Remembering Franny and Zooey and Jim

Wrapping paper. Sugar-sweet carols. Televised cartoon specials. Noise-making toys. Tinsel everywhere. I have four children, so this is how my Christmases have looked and sounded for the past 17 years. And that’s great. This is just how it should be — loud and colorful and joyful.

But I need my alone time, so every year I’ve managed to carve out a little space just for myself during these end-of-year celebrations. While the kids are watching those television specials or playing with their toys or baking cookies, I’ve made it a point to take a book off the shelf, sit, and read. And for many years — more than I can remember, really — that book has been Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger.READ MORE


Signing off on my final column, and still laughing at my kids

After more than seven years and somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 columns, I feel it’s time for me to turn my attention elsewhere and focus on other work and expanded ideas. This will be my last column, and I wanted to use this space to thank all of you for so many years of reading, for the emails you’ve sent and the stories you’ve shared about your own children or your own childhood as we stood side by side questioning the number of cereal options at Kroger.READ MORE


Look at the bright side of impromptu winter holidays

We’re in the midst of the long run-on sentence of winter, punctuated only by a staggering MLGW bill, a stomach bug and the occasional icy holiday.

But spring break is a matter of weeks away. Say it with me: Spring break is only weeks away.

There is nothing better than Memphis in springtime, is there? The dogwoods bloom, the birds chirp, and the azaleas blossom. Then, of course, comes the pollen. The green stuff fills the air, covers our cars and invades our noses, bringing watery eyes and itchy throats.READ MORE


Mailbox full of milestones for oldest son — like taxes and college

My oldest son, Calvin, began working last fall at an East Memphis veterinary clinic. He goes in after school for a few hours a couple of days a week and on Saturdays. Last weekend, we logged on to TurboTax, and he filled out his first-ever income tax return. In a matter of weeks, $38 in refunded cash will be deposited electronically into his bank account.

Welcome to the real world of tax responsibility in the 21st century, Calvin.READ MORE


Teenagers don’t need theater class to be dramatic

My daughter is taking a theater class at White Station Middle School this semester. She’s staring down at the teen years, and someone is going to spend his time teaching her drama.

She’ll turn 13 later this year, but the teenage attitude has already let itself into our house, taken a seat at the dining table and asked me to pass the potatoes. “Whenever — it’s not like I’m starving over here or anything.”

Which came first: this inclination toward melodrama or the television shows that perpetuate it on Nickelodeon? I’ve never really sat and watched one of those shows, not on purpose anyway, but they’re constantly on, and I can hear them the same way I can hear the humming of the air conditioner or the traffic on the street. It’s background noise to 44-year-old fathers.READ MORE


In 8-year-old girls basketball, beware the no-look pass

Eight-year-old Genevieve recently started playing organized basketball. It is her first time playing a sport and her first real attempt at any organization whatsoever. She’s still a wild card.

We’re not a sports family. Oh, we enjoy rallying around the home teams — the Grizzlies, the Tigers, the Redbirds. But with the exception of 13-year-old Joshua, we don’t rally around “SportsCenter.” I understand just enough to know when Genevieve is in the paint or out, when she’s offense or defense, and when to cheer for her and when to pretend I’m there for someone else.READ MORE


Tired parents left to scrape together dinner at ‘The Fourth Line’


Over time, parents begin to look at life differently.

By time, I mean a week. And by life, I mean dinner. The beginning of a week — Sunday — is made for big family dinners such as pot roast with potatoes, a green vegetable and a starch; homemade banana pudding or cake for dessert. Perhaps spaghetti with meatballs, garlic bread and salad is more to your liking, with homemade banana pudding or cake.READ MORE