“Crazy Things We Do for Love,” Aug. 14, 2018

Have you ever done something that was so hare-brained crazy you feared, if anyone found out, you’d never hear the end of it? Readers often tell me stories I won’t repeat without permission though they know, when they tell me, what I do for a living.

Sharing a story with a columnist is like asking a monkey to hold your banana. The monkey might like you, but bananas are hard to resist.

I asked permission to tell you this story. Luckily, the woman who told it to me said yes. I won’t tell you her real name or where she’s from. It doesn’t matter. She could be any one of us. Let’s just call her “Pat.” [Read more…]

“Back to School,” Aug. 6, 2018

Do you remember your first day of school? Did you think your life was over, or that it had only just begun?

I recall my first day of second grade. We had recently moved and I started a new school. I walked into a classroom of kids, all clucking like chickens with a fox in their henhouse, waiting for a teacher to show up and shoot the fox. I took a seat, put my head down and got to work. Then a girl came over and sat on my desk, covering my paper. [Read more…]

“Hope for a Corner of the World,” July 30, 2018

Hope sometimes comes to us in unexpected ways, often from the hands of a child. A month ago, after 12 years in Las Vegas, my husband and I moved back to California, to be closer to our growing family. We are slowly resettling in the house where my children grew up. But recently, I flew back to Vegas, to take care of a few loose ends.

When I left Monterey, it was 68 degrees; when I landed in Vegas, my rental car claimed it was 118. I believed it. I spent the week running from AC to AC. Finally, when I had tied up most of the loose ends, I headed back to the airport.  Waiting to board the flight to Monterey, I checked the news for the latest on the California wildfires. It wasn’t good. And it was getting worse. [Read more…]

“Pillow Talk,” July 23, 2018

I changed the sheets in the guest room, hung clean towels in the bathrooms and fluffed all the pillows on the sofas.

I placed fresh flowers — sprigs of blue lavender, red and yellow dahlias and big smiley faces of sunflowers — on the table in the dining room, the window sill in the kitchen and a few other places in need of brightening.

My husband and I each made trips to the market and bought enough food to feed a small, starving army: Salmon and sirloin and chips and dips and fruits and veggies to add to a load of zucchini and tomatoes from my sister-in-law’s garden. We spent an hour just trying to fit it all in the fridge. [Read more…]

“The Final Stage of Maturity,” July 16, 2018

A nonscientific study of the adult years of maturation reveals three key stages:

1. Finding one’s identity.

2. Finding one’s purpose.

3. Finding one’s lost keys.

The first two stages can be challenging at best. The third (which also includes finding such things as eye glasses, cell phones, coffee cups, purses, TV remotes, and God forbid, the place where you last parked your car) can seem like a never ending nightmare. [Read more…]

“Lipstick Traces on a Lifetime,” July 9, 2018

When my mother left this world, she took the answers to questions I wish I could ask her.

I remember as a little girl watching her dab red lipstick on her mouth, and seeing the traces it left on her cigarettes.

She had thick, dark hair and high, wide cheekbones like her Cherokee great-grandmother. She didn’t need lipstick to be a beauty. But with it? Oh my.

Lipstick made her more beautiful than the azaleas that bloomed in the woods. Or the hummingbird that buzzed by my head. Or the rainbows the creek spit spilling over the waterfall. [Read more…]

“Finding Peace,” July 2, 2018

If you have traveled for long on this rocky road called life, you might’ve noticed that it is a beautiful and baffling blend of conflict and peace.

It’s not just one or the other. It’s both. To experience both conflict and peace, and embrace them as gracefully and honestly as we can, is what it means, I believe, to be truly alive.

Almost 30 years ago, I was a feature writer for a newspaper when my editor called me into his office and said he wanted me to start writing a column. [Read more…]

“Summer Memories,” June 25, 2018

What are your favorite summer memories? I have lots. One happened just yesterday. I’ll tell you about it. But first, here are some other favorites.

When I was 8, we lived in a house surrounded by pastures and orchards. I spent summer days roaming alone, crawling under barbed wire fences, eating peaches and dodging cows.

Then a dog showed up, a shepherd sent from Heaven. I fed him scraps and called him “Rin,” short for “Rin Tin Tin.” Wherever I went, Rin followed. And I wasn’t alone any more. [Read more…]

“Bone Love,” June 18, 2018

I had a dog once. His name was Tuffy. I didn’t name him. His name is one of a few things my children can’t blame me for. Tuff was a Sheltie, a miniature collie. He looked, I thought, like Lassie’s little cousin, only not as well groomed or smart.

He was a good dog, patient and longsuffering. He put up with a lot. He kept fit running figure-eights, carving a 3-inch deep race track in the yard. He loved meat, but didn’t get to eat it often. At our house there was never much left but bones. But Tuff wasn’t picky. He loved bones as much as meat.

I wish you could’ve seen him. [Read more…]

“Fathers I Have Loved,” June 11, 2018

The first man I ever loved was my father. I lost him long ago, but countless memories remain, even from when I was a baby. In one of those memories, he leans over my crib, patting my back, singing “Hush, Little Baby” to lull me to sleep. In another, he lifts me up, points to the sky and says, “Look! There’s the Man in the Moon!”

In every memory, I see his lake blue eyes smiling down upon me. Except for when I fell off a horse, or lost the bait on a hook, or had to tell him I couldn’t come live with him, because I had to watch over my mother. [Read more…]