Letter to my kids’ first boss

During what many would describe as the suckiest summer in recent history, something good happened at our house. Two of our three children have become gainfully employed with their first official jobs. Our two sons – the 18-year-old recent high school graduate and the newly mobile 16-year-old – both found part-time jobs at a place that serves frozen custard. They applied for and landed the jobs before the pandemic shut most things down in March. Once the weather got warmer this spring, they started work. I was hesitant about the timing, especially as virus cases surged again this summer. But the frozen custard place is drive-through only and the managers take temperatures, enforce usage of employees’ masks and are laser-focused [...]

Evolution of the first car

My first car was a powder blue Volkswagen bug, made sometime in the late 60s or early 70s. I don’t remember the exact year. At the time my dad brought it home, it was 1987 and I was 14 years old with a driver’s learning permit I could hardly wait to start using. Dad said he got a good deal on the VW because the woman he bought it from was eager to see the old car go. Apparently, she’d been driving it one day when a wasp flew up her skirt and stung her in the nether regions. (I can see how that kind of incident could create some bad feelings.) But I didn’t mind at all. From what [...]

Missing pieces

You’ve heard of a missing person’s report, right? I may have to file a missing “pieces” report. Because I haven’t seen my kids’ ears in months. I’m beginning to wonder if they’re still there. Where are those ears? They’re covered by headphones. As the mother of three teenagers, headphones have become a permanent fixture around here. They use them to listen to music, podcasts, videos, and they also use them to talk to friends with whom they’re planning online video games. The headphones are wireless, so they go everywhere the kids go – like electronic earmuffs. I once thought headphones were great, especially for listening to audiobooks when I’m vacuuming and mopping. Housework isn’t as tedious if you can listen [...]

Consequential

Consequential. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think about all that has happened these past several months. Everything feels so… heavy. Even a routine trip to the grocery store feels like it could have dire consequences. I find myself holding my breath, nervous about what might happen next. This year feels like the kind of thing future grandkids might ask about someday for a homework assignment: “Grandma, what was it like to live through the global pandemic of 2020?” But here’s the thing. We’re not the only ones who’ve lived through consequential times. Not every year is as dramatic and headline-grabbing as this one, but even seemingly small, ordinary things can have huge effects on the world. [...]

A different kind of Independence Day

I’ve been thinking a lot about independence lately. Not just because we’re about to celebrate an unusual Fourth of July minus the annual gathering of friends and neighbors around the backyard grill. It’ll just be us this year, but that’s okay. We’ll shoot off a few fireworks and wave to our neighbors across the cul-de-sac. The Independence Day that keeps circling around my mind is not the one happening this month. God willing, it’ll happen on August 17th. That’s the day our oldest son will move into his dorm room to begin his first year of college. Suddenly the concept of our son leaving home has become more real because now it has an official spot on the calendar. Ever [...]

Charlie and Pete

A beagle and a possum walk into a backyard. Only one would leave with his dignity. It might sound like the opening line of a bad joke, but it’s a real-life melodrama playing out at our house. For the past few months, our beagle Charlie has been locked in a not-so-silent war with a possum who lives in the woods behind our house. I’ve named him Pete, (the possum, not the woods). This puppy-possum war isn’t personal. Charlie and Pete are just doing what dogs and possums do. Possums lurk around at night, sometimes in places where they’re not welcome, and beagles sniff things and bark – a lot. The first skirmish between Charlie and Pete happened on a night [...]

Watching it burn

Last weekend, the five of us gathered chairs around the small barbecue grill in the backyard and watched a year’s worth of work go up in smoke. This is not the first time it has happened. At our house, it’s an annual tradition marking the start of summer – the Great Homework Bonfire. We’ve been doing it since the kids were in preschool and elementary school. Back then, the bonfire was made up of wide-ruled papers where the kids had practiced drawing letters or connecting numbered dots. These days, with all three of them in high school, the crumpled balls of homework that feed the fire look different now. Quadratic equations, lists of literary terms and scientific conversions crackled and [...]

Sweatpants shame

One of the greatest writers of all time, the late Erma Bombeck, once made this profound statement: “I am not a glutton – I am an explorer of food.” So, I know Erma would’ve understood the predicament many of us find ourselves in now that it’s June 2020. Since March, most people have been staying home because of the global pandemic, and some of us have done some hard-core “food exploration.” Like, around the world and back again. Maybe even a mission to Mars. I’ve visited the beaches of banana bread. The coastline of custard. The mountain peaks of pasta. I’ve explored enough foods to make Magellan himself reach for a bottle of antacids.  In my defense, there was a [...]

Behind the mask

Okay, I’m just going to say it. I wear a mask. My whole family does. I hope we can still be friends. For some people, mask wearing has become a political thing. But for most of us, it’s just a safety thing. A kindness thing. A respect-for-others thing. Regardless of how some might feel about the global pandemic, we can all agree that we want people to keep their respiratory droplets to themselves, right? I’ve never once left my house thinking, “I hope I’m able to suck in the random respiratory droplets of strangers! Woo-hoo!” Mask-wearing is a beefed-up version of “cover your cough,” which mothers and grandmothers have been teaching for generations. A mask may be more of a [...]

Pandemic potholes on the road of love

The pandemic along with the need to spend so much time at home has been hard on relationships. For many couples, what began as loveable “quirks” have suddenly morphed into reasons you may have to kill somebody. Thankfully, Tom and I have both worked from home for two years now, so it wasn’t a big transition for us. But even couples who are usually two peas in a pod need some alone time when life’s ordinary escapes disappear. The situation reminded me of a column I once wrote nearly a decade ago about lawmakers in Mexico City who considered making marriage licenses temporary, with terms as short as two years. If the happy couple was no longer happy when the [...]