“Me and a Nasty Little Man Named Arthur,” column for March 3, 2015

It was not part of the plan. Or, at least, not my plan. I guess you could just call it life.

One morning, after returning from four weeks in California (where I’d welcomed a new grandbaby and tried to help by riding herd on her two older brothers), I stepped out of bed and put my feet on the floor.
Suddenly, for no reason, a mean little man with a nasty evil grin jumped out from under the bed and stabbed a rusty ice pick through the top of my left foot. [Read more…]

“Follow Your Heart”

A covey of quail skitters across the lawn, spooked by my arrival. Or maybe my lack of makeup. A dozen finches wait turns at the feeder, chattering like tourists in a buffet line. A breeze rustles the palm fronds and sunlight streams through silver clouds to shine like beacons on the desert.

I wish you could see it.

On a spring-like day in the dead of winter, I’m sitting on my patio feeling lucky. I’ll tell you why, after a bit of background. [Read more…]

“In the Big Pool of Love and Life,” column for Feb. 17, 2015

At the shallow end of an indoor Olympic-size pool at the Sports Center in Monterey, Calif., he waits for a signal from the instructor to join the class.

“Come on in, Randy,” she calls, and he wades right in, grinning and unafraid, a 4-year-old Neptune splashing boldly into his watery kingdom.

And suddenly the room grows brighter. Randy is my grandson. He shines like the sun. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. [Read more…]

“Sitting Down on the Job,” column for Feb. 10, 2015

Long ago, in the mountains where I grew up, women sat down to watch over their grandchildren. My mother’s mother bore 12 babies. Ten survived to adulthood, one timid boy and nine headstrong girls.

When her children grew up to have children of their own, she took a ringside seat to watch her grandchildren pull the same death-defying stunts our parents had pulled. [Read more…]

“For Eleanor, the New Girl on the Family Block,” column for Feb. 3, 2015

This is for my newborn granddaughter.

Dear Eleanor,

It’s late. You are in your crib, bundled up like a pink burrito, in a room next to your mom and dad, who fell into bed a bit ago, limp as overcooked noodles.

Your dogs are in their crate. Your cats are in their beds. Your brothers are in their bunks. All is right with the world. Everyone is sleeping, except me. I’m awake thinking of you. [Read more…]

“The Power of Small Things,” column for Jan. 27, 2015

Small things can make a big difference. When a baby enters a family, for example, life changes for everyone _ parents, siblings, family pets _ even for the nana.

For the past half hour I’ve been sitting on a bean bag playing “prison guard.” To my right, the room is filled with delights: Cars, trucks, trains, books and billions of Legos.

To my left is a different kind of delight: Bunkbeds holding two small prisoners. [Read more…]

“Love Will Lift You,” column for Jan. 20, 2015

From the start, I sensed something special about him. I didn’t know he was blind and suffered cerebral palsy. Born premature, my brother spent his first months in an incubator. I was 4 years old, clueless about babies.

“What is that?” I said the day he finally came home.

“That’s your brother,” said my mother. “Call him Joe.” [Read more…]

“Waiting on Nana Call,” column for Jan. 13, 2015

Nana duty is not for sissies. It requires you to do things you once did as a mother: Feeding, tending and cleaning up after little people who seem to think they own your soul simply because, for some reason, you love them more than life.

But here’s the big difference. As a mother, you were young. As a nana, you are not.

You can tell yourself you’re still young at heart, but you cannot fool your body.  [Read more…]

“A Thank You Note to Start the Year,” column for Jan. 6, 2014

Some people are good at saying thank you. My daughter and daughter-in-law and my husband’s niece, for example. They’re the kind of people who make you feel bad about giving them a gift because you know they’ll insist on taking time out of their very full lives to write you a lovely note of thanks.

Not that saying thank you isn’t important. Of course it is. That’s why it’s one of the first things we teach our children, long before they learn to write. [Read more…]

“Scenes of our Lives,” column for Dec. 31, 2014

We’ve watched a lot of movies together, he and I. You might say it’s one of our traditions. The first film I took him to see was “The Godfather.” He was 4 months old. I figured if he got fussy, I’d either nurse him to sleep or make his dad take him outside until the credits rolled. I needn’t have worried. The boy was a born movie buff. He slept through the whole thing.

From there we progressed through “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Chariots of Fire,” “E.T.” and, OK, I’ll admit it, “Silence of the Lambs.” By then he was old enough to go to movies on his own, but didn’t mind being seen with his mom. [Read more…]