“My Helpful Hero,” Jan. 10, 2017

There he is, my hero. In front of the TV. Headphones on his head. Controller in his hands. As bug-eyed as a chihuahua at a fireworks extravaganza. And fighting for his life in an Xbox game called “Minecraft.”

I wish you could see him. [Read more…]

“Nana Camp,” Jan. 3, 2017

Once in a great while, an idea comes along like a bolt of lightning out of the blue, dazzling you with its brilliance and making you want to shout it from the rooftops.

This idea is not that good. Not even close. But it’s not bad. It may never change the world, but it could make it more fun. [Read more…]

“A Clean Slate,” Dec. 27, 2016

Every year, in some quiet moment between Christmas and New Year’s, I reach into my heart and pull out a memory.

The summer I was 7, my mother and stepfather decided we needed a fresh start. So we left the town where I had walked wherever I pleased (to school or church or my grandmother’s house) and moved miles away to a house in the middle of a cow pasture, or as my grandmother said, in the middle of nowhere.

Talk about lonely. Have you ever tried having a civilized conversation with a herd of sullen-faced cows? [Read more…]

“My Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” from Dec. 2002

(Note:  This column is from Dec. 2002. I’m taking this week off to spend time with my family. Merry Christmas and happy New Year to you and yours!)

Once upon a time, when I was very young, with a lot more energy and less experience than I have now, I volunteered to direct the Christmas pageant at church.

“You did what?” said my husband, as if I’d said I was moonlighting for the Pentagon splitting atoms in the blender.

“It’s a kids’ play,” I shrugged. “How hard can it be? All you need is a manger, a few tacky costumes and a bunch of kids.”

“Including our three?” he said.

“OK, I see your point,” I said. “It might take some work. But you don’t have to do anything. The kids promised to help.”

“Sure,” he said, dumping Alpo in the dog’s bowl, “like they promised to feed the dog.” [Read more…]

“My Favorite Christmas Treat,” Dec. 13, 2016

What’s your favorite Christmas treat? Close your eyes and think of it _ one taste that says to you, “Merry Christmas!”

Gingerbread? Eggnog? Sugar cookies? I bet it’s not fruitcake. I’d love to hear your answer.  [Read more…]

“My Favorite Christmas Tree,” Dec. 6, 2016

What was your favorite Christmas tree? I’ve had lots. Some I liked more than others.

My parents split up when I was 3. That Christmas Eve, my mother put me to bed and said, “Stay.” When I heard a knock at the door, I crept out, hoping to see Santa. Instead, there stood my dad, holding a bag and a bush.

“Brought you a tree,” he said, showing the bush to my mother.

“Got one,” she said, nodding at a fir we had decorated earlier.

“Well, now you got two.” [Read more…]

“When Life Gets Out of Hand,” Nov. 29, 2016

Sometimes things get out of hand. A little. Or a lot.

Does that ever happen to you? What’s the thing you need to do or it just won’t get done? Yard work? Laundry? Paying bills?

For me, it’s mostly the mail. [Read more…]

“Cell Phone Civility,” Nov. 22, 2016

Say what you will about cell phone addiction. It’s not my problem. But I will admit, if my phone rings, I grab it.

Imagine we’re sitting, just the two of us, engaged in polite conversation, when suddenly you burst into flame. I would do my best to put you out. But if, in the process, my phone rings? I might be tempted to pick it up. [Read more…]

“A Telling Moment for T-Day,” Nov. 15, 2016

Every year, when I start my shopping list for Thanksgiving, the same image comes to mind. Maybe you know it. It’s that classic Norman Rockwell illustration of a family sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner.

Rockwell was brilliant at capturing the one “telling moment” to convey a common experience. In “Freedom from Want,” it’s the moment when the turkey (perfectly roasted to a golden brown) is presented by the hostess (perfectly poised in a spotless apron) at a table surrounded by smiling guests.

I love that image. Not because it looks like my Thanksgivings. Not even close. But it feels the same _ happy and thankful, the way Thanksgiving ought to feel. [Read more…]

“Celebrate Life,” Nov. 8, 2016

On a glorious fall day in Bridgeport, West Virginia, I stood before an audience of cancer survivors and thought, “What can I possibly tell them that they don’t already know?”

The event was a “Celebration of Life,” hosted by United Hospital Center in Bridgeport, to honor oncology patients and remind them they’re not alone.

I had no degrees, no expertise to offer. But I have raised three children and buried my share of loved ones. I lost my mother, my stepfather and my first husband all to cancer. I’ve been a daughter, sister, wife, widow, mother, grandmother and student of life. I’ve learned a few things along the way. So I told them my story, hoping it might somehow be their story, too. Here is part of what I said. [Read more…]