I think I can

As a little kid, I loved the book “The Little Engine That Could.” It was published in the 1930s, and it’s a story about the power of positive thinking. The star of the book – a little blue train engine – realizes that when he “thinks he can,” he chugs up the big hill and saves the day. I, too, am approaching a big hill. In a few weeks, I’m approaching the birthday that marks a person as “over” that proverbial hill. But my problem isn’t with negative thinking. It’s more about no thinking at all. One day last weekend, I got up and wandered down to the kitchen to do the ordinary things – let the dogs out, feed […]

The Birthday Weekend Remix

Ten years ago, I got on a plane and went to Chicago. It took months of planning, but we pulled it off. I spent the weekend with my three best friends from childhood, seeing the sights, eating the food, and celebrating the year we would all turn 40. It was a massive scheduling and logistical feat because our kids were little, and our lives were crammed full of responsibility. But we made it happen, and it was incredible. Two months ago, we were set to do it again – only this time the destination was sunny Florida, and the birthday year is 50. But about four hours before my flight, my dad woke up with only one half of his […]

The Rockwood Files: The Text Trail

Last week, we got a text from my son Jack, who’s away at college for his freshman year. He sent it to our family’s group text which includes his older brother (also away at college), his younger sister (who’s in high school), and Tom and me. The text trail is long, but here’s the portion that made my blood run cold: 8:16 p.m. “We barricaded the doors.” 8:27 p.m. “Reports say they are moving toward our building.” 8:28 p.m. “Hiding under tables.” 8:29 p.m. “Will let you know once it’s done.” When I saw those words on my phone screen, I knew one thing for certain. The only thing scarier than getting texts like these are not getting texts at […]

Football is life

Last night we watched the Superbowl. Sometimes, I watch it for funny commercials if I don’t have a favorite team in the matchup. But last night, the ads paled in comparison to the game itself – an epic battle of long passes, incredible catches, daring runs, and even a lucky bounce. It reminded me of the first time someone helped me understand what was so compelling about a simple football game. In high school, I was a baton twirler for our little marching band, so I’d been to plenty of football games. But I never understood it. All I really knew was that I should cheer if our guys ran into the end zone. The rest of it remained a […]

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 […]

Rated R for language

They say you never forget your first. When it comes to curse words, that’s certainly true for me. But let the record show, I was completely innocent! And I was probably framed by Bette Midler. Let me explain. The year was 1979 and I was an impressionable 6-year-old girl who was already on her way to becoming a word nerd. If there was a new vocabulary lesson in Kindergarten, I was the first one to memorize it. At that time, my parents were 42 and 35 years old — parents to one 13-year-old boy who was fond of fireworks and allergic to doing homework and one 6-year-old girl who was overly sensitive and needlessly nervous. They both worked full time […]

The Joy Of January

I like January. I think most mothers do. Sure, it’s the dead of winter and it gets dark ridiculously early, but January has one big thing going for it. It’s the “cool down” period following the high-intensity workout of Christmas. Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas and everything it symbolizes. I love the twinkling lights, the shiny ribbons, and the cookies (with calories that didn’t count because it was Christmas, thank you very much). But holidays require work. So much work. Christmas requires several months of mental and physical energy for an event – magical as it may be – that’s over in only two days.  But January is different. It’s the post-Christmas coasting period. And it feels so […]

Anticipation and dread live together

During the weeks before Thanksgiving, I was high on anticipation – counting down the days until our two sons were scheduled to come home from college for the holiday break. It had been three long months since we’d laid eyes on our college kid who moved to Michigan, and the thought of having all five of us together again made me giddy. The day finally arrived. Our oldest son drove three hours home just in time for us to go to the airport and get his younger brother. Our youngest kid, 15-year-old Kate, made a huge poster with her brother’s name on it so we could hold it up as passengers trickled off the plane. When I finally got to […]

Ready, aim, fire

Every now and then I run across a seemingly random fact that occupies more headspace than it probably should – like elephants can’t jump. (It’s physically impossible for them.) Or that certain types of trees won’t let the tips of their highest branches touch the trees next to them – a phenomenon called “crown shyness.” And this week I’ve added another odd fact to my growing collection: A new study finds that octopuses are one of a small group of animals that can purposefully throw things at targets. The study, published by a scientific journal called PLOS ONE, used more than 20 hours of underwater video recorded in Jervis Bay, Australia at two spots so popular with octopuses that they’ve […]

A wonky, mid-life injustice

I thought one of the perks of making it to middle age would be that we no longer have to suffer the indignities of puberty. No more awkward body changes. No more hormone-induced mood swings. Isn’t time and experience supposed to make us more comfortable in our own skin? But here’s what they don’t tell you: The middle-aged skin I’m supposed to be so comfortable in by now? It’s dry and creasing at an alarming rate. I’ve bought 90 percent of all the moisturizing cream in the world yet it’s not enough. I could dip myself into a vat of Jergens lotion every day and still need more. I used to be a juicy grape and now I’m morphing into […]