The Big “What if…?”

Last night we heard the familiar sound of footsteps on the stairs well past bedtime. From the living room, I heard Tom talking in the kitchen to the kid who couldn’t sleep. Over the years, we’ve heard every “I can’t sleep” excuse in the book – not tired, too thirsty, too dark, monster under the bed – but this time was different. This time it was a question, one of the biggest we’ve faced: “Dad, I know that people die sometimes. And I know we believe in God and Heaven and everything… but what if we’re wrong?” We probably should have seen it coming. In the past six weeks, we’ve been to two out-of-town funerals for family members. The kids [...]

Why I still don’t feel like a grown-up

By now, I expected to feel like a grown-up. And sometimes I do, like when we sign tax returns or go to a funeral, which is certainly not a ringing endorsement for adulthood. But most of the time, I feel like an imposter – like a kid who somehow ended up in a grown-up’s body and is still trying to figure out what she’s doing. Part of me wonders if it all comes down to coffee. I don’t like it. Never have. I want to like it – badly. I love the way it smells. I love the quaint little coffee shops where it’s served. I love the warmth of the coffee cups and the way the steam rises and [...]

Running with scissors

Women are known for our ability to form deep and meaningful relationships. And perhaps no relationship is as complex and multi-layered as the one we have with our hair. Most men don’t understand it and have been heard saying ridiculous things such as “It’s just hair.” Or the ever popular “It’ll grow back.” But they miss the whole point. Because our feelings about hair are rooted way down deep. No other part of our bodies has this kind of power over us. Bad hair can set the tone for the day. A woman wailing “I hate my hair!” while standing in front of the bathroom mirror won’t emerge from that bathroom in a great mood. And bad hair makes the [...]

The Mama Curse

Well, I hope you’re happy, Mom. That mama curse you put on me so long ago is now working overtime and I am, indeed, “paying for my raising.” For those not familiar with this brand of maternal magic, let me explain. The “mama curse” is spewed out at an exasperating child when the mama is at her wit’s end. There are countless variations on it, but the gist of it goes like this: “One day I hope you have a child who acts exactly the way you’re acting right now! Then you’ll know how it feels.” When my mom hexed me, I was young and just rolled my eyes in the charming way children sometimes do. Little did I know [...]

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 [...]