A different kind of Independence Day

I’ve been thinking a lot about independence lately. Not just because we’re about to celebrate an unusual Fourth of July minus the annual gathering of friends and neighbors around the backyard grill. It’ll just be us this year, but that’s okay. We’ll shoot off a few fireworks and wave to our neighbors across the cul-de-sac. The Independence Day that keeps circling around my mind is not the one happening this month. God willing, it’ll happen on August 17th. That’s the day our oldest son will move into his dorm room to begin his first year of college. Suddenly the concept of our son leaving home has become more real because now it has an official spot on the calendar. Ever [...]

Charlie and Pete

A beagle and a possum walk into a backyard. Only one would leave with his dignity. It might sound like the opening line of a bad joke, but it’s a real-life melodrama playing out at our house. For the past few months, our beagle Charlie has been locked in a not-so-silent war with a possum who lives in the woods behind our house. I’ve named him Pete, (the possum, not the woods). This puppy-possum war isn’t personal. Charlie and Pete are just doing what dogs and possums do. Possums lurk around at night, sometimes in places where they’re not welcome, and beagles sniff things and bark – a lot. The first skirmish between Charlie and Pete happened on a night [...]

Watching it burn

Last weekend, the five of us gathered chairs around the small barbecue grill in the backyard and watched a year’s worth of work go up in smoke. This is not the first time it has happened. At our house, it’s an annual tradition marking the start of summer – the Great Homework Bonfire. We’ve been doing it since the kids were in preschool and elementary school. Back then, the bonfire was made up of wide-ruled papers where the kids had practiced drawing letters or connecting numbered dots. These days, with all three of them in high school, the crumpled balls of homework that feed the fire look different now. Quadratic equations, lists of literary terms and scientific conversions crackled and [...]

Sweatpants shame

One of the greatest writers of all time, the late Erma Bombeck, once made this profound statement: “I am not a glutton – I am an explorer of food.” So, I know Erma would’ve understood the predicament many of us find ourselves in now that it’s June 2020. Since March, most people have been staying home because of the global pandemic, and some of us have done some hard-core “food exploration.” Like, around the world and back again. Maybe even a mission to Mars. I’ve visited the beaches of banana bread. The coastline of custard. The mountain peaks of pasta. I’ve explored enough foods to make Magellan himself reach for a bottle of antacids.  In my defense, there was a [...]

Behind the mask

Okay, I’m just going to say it. I wear a mask. My whole family does. I hope we can still be friends. For some people, mask wearing has become a political thing. But for most of us, it’s just a safety thing. A kindness thing. A respect-for-others thing. Regardless of how some might feel about the global pandemic, we can all agree that we want people to keep their respiratory droplets to themselves, right? I’ve never once left my house thinking, “I hope I’m able to suck in the random respiratory droplets of strangers! Woo-hoo!” Mask-wearing is a beefed-up version of “cover your cough,” which mothers and grandmothers have been teaching for generations. A mask may be more of a [...]

Pandemic potholes on the road of love

The pandemic along with the need to spend so much time at home has been hard on relationships. For many couples, what began as loveable “quirks” have suddenly morphed into reasons you may have to kill somebody. Thankfully, Tom and I have both worked from home for two years now, so it wasn’t a big transition for us. But even couples who are usually two peas in a pod need some alone time when life’s ordinary escapes disappear. The situation reminded me of a column I once wrote nearly a decade ago about lawmakers in Mexico City who considered making marriage licenses temporary, with terms as short as two years. If the happy couple was no longer happy when the [...]

A corny competitor is born

I am bad at sports. Always have been. While other people bemoan the loss of sports during this pandemic, I haven’t missed it. I understand the thrill of watching a close game, but I’ve never had that competitive spirit that drives so many athletes. When I was in middle school, the coach of the girls’ basketball team noticed I had a decent three-point shot. I could stand around in the gym with friends and sink quite a few from beyond the line. After she put me on the team, however, she and I both realized I wasn’t cut out for the actual game. I was a shooter, not a player. I didn’t want other players to get in my face [...]

Murder hornets with the worst timing

Everyone has their limit, right? I nearly found mine last Sunday when I checked the day’s headlines shortly after climbing out of bed. During a quick scroll through the coronavirus headlines in The New York Times, this one flew straight out of my smartphone’s screen: “Murder Hornets in the U.S.” If you are the kind of person who can breeze by a headline about something called “murder hornets,” you’re much stronger (and smarter) than I am. I couldn’t click that thing fast enough. It turns out that murder hornets not only exist, they have found their way from Asia to the state of Washington (which was also the location for the coronavirus’ first big outbreak in America. I think the [...]

Two sweet sixteen birthdays, 30 years apart

Dear Jack, this month will be different than I’d hoped – especially for you. Celebrating your 16th birthday is supposed to come with this wave of newfound freedom, a chance to get behind the wheel of your own life more than you ever have before. When I turned 16, I remember how I strutted out to the driveway and climbed into the used car my parents had given me. For the first time, I was about to drive myself to school. Just me. All by myself. No nervous mother in the passenger’s seat sucking all the air out of the car every time I turned a corner. I wouldn’t have admitted it to my mother, but I remember how nervous [...]

Hairy dreams

Last night I had a dream about getting a haircut. In the dream, I donned my protective mask and went to a store to buy a box of do-it-yourself hair color – something I’ve never been daring enough to try before. While I was there, my hairstylist saw me shopping and spotted the box of hair color in my hand. Then she wrestled it away from me, insisting she’d cut my hair and color it for me since it might go terribly wrong if I did it myself. I was thrilled to be back in professional hands, and the dream ended with a stylish cut and a sunny blonde color. Then I woke up and discovered that my hair is [...]