Valentines for Everyone

Valentine’s Day is not everyone’s favorite, given that it reminds us of our relationship status no matter what. And so I say to everyone: you deserve a token of love regardless. Single or coupled. Doesn’t matter. You’re important.

heart-1618199_1280I do have the good luck to celebrate with my partner Mick, but it wasn’t always like that. There were several years when I was unattached and a few when I was a single parent. I still liked Valentine’s Day because any excuse to eat little candy hearts works for me. And my parents, who were still around back then, never failed to send me a card, which I thought was sweet.

Speaking of sweet things, I found a post from 2008 at Poets.org  that pairs poem snippets with liquor, sweets, and flowers. I’m not convinced that the pairings all work, but it gave me ideas of my own. Now, if I can just figure out what verse goes with whiskey, dark chocolate, and some sort of big flame-orange flower, I’ll be all set.

And while I’m figuring that out, I’ll be making filet mignon with rich balsamic glaze and steamed broccoli. We’re staying in.

How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

cupid

All images courtesy of Pixabay.com

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On the Eve of the Winter Solstice

Yes, my blog this week is a day late. And there is one very important reason for that.

Yesterday, we had to say goodbye to our old friend Ruby. Ruby was our 14-year-old Irish terrier who spent her life in our house, watched our kids grow into amazing adults, stood by us when we each lost our fathers, welcomed our granddaughter, took our second dog Truffles under her wing, and paced the floor around 5:30 every morning in her old age.

It was a bittersweet day, as any pet owner will know. Ruby told us she was done by refusing to eat and drink over the weekend. She was tired. She had lived long enough.

And so we did what we needed to do: took her to our vet, whom she loved, and helped her leave us.

Ruby the Irish terrier

Ruby

Even though I had to get a box of Kleenex to keep in my office yesterday, today I am thinking about how Ruby made us better people by forcing us to slow down once in a while. She had a way of backing up to us wherever we were sitting so that we could pause and pet her. She was good at being insistent. Pay attention, she seemed to say.

Dogs are good at that.

As we move on to the Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the New Year, taking a moment to pay attention to whatever is there in front of us might be a really nice idea. Turn off the news, put away the screens, and pause.

Happy Holidays, everyone. One Minnesota Writer will return in January 2017.

happy holidays from one minnesota writer

Of Poetry and Fudge

I spent much of the weekend reading slush for Gyroscope Review and thinking about our winter issue, which will be available on January 1. Being an editor means I have to be both hard-nosed and generous. This role is where I am constantly challenged to put myself in someone else’s shoes as I try to appreciate the poems in front of me. It is a role that requires me to know what’s going on in the world, to recognize a variety of references across different perspectives, and to see when a poem just needs a little tweak to be great or when I have to say no.

In short, it’s a lot of work. It’s just as much work as the writing itself; it just happens to come on the other end of the creative process. And this is my editorial plug for anyone who is submitting work to one of the number of publications who have open calls for submissions: no editor does this work to make your life miserable. Editors do this work to offer the best possible assembly of words to readers.

And, in the spirit of offering good poetry, I am pleased to share Gyroscope Review‘s list of Pushcart Prize nominees here. My co-editor Constance Brewer and I work hard to get Gyroscope Review‘s contributing authors’ names out into the world and the Pushcart Prize nominations are an excellent opportunity to do that. Please check out the list of nominees and then swing by our Issues page to see those poems and many more.

Perhaps reading some poetry while December tightens its cold-weather grip will be just the thing to counteract this post-election funk many of us feel. But if that doesn’t help, then maybe this will….I give you the fudge recipe I use every year around this time. Fudge makes everything better, don’t you think?

I’ve used the same fudge recipe since I found it on the back of a jar of Kraft marshmallow creme when I was first learning to cook back in the early 1980s. The recipe doesn’t look quite the same on today’s jars and I never add the nuts. I always make plain, unadulterated chocolate fudge. And I use butter. Pure butter.

Here you go:

Fantasy Fudge (old school recipe)

3 C sugar

3/4 C margarine (I use butter!)

2/3 C evaporated milk (this is about equal to the little 5 oz can in the grocery store)

12 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips (don’t use “chocolate flavored”!)

7 oz jar marshmallow creme

(1 C chopped nuts is part of the original recipe – I leave these out)

1 tsp vanilla (use real vanilla!)

Combine sugar, margarine (butter), and milk in heavy 2 1/2 quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.

Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate until melted. Add marshmallow creme, (nuts), vanilla. Beat until blended well. (I use a big old wooden spoon.) Pour into a greased (or foil-lined) 13 X 9 inch pan. Cool at room temp.

Cut into squares. Makes about 3 pounds of fudge.

Fantasy Fudge recipe card

You can see this recipe card has been well-used. And the recipe box was my mom’s.

homemade fudge

The slab left from our annual Thanksgiving Eve fudge-making.

homemade fudge pieces

Irresistible!

 

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: http://www.walktoendhunger.org/site/TR/Events/General?px=1066163&pg=personal&fr_id=1080

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!

Walk to End Hunger graphic

Light the Jack o’Lanterns!

one-mn-writer-witchHalloween is one of my favorite nights of the year. It’s a night when I remember what it’s like to be a kid, excited about doing something that cannot be done at any other time. It’s also a night when I think about ancient traditions, about honoring the dead and the changing seasons. I love the magical feel of Halloween, how all things spooky get celebrated.

This year,  I’m longing for the simplicity of homemade costumes and children who dance through their neighborhood to collect candy. I’m ready for a night that we give over to kids, when adults stay in their corners and be adults. And that’s what I’m going to do – be the grown-up who oohs and aahs at little kids when they yell, “Trick or Treat,” give them candy, wait for the next costumed little person to walk past my newly-carved pumpkins with real candles inside.

I know a lot of adults love Halloween and have fun with costume parties of their own, decorate their yards with abandon, invent drinks that turn blood red or black, let themselves play “pretend” one more time. I’ve done that myself. But this year, it feels just right to let this night be for kids alone. I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot over the past week, how Halloween is the perfect antidote to the nastiness of this election season and how sitting around with a bowl full of miniature candy bars is far less stressful than watching the news. Or discussing which direction our country should take. Or opening the mail. Or scheduling the next appointment, whatever it may be. Or having to reject someone’s poetry. Or submitting my own. Or any number of other grown-up things that must be done. I want to turn my attention elsewhere. And where better to turn it than to kids and the magic they still believe in?

So, at dusk, I’ll light the candles in the pumpkins, put the candy in my special cauldron, and be happy to be the one who gives treats. I’ll be the grown-up who honors Halloween as a time for kids to be kids and for adults to keep the veil over that other world that all those kids will be part of soon enough. Good, simple unplugged fun in an increasingly complicated plugged-in world.

Happy Halloween!

omw-happy-halloween

 

Have a Happy and Safe July 4

One Minnesota Writer is taking a break today to be with family and friends, grill food, watch fireworks, and express gratitude to live in a place where this is even possible.

Happy July 4 to my U.S. readers. We are lucky. We need to remember that more often. Less acrimony. More neighborliness.


For your summer reading pleasure, the new issue of Gyroscope Review is now available. If you’re reading on a laptop or desktop computer, use this link: https://joom.ag/toRQ

If you’re reading on a tablet or cell phone, use this link: http://www.gyroscopereview.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/ISSUE-16-3-SUMMER-2016.pdf

And remember that a subscription through Joomag is free. We want everyone to be able to enjoy good poetry every day.

Happy summer reading!

Version 2

And We’re Off!

How do I feel about January? Today’s title says it. Off to a new year, new projects, ideas about how we can all do better or, at least, not do worse.

It’s Sunday afternoon as I write this. We still have all our holiday decorations up and the table is set for the first family Sunday supper of the year. Holiday music streams on my computer. But on Monday, the day you will read this, we will take down our tree, put away the ornaments, candles, tablecloths, dishes. We will find places for the gifts we received, take the wreath off the front door. And I know I will feel a little melancholy as I put away the evidence that another holiday season has passed, feel a little older and that the house is too quiet. I’ll ache for my kids to be back home, tromping through the front door with snow on their feet and packages in their hands.

But then I’ll look around and think about how clean it feels in here, how much space we have when everything is put away, how this particular holiday season was a very happy one with family and friends, and how lucky we are. Our first Sunday supper of 2016 will have done the work of wrapping everything up, bringing us around the table to use the Christmas dishes one last time and to plan family time for the year to come. And I already know that I’ll think damn, I have recipes I want to try and poems I need to write and there are submissions in slush at Gyroscope Review for the spring issue already and I need to keep my camera charged because you never know when the next photo op will appear. I’ll be thinking about the Pacific Northwest, where we will head several months from now via car because a road trip has been lodged in my head for a while; Mick and I spent New Year’s Eve planning it while we fondued shrimp. We opened the road atlas he gave me for Christmas and traced our fingers along possible routes while others were out drinking champagne to welcome the new year.

Oh, I should admit it now, while I’m writing: I’m already thinking ahead. I’m already off on this year’s path.

Onward!

road-675538_1920

Photo by Anja Osenberg, courtesy of Pixabay.com

Happy New Year from One Minnesota Writer

This little space between Christmas and New Year’s Day always feels a little awkward to me, as if one holiday percolates into another without time to digest either one. By the time it’s at the midpoint between the two, I feel a great urge to be quiet, hunker down and think. Bloat from cookies and other rich holiday foods makes the thinking a little slow.

So, in that slow, quiet mood I am thinking about this past year’s lessons, gifts, and bumps. Not enough to get bogged down in them because being here now is important, but enough to figure out what might be good pieces to carry forward.

And so here is what I’m grateful for from 2015:

  1. Family and friends, of course. This will always be at the top. My kids, my partner, people with whom I share conversations and meals and celebrations and difficulties, people with whom I trade favors and gifts and from whom I learn to be a better person.
  2. Being able to go outside every day. This is what having dogs has done for me; they need to be outside no matter what the weather and now I can’t imagine a morning where I don’t step outside, too. Or an evening, like last night when, thanks to those dogs, Mick and I both got to hear owls hooting in the distance. Yesterday morning we saw the moonset, heard and saw flocks of crows moving to a new place, felt the crunch of icy snow beneath our feet. That connection keeps us grounded in a way we would not have understood as well without this daily practice of walking outside.
  3. So I guess I should also be grateful for the dogs.
  4. Really talented colleagues (who also happen to be friends, so look back at #1). Because of talented colleagues, I’ve been part of an amazing poetry journal that is bringing in submissions that stun me from generous poets who have long publications lists. Because of talented colleagues, I’ve had my own work appear in beautiful journals alongside poets that have much to offer. And because of talented colleagues I got to be part of a flash fiction journal that, albeit short-lived, taught me much.
  5. The off switch on the television remote. Need I say more?
  6. Yoga practice.
  7. A car that starts no matter what the weather.
  8. The realization that I don’t need as much as I used to assume I did.

And what do I want from 2016? To hang on to this gratitude, this practice of being in the world in a way that is less frantic, kinder, more thoughtful. To not be rattled when things don’t go quite right. To be tougher than those who would rather do what goes completely against principles and fairness. And to not worry if someone doesn’t agree with me. They don’t have to.

One final thing. I want to remember to laugh at myself. They say laughter is the best medicine for good reason.

Happy 2016, everyone.

ed15c-2012-01-1007-53-43

 

Happy Winter Solstice!

I love the Winter Solstice. The short day and long night is just right for being cozy, for cooking, reading, writing, wrapping gifts, snuggling. The little kid in me hopes for snow.

When my daughter Abby was little, she used to watch a show called Little Bear. Little Bear had a winter solstice episode that I watched with her over and over. It was the most feel-good episode of kid shows in the mid-90s. And I still love it.

So, today, for you, the Little Bear episode with the Winter Solstice segment. It starts at 8:35. Because we all need a little kid-like break sometimes.

Happy Solstice!

Pearl Harbor Day and What Have We Done?

I will admit to you right up front that I really struggled to think of what to write in today’s post. It’s Pearl Harbor Day, of course; today marks the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that resulted in the deaths of 2400 Americans and the United States being thrust into World War II. It marks the shift in my own family history as my parents, who already had children, eventually were drawn into that same war when my father went into the Navy and served aboard a mine sweeper.

All of this happened before I was born. And as I read about Pearl Harbor over the past few days, I thought about where our country is now, what shatters our imagined peace and what we do to fight back.

Is the world a better place than it was at the dawn of World War II? Yes, there have been advances that help people: medicine, technology, exploration. As human beings, though, we don’t seem to be anymore peaceful or willing to understand different philosophies or political ideas than at any other time in history. The United States, in particular, clings to ideas about arming our citizens that haven’t proven helpful but certainly have allowed the proliferation of firearms in a way that helped place our country as the record-holders among western industrial nations  for death by gunfire. The chasm between western nations and Islam gets wider and deeper every day. Here at home in Minnesota, Black Lives Matter has been active trying to reconcile the experiences of African Americans with what police departments and the media offer as truth. There is friction everywhere.

And I am sitting here in front of my computer trying to drown all of it out for just a minute with holiday music.

While the world continues to be in a mess, and while we think of our own losses from earlier times, maybe it isn’t such a bad idea to listen to holiday music and clear our minds before the new year. Because we have a lot of work to do in 2016. Like John Lennon once sang, “And so this is Christmas and what have you done?”

Have a listen.