The Doctor is IN

Keen Observations on Life … Whether You Need Them or Not

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Congratulations, Peyton Sickles!

My son is a freelance photojournalist, and he’s been killing it lately. Last week at the 2022 North Carolina Press Association Awards, he took home two awards personally, and his community newspaper raked in a whopping 31.

Last month I had to cancel my daily subscriptions to the News & Observer, NYTimes, and USAToday because our newspaper distribution guy, Ben, was so inconsistent. We missed nearly forty percent of our papers, and it broke my heart. But Peyton, like me, is a journalist and in this industry. My dissatisfaction with the distribution asshole is no reflection on my support and interest in hardworking journalists. Truthful, vetted news from truthful, vetted news sources is crucial to correct information being disseminated in the community. Peyton’s accomplishments bolster my opinion of the importance of real news, and make me a prouder mom than usual because he has embarked on a career of truth telling that is often difficult. The way he sees and captures the world is a game changer

So, Bravo Peyton!

  • First Place – Siler City Controlled Burn
  • Second Place – Cyclist Chuck Gillis

Support your local news outlets, y’all. Support the truth.

*Thanks to publisher Bill Horner III for this spectacular photo of Peyton.


Farewell, print newspapers

I had to laugh at this full-page ad in the July 19, 2021 edition of the N&O because, in my experience, big tech isn’t the most harmful threat to local papers, it’s the distribution company and delivery driver. I’ve been taking some combination of local and national newspapers for the last 25 years. Always in the mix is the N&O; most of the time I get USA Today, and on Friday and Sunday I get the NYT. It’s expensive, but I like to hold the paper in my hand and read the news. I also have online subscriptions for Washington Post and NYT, but nothing beats a physical newspaper. But I’m done – my newspaper distributor has broken my spirit and love for the print newspaper. 

Between Jan 2 – Jul 21, 2022, my newspapers were late or not delivered 32 times. [Important note: May 22 – Jul 18, we had interim drivers who were ALWAYS on time and here, and corresponded by text if there were any issues.] And by late I mean, I had to text the distributor multiple times over the morning because the delivery driver never showed up. Never texted. Some days it’s because the driver was doing who knows what for who knows why (I don’t care). It’s not my job to remind the newspaper distributor to deliver my paper. My delivery driver is so unreliable that USA Today has us permanently on mail delivery only. It’s just not worth it any longer. I’m canceling it all.

And as I prepare this post, both the News & Observer and USA Today sent emails about cheap subscriptions. These rates are a honey trap for a newshound like me, but my good mental health can’t take another week of text-arguing with B.M., or leaving countless voicemails and still being ignored by B.A. My rural address is 42 miles from N&O headquarters on Fayetteville Street, where the paper is printed. It is a literal straight shot down one of the major highways that bisects the state. The distributor is just that shitty.

Here’s my takeaway: if you live in rural communities in North Carolina, you cannot rely on print newspaper delivery. So suck it up, because you can’t rely on high speed internet either. Good luck!


Plan your parenthood

I am overwhelmed with grief and rage and sadness. My heart is broken for legions of women in the near (and far) future who will have to make difficult decisions about their bodies and their lives, at the risk of their mental and physical health. I am enraged at the woman on the supreme court who, as my mother says, “climbed over the backs of women who gave her all her opportunities.” I am angry at the conservative women I’ve known for years, who migrated from high school and college friends to Facebook acquaintances — who had unplanned pregnancies and abortions as young women and are now cheering with the decision to end the constitutional right to abortion. To those women in particular, I say fuck you. Because if you don’t want to have an abortion, then don’t have an abortion. Abortion is healthcare.

The supreme court is on a tear this year, and the future is bleak. Be gentle with yourself.

I feel adrift in this shameful nation, so I will rely on the comfort of what I do best: write. I spent years of my life and career as an educator of reproductive and women’s rights. Women of child-bearing years, listen up: YOU are responsible for managing your parenthood. Of planning your pregnancy. Whether you’re in middle school or your mid-forties, YOU are on the hook for your own body. And unless you’re ready to begin a family, be smart. Educate yourself on the variety of birth control methods available. Talk to your physician. Get a prescription for birth control pills TODAY. Talk to your partner. Prevent unplanned pregnancies and STDs. Use a condom. Abstinence-only education endorses reproductive ignorance. Woman up!

Barrier methods: 

  • male condoms
  • female condoms
  • diaphragm
  • cervical cap
  • contraceptive sponge

Short-acting hormonal methods:

  • Birth control pills 
  • Vaginal ring
  • Skin patch
  • Contraceptive injection

Long-acting hormonal methods:

  • IUDs
  • Contraceptive implant


  • Tubal ligation
  • Vasectomy

– – > Here’s a list of U.S. companies offering abortion travel benefits. Check the list and buy the shit out of their products because consumer-buying power speaks volumes.

– – > Here’s a list of U.S. companies offering abortion-related benefits.

– – > Plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace® must cover contraceptive methods and counseling for all women, as prescribed by a health care provider.

Find help if you need it:

If you don’t have anybody to ask about birth control methods, HMU.

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Today we’re celebrating our 28th anniversary. We’re the atomic number of Nickel, the atomic mass of Silicon. We’re the standard number of tiles in a box of dominoes. Our binary representation is 00011100, and if we were a 28-sided polygon, we’d be called an icosikaioctagon.

But when you delve deeper, you’ll see that we’ve worked hard to have a good, happy, adventurous life together. We’ve raised the world’s most amazing son. We’ve raised and survived the world’s best dogs, Penelope and Maggie … and most recently added Daisy Marlalade to the family. We’ve got both of our mothers. We’ve got our sweet LeighRoy. Life is good. We’re so fortunate, and we’re so thankful. And 28 years is a huge fucking deal!


Randall Kenan Prize

I’m excited to announce I’ve been awarded the Randall Kenan Prize for my interview essay “Examining ‘Otherness’ on the Page and in the Classroom with Michele Tracy Berger,” in the 2022 North Carolina Literary Review.

Dolly R. Sickles is the winner of the 2022 Randall Kenan Prize for her interview essay “Examining ‘Otherness’ on the Page and in the Classroom with Michele Tracy Berger.” The Randall Kenan Prize is sponsored by the UNC Chapel Hill Creative Writing Program for the year’s best essay on or interview with a new or relatively new North Carolina writer, accepted for publication in NCLR. Glenis Redmond, poet-in-residence at the Peace Center for Performing Arts in Greenville, SC, and former mentor poet for the National Student Poet’s Program, selected Sickles’s essay on Berger, saying “In her writing, Berger does the heavy lifting––providing space for others, as well as reflecting, as an intentional mirror for others to imagine themselves in both the present and the future. The author of this essay was eager to find out whether Michele Tracy Berger is more a writer who teaches or a teacher who writes. With countless published stories and a novel coming out this year, we find there is no definitive line between the two. Berger is ever-present in both fields.” Sickles’s interview essay will appear in NCLR Online Fall 2022. 

A freelance writer and teacher, Sickles is the author of children’s books and romance novels. Her subject for the Kenan Prize essay, Michele Tracy Berger, is a Professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at UNC Chapel Hill, who publishes both scholarship and fiction. Berger’s 2017 novella, Reenu-You, is an example of the speculative fiction by African American writers that she talked about with Sickles.


Farewell, Sweet Magpie

Magnolia May Sickles passed away peacefully around 10:05 am on January 5, 2022, surrounded by Peyton, Dolly, and Matt. She had a stroke mid-morning on January 4 and went downhill rapidly. She was a good girl and beloved member of our family. Our hearts are broken with the loss of the tiniest love of our lives, but we are all the better for having loved and been loved by this sweet girl. She is buried in her favorite meadow beneath the crabapple tree, with her sisters Penelope Butter up and Rosemary Violet, who preceded her in death. She was fourteen-and-a-half.

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It’s donation time

We’re big community volunteers at my house, which typically translates to a combination elbow grease, boosting the signal, working as community advocates, and fundraising. I’ve been helping the Chatham Cares Community Pharmacy with grants and fundraising since mid-summer, and wanted to put the plea out into the universe: if you’ve got money to donate this year, please consider Chatham Cares Community Pharmacy. They’ve got a bright, new, shiny PayPal donation page now, so flex your e-muscles and help someone in your community obtain the lifesaving prescriptions they need.

It may come as a surprise to learn that every county in North Carolina has a free pharmacy. Some counties have more than one, depending on need, but Chatham has just one – Chatham Cares Community Pharmacy. It operates on an efficient budget of less than $150,000, employs one full-time person, one part-time person, five volunteer pharmacists, and serves about 350 Chathamites a year. 

I wrote about them in the Chatham News & Record last week. Over the weekend the pharmacy will have its only fundraiser, the Celebration of Lights, which should be pretty. Event information is available at the Chatham News & Record, IndyWeek, and Chatham Magazine.

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Chatham Experience a win-win

I had a great time participating in the Chatham Experience presentation for the Chatham Arts Council’s JumpstART award recipients, held on Sunday, November 7.

With my literary grant award, I donated copies of Peggy Noodle, Hula Hoop Queen to four elementary school libraries and three public libraries; and copies of Mine By Design to three public libraries. All right here in Chatham County.

Special thanks to the Chatham Arts Council, naming sponsors MOSAIC and Chatham Park, along with Main Street Pittsboro and the Pittsboro Business Association, who let the event piggyback onto the culmination of Chatham County’s 250th yearlong celebration.

*This photo from the Chatham Arts Council.