My life as a dog washer

For years I’ve said that the main reason I became a writer is because it’s my only marketable skill. Lucky for me, I’m nerdy enough to like stringing words together and have a genuine interest in prepositions and participles, which comes in handy. But before my first writing gig, I tried other jobs. I was 18 when I snagged my first real position as a dog washer at a local grooming salon. I loved dogs and had plenty of experience washing my own so it sounded like a fun, easy summer job.And it did turn out to be fun, but it was never easy – especially the first day. I’m not sure if the owner was trying to get me [...]

Why I clean before the cleaners come

Today will be a good day. Because by early afternoon, the kitchen and bathroom counters will be clean, the floors shiny and there’ll be fresh vacuum cleaner tracks throughout the house. Every other Wednesday by 2 p.m., life is good and orderly and smells like lemons. It’s wonderful. But before that happens, I’ve got to clean up around here. Why? Because the house cleaners are coming! Tom always thinks I’m nuts when I fly into my pre-cleaning routine before our bi-weekly Swat Team of Clean arrives. But women understand the two reasons why we clean right before the house cleaners come: Because we don’t want the house cleaners to think we’re slobs. Because the cleaners will be able to clean [...]

The trouble with Charlie

I’m beginning to think that, although our dog Charlie has been blessed with a super-powered Beagle nose, perhaps he didn’t get a great deal of Beagle brains. I’d like to believe he’s the smartest dog around, but it’s getting harder to ignore the mounting evidence that indicates otherwise. It started shortly after we adopted Charlie. For weeks we tried to convince him that the things he kept digging out of the cat’s litter box were not, in fact, gravel-coated candy bars. I was disgusted and had to fashion a hiding spot for the litter box so Charlie wouldn’t use it like a snack bar. There are also times I find Charlie happily chewing on his own back leg, as if [...]

Mama in a quiet house

By this time next week, I’ll be sitting in a quiet house. The boys will have gone back to school and this time they’ll be taking Kate with them. Kate, the baby of the family, begins kindergarten on Monday. Her new Tinkerbell backpack is stuffed full of school supplies and waiting by the back door. For the first time in more than a decade, I’ll have seven whole hours stretching in front of me once the three of them walk through those elementary school doors. I’m mostly happy about it. It has been so long since I was able to work and write uninterrupted that I’m not even sure I’ll know how to handle it. I’ve become accustomed to the [...]

What’s in YOUR basket?

I have a theory that check-out clerks know a lot about people. And they don’t have to read tea leaves to do it. That long receipt tape curling out of their cash register tells them plenty. The check-out clerk is usually the second person to know a baby is on the way – the first being the woman who’s buying a home pregnancy test to confirm what her morning-sick belly already knows. Clerks also know who bakes from scratch and who pretends to. They know who needs a tube of Preparation H. They know who throws a copy of National Enquirer onto the conveyor belt at the last minute. They even know who indulges in less-than-nutritious cereal and tries to [...]

From one heat wave to another…

Sweaty greetings from the middle of a heat wave. Today I took the kids to the pool for a swim lesson and waited by the water’s edge, watching the class learn the backstroke. It was mid-morning and the temperature had already climbed to a humid 96 degrees. The wind blew hard, but it wasn’t a cool breeze. This was the hot breath of an angry dragon. The heated gusts blowing against my damp skin made me wonder if this is what it feels like to be a wet sock in a clothes dryer set on “hot” – the stifling winds buffeting you to and fro as you tumble for what feels like eternity. The only thing good about a heat [...]

Paging Dr. Mom to the O.R.

I’ve performed my first successful surgery, and the patient is recovering nicely. I didn’t want to operate but I was the only one here when 8-year-old Jack ran his hand along the wooden banister and got a splinter in his finger. Tears and wailing started immediately after. I knew the dramatic reaction wasn’t about the tiny sliver of wood lodged under the skin. It was about the fear, the panic, the dread of getting it out. I knew this because I’m the same way and always have been, which makes me wonder if phobias are as hereditary as eye color. If I had to choose between a splinter and a spider, I’d take my chances with the creepy crawler. At [...]

A Close Call

Today I’m making good on my word. Our 4-year-old cat Percy, who was named for her persistence, is sprawled out across my desk, serving as a hairy paperweight for the file folders and papers I should be working on today. Now and then she reaches out a clawless paw and takes a swipe at the cursor moving across my computer screen. It’s a technologically advanced game of “cat and mouse.” It’s funny the first few times she does it, but after an hour of the cat blocking my view of the monitor, it gets frustrating. I’ve told her many times that this is not a mouse she’s going to catch, but she doesn’t give up. But today I’m thankful for [...]

The Bucket List

Often the best conversations I have with my kids happen on the way to somewhere. I don’t remember what errand we were running when my son Adam and I had this exchange, but I’ll remember the talk for a long time. Him: “Mom, I’ve decided to write a bucket list. You know what a bucket list is?” Me: “Yes, it’s a list of things you want to do before you die. You do realize you’re only 10-years-old, right?” Him: “Yeah, I know. I just think it’ll be good to have a list.” Me: “You’re right. So what are you gonna put on your bucket list?” Him: “Well, the first thing is ‘Be on a game show.’ Either Kids Jeopardy or [...]

Welcome to my fort

My kids did something last week that convinced me they’re not all that different than kids were several generations ago. With free time on their hands and a house full of toys, games and electronics, they shunned all the fancy stuff and built a fort. Their fort-building enthusiasm made me question why we bother with apps and expensive game consoles when so much fun can be crafted from a king-sized bed sheet, wooden clothespins and a few chairs. The kids fortified their cozy castle with pillows dragged in from bedrooms, favorite Superman blankets and flashlights. Then they disappeared into the fort and played the rest of the afternoon. After hearing hours of giggles from behind the linen walls, I couldn’t [...]