Leaning into the light

In my mind, I’m sitting on a sandy white beach. I’m lounging in one of those fancy cabanas the size of a full-size bed, bordered by white curtains fluttering in the coastal breeze. I tilt my face up to the sun, letting it soak in through my pores. I imagine it filling me with soft, golden sunlight. I can almost feel the warmth. And that’s no easy feat in frigid February. This mental beach vacation has become an almost daily trip the past few months. With the pandemic making a real vacation impossible, the voyage in my mind is as close as I can get. But at least the light is real. To combat a serious case of the winter [...]

Behind the closed door

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a guy came to my tiny apartment. I was 24 years old and on my fourth date with someone I’d met on a blind date. At the time, he was not my boyfriend. We were still in that oh-so-fragile “getting to know you” stage – the point at which any little thing could send the love train careening off the tracks. I’d invited him over for a home-cooked meal, which meant I’d made the one chicken dish I knew how to prepare. But there was no need for him to know that information just yet. A few minutes before he rang my doorbell, I scurried around the apartment straightening things and making [...]

Becoming a human pinata

Five days ago, I pushed my cart through Target and willed myself not to cry. This is ridiculous, I thought. I cannot have an emotional meltdown in the middle of Target. I blinked back the tears that were threatening to spill over, and I got on with the task of buying the last few things my 19-year-old son would need for his first dorm room. After being forced to do a semester of remote learning from home because of the pandemic, he would finally be able to move to his college campus and start a new adventure. But there was no denying that I felt like a human pinata. One hard whack and I just might burst wide open – [...]

Speedy and the Bandit

If you grew up in a small town like I did, you knew one thing for certain. If you wanted to do something stupid that would likely land you in trouble if you got caught, you’d better do it outside the city limits. What a small town lacks in population, it makes up for in connective tissue – the way almost everyone knows someone who knows who you are and where you live. Do something dumb in a small town and there’s a good chance your mom or dad will hear about it before you can even concoct a cover-up story. One time when I was 14, I was supposed to walk our dog to the veterinarian’s office to get [...]

Piecing together a fresh start

In a normal year, I dread the chore of putting away Christmas decorations. Not only does it take a while, it also feels like we’re packing up joy and shoving it into the storage closet to sit in the corner for the next 11 months. But this time was different. Once the first few decorations were put away, I felt… better. I wasn’t happy the holidays were over, but I felt ready to clear the way for something new. Something better. I felt the magnetic pull toward a fresh start. After a year cluttered with crisis and chaos, we all crave something clear and calm. So, I put things away with more energy and anticipation than I usually do. Tom [...]

20 things I learned in 2020

Hey, 2020. GET OUT. You officially wore out your welcome several months ago. Nevertheless, here are 20 things I learned in 2020: 1. Sometimes disruption equals disaster. In February, news reports said a top official at the CDC told her family they should prepare for “significant disruption.” So, the first lesson I learned in this long, long year is that when scientists say things like “significant disruption,” what they often mean is that the proverbial poop is about to hit the propeller – big time. 2. Speaking of poop… Some things in life are important. Toilet paper is one of them. Sometimes it takes a global pandemic to make all of us realize it (at the exact same time). 3. [...]

The great box debate

My 76-year-old mother has a thing for boxes and has for many years. In her mind, throwing away or recycling a sturdy box of any decent size is like throwing out a fifty-dollar bill. You just don’t do it. This sometimes causes friction between the two of us. Because I prefer to do most of my shopping online, we get a lot of boxes. Once I empty them, I set them by the garage door so one of us can take them out to the recycling bin on our next trip outside. Mom often walks by an abandoned box as if it’s a puppy looking for a home. Her: “You’re not going to throw out that box, are you? That’s [...]

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 [...]

Making a list and trimming the tree twice

I’ve been writing a newspaper column for more than two decades now – since before I met my husband. It’s a little like having a public diary. The best part of it is getting notes from readers, but the next best part is having this permanent record of past moments that have touched me and taught me along the way. In the spirit of the season, I’m revisiting the following moment – recorded 10 years ago today – in hopes it touches your heart, too. Here it is: Santa isn’t the only one making a list these days. I may not be responsible for worldwide overnight toy delivery on Dec. 24th, but my to-do list stretches to the North Pole [...]

Love letter to old dogs

Last week I saw something that made me laugh but also gripped my heart in the same moment. Our little beagle mix, Charlie, was walking up the stairs ahead of me. But instead of his usual fast trot to the top, he took one step at a time, stopping on each one before carefully planting one hesitant paw to climb another one. I laughed as I followed him upstairs because his slow shuffle was such a big departure from the graceful gallop he usually does on the steps. But then I realized what it meant. While we were busy raising kids and trying to keep up with life, Charlie became an old dog. Modern studies suggest that the old theory [...]