“Thank a Teacher,” column for May 24, 2016

It’s that time again. Another school year is ending. Students will say goodbye to a chapter of their lives. Teachers will breathe a sigh of relief. And parents will mourn the passage of another milestone, and pray for strength to survive until the kids go back to school.

My end-of-school tradition (like counting my blessings at Thanksgiving or stealing peeps from my kids’ baskets at Easter) is to say “thank you” to teachers _ to all teachers everywhere, but to some more than others. I start by making a mental list of my favorites _ mine and my children’s and grandchildren’s. [Read more…]

“A ‘False’ Start to Summer,” column for May 17, 2016

Summer is still weeks away, but it started early for me with three big surprises. We were just waking up when my husband looked outside and froze.

“Chicks!” he whispered.

It was our first quail hatch of the year. I wish you could’ve seen them. There were six, each about the size of my thumb, pecking at seeds fallen from the feeder, while their parents fussed and clucked and crowed.

Apparently, like their human counterparts, quail chicks are born to teach their parents that control is a flat-out illusion. [Read more…]

“What I Did Not Do on Mother’s Day,” column for May 10, 2016

I forget things. Appointments. Birthdays. Names of people I’ve just met. Names of people I’ve known forever. Where I left my keys. Or my car. Or the glasses I can’t find because they’re on top of my head.

But this was a first. On Mother’s Day, I forgot my mother. Or rather, I forgot to do what I meant to do to honor her memory. Top that. I dare you. [Read more…]

“The 11-Year Itch,” column for May 3, 2016

Sometimes I get restless. When that happens _ OK, I’ll just say it _ I tend to do things that later make me think, “What exactly was I thinking?”

I’m not proud of it, but there it is. Don’t try to tell me you never do anything you shouldn’t do.

My husband, God bless him, knows how I am, loves me anyhow and tries to avoid leaving me alone. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. Lately, since he retired from his day job as a newspaper editor, he’s been spending more time on his night job as a bass player in a rock ‘n’ roll band. [Read more…]

“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…]