On Being a Reformed Germaphobe

With one of my pet chickens in the 1990s

Growing up, I never worried much about germs. Thanks to the many pets we owned over the years, my childhood home was basically a deluxe buffet of microbes for my immune system. At any given time, there was a bird squawking from its perch, a bunny in the side yard trying to chew the wiring under the house, and a cat or dog roaming the premises in search of something to eat, chase, or both.… Read More

Living in Minutiae Land

Yesterday, after I got the kids off to school, I was about to tackle my to-do list when it occurred to me that I had no idea what day of the month it was.

Okay, I knew it was late January, like somewhere around the 20th or 25th. But my brain legitimately froze up when I tried to pinpoint the exact date. I did some mental backtracking, trying to recall a recent date of significance, so I could work forward from that.… Read More

Lessons from The Greatest Showman, According to a 3rd Grader

Last weekend, my family went to see The Greatest Showman, and we all loved it. (I can’t believe I’m typing this, but my kids enjoyed it even more than – gasp! – Star Wars: The Last Jedi.) If you’re looking for a film that accurately depicts the life of circus founder P.T. Barnum, this isn’t it. But if you appreciate catchy music and an entertaining story that offers upbeat and positive messages to kids and adults alike, The Greatest Showman does not disappoint.… Read More

Background Noise: I’m Afraid of Silence

When I was in 8th grade, our class practiced a daily moment of silence. It was a simple exercise, but one I nearly always failed. Our teacher would nod and point to the clock, indicating it was time for us to sit calmly at our desks. Some of my classmates closed their eyes, as if imagining they’d been transported to a beautiful sun-kissed beach blanketed by swirly clouds.

I could find no such serenity in this moment, for I usually made the mistake of glancing up at my friend Danielle who sat across the classroom.… Read More

‘Twas the Week After Christmas…

I know, I know. Christmas hasn’t even happened yet, but I’m already planning ahead. Here’s why: This year, for the first time in several holiday seasons, our family is staying put and not traveling anywhere, so we’ll have plenty of time with the kids on our home turf. When the excitement of the holiday is over, I know we’ll be looking for ways to stay busy and enjoy our extra time together (i.e.… Read More

The Rush to Grow Up

This weekend, my youngest daughter’s Girl Scout troop visited a local retirement facility to sing holiday carols. The place reminded me a bit of the nursing home where my grandmother spent several months before she passed away.

On this chilly day in mid-December, holiday decorations adorned the walls and reception desks. Despite the festive atmosphere, a familiar sadness tugged at me. I thought of my dad’s parents and their lovely home in Illinois where they lived for many years, a place I still remember in vivid detail.Read More

Dear Coffee: I Love You

As if I needed another reason to indulge in my daily coffee habit, a new study indicates that coffee drinking is not only safe for most of us, but it also has potentially protective effects against heart disease, liver cancer, and other illnesses. The study concluded that, compared with abstaining from coffee entirely, drinking three to four cups daily is associated with lower health risks.

Medical studies aside, I’ve long had my own reasons for loving coffee.Read More

Facing the Post-Holiday Crabfest

The holidays are pretty awesome. We get to unplug from the daily grind and reconnect with family and friends, and everyone is generally in a merry mood. We indulge in favorite foods and sweets – for me, that means my aunt’s cookies and my dad’s Thanksgiving stuffing. Festive music is piping in the background, someone is uncorking another bottle of red wine, the kids are entertaining each other nicely amidst the happy chaos, and everyone looks adorable in their reindeer and snowman sweaters.… Read More

80s Films That Could Rock Your Next Family Movie Night

Earlier this month, as temperatures dipped into the teens and tiny snowflakes swirled outside my window, I had to admit the sad truth: Summer is officially over. But when it’s too cold to enjoy the outdoors, there’s something magical about curling up under some cozy blankets with a good movie. Like so many kids in the 1980s, I grew up watching the Star Wars trilogy, so it was only a matter of time before I introduced my children to Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo.… Read More

Grand Memories

My grandmother with my brother and me in 1982

With the holidays approaching, many of us are getting ready to visit relatives. For some, this means packing our bags and hopping on a plane; for others, it means hopping in the car and driving across town.

My parents both came from the Chicago area and moved to California shortly after getting married. This was a bold move at the time; my mom’s father, in particular, warned them about navigating “that treacherous highway.” When I was growing up, visiting my grandparents in Illinois was a special event.… Read More