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 [...]

Letter to my kids’ first boss

During what many would describe as the suckiest summer in recent history, something good happened at our house. Two of our three children have become gainfully employed with their first official jobs. Our two sons – the 18-year-old recent high school graduate and the newly mobile 16-year-old – both found part-time jobs at a place that serves frozen custard. They applied for and landed the jobs before the pandemic shut most things down in March. Once the weather got warmer this spring, they started work. I was hesitant about the timing, especially as virus cases surged again this summer. But the frozen custard place is drive-through only and the managers take temperatures, enforce usage of employees’ masks and are laser-focused [...]

Evolution of the first car

My first car was a powder blue Volkswagen bug, made sometime in the late 60s or early 70s. I don’t remember the exact year. At the time my dad brought it home, it was 1987 and I was 14 years old with a driver’s learning permit I could hardly wait to start using. Dad said he got a good deal on the VW because the woman he bought it from was eager to see the old car go. Apparently, she’d been driving it one day when a wasp flew up her skirt and stung her in the nether regions. (I can see how that kind of incident could create some bad feelings.) But I didn’t mind at all. From what [...]

Missing pieces

You’ve heard of a missing person’s report, right? I may have to file a missing “pieces” report. Because I haven’t seen my kids’ ears in months. I’m beginning to wonder if they’re still there. Where are those ears? They’re covered by headphones. As the mother of three teenagers, headphones have become a permanent fixture around here. They use them to listen to music, podcasts, videos, and they also use them to talk to friends with whom they’re planning online video games. The headphones are wireless, so they go everywhere the kids go – like electronic earmuffs. I once thought headphones were great, especially for listening to audiobooks when I’m vacuuming and mopping. Housework isn’t as tedious if you can listen [...]

Consequential

Consequential. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think about all that has happened these past several months. Everything feels so… heavy. Even a routine trip to the grocery store feels like it could have dire consequences. I find myself holding my breath, nervous about what might happen next. This year feels like the kind of thing future grandkids might ask about someday for a homework assignment: “Grandma, what was it like to live through the global pandemic of 2020?” But here’s the thing. We’re not the only ones who’ve lived through consequential times. Not every year is as dramatic and headline-grabbing as this one, but even seemingly small, ordinary things can have huge effects on the world. [...]