In Defense of “Midwestern Nice”

Last week I read Sarah Smarsh’s opinion piece in The New York Times, entitled, “A Blue Wave in Kansas? Don’t Be So Surprised.” In the op-ed, Smarsh also dissected “Midwestern nice” as a misunderstood phenomenon of passive aggression. In reality, Midwestern nice, Smarsh argued, demonstrates the stoic restraint and composure of the often-underestimated people who […]

How to Talk to Your Family About Climate Change

As a biologist and science communicator, I sometimes have friends and relatives ask for advice on defending scientific topics to skeptical groups, especially climate change. In an era where misinformation runs rampant, this is a desire that is perhaps as admirable as it is foolhardy; on social media, the trolls and the actual skeptics can […]

The Genius of Hot Sauce

The reason we are told to make lemonade from the lemons that life gives us is obvious: Lemons rot because no one but unsuspecting babies in YouTube videos eats them raw. But as a commodity, lemonade is problematic too. Sugar is not local to our lemon grove and is costly, and anyway in lemonade we […]

Flying Solo

There is a fine line between bravery and stupidity, and while many say the outcome makes all the difference, I am not so sure. Deciding to fly solo with a “lap toddler” from St. Louis, Missouri, to Portland, Maine, sounded romantic, fun even, when I purchased the frugal, non-refundable plane ticket earlier in the summer. […]

The Gun Show in the Age of Violence

The gun show was small, which was fine with me. We would not have to shuffle-walk through the civic center for long. I left my eyeglasses in the car and wore a military-themed shirt but fooled no one. Just past the ticket counter, where everyone entered and automatically turned left, was the booth for the […]

The City and the Sea

Portland, Maine, sometimes dismissively known as “the other Portland,” the New England city that may not get as much attention as its funky, bigger sister in Oregon. That is a damned shame, however, because Portland, Maine is one of the most beautiful small towns you will find in the Union. Walk alongside the Old Port […]

Lifting the Veil

Last Friday Michelle Obama shared her struggles to conceive her daughters Malia and Sasha. As someone who has also experienced miscarriage, infertility, and IVF before conceiving, I am so grateful to the former First Lady for telling her personal story to the nation in her memoir Becoming. It is a story I needed to hear […]

Whatever the Opposite of Regret Is

Back in what was called (affectionately in the military) the Reagan-Bush years, I got out of the Army, did a bachelor’s in English and philosophy, then realized I needed a job. I had one unsolicited offer, to manage a city-park facility where I worked summers with a team of disadvantaged kids. My father-in-law-to-be thought law […]

The Meaning of Being a Veteran

Sunday is Veterans Day, which Woodrow Wilson set in motion in 1919, when he asked the country to remember the armistice that ended WWI. Now it is a day to honor all those who have served in the military—distinct from Memorial Day (those killed serving in war) and Armed Forces Day/Week (those serving now). There […]

Why Spanking Does Not Work

Corporal punishment is an outmoded tool of parenting (and education, which is a whole other topic), so it is a sweet relief that the American Academy of Pediatrics officially rebuked spanking as an effective disciplinary tool on November 5. In all the news of the midterm elections, I do not want this full-stop, empirical recommendation […]