On deadheading and discoveries

The last time Tom and I went to a home improvement store, we bought a container of yellow mums in the garden department. The official start of Fall was only a few weeks away, and that yellow mum looked like sunshine and happiness bursting out of a terracotta pot. For the first two weeks, the yellow mum beamed its cheery sunshine at me every time I took the dogs to the backyard. But a few days ago, it began to change. A few of the blooms wilted and turned an anemic shade of pale yellow followed soon after by a dirty brown. Some even shriveled into dry, blackened corpses. So, I did the thing my mother taught me to do [...]

This middle-aged mama can’t spin

Last weekend we loaded up the SUV and drove to Dallas to attend one of the loveliest weddings I’ve ever seen. Our niece Abbey and her new husband Andrew are off to a beautiful start as a married couple. The day after the wedding – after considerable lobbying from the kids – Tom and I agreed to a quick trip to Six Flags Over Texas. To be honest, I was hesitant to go. Even in late September, it was impossibly humid, and the ticket cost was nearly as high as the temperature. But then I reminded myself that our oldest son will be leaving for college next Fall which will limit these kinds of spontaneous family outings. So even though [...]

Flirting while fueling

I got hit on at the gas station last week. But it didn’t boost my middle-aged, mother-of-three ego because this particular pass didn’t come from a hot guy. It came from a fuel pump. I pulled up to the pump and inserted my credit card. But as soon as I touched the pump, loud music began playing, complete with violins, piano and these soaring lyrics: “Oh, my love, my darling I’ve hungered for your touch.” I stood there surprised by the sudden onslaught of song. It was Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers. Normally, I would’ve dismissed it as simple background music, the kind you hear faintly playing at the grocery store while you buy bananas. But this was different. [...]

Would you go back in time?

I’ve got good news and bad news. In March, an international team of scientists conducted an experiment showing that time reversal is possible. But before you jump in your DeLorean for a joyride, I should tell you the rest of the story. The experiment involved a simulated particle – not one in real life. Scientists moved their particle back in time on a quantum computer. While I don’t understand what a quantum computer is, I’m assuming it’s more expensive than the Dell laptop on which I’m typing this column. But plenty of scientific breakthroughs begin as a lab simulation, right? Doesn’t this small victory mean that eventually we’ll be able to go back in time as easily as we rewind [...]

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 [...]