A Mom’s Adventures in Role Reversal

November 8, 2019

Pregnancy casts every woman into the role of teacher.

We’re suddenly obsessed with the skills, lessons and values that we need to impart to the child we’re about to bring into the world. We’ve never really thought to tally them before, but our mind is now an ever-growing list of Things I Must Teach My Child.

I’ll continue adding to the list joyfully until the day I die, for it is a sublime privilege to guide a fellow human being through the journey of life.

But as I contemplate the upcoming birthday of my amazing daughter, I am reflecting not on what I have taught her through the years, but what she has taught me.

Where to begin. . . 

Well, she teaches ...

Turn and Face the Strange

November 4, 2019

I have several friends who make quilts, collecting scraps of fabric and deftly combining them to create something beautiful. The average person sees throwaway bits and pieces of cloth. Quilters see a work of art in the making. The whole, they know, will be much greater than the sum of its parts.

I read recently that David Bowie (RIP), one of my favorite artists, worked in much the same way. He would jot down a phrase, a fleeting thought, a kernel of an idea, then sort through his collection at some point and write a song based on the fragments he put together. He relished turning and facing the strange. 

I note this quality as an admirer, not an adherent, because I’m one of the most linear writers I know. I’m a storyteller, and stories generally proceed chronologically. Even if the device is turned on its head, say, through flashbacks interspersed ...

My Upcoming Job Interview

June 3, 2019

Hey, guys, I’m going on a job interview soon, so would you wish me luck?

If you’re imaging a typical scenario, you’re probably visualizing me walking into a conference room and delivering friendly but firm handshakes as I pass around hard copies of my resume. Next comes my pitch to convince the assembled suits that I can do the job they need to fill. Then I go home and await their judgment. If all goes well, I’ll eventually be shown to my new office, where I’ll begin the work I’ve been assigned.

Except that it doesn’t work that way for me.

Here’s the thing about us creative types: We do the work before applying for the job.

We sit at our computers, or stand at our easels, or strap on our guitars, and write the novel/paint the pi...

Ask, and You Shall Receive

April 3, 2019

His piano.

That’s my father’s most treasured possession.

I would have guessed the answer, but now I know for sure, because my niece recently embarked on a project involving all of our family members submitting a single written question to Dad.

Conversation always flowed freely in my childhood home about matters ranging from small to large, pragmatic to hypothetical, mundane to profound. Mealtimes were liberally seasoned with musings about history, politics, social justice and the arts, not in a pretentious way, but because these were the matters that interested my parents, so my four siblings and I were brought along for the ride. Evening chatter on the front-porch swing or during walks around the block often turned philosophical. My family also va...

Mom’s Message to Me in My Dream

February 1, 2019

A few weeks after my mom died in 2013, I had a dream about her.

She was co-piloting a plane I was flying. As soon as the plane was in midair, I gasped, then turned to her and said, “Oh my gosh, I just remembered: I don’t know how to fly!”

“Yes, you do,” Mom said.

“No, I don’t!” I responded, my panic soaring right along with the plane’s altitude.

“You do, you just don’t know it,” Mom assured me. “Trust me, and fly.”

My heart started pounding, and I decided my best course of action was to stay very low to the ground. Anything loftier than that was too scary, too dizzying, too out of control.

So I flew really low, banging in...

I’ve Got Blisters On My Fingers!

January 24, 2019

As a kid, I was a huge fan of the Partridge Family, a show featuring five siblings forming a band with their widowed mom. (Think polyester bellbottoms, and you’ll have a sense of the lowest-common-denominator appeal of the not only the show, but of the seventies in general.)

Anyhoo, my older brother would occasionally breeze through the den when the show was on to mutter a contemptuous comment or two. He was particularly indignant when witnessing a scene of the Partridge Family performing “live.” The footage truly is a hoot, what with groovy vests, a strummed bass and a kid so somnolent on the tambourine that I’m surprised she wasn’t periodically checked for a pulse.

These nuances were lost on me as a kid (I was too busy digging on David Cassidy to notice), but not on my brother. I still remember him groaning, “There are no fade-outs in a live p...

The Candle Scent I’ve Put on Hold

January 9, 2019

Oooohhhh, Lemon Mint Leaf candle, how I’ve missed you!

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve come to compartmentalize different parts of my life. If I’m involved in one particular activity — say, exercise, or freelance magazine-writing, or crossword puzzle-solving — I have little rituals associated with each that are reserved exclusively for that activity. For instance, I have one music playlist for walking, one for biking, one for reading indoors, one for reading outdoors, etc. Another example: I listen to podcasts only when working on jigsaw puzzles. Ditto travel: Charleston is my walk-til-your-drop city; Hilton Head is my plan-my-new-year locale.

It’s not that I’m hopelessly anal, or that I mind spillage from one delightful pursuit to the next. It’s that I’ve come to consider everything I love sacred in and of itself, and I wa...

What’s Your Motivation?

January 1, 2019

My cousin asked a question at a family gathering a few days ago that I’ve been chewing on ever since.

A crowd of us were decompressing in the den at the end of a long festive day when she challenged us to share not our New Year’s resolutions, but the motivations behind them.

In other words: Why do we want what we want?

It was an excellent conversation starter, but one we struggled to wrap our heads around.

Why? I think we tend to fill our lives with lots of distractions to avoid having to answer this question. We don’t want to think too hard, or probe too deeply, or know ourselves too well to ponder the fears, insecurities and fragilities that drive our yearnings.