“My Favorite Christmas Tree,” Dec. 6, 2016

What was your favorite Christmas tree? I’ve had lots. Some I liked more than others.

My parents split up when I was 3. That Christmas Eve, my mother put me to bed and said, “Stay.” When I heard a knock at the door, I crept out, hoping to see Santa. Instead, there stood my dad, holding a bag and a bush.

“Brought you a tree,” he said, showing the bush to my mother.

“Got one,” she said, nodding at a fir we had decorated earlier.

“Well, now you got two.” [Read more…]

“When Life Gets Out of Hand,” Nov. 29, 2016

Sometimes things get out of hand. A little. Or a lot.

Does that ever happen to you? What’s the thing you need to do or it just won’t get done? Yard work? Laundry? Paying bills?

For me, it’s mostly the mail. [Read more…]

“Cell Phone Civility,” Nov. 22, 2016

Say what you will about cell phone addiction. It’s not my problem. But I will admit, if my phone rings, I grab it.

Imagine we’re sitting, just the two of us, engaged in polite conversation, when suddenly you burst into flame. I would do my best to put you out. But if, in the process, my phone rings? I might be tempted to pick it up. [Read more…]

“A Telling Moment for T-Day,” Nov. 15, 2016

Every year, when I start my shopping list for Thanksgiving, the same image comes to mind. Maybe you know it. It’s that classic Norman Rockwell illustration of a family sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner.

Rockwell was brilliant at capturing the one “telling moment” to convey a common experience. In “Freedom from Want,” it’s the moment when the turkey (perfectly roasted to a golden brown) is presented by the hostess (perfectly poised in a spotless apron) at a table surrounded by smiling guests.

I love that image. Not because it looks like my Thanksgivings. Not even close. But it feels the same _ happy and thankful, the way Thanksgiving ought to feel. [Read more…]

“Celebrate Life,” Nov. 8, 2016

On a glorious fall day in Bridgeport, West Virginia, I stood before an audience of cancer survivors and thought, “What can I possibly tell them that they don’t already know?”

The event was a “Celebration of Life,” hosted by United Hospital Center in Bridgeport, to honor oncology patients and remind them they’re not alone.

I had no degrees, no expertise to offer. But I have raised three children and buried my share of loved ones. I lost my mother, my stepfather and my first husband all to cancer. I’ve been a daughter, sister, wife, widow, mother, grandmother and student of life. I’ve learned a few things along the way. So I told them my story, hoping it might somehow be their story, too. Here is part of what I said. [Read more…]

“One Vote Counts,” Nov. 1, 2016

I remember when I was 8, watching my grandmother get all done up for what was clearly to be a very special occasion. It was so important she even let me stay home from school.

That morning my granddad drove us to the beauty parlor. “How long?” he said.

“An hour,” she replied. “And Fred? Get your haircut and trim up that nasty mustache.” [Read more…]

“Who Will We Be This Halloween?”, Oct. 25, 2016

This morning, days ahead of a national election, with a long list of critical issues spinning cob webs in my head, I keep asking myself one question: Who will I be for Halloween?

If you tell anybody I said that, I’ll deny it. I can’t help it. My mind has a mind of its own. [Read more…]

“Let’s Take a Break,” Oct. 18, 2016

Sometimes, for whatever reasons, we all need a break.

Maybe the walls are closing in, and we crave wide-open spaces. Or the world weighs heavy, and we need to rest. Or perhaps the news has taken such an ugly turn we long to shut it off.

It happens. I’ve taken breaks for all those reasons and more. But this time was simple: I was hungry to see fall and my kids. [Read more…]

“Things I Wish I’d Known Way Back When,” Oct. 11, 2016

(Note to readers: I’m on vacation this week. This column originally appeared in October of 2014, but it still holds true!)
My daughter has a birthday coming soon. As birthdays go, it’s a pretty big one. At least, it was for me when I was her age a lifetime ago. We will celebrate the day with joy and thanksgiving and a little party and a lot of cake, as if it were the only birthday in the history of the world.

Lucky for me, I won’t have to do much. She’s been planning her own birthday parties since she was 3. Basically, all I’ve ever had to do was light the candles and clean up the mess. Now she has a 3 year old who plans his own parties, too.

And so it goes, this thing we call “life,” a beautiful circle that spins like a carousel from beginning to end, then begins again, round and round. [Read more…]

“Good Words,” column for Oct. 4, 2016

Some people collect stuff. Salt ‘n’ pepper shakers. Ribbons from county fairs. T-shirts with catchy slogans. Once, on a flight from Dallas to Las Vegas, I met a woman who claimed to collect ex-husbands and alimony.

I personally have never been a collector, never found anything that seemed worth the effort to amass and store and dust it. Mostly, I collect people _ family, friends, folks I meet _ and the stories they tell me. All it costs is the time to listen. And they usually dust themselves.

But today, out of the blue, I suddenly realized what I’ve been collecting all my life: Words. [Read more…]