Careening into December

Where has the autumn gone? While the election season felt interminable, everything else zipped by. Between houseguests and travel, I found myself on Thanksgiving thinking, “Hey, too fast!” This is what happens with a full life, though, isn’t it?

But now life around here is going to slow down a little. And I have pictures to share from my last bit of travel which was to England for my friend Oonah’s book launch in Newcastle.

If you haven’t been to the north of England, go. On this last trip, I had the opportunity to see the landscape in November light, which is the perfect painterly light. The days are short, a full two hours shorter than here in Minnesota right now, and the air is damp. The wind can be raw. I stood on the shore of the North Sea and watched the waves make whitecaps like galloping horses, tasted the salt in the air, and thought about Oonah’s poems that offer up these very images. Oonah, her husband Noel, and I visited gardens that, in November, still held roses on the branch and leaves in red, gold, brown, and yellow. We went to bookstores and cheese shops and pubs, drank local ales and heard local musicians. Oonah and I shared our poetry on a stage with several other wonderful poets, and a few talented musicians, and were rewarded with a warm, attentive audience. My 10 days in Northumberland ended just two days before Thanksgiving here. I came home to a refrigerator already stocked by Mick with turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie, whipped cream, and other dinner fixings.

And we were grateful. Very, very grateful.

North Sea at Newbiggin

The North Sea at Newbiggin

Barter Books in Alnwick – one of the largest used bookstores in Europe

That painterly light in the gardens at Wallington and Belsay

Oonah and I reading our work at the STANZA for Oonah’s November 17 book launch in Newcastle

Oonah and Noel

And now, onward to December.


Thanksgiving Traditions and Change

I like Thanksgiving as a holiday of gratitude and food. Cooking for people has always been something I love to do, even though I’m no gourmet chef. I simply love the warmth of gathering around a table and sharing traditional foods: turkey, potatoes, cranberries, pie. I love the smells, the full refrigerator, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on T.V. I love having my kids around.

But things do change. Our family takes turns with our kids’ partners’ families for holidays; every other year we celebrate together. This year, it’s not our turn. Rather than be sad about having to share our kids, Mick and I are looking beyond our own table. We decided to do something for the larger community, and that’s why we signed up to participate in the Walk to End Hunger on Thanksgiving morning. The Walk to End Hunger is organized by a group of Twin Cities hunger relief organizations who work together to end hunger in both the Twin Cities and across the State of Minnesota. We’ll walk at the Mall of America on Thursday morning, hope that we make a difference.

We are excited about this change that will get us out into a crowd of people who all want to help those whose refrigerators are not stuffed full of food, who may not have the luxury of a Thanksgiving dinner of any sort. We will work to feed others not just for the holiday, but beyond.

If you want to help, you can donate to my personal page here:

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!

Walk to End Hunger graphic

Live from Northumberland!

This week, I’m excited to be traveling in Northumberland, visiting my friend and colleague Oonah Joslin and her husband Noel. I’m in Northumberland to support Oonah at her Newcastle book launch of her new poetry book, Three Pounds of Cells, published by The Linnet’s Wings Press. The book event will be at The STANZA, a Third Thursday Poetry and Spoken Word Event at Beldons at The Exchange on Howard Street in North Shields, on the evening of Thursday, November 17. Several poets, me included, will be reading along with Oonah and it promises to be a fun evening. The STANZA’s  Facebook event page has more information.

Besides the book launch, Oonah has promised a visit to Alnwick Train Station to see Barter Books, one of the largest second-hand book stores in the U.K. And she’s promised to make haggis. Apparently, there’s whiskey involved and she thought of me! And she has some other things up her sleeve, but that’s all for another blog.

This week, I’m just going to enjoy the journey and be grateful for friends in faraway places.

delta plane image by skeeze from

image courtesy of



Campaign Season Fatigue: Ready to Vote!

Like everyone I know, I cannot wait until this presidential election is over. The nastiness, the lack of depth and intelligent analysis, the social media overload – all of it needs to go. Away. Now.

I’m very much looking forward to voting tomorrow, along with my husband and our daughter, whom we’ll pick up from her student apartment after her last class of the day. We’ll walk into our precinct voting place together and cast our ballots, hope for the best. Later, my son and daughter-in-law are coming to our house to watch the results roll in. A few friends are joining us.

Am I going to try to sell you on my choice? Not today. But I am going to echo the general call to get out and vote, exercise your hard-won right as an adult citizen of this country, and be respectful of everyone else who is doing the same. Do not predict the end of the world as we know it if you come up against someone who is voting for your candidate’s opponent. We’ve had enough childish doomsday forecasts to push people into making a choice based on fear, incomplete truths, or flat-out lies. Think about the bigger picture, why experience matters, how the checks and balances inherent in our system really work, and what candidate promises are realistically impossible to fulfill.

For that matter, think about what you learned as a child about being fair and doing a good job.

When I was a kid, my dad was adamant about voting in every single election. This is what good Americans did. I went along every time my parents voted, listened to them from the back seat of the car while they discussed the election. I remember during the 1972 Nixon vs. McGovern election I was just becoming aware of how candidates tried to make themselves look good and was beginning to understand that there was a lot of disagreement about Vietnam and women and racial differences. Our local parish priest admonished all of us that voting for a candidate who supported abortion rights was not what a good Catholic did. For my parents, this meant that McGovern was not a good Catholic choice, but he was the Democrat and this caused a great deal of anguish. My mom was very clear that she could not vote for McGovern, but my dad did not like Nixon. I asked my dad if he was going to vote for Nixon or McGovern after learning about them both in school, and my dad informed me that we never had to tell anyone who we voted for. He might not even tell my mom who he chose and she might not tell him. It was a sacred, private thing. Of course, I know now it might have been in my dad’s best interest to keep mum.

When I was old enough to vote, I talked to my dad about the candidates. I didn’t keep my choices a secret from him. Now, Mick and I talk a lot about who we support and we have not had an election over which we’ve disagreed much. Our differences in choice of candidates come early on, before the party endorsements happen. But our philosophies are similar. We are lucky that way. I cannot imagine being married to someone who has a completely different political sensibility, especially in this election season.

Is this election season any more divisive than that long-ago 1972 season when there was so much strife in this country? Or the 1968 election, which I cannot remember? I don’t know. It seems like it is more divisive today, but I believe my parents were every bit as worried about the future in 1972 as I am now. I worry about what we are creating for our kids with all this fighting and arguing and inability to come to a consensus on things like health care, immigration, education, and foreign policy. What gives me hope is that we still have the right to choose our representatives, still have a process that prevents change on a whim, and that many people are going to the polls already through the early voting option. It gives me hope that many are speaking out about this campaign season’s bad behavior with the suggestion that this is not how adults should behave.

Come Wednesday, we’ll know who our next president is. Let’s honor the democratic process. Vote.


images courtesy of