“Happy Big Birthday to Me … and You!” Feb. 19, 2018

I’m writing this on the eve of a pretty big birthday. Never mind how big. It’s my biggest so far. To celebrate, I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned, decade by decade. Here goes:

In my first 10 years, I learned to walk, talk, feed myself, read, write, do arithmetic, mind my manners (if not my business) and try to do as I was told. I learned to love sunsets and biscuits and the company of a good dog; how to run like the wind, laugh in my belly and keep my chin up, rain or shine. I learned that the world isn’t always safe or fair, but it is new every day; that there are things you can trust and things you can’t, and you need to trust yourself to know the difference. [Read more…]

“An Old Love that Lasts,” Feb. 12, 2018

This is a love story. Even if you read it after Valentine’s Day. It’s never too late for love.

Did you grow up wanting to be loved? Most of us do. But some of us want it more than others.

I was one of the wanters. Early on, I learned to watch faces to see what they thought of me. Did they light up when they saw me, or look away? Did the corners of their mouths turn up or down? Did they seem happy to be with me or bored? [Read more…]

“Playing to Win,” Feb. 6, 2018

For the past hour, my husband has been sitting in our spare room, squinting at a big screen TV and speaking urgently into a headset, as if his life, and maybe mine, depended on it.
Picture Tom Hanks in “Apollo 13” reporting to mission control, “Houston, we have a problem.”

[Read more…]

“Speaking of Love,” Jan. 29, 2018

Here’s a little mystery I can’t figure out: Why are we quick to say things we’ll wish we could take back, and slow to say what we’ll wish we had said sooner, before it was too late?

What if, instead, we were slow to speak in haste, and quick to speak in love? What difference might that make to our lives and our loved ones and our world? [Read more…]

“Stolen Hearts,” Jan. 22, 2018

Her name was Maria. She didn’t think she was pretty. But if you saw the light in her eyes, that flash of brilliance and wit and pain, you would know she was beautiful, inside and out.

I was 21, a college dropout, new to California, and recently married. My husband taught high school physics. My dream job was easier, or so I imagined: I wanted to have babies and watch them grow up.

No one had informed me that child-rearing is the least easy job God ever created. But even if I knew that, I’d have still wanted it. The things we do for love. [Read more…]

“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…]