20 secrets to the 20-year wedding anniversary

Last weekend, Tom and I went out to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. An acquaintance we bumped into said congratulations and then asked us “So what’s the secret?” Honestly, I didn’t have a quick answer. She seemed almost annoyed, as if we were keeping the secret recipe all to ourselves. So, I gave it some thought these past few days and made a list of 20 “secrets” we’ve learned during these past 20 years. Choose well. I’m listing this one first because, without it, the rest of the secrets might not matter. “Fixer Upper” is a hit television show, not a smart strategy for choosing a spouse. Be kind. This one is vital. Yes, your spouse should still love you [...]

Zippy meets Ruby

In June of last year, I wrote about a tiny turtle my kids rescued from a swirling pool filter and turned into a pet named Zippy. For the record, I was in favor of releasing Zippy back into the wild to do whatever it is turtles do. But the kids thought that, because she was a small orphan, she’d need special care. So Zippy went from the pool filter to a shoebox and then to her own tank complete with filter, fake plants and a bridge for sunning herself. Our youngest kid, Kate, and her dad oversee all turtle feedings and tank cleaning because I have a strict “I-don’t-touch-reptiles” policy. So, imagine my surprise two weeks ago when I learned [...]

Under one roof

I never thought I’d say this, but here goes: I’m a 40-something living with my parents. In American society, that’s not a popular thing to say. People assume something went terribly wrong if you find yourself under the same roof with your parents after the age of 18. But I’m beginning to realize there are some situations that make a multi-generational home feel just right. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Since 2007, multi-generational living arrangements have increased in the United States by about 30 percent, according to the 2016 Pew Research report. Homebuilders are even designing new homes and entire sections of neighborhoods that feature a main house with an attached smaller house with its own [...]

It’s about time…

There are some topics I find myself reading about as often as possible. Time management is one of them. When a new magazine article about it comes across my news app, I pounce on it, read it and bookmark it so I can read it again. I gravitate to articles and books about time because research is how I soothe my own anxiety and frustration about things I don’t understand or can’t control. Like many people, I feel like I’m locked in an ongoing battle with time. Why is there never enough of it? How do I stuff more tasks into it, and how do I squeeze more enjoyment out of it? Am I spending it on the right things? [...]

Mama meets the machine

We have a new “pet” in the family. It doesn’t eat. Doesn’t ever need a vet appointment. It can do lots of cool tricks. And here’s the best part – it never makes a mess. In fact, this modern-day pet roams the house each day cleaning up the hair left behind by the shedding four-legged pets, who sniff it suspiciously and then walk out of its way. Our new “pet” is a robot – the kind that vacuums the floors on its own. I’ve had my eye on it for months now, after hearing rave reviews from friends who adopted a vacuuming robot of their own. When the one I was researching finally went on sale, I pounced. In the [...]

Advice from a buttered noodle

About 17 years ago, my husband Tom did a wonderful thing. For our third wedding anniversary, he booked a massage for me at a local spa. At the time, I wasn’t even sure it was something I wanted, although it sounded fancy. I was in my late twenties, but I’d never had a massage. I was nervous on the day of the appointment. I didn’t know if there was a massage protocol or a right or wrong way to do things. I worried that the whole thing would become an awkward debacle. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I could hear the imagined voices of our Puritanical ancestors luring me into a guilt-trip: “Lying around half-naked on a [...]

Wearing yard sale goggles

Since late March, we’ve been building a small guest home attached to the back of our house. After five months and a few frustration-fueled meltdowns, it’s finally done. Over Labor Day weekend, we moved my parents into the space. So far, it’s working out great. The plan was to make it easier for me and my mom, who still works a full-time job, to tag-team with each other as we look after my dad, who has dementia. It’s nice to walk a few steps across the backyard deck and step through a sliding glass door into their living room. The kids love it, too, mostly because Memaw’s cooking is far superior to anything they’ll get in my kitchen. The hardest [...]

Humpty Dumpty House

It feels good to be home. Even though we’ve technically been home all along, it hasn’t felt that way during the past few months of home renovation. It looked the same from the outside, but the interior of the first floor was an unrecognizable maze of boxes and bins, partitions from construction zones, and walls torn down to the studs. I had the odd feeling of being lost in my own house. When all your usual places to put things or find things are gone, you wander around aimlessly guessing at where the loaf of bread might be. Or your car keys. Or the spot where you put the mail. Routines were reduced to rubble, just like the wall that [...]

The Infamous Warren

Warren. That was his name. I didn’t know who he was, but I knew he was a very, very bad kid. Sometimes I wondered what kinds of misdeeds Warren was guilty of because I saw his name on the chalkboard every time I went to music class at Julia Shannon Elementary School in 1983. We had music class two times a week in fourth grade, and every time my class shuffled into the room, Warren’s name was already on the chalkboard. I assumed he had probably already had music class that day and had broken all sorts of rules yet again. The music teacher was a patient woman, but when she got cross with someone, she’d write their name on [...]

Charlie’s all-nighter

It happened again. Charlie, the 6-year-old Beagle whose mission in life is to make me a crazy person, escaped the fence at dusk yesterday. As previously reported in this column, Charlie has Houdini-level skills when it comes to devising new ways to escape the confines of our backyard fence. Dig under. Jump over. Squeeze through. He’ll do whatever it takes. I used to take his determination to run away from home personally. “Fine!” I’d think to myself. “If he hates it here so much, he can just go.” But then I’d worry about him and pray for him to come home safe. After a few hours, he’d show back up by the front door, doing a classic bad-dog-walk-of-shame. The look [...]