To all the teachers I’ve loved before…

With less than two weeks to go before school starts again, kids have never been more interested in teachers than they are right now. They’re practically stalking them. This happens every year. A few days ago, my 15-year-old daughter told me she’s been doing research on a few of the teachers she’s scheduled to have. She texted friends the age-old question kids have been asking for years: “What do you know about Ms. So-and-So? Is she nice? Is she hard?” Then the friends text back with stories about “things they’ve heard.” I told my daughter to take these stories with a grain of salt, since teachers are often the targets of exaggerated or downright false rumors that circulate year in […]

Letter to my Ice, Ice, Baby

Dear Jack, You picked a good time to do a study abroad trip to Iceland. It’s so weird to know that one of my kids is on a remote island floating somewhere between the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. I’m glad I paid extra for the international phone plan so you can check in occasionally. Your latest text said the weather there in Iceland is “a bit chilly,” which honestly sounds amazing. I’m trying to remember what it even feels like to be a bit chilly. Here in the homeland, it’s roughly one million degrees Fahrenheit (which is actually one million twenty degrees when you factor in the humidity). Mother Nature is boiling mad at us. It’s like she stuck […]

Quiet is not weird

Despite what you might have heard, “quiet” is not weird. It’s not abnormal. It’s not suspicious. It’s not a threat. It is a personality trait common to at least half the population. But you might not realize that after watching news coverage about the recent string of horrific mass shootings. When reporters pass along descriptions of the shooter by acquaintances, they almost always say he was “quiet.” It’s the go-to word for the type of monster we’ve come to associate with human carnage. What I wish they’d remember to add to the reporting is this: People often say “quiet” when what they really mean is completely withdrawn. Someone who has cut themselves off from all human relationships. Someone who festered […]

House rules

There are rules here. Every household has them, some stricter than others. Without them, there’d be confusion, chaos, maybe even war. Some rules are big, like “We don’t call each other names – ever.” And “When one of us needs help, the rest of us show up.” But even the seemingly small rules are important when it comes to keeping the family peace. For example, this rule is wordy but worthwhile: “In this house, we put the new toilet paper roll on its dispenser because Mom is not the only one around here with working thumbs, and she is sick of finding a new roll sitting on top of the empty roll, as if we weren’t taught how to change […]

Generation gap on phone calls

One of the biggest differences between me as a 15-year-old girl and my present-day 15-year-old daughter is our experience with phone calls. I loved them because a huge chunk of my interaction with friends happened on the phone. But back then, we teens had to work hard to have private conversations. For most of the 1980s, my family had exactly one phone in the house. It was mounted to the wall between the kitchen and dining room, within earshot of the living room. The phone was a color called “harvest gold,” which meant it looked like old mustard. It had a long squiggly cord that was forever tying itself into knots. But if I pulled hard and uncoiled a few […]

Bold theories about crown shyness

I have a thing for trees. I’m a fan. An admirer. If trees were in a rock band, I’d follow them from city to city and stand in the front row of every concert. My thing for trees is not unlike other people’s attraction to seashells or sunsets, butterflies or beaches. For many of us, there’s a part of the natural world that captivates and demands attention. I gravitate to tree pictures and paintings. My kids regularly roll their eyes when I’m driving and suddenly point a finger and demand they look at an especially pretty tree. My tree thing goes way back, and my dad probably has something to do with it. He was a professional tree trimmer and […]

The furry graduate

Our 18-year-old son wasn’t the only family member who graduated this spring. But instead of a fancy diploma, the other “kid” got a Milk-Bone. He didn’t mind a bit. Our 15-year-old daughter, Kate, has a dog named Mac who came to live with us in February of last year. The 7-month-old goldendoodle showed the potential to become a service dog who could respond to Kate’s seizures and even detect an approaching seizure by scent. But first, he had to go to school. Because we were still neck-deep in the pandemic at that time, Kate and Mac attended service dog school via Zoom online training sessions. At least once every two weeks, we went online to meet with a dog trainer […]

The encore no one asked for

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the airport, it isn’t. My husband Tom went on a quick business trip to New York last month, and instead of bringing back one of those “I heart NY” t-shirts, he brought back Covid. Thankfully, my immune system said “Been there, done that. I’ll pass.” But his was not so lucky. It surprised me because I thought he was one of those people who had an invisible bubble of protection around him. Thanks in large part to two vaccines and two boosters, he’d managed to dodge the virus for more than two years. Back in January when I, our daughter, and my mom got it, Tom cooked our eggs […]

What’s in your head?

There are plenty of sad things that happened in the past two years. But I think this may be one of the saddest. According to an article in Scientific American magazine, studies done last year show that an increasing number of Americans hold a “basic abhorrence for their opponents.” The wording of that quote reached out and slapped me mid-sentence. There is nothing “basic” about the feeling of abhorrence. It’s as intense as it gets. Published in the journal Science and conducted by 15 prominent researchers located all over the country, these findings show that we don’t just disagree with each other like we used to. We hate. We loathe. It’s not just sad, it’s scary. I wish I could […]

Is senioritis contagious?

Is senioritis contagious? Because I think our nearly 18-year-old son, who will graduate high school this month, is spreading it like crazy. Our 15-year-old daughter has come down with a similar case of sophomore-itis. And lately I’ve got a debilitating case of mid-life-itis, even though Tom keeps telling me it’s not a real thing. (I say it is.) The main symptom is a “lack of motivation,” according to the dictionary’s definition of the term. And if you could see us now, you’d nod your head like a wise old country doctor and confirm the diagnosis. After all, if it walks like an unmotivated duck and talks like an unmotivated duck, it’s an unmotivated duck. My ducks and I want to […]