“How does this change how you see yourself?”

“Friendly reminder: we are Ukrainian. Our great-grandparents left Ukraine in 1906.”

I sent that text to my sisters the night that the Russian military invaded Ukraine, and I’ve felt heavy ever since.

As a child of the Cold War, I always lumped the citizens of the entire Soviet bloc into one category: Russians. While I always referred to our great-grandparents as Russian Jews, the far recesses of my brain would simultaneously process “Kiev” when I would say it.

I double checked a couple of nights ago, looked again at my great-grandfather’s naturalization record. His place of birth listed on the form? Kiev, Russia.

Except not Russia. Ukraine. 

I know so many scattered stories and histories of the various branches of my family tree, but a lifetime of conflating Russia and its collection of now-sovereign states as one has created a giant hole in that narrative.

I do not descend from Russian Jews, I descend from Ukrainian Jews.

I watch Finding Your Roots every week, and when the host, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. shares his findings with the celebrity guests, he often asks them, “how does this change how you see yourself?”

I’m feeling that question this week, deeply. How does it change how I see myself, how I feel about current events, to remember my great-grandfather was a Ukrainian Jew, not a Russian Jew? 

From what I’ve seen on the news this past week, it makes me feel a deep sense of solidarity with the Ukrainians in part because of my love of democracy. But I also feel deep sadness and fear, because they are, in part, my people. 

In times of crisis, people often want to find ways to help. Here’s a couple of ways to help, if you’re feeling so inclined:

World Central Kitchen: Jose Andres is at the Ukraine-Poland border, providing meals to refugees.

UN Refugee Agency: Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively are matching up to $1 million in donations.

International Committee of the Red Cross: Always a reliable group to send funds to.

30 Years Ago Today…

Graduation caps are the epitome of the patriarchy telling women they do not belong in education.

Exactly 30 years ago today, flanked by my two of my best friends in high school, I sat in a sea of green robes on a hard metal folding chair in our high school gym. After a handful of speakers, I walked across a stage, shook hands with the principal, and graduated from high school.

In a few days, seniors I’ve taught this year will also graduate from high school. And the one thing I want any graduating senior to know is this: you have time.

You have time to figure out what your talents are and how you can best utilize them.

You have time to travel.

You have time to go to concerts, see plays, visit museums.

You have time to date, or to not date.

You have time to change your mind.

You have time to go back to school.

You have time to change careers.

My life is nothing at all what I envisioned when I graduated from high school 30 years ago. But I couldn’t have envisioned the things that really mattered:

The cities where I would live.

The writing I would publish.

The places I would travel to.

The people I would meet.

And a million other experiences that I wouldn’t trade for any of the envisioned life of an 18 year-old.

No, my life is nothing at all what I envisioned when I graduate from high school 30 years ago.

I daresay think it is better.


A list of things that are reliably lowering my stress levels, helping me breathe, and generally making me feel less angry at *gestures wildly* all of this.

  1. My Christmas tree, lit in the dark.
  2. The LED lights I purchased to frame my nativity set and dining table decorations.
  3. The See’s box of Scotchmallows I splurged on.
  4. Reading my newspaper staff’s reviews of their top albums of 2020.
  5. Just going to my Pop Culture Studies class.
  6. Music. All of the music.
  7. My thousandth rewatch of Parks and Recreation.
  8. My new paper planner.
  9. Having Stueve back in the classroom.
  10. A very bright light at the end of the first semester tunnel.

This list didn’t come entirely easily–it took a few minutes to get to ten items–but it was good for me to sit down for a second and think about what I have right now at my disposal that is actually bringing me a little happiness, coziness, satisfaction. It’s not necessarily a gratitude list, though I am probably grateful for everything on this list. I wanted a list of things that really and truly, when I thought about it, was making me much calmer. More at peace. Because there is plenty going around that is not making me calm or giving me peace.

That’s probably just life. Like what Kate Bowler says: “Life is a chronic condition.”

If you’re feeling a bit scattered and flustered and angry and irritated (and I felt *plenty* of that today, FWIW), might I suggest a similar exercise? Slow down a second. What made you genuinely smile today? What slowed your breath? What did you do that allowed you to just sit and be?

Content. No, really.

It is 7:45 on Sunday night and it hits me: I am content.

I don’t feel the hopelessness and uncertainty I’ve felt since March. I take a moment to think about what has happened in the past three days to make me feel more relaxed.

I read a book from start to finish.
I finished an audio book I’ve been working through for a few weeks.
I practiced the piano.
I slept late, then had breakfast in bed three days in a row while watching episodes of Sports Night.
I watched football.
I chatted with friends over text and—gasp—the phone.
I took naps.
I cleaned, albeit reluctantly.
I worked on a vision board of sorts—started building a list of all the new furniture I will buy in June, whether I have a new place to live.
I watched cooking shows on Netflix and Sling.
I listened to podcasts.
I made a list of the things I can start doing now so that if I actually move in June, the move itself is less stressful.
I recorded, edited, and published a podcast.

I was lucky enough to have to stay at school late on Thursday so yearbook editors could work on pages, and somehow mustered the motivation to get all my work done before walking out of the building. It freed up a three-day weekend, and I am amazed at how…normal I feel right at this moment.

So I wanted to document this moment, this weekend, because if you listen to doctors (and I do), the pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better. The election is in 9 days, which brings a completely different slew of possible hellscapes, and I’m facing down a five-day work week with two sports broadcasts to produce. My future is still uncertain.

But at this moment, I am content.


It starts with just a generally unsettled feeling. I’m restless all the time. My brain is whirring like a maxed out hard drive running too many programs. I can’t pinpoint the restlessness at first, but it’s familiar. I know I’ve felt this way many times before. And after several weeks, the hard drive slows down, and I can name what I’m feeling.

Though at this point in my life I call Nebraska home, for many years, I claimed no hometown. Such is the life of a military dependent—my first two moves as a human aren’t even registered in my memory, I was so young. The third move, I remember stepping out of a hotel room in Albuquerque, New Mexico to the sight of hundreds of hot air balloons, but even that memory is fuzzy—do I remember it, or do I remember my mom telling the story of it?

All other moves are etched in my memories though. Listening to my first Amy Grant cassette on the road to Alabama. Staring out the car window trying not to cry on the road back to Nebraska—we’d only been in Alabama 10 months, how could I possibly be sad to leave? Sulking in my dad’s truck on the way to Montana a month before my 16th birthday.

The moves in my adulthood weren’t quite as fraught, as they were my choices, but there was always a mix of excitement, fear of the unknown, and sorrow at what I’d left behind.

Even though the family put down stakes in Nebraska in 1994, I bounced out of the county three times in 12 years. In 2008, I came back, and I’ve been in the same apartment for 10 years.

For someone who spent 35 years moving every 2-4 years, 10 years in one space is a long time.

And that’s the restlessness, I am sure.

I love my job—it really is my dream job, a job that sometimes I can’t believe I was able to carve out. I’m teaching everything I’ve ever wanted to teach. And I’m close to having 20 years of service in this district. Who leaves a dream job so close to having 20 years with an organization, a benchmark that typically brings with it financial benefits?

Yet the restlessness.

Maybe all I need is a cross-town move, a new space, new furniture, new surroundings.

Maybe I need a new city, new state, new country.

Maybe I just need a new hair color and new clothes.

But of this I am sure: my bones and my soul need a change.

Anyone have any ideas?