We’ve hit some turbulence

Life was at a comfortable cruising altitude, and we were happy to be along for the ride. But then it nosedived, and some unseen force shoved me and my mom into a small room and slammed the door behind us. We looked around and realized we were alone in the cockpit, expected to take control and make a thousand different decisions to safely land the plane. The only problem? We’ve never had flying lessons. It’s probably not the perfect metaphor for beginning cancer treatments, but it’s as close as I can get. The process is complex, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. After being diagnosed with colon cancer in October and recovering from a November surgery, my mom recently completed […]

Curse of the Tell-Tale Carrot

One of the side effects of having an English degree is that I remember famous works of literature – but only the weird ones. The one I’m remembering lately is extra creepy. It’s a short story told by a narrator who insists he’s just nervous, not crazy. He’s anxious because he killed an old man for a bizarre reason: He couldn’t stand the sight of the old man’s “vulture eye,” – which is a pale blue eye with a cloudy film. He became so obsessed with the old man’s eye that he’d sneak into his house at night and watch him sleep. Eventually, the old man woke up scared because this weirdo was watching him. Then the watcher heard a […]

What we never wanted to find

My mother is radioactive. You wouldn’t know it by looking at her. She’s dozing in a recliner, and the only hint that something is wrong is the sign on the door which reads “Caution: Radioactive materials.” In about half an hour, a nurse will escort her down the hall and put her on a table that slides into a donut-shaped machine. Today is my mom’s first PET scan. I wish a PET scan was as pleasant as its name implies. I wish it was for cute pictures of beagles and basset hounds. But this kind of PET scan happens weeks after a doctor walks into a room and says something completely unexpected: “We found a mass.” Generally speaking, you never […]

A kinder, gentler January

There’s no month quite like January. It wants us awake at the stroke of midnight for parties, fireworks, a kiss, and a toast to the New Year. But then it steamrolls in at daybreak with demands that we drop and give it 50 push-ups before the first cup of coffee. It wants us to eat kale, stop running late, save more money, do 10,000 steps a day, floss after every meal, learn how to meditate, get a promotion, organize the garage, and put our nose to the January grindstone to become much better humans than we currently are. After December’s fun and games, January can be a real buzzkill. If you’re already prone to beating yourself up over any number […]

Making the most of the coast

When I was a free-range kid in the early 80s, I had a Pink Panther bicycle – also known as the coolest bike a girl could have in that day and age. I rode it everywhere. On the way home from the day’s adventures, I’d build up as much speed as I could as I rounded the corner onto my street. Then I’d see if that momentum could carry me the rest of the way home without peddling. Once I reached top speed, I’d sit back, release the handlebars, and coast. No effort. No rush. I just glided down the homestretch with the sun and wind on my face and the destination in sight. That’s where we are right now. […]

How to be a gangsta wrapper for Christmas

What some people call “the most wonderful time of the year” can also be the most exhausting. With all the extra events, shopping, cleaning, cooking, traveling, hosting and more, it can make us want to crawl into the nearest stocking and take a long winter’s nap. When you need a brief escape from the holiday hustle and bustle, I have a strategy that works. It’ll involve some effort, but trust me, it’ll give you some much-needed time and space to hear yourself think. All you have to do is become a wrapper. I started wrapping in my teens. What began as a favor for my mom became an annual tradition. She said she wanted me to do it because I […]

Limping into December

It started with a limp. What we’d hoped was just a muscle sprain in the dog’s hind leg lingered for two months, landing us in the office of a veterinary orthopedic surgeon for x-rays. Those black-and-white images brought bad news. Our 80-pound Goldendoodle, Mac, who never met a tennis ball he wouldn’t fetch or catch in mid-air, paid the price for his hobby when he tore his ACL. We paid the price, too, when we swallowed hard and handed over a credit card to cover the pricey surgery. But like most animal lovers, there was never a question of what we’d do for this dog. We’d donate a kidney if he needed it. We’d dive in front of a bullet. […]

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 […]

How to be the best kind of noodle

More than 20 years ago, Tom gave me a gift certificate for an hour-long massage as an anniversary gift. I’d never had a professional massage before. (Women don’t count the one-handed massages men sometimes give while holding the remote with their other hand.) I was intrigued but didn’t know how to feel about it. A massage? The concept felt so far removed from my small-town upbringing. Who did I think I was? The Queen of Fancyland? One of the Real Housewives of Shallow County? If I got a massage, where would that kind of decadence lead? Peeled grapes and fur coats? Curious and nervous, I scheduled the massage. But when the day came, I wondered if I had the nerve […]

How to love people and productivity at the same time

On my desk, there are three essential things – my laptop, a computer mouse, and a no-frills, lined pad of paper. Without the computer and mouse, nothing could get done. But without that humble pad of paper where I scribble my to-do list, I wouldn’t remember what needed doing in the first place. Like millions of others, I’ve been a devoted fan of to-do lists for decades. When the glorious iPhone came along, I added a few digital bells and whistles to the system so I could have a mobile version of the list to take with me. It’s like a security blanket for my brain. For the most important items on the list, I also schedule alarms – which […]