The stroke he forgot

Today I told my dad, for what is probably the 20th time, that the reason he’s having trouble talking is because he had a stroke. It happened on February 10th, but he doesn’t remember. He also doesn’t remember the trip to the Emergency Room or the way a team of doctors and nurses descended on him to quickly assess what had happened to him during the night. He doesn’t remember the three days in the hospital that followed. He doesn’t know that, for the first few days after the stroke, the only word he could say was “No.” He has no memory of the stroke rehabilitation center he tried to walk out of a few days later. I wish I [...]

The rigged election of 1991

Today I confess a secret I’ve kept for more than two decades. In 1991, when I was co-editor of my high school yearbook, I rigged an election – sort of. Here’s what happened. As one of the leaders of the yearbook staff, I helped count votes for the various polling we did of the senior class – decisions like “Best Dressed,” “Most Talented,” and “Class Song.” As it was nearing time for the week of voting to close, I saw that there were two songs that had pulled way ahead in the polls. One of them was the song “Don’t You Forget About Me,” by a band called Simple Minds. The other song was the Garth Brooks anthem “I’ve Got [...]

Beware of full-grown toddlers

Those of us who have survived the toddler years know a thing or two about rage because we’ve seen it up close and personal. Even though my kids are tweens and teens now, I still vividly remember that tricky stage of development. It’s not called the “terrible 2’s” because of its healthy spirit of cooperation. It’s called “terrible” because you’re basically dealing with toddler tyranny. But the good thing about a 2-year-old is that his or her tendency toward irrational rage is balanced out by the attention span of a goldfish. When my 2-year-old pitched a fit, I’d act like I was fascinated by something shiny right outside the window. Or I’d turn on a silly song and start dancing. [...]

Teenagers’ Number 1 Fear (and how to avoid the slime)

About seven years ago – before I had teenagers of my own – I got an opportunity to interview a child psychologist for an article I was writing. During the interview, I asked the doctor for tips on how parents could better relate to teenagers. What he said stuck with me: “Parents need to remember that almost all teenagers have the same number one fear, and it influences nearly everything they do and say.” “What’s the number one fear?” I asked. “Embarrassment,” he said, matter-of-factly. “They’ll do almost anything to avoid it.” It sounded simple enough at the time, and, more importantly, it rang true. I could remember being a teenager myself and thinking that a root canal without anesthesia [...]

State of the Household Address

Husband, children, dogs, cat, my fellow housemates: Tonight marks the 20th year I’ve come here to report on the State of our Household. I ask that you join me as we lower our iPhones and raise our sights on a more perfect family union. If we all work in the spirit of progress, we can make this a better place to live. But parents and kids must reach across the aisle toward each other to find bipartisan solutions. No more petty bickering about who drank all the milk. Together we can address the challenges that are vital to the innerworkings of our household’s government. First, let us look toward the budget. I know the minors in this household feel that [...]

Workin’ at the dog wash

When we brought our new dog home last summer, I expected the usual trials of raising a puppy – the house-training, the chewing, the short attention span. But I never imagined I’d have trouble giving him a bath. I’d always considered myself somewhat of a professional when it comes to dog hygiene. When I was a kid, I’d always been the one to bathe our family dog. Then as a teenager, I got a job as a dog washer at our town’s grooming salon. I’ll never forget that first day at work. The groomer led me out back to a fenced area and pointed to the largest dog I’d ever seen – a Saint Bernard named Eddie. “Give him a [...]

10 Signs That You Might Be a Homebody

I have a confession that will make me look supremely uncool. I’m a homebody. It’s not an easy thing to admit in a go-go society where “more is more” and social media favors movers and shakers. But it’s true, and I was probably born this way. Even as a kid, I’d go on sleepovers at a friend’s house and almost always come down with some kind of virus the second I got back home – as if my body was rebelling against the separation from my own bed. One time in middle school, I went on a church youth group mission trip to Mexico, but the bus broke down on the side of the interstate on the way there – [...]

Three Birthdays

Here in the Rockwood house, we celebrate three birthdays during the month of December. We didn’t plan it that way. It’s just the way it turned out, which adds an additional layer of party and present planning on top of what is already a month crammed full of holiday hoopla. Birthday Number 3: Our youngest kid, Kate, is turning 11 this month, and that’s a good thing because 11 is a great age. Most 11-year-olds are more sweet than snarky. They’re still one year away from 12, which (in my experience) is the age when kids start the heavy eye-rolling as a response to questions. Age 12 is also when they begin to smell like teenagers and talk in memes. [...]

Tales of a freelance flocker

One of the things my dad taught me about the working world is that it’s always good to have “multiple revenue streams.” That way, if one stream dries up or slows to a trickle, you’ll have another one to keep you going. Dad worked as a tree trimmer and landscaper for more than 40 years in a small southern Arkansas town. During the summers, he worked six days a week from dawn until dark and came home covered in saw dust and smelling like fresh sod. He owned his own small company, and, during summers, there was usually more work than he had time to do. But late in the year, when the lawns settled in for their long winter’s [...]

An Open Letter to Good Men

An Open Letter to Good Men: Guys, it must be tough to watch the news lately. I’m sure you’ve noticed there are quite a few schmucks out there tarnishing the “man brand.” Recent headlines make it seem like there aren’t many good men left in the world, especially since so many of those we thought were decent turned out to be imposters. But I know good men like you are out there. Maybe you don’t make splashy headlines but you’re there, quietly doing your work, raising your kids, and honoring the women around you. I imagine it must be infuriating to watch people who claim to be men do things only spoiled teenagers would do and then try to pass [...]