“Praying for Rain,” Nov. 19, 2018

Maybe, when you read this, it will be raining in California. That is what we’re praying for — a good, soaking rain to put an end to what has been months of death and devastation from fire.

The irony is while Californians are praying for rain, our neighbors in the South and East, who’ve lost homes and loved ones in recent months to hurricanes and flooding, are praying for a dry spell. [Read more…]

“A Feast of Faces,” Nov. 13, 2018


How do you seat 20 guests at a table that holds only eight?

That’s a puzzle I work on every year when Thanksgiving rolls around. You’d think by now I could solve it. But try as I might, the pieces never quite fit.

Sometimes, I use folding tables, snaking them from the dining room through the living room with six to eight guests at each table. That way everybody gets enough elbow room to eat and talk and laugh and breathe. The only problem with it is I can’t see everyone’s face. [Read more…]

“My Next Career,” Nov. 5, 2018

Few things make me happier than indulging in a deep philosophical discussion with one of my favorite philosophers about our favorite topic: Life.

My view is that of a woman with more years behind her than ahead. Henry’s view is that of a 7-year-old who is smart as a whip, wise beyond his years and wants to be taken seriously.

“Henry,” I said, “what will you do with your one sweet life?” [Read more…]

“Homecoming,” Oct. 29, 2018

A lifetime ago, I grew up in these blue mountains on the border between the Carolinas. After college, I moved to California, to raise a family and live the life of my dreams. I’ve often come “home” for visits. Too often, for funerals. But this trip, if partly for work, was mostly for pleasure.

It began with a speaking engagement in Winston Salem, where my column has been carried for years. People I’d never met asked to see photos of my grandkids. It felt (I say with a wink) like a family reunion … without the fist fights. [Read more…]

“My Scariest Halloween,” Oct. 23, 2018

(NOTE: I’m taking this week off. This “replacement” column is from 2000. Yes, that’s 18 years ago. Some of us are getting old. Thanks! ) Sharon<

The most terrifying Halloween story of my life had nothing to do with ghosts or monsters or severed heads or slimy eyeballs. Or even the monkey or the moonshine. Those things were all part of it, but they weren’t scary. It’s hard to fear anything that makes you laugh. [Read more…]

“A Place to Call Home,” Oct. 15, 2018

What does the word “home” mean to you? My mother’s parents lived on the main street of a small town in North Carolina. My dad’s parents lived on a farm in the mountains nearby. I spent a lot of time in both places and always felt at home in them.

I can describe in detail every room in those two houses, the furnishings, the food on their tables, the flowers that grew in their yards, the birds that nested in their trees and the creak of the swings on their porches. I loved both places. But mostly I loved my grandparents, and the way they made me feel: Safe and whole and at peace. [Read more…]

“A Good Day to Fly,” Oct. 8, 2018

“A Good Day to Fly,” Oct. 8, 2018

Here’s Wiley in the parade, waving with both arms!

Bribery is not, I admit, the best way to motivate a child. But sometimes, a nana’s gotta do what a nana’s gotta do.

Every year since 1939, the children of Pacific Grove, Calif., have donned paper wings and paraded in the streets to celebrate the arrival of thousands of Monarch butterflies that flutter in each fall to spend the winter.

The city is called “Butterfly Town USA” and “America’s Last Hometown.” I just call it home, the place I raised my children, buried my first husband and spent most of my adult life. [Read more…]

“Questions for a Nana,” Oct. 1, 2018

What do your children and grandchildren know about your childhood and what your life was like before they were born? If you don’t tell them, who will?

Recently I had a note from my 8-year-old grandson that lit me up brighter than the candles on my last cake. I’m hoping it will inspire you to share your history with someone you love. [Read more…]

“Comforting a Friend in Loss,” Sept. 24, 2018

(DEAR READERS: I’m taking off this week to recover from my son’s wedding. The following “often-requested” column is from 2006.)

What do you say to someone who’s just lost the love of their life? How do you offer hope when all they see is despair?

I often hear from readers who are grieving the loss of a loved one. They write to me about their loss, just as I’ve often written about mine in this column, in the years since I lost my first husband to cancer. To read their stories and share in their grief is an honor and a gift. I’ve received countless such letters over the years and have tried to answer as best I can. But some things don’t get easier with practice. [Read more…]

“A Labor of Love,” Sept. 17, 2018

Weddings are a lot of work, even for a mother of the groom. My soon-to-be daughter-in-law has done a great job of planning. Most of what’s left to do will be done by professionals, or by family or friends who want to help in any way they can.

My daughter will arrange the flowers. My youngest will assemble the arch. His wife will pick up guests at the airport. My husband will play guitar. And the little people (the groom’s niece and nephews, and the bride’s godchildren) will get all dressed up and steal the show. [Read more…]