Rest in peace, sweet Oscar

We have always been, at minimum, a two-dachshund family. Siblings Edward and Billy joined us in 2004, then rescue Oscar came along in 2017. Three dogs, while a lot of work, was the ideal number for me. I needed them. Then Billy died earlier this year. I was devastated, obviously, but eventually adjusted to “just” having two dogs. I could do that.

In the early part of this summer, Oscar began to fade away. He was such a tough little doxie who survived so much. He was found tied up outside a shelter, having maybe spent some time living on the street, or was freshly abandoned there, or fell to earth from whatever planet grows toothless little weirdos with hearts of gold. An angry little man with lots of defensive walls built up, he was deemed unadoptable and set to be euthanized. Thankfully, a rescue group swooped in and saved him. He then spent 8 months going to weekly adoption events, snarling and snapping at everyone who tried to even look at him.

Meanwhile, I was at my house looking at dogs on the internet. Here’s a game my brain plays with me:

Brain: Psst. If you go online and look at old dogs who need homes, I’ll make a little serotonin for you, as a treat.

Me, every time: Okay. *looks, then starts sobbing at all the sweet old dogs needing homes*

Brain: Ha ha, you fell for it again! Now you’re even sadder than you were five minutes ago! *pauses* Oh my god! I have the best idea for us! Look up “disabled dogs that need homes!” No—it’ll be heartwarming! Just try it!

Me: *does it and sobs forever*

So that’s the state I’m in when Matthew finds me at my computer. I show him Oscar, weeping, telling him that that’s my dog. Somehow, MY dog is on the internet and needs a home. Matthew, who is kind and patient and understands how much I NEED this dog, simply says, “Let’s go get him.” So, we do. And you all know the rest of the story. Either you’ve read the blog posts. Or you’ve met him. Or you follow me on Twitter. But you know all about Oscar. His little act of  “I will KILL all of you” dropped the second he got in our car. He was, hands down, the very best boy a person could want.

So back to earlier this summer. He starts to get scrawny. We know he has a bad liver, a bad heart, and IVDD, the disc disease that so many dachshunds suffer from. Still, he slips and slides all around the house, his back legs no longer working, to follow me everywhere. He eats, monitors every thing that happens in the house, and, despite his weakened back half, has very few accidents. At some point, he loses the strength to constantly launch himself off the couch or wherever I’ve set him. He stops being able to use his strong front legs to haul himself around. He becomes nothing but bones. Petting him is traumatic—bump, bump, bump.

We buy him a little cart and see if we can help him get up and moving again. It doesn’t go well and, per use, becomes the most expensive thing we own. We keep him in his stroller, I sit and handfeed him his meals, he requires us to hold him to his water dish for drinks and to hold him outside to go potty. He can’t do anything on his own. Before we leave for vacation, I start to feel like I’m carrying around a dead dog. But I’m not ready. And, more importantly, he’s not ready. I know this.

We go to Colorado for the week and leave him in the capable hands of my mother. I beg him not to die while we’re gone. I will not be able to handle it, because of his actual death and because of the tsunami of trauma and grief it will trigger in me by stirring up all the other deaths I didn’t get a goodbye with. We come home and he’s alive! But he’s done. I know it.

The things happening are too grim to detail. I tell myself that I won’t make the call for a day or two. Maybe he can go on his own. But, like Billy, Henry, and Chester before him (god, has it been a shit year), he can’t. I come home from the gym on Sunday morning, and I know he’s done. He needs our help.

I call the vet, sobbing, and ask if our favorite vet tech is working. They put me on the phone with her and she sets us up. Oscar will be with her and our favorite vet, the two who were with Billy. A., our favorite vet tech, has the kindest heart. She loves our dogs so much. I know I’m making the right call. We spend the day holding Oscar, who barely opens his eyes. I cry and cry and cry. Like with Billy, Edward wants nothing to do with this stage. He keeps his distance, reluctantly giving Oscar one little lick when I force him to be close to him. I pet Oscar, his bony back, his poky hips, the deep ridges along his skull. There is nothing left. I keep one hand on his chest the whole time to make sure he’s still in there. He is, but he’s not. At the vet, sweet A. gets him set up with his IV and comes back after a bit with him, saying she took so long because she needed to snuggle him and was crying. I hold him the whole time, telling him he was the best little dog anyone could ever want. And then, he’s gone.

I come home to just one dog. I’ve never had just one dog. I am a wreck. Callum puts the stroller and cart down in the storage room so I don’t have to look at them. Edward sniffs the blanket we had Oscar in, nosing around in it to look for him, like, “I know he was tiny, but good lord, where is he in here?” Edward side-eyes me, knowing I am the Dachshund Angel of Death, knowing in the past many months I have put four dachshunds in the car, gone to vet, and come home alone. I sob to the point that I think I’m going to throw up and eventually Edward takes pity on me and curls up with me.

Three, then two, now one. Each dog leaves and takes a little piece of me with him. I worry that soon there will be nothing left. I like dogs way more than I like people. The grief is the searing, uncomplicated kind that comes from losing someone who was only ever 100% loving, the uncomplicated kind that often cannot come with losing a person, because people have faults and dogs do not.

I’m writing this with Edward sleeping alone on his dog bed. He has never been alone. He has never been an only. We are in this new landscape together. And I have to say, I hate it here.

Thank you for four wonderful years, sweet Oscar, little space goblin, canine love of my life. I hope you’re back on your home planet now, able to run again, tongue flapping in the wind as you chase the other weird little goblins.

Goodbye, good boy

It’s New Year’s Eve and Billy is dying.

Someone nearby is setting off fireworks, each one making me wince. My head hurts from crying all day.

I am not ready for my sweet dog to die. I like dogs so, so, so much more than most people. I wish I could choose some human to die in his place. See ya, Mitch McConnell!

Billy’s skeletal at this point, frail in a way that leaves us marveling how he’s still mobile and coherent. And he is. He hasn’t eaten in ten days. He’s weaker, sure, and wobblier, but his eyes are still shiny. He still responds to his name. He’s the dog having the least accidents in the house. But it’s almost time.

I often find Edward pressed up against him, one paw on Billy, or his head resting on him. He knows.

When we went to choose our dachshund puppy, I wanted Edward because he was so big and strong. Matthew couldn’t bear the thought of leaving Billy, the runt, behind. So both dogs came home with us to our little Boston apartment. They’ve never been apart. Not even a night.

Callum, who has spent nearly every therapy appointment for 8 years bringing up the question of what will he do when one of our dogs dies is calm and accepting. I’m crying quietly to myself as I make him dinner. He comes and takes the food out of my hands and hugs me. My baby boy towers over me, at 6’1”, and holds me tight while I sob. Later he sits in bed with me, petting a sleeping Billy. “We’ve been crying over him all day,” I say. “Even dad?” Callum asks, amazed. “Of course,” I say. “Wow. He never cries.”

We keep poking Billy, lifting him, waking him. He’s probably quite annoyed. He’s spent years perfecting an existence that we’ve long called “undead.” He’s been a picky eater for years, often going a few days without eating. He has mastered some sort of breathing routine that makes him breathe half as much as real fully alive dogs. I place my hands on him and wait, my breath held, and think, this is it—he’s gone. Then he takes a big shuddering breath. Nervous Edward, the caretaker dog, the nanny dog, doesn’t know what to, so he just keeps nervously cleaning his dogs.

It’s New Year’s Day now and my dog is still dying. Did you know sometimes dying can take a long time? I spend the day reading a book written by one of my best friends. It’s comforting because I can hear her voice and feel her by me. I think about when my dad died and how she flew in to be with me. I keep thinking about my dad during this time with Billy and about my grandma. I didn’t get to say goodbye to either of them. I’m getting the world’s longest goodbye with Billy. I’m not sure it’s a better option. My Simmons gang keeps texting that they’re there for me, that they’re here with me. Twitter floods my feed with love for Billy and support for us. My best friend Kelly texts me every day to check in, but my report is always the same. We are waiting.

It’s January 2 and my dog is still dying. He’s on day 12 of no food. He is some kind of miracle, a stubborn little doxie who just won’t let go. I’d gotten up at 4 with him. He was panting and limp and I thought, so here we are. It’s happening.

It wasn’t happening.

His breathing returns to normal, he gets a drink of water, goes outside for potty, and goes back to sleep. I keep holding him and telling him it’s okay to go now. I don’t believe anything happens after we die, but I still tell him stories of all the family dachshunds that will be waiting for him. He will get to see Mitzi, Ludwig, Gus, and Henry. He just gives me his little doxie side-eye, irritated that I keep waking him and crying all over him.

The day seems good, then bad. We cry and cry, but also laugh over all the funny Billy stories from over his long life. After more than a week of not throwing up, and 12 days of not eating, he throws up black tar that smells like sewage. We plead with him to please just let go. We don’t want to do it for him. I put an air mattress on the main floor so I can sleep with Billy and so can his brothers. The last thing I want is to be cleaning puke from my bed or carpet. We leave the fire on for him—there’s nothing he likes better than toasting himself in front of the fire. Edward frets a bit about why a bed is on the main floor and why we’re not heading upstairs, but eventually settles in next to Billy on the big dog bed. Oscar doesn’t care what’s happening as long as I’m there.

I don’t sleep really. Oscar stays right next to me, something he usually doesn’t do when sleeping, and Edward stays on the dog bed with Billy. I read, scroll on my phone, watch some shows, and wait. Sometime around 3, Billy climbs from his bed onto mine. I hold him tight until we get up. He throws up again and all I can think is that I hate this SO MUCH.

I hate this. I HATE it.

I think about him as a tiny puppy, too scared to cross thresholds into rooms and needing a little lift. I think about him being best buds with my mom. I think about all the times he managed to get stuck in the arm of a sweatshirt that he found abandoned on a bed. I think about him playing his version of ball—grab the toy and never let go, but run like mad. I think about the long, good life he has had.

It’s January 3 and my god, my dog is still dying. He is the toughest little dachshund, the toughest runt, to ever live. We look online and find sites that are like, some dogs can live 3-5 days without food. Billy’s like, day 13, bitches! Billy does what Billy wants! Matthew and I discuss intervening and making a choice for Billy. But he doesn’t appear to be suffering. We want him to go on his own if he can. We try to figure out if we’re being selfish, if we’re doing the right things. And we wait. Even in the best case scenario, even with the most insignificant of things, I am terrible at waiting. I’m impatient. I’ve cleaned everything in my house. I can’t concentrate to read. I just pace, stop and stare to see if Billy is still breathing, and plead with him to stop being such a strong little guy. Dachshunds—stubborn to the end.

I set up my little bed area again on the main floor for the world’s saddest sleepover. Billy sleeps in front of the fire, wrapped in my precious baby blanket, and I sleep with my head up by him. Edward and Oscar sleep pressed against me. Billy gets up repeatedly in the night to do his little loop around the downstairs. I trail behind him in the dark, wondering how on earth this tiny guy has the energy to move like this. We wake up on Monday, January 4, day 14 of Billy not eating, and oh dear god, this dog is still alive. His eyes pop open when I move, and when I come in from taking the other two outside, he’s making his way to the door for his turn. He’s got to be down to 3 pounds or so.


In the afternoon, we are SURE the time is finally here. We all spend about 2 hours holding him, sobbing, telling him it’s okay to go. Eventually Callum, worn out, goes back downstairs. Even later, Matthew and I decide we need to eat something. We put Billy with his brothers in front of the fire. A few more hours pass. Billy wakes up, sits up, does his best Monty Python “I’m not dead yet!” and walks to his water. Soon after this I start laughing hysterically and then sob hysterically. I haven’t slept much for these past two weeks. I’m exhausted. If he’s not suffering, if he’s not out of it, we want him to go on his own time, at home. But when? Every day, every hour, nearly every minute, I think, maybe now, just be done. Billy has never liked being told what to do. Billy will do this when Billy is ready.

But Billy can’t do it on his own. We’re on day 15 now. He seems relatively okay, but cannot be. We make the hard choice. We make the call. We go, we do the horrible, hard thing. And just like that, it’s over. One minute here with us, then suddenly, gone.

Goodbye, sweet Billy. You were such a good boy.

The last Good Boy Squad picture

Music is my favorite hiding place

The neat thing about Now is that I have the worst attitude I’ve had since I was a teenager. Only it’s made better because I also LIVE with and raise a teenager. And made even BETTER by the fact that I’ve been an adult for a verrrrry long time so why does my teenage attitude still hang around so much? “Teenage angst had paid off well, but now I’m bored and old” etc etc.




Music has always been my fix to things. An emotional bandaid. An auditory distraction. A place to put my rage and sadness and joy and whatever other feelings there are (we should all be impressed, in this timeline, that I remembered that “joy” is an option for a feeling).


Here’s my teen’s backpack. It could be mine (both now and back when I was a teenager):



I’m grateful Callum seems to have also found refuge in music, especially because he introduces me to new things and lets me play my “old” stuff for him. How else would he have become a die-hard Nirvana fan? (I’m just kidding–I think it’s still a requirement of being a teenager and just comes alive in you once you hit 14.)


The world is a dumpster fire, but at least we have music. Here’s some of what I’ve been listening to. Maybe you want to share a song with me, too?

























Have you happened to notice things are Not Good?

Well, have you? If you’re shaking your head that you haven’t, just go away. I can’t deal with you right now.


Have you seen that meme of the Spidermans (Spidermen?) as seasonal depression, regular depression, and COVID depression? Here, I’ll spare you googling:



I am all these Spidermans (men?). And I have no resources left to pretend to find any positive things to say about anything. COVID is terrifying. The mental health of 2/3 of the humans in my house is Not Good. More injustices and inequalities are revealed every day. We now live in a world without RBG. We live under the rule of one of the most evil, hateful, stupid, and unqualified leaders ever. It’s all a mess.


I’ve never liked the throwaway question of “how are you?” even though of course I ask it all the time in the exact same way everyone else does—as a reflex and not something I really want answered. But now, it’s just a ludicrous question. The only real answer is some sort of wounded animal noise that conveys the weight of everything, a weight beyond explanation.



A weird thing I keep doing is trying to be like, “But it’s okay! We’re so lucky! It’s fine!” Because I had the luxury of choosing to take an unpaid leave for a year from my job at school to stay home and coach my teenager, who hates school with the heat of a thousand million suns, through online learning. I had the luxury to allow him to stay home full-time. But last week, my husband worked 70 hours. And I kept saying, “But at least I’m also not working, so it’s so much better!” But I AM WORKING. I am doing all the house stuff. I am caring for dogs. I am literally teaching my child every single subject in his 9th grade curriculum. I AM RELEARNING FUCKING ALGEBRA. I am paying bills, running errands, making and ferrying to appointments, cleaning, cooking, writing, blogging, reading, and on and on. And my brain is a volatile disaster that works aggressively hard to make me feel like I’m dragging chains around all day while I do this shit. And my kid’s brain is a toxic waste dump of mental health issues and regular ol’ teenage garbage and we can’t get in to adjust his meds until late NOVEMBER because goddamn everyone is trying to get into mental health professionals because WE ARE ALL NOT DOING WELL.



Sometimes people on Twitter will communicate to me that they appreciate how honest I am about how horrible my brain is and how hard this all is. I can’t pretend. I can sometimes ignore it, but I can’t pretend it away. I keep telling Callum we have to dig deep to work hard during this super weird and confusing time. That we can do hard things. But honestly, that doesn’t help. And I just picture myself from now until June barking orders at him to try and keep him on top of the PHENOMENALLY MASSIVE amount of homework being assigned and it all makes me want to go hibernate. I tell him, “This isn’t who I want to be. This isn’t fun for me,” being this taskmaster mother-teacher-classmate-principal-friend-EVERYTHING. I’d like one role with him. It would be less complicated.




So yes, I’m grateful I get to stay home this year. I’m grateful we have resources and safety nets and all the blah blah positive things. I never for one second forget how many people don’t have these choices, these resources. But I am still allowed to say that this sucks. That I didn’t want to have to choose to leave my job. That I didn’t want to have to choose to teach my child 9th grade. That just dealing with my regular old crappy brain issues would be plenty but now they’re amplified by everything. This all sucks.


One thing that doesn’t suck: my friends. I am eternally grateful to have collected a bunch of really honest, really great friends. So I lean on them during all this. We exchange irritated texts, parenting and schooling woes, dog pictures, fun mail, and just provide a little break and distraction from whatever mess we’re each dealing with.

My new friend at my desk is this tiny potato from Jess. This tiny potato helps a lot.




How am I doing? Not well, my friends. And you probably aren’t either. And that’s okay. Because frankly, if you’re really doing fine, you’re obviously not paying attention to what is going on all around us. And if you’re not paying attention, well… that must be nice.




Here are some animals I want

Look. I’m an introvert with social anxiety. I thought I could contentedly stay home forever. But who know what’s at home? Myself and my brain. And you know what I’m sick of? Myself and my brain. And you know what makes my generalized anxiety and my depression worse? A PANDEMIC and endless time with my brain. So basically I’m starting to want to crawl out of my skin to get away from myself. I imagine I’d look like this sloth crawling, only my skin would peel off as I go. Have I mentioned I’ve been reading a lot of horror these days?




We are doing our duty and STAYING HOME and away from humans (except for me going into a mostly empty school to work and occasionally to a grocery store). I love my quarantine buddies, both human and canine, but I need some other interaction. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t mean people (unlike Ariel, even during non-pandemic times, I want to be where the people aren’t). I mean I need more animals.


As an ardent list-maker, I have been keeping a list of animals I want. What else is there to do? Every inch of my house is clean, my TBR pile is dwindling, I can’t get new books from the public library because I am busy NOT SUPPORTING CURBSIDE PICKUP because I like library workers to be safe. Good lord, I’ve even been driven to doing yard work. YARD WORK!


Here are my current animals, The Good Boy Squad (or, when I’m trying to get a good eye-roll out of my teenager, The Good Boi Clique):



Here are the animals I want:

This dachshund is a BOGO dog; it had to be adopted with the next doxie pictured.


Oh, you and your adorable baby dog need a home? BRB, gotta go sob over you.


Hi, your ears are tiny and amazing. Please come be my dog.



The two-legged kitten from this article. I need to hug it. I NEED TO.



This good boy just wants to be included. You can come to my house and do anything you want. 


I could sneak this long-eared hedgehog with me wherever I go, right?



I want to pet this blonde penguin.




Despair has found me eating bread in the dark at night and watching Bob Ross, the original ASMR guy. Throw in the fact that he often rescued and rehabilitated animals and I’m all set. 


Some other animals I have wanted include every deer that passes through our yard; all of the kittens I saw one day in a picture of kittens in a pot; various cart-dogs (aka dachshunds who need a cart to get around because their legs no longer work) that I like to look up and make myself cry over; a new goat every 3 weeks (this one involved some math about lawn-mowing costs and feeding etc); and also I would like basically every dog I pass when I drive to and from work, especially a dachshund I saw the other day that looked to be half cocker spaniel.



And finally, yes, hello, I WOULD like 48 goats in jammies. 

The Golden Age of GRRR ARRRRGH

This is the Golden Age of GRRR ARRRRGH.


This is the Golden Age of Bullshit. It truly is. What do I mean? I mean *gestures wildly around at everything*. ALL OF IT.


This is the Golden Age of:


Reply all




Happy dogs



Zoom meetings

Bad hair

Candy consumption

What day is it?

Hope this email finds you well


Cancelled appointments

Losing brand loyalty

Wanting to stay in bed

Jammy pants



Family time


Desperate pleas for pet pictures


Yelling at the news


Dogs attending meetings


This video:



Boring planners

If we ever get back to normal, whatever normal is *ha ha, sob*


Cleaning all the things


Being unable to concentrate

Shaking our heads



Other duties as assigned

Emails from every company ever


No bedtimes


Lists and post-it notes



Vivid dreams

Grocery wish-lists

Waking up in the night



I am tired of living in the Golden Age of Bullshit. I am tired of *gestures wildly around at everything*. ALL OF IT.

It’s hard to be 105

Sweet Bilbo Baggins Dachshund-MacGregor has been diagnosed with dog Alzheimer’s. It’s not surprising, given he’s 105, but it’s still hard to watch his cognitive decline.

Now, to be fair, Billy has always been a dog of very little brain. The runt of the litter, he’s always been prone to seeming a little spacey and doing strange things. But lately, he’s been showing all of the signs of dementia.

From Pet MD:


We will put food down in front of Billy and he will just stare at it, seeming unsure what to do, then just walk away. This from the dog who has ravenously attacked anything remotely food-like his entire life, who just weeks ago was fighting Oscar for food, who has never ever passed up a meal unless ill. I will find him in a corner, staring at where the walls meet, or I will accidentally close him in a closet because I didn’t realize he’d gone in there to curl up (something he’s never done). He seems lost most of the time. He trembles anxiously all day, often crying to himself, or barking at nothing. He will sit in an empty room and bark. He loses his mind when Callum comes in the room. We always joked Billy was barking, “Hey! I know that guy!” in excitement, but it may be more like, “Hey! Who is that giant stranger in our house?”

He no longer rushes to grab the nearest toy to proudly greet anyone who comes into the house. I find him wandering circles around the kitchen island, or standing frozen on a step, seemingly unsure where he’s going and how to get there. He wakes up in the middle of the night and wanders the house. He roams the bed a million times in the night, unable to get settled, grunting and whining to himself as he makes nest after nest. He is most content when one of us is sitting down and he can snuggle in tightly next to us, wrapped in blankets. He’s always trembling, always cold. In just a handful of months, he lost 1/3 of his body weight, down now to just 8 pounds. His little harness is embarrassingly rigged with rubber bands to make it small enough for him.

Our vet says that beyond his ailing brain, his health is great. She says he is a little energizer bunny and will keep going. He’s a tough little dog. Edward and Billy clearly come from very healthy dogs. Our vet also recently said he will not be surprised if Edward is the rare dachshund to make it to 20.

I don’t know what any of this means for Billy. Dachshunds generally live to 12ish. Ours are little wonders, something the vets comment on every time we take them in. Even little goblin Oscar has rallied so much since coming to live with us. Our vet had never seen a dachshund overcome paralysis without surgery—but Oscar did it! They are Good Dogs.


Billy may live a long time still. Edward has spent his entire life fulfilling his role of Nanny Dog. He has always groomed, cared for, and guided Billy. He knows how to take care of him. I made Edward and Billy promise, way back when we got them in Boston in 2004, that they would live forever. Some days, when I’m losing my mind from the choices and behaviors of very elderly dogs, I think maybe that was a deal with the devil. But generally, I thank them every day for holding up that deal.


When we got home from the vet yesterday, Billy reluctantly ate a little food, got lost in thought in the yard and had to be retrieved, and then… raced to the couch, crawled under it, and emerged with Eddie’s favorite ball, something rascal Billy always likes to steal and hide. He batted the ball around, chased it when Callum threw it, and gnawed on it for a long time. He can’t remember which door he goes to for potty (lately he stands at the closet door in our mud room to wait), but his little brain reminded him of his hidden toy. His little brain said, “You are a tiny stinker of a dog who likes to play toys and get into mischief.”

He’s a Good Dog. For as long as it takes, we will find him when he’s lost in the house and redirect him. We will offer food over and over until he remembers that food is for eating, and eating is for living. We will clean up potty accidents, put up with him barking at nothing, and hold him tightly to ease his anxiety. He is our best buddy and the toughest little runt we know. Just like with everything else in life, we didn’t just sign up for the easy and fun parts—we signed up for the hard stuff, too.


Now let’s hope the other two can pace themselves and The MacGregor Home for Elderly Dachshunds won’t be dealing with three senile dogs at once.

My daily doomsday prepping

Most nights, we watch one show. For a long time, it was making our way through Buffy—twice. Then Stranger Things—twice. Over the summer, we watched a show on dark tourism and on one street food around the world. Callum, our teenager, watches these with us. It’s our little time to decompress together before we scatter again: me off to read, Matthew to do more work, and Callum to video games.

My new work bag. I’m a grownup!


Recently, we started watching a show on doomsday preppers. Whether preparing for some biblical end times, a cataclysmic pole shift, hurricanes, financial collapse, or myriad other (generally very unlikely) disasters, these people stockpile food, guns, and have “bug out” plans. A large number of people featured on this show are former military or police/emergency responders. I hate armchair analysts, but it seems safe to say that most of these people have some form of OCD, paranoia, anxiety, and PTSD. I say this as a person who has a whole jumble of mental health diagnoses … and is a daily life prepper.



Here’s what I mean: My car is never less than half full. My bills are paid the same day they appear. Laundry never piles up to be anything more than one load can take care of. My house mostly looks like a museum (with the exceptions of Matthew’s office and Callum’s room—I pretend those rooms don’t exist). You will never see a pile waiting to go somewhere. If my to-do list is written out for a week, I will try to get all those things done TODAY. The blog posts I write for Teen Librarian Toolbox are prepared 6-8 weeks in advance. My reviews for School Library Journal are always sent in early. My dogs are never overdue for the vet. We are never down to the last of anything—paper towel, cans of dog food, milk, whatever. I am constantly ready to have some sort of mundane to tragic emergency happen. I have always been like this—thanks, anxiety disorder!—but it’s gotten worse in the years since my dad was killed.


Even living my entire life imagining worst case scenarios didn’t prepare me to find out my dad had been killed in a car accident. We had to abandon a lot of our daily life for weeks, and then eventually months, after this. I remember thinking, but at least I’ve bought all the Christmas presents and wrapped them or mailed them; at least I’d done all the holiday baking. Stupid stuff. Who cares? My brain does. It took 11 months to settle his estate and I constantly thought, thank goodness I’m so organized. Of course, my organization took a turn from (semi)normal to mania, but at least I felt productive.

Blog posts scheduled into November


I would maybe like to be the kind of person who can CHILL THE FUCK OUT about anything. Small stuff, like let a bill sit for a week if it’s not due for a month or be able to sleep even if I know there’s clutter somewhere in the house. As it is, I send myself emails in the middle of the night when I wake up and think of something I NEED to do. I have a paper planner, a list I keep on the kitchen counter (my one concession to “piles”), and write zillions of notes.

The garbage can in my office only ever contains notes for things I’ve dealt with.


I am not preparing for the end of the world. On the show, people keep saying everyone should have a plan for the end of the world. Look, MacGregors are existential nihilists with depression. The end times come, we’re good—goodbye, cruel world. Our plan is we just die. (Don’t send me some worried text. We’re fine. We just know that a zombie invasion or a doomsday scenario means we bug out in our own way. We are indoor folk  with no survival skills and a distaste for humanity on its best day.). I’m preparing for the million small disasters of every day. I’m preparing for my own personal apocalypses. That ranges from being knocked out for two weeks due to the flu to finding myself unable to give a shit about anything other than laying on the floor and staring at my ceiling fans to someone suddenly dying.



I can’t make fun of those people are the show. They aren’t mentally well. I might not be hoarding food or manufacturing my own ammunition, but I am preparing for the many ways some piece of my world may be interrupted, whether that’s a stumbling block or the ground being ripped out from under me. When people comment on my efficiency and organization, I just laugh it off as “how I am,” but really, it’s not necessarily fun. It’s obsession. It’s anxiety. It’s a Type A desire to feel in control. People so severely misunderstand mental illness and what it can look like. My attention to detail is really just my brain letting its worry and mania run rampant.


Side note: Yes, I’m medicated and have been to lots of therapy and am actually doing quite well compared to how my brain sometimes likes to behave. Please don’t send me suggestions for how to stop worrying.


Allie Brosh gets it.


It’s kind of exhausting. I always joke that at least I get a lot done, but really, I might not mind being able to let a little bit go sometimes. How does someone prep for that? Maybe I should make a list.

Twin Cities Teen Lit Con 2019: Social Justice and Activism in YA Literature

Saturday, April 27 was Twin Cities Teen Lit Con, a wonderful yearly event that I have now had the honor of speaking at for the past four years. This year it took place at Henry Sibley High School, in Mendota Heights. If you’re unfamiliar with Teen Lit Con, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a convention dedicated to teen (YA) literature. This event is FOR teens—teens win the prizes, teens often get first dibs at getting a seat in sessions, there are sessions that are ONLY for teens, etc. I feel extremely fortunate to not only present there each year, and meet so many wonderful teens, but to then also be able to hear fantastic talks from YA authors from around the country. Big thanks to everyone at MELSA, the Teen Lit Con team, the many volunteers, and Henry Sibley High School for the amazing day. What a lot of work went into pulling it off.



I had a wonderful day running in to lots of friends, listening to smart, engaging speakers, and nonstop grinning at the absolute joy of watching teenagers totally geek out over books and authors. I’m a huge fan of eavesdropping and overheard so many great snippets of conversations about books and presentations.

I presented my session twice on Saturday. I had printed 100 handouts but ran out during the second session. A born pessimist with impostor syndrome, I always assume that maybe my sessions will only draw a handful of people, though that has literally never turned out to be the case (aren’t the lies that depressed and anxious brains able to come up with and convince a person of so fun?!), so I print what feels like an excessive amount of handouts figuring it will be more than enough and I’ll just bring most of them home. I also made handouts from last year’s Mental Health in YA Lit sessions available yesterday, as those sessions were so well attended in the past and the topic is so dear to me. Those handouts all went, too. The mental health handouts from last year’s talk are available here:

Teen Lit Con 2018 handouts MHYALit

 2018 TLC Additional handout


The handouts from my 2019 Social Justice and Activism in YA Literature session are available here:   

Social Justice in Young Adult Literature Recommended Reading

Social Justice in YA Lit Resources (websites for further education)


Schools and libraries, please feel free to reproduce these and share these, but please leave my credit at the bottom of the page. 


As promised during my talk, I’m going to post a few relevant slides from my presentation here. My presentation was a mix of information about social justice, anti-oppression, intersectionality, and own voices and a rundown of some of the many YA books that address these topics. When I began working on my presentation, I made a list of the books I really wanted to talk about. That list was 186 books long. Listen, I talk really fast, but even I can’t fit that into 45 minutes. So I pared it down to a much more reasonable 62 books. I know. I can’t help it! I used every single second of those 45 minutes. Click on the slides to enlarge them.




The rest of the presentation was quick summaries of books that address social justice topics. Slides showed the book cover (because I do indeed judge a book by its cover) and title/author. The suggested reading list includes all the books I talked about/made slides for. Just for a peek, the slides looked like this:



The resources handout includes these sites and many more:



After each talk I had excellent conversations with teachers, librarians, and teenagers looking for more books on a certain topic, or suggesting titles to me, or just stopping by to give me a high-five (and in one case, stopping to slip me a coffee gift card!). It was great to see so many people nodding along to the points I was making and scribbling notes. Four years in, I now recognize so many familiar faces in my sessions. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Teen Lit Con is absolutely one of the best days of the year.


As a pretty hardcore introvert, being on display like that, socializing that much, should have drained me. Instead, I left the high school invigorated, fueled by all of the excitement and energy of the day. Did I still go home and hole up in my office for an hour before I could interact with anyone again? Yes. But I can’t think of a better reason to feel a little wiped out than hanging out with people who love YA books.