(The following is the personal essay portion of my application to a writer’s residency for parents that would happen in Portland, OR. I didn’t get the residency this year, but why should the piece go to waste? I decided to share my thoughts with you instead.)

I wrote the first draft of this essay in my living room, interrupted every few minutes by calls from my 7-year-old son to, “Watch this, Mom!” The object of his attention varies from the latest Parry Gripp song to a pattern he’s designed in Animal Crossing to new parkour moves he’s trying out with…


I hear Krispy Kreme is giving out donuts when you get vaccinated against COVID-19.

I also hear that people are Not Happy™ about this.

You don’t have to tell me what they’re saying about the message that giving away free donuts sends about health and the “COVID 15” and how fat people shouldn’t have been given priority status in the vaccines queues.

Thing is, the world has been telling us since the last pandemic that obesity (aka the math between height and weight) is a co-morbidity. You have been shouting from the evening news that I’m more likely to die…


[IMAGE] Colorful bubbles, a metaphor

At some point in my graduate studies of autobiography, I realized that very few of my fellow scholars practiced what they theorized. It is rare to find someone who calls themselves a memoirist (as I do) at life writing conferences, and I’ve often wondered if that’s because we know too much about how the proverbial sausage is made.

Instead, we stand on the outside looking in, trying to make meaning of lives already lived and stories already told. …


I had to get out of my house so I went to someone else’s. Because quarantine. I don’t own a weighted blanket, so I’ve been using an LL Bean sweatshirt as an anti-anxiety therapeutic. I don’t remember how this oversized sweatshirt came into our lives but I have a vague memory of a Christmas long ago when my husband got it as a gift from his mother.

My husband is not a small man but he is a thin man, relatively speaking. This LL Bean sweatshirt is a men’s XL. My husband is not an XL man. But his mother…


In 2016, the trajectory of my life changed with five words:

“You should do a TEDx Talk.”

These simple words — strung together and voiced by a colleague I trusted to dispense only the best career advice — suggested to me that I might have something worth saying. I didn’t have a Message or a Platform. Just…a presence, I guess.

I didn’t know what I would talk about and neither did she. I know now that “you should do a TED Talk” is the sort of thing you say to people whose personality suggests that they don’t suffer from crippling…


Early evidence of my penchant for autobiography

When I was growing up, my dad always picked us up from school. He worked as a mechanic for the railroad and had a Union-backed, family-friendly 7am-3pm schedule. Plus, our school was right down the street from the truck shop, just past the parking lot where my mom’s car waited for her to return at the end of the day after a half-mile walk across the Loop and a 45-minute Metra ride.

For 36 years, my mom worked in downtown Chicago at a Fortune 100 company that you may know as a household name supplying oatmeal, pancakes, and the yellow…


I held the microphone from a Fisher-Price tape recorder in one hand and shooed away my little brother with the other. It was his turn to sing with our “DTV” cartoon sing-a-long VHS, but since I was older I got to sing the next two songs. It seemed fair. From the middle of the living room, Mom pressed REC on the camcorder and I sang my little heart out. With my back to the TV, I didn’t need to follow the bouncing ball because I already knew all the words to Marvin Gaye’s “Can I Get a Witness?” …


Remember the good ol’ days of celebrity endorsements? You know the type — TV and movie stars who show up in commercials to tell you how they just can’t live without their favorite shampoo, beer, or cooking oil.

You can’t fool us, Florence. We know you got paid a bunch of cash to pretend to care about “Wessonality.” And that’s fine because that’s how celebrity endorsements work. We learn product names from the commercials and then talk to our grandmas to find out if Wesson really makes the best fried chicken.

The social media age has ushered in a…


I always smile in photos. I can’t help it. Even though I’ve tried perfecting the detached gaze into the middle distance that all the Instagram influencers have, I just can’t. I’m like Buddy the Elf — I love smiling. Smiling’s my favorite.

When my last set of headshots were taken last year by my dear friend Mira, I was feeling an acute depression flareup and I almost cancelled the whole thing. But I wanted to see my world-traveling friend while she was in Chicago, and I needed photos that showed off my new glasses. …


This article is the second in a collaborative series with l.a.Eyeworks, a conceptual partner in sharing the message of eyewear as self-care. I phrased it that way, but it’s been their guiding principle since 1979. As the legendary l.a.Eyeworks tagline goes, “A face is like a work of art. It deserves a great frame.”

When I was in my early 20s, I made the first major purchase of my adult life: a mattress. Prior to arriving on the showroom floor staring down the responsibility of adulting for real this time, it had not occurred to me that every place I’d…

Kate Browne

storyteller for fun and profit. IG & Twitter: @drkatebrowne

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