“Name Calling, Jan. 16, 2018

If you could choose your own name, what would it be? Have you ever had a nickname that followed you through life, nipping at your heels like a dog with the mange?

I’ve had several. Some were more tolerable than others. [Read more…]

“The Company of Women,” Jan. 9, 2018

Once, I heard my grandmother say something odd. Odder than her usual. We’d had Sunday dinner at her house. Most of her nine daughters were there with their husbands and children.

The men sat on the porch smoking and joking. The children ran wild in the yard. And the women huddled in the kitchen, cooking, gossiping, stirring pots and baring souls.

After we ate, the men went back to the porch, the children went back to running and the women cleaned up the mess. When it was time to go, my mother said I could stay the night. So my grandmother and I waved as the cars drove away, until they were all gone.

That’s when she said it. [Read more…]

“New Year’s Resolutions,” Jan. 2, 2018

I wanted to make a New Year’s resolution. It’s a new year and that’s what we do, right? So what would it be? Exercise? Lose weight? Eat more veggies and less chocolate?

Those are fine goals. I’ve made them all in the past and broken every one of them by February. So this year I decided to raise the bar a bit for an even greater challenge. For 2018, I resolved (drum roll, please) to worry less. [Read more…]

“A Recipe to Remember,” Dec. 26, 2017

     Few moments in life are as rich in meaning and memories as the simple act of sharing a meal with someone we love. Even if we share it from afar.

     Here’s a confession: I am not the world’s best cook. I’m not proud of it, but there it is. I never stirred a pot before I was married. I’ve stirred plenty since and gotten better at it  over the years. But growing up, the kitchen and meals that came from it were mysteries to me.

[Read more…]

“A Christmas/New Year’s Story,” Dec. 19, 2017

In some ways, this is an old story. I’ve told parts of it before. But most of it is new and all of it is true. I hope it is true for you.

The December I was 9, my stepdad was drinking more than his usual and he and my mother were either shouting or silent as the dead. My sister, at 14, had moved out to live with friends. And my two younger brothers, with a bad case of croup, barked like dogs day and night.

I was looking forward to two things: Getting a Tiny Tears for Christmas; and after Christmas, spending a week with my dad and his mother on their farm. [Read more…]

“The Christmas Letter,” Dec. 12, 2017

There was a time in my life when I sent Christmas cards. Real ones, signed and addressed by my own hand and stamped with a genuine U.S. postal stamp. Looking back on it, it seems like a long time ago.

Every year, in November, I’d choose a card with a scene that, for me, conveyed clearly the meaning of Christmas. Then I’d order it in bulk, depending on how many I wanted to send.

I wanted to send lots. More every year. While I waited for the cards to arrive, I’d compose a letter to enclose. It would be very clever, or so I thought, bringing anyone who might be interested (or not) up to date on my life and those of my children, our latest challenges and accomplishments and such.

If I focused a bit more on achievements than on set backs, what can I say? I’m a mother. [Read more…]

“Waiting for the Gift of Christmas,” Dec. 5, 2017

Tomorrow or the next day, I will decorate for Christmas. Yes, time is ticking. Isn’t it always? I’m not worried. Christmas will happen at my house. All the things I need or want to do will either get done or they won’t. And it will still be Christmas.

Pretty soon I’ll wade hipdeep into shopping and baking and decorating. But not today. Today, my husband and I are still recovering from a 12-hour drive from California, where we visited family, to our home in Las Vegas, where we can sleep, hallelujah, in our own bed. [Read more…]

“Falling in and out of Love,” Nov. 28, 2017

I don’t know how it started. I was busy in the kitchen when the fight broke out. It wasn’t a real fight, just a disagreement. One minute, they were fine, happy and laughing.

Then somehow, feelings got hurt. Tempers flared. And one of them went storming out to the patio to sit alone, looking sad. [Read more…]

“The Magic Words,” Nov. 21, 2017

Henry is 6, totally engrossed in building some kind of Lego magnificence. But he stops flat-out and whips his head around to focus, body and soul, on me.

Why? I just whispered in his ear the Magic Words.

What are the Magic Words? They are a long-kept, closely guarded family secret that I share only with family, friends and anybody who asks.

OK, I’ll tell you. But first, I want to talk about the holidays. [Read more…]

“Thanksgiving 2017,” Nov. 14, 2017

Say thank you. That’s the first command I drilled into my children. They’d comply in their baby-speak with something that sounded a bit like “thank you.”

Other commands met with less success: Get off that roof. Stop hitting your brother. Do not put the dog in the dryer. Be home by midnight, or else.

If you’re a parent, much of what you say to your children seems to fall on deaf ears. Then one day your kids grow up and you hear them repeat those same things to your grandkids. [Read more…]