Three solid tips to help you write better

I’m never going to be an expert. I’ve accepted it. The three things I spend the most time doing – being a wife, a mom and a writer – are just too vast for me to figure out how to do them just right. When I was younger, I thought by now I would’ve analyzed every angle and developed the perfect formula for my life’s work. But lately I’ve realized there is no expert level. There are too many words in the world and too many ways to string them together. My 17-year-old son is writing an essay for his college application this month, and he, too, is feeling the weight of words. It’s not easy to sum up what [...]

Life on four wheels

I’m writing today’s column on a laptop wedged between my belly button and the steering wheel. It’s not the first and won’t be the last time my office goes mobile as I type in the one shady spot of a Chick-fil-A parking lot. I can practically smell the waffle fries from here. Like most parents, I’ve learned to take work with me during the countless trips to drop off my 14-year-old daughter at various after-school activities. For at least three days of the workweek, I shuttle her to play practice on the other side of town at the busiest time of day. It’s a two-hour rehearsal, and I know from experience that dropping her off and driving back across town [...]

Do dogs have snooze buttons?

I got a late start today. I’d blame the alarm app on my phone, but that one went off on time. It’s the hairy alarm clock who slept through his job. When Mac the Goldendoodle moved into our house, he decided to sleep in my bed. Maybe he did it because Cooper the Corgi also sleeps in my room, although he has always preferred the solitude of his own crate in the corner, where no one will roll over and disturb him. But Mac is a people dog. He wants to be right next to or draped across people and may, in fact, believe he’s a person. He starts the night on the bed and then moves to the floor. [...]

Wife welcomes back Fall boyfriend

“Ah, there you are.” Last night’s thunderstorm brought rumbles of his arrival. I went to sleep hoping for the long-awaited return. Like a sweetheart coming home after a long trip overseas, autumn is officially back. And I’m falling for him all over again. The storm was over by morning. When I woke up and stepped outside with the dogs, we could feel the shift in temperature. The dogs sniffed and wiggled their black noses into the noticeably cooler breeze. They looked at the sky and then back to me as if to say, “Well, this is different.” Gone was yesterday’s stale, humid air. I was glad to see it go. My relationship with summer was hot, but like most intense [...]

The day that wouldn’t load

When I was a kid, our family had this old Zenith television that got glitchy on occasion. It would sometimes roll the picture or show nothing but black and white snow, and it had a knack for doing this right in the middle of The Incredible Hulk or Dallas, just when things got exciting. Having already fiddled with various cables trailing from the TV, one day my dad simply made a fist and pounded it once right on top. The screen stopped rolling and went back to its regularly scheduled programming. With wide eyes, my brother and I assumed this was some kind of grown-up dark magic. Dad had literally beaten the TV into submission. He strutted back to his [...]

My not-so-secret furniture crush

There’s one piece of furniture I adore and will probably never own. Every time I spot one in the background of a television show, my heart swells and I get a rush of nostalgia. What is this wooden wonder my heart longs for? A card catalog. It’s a weird piece of furniture to have a crush on, but it makes sense if you grew up as a shy book nerd like I did. For kids who often feel overwhelmed by the loud hustle and bustle of packed classrooms and hallways, the library was our safe haven. It was the one place where it didn’t matter if you were too shy to talk because talking was literally against the rules anyway. [...]

Confessions of a sleeper-inner

I’m writing today’s column on a Tuesday that feels like Monday. We just finished a glorious Labor Day weekend with plenty of one of my favorite things – sleep. I used to hide my secret love affair with sleeping late because I worried it would make me seem lazy. Our hurry-up society loves early birds but looks down on night owls. And there’s a reason why clichés like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” have become commonplace. Americans often equate constant motion with not only effort but also success. When I was in the chaos of early motherhood, I had a love-hate relationship with sleep. Not only did my kids not want to sleep, I resented my own bedtime and regularly [...]

Pears, pares, everywhere

It’s hard to write with all the chomping in the room. Goldendoodles are not known for their table manners, or, in this case, floor manners. Mac is lying next to my desk loudly eating his latest conquest from the yard – a pear he plucked off the tree himself. The tree has a long backstory, but the short version is this: Right after we moved into this house 15 years ago, we planted an apple tree that didn’t produce fruit for years. Then one year we finally saw the beginning of our long-awaited apples. But the oddly shaped green apples were hard as rocks. It took another month before we realized our apples were actually pears and that the tree [...]

Good, bad, and the ugly of family vacation

Every family vacation wraps up with experiences sorted into categories – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Our crew ended the summer break with a trip to a gorgeous lake in Wisconsin, only about an hour southeast of Duluth, Minnesota – birthplace of Tom Rockwood – who’d been planning this trip for months. Let’s start with the good. Wisconsin and neighboring Minnesota are incredibly good. Beautiful, in fact. And when it comes to August weather, no one does it better than these northern states. Temperatures stayed in the 70s and mid-80s, with sunny skies, a gentle breeze and almost no humidity. The people of Wisconsin and Minnesota also fall squarely in the good category. While we were there, we [...]

Back to school clothes shopping with a teenager

I know I shouldn’t be surprised. I should’ve known this was coming. But I honestly didn’t expect it. I thought I was special. And now I know, I’m not. Because it’s back-to-school clothes shopping time, and I’ve officially become my mother. This realization snuck up on me because, until this year, my kids went to a charter high school with uniforms. A few weeks before the first day of school, I’d pick out a few new collared shirts in the approved school colors. Then I’d add a few pairs of new khaki pants to my online shopping cart, and that was it. End of shopping. No real decisions. No drama. But this year, our youngest kid – the 14-year-old girl [...]