Summer dreamin’

Yesterday, as I walked to a meeting with a colleague discussing our end-of-the-term schedules and to-do lists, I remarked that this point in the term, and particularly Spring Term, is like Mile 20 of a marathon. You know that the race is almost over, but you also know that the next 6.2 miles are going to be somewhat unpleasant and painful.

Classes ended Wednesday, finals start Saturday and go through Monday, senior grades are due exactly 35 hours after the last finals period ends (ugh), graduation is on the 10th, and the rest of the grades are due the 14th. The last couple of weeks, and the first half of June, are full of all of the end of year events and receptions and picnics and oh-wait-we-need-to-hold-this-meeting-before-everyone-scatters. And, of course, the grading, the grading, and the grading.

It’s….a lot. And that doesn’t even factor in all of the end of the year events and projects and concerts and finals and wait-how-many-assignments-are-missing? conversations for my own kiddos, whose last day of school is next week.

Any of these things individually are at the very least not bad, and at best very fulfilling. (Even grading, I swear, is fulfilling. There’s just way too much of it.) All of them together? Exhausting.

I find myself thinking ahead to the finish line, when grades are submitted and the term is officially done. I’m hoping to get some summer planning done this weekend, as a break from grading. There are some family logistical things I need to finalize, and of course I want to think about how to spend my time and energy this summer, work-wise.

Most importantly, though, I decided that after grades are in, I am taking 2 weeks completely off, giving myself the break I’ve so desperately needed for several summers now. I will read and craft and do the puzzle the Resident 10th Grader got me for my birthday. I will cook recipes from the cookbooks both kiddos gave me for my birthday. I will go to the beach every day, something on my 23 for 2023 list. I will spend quality time on my kayak and on my bike. I will nap on my porch. I will train in earnest for the Aquabike race I’m doing in July. I will spend as much time outside as humanly possible. And I will not think about work, at least not on purpose.

Just anticipating this precious break from work is energizing me to make that final push to the finish, to slog with purpose through miles 20-26 and prepare for the last .2 sprint over the finish line.

What summer dreams are energizing you right now?


Big-L leadership and small-l leadership

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about the next phase of my career. Partly because of circumstance — I transitioned out of my STEM Director role in December and I will transition out of my role directing a research cohort program this summer, leaving me without a leadership role on campus for the first time in, literally, years. Partly because I have a sabbatical coming up in 2024-25 and I’m weighing my options for how to spend that precious time. And partly because I turn 51 this week and realize that I’m in the latter / final phase of my career. I’m not sure when I plan to retire, or what “retirement” means to me, but I do know that I have fewer career years ahead of me than behind me at this point in my life.

For a long time, my goal was to pursue the academic leadership track — associate dean / provost or dean / provost roles. Traditional, “big-L” Leadership positions. It’s why I applied to and attended HERS. My time as department chair, and as STEM Director, made me realize that I enjoy strategic thinking and planning on a level above my own classes and research, and that I value the opportunity to shape my institution’s direction and future.

The Big-L Leadership path is still on the table, and my vision of what that means has broadened somewhat. There are ways to be a Big-L Leader (or perhaps a medium-L leader) outside of being a dean or provost — directing a center or a multidisciplinary program, for instance. Being STEM Director appealed to me in that sense, since the STEM “center” connects to the rest of the campus (so, the forging and nurturing relationships piece) while being part of a smaller whole (the strategic thinking and future planning piece). I often fantasized about what I would and could do with that role with more autonomy and budget, and part of me would love to explore that path in a different context

But I also find myself thinking of a third alternative: small-l leadership, or “informal” / less-formal leadership. I’m taking on more expansive hobbies and roles outside of my day job. And while I’m well past the physically demanding, always-on parenting of young kids years, with a teen approaching the second half of high school and a middle schooler about to turn teenager, I’m well into the emotionally demanding, big-kids-big-problems parenting years. I’m less mobile career-wise, too, wanting to respect the communities and lives my kids and partner have cultivated in this area. There are doubtless many ways I can small-l lead, foster meaningful change, and shape the direction and future of the spaces I inhabit. Such roles may be smaller scope or less defined, but that kind of flexibility could also be a key strength.

I deliberately structured my summer to allow time for reflection and dreaming (which, as Gloria Steinem famously stated, is a form of planning) of possible future paths. I look forward to seeing what percolates and what resonates, and what sized L of leadership emerges from this process.

The ethical conundrum of this year’s GHC

In our department, we have various assigned jobs — someone oversees Comps, our capstone; someone organizes our colloquium series, CS Tea; someone is in charge of student course staff; etc. My current job is Grace Hopper / Tapia wrangler: organizing the logistics for students who want to attend the Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing and the Grace Hopper Celebration, both held in the fall.

Both conferences have been formative, and often transformative, experiences for our students. As a department, we believe in providing opportunities for students to see themselves represented as computer scientists and to find and develop communities of support, and we believe both of these venues play a strong role in that process.

This year, both conferences present me with ethical conundrums because of their locations: Texas, for Tapia, and Florida, for GHC. I’ll focus on GHC specifically in this post.

GHC is “the world’s largest gathering of women and non-binary technologists” and “brings the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront”, according to their website. I know that, the organization that puts on GHC, aspires to create inclusive communities broadly construed — inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community, of racial and ethnic identities, etc. GHC supports academia via scholarships for students and faculty, the student poster session, and (at least historically) the doctoral consortium.

I fail to see how any of those missions are furthered by holding the conference in an actively hateful, actively harmful, anti-LGBTQIA+, anti-black, anti-education state. A state actively erasing the teaching of black and indigenous history, removing access to gender-affirming care, making it patently unsafe for trans people to exist, etc. A state actively encoding hate into its laws.

I understand that moving a conference, much less one as large as GHC, is not a trivial manner, and that contracts are signed years in advance, yadda yadda. I get that. So I was curious to see what had to say on the matter. And in fact, they have put out a statement on this year’s conference, titled “Living our Mission”. That statement says, in part:

In 2023, the constant affront to human dignity in Florida (and many other states) continues. We vehemently oppose the efforts in the state to further erase the identities and dignities of people belonging to intentionally marginalized and excluded groups including Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. We will continue to engage with the local social justice leaders across the state and with more than a thousand members of supported by our Florida Local Community network to monitor the situation. We are staying vigilant to the conditions on the ground and are dedicated to creating a safe space where ALL are welcome.

…In 2022, worked with Equality Florida to raise visibility and awareness at a national and international level of what was happening in Florida. We also donated a portion of the proceeds from GHC 22 registrations to Zebra Coalition and Florida Access Network—two Florida-based non-profits doing exceptional work.  

We have an incredible opportunity to build on that momentum as we head into a critical election year in 2024. We re-commit to contributing to local leaders and organizations working in Florida to create a safe, welcoming space

It appears that is taking a “social offset” approach to the matter, acknowledging harms and using donations and time as a mechanism to offset those harms in the long term through social justice action. Fair enough — I am glad to see that some good is coming out of this dumpster fire, and local organizations can definitely benefit from an influx of funding and exposure.

That said, people will still travel to Florida for the conference. They will spend money at the airport, at hotels, at local restaurants and bars, possibly at Disney. Florida still profits, very very nicely, from this influx of travel. (GHC is a very large conference, after all.) I have no idea what the size of’s donations are to local organizations, but I’m guessing they are not as large as the money spent in Florida for this conference. Money that will continue to fund Florida’s ever-increasing hateful legislation and policies. Regardless of how much time and money spends on local social justice issues, they still, in my opinion, tacitly condone Florida’s actions as long as they continue to host GHC in Florida.

While poking around on the website, I also found this press release from 2022 on the passage of the “Don’t Say Gay, Don’t Say Trans” bill, which manages to make the situation even more anger-inducing. This says, in part (emphasis mine):

“ is scheduled to host our annual Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando, Florida, in September 2022. Thousands from all over the world plan to attend this annual event–the world’s largest gathering of women and non-binary technologists. That is why we are so very committed to creating a safe space where ALL will be welcomed and which aligns with our values. While we have experienced a very positive working relationship with the people of Orlando, should this bill become law, we will have no choice but to reconsider Florida as our host state for our 2023 events and beyond. We believe in supporting the economy of a state that is deserving of this gathering, our time, talent, treasures, and dollars. Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay, Don’t Say Trans’ bill falls well below that standard.”

Well, that’s awkward. It’s 2023, and it looks like the conference is … still in Florida. Were these empty words? Is doing the parental equivalent of counting to three before putting Florida in time out and never quite getting to three? “One. Two. Two and a half. Two and three quarters. Two and seven eighths — I MEAN IT THIS TIME, FLORIDA!” Why should I trust what says about commitments when they’ve apparently not followed their own previous statements? The mind boggles.

I made a personal decision to not attend GHC this year. Ethically, I can’t square it with my own morals and beliefs. I continue to be extremely conflicted in my role as GHC wrangler. We have students who are super excited about attending in person. Many of these students will use GHC as an opportunity to learn about and interview for internships and jobs. Many will, for the first time, see their identities reflected in other computer scientists and technologists. All of those are completely valid reasons to send our students to GHC. But by sending our students (and our institution’s money) to this conference, what message are we sending to our trans students, our LGBTQIA+ students more generally, our Black students, etc. about their value as full humans? Are we, as I think we are, shooting ourselves in the foot?

At a time where we, institutionally and within our department, claim a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, how does supporting Florida’s agenda with our dollars square with that?

My one regret

I am not the type of person to regret decisions I’ve made in the past. Sure, there are some decisions I’ve made that didn’t work out quite the way I wanted, or caused way more angst and suffering than they should have **cough cough graduate school**. But I’m able to view them as valuable learning experiences that set me up well for something in my future. For instance, while there were many things in grad school that were beyond soul-sucking (like, say, the time I sat in a meeting with two professors who both argued vociferously IN MY PRESENCE about how neither wanted to advise me….or the time my advisor was initially denied tenure….), I learned (pretty damn quickly) how to advocate for myself, how to design my own dissertation project, how to apply for and navigate funding, and how to find and cultivate mentors and sponsors in a festering snakepit. And, of course, meeting my partner in grad school definitely (or, almost definitely) made the experience worthwhile.

I do, however, have one true regret: “retiring” from competitive swimming in 8th grade.

Now, this regret is a bit tricky, because it was a product of the limited options I had at the time. I was fortunate that my elementary / junior high school had a competitive swim team. It started when I was in 5th grade, maybe? My memory is a bit fuzzy. But I loved, loved, loved to swim and loved the water, so I joined and then swam all the way through 8th grade. Our season was during the fall, and I absolutely LOVED every minute of it. Practice, meets, the whole thing. I was never the fastest swimmer, but I improved every year (and won Most Improved Swimmer in 7th grade).

But the high school I attended (a small, all-girls Catholic high school) did not, at the time, have a swim team. There was a club team in my community, and I remember talking with my parents about joining that team after my 8th grade season ended. I ultimately decided against it. From what I can piece together from my (shoddy) memory of that time, it was partly fear of the unknown (the club team was GOOD and I was not super confident in my own skill and talent) and partly worry over family finances. So I gave it up.

I went on to do other things in high school and beyond — chorus and theater, leadership and service, church youth group stuff. I played softball (poorly). I did become a lifeguard as one way to scratch my swimming itch (and as a way to spend my entire summer in and around the water), and swam laps occasionally in college and beyond. But I always wondered “what if?”. What if I’d decided differently, and swam club in high school? What might have opened up for me? Would I have come to see myself as an athlete then, rather than well into adulthood?

I’m thinking about this more lately because I started swimming Masters one year ago (!!). I’m in the pool 2-3 days a week with excellent swimmers who swam in high school and college (and one who still competes at the Masters level). I work in a smaller group with a separate coach once a week to improve my skills. And…I’m improving significantly. I complete the workouts (something I couldn’t do at first) and, when I’m not chit-chatting or sneaking in extra rest between sets, I’m mostly keeping up with the group. I can do flip turns consistently, something I never thought I’d say as an adult.

Last week at our small group practice, another participant complimented my swimming and said “surely you swam in high school?” No, I said, I had to “retire” in 8th grade because there was no high school team. Our small group coached looked at me and said, with absolute sincerity, “Wow. What a waste of talent!” Which, I’ll be honest, floored me. Talent? For real? But at the same time, that one little comment brought vindication and possibly a bit of closure. The regret came from somewhere deep, somewhere that understood how very important swimming was at that point in my life, and acknowledged the cost of walking away from something so deeply held. My coach’s comment validated those deep feelings for me. And in a sense, this is freeing me to move on. I can’t change that choice years ago. But by taking up swimming again as an adult, and taking it seriously and working hard to improve and get faster and stronger, I can, in a sense, honor 8th grade me and restart down that untaken path.

Spring term starts with a (YAWN) is it bedtime yet?

Spring term started on Monday this week, after a shorter-than-normal spring break that wasn’t really a break. I knew going in it would be a tough term workload-wise — 2 full courses plus an every-other-week colloquium plus my research group plus FPC plus wrapping up my leadership of the cohort program I coordinate. I was somewhat prepared for that coming in to the term, although I am still a bit alarmed at the lack of whitespace whenever I open my work calendar. As I told my therapist at my last session, the second course is a multiplier in terms of time added to my schedule, not additive. More time in the classroom, more prep time, more students in office hours, more staff meetings to coordinate, more things to keep track of.

I was not, however, prepared for the sheer level of exhaustion every single day.

My “tell” when I’ve reached my limit is that everything becomes intolerable. Everything is too loud, too messy, too chaotic. I want everything to be quite, calm, and orderly. When you live in a house with teens / tweens, multiple pets, and an extroverted partner who works from home, calm / quiet / orderly is non-existent. I have been an absolute nightmare to my family the past few nights because they’ve had the audacity to exist and be their usual boisterous selves. I may have threatened to move out at least twice last night at dinner.

Paradoxically, I can’t wind down at night either because I’m so keyed up from exhaustion and from all the things from the day. I’ll try to do something sensible, like work on a craft project, but then get caught up in a Pinterest rabbit hole trying to figure out what the “best” thing to do with my leftover yarn is, or what yarn might be the closest match for this other pattern I want to make because the original yarn doesn’t exist anymore….and then it’s past my bedtime and I never actually got around to doing the craft project and now I’m both frustrated and exhausted.

I recognize that things will likely improve soon. I’ll get used to the rhythms of this particular teaching schedule. I’ll get to know my students better, which will remove the layer of exhaustion caused by interacting with people I don’t know well and trying to figure them out. The startup costs of a term are real, and those will subside and be replaced with more predictability. And, most importantly, I will get a bit of a break this weekend, something I haven’t been able to say in a long time.

And maybe, in the interim, I’ll find a teeny slice of whitespace in my calendar and put my head down on my desk for a few minutes, so that I’m not always bringing my absolute worst self home to my family.

Spring “break”

On Sunday, I graded the final assignment for my winter term course, finalized the project grades, assigned letter grades to each student, and entered them into the system. Winter term: done!

Then I immediately turned around and started prepping for spring term. Spring break: nonexistent!

The turnaround between winter and spring terms is usually pretty short: a week to get grades in, a week to prep. There’s not a lot of time left to take a true break, but at the very least you can conceivably take one weekend completely off and maybe a full weekday.

When our term starts on a Wednesday, as it did this year, it’s shorter still: finals ended on a Wednesday, grades were due the following Monday (meaning 4 days later, including 2 weekend days), and spring term classes start the Monday after that. Realistically, this means at least some work both weekends (finalizing grades one weekend, finalizing syllabi the next) and very little room for a break otherwise.


Not taking any break at all is not an option, unless I want to be a nonfunctional puddle of goo by midway through spring term. Particularly since I’m teaching 2 full courses in the same term (plus a 1-credit colloquium), something I haven’t done in years due to various course releases. One of those courses — Intro — I haven’t taught since Spring 2019, so I’m a bit rusty, to say the least. So I had to get a bit creative to carve out some time for restoration.

I settled on taking one weekday (yesterday) completely off. I got outside on my fatbike (because early spring in Minnesota is just an extension of winter), read, took a nap, booked our summer vacation, and took care of some life tasks on the old to-do list. And I made good progress on my latest craft project.

I won’t say the one day off magically rejuvenated me completely and I’m definitely NOT going into spring term restored and refreshed, but it did help. Knowing I didn’t have to get back to work at some point during the day meant that I could actually enjoy what I was doing, when I was doing it. And knowing that I blocked this particular day off means that I don’t have to spend the days I am working worrying about when I’ll get certain life tasks done or pining to get outside for a few hours (although I won’t completely rule out another outdoor adventure before the break ends).

The day off also reminded me of the importance of taking regular breaks throughout the term. Meaning: working on weekends (except for my Sunday night planning sessions) should be the exception and not the norm, and midterm break should be an actual break from work and not a catch-up day or a Schedule All The Meetings day. (For me, at least; I know many of my colleagues use the day off as a catch-up or as a place to put a bunch of meetings, and that’s absolutely fine too.) I can’t be there for my students, or my kids and partner, or my colleagues as my best self if I’ve burned myself out, so breaks are an important work and life task.

Here’s hoping I remember this in the thick of spring term when 8273 things are vying for my attention.

Making time

Each Tuesday, our center for teaching and learning (LTC) hosts a lunch session covering some topic of interest to the community. Faculty and staff propose and run the sessions. It’s a great way to hear what’s going on across the college, see what my faculty and staff colleagues across the college are doing, and talk to people I don’t normally see or interact with regularly. The shared meal component makes the event feel warm and collegial.

I try to make it to at least a couple of lunch events each term. Some terms I’m more successful at this than others — a lot depends on the schedule of sessions and my overall workload, and in terms where I’m not teaching 5 days a week, I try to work at home on Tuesdays as much as possible, and am reluctant to commute in just for the session.

This term, I’ve gone almost every week. I am teaching 5 days a week and thus on campus 5 days a week. The topics have been interesting to me personally. I’m presenting / facilitating at 2 of them (the next 2 weeks!). And since my schedule this term precludes me from being on campus late in the day, when many across-the-college events occur, attending lunches allows me to still connect informally with colleagues outside my department — connections I’m craving more than usual recently.

Prioritizing these lunches wasn’t something I did consciously, and in a different term I likely would have prioritized other things over these events, citing busyness and a heavy workload. As I walked back to my office yesterday after the session pondering this thought, I recognized the way attending LTC lunches fits perfectly with my theme of the year, next. Attending LTC lunches is a form of information gathering. What’s on everyone’s mind? How are my colleagues thinking about the bigger and the daily aspects of higher ed and the liberal arts? What catches my interest and why? What ideas might I build on or explore further? How might I use this information to build the next stage of my career?

This realization also helped me recognize other ways I’m making time for this kind of “what’s next?” reflection and information-gathering. On a micro level, I find myself time blocking my tasks more often, which frees up more open spaces for serendipitous conversations, mind-wandering, and reading widely. On a macro level, I structure my task list each week so that every minute is not crammed full, so that I have the energy to think more deeply about any number of things. Deliberately making time in this way has brought a new creativity to my work — something I felt was missing from my work for a while.

I’m eager to see what ultimately results from making time in this way.

What I’m reading: I’m listening to the audiobook version of I Miss You When I Blink, by Mary Laura Philpott.

(Nearly) Halfway there

We’re deep in the thick of Week 5 of our 10-week Winter Term, limping along to our one-day midterm “break” next week. So far the term’s gone fairly well. I submitted my conference paper on time and with little drama (other than a really terrible user interface for the conference submission site). My Software Design students are finding new and improved ways to struggle with the material — but they are a fun and inquisitive bunch who seem game for just about anything I throw at them in class, and overall I think the shift in topics is a net positive. I’m still looking for a successor for the cohort program, and I’m bracing myself for the deluge of applications (deadline is Friday!).

Excerpt from a paper planner page, with highlighted meetings and tasks.
For you fellow paper planning geeks, this is a Hemlock & Oak weekly, which I am loving!

Largely, I am staying on top of things. I credit paying more attention to what blocks of time I have available in a day, matching the blocks up with expected energy levels, and slotting in specific tasks during specific blocks. I also finally learned, after many years of beating myself up over undone tasks, that perhaps it’s healthier to approach undone tasks with curiosity and grace (“what are the reasons I didn’t get to this today?”) than with self-loathing and self-hatred.

(My therapist is proud of me for that insight!)

February is always a bit bonkers, and I’m giving two talks this month on top of everything else. I am looking ahead to summer, partly out of necessity since there are a lot of Tetris pieces of family and kids’ scheduling, and partly because I’m applying for a curricular grant and I need to figure out what I’m proposing to do and how much time it should take (and where I can slot that in!). There is also a conference paper deadline on the last day of Winter Term classes in March (of course), and a completely rational person would say “thanks but not this year”, but this conference is a perfect fit for one of the projects I’m working on so I might try to squeeze that in….somewhere. (I’ve given myself a deadline to come up with an outline — if I make the deadline, I’ll go ahead and write something up for submission; if not, that’s perfectly fine, too.) Unlike previous years, I’m feeling good about the systems I’ve put in place and somewhat confident that they’ll stand up to the usual February onslaught of All The Tasks All The Time.

What’s keeping you busy this month, and how are you managing your workload?

What I’m working on this term

Winter Term started exactly one week ago, so we are now officially in the swing of things. I’m teaching 5 days a week this term, which is great in terms of spreading out the workload but also means I don’t really have a “down” day where I can work from home and crank things out that require deep thinking and concentration. It’s also the first time in a while that I’m teaching a full 6-credit course — my course releases for my leadership role and my service on our tenure and promotion committee meant that I had a lighter teaching schedule in Spring 2022 and Fall 2022 (Comps and the Science Fellows Colloquium, both terms). It took me a few days to get back into the rhythm of a MWF class!

Winter is always a busy term for me, and this year is no exception. So, what am I spending my time on this term?


My big research deadline / push actually happens early in the term, so I get it out of the way right away — I have a conference paper deadline this weekend. The working draft is currently a bit rougher than I’d like, but definitely in a state that can be tweaked by the deadline. I also fully expect that the paper will be rejected, since I’m aiming high, so that takes a bit of the pressure off to get it “perfect”. The paper is on an experiment we did in Spring 2019, so I’m relieved to finally be getting it out for review.

For the rest of the term, my goal is to take a look at all the other work-in-progress and determine what to write up next. I didn’t realize while in the thick of campus leadership just how much mental energy that role took up, and how much that mental energy overlapped with the mental energy required to do deep thinking and writing about my scholarship. I’m looking forward to having some of that mental space back.


I’m teaching Software Design this term, a course I regularly teach. A few years back we revamped the course, and I’ve pretty much followed the same order of topics since then. I’ve had a bunch of conversations with one of my junior colleagues about the course, in particular about where our students struggle, and based on those conversations and their experiment in moving topics around, I’m playing around with a different order of topics. I think this reordering will give our students more solid footing in some of the backend development, and better prepare them to work with web frameworks. I worry a bit that they might miss some of the messaging around user-centered design, since I’m not leading with that anymore, so we’ll see what happens.


Winter is by far my busiest term as Summer Science Fellows director. I need to select a new cohort and place them into research labs on campus, and help our second year cohort find research positions, too. There are a lot of moving pieces to keep track of. I developed a pretty decent workflow using Trello last year, which I plan on using again. In addition, I’ll be searching for my own replacement as director, since I’m stepping down at the end of this year.


I test for my third degree black belt in taekwondo in mid-March (eek!). I am confident that I will pass, but I’d like to try for that elusive perfect score on the form portion of my test. (I’m pretty close, I think!) My taekwondo studio puts on a mini-show twice a year with the black belts, and last year I took over organizing and directing that. Our next show is in April, so I will be spending time this month putting together routines, and then after that running once a week practices up until the show.

Looking at this list, there’s certainly a lot in play, although thankfully I don’t think it rises to the level of requiring a self-care paper chain. And there are things not on this list — the end of Comps at the end of the term, my work on the tenure and promotion committee, stuff at home — that are also ongoing. But I’m mindful about my limits and am working hard to ensure that I keep everything within comfortable boundaries so that I don’t completely exhaust myself.

Currently reading: Unraveling Faculty Burnout: Pathways to Reckoning and Renewal, by Rebecca Pope-Ruark.

2023 goals and one word theme

List of 23 goals for 2023

After eschewing yearly goal setting in 2022, which went fairly well, I decided to bring back my yearly goals list in 2023. I created a 23-item list that reflects the type of person I want to be this year, with a mix of “projects that will bring relief once I complete them”, adventures and experiences, and a few challenges. And I chose a word to center my actions and intentions for the year, as I do almost every year. (Past words and phrases include “defining” in 2010, “healthy” in 2017, “foundation” in 2019, and “gentle serendipity” in 2022.)

So, where did I land this year with my list and with my theme?

Theme for 2023: NEXT

I’m definitely in a transition period in various facets of my life, with more questions than answers. What do I want the next phase of my career to look like? Do I want to stay in academia, go academia-adjacent, or do something entirely different? What does it mean to be an athlete in my 50s, and what role (if any) does running play in that? How can I best support my kids as teenagers, as they figure out who they are and become more independent? How do my partner and I navigate this new stage in our relationship, particularly as our kids grow up and go off to college? How do we navigate the challenges of aging parents who live far away? This year I want to take a step back and give myself the time and space to think carefully about what’s on the other side of all of these transitions — and figure out what’s next for me.

My 23 for 2023 list

I categorized my list this year into 5 areas: home and family, health and wellness, work, adventure and fun, and sports. And I left some items open, so that I can add them throughout the year (in my quintiles!).

Home and family

  1. Finish our will. Honestly, we have most of the pieces in place; we just need to finalize the damn thing! I’m confident this will get done this year.
  2. Assemble an “on the occasion of my death” folder. I don’t have any plans to leave this mortal coil anytime soon, but I am … not young. I view this as a complement to our will, so it makes sense to at least start assembling this type of thing now while we’re planning for the future.
  3. Develop a focused charitable giving plan. I want to do something less haphazard to make a real difference in 1-2 areas.
  4. Do solo trips with each kid. Both kiddos campaigned for this to be included on the list — and I’m more than happy to oblige.

Health and wellness

  1. Get a colonoscopy. Not fun, but definitely necessary given my age.
  2. Get my shingles vaccination. See above.


  1. Make time and space for regular writing. I want to blog more regularly this year, and I want to get more of my work and my ideas out into the world. Also, writing brings me joy and enjoyment, and I could use more joy in my work life!
  2. Submit 2 academic articles. I have one conference deadline I’m aiming to make in mid-January. I also have a bunch of work-in-progress that I’d like to get into the review pipeline sooner rather than later.

Adventure and fun

  1. Do a day long hike. I’d hoped to do this for my 50th birthday, but injuries put the kibosh on that plan. Fingers crossed that I remain injury-free this year!
  2. Go on a solo trip. I enjoy these so much. I think I might secretly be a hermit.
  3. Visit 2 new-to-me state parks. I’d like to visit all of the Minnesota State Parks eventually — I think I’ve hit 28 so far (out of 66). I might be able to pair this with goals 10 and/or 4 — the Resident 6th Grader was very interested in this particular goal.
  4. Kayak a new-to-me lake. I barely got out on my kayak last summer (shame!), and definitely didn’t explore any new terrain. I want to rectify that this summer.
  5. Bike a new-to-me trail. I could possibly do this 4 ways: paved, gravel, mountain bike, fat bike. Maybe I should award myself bonus points for each type of trail I do!
  6. Read 30 books. I honestly don’t know how many books I typically read in a year. I think I probably read about 2 a month, so 30 seems like a comfortable stretch.
  7. Visit 2 new-to-me coffee shops. I love reading in random coffee shops, yet almost never do so. I’m hoping this goal, and goal 14, will encourage me to schedule time to do so.
  8. Go to a beach every day this summer. There are so many beaches near me, and I absolutely love beaches….and I almost never go. I’m curious to see if I can keep this up, and what creative ways I’ll find to meet this goal. (Coffee at sunrise at the beach? Reading in the evening at the beach? Open water swimming instead of pool laps?)


  1. Earn my 3rd degree black belt in taekwondo. I test in March!
  2. Become proficient at flip turns in swimming. Turns out they are not as scary as I’d made them out to be, although they are very hard to get right. I’m hoping to get to the point where they’re more automatic and I don’t overthink them every time I approach the pool wall.

Open items (to be added throughout the year)

These time periods match up with my “quintiles”: Winter Term (and spring break), Spring Term, Summer, Fall Term, and Winter Break (Thanksgiving through New Years Day).

  1. TBD: Winter. I’m leaning towards “go cross country skiing twice”, but I want to see how the first week of Winter Term goes before I finalize this one.
  2. TBD: Spring.
  3. TBD: Summer.
  4. TBD: Fall.
  5. TBD: Winter Break.

Compared to lists I’ve made in previous years, this year’s list is fairly gentle and very accessible. Some years are for challenges and stretching oneself, but every year doesn’t have to be that way. I’m looking forward to a year of kinder, gentler exploration and adventures, and to goals that nurture me and build up my confidence.

What’s on your goals list this year?