Dear Reader,

The illustration above caught my eye, the awakening and vivid colors: she’s on a train (I like reading on trains, on airplanes, even if I’m a passenger in a long car ride) and the word LIFE on the magazine or book she’s reading. Like the apple on her tray, the cup of water—reading is life-giving, reading should always accompany us on our life’s journey. And notice the colorful stamps on her luggage, stamps people once used to reveal, to celebrate where they had been.

A bookcase full of books or a Kindle jammed with titles, does the same thing, celebrates where you have been. Because reading is always about taking a journey, about opening your mind and emotions to someone’s ideas.


 In today’s society, newspapers are struggling, but if you happen to subscribe to the magazine THE WEEK (I do) you will find major newspapers and magazines are still very important in pinning down stories that profoundly affect the bottom lines of our lives.

True, that many people now get the news online—or rely only on television news. But that doesn’t always provide you with an analysis, an interpretation to guide you through the pitfalls of opinion. When you READ, you can pause and evaluate a situation, you can compare the writer’s point of view to what You already know, what You have already read or an opinion You have maintained for a long time. Reading helps you grow, because it often challenges an idea or opinion you have held for a long time.

When you engage with a different point of view—that’s a good thing. Yes, we bring personal experience to almost every idea we encounter. But staying lock-step without looking around to investigate, might lead us to a dark place—or the wrong place.

And getting the NEWS isn’t always politics. News can be about an advancement in medicine, the pros and cons of self-driving cars or CBD oils, the latest advances in tech—anything you are currently interested in, anything that might change the society, the environment we share.


To stimulate your appetite for READING, I pulled some books off my shelves.

POETRY: Billy Collins, our poet laureate from 2001-2003; verses from ONLY CHILD (he wishes he had a sibling)

I would gaze into her green eyes

and see my parents, my mother looking out

of Mary’s right eye and my father staring out of her left.

which would remind me of what an odd duck

I was as a child, a little prince, a loner,

…and maybe we would have another espresso and a pastry

And I would always pay the bill and walk her home.

ESSAY: Marilynne Robinson, from WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE? 

The U.S is in many ways a grand experiment. Let us take Iowa as an example. What would early 19th century settles on the open prairie do first? Well…they found a university, which is now about 170 years old. Agriculture became, as it remains, the basis of the state economy. How did the university develop in response to this small, agrarian population? It became…a thriving and innovative center for the arts–theater, music, painting and, of course, creative writing. ..the arts are the signature of the place and have been for generations.

NOVEL: Alice McDermott, from CHILD OF MY HEART

...all their interest and enthusiasm was reserved for the places they had left. Like exiles, their delight was not in where they now found themselves, but in whatever they could remember about the place, and the time, they had abandoned. 


As I’ve stressed before, the characteristics of perfectly hidden depression, in moderation, can be helpful. But when they begin to govern every aspect of your being, they can become a huge problem. It becomes self-destructive when your perfectionist critical voice is screaming at you nonstop in the background. 

QUIRKY: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie  WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS (quirky, because this little book of 48 pages could change the world.)

Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture… My own definition of a feminist is a man or woman who says, “Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better.”


P.S. Thanks to for the photo. 

Our Most Precious Gift…Free Speech

Our Most Precious Gift...Free Speech

My mother grew morning glories that spilled onto the walkway…

Dear Readers,

This week I am celebrating one of my children and thus my time for this essay is limited. But every time one of you responds to what I say, I AM GRATEFUL. And more and more I relish, applaud, am grateful for FREE SPEECH. Just imagine where I would be if I lived in a country that scanned my every word and maybe came to the door for me. FREE SPEECH is a gift we all need to celebrate every day. It doesn’t matter if your thing is recipes or film reviews, or telling jokes or sharing videos. Free speech flows in the USA like the morning glories in the photo. YOU SAY WHAT YOU WANT in the United States of America and not fear that someone will try to stop you. At least not yet. I just saw a video of ICE taking a man out of an elevator by force. The man was not allowed to show his papers. ICE did not show theirs. WRONG.

So let’s make a point of every day, in this great country, that no matter how someone else’s words might not fit with yours, that person has a right to say it. You have a right to say how you feel, what you believe.


The following are excerpts. This reveals that the LA TIMES will print both sides. Newspapers believe in freedom of the press–usually. I confess, they are selective. But that doesn’t mean that my letter will always be printed or that the opposing view will too. Space creates limits.

  • This phrase (enemy of the people) has been used by the most notorious of world dictators in the Soviet Union, China, Nazi Germany and even in the United States under Richard Nixon…Any time a journalist in the U. S. or abroad is harassed, threatened, harmed, imprisoned or even killed, those Americans who actually believe in the freedom of the press will recall the insidious characterization of reporters by (this administration) to their everlasting shame.
  • Democracy demands an informed public, not one that is titillated or pandered to. Trump evidently sees democracy and the rules of law as mere impediments.
  • The media have been on an unending campaign agains the president. The bias is breathtaking. They desperately need a devil’s advocate, someone to challenge what they say before it goes public.


Being a writer, I have published some of my work and spend much of my time, writing, teaching myself how to become a better writer and exposing myself to THE BEST. All of this comes under the heading of FREE SPEECH. Unlike Russian writers or those hounded and persecuted in other countries, I don’t fear the use of my words. Literature, essays, poetry–all forms are available to me. Thus to end this piece today, I share two poems with you. The first appeared in a recent issue of TIME MAGAZINE that included many essays about our southern states. This poem is so awesome, I wanted to share it.

FOREDAY IN THE MORNIING     by Jericho Brown, a Louisiana native and the author of The New Testament and Please 

My mother grew morning glories that spilled onto the walkway toward her porch

Because she was a woman with land who showed as much by giving it color.

She told me I could have whatever I worked for. That means she was an American.

But she’d say it was because she believed In God. I am ashamed of America

And confounded by God. I thank God for my citizenship in spite

Of the timer set on my life to write.

These words: I love my mother. I love black women.

Who plant flowers as sheepish as their sons. By the time the blooms

Unfurl themselves for a few hours of light, the women who tend them

Are already at work. Blue. I’ll never know who started the lie that we are


But I’d love to wake that bastard up

At foreday in the morning, toss him in a truck, and drive him under God

Past every buy stop in America to see all those black folk

Waiting to go work for whatever they want. A house? A boy

To keep the lawn cut? Some color in the yard? My God, we leave things


The second poem it the work of Billy Collins, our poet laureate from 2001-2003


Today is my mother’s birthday, but she’s not here to celebrate

by opening a flowery card or looking calmly out the window.

If my mother were alive, she’d be 114 years old,

and I am guessing neither of us would be enjoying her birthday very much.

Mother, I would love to see you again to take you shopping or to sit

in your sunny apartment with a pot of tea, but it wouldn’t be the same at 114.

And I’m no prize either, almost 20 years older than the last time

you saw me sitting by your deathbed. Some days, I look worse than yesterday’s oatmeal.

Happy Birthday, anyway. Happy Birthday to you. Here I am in a wallpapered room

raising a glass of birthday whiskey and picturing your face, the brooch on your collar.

It must have been frigid that morning in the house just before dawn

on your first December 1st at the family farm a hundred miles north of Toronto.

I imagine they had your wrapped up tight, and there was your tiny pink face

sticking out of the bunting, and all those McIsaacs getting used to saying your name.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy our gift of FREE SPEECH.

Photo Credit: Gold Country Girls Blogger