When conspiracy theories are on the menu

In the early 1700s, author Jonathan Swift wrote about how quickly falsehoods can fly and that “truth comes limping after it.” Over the centuries, those words evolved to become this well-known saying: “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” Conspiracy theories aren’t new. Some people still believe the Earth is flat, or that alien lizard people are living on Earth disguised as certain celebrities, or that Elvis never really died. But it feels like this year has given birth to more than its share of weird ideas. I’m fascinated by how absolutely certain some people are about the conspiracy theories they’ve adopted. There are only a handful of things of which [...]

The test I flunked

Up until this week, I had never flunked a test. I was one of those kids in high school who poured herself into preparation because I didn’t want to disappoint myself, the teacher, or my parents. That academic devotion helped me get a scholarship to college, the first in my family to get there. I ramped up the dedication level even more once I moved to campus because I knew I had to maintain a high grade point average to keep that scholarship. During the week of final exams, my mother would often ship me a care package containing snacks, magazines and games along with a note begging me not to overdo it and push myself too hard. She knew [...]

Click marks the spots

My kids think it’s amazing that I was an ancient 18 years old the first time I got a computer and learned to use it. For kids who’ve been using technology before they were even potty-trained, it’s hard to imagine life before “point and click” existed. Their generation walks around with phone-sized computers in their pockets the way my generation walked around with sticks of gum in ours, like it’s no big deal at all. I remember setting up that first computer on the desk in my college dorm room and putting in a disk that taught me how to use a mouse. I learned to “drag and drop” files on the screen, empty the desktop “trash” and navigate word [...]

Craving the change

A few days ago, I took the dogs to the backyard and stood on the deck waiting for them to take care of business. For the first time in months, a non-humid breeze swept over me – light and refreshing – with just a hint of the cooler temperatures soon to come. Then, almost on cue, a large leaf broke free from one of our backyard trees and drifted down on the breeze, settling on the grass just a few feet in front of me. It was the perfect movie trailer “coming attraction” for fall. Two days later, I stood in the lobby of a doctor’s office with my daughter, waiting to get some bloodwork done. An older man at [...]

When Wanda went to Walmart

Something is wrong at my mother’s favorite grocery store, and she’s not going to take it lying down. She may even write a strongly worded letter to the company’s headquarters, and I bet it’ll be a doozy. Mom, who is 76, is one of the few women I know who genuinely enjoys a trip to buy groceries. She likes to go alone and push her cart up and down the aisles, taking her time to see what’s new. When the pandemic first struck and we all locked down, I insisted she let me order her groceries to be delivered to minimize her exposure to the virus. She agreed for the first three months. But then I caught her coming home [...]

Trio of tidbits

Sometimes I have an idea for a column that grows to the size of a Saint Bernard or Great Dane and takes up all the space my editors give me. But sometimes, the ideas come in smaller packages – the size of a short Corgi or a petite Poodle. Still plenty of fun, but they don’t take up as much room on the sofa. So, here’s a trio of tidbits: Word on the street As a self-confessed “word nerd,” I love it when new words get added to the Oxford English Dictionary. The English language is always in flux – changing and expanding in creative ways that reflect the times in which we live. For example, at the beginning of [...]

School three different ways

I’ve been at this mom gig for 18 years now, and I can tell you from experience that this is the weirdest back-to-school week I’ve ever seen. I find myself missing all those years when our biggest decision was what color lunchbox to get for the first day of school. This year, because the coronavirus is like a bad rash that won’t leave, we’re in this bizarre back-to-school season full of decisions, new guidelines and “learning options” most of us don’t yet fully understand. But the upside is that our three kids were more than willing to go back to school – if for no other reason than it gives them a chance to see humans other than the parents [...]

Pandemic Productivity Report

Remember when we were kids and, during the first week of school, the teacher would make us stand in front of the class and talk about what we did during summer break? Even though I’m not going back to school, I have that same nervous feeling I used to get right before the annual report about summer break. Except this time, it’s a Pandemic Productivity Report. And I’m pretty sure I’m going to flunk. With all the extra time I’ve spent at home since March, I should’ve done more by now. Should have organized and deep cleaned the whole house, including the garage. Should have learned to speak a foreign language. Should have figured out how to bake bread, like [...]

Bathroom breaking point

Yesterday I walked into the bathroom to put away a stack of folded towels. As soon as I put the pile of fresh laundry on the shelf, I felt like I was abandoning my squeaky-clean baby in a dirty bus stop. I looked around that bathroom – the one shared by our two teenage boys – and wondered at what point I’d failed as a parent. I know that most teenage boys aren’t known for cleanliness and attention to detail, but mine have been doing chores since they were old enough to ask for Skittles. And I really believed that, if I made them clean up their own messes, they’d grow up to become accustomed to a certain level of [...]

Taking the test

When I was in my early twenties and working as an assistant in the newsroom of the local paper, the editor tossed me an assignment late one afternoon. Not an assistant assignment. It was a reporting assignment. I was instantly pumped and petrified. It was a few weeks before Christmas, and he wanted me to go to the city’s holiday light display on the downtown square and report on what was going on – a basic roundup of the festivities offered for the season. Easy, right? But my paranoid mind focused on the fact that this was my very first writing assignment. I worried that if I turned in a lousy article, I’d be fetching Cokes for busy editors and [...]