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About Stephanie Phillips

Wife, mom, dentist, writer, New Yorker, Southerner, believer, sinner, overall case study in contradictions. @sweetbabyjep www.plansinpencil.com

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    Greetings from the Upside Down: A Conference Breakout Preview

    Kendall Jenner once said, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Just kidding! It was Maya Angelou who said that. But now that I have your attention, do you agree? Because I’ve had to give this topic A LOT of thought lately.

    My family was recently uprooted from Atlanta to Sydney, Australia because #grace, and the fallout has been…a bit of everything. No demogorgons have shown up, but that hasn’t squelched the similarities with Stranger Things because a) said comparison allows me to equate myself with Barb in our hair color and suffering; and b) this new life in the Down Under feels not totally unlike the Upside Down–absence of Winona Ryder notwithstanding–what with the disorientation, opposing seasons, and strange lighting patterns (aka Daylight Savings flipped).

    Kendall Jenner, Winona Ryder, and Barb: is that click-baity enough for you? Well, allow me to further tease that I’ll be providing handy keys on how not to assimilate in a foreign country, embarrassing stories about my (lack of) driving skills and language difficulties, further details of my IKEA breakdown–all as a guide to managing depression: Aussie Edition. But the big kicker will be what home means for those of us torn between an upside-down world and the Upside Down Kingdom. Spoiler alert: tons of ambivalence, a Ron Burgundy reference, cities with oceans attached. Oh, and wine. Lots of wine.

    How Did I Get Here: Breakdowns in IKEA and Other Tales from an Average and Foreign Life

    How Did I Get Here: Breakdowns in IKEA and Other Tales from an Average and Foreign Life

    I’m standing in IKEA, and I am shattered.

    It’s not often one has an existential crisis in the checkout lane of a Swedish furniture store in the suburbs of Sydney–I think–but it happened to me, and very recently. In the twenty minutes (that felt like an eternity) that I spent behind the cart holding my two young children and a mountain of decorative crap, I came to question every #blessed gift and decision that got me to this exact point in the universe: to this store, to this country, to these children, to this marriage, to this God.

    How’s that for a…

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    A Tribe Called Us: The Grace of Relationships in a World of Critics

    A Tribe Called Us: The Grace of Relationships in a World of Critics

    Few things are certain in this world, but there is this: however critics feel about a movie, I will almost certainly disagree. There have been rare exceptions; the triteness of He’s Just Not That Into You, for example, pissed a lot of us off. Usually, however, I can be counted on as a contrarian. Such was the case with Passengers, which my husband and I saw in a theater with reclining leather chairs and a bar — hard to go wrong between those amenities and a Chris Pratt/Jennifer Lawrence pairing. I was delighted not to be the only one who enjoyed the…

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    In Defense of 2016

    In Defense of 2016

    This past calendar year, known by many of us as 2016, was nothing if not controversial. Populated as it was by unexpected outcomes, celebrity demises, and global tragedies, the year stands out as, at the very least, memorable. And at the very most? Well, it may be the first time I’ve heard a quartet of numbers get accused of killing people. Who knew those four digits carried around a sickle and political machinations in their back pockets?

    Whether the loss of Prince and Princess (Leia) ruined your year or just amounted to a footnote in it, overall apathy about the past…

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    “Mother and Child”: Calling BS on the Expectations of “Silent Night”

    “Mother and Child”: Calling BS on the Expectations of “Silent Night”

    I used to love how the carol “Silent Night” captured my image of the season: peaceful, expectant, hopeful. Then I became an adult, and a parent, and Christmastime became anything but serene. I found myself singing words like “all is calm, all is bright” while looking around at other faces, wondering, “Does anyone else believe this nonsense?” When God saw fit to give me my own swaddled baby boy–then another–I related to Mary more than ever and felt that someone must speak up for her, because if I know anything about Christmas with a newborn (and I do; my kids…

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    On Being Outsiders…and Not Quite Bulletproof

    On Being Outsiders…and Not Quite Bulletproof

    Just wanted to let you know you can all calm down: I figured out the Election of 2016.

    Okay, maybe I didn’t “figure it out” so much as “choose the theory I find least disquieting among all the ones being thrown around right now.” The narrative of this election, after all, is being told and retold all over social and traditional media. There seems to be no escaping the countless voices clamoring to be heard, the opinions on why the winner won and the loser lost. One of the refrains that caught my eye early, though, and still sticks, is that so many…

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    Grace in Trains, Pantsuits, and Locker Rooms

    Grace in Trains, Pantsuits, and Locker Rooms

    A couple of weeks ago my husband, back from an extended work trip, gave me the greatest of gifts: an overnight stay in a local hotel. No, not with him. This was the gift of solitude for nearly twenty-four hours, a joy rarely experienced by mothers of young children and highly coveted by the same, particularly the introverted sort such as myself. Granted, the gift was born out of a demand on my part after a sleepless night and an overflowing toilet, but let’s avoid looking at this horse directly in the mouth, shall we?

    When the time arrived, my…

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    Harry Potter, Cursed Children, and the Sins of Their Mothers

    Harry Potter, Cursed Children, and the Sins of Their Mothers

    I remember my entrance into the world of Harry Potter: I was in college and babysitting overnight in a house that contained the series-so-far, The Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets, on its bookcase. Playing nearby on the floor, my charges gloriously ignored me while I dove into the pages of the first book. I was a skeptic: I hadn’t anticipated finding resonance in the story of a male British preteen wizard, and fantasy was not my jam. (Game of Thrones hadn’t even come out to legitimize dragon-possible worlds.) But I could see myself within Harry’s perennial search for identity…

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    Stranger Things and Upside-Down Kingdoms

    Stranger Things and Upside-Down Kingdoms

    “These men…have turned the world upside down.” Acts 17:6

    My husband and I recently binge-watched Stranger Things on Netflix. And by binge-watched, I mean that we finished the series in about ten days, taking into account my propensity for falling asleep mid-episode and stretching a couple of the chapters over multiple viewings–like the last one, which we viewed on a laptop from a Sydney hotel room over the course of a night (I passed out thirty minutes in) and the next morning at 4:30 (thanks, jet lag). CJ already deftly covered the appeal of the show–themes of nostalgia, redemption, purity, and…

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    Bad Moms, Odd Moms, and Everything In Between

    Bad Moms, Odd Moms, and Everything In Between

    I’m a mom, so I run primarily on adrenaline and guilt. Throw in some coffee in the AM, some wine in the PM, and you’ve covered the structure of most of my days–but I’ll be damned if anyone but me reduces my life to a cliche. I’ve seen some pretty bad representations of the pulled-in-all-directions nature of motherhood, so when the trailer for Bad Moms popped up on the internet a few months ago, I approached it warily. A major Hollywood studio accurately portraying my constant ambivalence? A script penned by two men (the writers behind The Hangover, no less)?…

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    The Good News of Knowing Nothing

    The Good News of Knowing Nothing

    I used to be a connoisseur of television, my DVR filled with hour-long nuggets of narrative brilliance, my Netflix recommendations apt reflections of a carefully-curated viewing history. Then I had kids and grew exhausted and, in the late hours of the night (read: 8-10 pm), developed a preference for more fun-sized and less emotionally-involving small-screen moments. I also began to receive more of my entertainment on the run, on the drive to my son’s preschool or during laps on the track at my gym, which is why podcasting opened up a welcome form of media diversion. Recently I caught the…

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    For When I Am Strong, Then I Am Weak

    For When I Am Strong, Then I Am Weak

    I have a beef with the editors of Modern Love, and it’s not just about their polite refusal of my recent submission. It concerns a recent episode of their podcast, a reading of a column published almost seven years ago written by a woman who “saved” her marriage by refusing to suffer her husband’s rejection. By refusing to suffer, period.

    The author of the piece, Laura Munson, recounts her husband’s mid-life crisis that spawned this rejection, and the announcement he made that he was leaving her and their children. What follows would read to many as an inspirational tale of…

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