My favorite flash of lightning

There are some columns I don’t want to write because it hurts. This is one of them. Last week, my dad died. And I am heartbroken. His name was William, but no one ever called him that, except nurses who were reading the first name listed on his chart. Most people called him Billy. There were plenty of times I heard him introduce himself with this rhyming title: “Billy Rule, meanest kid in school.” But he was the opposite of mean. He had a big, tender heart he sometimes shielded with a tough guy’s outer shell. A handful of people called him “Lightnin’” because that was the nickname he went by on the CB radio decades ago. And it’s the […]

Passionate opinions on punctuation

A few months ago, one of my fellow mom friends was accused by her teenage daughter of using “aggressive punctuation” in text messages. Since we’re both writers, my friend and I discussed this new information at length. Writers are punctuation nerds by nature, so we were surprised to learn that teenage text messaging has turned a simple period into something more like a door being slammed in your face. I asked my own teenagers if they, too, felt like punctuation was a text messaging throat-punch, and they agreed. My daughter even told me that a reply like “Okay” followed by a period is a way of letting the other person know that you are most definitely not okay with whatever […]

It’s time for the robot to grow up and do his job

About two years ago, I bought a robotic vacuum cleaner. Like millions of other people, I fell in love with the idea of pushing a button and having a robot roam around the house cleaning the floors while I did something else. Because robot vacuum cleaners aren’t cheap, I spent a long time researching different models and asking friends who’d already bought one if it was worth it. Finally, an online sale and glowing reviews seduced me into clicking “add to cart.” A few of my friends had mentioned that they’d given their robot vacuum cleaners cute names like “Dirty Harry” or “Rosie.” So when my new vacuum arrived, I unboxed it and admired its sleek circular design, low profile, […]

Lessons learned from a streak and a shadow

In our house, we have a doggie dynamic duo. Charlie, who is a rescued mixed breed of beagle and Italian greyhound, is part sighthound and part scent hound. Cooper (the Corgi) is a herding dog. As far as life philosophies go, they couldn’t be more different. Charlie’s personal mantra is this: “Dash out any open door and run wherever thy nose doth lead you. When the squirrel scampers up a tree, stand at the base of the tree and loudly bellow up at it to express your frustration. The neighbors love that.” Cooper, on the other hand, takes his job as C.F.H. (Chief Family Herder) extremely seriously. His mantra is this: “I shall stay with my human sheep. The sheep […]

Teens with no drive to drive?

The night before I turned 16, I was so excited I could barely sleep. I knew that when I woke up the next morning and got ready for school, I’d pull out of the driveway and cruise into a new life – one in which I’d never again need to ask my parents or older brother for a ride. It felt like I was on the verge of something big and important. My mom took pictures of me that morning as I got into the used car they’d bought for me. I didn’t show it, of course, but I was petrified. Even though I’d had my learner’s permit for two years and had practiced countless hours with my parents in […]

The Rockwood Files: Letter to my future daughters-in-law and son-in-law

Dear Future Daughters-in-law and Son-in-law, Even though right now you’re just kids and we haven’t even met, I think about you. Sometimes it happens when I notice how tall one of my sons has grown. Sometimes it happens when my daughter says something that makes her sound less like the 8-year-old that she is and more like a young lady. During those moments, I realize that – long before I’m ready – my babies will grow up, move out and start looking for you. I wonder sometimes how you’ll find each other. Will you bump into each other in a college classroom? Will you meet in the company break room of the first real job after college graduation? Will it […]

How I failed when it was time to make the donuts

One of the great things about being young and broke is that it forces you into new situations. After my second year of college, I decided I was old enough to get my own apartment and stay in my college town instead of going home for the summer. My parents agreed. They also thought that, given my grown-up decision-making ability, I was also grown-up enough to get a summer job and pay my own grown-up rent. So I filled out applications and one of the first places to call me for an interview was a newly opened Wal-Mart Supercenter. Back then, the Supercenter had a few workers who sped around the store on roller skates to make fetching items quicker. […]

Twas the Day After Christmas

This poem is featured in the book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” which you can find on Amazon. (Available in paperback or Kindle version.) Enjoy! ‘Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house Not a creature was resting, not even a mouse. Crumpled paper and boxes were heaped by the door in hopes that the trash men might take a little more. The children were running and jumping with glee. It was the day after Christmas. They had new toys, you see. And Mom in her sweatshirt she bought at the Gap knew it was highly unlikely the children would nap. When in the guest bathroom there arose such a clatter, we sprang […]

The Wedding Anniversary Voucher

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3 On my wedding anniversary, the man who made vows to love, honor and cherish me all the days of his life called my cell phone. “Hey, honey,” he said. “Are you still at the airport?” “Yeah, and I’m not going to make it home in time for us to go out for dinner tonight,” he said. “Bad weather in Chicago?” I asked. “Not exactly.” “Is something wrong with the plane?” “No, the plane is taking off right now.” “Then why aren’t you going to be here?” “Well, the flight was overbooked. And the flight attendant asked for a volunteer to get off the plane and take a later flight, but no […]

Worst Case Scenario Syndrome

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3 I have a condition many parents suffer from: Worst Case Scenario Syndrome or WCSS. It’s not in the official book of diseases because I just made it up but that doesn’t make it any less real. Make no mistake — it’s real, and I have the freshly sprouted gray hairs to prove it. This sanity-threatening condition reared its paranoid head just last week. When I sat down in my home office to begin the day’s work, I smelled a faint but distinctive smell of something burning. It smelled hot with a hint of a chemical scent, the way an overworked engine might smell just before bursting into flames. I walked around […]