Advice from a buttered noodle

About 17 years ago, my husband Tom did a wonderful thing. For our third wedding anniversary, he booked a massage for me at a local spa. At the time, I wasn’t even sure it was something I wanted, although it sounded fancy. I was in my late twenties, but I’d never had a massage. I was nervous on the day of the appointment. I didn’t know if there was a massage protocol or a right or wrong way to do things. I worried that the whole thing would become an awkward debacle. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I could hear the imagined voices of our Puritanical ancestors luring me into a guilt-trip: “Lying around half-naked on a [...]

Wearing yard sale goggles

Since late March, we’ve been building a small guest home attached to the back of our house. After five months and a few frustration-fueled meltdowns, it’s finally done. Over Labor Day weekend, we moved my parents into the space. So far, it’s working out great. The plan was to make it easier for me and my mom, who still works a full-time job, to tag-team with each other as we look after my dad, who has dementia. It’s nice to walk a few steps across the backyard deck and step through a sliding glass door into their living room. The kids love it, too, mostly because Memaw’s cooking is far superior to anything they’ll get in my kitchen. The hardest [...]

Humpty Dumpty House

It feels good to be home. Even though we’ve technically been home all along, it hasn’t felt that way during the past few months of home renovation. It looked the same from the outside, but the interior of the first floor was an unrecognizable maze of boxes and bins, partitions from construction zones, and walls torn down to the studs. I had the odd feeling of being lost in my own house. When all your usual places to put things or find things are gone, you wander around aimlessly guessing at where the loaf of bread might be. Or your car keys. Or the spot where you put the mail. Routines were reduced to rubble, just like the wall that [...]

The Infamous Warren

Warren. That was his name. I didn’t know who he was, but I knew he was a very, very bad kid. Sometimes I wondered what kinds of misdeeds Warren was guilty of because I saw his name on the chalkboard every time I went to music class at Julia Shannon Elementary School in 1983. We had music class two times a week in fourth grade, and every time my class shuffled into the room, Warren’s name was already on the chalkboard. I assumed he had probably already had music class that day and had broken all sorts of rules yet again. The music teacher was a patient woman, but when she got cross with someone, she’d write their name on [...]

Charlie’s all-nighter

It happened again. Charlie, the 6-year-old Beagle whose mission in life is to make me a crazy person, escaped the fence at dusk yesterday. As previously reported in this column, Charlie has Houdini-level skills when it comes to devising new ways to escape the confines of our backyard fence. Dig under. Jump over. Squeeze through. He’ll do whatever it takes. I used to take his determination to run away from home personally. “Fine!” I’d think to myself. “If he hates it here so much, he can just go.” But then I’d worry about him and pray for him to come home safe. After a few hours, he’d show back up by the front door, doing a classic bad-dog-walk-of-shame. The look [...]

The day has come

A long-awaited day has finally come. As a woman who has spent the past 5 years driving her offspring to two and then three different schools during rush-hour traffic, I’m thrilled to report that the kids – all three of them – are now at one school. I’m drunk on the freedom. High on convenience. Celebrating the simplicity. Depositing and collecting all three kids in one place each school day might not sound like a big deal, but if you’ve ever spent more than five minutes in any school drop-off or pick-up line, you know this is huge. The problem with school drop-off is two-pronged. First, there’s a time constraint. Most schools don’t unlock their doors until about 30 minutes [...]

Hurricane Reno

I’m typing this week’s column with my laptop perched precariously on an ironing board in my bedroom. My door is shut in a futile attempt to keep out the thunderous noises happening downstairs, which no longer seem to be bothering my two dogs who are snoring softly on the bed behind me. And I’m drinking soda from a plastic Solo cup, washing forks in the bathroom sink and wondering if life will ever get back to normal. This is life in the midst of a home remodeling project. A few days ago, a friend asked me how the project was going. I closed my eyes, rubbed my temples and said, “It feels like a hurricane is happening inside our house, [...]

Insulted by an iPhone

There are benefits to being an “early adopter” of new technologies. If you’re a parent, the ability to navigate new technology makes it tougher for your teenagers to write you off as completely clueless. If you’re in the workplace, being able to talk the technological talk makes people born after 1985 decide that perhaps it’s not yet time to put you out to professional pasture. In addition to the parenting and professional perks, sometimes new technology is just plain fun. Virtual Reality apps will let you see how a new sofa would look in your own living room before you buy it at the store. And the iPhone’s “Animoji” technology lets you send friends a voice text message in the [...]

Apology to my mother

Dear Mom, This letter is about 29 years overdue, but it took me this long to realize I needed to write it. It turns out you were right all along. It really is hard to ride in the passenger seat while your teenage kid is driving. And you weren’t overreacting to every little thing I did behind the wheel. You were just trying to make sure we both survived the whole terrifying ordeal. I get it now. Boy, do I get it. As you know, I’ve taken your place as the nervous mother in the passenger seat. The baby boy who I once swaddled and cooed at while he smiled up at me from his crib is now a gangly [...]

Won’t you be my neighbor?

In more than 20 years of writing this column, I’ve never recommended a movie. Trained movie critics do it better than I ever could. Plus, people have different taste in movies. What one person thinks is great art or entertainment, another person thinks is a snooze. But today I’m breaking my 20-year rule to tell you that the Mister Rogers documentary titled “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is so wonderful that, if you don’t see it, I’ll feel sad for you that you missed it. It’s that good. I took our three kids to the movies to see it today. Even though they’ve seen reruns of the Mister Rogers Neighborhood show on PBS several times, I wasn’t sure they’d enjoy [...]