“Fred’s Big Party,” column for April 26, 2016

On the occasion of his 75th birthday, my friend Fred threw a party. A real wingding.

I wish you could’ve been there.

There was all the usual party fare _ food, drink, birthday cake, and for once, thank you, enough chairs to go around. (People of a certain age don’t take standing up lying down.)

There was also real music by a real live band. And a special guest who came all the way from Vegas to Monterey, Calif., to sing at the party just because she adores Fred. Who doesn’t? [Read more…]

“The Nana Quiz,” column for April 19, 2016


I don’t know how she did it.

My mother’s mother gave birth to 12 children, all before her 35th birthday. Two died in childhood. The remaining 10 _ one timid boy and nine headstrong girls _ gave her 23 hog-wild grandchildren.  I’m pretty sure she never really knew all our names. No matter. We answered to anything she called us. [Read more…]

“My Brother’s Birthday,” column for April 12, 2016

On his birthday, I called my brother to say I am glad he was born, and to inform him that he is now older than I am.

“Sister,” Joe said, “I’ll keep having birthdays. And you’ll always be four years older.”

He is smart, my brother. Not easily fooled. He sees things that a lot of us tend to overlook. He was 6 months old the day my mother told me he was blind.

“He can’t be blind,” I said. “He laughs at my face.”

“He laughs at your voice,” she said. “He’ll never see your face.” [Read more…]

“My Favorite Kind of Vacation,” column for April 5, 2016

Where would you go if you could go anywhere?

A woman asked me that recently on a flight from California to Las Vegas. I’d told her my husband was meeting me at the airport, and she asked, “What does he do?”

“Not much,” I said, laughing. “He’s retired. We watch sunsets. He plays his bass. We have an awfully good time.”

She smiled. “I wish I could retire,” she said. “I’d travel.”

“Where would you go?”

“Anywhere but work,” she said. “What about you?” [Read more…]

“Sisters,” column for March 29, 2016

Talking with a sister is like talking with no one else. You don’t have to do what she tells you to do. You just need to care enough to hear her out.

My mother had eight sisters, all different personalities. They loved each other fiercely, fought like cats and dogs and always had each other’s backs. [Read more…]

“How to See the World,” column for March 22, 2016

Children know things their elders forget: How to be happy. How to have fun. How not to care if you get sand in your shorts. How to see the world with all its wonders as if for the very first and very last time.

I’m sitting by a window in a borrowed house on a hill above Monterey Bay, watching tourists stop to take photos. Luckily, they aren’t taking photos of me. They’re taking photos of the coast. Or maybe photos of themselves at the coast to post on Facebook. [Read more…]

“Mug Shots of Motherhood,” column for March 15, 2016

The photos look a little washed out. I never noticed it before. When did they start to fade? Maybe it was about the time I first noticed my mother’s hands sticking out of my sleeves. Time takes a toll on things like photos and mothers and hands.

Years ago, shortly before my children and I lost their dad to cancer, my daughter gave me a gift for Mother’s Day. Like her, it was a keeper. I had often joked, if not so jokingly, that in years to come she and her brothers would never know they had a mother. [Read more…]

“The Promise of Spring,” March 8, 3015

I took a walk around my yard looking for signs of spring. It’s a small yard, but it surprises me.

Sure enough, the lavender under the window was tinged with tiny purple flowers. The succulents by the pool were sending up bright orange spikes. And the vine that climbs a wall around the front porch was draped with fat red blooms.

We live in the desert on a hill overlooking Las Vegas. Spring in the desert is somewhat softer spoken, less showy than in some places. But it is spring none the less. And I’m hungry for it.

I suspect you might be, too. [Read more…]

“A Space of our Own,” column for March 1, 2016

Today I stood in a room about the size of outhouse, trying to decide by what miracle I might turn it into an office. Wait. I’ll start at the start. Long ago, when I was 7, I had a revelation. It was simple: I liked to be with people. Some more than others. But at times, I just wanted to be alone. [Read more…]

“Rules for a Happy Birthday,” column for Feb. 23, 2016

Who gets to make the rules for birthdays? And why has no one ever told me what they are?

Birthdays are like the people who have them: No two are the same. Each of us ought to get to make our own rules for how to celebrate another year of life.

That’s what I told my mother and my grandmother the day I turned 7, and came home from school to announce I’d invited my whole class to a party. They squinched up their eyes as if I’d said Jesus was coming back to take me to heaven and leaving both of them behind. [Read more…]