“Four Mile Stretches,” Feb. 19, 2019

(NOTE: I’m taking off this week for the holiday. The following column was written in 1997, shortly before my first husband lost a lengthy battle with cancer. It was also reprinted in the October 2001 issue of “Reader’s Digest.”)

From my home on California’s Monterey Peninsula, there is no easy way to get anywhere. To go north, for instance, to San Francisco, you take Hwy. 1, also known as the Old Coast Highway, and proceed to 101, also known as the Freeway to Make You Lose Your Religion. [Read more…]

“The Roads of Life and Marriage,” Feb. 12, 2019

It’s a strange thing, an act of foolishness or faith, to put your life in someone else’s hands. We were heading south on a freeway in heavy traffic in a downpour that made the three-hour drive feel like three days.

We had driven north the day before to visit my husband’s son and his family in Sonoma. But the roads then were dry. What a difference a day can make.

My husband was driving. His hands gripped the wheel, his eyes were glued to the road. I sat beside him, reclining in the passenger seat, pretending I was not the least concerned that at any moment, I might die. [Read more…]

“Acts of Kindness,” Feb. 5, 2019

What are some kindnesses that have been done for you? Have you ever listed them? I did that once, years ago, on a late night flight from my home in California, to my hometown in South Carolina. It was the week before Christmas.

My sister had called that morning to tell me our mother’s battle with lung cancer was nearing the end and if I wanted to say goodbye, I needed to get there fast. She ended the call with, “Love you, Sissy. Hurry.’’ [Read more…]

“Reading, Writing, Speaking and Life,” Jan. 29, 2019

Life is full of surprises. Take, for instance, my job. For almost 30 years, I’ve written a weekly column for newspapers around the country.

I also do public speaking for fundraisers that benefit libraries and schools and community programs that help the needy.

It’s a good job. I’m thankful to have it. I can’t imagine how different my life would be without it. But I never dreamed I’d earn my living this way. It never even occurred to me.

Instead, I wanted to be a wife and a mother. I had no idea how incredibly difficult and exhausting marriage and motherhood could be. It didn’t take long to find out. When I realized what I’d gotten myself into, I still wanted to do it. The things we do for love. [Read more…]

“Family Birthdays,” Jan. 22, 2019

There was a time in my life when I knew the birthdays of everyone in my family. Unlike my grandmother — who had 12 children and 22 grandchildren and could barely remember their names, let alone their birthdays — my immediate family was fairly small: My mother, my dad, my stepdad, my sister, two brothers and me. [Read more…]

“The Taste of Freedom,” Jan. 15, 2019

Have you ever watched a child learning to ride a bike, getting that first taste of freedom?

I thought my tricycle was cool until I was 5, and couldn’t fit my knees under its handlebars. Years later, while my cousin was busy chasing his sister with a BB gun, I borrowed (without asking) his two-wheeler, figured out how to ride it and thought, “Where’s this been all my life?” [Read more…]

“Three Questions for a New Year,” Jan. 8, 2019

At the start of a new year, I like to ask three questions:
1. Who am I?
2. Why am I here?
3. What will I do with this year?

Simple questions, but hard to answer. Let’s start with “who.” [Read more…]

“Joe the Prophet,” Jan. 1, 2019

Who are the prophets in your life, the people who remind you to be true to what you believe and practice what you preach?

Just before Christmas, my brother took a bad fall, hit the floor hard and couldn’t get up.
Joe lives alone, having lost his wife to cancer years ago. Totally blind and severely impaired by cerebral palsy, he wasn’t sure how badly he was hurt. So he tried to stand, and fell again. [Read more…]

“Food for the Soul,” Dec. 26, 2018

(NOTE: I’m taking off this week for the holidays. I hope you take some time off, too! The following is a “replacement” column. It first ran Dec. 20, 2011.)

Did somebody say eat? All I have to do is mention food in a column and I will hear from enough readers to polish off an all-you-can-eat buffet. They’re kind enough to say they like my column, but what they really want is a recipe. [Read more…]

“Christmas Perfection,” Dec. 17, 2018

My mother often told me to be careful what I wished for.

“What you want,” she said, “isn’t always what you need.”

I thought of those words as I watched a stream of water roll across my living room floor.

This is a Christmas story. I’ll start at the beginning. [Read more…]