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About Stephanie Phillips

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

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    This Is Really 40

    This Is Really 40

    My family and I recently took a trip to Fiji. (I will pause momentarily for your pity.) My husband billed the “vacation” as part of my present for my upcoming fortieth birthday, even though since (a) the kids came along, and (b) trips with kids aren’t vacations, then by deductive reasoning, (c) I did not […]

    Freedom's Just Another Word

    Freedom’s Just Another Word

    The first time I heard an Aussie ask “How are you going?” I thought he wanted me to give him directions, which is hilarious because I know how to get to, like, three places here. Then I realized I was being presented with an alternative to our American phrase “How are you doing?” And I […]

    Rest for the Betty Draper in Me

    Rest for the Betty Draper in Me

    In my dreams, I can breathe underwater. In my anxiety-crippled reality, I just discovered that a thing called secondary drowning exists. Yay! NEW WAYS (FOR MY KIDS) TO DIE THAT I HADN’T HEARD OF BEFORE. We’ve been in Sydney nearly six months and there are countless “favourites” among our crew: the local, world-class zoo; Sunday […]

    Dear Evan Hansen, I'm Missing Richard Simmons from S-Town, or: A Note from the Outcast

    Dear Evan Hansen, I’m Missing Richard Simmons from S-Town, or: A Note from the Outcast

    I saw the emotional avalanche that is Dear Evan Hansen two weeks ago, on a yearly childless pilgrimage my husband and I make to the city where we fell in love, and conveniently, where Mockingbird holds an annual conference. Maybe it’s the range and sincerity displayed by headliner Ben Platt, with whose image I am considering […]

    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 […]

    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 […]

    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 […]

    "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 […]

    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 […]

    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, […]

    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 […]