Don’t let it bug you

Welcome to the year of the bug. We’re just in time to witness two giant broods of cicadas rising from the ground like a horde of zombie bugs. How many zombie bugs? Definitely billions. But most likely trillions. There’s no official tree-to-tree cicada census, so it’s hard to be sure. But we’re sure they’re here because they’re loud – so loud that some people have called the police to make noise complaints about the roaring, whining sound that scientists say registers at about the same decibel level as a lawnmower or a jet flying overhead. No matter how noisy it gets, police can’t do anything about it. There’s not enough departmental funding to buy teeny tiny cicada handcuffs that only […]

Put a name to a fuzzy face

Those yellow-bellied dusty devils are at it again. They’ve launched their annual full-scale attack, and no amount of antihistamines can stop them. If you’re whipping tissues out of the box faster than a Wild West gunslinger, you’re not alone. My whole family has been doing it for weeks. All of us, even the dogs, have to line up for a daily Zyrtec. We do regular snorts of allergy nasal spray. And it’s all because of the catkins. Let me formally introduce you to a meddling little menace you’ve probably seen for years but never knew its name. Catkins are those fuzzy, yellowish-brown strings that fall from trees each spring, usually in April. At first glance, you might mistake a catkin […]

The denim debacle

As losses go, this isn’t a big one. I shouldn’t even care. Still, I’m sad about it. It’s hard to accept that the best jeans in my closet – and possibly the world – are on their last threads. At least nothing tragic happened. By all measures, the jeans lived a good, long life. They’re dying of natural causes — namely, years of use and the friction of putting one leg in front of the other thousands of times. All those steps have led to an unfortunate hole. Why would I say goodbye to my favorite jeans over a harmless hole? Don’t some people pay crazy money for new jeans with gaping holes? Well, yes, they do. Deliberately “distressed” jeans […]

What to do when you really don’t wanna do the work

I’m lucky that my first professional writing job was in a newsroom because it taught me something important: You don’t need a perfect environment to get work done. You don’t need silence, an organized room, a particular candle, or a big chunk of time. The newsroom was loud, messy, and full of 20 or more people, with at least a half dozen conversations happening at any one time. The old-school phones sitting on each person’s desk rang all the time. We had a police scanner that jabbered and crackled day and night. And the staccato clickety-clack of keyboards was randomly interrupted by the pop and hiss of a dozen Dr. Peppers cracking open before a deadline. Yet somehow, we managed […]

Bird on bird violence

Two days ago, while sitting at my desk attempting to be a productive human, a noise broke my focus and nearly broke my window, too.  The third “donk” against the glass made me look up from my monitor, expecting to find a tree branch bumping the window. Instead, I came eye to beady eye with a bird flying straight at me. Of course, he didn’t get close because we were separated by glass – a fact he seemed painfully unaware of.  When he donked into the glass a fourth and fifth time, I got up to look closer, but he kept plowing head-first into the invisible wall. After each impact, he fell to the window ledge below, shook off the […]

Goose wisdom

For months now, I’ve been eating breakfast with a goose. He’s not loud or messy and doesn’t even beg for bites of my toast. He’s a low-maintenance goose, and he lives on a magnet I put on the metal breadbox in my kitchen. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have even considered bringing a silly goose into my newly remodeled kitchen. I wanted it to look “high-end.” If we were going to spend money on remodeling, I reasoned, the end result better look like something straight out of a magazine layout. For a while, it did. But time is chilling me out day by day. Circumstances sand down my rigid rules about how things should be. Life shows me how […]

We’ve hit some turbulence

Life was at a comfortable cruising altitude, and we were happy to be along for the ride. But then it nosedived, and some unseen force shoved me and my mom into a small room and slammed the door behind us. We looked around and realized we were alone in the cockpit, expected to take control and make a thousand different decisions to safely land the plane. The only problem? We’ve never had flying lessons. It’s probably not the perfect metaphor for beginning cancer treatments, but it’s as close as I can get. The process is complex, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. After being diagnosed with colon cancer in October and recovering from a November surgery, my mom recently completed […]

Curse of the Tell-Tale Carrot

One of the side effects of having an English degree is that I remember famous works of literature – but only the weird ones. The one I’m remembering lately is extra creepy. It’s a short story told by a narrator who insists he’s just nervous, not crazy. He’s anxious because he killed an old man for a bizarre reason: He couldn’t stand the sight of the old man’s “vulture eye,” – which is a pale blue eye with a cloudy film. He became so obsessed with the old man’s eye that he’d sneak into his house at night and watch him sleep. Eventually, the old man woke up scared because this weirdo was watching him. Then the watcher heard a […]

What we never wanted to find

My mother is radioactive. You wouldn’t know it by looking at her. She’s dozing in a recliner, and the only hint that something is wrong is the sign on the door which reads “Caution: Radioactive materials.” In about half an hour, a nurse will escort her down the hall and put her on a table that slides into a donut-shaped machine. Today is my mom’s first PET scan. I wish a PET scan was as pleasant as its name implies. I wish it was for cute pictures of beagles and basset hounds. But this kind of PET scan happens weeks after a doctor walks into a room and says something completely unexpected: “We found a mass.” Generally speaking, you never […]

A kinder, gentler January

There’s no month quite like January. It wants us awake at the stroke of midnight for parties, fireworks, a kiss, and a toast to the New Year. But then it steamrolls in at daybreak with demands that we drop and give it 50 push-ups before the first cup of coffee. It wants us to eat kale, stop running late, save more money, do 10,000 steps a day, floss after every meal, learn how to meditate, get a promotion, organize the garage, and put our nose to the January grindstone to become much better humans than we currently are. After December’s fun and games, January can be a real buzzkill. If you’re already prone to beating yourself up over any number […]