They build each other up, mindful that the world will try to tear them down

Billie Eilish onstage at the 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C., November 7, 2018. Photo: Laura Todd Carns

The show doesn’t start for another hour, but the line to get into the 9:30 Club already stretches around the corner. It’s cold, and my 14-year-old daughter is restless, her blood pumping with the nervous excitement that accompanies a first-time experience. We thread our way along the sidewalk, following the line of fired-up ticket holders around the corner, down the block, past the alley, almost to the next corner.

We are here to see Billie Eilish, the 16-year-old American singer-songwriter who got her start as an internet sensation. I have been to countless shows at this club over the past…


Why so many of us have Olivia Rodrigo’s debut on repeat.

This is not an album review.

People get confused sometimes when I write about music, assuming that I’m critiquing a new album or single as an impartial journalist. I’m going to be honest — I don’t know how to do that. I only know if something grabs me by the emotional jugular. And when it does, I try to understand how and why.

At the heart of it, Olivia Rodrigo is honest.

In “brutal,” the very first track on Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album “Sour,” she muses, “And I’m so sick of seventeen / Where’s my fuckin’ teenage dream? / If…


On Mother’s Day, I’m thinking fondly of all the time my mother didn’t spend in the kitchen.

The comfort foods of my childhood can be found in the frozen foods aisle. Stouffer’s tuna noodle casserole, Stouffer’s French bread pizza. A few aisles over, in canned foods, Chef Boyardee’s mini ravioli, Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, Spaghetti-O’s with meatballs.

Some people have to track down old family recipes or exotic ingredients to replicate the meals they grew up with. I’m lucky enough to be able to find them easily in the supermarket, ready to serve. If I’m having a bad day and long for the coziness of childhood food-memory, I don’t have to work hard or travel far.

When…


We could see the finish line — and then we hit a speed bump.

It’s hard to measure exactly when the pandemic started. Or rather, when it started to impact our daily lives, and when its grave potential began to hit home. But for me, as for many Americans, March 13, 2020 was the Last Normal Day. It was the last day my children went to in-person, normal school — unmasked! on the school bus! sitting in crowded classrooms and cafeterias!

So it was a little over a year later when, on April 7, 2021, my husband, my teenage daughter, and I all got our first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. …


Playing a sport isn’t the only way for kids to exercise.

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Some kids take off running with their first steps. They’re climbing things and riding things and bouncing around, making the most of every opportunity to move their bodies. Parents of those kids typically worry about broken bones and scraped knees. And those naturally active kids often go on to sign up for organized sports, which have their own built-in exercise regimens. Practice three times a week plus a game on the weekends, sometimes multiplied by multiple sports. Parents find themselves more worried about rotator cuff injuries and getting enough electrolytes than “is my kid getting enough exercise?”

But not every…


For ballet, it may be too late. For writing, it never is.

I was 13 when I got my first rejection from The New Yorker.

Most bookish adults have a story about getting in trouble for reading as child — in class, or at a party. I don’t recall that happening to me, maybe because I was a child of bookish people. What I got in trouble for was writing. Constantly.

I scribbled obsessively, in a Harriet the Spy kind of way, observing everything going on around me, recording every detail and then bending those details into fiction.

It unnerved people.

I was an ambitious kid, precocious. And I knew I was…


Wireless wasn’t the improvement I hoped.

Photo by Daniel Fontenele on Unsplash

I should begin with a caveat that the AirPods I currently own are not the latest and greatest version. It is quite possible that if I had the AirPods Pro or, well, anything besides the first generation model that I have, I might feel differently. But I don’t think so. The bottom line is, AirPods kind of suck.

Don’t get me wrong; it is awfully convenient to be able to connect to my phone (or my computer! or my iPad!) via Bluetooth. It is nice to go for a walk and not have to worry about a cord getting caught…


A love letter to my morning routine.

The best mornings are when the cat helps

Every morning, the first task I give my struggling-from-sleep brain is to solve a Sudoku. My body may have stumbled through some simple things like waking the children, mumbling good morning to my husband, and pouring coffee. But my brain isn’t capable yet of truly reading the news or replying to an email. I settle at the kitchen table with my sharpened pencil, adjust my reading glasses, and gaze at a grid of numbers and spaces.

I have been solving Sudoku puzzles daily for years now, though when I tried to teach my son how to do it, I found…


Knowing better can’t silence my inner body-shaming critic.

Image by i yunmai via Unsplash

I am ashamed to admit the deep and abiding prejudice that dwells in my soul. I feel tainted by it, this voice of doom inside my head, constantly delivering unasked-for judgement. It is a burden I lug with me everywhere I go, the effort of dragging it along unwelcome and unnecessary. But it’s not some demon I can see and battle. The call is coming from inside the house. The monster is me. A steady stream of criticism floods my brain: you will never be thin enough, you will never be pretty enough, you will always be lacking.

I pretend…


Dress the part.

Image courtesy Jessica Rockowitz via Unsplash

As children, we know this intuitively. We know that a cape or our mother’s high heels or a rainbow clown wig has the power to transform us. What we wear is how we signal to others who we are. See? See my red cape? I’m a superhero, I can do anything!

When we grow older, our costumes change. In adolescence, we learn to use our clothing choices to communicate our moods and our interests; a beacon to help us find like-minded others. …

Laura Todd Carns

Freelancer & fictioneer. Contributor to Medium pubs Human Parts, GEN, Curious; bylines elsewhere in WaPo, Quartz, EL, The Lily & more. www.lauratoddcarns.com

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