Husband And I Had Trust Issues This Week

Husband And I Had Trust Issues This Week

Picture this, if you can.

My husband and I had trust issues this week.

Did I doubt he would provide for our family?

Pull us out of a burning building, if need be?

Step between me and a hungry saber-tooth tiger?

Nah, he’d have that covered.

This, though, was big.

Months ago, I accepted a rare work gig that was going to take me out of town for 5 days.

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I figured Husband and our girls could, would do fine. That is, until I looked at the calendar again and realized, gulp, this work trip meant I was going to miss the first day of school.

Keep in mind, our girls are big-starting 10th and 11th grades. They are capable of getting themselves ready.

But first day of school means that ever important first day of school photo!

One might accuse me of being a bit over-invested in this. As if, without that photo, the rest of the school year won’t count.

Trust me, only I know how to capture that moment in time, please grandparents, share on social media.

Dear Reader, how do you turn over to your spouse the very important thing you are usually responsible for?

It’s not like this crew hadn’t given me reason to worry.

The girls are not exactly willing participants, squirming fake smiles, complaining when I insist on single shots, two-shots, full body shots. “The more shots give me more choices to get the best picture,” I explain.

Then there’s Husband, who has a tendency to run, what’s the word, oh yes, late.

The night before, I spent most of our phone call coaching Husband with tips on how to manage time, where to place the girls for the best lighting, how to coax them to cooperate.

“Got it covered,” he said without great enthusiasm.

And so, I mentally prepared myself for the blank space to go in the scrapbook for “First Day of School 2015.”

Fast forward to the next morning. There I was interviewing some CEO mucky mucks in Las Vegas when my phone chimed.

The photos!

Husband came through, after all.

As I went to look, I didn’t even care if the quality wasn’t perfect.

The thing is—

These photos were great.


Maybe, perhaps, even best ever.

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Husband sent a single shot, one above-the-shoulder shot. And one of the two girls together.

They are smiling, happy and relaxed.

“Gosh,” I remarked, to one of the girls that night. “The photos are really good. I didn’t see a single fake smile.”

“That’s because Dad didn’t drag out 13 cameras and make us take 400 photos,” she pointed out in an only slight teen exaggeration. “We only had time for three shots on his phone. We were running a little late, y’know.”

Picture this—

Wife cuing up Frank Sinatra.

Husband did it his way.

Now, to get booked out of town for the start of school next year.

It’s the only way to get the best first day photos.

Trust me.

Please catch more of my columns in The Atlanta Journal Constitution and The Dayton Daily News.

My Family Can’t Talk To Each Other; Y’all How About Yours?

My Family Can’t Talk To Each Other; Y’all How About Yours?

My family needs to talk.


It’s not so easy.

“Ah, yes, raising two teenagers,” you nod in compassion and understanding.

Yes, thank you.

But that’s not it.

Well, it is many days.

The problem, I’ve diagnosed this week is something bigger.

It starts at the beginning.

We don’t speak the same language.

Ours is a family with folks raised in California, the Midwest, and the South.

The basic problem–no one can agree on how to speak.  I’m talking simple pronunciation.

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There are members of my family who swear the pen you write with and the pin you use to stick something should be pronounced the same.

They’d wager that bet and bit should sound the same.

Let’s all sit here awhile until we’re all set.

Might as well, since “sit” and “set” are meant to sound the same.

To them, anyway.

I tried a little test, writing three words down on a pad of paper.  “Say each word,” I instructed my daughter as I revealed each one individually.

“Bin,” she said as I showed her the first word, b-i-n.

Next came the boy’s name, B-e-n.

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“Bin,” she said again.

“You say, ‘bin’ and ‘Ben’ the same?” I asked, making double-sure.

“Of course,” she was already bored with me. “How else would you say it?”

“I say, ‘bin’ for the container and ‘Behn’ for the boy’s name,” I shared.

“No one talks like that,” she informed me with great teen authority.

“We can make this even more interesting,” I said revealing the third word, b-e-e-n.

“Bin,” my daughter said for the third time.

“Let’s call your aunt in Canada,” I offered, “And ask her.”

“Why? How would she say it?”

“Been, same as lima bean,” I ventured, thinking of how some Canadian pronunciations have crept into my sister’s speech in the seven years she’s lived there.

Not that I can point fingers.

When I moved to Atlanta more than 20 years ago to work for CNN, my parents were thrilled for the career opportunity and terrified for what the move could do to my speech patterns.

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“The first time you say, ‘y’all or ‘fixin to,’” my California native parents declared, “we are coming and packing your things. No child of ours will speak like that.”

Y’all, they had no idea what was in store or how bad and confusing things would get around here.

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It makes for great, shall we say, “debates” at the dinner table where no one agrees that my California speech pattern is accent-free.

Midwestern Husband looks at me like he married a cross between exotic flower and California hippie.

The teens just think the way I talk is simply further evidence of how weird I am.

At least this does explain one mystery of life.

These teenaged girls can’t be blamed for not cleaning their rooms.

Poor dears, simply don’t understand what I’m saying.

And you, Dear Reader?

Are you living in a house with multiple accents? Spell them out for me in the comments section.

Find more stories on my website,

Please catch my column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

How Can My Friends’ Worst Phone Call Ever Lead To Someone’s Best?

How Can My Friends’ Worst Phone Call Ever Lead To Someone’s Best?


Today, I’m thinking about joy.

Joy, the name of the wife of good friend, Brian.

Joy, the emotion instantly drained from Brian’s heart when he received that phone call a couple weeks ago.

Maybe you’ve gotten one of those phone calls, Dear Reader.

One with the worst news possible.

While Brian was working out of town, Joy was involved in a single-car accident.

He was on the next plane back home, staying by Joy’s side for 10 days.

Stayed there until doctors said there was nothing they could do, explaining that it looked like his wife was there, but she wasn’t. Her brain had no activity. There was no Joy.

But there was something he could do that would change at least four lives.

Would he, could he, give permission to donate Joy’s organs?

What might seem like an obvious answer for you, wasn’t so easy for Brian.

Of everything they had discussed in their 20 years together, they had not gotten clear on organ donation.

“There’s a chance she wouldn’t have wanted to do this,” he shared with me.

She was also the woman who couldn’t turn away a rescue dog or cat.

Who couldn’t say no to that kind of life.

So, Brian said, “Yes,” choosing to make Joy the ultimate rescuer.

“They know for sure they had people waiting for her heart, pancreas, and kidneys,” he shared looking for some glimmer of meaning his tragedy.

“The phone call,” I said. “Maybe we can think about the phone call.”

“As awful as the phone call you got a couple weeks ago,” I offered. “Can we think about the phone call at least four families got this week?”

One with the best news possible.

I reached out to a wonderful family who knows both calls.

My neighbor’s niece, Camden, died in a car accident in 2000. “Her brain injuries were irreversible and we too had to decide whether to donate her organs or hold her when she took her last breath,” her mom, Maury, shared with me.  “We chose life. For others. We donated her organs.”

There’s another chapter to their story.

Eight years after the death of their daughter, Maury’s husband, George, was gravely ill, the one in need. It was as if losing his only daughter and slowly, literally broken his heart. Now, he was the one waiting for a heart transplant.

That’s when they received another midnight phone call, the one telling them there was a new heart for George.

This time the miracle was theirs.

“There’s nothing you can say that’s going to make this all right for Brian,” Maury counseled me. “With grief comes so much guilt and the ‘if only’ and ‘what if’s.’”

I know that.

I prefer for life to feel tied up with a neat little bow instead of the mess of tangled spaghetti it so often does.

Maybe you understand.

Maybe even in the mess, you, too can appreciate how much can change with a single phone call.

Maybe today, you, too, can think about Joy.

Find more stories on my website,

Please catch my column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

You Could Call This The Worst Anniversary Dinner Ever

You Could Call This The Worst Anniversary Dinner Ever

You could’ve called it the worst anniversary dinner ever.

This week, Husband and I were excited to celebrate our third wedding anniversary.

Yes, can you believe it?

It’s already been three years since this forever-single lady found a perfectly imperfect man who wanted to spend his life with me.

Getting hitched at Silver Run Falls, NC. July 2012.

We had reservations at a fancy, new restaurant in town. And sure, we could’ve gone there and had the latest “farm-to-table” dishes.

But at the last minute, we looked at each other with a shared streak of rebellion. “Let’s ditch this predictable Popsicle stand and head for an adventure.”

We pulled up an article featuring a list of authentic, ethnic restaurants we’ve been wanting to try.

That’s how we ended up at a little hole-in-the-wall Mom n’Pop Korean restaurant about a half-hour away.

Things went goofy from the start.

As soon as we were seated, the server ran up to our table. “You should try the seafood pancake!” she insisted, pointing to the item on the menu written mainly inKorean. “A man ordered wrong pancake. Doesn’t want it. You should eat it.”

Before we knew what was happening the steaming, previously untouched, unwanted pancake was sitting in front of us with side dishes known as “banchan.”

It was delicious.

anni dinner

Meanwhile, we ordered the special chicken dish mentioned in article that alerted us to this restaurant.

We waited.

And waited.

And waited.

“So sorry,” the server apologized when she came back a half hour later. “Chef cooked your food. I gave it to someone else. We make you another one!”

And with that, she was off giving us no chance to protest.

So we waited again.

While we were waiting, I took the chance to ask Husband, “So how has the first three years of marriage gone for you?”

I asked knowing he could call this the worst marriage ever.

There’s my old stinky dog, raising teenagers, my obsession with finishing my first novel, my ailing elderly mother on the other side of the country. All things that often get my attention ahead of him.

“This marriage has far exceeded my wildest expectations,” he smiled, taking my hand.

Does he not see all my flaws and our challenges?

Because let me assure you, they are on full display every day.

He says he sees a wife who doesn’t nag, who is a great mom, who travels the world with him, and laughs at about a third of his really bad puns.

I see a man who is incredibly generous with what he chooses to see.

Which brings me back to that darn chicken.

It finally came.

A huge mound of steaming chicken, rice noodles, chiles and spices.

I have to say it far exceeded our wildest expectations.

So yes, you could call it the worst anniversary dinner ever.

I’d call it perfect.

A reminder and celebration of life.

So often you can’t control what you get served up or when it arrives.

And a crazy chicken dish, like the right wonderfully imperfect man, sure is worth waiting for.

Find more stories on my website,

Please catch my column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Picking Grandparent Names: Is This The New Baby Boomer Contact Sport?

Picking Grandparent Names: Is This The New Baby Boomer Contact Sport?

My cousin is doing well, thank you very much.

She survived a life milestone which I had no idea was supposed to be so challenging.

And yet, as it often is with life passages, things like puberty, parenthood, or gray hair, we learn from those who bravely go before us.

My cousin has picked her grandmother name.

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As my mom’s first cousin, she’s actually kind of late to the grandparent game. Her older daughter hasn’t had kids and her youngest just got started.

There we were connecting at the modern, cyber family reunion, aka, Facebook, oohing and ahhing over pictures of her new granddaughter when I had to ask, “What’s your grandma name?”

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“I am Nana,” she replied, beaming her new name through the online universe. “Sally, (her mom, my grandmother’s sister) was Nanny. The other grandma is Grammy. So Nana was available. Who knew it could be so complicated?”

Complicated indeed.

Apparently, the new baby has two sets of grandparents on her father’s side. One of them jumped on the Facebook comment thread, “We’re going to let the baby decide what to call us.”

Was this equally new grandparent suggesting my cousin somehow robbed their mutual granddaughter of some right?

What I took as a jab, my cousin handled with total grace. ““Isn’t our little one lucky to have so many grandparents,” she wrote.

So is this a thing?

Is picking and claiming grandparent names the new contact sport for Baby Boomers?

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Both my grandmothers were “Nana.”

There was Nana Lil and Nana Ann.

My sister and me with our Nana Lil.
My sister and me with our Nana Lil.

There was no confusing them, as they were two very different women.

My mom is Nana.


I’m prematurely prepared.

“I already have my grandmother name,” I announced last year to my girls.

They looked at me with dread.

“I want to be called, ‘Guppy!’” I announced with gleeful anticipation of a day that is hopefully many, many years away.

‘Guppy’ was the girls’ first nickname for me as we were becoming a family about 5 years ago.

Okay, so it came because I had a case of Bells Palsy for a couple of months and my face looked like it was melting off my head. The girls decided I looked like a guppyfish. Maybe not the easiest of times, but Guppy it has been ever since.

“I will be Guppy. And Dad will be Puppy! Guppy and Puppy!”

The kids’ expressions looked like I had just served them up a plate of rotten spaghetti.

Who knew there would be an added benefit of this Grandparent name game? I do believe I just came up with a new version of teen birth control.

Forget about sex ed, just come up with a horrifying grandparent name.  These kids will not be making me a grandmother anytime soon.

That means for now, I need to live vicariously through you, Dear Reader.

Do you have a good story behind your grandparent name? Or the name you call your grandparents?

Find more stories on my website,

Please catch my column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

My Dog’s Getting The Last Laugh; The Chapter I Didn’t See Coming

My Dog’s Getting The Last Laugh; The Chapter I Didn’t See Coming

Let me say, Dear Reader, that you are amazing.


Clearly, you’re an over the top dog lover, like myself.

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The emails have been flooding in ever since I shared the latest chapter of my sweet Darla’s life in the column, “My Dog Is Teaching Me A Final Lesson.”

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I shared how my dog has been showing signs of slowing down, how she’s preparing me to let her go after more than 15 years together.

I know, you can’t even think about that with your own dog without pulling out a tissue or a bucket or swimming pool to catch your tears.

You’ve been so sweet to share with me the story of your dog. Of the great love you shared. Of his or her final days. Of how hard it is to say, “Goodbye,” to your best friend.

You’ve also been wonderful in offering advice. Ways to have the vet come over, books to read, videos to watch, poems to read.

The time you’ve taken to help me cope and ultimately grieve has been humbling and overwhelming.

Which leads me to the thing I feel compelled to share this week.

Something I need to let you know, because, well, you and I have that kind of relationship.

See the thing is, my dog is alive.


Not just alive. Very much alive.

Yes, she’s still over 15 years old. Still deaf. And was definitely having some struggles.

But it seems since I wrote that column a couple weeks ago, Darla has undergone a renaissance of sorts. It’s kind of like when you call the dishwasher repairman and have him show up only to watch the darn machine work just fine.

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I wake up to emails, texts and phone calls bemoaning Darla’s passing, only to see a dog scrambling to get to the front door for our daily walk.

It’s as if she’s living the old quote, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Darla gets the last laugh.

And why not?

We’ve been laughing together since she was a six-week-old puppy and I took her over to a friend’s house for their one-year-old’s birthday party. They freaked out thinking I was gifting them and their baby with a puppy. The punch line was I just didn’t want to leave her home alone.

Darla was probably giggling as I had to email my sweet neighbor, the one who dropped off a condolence card the other day. I explained that he shouldn’t be freaked out if he sees Darla prancing down the street on one of our walks.

She still spends most of the day snoozing behind the couch. I do that thing where I tip toe over to watch, feeling that lump of joy and relief rising up in my throat each time I can see she’s breathing.

Your efforts are not wasted, Dear Reader. The calendar tells me this renaissance cannot last forever. I’ve tucked your email away for the time I will need them.

For now, I’m happy to give Darla this last laugh.

Darla Catches Snowflakes With Her Tongue

Find more stories on my website,

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution,the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Is It Just Me? Why Do I Always Do This On Airplanes?

Is It Just Me? Why Do I Always Do This On Airplanes?

I am that lady in Seat 12B.

Maybe even stuck in that middle seat of 27D.

I’m that lady you’re trying to discreetly poke your travel partner. “Check out the woman over there,” you whisper. “She’s crying her eyes out.”

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Dear Reader, what is it about airplanes?

The altitude?

The recycled air?

The isolation 36,000 feet above the ground?

Whatever it is, I’m a goner.

Just say, “Boo,” and I’ll start crying.

Watching a movie, that on the ground would bring a tiny tear to my eye, inspires a flood of water works.

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Recalling a simple, pleasant memory leaves me a mess.

Working on some of my more heartfelt columns— well, forget about it.

My friend, Tricia, who is good at making me not me feel not entirely crazy, confessed one day that she is equally tear-challenged on airplanes, as well.

Now, when either one of us takes a trip, we text, “Safe travels!” along with that particular emoticon face with tears streaming down the cheeks, because we know what’s coming.


I find myself thinking about this particular condition as I fly back from a trip with my baby sister.

A few months ago she called me and said, “Come join me for a Sisters’ Trip in the French Alps after I wrap up a business meeting!”

There were only two things to say, “Mais oui!” and “Husband, could you please cash in some miles?”

Sister and I had a grand time. We hiked, we laughed, we shopped. We ate. We took care of no one but ourselves.

It was simply bliss.


As I fly home, I’m thinking about the lifetime gift that is my sister.

I remember our parents telling my brother and me they were going to have another baby.

I remember my brother hauling me in the backyard and threatening me to beat me up if I told any kid on the block that our mom was pregnant. He was 8, I was 7. The difference of that one crucial year meant he understood what our parents had done to create this situation and sure wasn’t going to spread news like that around the neighborhood.

I remember her being born, winning the bet with my brother that the baby would be a girl, as this was back in the day when you had to wait to find that out.

I remember creating slumber parties for her friends, driving her carpool, being her protector, so many of the things a tired older mother is happy to pass onto an older child.

And here we are a zillion years later, married, living in different countries, still able to giggle like we are kids.

Her world knows her as a big time entertainment executive.

I know her as my little sister.

I’m so proud.

So, thankful,


Wait, I better head to the plane’s bathroom for some Kleenex. Either that, or ask to borrow the sleeve of the stranger sitting next to me.

Surely, it must be the air up here.

Find more stories on my website,

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution,the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.