No-regrets caregiving guide

Posted on December 7, 2015
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-35In the November issue of AARP magazine, editor Robert Love saluted the 39.8 million Americans who currently provide unpaid care to an adult, dubbing them both “noble” and selfless.

During the last six years of my mother’s life, I inherited the task of managing her long battle with vascular dementia. Had you asked me then, I would have described myself as anything but “noble.” Most of the time I felt scared and frazzled. In retrospect, I see what I could have done better.

In the December issue of Michigan Prime, delivered with your Sunday Detroit Free Press, I share a few tips from my “No-Regrets Caregiving Guide.” Click here to read my column (page 6) in the online edition.

Small Business Saturday!

Posted on November 23, 2015
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IMG_1565I’m a fan of thriving downtown business districts, so I like to support and promote Small Business Saturday — on November 28 this year. To show my appreciation for the independent merchants in my community, I make it a tradition to buy holiday presents and hostess gifts from my favorite shops on this special day. With its terrific selection of handcrafted Michigan gifts, the Yellow Door Art Market in downtown Berkley is just one example. I’m also proud of the fact that they’ve carried my book, Writing Home, along with several other titles by popular Michigan authors, for several years. I hope you’ll keep it mind when you’re shopping this weekend.

Writing your family legacy

Posted on November 10, 2015
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dads-younger-brother1Who doesn’t wish their grandparents had bequeathed a large box of old love letters, diaries, journals, and photographs to fill the gaps in our family history? Our life stories are the most valuable legacies we can leave our loved ones. In this month’s Michigan Prime, I offer a few tips on how to start recording your own family stories — where to look for them, how to get them organized, how to use photos and objects to trigger memories, and more. The story also includes a sidebar on where to take my memoir writing classes this fall. (Or visit the “Workshops” section on this site.) Flip to page 4 to read my column in the online edition.

Artwork shown: “Dad’s Younger Brother” by Douglas La Ferle

Dropping our masks

Posted on October 5, 2015
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IMG_0059.JPGThe season of the witch is here, with haunting Halloween decorations popping up on lawns and in stores everywhere. It’s my favorite holiday — and my favorite time of year. Just for fun, my October Michigan Prime column explains why baby boomers love to dress up for Halloween — and what our costume choices might mean.

Michigan Prime is delivered monthly with the Sunday Detroit Free Press. But you can click here to read the column online. Please flip to page 5.

The homecoming dance

Posted on September 30, 2015
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This column was originally published in The Daily Tribune on September 21, 2003, when my son Nate was a senior at Shrine Catholic High School. It’s also included my memoir collection, Writing Home. This week, Nate celebrated his third year of marriage to Andrea, the young woman mentioned in this column.

From baptism to bar mitzvah, rituals and rites of passage honor the milestones in our lives. Certain rituals are so closely tied to autumn, in fact, that I can’t imagine the season without them. Raking leaves, visiting cider mills, and digging woolens out of storage are just a few.

But the annual high school homecoming dance crowns them all.

At our house, as surely as the maples shed yellow leaves on the lawn, this semi-formal event kicks up a whirlwind of activity and emotion. Some of it is not pretty.

Nat and Andrea1Because I am the mother of a son, my homecoming rituals do not include shopping for the ultimate evening gown and the perfect shade of nail polish. Admittedly, I miss playing Fairy Godmother to Cinderella, so I live vicariously through other moms who have teenaged daughters. That’s how I’ve learned that things are different with boys. The angst level, for instance, is much lower in the wardrobe department. Guys don’t worry about their hair, and they don’t have to obsess over finding a purse to coordinate with a pair of shoes that will be worn only once.

Traditionally, a boy waits until forty-five minutes before the big event to consider whether or not his dress shirt needs to be unearthed from the closet floor. (This is based on the assumption that he owns a dress shirt.) At that point, all hell breaks loose, sending his beleaguered parents in search of an ironing board while the boy hunts down a pair of matching socks. He also waits until the final hour to announce that his good suit has cake frosting on the lapel – a souvenir from the last semi-formal event he attended.

Homecoming rituals will test any parent’s mettle, but I believe I’m a sturdier person because of them.

Engagement4Last year, a week before the big dance, we drove Nate to Nordstrom to shop for a new shirt and tie. Anticipating conflict, I backed off and let him sort through the merchandise with his dad. I tried to keep quiet – until I spotted a handsome gold dress shirt that was perfect for his black suit.

“Look at this one, guys!” I shouted, holding up the prize. On cue, Doug spotted a great tie to go with it. Our sweet son glanced at the ensemble, rolled his eyes, and muttered his new favorite word. “Hideous.”

Seconds later, Nate’s cell phone rang. It was Andrea – a young lady with impeccable fashion sense. Andrea happened to be shopping in the area and would come to his rescue. She would help him find the right shirt.

Well, when the fashionista arrived in the men’s department, she immediately chose – you guessed it – the gold shirt. Suddenly this shirt was awesome, and the tie was cool, too. (I bit my tongue and reminded myself that God really does look out for parents, and lurks everywhere, including the men’s department at Nordstrom.)

As I type this, the next homecoming dance is a week away. Just as I did last year, and the year before that, I’ve reminded Nate to ask a date in advance. Once again, I’ve explained how girls need time to shop for dresses and book hair appointments. And just as he did last year, the kid kept his plans under wraps until he needed advice on ordering a corsage.

As it turns out, Nate’s date this year is Andrea, the sharp young lady with good taste in men’s shirts. Thinking ahead last week, we bought Nate a new shirt and tie to co-ordinate with her dress. Thank goodness, Andrea approves. Meanwhile, I am not taking any chances and have dropped off the black suit at the dry cleaner. This is senior year, after all, and we’ve finally learned the steps to the homecoming dance.

Writing Home is available on Amazon (use the link at the top of this page).

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