“Pony Boys,” column for Aug. 26, 2014

I’ve got a bruise on my arm from an attack by a woolly mammoth. It came running out of nowhere and stabbed me with its tusks. There’s a scrape on my shin from an emergency rescue mission and a bump on my head from the collapse of a cave.

But I am not complaining. Being a nana is an adventure. It’s not for sissies or whiners. [Read more...]

“A Monkey on the Family’s Back,” column for Aug. 19, 2014

My sister and I don’t see each other often. She lives in South Carolina, in a town where we grew up in a big, crazy family, not much crazier than most. I live in Las Vegas, a place our mother, rest her soul, would have called “Las Vegas of all places.”

It’s a long way from Landrum, S.C., to Las Vegas of All Places. In more ways than just miles. [Read more...]

“Ten Fun/Interesting Facts about…Who?” column for Aug. 12, 2014

I get a lot of odd requests. This was the first of its kind.

In September, I’m to speak in several places in Indiana, including an elementary school in a small town called Hope. Usually, I speak to grownups, not children. Grownups are less demanding. If you bore them, they may heckle you or start to snore. But they’re not likely to start pinching each other.

[Read more...]

“Life in the Not-So-Fast Lane,” column for Aug. 5, 2014

My mother used to say things just to make me mad. Like most teenagers, I thought I knew everything. And what I didn’t know, I didn’t want to be told.

She didn’t care. She was a grown woman, twice my age, highly educated in the school of hard knocks, and apparently felt it her appointed duty to make my blood boil on occasion like cold water in hot grease. [Read more...]

“Life Is for the Living,” column for July 29, 2014

No one looks forward to going to a memorial service, let alone, two in one weekend. But my husband and I didn’t want to miss either of these.

The first was for a long time family friend. For 50 years or so, Dave and his wife shared their lives with my husband’s parents. As couples, they raised their children together, traveled the world and watched their grandchildren grow up. I’d heard countless stories of the memories that made the two families seem as one. Blood, they say, is thicker than water. But friendship can be the life raft that keeps us afloat. [Read more...]

“Why a ‘Liar’ Loves to Get Mail,” column for July 22, 2014

For a writer, it’s a gift to know someone reads your writing. For a storyteller, it’s high praise to hear a story in return. Have I mentioned I love getting mail?

In the mountains where I grew up, storytellers were once known as “liars.” This was not an insult. The tales they told were often more fabricated than factual. But they were entirely true of the human condition, intended not to inform, but to entertain, enlighten and inspire. [Read more...]

“A Garden for the Heart,” column for July 15, 2014

My grandmother was a master gardener. She grew dahlias and chrysanthemums, sweet peas and hydrangeas, tomatoes and corn, green beans and squash, sustenance for body and soul.

She could make anything bloom. Even me. [Read more...]

“Friends for Life … or Whatever,” column for July 8, 2014

We were young then, with our whole lives before us, starry-eyed blind to all that lay ahead.

I went running up the steps of the church _ late, yes, to my own wedding _ when I spotted them out of the corner of my eye hurrying along beside me. I’d never seen them before, but knew them well. Brushing back a makeshift veil that kept flopping in my face, I said, “You must be Ginnie and Gary. I’m so glad to finally meet you!” [Read more...]

“Fireworks All Year Round,” column for July 1, 2014

Birthday celebrations are not always sparkling affairs.

The day I turned 6, I raised my hand to announce to my fellow first-graders: “You are all invited to my grandmother’s house today at 4 o’clock to celebrate my birthday. She lives down the road from Smith’s Grocery. You can bring a present if you want, or not.”

Then I ran home after school to tell my grandmother. [Read more...]

“Stories Keep Us Connected,” column for June 24, 2014

They grew up on opposite coasts, have never met and most likely never will. But they share something in common (aside from the fact that they’re both 18, seriously good-looking and recently graduated from high school) that I hope they’ll remember:

It’s simple. They are much loved by an aunt and uncle who weren’t often present in their lives but delighted in watching them grow up from afar. [Read more...]