Redefining the party of my youth

What is our responsibility for the well-being of others? Is it possible for us to live in harmony with those who don’t share our religious or social beliefs? At a certain age the call to answer universal questions becomes harder to ignore or place in the hands of those we believe are a bit smarter or more powerful.CIMG7491.jpg



Among the more pressing involves the legacy we leave our children and defining the care and respect we must focus on our elders, people with disabilities and those who have been beaten down simply because of the color of their skin or country of origin. In a perfect world— a hard day’s work is enough to finance a family’s basic needs with more than a few dollars left over to educate our kids, take an occasional vacation and set aside for a rainy day. But in the real world the rain never seems to stop.

Many Northlanders live pay check to pay check and shop for bargains at big box stores or the local dollar store. When the check doesn’t stretch ’til the end of the month… a visit to the food shelf is the only thing preventing a child from going to bed hungry. While many of us work hard to make ends meet with an ever shrinking dollar—- foreign interests and powerful corporations reap the rewards provided by hard workers in the Northland. The power of the “one percenters” continues to grown as they  grow richer. Sadly while we focus on work—the strength of our unions is also being chipped away along with the power of our voices. Redistricting, voter suppression and apathy have tipped the balance of our representation in Washington in support of a Republican Party it’s founders would not recognize today. Choosing to exercise our vote for either party seems an exercise in disillusionment.

In our hearts we know building a wall is not the answer—nor is demonizing others. We question whether proposed tax cuts will really help the average Northland Family and why the majority in Washington seems relentless in its effort to weaken our current health care system (the backbone of rural health care.)

Our foot soldiers in the battle for justice and the war on poverty grow weary, beaten down by those who argue— giving a hand up or creating an even playing field—gives rise to socialism. Struggling to redefine itself— the Democratic Party must also take responsibility for the situation in which we find ourselves today. Inspired as a kid by President John F. Kennedy I’ve always thought of myself as a Democrat.

I’m not ready to give up that thought. But I know the party of my youth can no longer conduct business as usual. It too must redefine itself as the party of new ideas; one willing to boldly fight the opposition on its terms—quarterbacked by new leadership with convictions mirroring its members. It must be done quickly.

Faced with the probability of multi-million dollar mid-term campaigns, lack of money in the high stakes game of politics must not be a barrier for qualified leaders of the future. Nor should our gender, sexual orientation, race or religious belief.

A woman’s place is in the house and senate

When my mother was raising seven children she took part-time work to help fill the financial gaps during a time when a woman’s place was in the home child rearing, homemaking and budgeting the income provided by the man of the house.

Mom was also the referee, nurse and teacher of right and wrong.bettycookie

While others in our small rural community may have considered us poor, we never went to bed hungry, regularly scrubbed clean and sent off to Sunday School most weeks.

A child of the Great Depression she carefully guarded money and knew how much we had right down to the nickel.

When I was five years old I learned the value of that nickel and the dangers of foolish spending on a hot summer day.  The neighborhood kids were headed to the store to buy frozen pops and I wanted to join them on their adventure.  For weeks these kids had taunted me that their folks had threatened to call the “welfare” on my family.  I didn’t know what the welfare was… but there had been lots of talk at home about the poor house and how people who didn’t have money were sent to that terrible place.

My mom kept her big black purse on the highest kitchen shelf.  Somehow I managed to move a chair to the counter, climb up and take the money without being caught.

That precious nickel was spent on that long ago summer day and helped me feel like a normal kid as my tongue became stained by the ill-gotten frozen pop.  When I got home I was caught red-handed. (or should I say purple tongued.)  Mom grilled me and explained in no uncertain terms stealing was wrong and hurt everyone. She sent me to the living room to await my punishment when Dad came home.  Sobbing and filled with guilt it seemed as if hours passed until I learned my fate.

When Dad did come home he said not a word.  Mom’s punishment had been enough.  I had learned stealing was bad and a nickel meant something for a family struggling to make ends meet. 

This is just one childhood memory of a time when a woman’s place was in the home and one of the many lessons defining  who I’ve become.   

Pulling up my news feed today and reading about Senator Susan Collins and her courageous stand against the latest Trump Care proposal  I cannot help but think about my mom. She would have made a hell of a politician.

Water is life

Hummingbirds floating above a feeder faded pink by the sun… in a cloudless sky framed by giant cottonwood trees…in the distance the rhythmic sound of a creek snaking its way through McElmo Canyon; for the next few days this is my piece of heaven on earth.
Pecking away on my laptop I’m sitting in the shade steps from our cabin at the Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch. My husband is working nearby cleaning and repairing an old saddle  retired by a long ago cowboy to one of the many storage sheds on the ranch. I should be precise here. For him working with saddles isn’t work, it’s fun. This will be his third saddle since we started vacationing at the ranch.


Once or twice a year we pack up the car in Minnesota and make the long drive through Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado. Climbing to the top of Wolf Creek Pass our anticipation of the days ahead climbs right along with the altitude. As Gary guides the car along the hairpin curves we chatter about our destination; how big are the long horn calves? Will Bessie Mae’s surprise litter of puppies look like her? What about the mountain lion spotted in the canyon?
Questions soon to be answered when we settle in at the ranch and catch up with the owners and our friends Ming and Garry.

During our multiple visits over the years we learn this magical environment is dependent on limited water supplies that must be rationed and respected. Observing the day-to-day lives of the men and women who call the canyon their home I can say without a doubt their’s is hard work—a labor of love— requiring an eye to the future if their life is to be sustainable.

I’m struck by the similarities of ideals shared by these ranchers and our Native American friends and neighbors in Minnesota as they work to protect natural resources as an investment in the generations that will follow in their footsteps.

Many might view this piece of heaven in in the Four Corners in stark contrast to the abundance of water and lush forests back home in Minnesota. In a state where weekends mean a trip to the family lake cabin and the waining days of summer bring fall colors and the harvest of the wild rice crop… it’s hard to imagine that our ten thousand lakes and rushing rivers will ever go dry or that our fresh water supplies will ever become contaminated.

But the truth is—whether we live in the land of endless sky blue water or the land of enchanted canyons dependent on rationing and respect… our water is under threat. Our water must be protected. Water is life.DKJA6iyX0AYNvec

Reflections and forward thinking

I spent the better part of my life working as a radio and television news journalist. At 60 something… I approached the tail end of my career with fear and misgivings. I was the oldest woman delivering the news on a nightly basis in the state of Minnesota.  That was a job in itself.

We live and die by our ratings. I was fortunate the Northland audience continued to tune in, despite my wrinkles and thinning hair.  Looking back It felt as if I were taking part in a grand experiment.



The fear and misgivings have passed and now I am charting a new course. No more long commutes, nights away from family and more than enough time to rediscover myself.

When I first started my career it was thrilling to deliver the news night after night and tell the stories of the Northland and its people.  News folks are often viewed as celebrities in their tv markets.  You are recognized by strangers even when you just want to be yourself.   You are judged. And rightly so.
I spent decades keeping my opinions to myself, seeking out both sides to a story and fighting not to pre-judge others.

My advice to the young journalists at the start of their careers? There is so much more than gathering the facts; Who, What, Where, When and Why. We must honor our instincts and maintain a code of ethics. We must also honor those who share their stories. When someone agrees to take part in a story they put their trust in our hands. That is a grave responsibility.

Caring deeply about my community I  will not become a “slacker 2.0” as I move into my so-called Golden Years.  I continue to  expand my horizons by attending leadership workshops and learning how our democracy works.
As I dive into my new life it is with  great hope that I will continue serving my community and maintain your trust.

Can we at least agree on something?

Americans come in all sizes, shapes, ages and colors.  We are rich, poor or just getting by. We love our families and care about our neighbors. We worry about our futures and the generations that will follow us.

If you find you are regularly driving your car on a pothole filled street or you cannot afford to even own a car….you  have children or grandchildren who are going into debt while earning a college degree for a future job that may or may not help them pay down that debt…or if you are  just one paycheck way from disaster –you do not need someone to tell you there is something wrong in America.

President Donald Trump road to victory on the slogan  “Make America Great Again.”  I have always thought America was pretty great, but I am willing to work to make it even better. So how about we  wait on building that wall and start building bridges (our infrastructure) instead?

Mr. President, please work with our congress ( Republicans, Democrats and Independents) to rebuild our country. Here is a short list to start.

-Rebuild and upgrade our  water and sewer treatment plants.


-Take the blue prints and extensive planning for high-speed and commuter rail systems and get them into the hands of builders and construction workers.

-Expand high-speed internet to rural areas.

-Rebuild our power grid.

And while I am at it, please use American made steel, pay workers a fair wage with benefits that include insurance, paid vacations, maternity leave and respect for their labor.


Growing a thick skin

Some new friends  recently told me I was brave for sharing my social and political opinions in light of the backlash they are seeing  on social media.  The anonymity of tapping away a response to a Facebook or Twitter post has emboldened some to attack those with an opposing viewpoint. As a result, these friends have stopped posting their personal views.

(image courtesy Wikipedia More details

The Princess and the Trolls –The Changeling, by John Bauer, 1913.)


I get it…trolls are often hurtful, and in many cases fail to make a point without harsh and often nasty comments they would never verbalize in a face to face conversation.

Checking my Twitter notifications I find I now have a troll. I considered whether to share this comment because it would give this person the publicity or recognition that they seek. In the spirit of free speech I decided to share one of those comments here.

I will spare you the more nasty ones.

The thing is, we cannot allow others to silence us or to prevent us from having a meaningful dialog with those who may not agree with everything we believe it.  My goal is to find a list of common issues and possible solutions that we can all agree and act upon for the sake of our country.

Growing thick skin can be painful…but we must stand strong and resist the effort by trolls to silence our voices.



Sisters it’s time to huddle


After hundreds of thousands of women marched on Washington, many questioned whether it was a moment or a movement.

One of my moments came in the middle of a crowd of strangers  as I stood next to the Hubert H. Humphrey Building.  As dozens of young adults were pounding out a beat on five gallon pails  and elders joined in to chant against injustice –my emotions got the best of me.  I stood very still in the middle of this empowering crowd and let go of my tears.  At that moment I knew in my heart the resistance had begun and I would be a part of it. womensmarch-wewhobelieve

Our moments will sustain the movement that brought together millions of women, men and children around the world on January 21, 2017.

What is happening in Washington DC is no longer simply a matter of politics.  When the top US Senator shutdowns another senator for reading the words of an honored civil rights leader we must condemn his action.

When nominees are unqualified for the top jobs in our country we must question them and pressure our representatives to put aside politics in favor of our country.

I live in Minnesota a great state with deep roots in the Democratic Party (Democratic, Farmer and Labor) tended by such great Americans as Mondale, Humphrey and Wellstone.   I count among them, Klobuchar, Franken and Nolan now serving Minnesotans.

Growing up I was taught to respect others, love my neighbors and work for the common good.

The events unfolding in Washington under our new administration is cause for alarm. The current leadership seems determined to claw this nation back to a time when labor had little power over corporations.  A time when women were muzzled and held few rights— and a man’s character was measured by his skin color –and the right to love the one you love was locked away in a dark closet.

It is time we stand up for America. It is time that we huddle to develop a game plan. Our country’s future and our way of life needs to be defended.

Here is an invitation from the Women’s March Organization;

During the first ten days of Feb, we gather together in our neighborhoods all over the world to define our next steps, and envision how to transform the energy we saw at the Women’s Marches into local and national action.  Find a huddle near you and bring your ideas!