When they stop the presses

Because you’re readers like me, I know you’ll understand how I felt when I saw this headline in last week’s paper: “Stuttgart, Helena newspapers to close.” The newspaper in Stuttgart, my hometown, published my first column more than 20 years ago. But more than that, it’s the paper that reported news long before I existed and, I assumed, would still be cranking out stories long after I’m gone. The report said the newspaper is for sale now. Maybe another company will buy it and run it successfully for decades to come. I hope so. But it’s not just because the paper has a place in my heart. It’s because newspapers are a vital part of the glue that holds communities [...]

Terms and conditions for marrying a writer

Tom and I met for lunch today and traded the usual “How’s work going?” stories. As an account manager, his work woes are mostly about corporate politics or the sale that got away. As a writer, my concern is almost always the same: “I need an idea.” Whether it’s a newspaper column, a website post, or a scene for a novel, I’m continually hunting for a seed of an idea that might grow into something bigger. As I whined, Tom nodded his head and wisely suppressed the eye-roll he must have felt. Because we’ve been married for more than 20 years now, he isn’t fazed by the ritual of misery I go through when a deadline is approaching. After lunch, [...]

Life in the slow lane

From the unscientific research I’ve done, I believe every family probably has one – the turtle, the snail, the slowpoke. Do you have one? Or maybe you are one? In the Rockwood family, it’s our youngest kid, Kate, who is 12 years old. She has done only one thing quickly in her entire life and that was being born. Thanks to a C-section, she arrived mere minutes after they wheeled me into the operating room. If she had been left to her own devices, she might still be in there hanging around. Kate is somewhat of a mystery to the rest of us. She’s the only person I know who can turn a simple thing like putting on shoes into [...]

The last first day

Last week I forgot to do something – a thing I haven’t forgotten to do for the past 12 years in a row. On the first day of school, I forgot to take the picture. For most moms – and especially the more sentimental ones – the traditional back-to-school photo is mandatory. I do it the same way each year. I make our three kids stand shoulder to shoulder on the front steps of our house, each one wearing the school uniform. Coaxing something resembling a genuine smile is nearly impossible at that hour of the morning, so this group picture requires several minutes. I always take extra shots, since a poorly-timed blink, squint or smirk is inevitable. Out of [...]

Try everything.

As a humor columnist, my job would be easier if I stopped reading and watching the news. Some weeks aren’t funny. This is one of them. I almost turned off news coverage of the El Paso and Dayton shootings yesterday because a reporter was talking about one of the young victims – a 15-year-old boy. With my own 15-year-old son sleeping safely in the next room, it was too easy to imagine the parents’ pain – the complete devastation brought down on them. I decided not to turn it off or change the channel. Having lost my brother 18 years ago to sudden death, I remember how scared I was that the world might forget that he’d lived and that [...]

Potato chip chapters

I read the last page of a book last night, which is good because maybe now I’ll catch up on the sleep I’ve missed while reading “just one more chapter” for the past several nights. Like many bookworms, I often have trouble backing away from a good book, and lately it’s creating an internal conflict. On one hand, I’m eager to start reading another book – one that will be so good it makes me lose all track of time. There are few things I enjoy more than lying in bed, while everyone else is sleeping, flipping pages in eager anticipation of what happens next. Suspense, drama, complications, action, emotion – it’s all in there. On the other hand, I’m [...]

We need to talk

Last Sunday, I returned home from a 3-day trip with our 17-year-old son to visit a college campus. Tom stayed home with our other two kids while I was away, and he said it was weird to be here without me. He’s usually the one leaving for business trips while I hold down the familial fort. Although he was happy for my return, I was gone just long enough for he and the kids to decide I needed an unusual “intervention.” Here’s a recap of that conversation: Him: “While you were gone, the kids and I were talking, and we’ve decided you have a problem.” Me: “What problem?” Him: “You’re spoiling the dog. You let him get away with all [...]

Taking the stage

Tomorrow I’m going to watch my 12-year-old daughter take the stage. She has spent three weeks of her summer break taking theater classes, and tomorrow I’ll see the second of two plays in which she’s acting. For most kids this wouldn’t be newsworthy. But for Kate – who has struggled with crippling shyness – this is huge. Shocking. Almost miraculous. As a recovering shy girl myself, I’m still astonished at how Kate was drawn to theater last year. The first time she asked me to take her to an audition, I played it cool and nodded my head. “Sure,” I said. Then I sprinted upstairs to find Tom, shut the door and whisper-yelled, “Oh my gosh, Kate wants to audition [...]

When the teens go full nocturnal

Last night as I pulled back the covers to climb into bed, I realized what has happened. In a sense, Tom and I have traded places with our three kids. A decade ago – when the kids were 7, 5 and 2 – we were the ones eager to get them to bed so we could sit down and relax, reduce the noise level in the house, and maybe watch a show or two on TV. We looked forward to that window of time between eight and eleven o’clock at night so we could have a conversation uninterrupted by requests for a juice box. But these days, with two teenage boys and one almost-teenage girl in the house, things are [...]

Live from New York

We’re back from a trip to New York and we have the blisters to prove it. During our last night there, I took off my tennis shoes after three days of walking more than eight miles per day and saw a toe blister so big I decided to name it. Fred, the blister on my fourth toe, is the only souvenir I brought back from the big city. We skipped shopping in favor of seeing, and boy did we see some things. It was the first trip to the city for two of our three kids, and we were anxious to see their reactions to a place they’d only seen in movies. After an introductory slice of New York pizza, [...]