“The Healing Magic of Stories,” column for March 24, 2015

Children are like sponges soaking up drops all around them, especially the drops you’d rather they not touch. But they are also excellent teachers.

My brother, blind from birth, taught me how to see the world, not just with my eyes, but with all my senses. He taught me other things, too, like how to be pig-headed and never confuse pickles with jalapeno peppers. [Read more…]

“My ‘Best’ Friend Mae,” column for March 17, 2015

Memorial services are not my idea of a good time. But a life well lived is cause to celebrate.

Mae Carol Johnson grew up in the 1930s in Columbus, Ga., a beloved child of the segregated South with three strikes against her odds for a brighter future: She was poor, black and female. [Read more…]

“The Kindnesses of Strangers,” column for March 10, 2015

My P.O. box for reader mail held a card telling me to call at the window. Never a good sign. I’d been away for a month. I expected a lot of mail. Then the clerk at the window raised his eyebrows and handed me not one, but two, very full boxes.

[Read more…]

“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…]