“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…]

“What Do You Want to Be?” column for Sept. 27, 2016

On the first day of fall, I sat by a window in Redding, Calif., looking out on a pond that mirrored a blue sky, watching squirrels and geese and clouds and trees do what they do best.

I wish you could’ve seen them.

I believe all God’s creations are put on Earth for a purpose. If their purpose that day was simply to delight me, they knocked it out of the park. [Read more…]

“Plans Change,” column for Sept. 20, 2016

If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans. Old people used to say that when I was a child. I never knew what it meant, but I do now. I said it myself this morning.

I’ve been making plans _ both good and bad _ for most of my life, only to see them fall apart. It has happened so often you might think I’d have learned not to bother planning at all.

If you think that, think again. [Read more…]

“Saying Goodbye,” column for Sept. 13, 2016

Some things get easier with practice. But saying goodbye just keeps getting harder.

I’ve been saying goodbye all my life. I’m pretty good at it. And fast, too. Sometimes I’m out the door and gone before anybody knows I’m leaving.

But I’ve never liked doing it. Unless I couldn’t wait to leave. If you’re eager to leave, it’s not a goodbye; it’s a “good riddance.” A real goodbye is one you say to someone you love, or a place you want to stay, or to a time in your life when you are happy.

I’ve said my share of those kinds of goodbyes. I suspect you have said your share, too. Why do they keep getting harder? [Read more…]

“Big Questions” column for Sept. 6, 2016

Little people like to ask big questions. Once, we were having lunch with my grandson, Henry, who was 4, at a restaurant that offered as a special “bison stew.” Henry knows more about animals than Dr. Doolittle and Noah combined. At the time, he was especially taken with bison.

“Oh!” he said. “I love bison! Is it very spicy?”

The server smiled. “A little spicy,” she said. “Not much.”

“I’ll have that, please,” Henry said, happy with his choice. His mother and my husband and I exchanged a look, but said nothing. When the stew arrived, Henry dug in and ate it all. The server was delighted.

“I’m glad it wasn’t spicy,” she said.

“It was a little spicy,” Henry said, “but not too much.” Then he furrowed his brow and asked the big question: “How did they get the bison into the stew?” [Read more…]

“Giving Thanks for Good Medicine,” column for Aug. 30, 2016

For almost two months, I have been, as some might say, laid up and feeling low. The “laid up” part was due to an accident in which I turned my ankle, broke my foot and ended up in a giant boot, rolling around in a wheelchair.

“Feeling low” was an embarrassing condition some people call a “pity party.” I don’t know why they call it that. It was more like a wake. It came and went, based on how much pain I felt or how much pity I was willing to wallow in. Most days, it was only a little. Somedays it was a lot. [Read more…]