Caitlin Vestal

On aging, becoming, and the search for good hand cream

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Christmas tree pick up day in Berlin.

Lately, I’ve been looking at my hands a lot. They’ve changed this past year, or maybe I have.

Perhaps it’s the fanatical hand washing that’s creased them in places I didn’t know hands could crease. I’ve been staring at them since last March, back when said fanatical hand washing started, and my skin was beginning to flake in the valleys between my knuckles. I bought thicker hand cream, and thicker still, but they just seemed rough and tired and eternally parched.

Until last year, I didn’t know it was possible for skin to be this dry. But now I’m seeing…


It’s time to re-think America’s relationship with social support.

Baby looking at the camera while woman holding it looks behind her toward a trailer.
Baby looking at the camera while woman holding it looks behind her toward a trailer.
Photo by Johann Walter Bantz on Unsplash

Germany is in the midst of its second full lockdown to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Daycares and schools are closed. Employers are required to allow employees to work from home if at all possible. N95 masks are mandatory in some parts of the country.

This lockdown, currently called a “Hard Lockdown,” which follows the “Lockdown Light” that started in October, will likely be extended into what some are calling “Mega Lockdown.” …


Looking to the trees for winter lockdown inspiration

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The freshly-planted trees outside my bedroom.

It’s that awkward week between Christmas and New Year’s, and I’m doing a lot of staring out the windows. For the first time in my life, I have a job that’s let me take these days off, and the whole city is in the midst of a full Coronavirus lockdown. It’s very, very quiet.

Quiet, of course, is more figurative than literal in my home, because I have a three-year-old, which means that nothing is ever actually that quiet. …


Embracing the German obsession with fresh air

A woman standing behind a curtain in a full-length window.
A woman standing behind a curtain in a full-length window.
Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

Germany just announced a second full lockdown. For the second time this year, businesses, stores, schools, and daycares have to shut down for a mandatory four weeks.

When the first lockdown happened, our lives stopped completely. My daily routine was usurped by vague apocalyptic fears, and I became unable to think about anything further away than the next few hours.

I’d started the year getting my son settled into a new preschool, hunting for full-time jobs after too many years of freelancing, and generally planning to kick 2020’s ass. …


On letting go, letting be, and pumpkin pie.

Person standing by a pumpkin pie and glass of red wine.
Person standing by a pumpkin pie and glass of red wine.
Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

Until a few years ago, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday.

As a kid, I spent the weeks of November getting excited for the pumpkin pie my mom would make when the day finally came. Her pie always had a premade Pillsbury crust, and the recipe came from the back of the Libby pumpkin can. I used to eat each piece methodically, slicing into the pumpkin filling with the side of my fork and scraping it off the crust, which I’d leave to eat until the end. …


On learning to write for the internet (and never reading the comments)

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Photo by the author

It’s a strange feeling to have an essay you’ve written be seen by 13,000 people. Especially when the essay you wrote before that was only seen by 34. It’s exciting, yes. And also a little terrifying.

A couple of days before the election, I sat down to write something about living in Germany, experiencing a robust social safety net for the first time in my life, and begrudgingly voting for Biden. This is what came out. And I guess because of the timing (and perhaps an overly dramatic title), it was read by a lot of people. 13,000ish people.

And…


Living abroad reveals all the cracks in America’s façade

Photo of an American flag seen through a van window
Photo of an American flag seen through a van window
Photo by Charlotte Harrison from Unsplash

Like most Americans, I am deep in the throes of election anxiety. Unlike most Americans, I don’t live in the US. But even from over here, across the Atlantic, I know that Biden has to win for the US to survive. I also know that if he does, it’s not going to fix everything. For a lot of people, it probably won’t fix much at all.

Almost exactly two years ago, just days after voting in the 2018 midterm elections, my husband and toddler and I moved from Portland, Oregon, to Berlin. We moved here for a job, like so…


Letting go of what should be to make space for what is

Photo of a cloudy sky framed by the edges of two different trees.
Photo of a cloudy sky framed by the edges of two different trees.
Photo by the author

Recently, I’ve decided to give up. I’m giving up on searching for something that’s going to make any of this better. Instead of wasting my energy trying to find the right book, or the right method, or the right play setup — that one magical thing that will make it easier to mother my son in the midst of a global pandemic — I’m letting go.

This isn’t a place I’ve gotten to easily. Back in March, I decided, like so many of us, that I’d use this time “wisely”. We potty trained. I attempted to teach my kid the…


Because an artist’s work can’t be separated from them, no matter how inconvenient that may be

Picture of a cardboard box with a box set of Harry Potter books.
Picture of a cardboard box with a box set of Harry Potter books.
My Harry Potter box set, ready to put out on the curb.

When I moved from Portland to Berlin two years ago, I brought with me only the books I couldn’t bear to part with. I wavered back and forth on my Harry Potter hardbacks for weeks.

I’d bought the fourth through seventh books the day they were released — usually at midnight and to much fanfare. When the seventh book came out, a friend and I stayed up all night reading it and eating chunks of a gingerbread Hogwarts that I’d won at the bookstore’s release party. On our fifth anniversary, my husband and I went to The Wizarding World of…


The answer? Put the worry in the poem (er, Medium piece).

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Photo: Free Nature Stock, pexels.com

As writers, we all have our go-to themes. Topics from our lived experiences that are both unique enough and universal enough to resonate with readers. For example, I write a lot about mothering. And birth. And loss. A few years ago, I wrote a whole Master’s thesis about them. Now I’m here on Medium, writing about them again.

I write about them to connect with others who may need to read that they’re not alone. I write about them to remind myself that I, too, am not alone.

I write to remind myself that I, too, am not alone.

But…

Caitlin Vestal

Caitlin is a writer, editor, and translator living in Berlin with her husband and their angsty threenager.

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