Three Good Things, the Cozy-Up-to-Fall Edition

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Hooray, Fall has officially arrived in these parts. We’re talking a chill in the air, leaves on the ground, and a need for warm beverages of all kinds. I may or may not have taken inventory of my sweaters…and then ordered a couple more off ThredUp. Don’t judge.

I’m a little sorry to see October – my most favorite of all the months – go. I celebrated the start of it by finally framing the print I got for Katie’s nursery all those years ago, and the end with a frenetic, sugar-laden spate of birthday and Halloween parties. Now it’s time to look ahead to Thanksgiving…and maybe to break out the early, cozy Christmas music. (Like I said, don’t judge.) But first: my good things of the last month.

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Three things I’ve loved:

Libraries, and other people who love them, too. When I got back into reading, I really got back into using our library system. And I’m not alone: our neighborhood branch is full of people every time I’m there – scanning the shelves, using the computers, sitting and reading with their kids. So when a columnist tweeted that “nobody goes to libraries anymore,” and that we should “close the public ones,” he got a whole lot of pushback – in the form of 110,000+ replies — and especially from Alex Halpern, who calls himself “The Angriest Librarian.” I love the Angriest Librarian.

How Reese Witherspoon is changing Hollywood for women. An interesting look at the power Witherspoon commands, and the niche she has carved out for herself. But beyond that, I loved the thread in here about how her life as a reader has shaped this part of her career, and how much of her studio’s work is aimed at lifting up stories by and about women. Plus, her Instagram book club feed is a total delight.

Parents who turned heartbreak into doing good. After Rebekka and Randy Hauskins’ daughter Hayden was stillborn in 2010, they spent a year paying off their hospital bill. They went on to create Hayden’s Helping Hands, a non-profit that helps families in similar situations pay their medical bills. They’ve since helped pay the hospital bills for 43 families. What an amazing service they’ve done for other grieving parents.

Three things I’ve learned:

A Philando Castile memorial fund erased school lunch debt in St. Paul. The fund’s sponsor originally wanted to raise $5,000 to help kids get their lunches, just as Castile did in his job as a nutrition services supervisor at a St. Paul school. Then the fund raised over $72,000 – enough to pay off all the school lunch debt in the city. (School lunch debt remains a stigmatizing problem across the country, though, and fundraisers have collected tens of thousands of dollars in many other cities, too.)

How a cheerleader became the face of the Pam Am 103 attack. Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988, killing 259 people, including 35 Syracuse University students on their way home from a semester in London. Every year, SU celebrates Remembrance Week in honor of the students the school lost. As we get further from the bombing – none of the undergrads at SU now were even alive back then – and the same stories have been told multiple times, it’s hard to bring a new angle to the story. This Daily Orange piece manages to do it, by telling the story of the cheerleader whose tear-streaked face became the viral picture of the disaster.

Don’t bother buying the good cinnamon. I can go through buckets of cinnamon in my fall baking – what pairs better with apples and pumpkin, really? – so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Washington Post’s taste test showed it’s not worth spending extra on the “really good” stuff. (From my own experience, though, I’d say good vanilla is worth every penny.)

Three things I’ve been grateful for:

A sleep coach. Katie’s never been a great sleeper, and there have been a few times in the last three years when I’ve considered turning to a sleep coach. But then the phase would pass, and she’d finally settle into some semblance of a sleep routine, and I’d catch up – a little. But this fall? No dice. She finally broke out of her crib in early August, and that freedom combined with the upheaval of starting at a new preschool has destroyed her sleep (and ours). When we hit almost three months of not sleeping through the night and sharing our bed with a fidgety three-year-old, I had to call in the big guns. Our consultant digested my copious notes about Katie, her schedule, and her sleep patterns to come up with a set of recommendations for us. Some of them are unconventional, including sleeping downstairs outside her room, to help her stop waking overnight, but at this point I’ll try anything. (I knew she got it when her report started with this assessment: “Strong-willed. Attached to mom.”) We’re not fully through the fog yet – and now we get to deal with the end of daylight savings, eeep! – but I can see it clearing. Sleep, how I love thee.

Podcasts to get through some difficult days (aka how to stay engaged and keep resisting without totally losing it). It truly seemed like the world was spinning off its axis on some days in October. On the days when I just couldn’t listen to another hour devoted to the stressful news of the day (or week, or month, or year), but I didn’t want to fully disengage, I was glad to have episodes from some of my favorite go-to podcasts to help me process my anxiety (see, The Mom Hour, The Edit Your Life Show, Selfie).

Beth Caldwell. After being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2014 — and amid rounds and rounds of difficult treatments — Beth became a fierce advocate for more funding for research into MBC, which kills 113 people every day and yet receives only 7 percent of all breast cancer funding. She founded the non-profit MET UP to raise more research dollars, and she taught me so much about the politics and the reality of cancer funding (see, pink washing). Even as she faced her own mortality this year, she fought tirelessly against efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and cut Medicaid funding; we were lucky to have her in our court. I’m glad that our paths crossed then, and I only wish that they had sooner. She loved bourbon and eggnog lattes; smart-ass t-shirts and socks; and her family, not necessarily in that order. Beth died this week, and I miss her already. I’ll think of Beth whenever I wear my own smart-ass socks, and I’ll do as much as I can to raise that 7 percent. Give to MET UP here and to the memorial fund set up in Beth’s name at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center here.

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Smart-ass socks, in honor of Beth

What have you loved, learned, and felt grateful for lately?

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