“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…]

“A Small Moment to Remember,” column for Sept. 15, 2015

Sitting on a bench in front of the school, I closed my eyes, felt the sun on my face and listened.
Children laughing. Parents talking. Cars passing. Crows cawing. A perfect soundtrack for a postcard perfect day.

The crowd was growing, waiting to pick up children. Most of the waiters were rookies, kindergarten parents with toddlers in tow.

Not me. I was a veteran. My three children had all gone to that school. If the PTA gave an award for the most hours spent waiting out in front, I might not win, but I’d be a contender. [Read more…]

“Through the Eyes of Gratitude,” column for Sept. 8, 2015

On the opening day of Clemson’s football season, I woke early, thinking about my brother and pondering one of life’s more baffling questions: What’s the big deal with some people and college football?

I mean, seriously. Have you ever noticed how giddy some fans get when it’s time for the start of another season? If you didn’t know better, you might think they’d just found a cure for every disease under the sun and gotten a deal for free cable TV. I’m just saying. [Read more…]

“A Taste of Summer Seasoned with Love,” column for Sept. 1, 2015

Summer is slipping like beach sand through my fingers and I find myself thinking of summers in my childhood, thunderstorms and lightning bugs and sunsets that linger like the smile on the face of someone you love. But most of all, the food. [Read more…]

“And so the Story Goes On,” column for Aug. 25, 2015

When someone walks into your life, a story begins. Pay attention. Who knows where it will go or how it will end?

I was a transplanted Southerner trying to take root in California, married only six months when my new husband got his first job teaching and coaching at Monterey High.

It would take almost 10 years for him to move from basic math courses and lower-division sports to teaching physics and coaching varsity basketball. But he was never in a hurry, never in a rush to do anything, really, but his best. All that mattered, he said, was not the status of a job, but how well and how diligently he performed it. [Read more…]

“A Prayer for the First (and Every) Day of School,” column for Aug. 18, 2015

When my phone rang, I lit up like Christmas.

“Hey, school boy!” I said, “How was your first day of school?”

“You don’t have to call me ‘school boy’ any more, Nana,” Randy said. “I already went.”

“So you’re done forever?”

“No,” he said, “just for today!”

Did I mention he is brilliant? He’s barely 5 years old, and already he’s learned to take life one day at a time. Some of us take years to learn that lesson. Lots of us never learn it at all. [Read more…]

“Shining a Light in the Darkness of Fear,” column for Aug. 11, 2015

Few things are both as beautiful and terrifying as the flash of lightning and the roll of thunder.

I’m sitting at a window on a hillside overlooking Monterey Bay, watching a storm light up the night sky bright as day.

I wish you could see it. [Read more…]

“Farewell to a Trusted Old Friend,” column for Aug. 4, 2015

It was the only car I ever picked out and paid for on my own. I bought it not long after losing my first husband to cancer. There was nothing wrong with our old car. It just hauled too many memories.

So I bought a brand new 1999 Nissan Pathfinder.

I wish you could’ve seen it.

I mean, when it was new, before all the nicks, dings, dents and scratches it collected over the years. I’ve collected my share of those, too. [Read more…]