The Shootings on the Las Vegas Strip, Oct. 1, 2017

To all of you who have written to ask if we’re OK: We were home when the shooting took place last night, and we are fine, thank you! Please pray for all the victims and their families! _ Sharon

“Forgetting My Sister’s Birthday,” Sept. 26, 2017

It’s the middle of the night. I’ve been tossing for hours. I need to make a confession. I’m not proud of it, but here it is: I forgot my sister’s birthday.

Actually, I didn’t forget her birthday. It was posted all over Facebook, so I couldn’t forget it, even if I wanted to. I just forgot to call her. Wait, that’s not true. I called her, but she wasn’t home. Was that my fault? I didn’t think so, either, thank you very much. [Read more…]

“Traveling Light on the Road of Life,” Sept. 19, 2017

Long ago, before my children were born and I still had time to do things like brush my teeth or read something more profound than “Pat the Bunny,” I read a sentence that changed my life:
“The mark of a good outing is how little you take along.”

Don’t ask where it came from. I have no idea. All I know is, when I read it, I shouted, “YES!” [Read more…]

“For the Love of Wiley,” Sept. 12, 2017

Why do people get married? Most of us, I hope, would say that we married for love. Love is no guarantee that a marriage will last. But without it, the chances for happiness _ let alone for fun _ are pretty much slim to none.

I married twice for love. My first husband was a teacher and a coach. It was a good marriage that grew better and stronger over time. It lasted 30 years until he died of cancer.

It gave me three children who will always be the crowning achievements of my life. It also gave me a gift I never wanted: For four years, I was a healthcare advocate, spiritual cheerleader and end-0f-life caregiver for someone I could not imagine living without.

Getting married is like being a parent. It’s best not to know at the start all it might require. [Read more…]

“Sharing Stories Gives Us Something to Clap About,” Sept. 5, 2017


(Dear Reader: I’m taking this week off for vacation. The following column is from 2013. But I assure you, my brother was equally ecstatic this week after Clemson’s recent win.)

Happiness means different things to different people.

Take my brother. Blind all his life and crippled by cerebral palsy, he lives alone with plenty of time to dwell upon the things he doesn’t have and the loved ones he has lost.

But last night, when I called him, he was as happy as happy ever gets. Why? Football. [Read more…]

“Imagine a Place Called Home,” Aug. 29, 2017


Two days after Hurricane Harvey ripped into the Texas coast, I sat at a window in Pacific Grove, Calif., watching the sun set on Monterey Bay.

In the distance, on water as blue as the sky and calm as a lake, sailboats glistened like the wings of angels. A tour boat of whale watchers left a “V” in its wake as it headed back to dock in time for supper. Seagulls soared and swooped and cackled. Pelicans glided along the shore, diving for sardines and anchovies.

In a quiet cove by Lovers Point, a family of sea otters lay belly-up, anchored in a bed of kelp, cracking clams or crabs (“clack-clack!”) with a rock. [Read more…]

“Birthday Parties,” Aug. 22, 2017

Kids’ birthday parties have come a long way.

On my seventh birthday, I invited all my classmates to a party. I meant to tell my mother but I forgot. Two kids showed up: A boy who gave me a candy bar, and a girl, who ate it.

When I turned 16, my mother meant to give me a “sweet 16” party but she forgot. The next year she gave me a surprise “sweet 17” party. The day of the party, my friend Jane was supposed to keep me busy at her house. We got bored, so I let her trim my bangs “just a hair.” They ended up three inches too short. When I walked into the surprise party, my guests looked more surprised than I did. [Read more…]

“Words and Music,” Aug. 15, 2017

I grew up in a family of sinners and singers and storytellers. Maybe you did, too. We didn’t have much materially, but we had each other and a whole lot of fun.

By the time I was old enough to know right from wrong _ 4 or 5 years old _ I had learned three fundamental facts of life: [Read more…]

“A Bats-Over-Penguins Life,” Aug. 8, 2017


Bats over penguins. That’s how I describe things that defy expectations and leave me drop-jawed in surprise.

Years ago on a trip to Portland, my husband and I went to the Oregon Zoo mostly to see the penguins.

I love penguins. They’re like toddlers on a sugar high from too much birthday cake _ fun to watch, if you don’t have to chase them. I could hardly wait. [Read more…]

“Earth Friends,” Aug. 1, 2017

There are places on the Earth that we connect with in the same way that we connect with people. Something about them attracts us and puts us at ease. We feel a kinship, a sense that we have come home. And then, if we’re lucky, that place becomes a friend.

My first “Earth friend” was a mountain in South Carolina. I was 6 years old when my family moved 10 miles away from my grandmother’s home, where I felt whole, to a cow pasture where I felt broken.

One evening, I left my mother and stepfather arguing in the kitchen and went out to the pasture to climb a tree and sulk. As I sat there, straddling a tree limb, the setting sun brushed my face. I looked up and in the distance, I saw a blue mountain. [Read more…]