Bubble wrap blues

Pop… pop… pop. I’m sitting at my desk, methodically squeezing the sheet of bubble wrap I plucked from an Amazon box. My office door is closed because I have to pop in private. Tom and I have agreed to disagree about whether all this pinching and popping reduces stress or drives him nuts. The sound bounces around the quiet room, piercing the weird stillness. With each staccato squeeze, I try to deflate the balloon of mixed emotions swelling in my chest these past few days. My boys are gone again – back to the college campuses they’ve begun to call home. And their little sister gets up each weekday and takes her Goldendoodle service dog to their last year of […]

Two kinds of travelers

My family of five (plus one large dog) made it home last week after a 14-hour road trip to the coast of beautiful South Carolina. Fourteen hours (each way) is a long time, and sane people might question why we’d do such a thing when planes exist. We would’ve loved to fly, but we couldn’t agree on which one of us would have to sell an organ on the black market to afford summer airfare for five people. So instead, we rented a big minivan so there’d be room for one high school senior, one 19-year-old college kid measuring six-foot-two, one 21-year-old college senior, two middle-aged parents, and one 80-pound Goldendoodle. We planned this trip at the beginning of the […]

One night, two stress dreams

Last night, my 16-year-old daughter and I had a “stress dream.” Do you have them, too? If not, you’re lucky. Most people have repetitive dreams when stress is higher than usual or when a big event is on the horizon. My most common stress dream is the one where I’m back in college, running late for a class but can’t figure out where the class is being held. I search the campus for what feels like hours, turning one way and then the other. So much walking. So much searching. And then it hits me that not only am I lost and late, there’s also a final exam happening in this class, and I haven’t studied at all. Then at […]

I’m not sweaty, you’re sweaty!

Greetings from under the heat dome, where the air is thick, and we’re all damp in unpleasant places. There’s no convenient time to be in a heat dome with temps over 100 degrees, but it’s particularly problematic when your 50-year-old body has decided to have its own internal heat dome at the same time. Both situations are temporary, but the heat dome that takes over women’s bodies can blaze even when it’s a chilly 68 degrees in the house. Everyone else in the family says they’re freezing. Men, please stay with me here. This feels like such an awkward topic, yet it shouldn’t be. I can’t even believe I’m writing it down, but I trust my readers. I’ve shared far […]

The Infamous Warren

Warren. That was his name. I didn’t know him, but I knew he was a bad kid. He was getting busted by our teacher every day. In 1983 at Julia Shannon Elementary School, I had music class twice a week during fourth grade. Every time my class lined up and shuffled into the music room, Warren’s name was already on the chalkboard. I assumed he’d already had music class that day and had broken the rules. The music teacher was patient, but when she got angry at someone, she’d write their name on the chalkboard under Warren’s name. Getting your name on the board was a “first strike,” and any subsequent bad behavior got you a one-way ticket to the […]

Sharks, crocs, and riptides — oh my!

Tom and I had plenty of reasons not to plan a trip this summer – too many crowds, too expensive, too hot, too tiring. But after we saw our 19-year-old college kid make a cross-country road trip with three friends – armed with nothing more than a duffel bag and a smile – we felt inspired. Maybe we should see something new, too. But I made it clear that I’m too old (and picky) for the kind of trip my son and his friends did on a shoestring budget. They slept in a tent, got locked out of the car while stopping to see the largest well in America, and washed their clothes by wearing them into the ocean. (For […]

More peace, less barking

Noise pollution was a problem at our house. The culprits? The treat-eating, hair-shedding, tail-wagging family members who press their black noses against the front windows for a good chunk of the day. Some days, it felt like they were barking more than breathing. I’d be sitting in my home office, quietly concentrating on a project, and get jolted into a panic by a sudden barrage of barking. My blood pressure would shoot up, and I’d yell at the dogs to stop (which I now understand was the same as joining their barking brigade). It didn’t help. On an average day, there are roughly a gazillion things at which dogs like to bark – the trash truck, squirrels, birds, cats, package […]

A kinder, gentler Covid

Last week, I told you how my mom restlessly vacuumed her way through a bout of Covid. I also mentioned I was stuck in the “incubation window,” waiting to see if I would come down with it, too. So, here’s the update: My mom fully recovered and happily skipped back to work. But the incubation window slammed shut and squished me like a sickly bug. The extra line on the Covid test sent me straight into quarantine, leaving my three kids and husband in the dreaded incubation window. They’re still waiting, hoping, and testing. But there’s also good news: I’m experiencing a kinder, gentler Covid. In early 2022, I had it for the first time and felt like I’d been […]

The restless patient

My 78-year-old mom has Covid. What she does not have is the patience for having Covid. This morning I went to check on her and caught her vacuuming – with Covid. Me: “Mom, what are you doing? You’re sick. You’re supposed to be resting.” Her (looking pale and feverish but also exasperated): “Well, I can’t just sit around here all day!” Me: “It’s only 9:30 in the morning.” But she couldn’t hear me over the roar of the Dyson. She had viruses and dust bunnies to do battle with. She didn’t have time for crazy questions. My mom and I are a lot alike but not when it comes to sitting still. I don’t understand why she thinks it’s so […]

Lessons from a lobster

Off the coast of Maine, a fishing crew raised their nets and saw something weird – a bright orange lobster with only one claw. Because it was such an unusual catch, they turned it over to the Arthur P. Girard Marine Science Center at the University of New England.    The scientists at the marine center were thrilled to adopt the newcomer, and he joined two other curious-looking crustaceans at the center – a yellow lobster named Banana and a calico-colored one called Sprinkles. Scientists haven’t yet named the orange, one-armed lobster, but I’m rooting for the name “Cheeto,” which seems like a perfect fit.    What fascinates me most about this weird little story is the fishermen’s reaction to […]