Essays

Essay: Disappointed Life

Jun 14, 2019

When I was in college, I read a novel by Saul Bellow called “The Adventures of Augie March,” the story of a young man growing up in Chicago.  Augie had a kind of bold optimism, inspired by a woman who’d survived the London bombings during World War II.  


Essay: Cucumbers Don’t Like Me

Jun 7, 2019

“I like cucumbers,” my grandmother used to say, “but cucumbers don’t like me.”

I wondered what she meant by this but I was too embarrassed to ask.  At our house, cucumbers were part of every meal during the summer.  I loved them and, as far as I could tell, they loved me back.

My grandmother said other things I didn’t understand.  Sometimes she announced that she had slept well as if it were a special occasion.  I always slept well and couldn’t figure out why she didn’t do the same. 

Essay: Another Pair of Eyes

May 31, 2019

As we slide the canoe into the Betsie River, I tie a bandana around my hair and pick up a paddle.  The water looks high but before I comment, my husband says, “Water is low; I wonder if they’ve lowered the dam.”


Essay: Turtles in the Sun

May 24, 2019

Before the snow melts from the woods, before the buds swell on the branches, my husband and I drag our canoe into the river. Bundled in layers, we paddle hard to warm up, lifting our faces to the sun.


Essay: What Kind

May 17, 2019

As a little girl, I often went to play at friends’ houses and my mother sent me out the door with firm rules about being polite—which began with please and thank you.  Next, she insisted we call all adults by their Mr. and Mrs. names.

Essay: Scattered Clouds

May 10, 2019

I sit at the kitchen table with my husband before dinner. We’re drinking a beer and eating pretzels and talking about the day. And while we’re talking, I look over his shoulder out the window where gray-bellied clouds are moving across a blue sky. 


Essay: Looking Back

May 3, 2019

“The first time I saw your mother,” my father liked to say, “I knew I was going to marry her.’” He was sitting in church choir at the time and my mother was coming in late to practice. Late on purpose so that she would be noticed. It was a fairytale beginning, my parents’ marriage. 


Essay: Leaving Home

Apr 26, 2019

It began with me sleeping overnight at my grandparents’ house. They lived close by, so it didn’t feel like being away, or not very far away. The next step was sleeping overnight at my best friend’s. Everything about Bonnie’s house was different:  late bedtime, unlimited candy, noisy furnace. 


Essay: Horse Love

Apr 19, 2019

When I was about eight years old, I fell in love with horses.  It began with “Black Beauty,” the classic novel about a carriage horse who narrates his life story.  Then I begged my father for riding lessons and found myself climbing into an English saddle on a bay mare named “Miss Muffet.” Horses were a lot higher off the ground than they looked!


Essay: Hitchhiking to Stonehenge

Apr 12, 2019

Homer asked if I wanted to go to Stonehenge. “We’ll have to hitch-hike,” he said, so we took the London tube as far west as we could and stood in the rain with our thumbs out. A lorry driver waved and shifted his enormous semi down, down until it finally stopped and we climbed into the cab. 


Essay: Giving Your Gifts

Apr 5, 2019

When people ask me how I became a writer, I tell them about Mrs. Goudzwaard, my tenth grade English teacher.  She gave me an A+ on a paper once and read it to the class.  I was embarrassed, of course, but also amazed.  I didn’t know I could write!


Essay: Forgiving My Father

Mar 29, 2019

“On the way to the hospital, we didn’t have a name picked out for a girl,” my father liked say. “We were so sure it was going to be a boy.”


Essay: Geographic Fix

Mar 22, 2019

When my first marriage was seven years old and my daughter four, I started feeling restless and discontent.  Looking around for something to blame, I decided that our house was too small and the neighborhood too noisy.


Essay: Doing Your Duty

Mar 15, 2019

Every Sunday afternoon when I was a kid, my father went to visit his father—a widower who lived alone.  Sometimes our whole family went to see Grandpa Anderson, but often it was just my dad.  The two men weren’t close and I don’t know what they found to talk about.


Essay: Ask for What You Want

Mar 8, 2019

When my daughter was young, I used to embarrass her when we went to restaurants because I asked for the table I wanted.  Someone was going to get that nice table by the window; why not us?  Anyway, it couldn’t hurt to ask, politely.  And, most of the time, we sat by the window—no objections made.


Essay: Ice Floes

Mar 1, 2019

Ours is the only car in the parking lot on this Sunday afternoon. My husband and I walk north along the Lake Michigan shore, pulling on gloves and putting up hoods. It might be twenty degrees on the thermometer but it feels like zero.  


Essay: Turquoise Silk Dress

Feb 15, 2019

I am looking through my button box and pick up a small cloth-covered button. “Turquoise silk,” I murmur, remembering the dress it came from, a dress I wore only once.


Essay: Saying Hello

Feb 8, 2019

I am leaving a store when I notice the woman in front of me. There is something familiar in her walk and then I know who she is—a friend from long ago.


Essay: My House

Feb 1, 2019

When I die, I will leave the people I love which makes me sad.  But what really bothers me—and I confess this with a certain embarrassment—is leaving my house.  As a house, it’s not that special—an old, two-story, needs-work place—but as a source of shelter and security, it has never let me down.  I can’t say that about people.


Essay: Conflict Resolution

Jan 23, 2019

When I was in junior high school, I wore my hair long and straight like most of the girls.  My mother thought it would look better short and curly.  This was a constant source of tension between us—but when we got angry, we didn’t talk about it.  We stopped speaking.  Sometimes for days.

Essay: Cleanliness

Jan 11, 2019

My mother was fond of saying, “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” as she pointed me toward my bedroom.  It was years before I discovered this wasn’t one of the Ten Commandments, wasn’t even in the Bible. 

Essay: Circle of Light

Jan 4, 2019

I am walking in my neighborhood on a winter day and see a mother pulling a small child on a sled. As they cross the street, the sled bounces down a curb and suddenly I feel the jolt and it is my mittened hands gripping the wooden frame.

Essay: Chronic Illness

Dec 28, 2018

Sometimes when our family was on a trip, my father would start driving wildly and too fast.  We begged him to stop but he was ornery, rebellious.  My brother and I were terrified, my mother furious.  But Dad wasn’t drunk; he was having an insulin reaction—and needed something to eat. 

Essay: Tell Me

Dec 21, 2018

My mother loved Christmas. The decorating began early and covered every available surface:  holly on the banister, stockings on the mantel, candles on the tables. My father used to joke that the electric bill went down because we lit the house with candles.


Essay: Cat Person

Dec 14, 2018

Early on a Saturday morning I was pushing my cart around a grocery store, trying not to cry. Trying not to notice the aisle of pet food where just two weeks before I had bought a bag of cat chow, not knowing my cat would get sick three days later and die soon after. I still imagined her at home in the window waiting for my return.


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