“Joe’s Big Day,” April 11, 2017

Three days before his birthday my brother phoned me.

“I’m not calling to remind you of my big day,” he said. “I’m just calling to, uh, check in.”

“No,” I said. “You called to remind me of something. And I’m glad you did because I have no clue what it might be.”

He belly-laughed about that. He loves it when I tease him.

“Sister,” he said, “you always remember my birthday. I’m not one bit worried you’ll forget.”

That was a polite lie, the kind Southerners (and others who were “raised right”) employ to avoid being rude. Lying is bad, but rude is flat-out tacky. [Read more…]

“The Big Picture,” April 4, 2017

Once in a great while, time rolls together like waves on the shore, letting us see all at once the past, present and forever _ life as one great journey.

Recently I took a walk with my youngest. It was a short walk, but a good one. We try to keep in touch, he and I, with phone calls and texts, but this was the first time we’d been in the same time zone in almost six months, and I was hungry to spend time with him, just the two of us. [Read more…]

“Home,” March 28, 2017

Where are you from?

Where did you grow up?

What does the word “home” mean to you?

Those are questions I like to ask someone I’ve just met, say, at a party or on a plane or in a long line at the post office. The first two are easy. Most people answer quickly, smile and look away. But the third question will make them sit up and beg. It’s like whispering to a sleeping dog, “Wanna treat?” If you’re lucky, the stranger will become a friend. [Read more…]

“Ordinary Grace,” March 21, 2017

Sometimes the best gifts are those we most take for granted.

“Do you have big plans for this weekend?” asked the clerk as she rang up my groceries.

“Yes,” I said. “I’m going to unpack my suitcase, do laundry, open mail, cook a little, and watch a whole lot of basketball.”

She laughed, but I was serious. [Read more…]

“What Is a Family?”, March 14, 2017

What is a family? I like to picture it as a mobile hanging over a baby’s crib: A funny collection of characters in various shapes and sizes, colors and combinations _ a herd of sheep, a clan of bears, a pod of whales or a pack of humans with little in common except they belong to each other.

Each character has its own identity, its own independence. But it remains, like it or not, connected to all the rest.

The connection in a crib mobile might be a simple plastic thread. But in a human family, it’s a combination of ties: Blood, marriage, history, memories and, most of all, love. [Read more…]

“The Winds of Spring … and Change,” March 7, 2017

The wind comes roaring out of the south, ferocious and hungry, an invisible lion on the hunt.

Palm trees buck and rear like horses. Birds swing on the feeder like kids on a carnival ride. And a great cloud of dust swallows up the mountains, whites out the valley and dims the neon lights along the Strip.

Welcome to spring in the desert.

The calendar claims it’s still winter. But I know the signs of spring when I see them. [Read more…]

One of the great mysteries of modern life is this: While there are more ways than ever to keep in touch with those we love, somehow it is never enough.

My husband and I live hundreds of miles from our children and grandchildren, from our sisters, my brother, from our nieces and nephews, and from great friends who seem more like family.

We all try to stay in touch as best we can. We phone, leave messages, send photos and videos. We email, text, FaceTime and Facebook. We exchange cards in the mail for Christmas and birthdays and other important occasions.

But somehow, the more I hear from them, the more I want to hear. And the more I say to them in a text or email or on the phone, the more I long to say face to face. [Read more…]

“Starting Over,” Feb. 21, 2017

Sometimes in life, we just have to start over.

Lately I’ve been trying to learn to walk again. Actually, I can walk, more or less. But it hurts. And it doesn’t look good.

My goal is not so much about looking good. But I’d like to lose the pain. And the limp.

I don’t remember the first time I learned to walk. I’m told I was 10 months old. That was a long time ago. Never mind how long. No matter how long we’ve been doing something, it seems sometimes, somehow, like it or not, we all have to start over. [Read more…]

“Yet Another Birthday,” Feb. 14, 2017

From the end of December to mid-February, 10 of the 16 members of our big, blended family will celebrate a birthday.

That’s a lot of cake. Mine is up next. But let me assure you this is not some pathetic ploy to get you to remember my birthday.

There’s absolutely no reason for you to do that. Unless you really want to. [Read more…]

“Meeting Archer,” Feb. 7, 2017

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. I wanted to make the best of it.

I was all prepared to knock his socks off. To smile into his eyes, win his heart and make him see I was someone who’d always be in his corner. Someone who was so very glad to meet him.

He never gave me a look. Not one little sideways glance. Even when I played with his toes. [Read more…]