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The Dispatch Monthly Mailbag with Rachael Larimore
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The Dispatch Monthly Mailbag with Rachael Larimore

How she likes working remotely, tips on being a boy mom, what beer she likes the best (and the worst), and more.

(Photo ffrom Getty Images.)

It’s been such a treat reading your questions over the last few weeks. I know a few of you from your regular comments on The Dispatch Weekly, but it’s nice to hear from a wider audience. And, wow, a lot of you had questions about beer. We’ll get to those. There were also great questions about journalism and The Dispatch, working from home and life in Ohio. If I didn’t answer your question here, I will try to get back into the original comments and respond there. 

Normally I close out the essay portion of my newsletter by thanking everyone for reading. This time is a little different: Thanks for writing!

Kathleen: Is it tough to do all work remotely or do you just get used to not being in a traditional newsroom?

Is it tough to work remotely? I want to say “Quite the opposite, actually,” but that’s not quite right. I enjoy the time I do spend with my colleagues and I realize there would be benefits to seeing them every day. But I’m rather set in my ways. I’ve been doing this since 2005, and our second son was born a little over a year later (and our third in 2009). Working from home has allowed me to spend more time with my kids than I would have had I been in an office. I’ve been lucky that my various employers have given me flexibility, though that cuts both ways. Sometimes when “normal” folks are working, I’m running kids to the dentist or picking them up when their after-school activities keep them from taking the bus home. On the other hand, I’ve also worked from baseball games, swim meets, social gatherings, and once, memorably, from a bar. When I was at The Weekly Standard, a writer got an interview with Steve Bannon immediately after he’d been fired by Donald Trump. That was big enough news to push it out on a Friday night, but we’d made plans to watch an important baseball game with neighbors at the closest bar. We went, me with laptop in tow. It all worked out.

Lynn Ketch: As a boy mom myself, what, if anything, do you miss most about the early ages? Or, if too soon, what do you definitely not miss?!

Naptime! I miss naptime. Just kidding. One thing I miss is the little routines we had: Friday night was movie night and we’d all sit down and watch a favorite Pixar or Dreamworks movie, and then gradually as they got older introduced them to some of our childhood favorites like Goonies, The Sandlot, and Stand By Me. I didn’t like getting up at the crack of dawn on the weekends when they would pad into our room at 7 a.m., but we had lots of big breakfasts, Lego time, and often we’d make a big trip to the grocery store on Saturday where we’d stop by and see my dad in the meat department before he retired. Now on weekends we’re often busy with sports or they want to spend time with their friends instead of us. 

Jessica Carney: I’ve got four boys, ages 9 down to 2. Please give me your top three tips for the coming years of hormones and adolescence! I’ve figured out the little kid stage (constant noise, lots of hugs and sweetness, need for firm boundaries, etc.) but the smelly, sullen future is a frightening fog.

Top 3? 1) Be patient. 2) Make the most of the time you get. 3) Hire a housekeeper. 

First, patience, with them and yourself: They are up and down emotionally, sometimes by the hour.  And when they are down, it’s sometimes impossible to know whether it’s hormones, a perceived slight from you, or an issue with school or a friend they don’t want to talk about. If you lash out (and you will), you’ll regret it pretty quickly.

Second, efficiency with time: They will be independent and want to see friends, they’ll have activities, etc. You become an unpaid Uber driver, so be a chatty one. Honestly, some of my best conversations with the kids have been in the car when I was driving them to a swim meet, piano class, or pitching lesson.

Okay, not everyone wants or can afford a housekeeper. But the stories you’ve heard are real: Dishes disappear under empty chip bags and cups pile up, and then there’s the “boy funk.” I’ll spare you a description, because you know it when you smell it. Good luck! 

A two-parter from R. Hall: 1) What is your favorite town or region of Ohio? 2) What impact did your time at Slate have on your views toward conservatism?

The first one is a tough one! I grew up in Northeast Ohio, but my husband and I lived in the Seattle area for almost eight years. When we wanted to move back to the Midwest, my family had relocated to Cincinnati. I was more excited about being near family than the specific location, and I was afraid Cincy wouldn’t be as “cool” as Seattle. But I’ve come to love it. It’s big enough to have culture, but not so big that it’s overwhelming. There has been a lot of development while we’ve lived here, and great old neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine have undergone remarkable resurgences. But I will always have a soft spot for Athens, which is where I lived while I attended Ohio University.  And I get to visit more often now that our son goes there! It’s a delightful and quirky small town with a picturesque campus, and it holds a lot of great memories for me.

As for how my time at Slate affected me, I would like to think it made me a more thoughtful conservative. When you’re surrounded by people who disagree with you—and they are smart and thoughtful themselves—it really pushes you to dig deeper and craft better arguments to support your point of view. 

Azlefty: Ohio’s Governor Mike DeWine seemed to be one of the governors who resisted the Republican party’s pull toward Trumpism and in particular supported COVID protocols and was not an election denier. He won the primary handily and seems to be cruising to reelection despite the party’s trend in the other direction and nomination of candidates like Vance, etc. What do you think has kept DeWine popular among Republicans?

I feel like DeWine was able to avoid the temptations of Trumpism because, aside from the fact he seems like a genuinely decent human being, he doesn’t have presidential aspirations. One reason I think he remains popular is that he did indeed support COVID protocols but he was also practical about it. He communicated clearly—his daily afternoon press conferences became known as “Wine With DeWine” time in those crazy early days we were all stuck at home–and he lifted restrictions on businesses as soon as it was safe. Yes, we had mask mandates and capacity restrictions but places were open. 

Aylene: You’ve mentioned on Twitter that you are a secular conservative. How has that affected your career in conservative media, in which there seems to be an expectation that conservatives profess some level of religious faith?

This is such a great question, and I’m glad you asked. I’ve found that being a secular person in a space populated mostly by people of faith is not dissimilar to being a conservative in liberal media, as I was when I worked at Slate for 14 years. It’s not an exact parallel, but both situations offer great learning opportunities. I remember having watercooler-type debates with my co-workers at Slate where both of us came away having learned something (at least in the earlier years). And it fostered respect and tore down stereotypes. Now, we don’t spend much time discussing religion around ye olde Dispatch Slack, but I’ve learned plenty about living a life centered around faith just from reading David French and hearing him talk. And I’d like to think that, even though my views on many social issues are more closely aligned with my friends at Reason magazine, my more religious colleagues don’t see me as a heathen or anything!  

Sarah Scherer: I am interested in how other conservative families manage the college selection process. We all spend years deriding the state of colleges and universities … but when it comes down to it we have to make the decision to send our students (and money) to one of these schools. Has this come to pass in your family yet?

I’ll be really honest: Politics was not high on the list of considerations for our oldest, who is a freshman at Ohio University. For starters, he’s not conservative himself! I’m a big believer in letting kids figure out their own politics (and we’ve had some fierce debates). We wanted him to choose a college that offered him the best opportunity to accomplish his goals and a setting that he was comfortable in. He picked OU because (we’re extremely lucky on this front) he earned a four-year ROTC scholarship and it has one of the better programs in the country. But, like many colleges, the student body is a little progressive. It’s the best of both worlds for him. He spends hours everyday with his fellow ROTC cadets but can meet other people to talk about politics. I certainly understand the frustration among conservative families who are worried about their kids being indoctrinated or feeling unwelcome, but there is plenty more to college than that. As for other kids, we’ll have to see. I’m just hoping our middle kid doesn’t pick a distant school in the South just because it has great tailgate parties before football games! 

Earl King: In choosing content do you pick the important news first regardless of whether It fits the political bent of The Dispatch or do you always look for the political bent. Once picked do you have a conservative viewpoint as you edit?

I’ll be honest: In our early days sometimes we published whatever we were lucky enough to have sent to us by outside contributors because we were so small! I don’t know if I’ll answer exactly as you intended, but I’ll try to explain our mission and priorities. We have very few “institutional” positions as a publication, which is why you’ll rarely see staff editorials. As an editor, I don’t look to impose a conservative viewpoint on a neutral piece. Rather, we generally report and write more stories that cover the Republican Party than we do Democrats. Given our current moment, it’s not that we like the GOP better, but as conservatives we are pretty interested in the state of the party. In our opinion writing we try to call it as we see it and argue in good faith, but we’re coming at it from a conservative perspective. So we’re naturally not big fans of, say, the Iran nuclear deal or Biden’s student debt relief plan (or really any of his domestic agenda).  But on the right, we’re also concerned about the illiberal, isolationist “new right.” 

Okay, who’s ready for a beer?

How do you typically pair beer and lunch/dinner/dessert? Do you favor certain styles over others depending on weather/season?

I don’t drink too much beer with food. So I typically think of “pairing” beers with seasons or occasions. If it’s a pool day in the summer or a long Saturday of college football, I’ll stick with a session beer or a low-alcohol fruit cider. Summer Break from Sierra Nevada was our go-to for the pool, and my favorite ciders are Hawkes Dead and Berried and Black Widow Cider from Original Sin. Sitting around a campfire in the fall? I’ll pass on the pumpkin beer in favor of a smoked pale ale or heavier IPA.  And in the winter, nothing beats a good coffee stout: Javahead from Troegs in central Pennsylvania is probably the gold standard, but I’m also partial to Java the Stout from Jackie O’s in Athens, Ohio.  

Whiskeyman: What craft beer style trend are you tired of?

Milkshake IPAs. I mean … what?

Mark B: Where do you stand on the current proliferation of sour beers in the craft beer space? 

Like everything else with craft beer, there’s a wide range. I’ve had sours that tasted like cheap white wine and some that were delicious and complex and way better than a $12 craft cocktail. It’s only been in the past two years that I’ve really gotten into them. One night my husband and I were at the taproom of a local brewery we’d been going to for years. We weren’t regulars, but we’d started going more frequently when we were testing the waters of how long we could leave our kids alone with no sitter. (Two beers is how long.) One night we were sitting at the bar, and the bartender overheard me say something like, “They have so many sours, I wish I liked them.” He pulled out some sample glasses and started pouring, and walked us through them. That’s one thing I love about craft beer — the enthusiasm for the product. And, well, we left with a six-pack of our favorite. 

But to really answer your question, I’m all for the proliferation of sours. They aren’t for everyone, but variety is a good thing. I just can’t drink seltzers but sometimes I want something fruity. And the tartness encourages slower drinking. Which is good, because my favorite, Gadget by Urban Artifact, is 8 percent!

Combining questions from Brantly Medders—Is there any better craft beer out there than IPAs?—and Rob Neiheisel—Which style IPA is best? New England? Midwest? West coast hops? 

Brantly, I feel like you might have poked a bear with readers on this one, since there is so much hate out there for IPAs. But I’m an IPA girl through and through. I love hops, and I’m fascinated by all the different varieties (mosaic, citra, simcoe, Cascade). I don’t want to start a war, but IPAs are definitely my favorite. And among them, to answer Rob’s question: My current favorite style is New England hazy IPAs. My specific favorites are made by Bearded Iris, Lord Hobo, and a small local brewery here, Streetside. None are super easy to find, but I haven’t had many bad ones. 

On that note, to everyone who asked if there would be an Ohio (or specifically Southwestern Ohio) in-person event. We don’t have specific plans for one, but I would certainly enjoy one!

Rachael Larimore's Headshot

Rachael Larimore

Rachael Larimore is managing editor of The Dispatch and is based in the Cincinnati area. Prior to joining the company in 2019, she served in similar roles at Slate, The Weekly Standard, and The Bulwark. She and her husband have three sons.