“The Best Movie I Never Saw,” Nov. 24, 2015

My husband and I love going to movies. He took me to one on our first real date 15 years ago. For some reason, I don’t recall much about that movie. Possibly I was distracted by the fact that a man who’d been my editor and “just a friend” was suddenly, of all things, holding my hand.

He still holds my hand in movies. Other times, too. But not in the last movie we saw. Somebody was sitting between us. Talk about distracting. [Read more…]

“A Season of Thanks … and Change,” Nov. 17, 2015

Holiday traditions are like the people who keep them. Over time, they change. They aren’t perfect, nor do they need to be. They simply reflect who we are.

Every year in November, I try to remember all the countless details of doing Thanksgiving dinner for a big, growing crowd of family and friends. I’ve done it so many times it should be second nature. But I always seem to forget a few little things like the number of guests, their favorite dishes and exactly which end of the turkey am I supposed to stuff? [Read more…]

“The Everlasting Power of Kindness,” Nov. 10, 2015

The phone message was brief. Martha, my friend since we were little girls, would have preferred to speak with me personally, but I’m not always easy to reach.

She had called to tell me that her mother _ a woman I adored, who had suffered for years from dementia _ had passed away painlessly and at peace.

The news, if not unexpected, was surprising, as it often is when someone is so full of life you thought they’d live forever, and then they prove you wrong. [Read more…]

“Stories of a Friendship,” column for Nov. 3, 2015

Do you have a friend you’ve known and loved for more years than either of you care to count?

I hope so. Say her name, picture her face, recall the sound of her laughter, the color of her eyes, the way she makes you feel. When was the last time you spent an hour together? How would you describe the kind of person she is? What sort of difference has she made in your life and those of others? How do you want to remember her?

If you could tell just one story about your friendship, from all the countless memories you’ve shared over the years, which one would you choose? [Read more…]

“The Blame Game,” column for Oct. 27, 2015

Things happen for a reason. Sometimes it’s your fault. Other times, it’s mine. OK, usually, it’s mine. But often, the real reason is no reason at all.

As a child, whenever I broke something _ a dish, a rule, or maybe my brother’s leg _ I would instantly yell, “Accident! Accident! I’m sorry!” It was my only hope to assert my innocence and avoid bodily harm or maybe death.

It never worked. In my mother’s world, nothing was accidental. She blamed me, my brothers, our stepfather, her mother or God and all His angels. But she never blamed herself. At least not outwardly. Inwardly, she always had a knock-down, drag-out fight going on, so guilt must have thrown a few punches. I’ll never know for sure. Mothers and daughters spend a lifetime trying to figure each other out. In the end, we just roll our eyes and say, oh, well, I love you. [Read more…]

“A Fitting Costume for Halloween,” column for Oct. 20, 2015

Halloween is not my favorite holiday. But I like watching big people pretend to be little and little people pretend to be big.

I also like the candy. I buy it in bulk for trick-or-treaters. We never get trick-or-treaters, so I eat it myself. Except what my husband eats, which is plenty.

I especially like not spending hours decorating or shopping for gifts or cooking, unless you count buying candy, which I do.

OK, maybe Halloween is my favorite holiday. But I never liked it when I was a child.

I’ve told some of this story before. If it sounds familiar, bear with me. I promise a different ending. [Read more…]

“Turtles and Fish and Geese and Family,” column for Oct. 13, 2015

It’s almost midnight. The turtles that sunned themselves this morning, lined up like helmets on a dead tree branch, are nowhere to be seen.

The schools of crappie that darted all afternoon for chunks of bread that my husband tossed in the water are sleeping in the deep, exhausted, no doubt.

The flock of geese that swam up to check us out, then swam away honking as if laughing at how we looked, have flown over to the far side of the lake.

And “Jaws,” a giant catfish that circled the dock opening its mouth like a whiskered baseball glove, is doing whatever catfish do when the lake they call home goes to bed for the night. [Read more…]

“Once Upon a Soggy Time,” column for Oct. 6, 2015

This story began 15 years ago in California, when a reader of my column wrote to say: “You need to go to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn. And if you can’t find a place to stay, my mother will put you up.”

I’d never heard of the festival, but she was right. I needed to go. It was all about storytelling, a magical power I’d been immersed in from birth and believed in with all my heart. It took place just over the mountains from the Carolinas, where I grew up, and would give me a chance to visit my family.

Most of all, it sounded like fun. So I went. [Read more…]

“Bless Me, Father, for I Am Home,” column for Sept. 29, 2015

Watching the news of Pope Francis’ visit to New York, I smiled, recalling my own recent visit to Winston-Salem, N.C.

The Pope might’ve had a bigger turnout. But I could almost swear that I got more hugs. Don’t tell him I said that. I’d hate for him to feel slighted. [Read more…]

“Getting Over it,” column for Sept. 22, 2015

In every marriage, there comes a test _ a battle of wills, an ultimate impasse that will end with one question: Are we going to get over this, or not?

For some couples, the test happens several times a day. They clash so often they find themselves longing to live in a state where “The fool needed killing” is justifiable homicide. [Read more…]