or others close to me, save a very precious few. I never wanted to guard my words; I never wanted to think about how my thoughts would be perceived.

I wrote authentically for me, and I am so glad for our small community -each of you that found me, one by one, and said "you." Yes, I will become invested in you.

This summer, I went to the Jersey Shore. My first time ever going to Jersey, and I went with friends. How did I meet these friends, you ask? Well, my friend Denise who lives in Knoxville is a kick-ass doctor, a yogi, a woman with struggles that she is brutally honest about. A woman who has a funny husband and a cute daughter, and I would never have known her without this blog. I would have never have found myself on the Jersey Shore in July 2013, because I never would have found Mary Moon, who connected me to Maggie May, who connected me to Katie Allison Granju, who connected me to her sister Betsy, who connected me into her entire tribe of friends, including Denise.

Betsy's kids sometimes slip and call me "Aunt Stephanie" and each of them are special to me now. And it would have never been if it hadn't been for these women. These women! You, women. I am in awe of all the people my blog has brought to me in "real life" with a readership of what -- 10, total? 15?

I guess 1 is all you really need.

1 becomes 2 which becomes 5 which becomes bigger than I knew could be possible.

If you hang with me, I'll hang with you.

(Summer 2013, Avalon, New Jersey)

 Beach Yoga -- I'm in the red shirt.

June visit -meeting my childhood best friend's son for the first time. Being his first babysitter. I think he digs me.

July 2013 -My softball team (scrapes and stitches for almost everyone) took second place in the summer tournament. Fall ball begins Sept 10.

Thanks for being here.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

So much

More to say -it's been one heck of a summer so far. And it's only just beginning.

I'll leave you with these images of last night, at the wedding of a best friend I've had since we were 6 years old. My first memory of school is of her, and we're holding our trapper keepers up against the wall and talking about them.

I was a ball of emotions during the entire stint, mostly thanks to my friend with the initials PMS. I was also the only childless, single bridesmaid which helped matters not one bit. I could write a book on that experience at some point.

More to come tomorrow or this week...for now, here we are.

Our song since high school has been Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" -- and became far more fitting when, almost two years ago, she was with me when I fell on a cruise ship and broke my ankle during our vacation together.

She was wonderful.

I fell, she caught me.

I stood beside her this weekend as she married a man whom, I feel sure, will always catch her.

The last one was taken quickly in the car to send to my sister as a 'thank you' for doing my hair. She rocks. I didn't notice until uploading here that half my eyeliner on one eye is smudged off. See the word "emotional" earlier.

What a weekend, what a week, what a summer, what a life.

Monday, May 20, 2013

You Make Us Work Better

I'm bone tired, but I want to get this all out because I want to remember this weekend. My oldest niece graduated high school this past Saturday, and I flew in for it. I don't usually fly in for weekends (maybe once per year) and definitely not for individual occasions of each of my 10 nieces and nephews. But this one -this one was a biggie.

I whispered upon arrival, to her younger sister, that that high school gym packed with people was the most white people I've seen in a clump since we went to Disney World in 2004. She laughed and laughed at that one -- they came up to visit me over Thanksgiving, so they've all gotten a good front-row seat to my life and its differences to the small rural town in which we were raised.

I spent alot of time with Shelby, this niece of mine, as she grew. She was born when I was 14 to my 18 year old step-sister. This step-sister was fairly recently acquired as even though our parents had been dating since I was about 8 years old, Mom wouldn't marry him for several years. So, our family changed awfully dramatically in that short timespan and we all lived together too for most of the time. On the weekends, her crib was wheeled into my room.

I would wake in the middle of the night and bounce her up and down to popular country songs I'd hum under my breath. She particularly loved this song and I'd sing and dance little motions along with the lyrics "I know what love (bounce) is, WHATS it (dip) to you?"

'Time's up, train's a-moving baby.'

And so, it is her time to move on down the tracks. I made her a video for graduation that had everyone in the room sobbing  ugly tears. I was truly not intending that to happen, and I felt guilty. Especially for her younger siblings, who I didn't expect to look like they'd been smacked across the face. It was like it truly hit them that she's leaving. They've been such a tight unit of 3 since they were all born in within a few years of each other.

The video was a trip to make, watching them all grow up again - and me, an awkward teenager, grow up along with them.

She's going to college on a full cheerleading and academic scholarship. She got 'er done, and Aunt Steph is pretty dang proud.

Monday, April 29, 2013

All in one day...

My emotions are zig zagging all over the place tonight, as the adrenaline from the weekend slows down and leaves me out of sorts.

My mom was here for a week, and left early yesterday morning. That whole visit could be a post in itself -maybe sometime. I put her in a cab at 730, then came home to fall back asleep and wake to find that one of my best college friends had given birth to a boy.

I walked to the store. Bought a $2 bag of day-old bagels from the local place that keeps them back for the locals. I baked a taco/tex mex....thing. I vacuumed.

I went to a reception down the street -the place I used to work in Kentucky was in town having a conference. I smiled and shook hands and did the "do you remember me/oh you look SO great!" bit.

Then, I walked home while talking to my dad. He wouldn't let me off the phone until I was safe in my apartment, then I hung up to learn that my very best childhood friend had given birth to a boy.

Two people, whose lives I used to be so intertwined with that I knew everything about them, down to what they ate every day. Two girls that I watched grow into women, and now watched grow into mothers. Mothers of sons. I am happy -- so incredibly happy, truly -- but I can't ignore the niggling feeling of "what about me?" Can it be my turn yet?

I've been trying out the phrase "I doubt I'll have children" to see how it tastes in my mouth. It tastes wrong and bitter, but I'll grow to acquire a taste for it. It's something I'm learning to accept, and realize that the traditional way of doing things just may not be for my path. The alternatives of adoption or other means of giving birth may well be my reality. It's daunting, as I age. My life has always taken a strange path -and perhaps that will just continue.

In the meantime, I keep trying to transform healthcare in America. Ya know, that easy-peasy thing. We're working so so hard. That's pretty much all I can say. I pulled off a successful event last week on the hill (meaning congressional hill visits and a press briefing) and it was a huge load off my mind when I finally stood up to close us out.

My mom came with me, and I sat her in the very back. I told her she could come along -- it was very strange to see my mother alongside my boss, my clients, my coworkers, all my professional colleagues that dominate my landscape here. I stood up to give everyone a job-well-done pep talk. And then, there was my mom, snapping pictures.

Some things never change.

On we grow.

Me, Russell Senate Building, April 2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Just writing

I've probably started 10 or 20 blog posts by now. I either delete them or save them and never look at them again, and then another day starts and it's a blur from there.

Sometimes this blog is like a friend that I lose touch with -I don't want to lose touch, but it's close enough to me that it's either all or nothing. We need to talk everyday, about everything, or we can't talk at all. There's no in between with us, and when there's a gap, it's noticeable and I'm a little shy about approaching again.

So, hello. I've been okay. Working my ASS off, and finally went home last weekend for a quick break and some baby/kid niece and nephew time. I hugged each of them to me time and time again. They center me, each of their blonde heads pressing into my chest and sneezing in my face and arms thrown over me at night when I sleep in the middle. 

I'm always ready to get back home though, to my DC home. I spent the day in Lexington (where I lived for four years, and where I lived when I started this blog) and I noticed how uncomfortable I am there. I almost feel a panic attack coming on when I look out the window and see the sights of a few years ago sliding past my window. That town never fit me, and I can't breathe there. 

I didn't cry when I flew away this time. I usually don't, anymore. I am always glad to get back, and I always miss my family, and I feel like I'm always going to be destined to be missing someone, somewhere. It's how I grew up, lugging my duffle bag from county to county to one house from another. I will always feel torn, and always feel like there's something I'm missing.

In February, I met Bill Clinton. I met a few other folks that are pretty important to my industry but aren't famous, all at our annual conference, and I felt like I was doing something. All the crowded metro rides and the snowy slush that cars rain on my pants, all the late nights and wordsmithing was for something. Clinton, before he closed his remarks to us, said "I pray for your success." 

I'm not sentimental much anymore, about anything really. But for a minute, I felt that was genuine. That we were being counted on to do something amazing. And then now, back again, slogging through the day-to-day "who is going to order the water bottles and dish detergent" and budget battles and things out of my control just wipe all that out. I'm feeling discouraged and like it's all just taking so damn long to count. My brother in law this weekend asked me "Is Obamacare stupid?" I hesitated and he asked "Or, do you not know much about it?" I said "I know too much about it, which is why I can't answer things like that so simply."


I dated someone, and I think it may be over. More about that another time. Another blip on the ever-ending radar screen cycle of things-that-don't-work-out. It makes me so tired to even write about, because I've been writing about this for years. I've been writing about how I'm working on accepting that things just might not turn out in the way that I had thought. And yet I'm not accepting it, and forging on, and dabbling in the heartbreak and hope again and again, and it's just getting so very old.

I turn 32 next week. I've been writing here since I was 26, and I feel paralyzed sometimes when I think of how little has changed even though so MUCH of course has. I am a completely different person in so many ways. 32.

32, and what have I done? What does it matter?

I'll leave you all with some pictures of some absolutely beautiful kids that I adore, and thank all of you very few (and very treasured) readers for hanging with me all these years. Keep writing.

Me and my teenage nieces
 Little guys, Easter morning
 Brooklyn with our found baby rabbit
 My dad, and his grandkids. I love how much they love each other.
 Me and my sister that keeps me sane.

 All five of our babies, a moment totally unposed and captured on the sly

Niece with baby bunny
 Nephew, being a dreamer.
 Nephew that holds my heart.

Thanks all. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The rain falls. The dryer hums. The dog upstairs runs in circles barking at the thunder. His owners chase after him. The cat lifts his head to the ceiling, then settles back down again. The TV is on, but muted, and it's 10. The hour where I hear that reasonable people go to bed during the week. The hour where I usually start to rev up -I'm a night owl. Always have been.

I took the train home tonight, shuffled with the masses, my Audible book playing from my iphone. It's been a long time since I've done the subway thing.

I came home with the first raindrops. Ate supper, put the laundry in the dryer. A quiet night. I opened my laptop to begin to work. I work every single night now. I've never been so work-busy in my entire life. The problem is -that isn't even extraordinary anymore. It's expected.

"I'm leaving now but I'll be back on around 8," I say to my boss. Sometimes I want him to protest.

He never does.

Tonight, I'm not going to work. I'm going to lay here, under the white blanket and read my book and listen to the rain.

The world will wait.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


It was a wonderful weekend.


And we spin and we spin,
as I let the world in
And we dance and we dance
as I watch the days pass.

My little poem there pretty much sums up this month for me. I honestly can't remember a busier one, and I'm so uncertain about everything that I broke out in stress acne on one side of my chin. Awesome.

Let's see. I had a friend stay here for about 3 weeks -we've been friends for so long, and even though we go such long gaps of time without seeing each other (he's a professional campaigner for democratic politics, and hops around the the country on different races), we generally can pick up where we left off. Somewhat. Knowing, too, that he is guarded  and knowing that our lives over the past ten years since we sat together sharing a desk in 2003 as summer interns in DC for the first time....well, they've changed. And we've changed.

But not so much that we didn't have three great weeks of cooking, and watching TV and reconnecting. Talks until midnight. Wondering will we/won't we? What is this?

He left mid-afternoon today, bound for another state -taking all his things with him. I didn't know. He sent me a hasty text while I was at work.

"Thanks for everything."

Gone. Abrupt.

Gone but gradually, is my best friend. The one I reference just a few posts down - we stopped communicating around the fall, and then Thanksgiving went, and Christmas hit, and I never called. And I would watch those with that easy give and take of comfort and it would hit me -I don't have a best friend anymore. Not a day-to-day one, as I did. I do have my wonderful best/forever friend, but we've been without each other for so long that our long absences don't phase us. We are just us. It's different when you lose someone that you had almost constantly.

We started reconnecting just this week. I am glad, but not glad at the same time. I have my arm out, keeping this at a distance.

It's interesting -- only in the last three years have I lost friends. Out and out lost them due to either a falling-out or an intentional separation. I've had those I've drifted from, certainly. But, it's a recent thing for me to shut people out. And even if those shutting outs have been for the best, it's still a different hat for me to wear.

Difficult, too.

But the tide ebbs and flows. Things come back even if they go away.

We can't blink.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Oftentimes, I don't write because I think my life is too boring. The mundane, the Congressional politics, the regulations, the endless writing of healthcare specs -- then home, dinner and drink, two grumpy cats, what's on Hulu tonight? Tomorrow let's do it all again. Then I wake and say to myself as I stumble to the bathroom, "when is it going to be too much?" But I shower, make a pot of tea in the kettle of one green tea bag and one english breakfast, put the bagel in the toaster, feed the meowy cat, listening to NPR on my phone the whole time. I wonder when I got so old---NPR and green tea? Really?

I work all day and my TV is on cspan which I watch out of the corner of my eye. The interns run around, laughing, and I remember when I was one of them. I wonder if they know that sometimes I still feel 22? I'm asked important questions and sometimes don't know the answer. Find myself deferring, googling, fast talking, backward stepping.

I took a break for almost two weeks when I went to Kentucky for Christmas. All in all, it was a great trip. I wish I were the type to blog every day -I wish I could update all the time on my thoughts, so I could have that and look back. Instead, I see a blur of baby boys dancing to U2 and doing the cha-cha slide -- I see a five year old girl niece crying to me on the phone because I'm not there to sleep with her that night. I suggested she sleep with her sister instead and she sobbed back "But she doesn't smell the same as you, Aunt Steph."

I see the many glasses of milk I drank. The many, many, many arms of family members I hugged. The conversations held in the dark of night -it is so interesting to hear so many of my family's perspectives on my life. Some think I'm doing some awesome, amazing, thing by being here and others think I'm simply biding my time until I come home and buy a farm.

I have absolutely no idea what I want, almost all of the time. I do know that right now, I don't want to overthink it. I pop the bagel in the toaster, heat the tea, and put one foot in front another.

New Years Eve, I drove back to DC to avoid a winter storm. I drove, ahead of the snow, and thought about how I moved into my apartment on New Years Eve three years ago. I am home. I have another home, two states away.

Growing up, I had another home, two counties away.

I will always be torn. It will always be bittersweet.

To quote the immortal genius of Led Zeppelin...."because you know some times, words have two meanings."

Seems like all of my words do. All my thoughts -all my deepest desires.

Thanks for being here. On to 2013 -on we grow. (Thank you Mel, for this video)