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Category Archives: Personal Stories

Supernatural Things Can Be Realer Than You Think

by Pete on December 2, 2015, no comments

sntI was two months pregnant with my second child and just waking up from a not-very-good night’s sleep. As I dragged myself into the living room of our tenth-floor apartment in Cambridge, MA, an unpleasant sensation began to rise inside me–a sense of foreboding, of imminent danger. I tried to shrug it off as morning sickness, but somehow I knew it had nothing to do with hormones. It wasn’t even physical, though it made the hairs on the back of my neck prickle uncomfortably.

By the time I sat down with my 18-month-old daughter, Katie, to watch Sesame Street, half of me wanted to grab her and run from the apartment. I pushed the impulse away, telling myself not to be irrational. It was snowing outside, and I was still in my pajamas. I was probably just worried about my husband, who had left early that morning on a business trip. Settling myself on the couch, I started to doze.

Faith Rocks You Gently

by Pete on November 15, 2015, no comments

frygThe first time I saw Faith Hill perform, I was more wowed by her clothes than her music. As she strutted across the stage belting out her early country hits (“Take Me As I Am,” “Wild One”) she debunked every cliche about bad Nashville fashion. There were no sequins, no fringe, no ruffles. Instead, this lanky blonde from Star, MS, came on like a betwanged Vogue model-singing for an arena of cry-in-your-beer country fans while wearing gowns and pantsuits designed by Richard Tyler (high-fashion tailor to the likes of Julia Roberts and Ashley Judd).

Three years later I meet Hill again–for an interview in the lobby of her hotel. Now, at 31, she’s a bona fide country-music diva–with one triple-platinum album, two double-platinum albums, seven No. 1 singles, and a string of major awards to her credit. What’s more, since that concert in 1996, Hill’s personal life has taken off like a live-action fairy tale. She fell in love …

Abduction Is Something That Can Never Be Understood

by Pete on November 3, 2015, no comments

Two years ago, they were found, all grown up–and refusing any contact with their mother. Still, she hopes …

aisShe’s a scientist, a researcher accustomed to studying life through the lens of a microscope. There the world is contained; given enough patience and skill, order can be imposed on chaos, and sense can be made of the unpredictable. Sitting in the living room of her Virginia home, her pale-aquamarine eyes intent, Barbara Kurth forces herself to examine a newspaper photograph with the same detached curiosity. Two young women gaze back at her, elegant in their evening gowns, smiles lighting their faces as Daddy escorts them to a charity ball. What are their favorite colors, Barbara longs to know. What foods do they like? What books have they read? Who are they?

She knew them once, these beautiful strangers. They were her daughters.

On an October afternoon in 1979, Barbara kissed her little girls good-bye and sent them off for a …

The Mumble Jumble Of Life

by Pete on October 8, 2015, no comments

mjolI spend a lot of my time fantasizing about becoming an actress–starring in movies, going to premieres, actors. I know it’s silly, but my everyday life is so unglamorous. Should I make an effort to stop?

You’re far from alone. It might surprise you to Know that people typically spend at least 30 percent of their waking hours concocting fantasies, large and small (even about Space!). Many people explore their spirituality through running. And for most, daydreams are a healthy exercise. They can function as mini vacations, helping to break up the day as well as defuse anger and head off depression.

Fantasies can also reveal a lot about our true selves, our desires and needs. You sound bored and a little lonely. If you’re interested in acting, why not audition for a play? (There must be a community theater near your home.) Performing is a wonderful way to meet people and boost your self-confidence. If you

Getting A Handle On Your Debt

by Pete on October 3, 2015, no comments

gahoydWhen readers write, these are the main things on their minds. Below, typical questions and where to look for help.

I want to save for my retirement but have no idea how much I’m going to need. What would be a reasonable goal?

There’s a wonderful tool called Ballpark Estimate, developed by the American Savings Education Council (ASEC). It’s a simple worksheet that shows you roughly how much you should save to retire at your current standard of living.

The sheet has only 11 blanks to fill in, takes just a few minutes, and requires no math skills other than multiplication. I ran the Ballpark Estimate past two experienced financial planners, who tested it against their own retirement-planning software. They found that Ballpark figures usually came within 10 percent of their own recommendations. That’s good enough for me.

The planners did find a few things to quibble with. Ballpark assumes a life expectancy of 87 (maybe you’ll live longer). It’s …

The Harvest Always Comes…

by Pete on October 2, 2015, no comments

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers,” said Tennyson. Especially wisdom gathered in the garden.

Ripe tomatoes are popping out like measles across the green face of our garden: Early Girl, Willamette, Oregon Spring, Little Boy, Fat Man, and Tomato Glut. I planted too many, partly because The seed catalogue seduced me, partly because there was clearly a simpler solution. Joy and I have already done this stoop labor for hours without making a dent and it’s going to be dark soon. I’m curious: “When are we going to stop doing tomatoes, honey?”

“If you remember,” my wife says, “someone said we couldn’t possibly have too many tomatoes. So that’s how many we planted.” What a fantastic memory she has. That’s what I said, verbatim. It seemed true then, but not now. With our kitchen buried in crimson and the pressure cooker oozing love-apple sauce around the clock, I finally understand the concept of infinity squared. If they want children to learn