A wonky, mid-life injustice

I thought one of the perks of making it to middle age would be that we no longer have to suffer the indignities of puberty. No more awkward body changes. No more hormone-induced mood swings. Isn’t time and experience supposed to make us more comfortable in our own skin? But here’s what they don’t tell you: The middle-aged skin I’m supposed to be so comfortable in by now? It’s dry and creasing at an alarming rate. I’ve bought 90 percent of all the moisturizing cream in the world yet it’s not enough. I could dip myself into a vat of Jergens lotion every day and still need more. I used to be a juicy grape and now I’m morphing into […]

Living by the lists

I love a good list. I like jotting it down. I like looking it over each day. And I absolutely love marking through completed tasks with an assertive, bold marker scribble – as if my productivity has literally obliterated it. When a list fills up with scribbles, I start a fresh one and transfer over any items still waiting to be done. When I mess up and forget to do something, there’s always one reason why – it never made it onto the list. Every now and then, I tell myself I don’t need to write something down because “I’ll remember.” (Yeah, right.) Then reality rears its multiple graying heads: My brain is 49 years old. I have three kids, […]

Control freaks 101

When I get up, brush my teeth, and look in the mirror – there she is. The control freak. Just staring back at me, probably criticizing my technique. Do you know a control freak? Related to one? Maybe there’s one in your bathroom mirror, too? Well, there’s good news and bad news and then more good news. First, the good: Control freaks are not all created equal. There’s a wide range of control freakishness, and I’d bet most of us are on the benign end of that range. That’s where you’ll find the standard, harmless control freak who doesn’t like how Aunt Linda is cutting those onions. That’s not how a control freak would cut the onions, and clearly there’s […]

Dog training for humans

Most dog trainers say dogs aren’t hard to teach. Their humans, however, are a different story. Almost any dog can be persuaded with the right reward and repetition. But we humans – with our stubbornness, inconsistency, and bad habits – make most things harder than they should be. The other day I was watching dog training tips online, and it suddenly hit me. These behaviors we try to teach dogs? Sometimes I can’t even do them myself. Is it possible we humans could learn a few things from well-trained pups? Here are examples: “Leave it.” In dog training, the command “leave it” means “Don’t touch that” or “Leave it alone.” It’s how we taught our Goldendoodle to drop my house […]

Letter to my fellow parents

I have good news on this rainy Monday morning. This parenting thing so many of us are grappling with and trying to do well? Sometimes, it works. Let me explain. When my three kids were babies and toddlers, my daily goal was to keep them alive. They were constantly teetering on the edge of catastrophe – climbing things, yanking cords, snatching up everything their chubby little fingers could grasp and putting it in their mouths before I could yell “NO!” It was exhausting, often terrifying work with the highest of stakes. Yet I never gave myself credit for it. We parents berate ourselves during the early years (or maybe all the years?) because we’re convinced we should do more – […]

One nostalgia to go, please

For decades, we’ve known that sex sells – products, movies, just about anything. But now nostalgia is gaining ground. Yesterday my 15-year-old daughter asked if we could go through the drive-through to get her an “Adult Happy Meal.” Me: “Is that a real thing?” Her: “Yeah, Mom, it’s a thing.” Me: “How is it different than a regular Happy Meal?” Her: “I don’t know. I think there’s more food in it?” Because I believe in important journalistic research, I checked this out. And she was right. Adult Happy Meals exist. The box is bigger. The food is bigger (with either 10 nuggets or a Big Mac), but that’s not what’s making them so popular that staff members at McDonald’s are […]

Three rules to ignore

I’m almost 21 years into this motherhood gig, and time is a great teacher. Here are three “rules” I’d ditch if I were a new parent. Make your bed: I always liked the idea behind it, and many people swear by it. They say making your bed first thing in the morning puts you in the right frame of mind for an orderly, productive day. But I also know that most things parents do get undone nearly as fast as we do them – dishes, diapers, clearing clutter. Do we need to add one more thing to the already long list? When the kids were little, I thought we should make the beds in case someone dropped by. I wanted […]

Backyard behavior analysis

The next time I get on a plane, I hope I sit next to an animal behaviorist. Because I have questions. When I watch our three dogs plus my parents’ dog play together in our backyard, I see strange things. Is this normal “pack behavior”? Or maybe our dogs are just weirdos. Here are three examples: The barking romp: When all four dogs go to the backyard together, they run in a clump around the perimeter, wearing down a grassy groove along the fence line. Three of the dogs are short and weigh 35 pounds or less. They gang up and chase the tall, 80-pound dog. They try to keep up with his long, galloping strides while yipping and barking […]

Therapy in the hair chair

You know how people say you shouldn’t make big decisions after highly emotional events? Because you might not be thinking clearly? Or it might be a knee-jerk reaction you’re hoping will distract you from the highly emotional event? Well, I didn’t listen to those people. Here’s how it happened. Last month, we moved our middle kid to college. I was hoping my experience moving our oldest kid to college two years ago would help take the sting out of it. It did not. Moving a kid to college is like taking your puppy on a long car trip – all the way to Michigan this time – then leaving him in a ditch and driving home without him. For the […]

All-weather friends

When Tom and I were newly married more than 20 years ago, we became friends with a couple named Jim and Barbara. They were older than us and had two teenagers about to leave the nest. But our age difference made hanging out with them even better. They had already figured out things Tom and I were still learning – things like perspective, patience, and the ability to endure home remodeling projects while staying married. We admired Jim and Barbara not only for the kind of people they are but also for the experiences they’d had. Jim had been a ski bum, a small business owner and then a retail analyst. Barbara had worked for the CIA and as a […]