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Couple provides a safe space for women in recovery

Couple provides a safe space for women in recovery

Posted on 10 February 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Bernard Jones and Georgia Giles-Jones, partners and owners of Central Village Housing in St. Paul. Bernard said, “With the growing drug and opioid epidemic in the community, facilities like ours are greatly needed. We want to shine a light that it’s okay to go into recovery.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Five years ago, Georgia Giles-Jones and Bernard Jones realized they didn’t need such a big house anymore. Instead of putting a “For Sale” sign in the front yard, they turned their six-bedroom home near Dale St. and University Ave. into a recovery house for women working their way out of addiction.
Called Central House, it is one of three St. Paul recovery houses they now own and run under the name Central Village Housing (CVH).
“A recovery house is different from a halfway house,” Bernard explained. Most halfway houses are overseen by the Department of Corrections, and residents are court-ordered to live there. Sober living or recovery houses are structured like a home, and give residents more privacy, comfort, and sense of place.
The three CVH properties are spacious, attractive, and above all, safe. They have amenities such as gardening in the summer, easy access to the Green Line and MTC bus routes, wifi, and in-home laundry at no cost. Meals are not provided, but kitchen space is ample.
Georgia and Bernard both have family members who struggle with addiction issues. Each grew up witnessing the instability that addiction brings to families. This fuels their passion for helping women committed to the hard work of recovery.
There are no social services offered on-site at a recovery house, but there are rules and requirements. A prospective resident at CVH must be at least 18 years old, have 14 days sobriety from drugs or alcohol, and be able to live in community; each house has between 8-12 residents. Once accepted, a CVH resident must attend two recovery meetings weekly, such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous. She must participate in a weekly social hour, and work with a sponsor weekly.
Like all recovery houses, CVH is private-pay and, by law, is not eligible for grant-funding.
“Understand this,” Georgia said. “There is no one face of addiction. We’ve had every kind of person stay here: professional women like teachers and nurses, and some that are just getting started. One of our cardinal rules is that no matter who you are, you will be respectful to others at all times. Our residents have good days and bad days, but they learn to be there for each other.”
There is also no such thing as a typical length of stay at a recovery house. Bernard said, “Outpatient treatment might last for a few months, but after that – what’s your safety net? Our residents can stay here as long as they’re continuing to meet house requirements. In recovery, you’re living an honest program. If someone relapses and they have to leave, they can come back. We know that life is hard. We give people as many chances as they need.”
For more information about Central Village Housing, or to schedule a tour, call 612.401.5794 or email 513centralhouse@gmail.com. View the website at www.centralvillagehousing.com.

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Gifts of darkness

Gifts of darkness

Posted on 10 February 2020 by Tesha Christensen

AT RIGHT – Eily Marlow believes that reclaiming darkness is essential for our spiritual and emotional well-being. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
In mid-January, daylight lasts only nine hours and 15 minutes in the Twin Cities. That means we experience almost 15 hours of darkness every 24 hours. While this can be hard for some people, especially those with seasonal depression, Midway resident Eily Marlow believes that time spent in the dark can be regenerative.
The ordained Presbyterian minister led a day-long retreat at the Benedictine Center of St. Paul’s Monastery last month called “Reclaiming Darkness.”
“In the workshop,” she said, “participants explored their preconceptions about darkness.” After an opening meditation, Marlow and co-presenter Kiely Todd-Roska asked, “How do we learn to walk with courage in the dark? What practices and rituals can we cultivate to increase our comfort with darkness?”
Marlow shared some of the ideas around engaging seasonal darkness that she and her spouse Mary have tried with their two elementary school-aged children. She said, “When our daughter turned five, she asked to have an in-the-dark party for her January birthday. Candles and sparklers made her party special. We also like to string holiday lights in our kids’ bedrooms, and leave the overhead lights off as much as possible. This creates a magical atmosphere in the long winter months.”
She continued, “Mary and our daughter often sleep out on the porch in the winter months to enjoy the fresh air and darkness: it’s sort of like winter camping, but they use an electric blanket.”
Marlow and her family have found several ways to be sociable, and safe, outside in the dark. All four of them enjoy pajama walks to a park near their Midway home. Marlow said, “The kids love to run through the ball field in every season. No matter what time of year, these walks give us a chance to observe the moon in its different phases – and to be together after dark.”
>> from 1 The Hamline Midway Coalition held a Winter Solstice Celebration on Dec. 20 at Newell Park with live music, hot cocoa and cider, chili cook-off, sledding, and bonfire. Marlow was there with her family and said, “Being in the dark with friends and neighbors can inspire a different sense of connection and community.”

 

Invite darkness into your home joyfully
Our lives are filled with artificial lights from overhead, and also from electronic devices. Here are some suggestions for inviting darkness into your home joyfully in the winter months:

•If time and money allow, cook warm, aromatic soups, stews, and breads.
• Before bedtime, avoid using your phone or social media.
• Try having zero light in your bedroom when it is time to sleep. Cover your digital alarm clock with a book or magazine.
• Take unhurried baths and naps without guilt. Our bodies need more rest and relaxation at this time of year.
• Observe the phases of the moon, and recognize that we all have seasons of waxing and waning.
• Light candles and enjoy watching them burn.
• Consider your attitude toward darkness; is it positive or negative? If negative, is it based on real or imagined experiences?

Winter is a time when the natural world slows down. In Minnesota, bears, bats, bees, and chipmunks are among the many creatures that hibernate in dark, cozy places. Perennial plants and trees go into dormancy, using stored resources to survive the cold winter months. If you (or your family) have ways of unpacking the gifts of darkness, please consider sharing them with fellow Monitor readers. Email your ideas to editor/publisher Tesha M. Christensen at Tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com.

 

A Blessing for Traveling in the Dark
by Jan Richardson (abridged and used by permission)

Go slow if you can.
Slower. More slowly still.
Friendly dark or fearsome,
this is no place to break your neck
by rushing, by running,
by crashing into what you cannot see.
Then again, it is true:
different darks have different tasks,
and if you arrived here unawares,
if you have come in peril, or in pain,
this might be no place you should dawdle.
I do not know what these shadows ask of you,
what they might hold that means you good or ill.
It is not for me to reckon whether you should linger
or you should leave.
But this is what I can ask for you.
That in the darkness there be a blessing.
That in the darkness there be a welcome.
That in the night you be encompassed
By the Love that knows your name.

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Give drumming a try at Women’s Drum Center

Give drumming a try at Women’s Drum Center

Posted on 10 February 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Classes foster mind-body connection

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Bettie Seitzer was looking for a musical community nine years ago, and found it at the Women’s Drum Center (2242 University Ave. W.).
The blue and bluegrass musician had worked in a traveling band until she got married and started a family. At her first class, she knew she would be drumming for a long time. She now serves as the center’s executive director, leads “Women Who Groove,” and teaches two beginning level classes.
The Women’s Drum Center (WDC) offers beginning level, intermediate and advanced level classes in stick and hand drumming to any interested women. There are co-ed classes in beginning and advanced level West African drumming, and a monthly “Beat Cabin Fever” series offered for adults and children in the winter months. Workshops in 2020 will focus on unique instruments, including the African xylophone (called gyil). WDC offers private lessons; Health Rhythm programs at offsite community centers and care facilities; and facilitators for drumming at birthday parties, retirement parties and other group gatherings.

How can the center help people be healthier in mind, body and spirit?
Seitzer: There is a growing body of research that demonstrates the health benefits of drumming; it enhances feelings of well-being, challenges mind and body through learning a new activity and creates a sense of community and collaboration that many people are longing for these days.
Drumming fosters a mind-body connection through engagement in a new activity where we use our muscles differently and learn new things every time we drum. Experts agree that learning new things keeps our brains flexible and young!
I like to tell my participants that by drumming they are creating new neural pathways and synapses. I am privileged to hear from so many of my participants how drumming has improved their lives. Just a few examples:
• One participant had struggled with insomnia for years, she found that her ability to relax and sleep improved significantly
• Another member came to us after the loss of her husband, she said she hadn’t smiled in months and drumming has brought a new joy into her life. She smiles all the way through class now!
• Multiple people have told me that they feel a very warm sense of community, and refer to their classmates as the “sisters they chose for themselves”.
Participants tell me that at the end of class they feel both relaxed and energized! I have found that to be true myself.

How does drumming contribute to mindfulness and centering?
Drumming engages our bodies through movement; each class is geared to a skill level so that participants find easy things and slightly challenging things each time they attend. The motions of drumming become automatic and allow a person to really “be in the moment.” I am always delighted with how quickly a group falls into sync, playing together with a shared sense of pulse – that shared experience furthers the centering that people tell me they experience. The shared energy and experience allow the cares of the world to just drift away.
It is such a unique experience that it takes us outside ourselves into a clam state of being – even when we are playing very energetic pieces!

What is the history of the WDC?
The Women’s Drum Center (WDC) began in 1989, started by Colleen Hass who wanted to create drumming opportunities for women. One of the most common stories I hear from women joining a class is that they always wanted to drum but were told that women could not be drummers!
I think that there has been a significant change and more and more women are drumming in school and outside schools. The WDC is the only Women Centered non-profit drum center in the country (that we know of) and offers very affordable classes and lessons.

How can people get involved?
Getting involved is super easy! Our website calendar lists all of the options – womensdrumcenter.org. Most people start with one of the beginning level classes; those classes function on a drop-in basis so people can start at any time. The WDC has a vast inventory of equipment so it is not necessary to own a drum; one of our core values is to “share our drums.”

Any other comments?
My experience as a teacher and participant have deeply enriched my life, and while drumming may not be for everyone, I do think people should give it a try!

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RRR: Pollinator Pathway workshops starting soon

RRR: Pollinator Pathway workshops starting soon

Posted on 10 February 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Tara Nielson (left) is one of the two mosaic artists who will teach the community workshops at Mosaic on a Stick. Lori Greene (right) will design the mosaics. The monarch design for the first container is shown here. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
An eight block stretch of North Snelling Ave. will be transformed this summer, connecting Allianz Field to Pierce Butler Meadows with pollinator friendly plantings. Hamline Midway Coalition Executive Director Kate Mudge has secured funding from the Allianz Foundation for the creation of a pollinator pathway. The pathway will be marked by 10 three-foot-tall, mosaic-tiled containers filled with annual and perennial flowering plants.
The public art/environmental project is aimed at both beautifying and unifying the neighborhood.
“The opening of Allianz Field brought a great deal of excitement and energy to the Hamline Midway neighborhood, and we’re eager to continue that momentum by working with the Hamline Midway Coalition and Mosaic on a Stick,” said Allianz Life President and CEO Walter White. “We are dedicated to making a difference in the community, and welcome the opportunity to provide financial and volunteer support for this project.
“We believe that, as the naming rights sponsor of Allianz Field, it’s crucial for us to have a strong connection with community leadership in Hamline Midway. This will help us to have a better understanding of their priorities for the neighborhood and provide support for different initiatives that connect with our company values.”
Lori Greene, owner of the art studio Mosaic on a Stick, will host a series of mosaic-making workshops to bring the large scale containers to life. Her studio address is 1564 Lafond Ave. The workshops are being offered at no cost and are open to the public. Residents and non-residents are invited to learn how to make mosaic art with local artists Tara Nielson and Juliette Meyers.
According to Greene, “Mosaic is an art form available to everybody. No previous art experience is needed.”
The first two workshops will be “Train the Trainer” workshops, offered Thursday, Jan.16 from 6-9 p.m., and Saturday, Jan. 18 from 3-6 p.m. Participants only need to attend one of these to become a trainer. Workshops are open to anyone who has made an RSVP. Maximum attendance is 15; minimum age is 11 years. The workshops will continue every other week into the month of May, depending on how long it takes to finish all of the containers. Call Mosaic on a Stick to reserve a spot at 651.645.6600, or visit the Hamline Midway Coalition website at www.hamlinemidway.org.
The inspiration for the first container design came from Greene’s home garden. She said, “I was lucky to find several monarchs on Father’s Day last year, eating away at our milkweed plants. They stayed in the garden all summer, and I loved watching them. These community workshops will be a great opportunity to learn to make mosaic.
“The art form is peaceful and uncomplicated; our studio is a wonderful art-making space. We are hoping to have a diversity of art makers join us!”

Interested in a two-year grant?
The Allianz Foundation is funding the Pollinator Pathway that will be installed along N. Snelling Ave. this summer. Their mission is to promote financial literacy, independence and self-sufficiency of senior citizens, and youth development/inclusion in the Twin Cities area. The organization values sharing their financial resources and expertise with organizations that make a positive impact in communities. Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America makes two-year grants, which typically range from $15,000 to $25,000.

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‘Our Home: Native Minnesota’ opens at MN History Center

‘Our Home: Native Minnesota’ opens at MN History Center

Posted on 10 February 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Minnesota is a Dakota word that describes the reflection of sky onto water, a well-known image in this state of many lakes and rivers. Dakota and Ojibwe people, as well as people from other tribal nations, have lived in this area for thousands of years.
A new, long-term exhibit called “Our Home: Native Minnesota,” opened Dec. 7 at the Minnesota History Center in downtown St. Paul.
“We constantly hear from visitors and teachers that Native stories are fundamental to their understanding of Minnesota history. Now we have a permanent gallery devoted to the stories of today’s Native communities,” said Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) Director and CEO Kent Whitworth.“These are inspirational stories of survival, resistance, and resilience that offer hope for the future. These stories show how Native people have retained their cultural practices, teachings and values, and their essential connection to home.”
The exhibit challenges viewers to see Native Americans in the present tense, while learning about their long history in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. More than 1,100 people turned out for the opening, and experienced a day filled with Native music, artistry, and games. Free admission was provided by major sponsor U.S. Bank, and associate sponsors 3M and Ecolab.
Mattie Harper DeCarlo is a senior historian with the Minnesota Historical Society, and one of two content curators for “Our Home.” She said, “There were so many stories we could have told with this exhibit. Our final decision-making was based on encountering and challenging stereotypes of indigenous people in Minnesota. Native people tend to be seen as either traditional or assimilated. We’re really pushing against that way of thinking with this exhibit. Native people have had to adapt to changing circumstances throughout time. We have always been very dynamic communities.”
She continued, “This exhibit isn’t arranged chronologically. We present historical and contemporary stories side by side. In addition to stories that have not been told before, “Our Home” features historic and contemporary photographs, maps, and artifacts to illustrate Dakota and Ojibwe life as it was – and as it is now.”
Harper DeCarlo grew up on the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota, earned her undergraduate degree from Hamline University, and her MA and PhD in ethnic studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She said, “One common stereotype that still exists today is of Native people as ‘savage,’ which is fueled by narratives about Dakota and Ojibwe people as constantly at war with one another. Sometimes this stereotype was used as a justification for U.S. colonialism. For example, agents of the U.S. government argued that U.S. peace treaties were necessary to create peace between the two tribes, that they were incapable of otherwise making peaceful agreements.
“However, we show in this gallery that Ojibwe and Dakota people have long-standing friendly relations going back way before the U.S. was ever a presence in the region. The challenge with museum work is how to tell a nuanced, truthful story on an exhibit panel in 75-100 words.
“Native American history is much more complicated than most people think.”
In her work as a graphic designer with MNHS, Midway resident Terry Scheller translates exhibit content into strong visual images that capture and hold people’s attention. Scheller was an integral part of the design team for “Our Home.”
She said, “When you work on museum exhibits, you work as part of a team. You learn to see an exhibit as a vessel for telling a story. You can’t treat exhibit text like a novel, or even a 30-second ad. You look at it in layers. How do you want visitors to feel when they walk in? For this exhibit, visitors are met with a feeling of welcome, beauty, peace, and a connection to nature.”
Scheller explained, “The main exhibit text is presented in English, Dakota, and Ojibwe. It resonates with all of our audiences, Native and non-Native, and school groups. The text is written with first person pronouns, as if the viewer is being spoken to directly.”
Scheller hopes this exhibit will bring native people up to the present in the eyes of visitors. She said, “Native people are relevant today, they’re not just stuck somewhere in history.” Harper de Carlo hopes that Native people will feel a sense of belonging when they visit “Our Home.”
The Minnesota History Center is located at 345 Kellogg Blvd. The museum is closed on Mondays. Paid parking is available in the lot on-site.
Admission to “Our Home: Native Minnesota” is included with regular History Center admission of $12 for adults; $10 for seniors, veterans/active military, and college students; $6 ages 5-17; free for ages four and under and MNHS members. Museum admission is free for everyone on Tuesdays from 3-8 p.m.

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October is

‘No one will believe you’

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Abused for years by her dad and a troubled system, Renee and mom are finally free

Renee and mother Nadine fought for some normalcy during her childhood despite her father’s abuse. Today, they are happy to say they are survivors. (Photo submitted)

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
To the outside world, Fred* was a model citizen who worked at the top of the Hennepin County Social Service department as comptroller.
To his family, he was a dictator who was abusive and impossible to please.
His moods were up and down, he was controlling, manipulative, critical, blaming, cruel, rageful, isolating, hateful, belittling and unethical, recalls his daughter, Renee, now age 57.
She and her mother, Nadine, now 77, finally escaped into hiding in 2007 and go by alias identities.

He was careful to never leave visible marks
As comptroller, Fred was in charge of finances for the Social Services Department and Crisis Management.
“He knew the ins and outs of how to work the system,” said Renee.
He’d throw things at his wife and daughter, pulled his wife’s hair, and whipped Renee with a belt, but he was careful to never leave any visible marks.
Diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), anxiety, and depression, Renee doesn’t remember much about her childhood. She’s blocked out most of the memories.
“But I do remember the feelings they provoked, and how the abuse has affected me,” she said.

‘No one will ever believe you’
“Imagine being in an environment so abusive and stressful that as an infant in the womb I did not even want to come out!” Renee said. She was a month overdue, and wasn’t born until her mother had been induced.
At three, she was so stressed and nervous that she had failed to thrive. She was underweight and her hair came out in hand fulls.
She was fearful all the time, didn’t get her needs met, and rarely talked.
“My father controlled everything from when we slept and when, what and if we ate,” recalled Renee. She remembers a house full of yelling, name calling, swearing and threats. Plus, her dad threw things and broke them.
“We walked on eggshells constantly in our home never knowing what would send him into a rage,” said Renee. One day something might be fine, but the next day the same thing would be a major offense. “His rules were always changing, throwing us off on knowing how to behave to prevent one of his explosions. Everything was always our fault (never his), and we were the cause of everything wrong for him.
“We were stupid, lazy, worthless, oversensitive, crazy, emotional cripples and weak. We were told no one would ever hire us, want us or believe us.”
She worked hard to stuff her feelings and emotions so that they weren’t used against her.
“Sometimes my feelings became so intense because of not being allowed to express them that I had to find a way to release them,” she remembered. “I started burning myself when feelings became more than I could possibly hold inside.
“I felt like a teapot about to explode and the burning of flesh felt like letting off steam.”
She didn’t start talking in school until junior high. Her grade school teachers were always telling her mother, “She doesn’t talk.” Her mom wanted to know what she could do. Now they both know that’s a symptom of abuse.
Renee remembers that kids at school thought she was stuck up, but she was just afraid to have friends. She didn’t want others to know what happened in her home, and felt ashamed and embarrassed. She didn’t want to subject any one to her father’s abuse.
She had made that mistake before. She had invited friends over, and Fred accused them unjustly of stealing from him. He caused such a stink in the neighborhood that after that no one was allowed to play with her.
Renee didn’t get to do the usual after-school activities that other kids did, and she wasn’t allowed to work outside of the house. It was another way to control her and keep her dependent financially upon him.
“He was great at finding a person’s weaknesses and using it against them,” observed Renee.
If Renee or her mother enjoyed anything, they paid dearly for it. “I never was sure if it was because dad was jealous or if he just really enjoyed making us miserable,” remarked Renee.
He anticipated any question of leaving by telling them that no one would believe their story. After all, he was a successful comptroller in the social services department. If they couldn’t go there for help, where could they go?

Still paying dearly as an adult
As an adult, the abuse continued although it looked different. When Renee called home to talk to her mom, he would lie and say she wasn’t there. He’d threaten Renee that she couldn’t have anything to do with her mom if she didn’t do what Fred wanted.
When Renee’s husband died, she was left to raise her two stepsons, who were initially treated much better than she was because they were males. At first, Fred spent time and money on them, recalled Renee, but eventually he started to use them for his personal gain and the abuse began for them, too.
“He would often make me chose between my stepsons or my parents and extended family,” said Renee. “I would end up paying dearly for trying to be a good mom to the boys.”
Finally, one day her youngest stepson and the most laid back of the two, did what everyone dreamed about but never had the guts. He punched Fred and left.

Finally, they went into hiding but he used system against them
As he aged, Fred didn’t get any better. Instead, he escalated to threatening them with knives and loaded guns. He manipulated or “bought” friends to carry out some of his dirty work, as well.
Finally, Renee helped her mom leave Hennepin County and they went into hiding together in a new county.
They decided to leave at a time inbetween his rages because they thought he wouldn’t be watching them as closely. To their dismay, they discovered that their local police didn’t understand that line of reasoning. “I think the victim knows the situation best and when to leave,” remarked Renee.
To retaliate, Fred started hiding and getting rid of their assets, along with the things he knew Nadine and Renee cared most about.
“The legal battle in the divorce was a joke,” stated Renee. “My dad blatantly lied through the court hearings and was in contempt of nearly every court order. He was rarely held accountable or punished for refusing to obey court orders.”
He used the court system to harass them by filing false accusations, wasting their time and money to defend themselves. “Nothing was done to stop him from doing this,” said Renee, who is still shocked by how things played out in the court system. “When finally threatened by the courts for jail time, he moved out state so he wouldn’t be arrested.”
Both Renee and Nadine filed for orders of protection, but Fred appealed them. Renee’s remained but her mom’s was removed by Hennepin County Judge Bruce Peterson. This was despite Fred pointing a loaded gun at them both during a rage. “Apparently, leaving a threatening message on my voicemail, confronting us, screaming, and pointing a loaded gun at us was not reason to give my mom the OFP because my dad didn’t say he was going to kill us (that time),” stated Renee. “Apparently, perpetrators have to tell you they are going to kill you before they pull the trigger.”
She was also frustrated by the family court insistence that her mother attend mediation with her abuser in the same room. “How is this going to be productive when the abuser is abusive and controlling?” she asked.
Her parent’s divorce was messy, ugly and complicated, Renee observed, and is now studied by law students.
“We found that the legal/judicial system we always believed in is not just. Victims keep getting re-victimized by the system,” said Renee. “How do we fix a broken system?”
She advocates, “Get involved, have a voice, educate and contact your representatives!”

Shouldn’t be ‘Why doesn’t she leave’ but ‘Why does he do that?’
Renee is working to help people understand the dynamics of abusive households and to recognize what’s happening.
“I feel most people do not understand abuse or people would not ask why doesn’t she leave him? Why not, ‘Why does he mistreat someone who loves him’ or ‘Why is this acceptable in society?’”
She added, “Most people think the abuser is mentally ill because certainly no one in their right mind would behave as the abuser does. But actually, domestic violence is a learned behavior.”
Renee has found support and help at the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women (now Violence Free Minnesota), the Alexandra House in Anoka, Home Free Community Program, the Domestic Abuse Project, and DomesticShelter.org. She’s also grateful for the various domestic abuse support groups she has been a part of, therapists she’s worked with, doctors and some educated priests. She and her mom benefited from the local food shelf and community action groups.
She recommends that others check out the free app InsightTimer for its meditations, and Lisa A. Romano’s talks.
Today, Renee knows that she is still affected by the abuse she’s lived through. It is part of how she lives and her relationships with others. She’s found it difficult to trust in herself or others. Her self-confidence is low, she has trouble expressing emotions, she replays memories, and doesn’t always want to be touched, and can be jumpy, nervous, and easy to frighten. She suffers from a chronic illness.
But she’s a survivor. One who is working to transcend the wounds of the past, to learn to love herself, and to be comfortable in her own life. She’s got a future filled with hope, laughter and freedom. She believes her future is a gift from God.
* Name changed for protection.
Contact editor at Tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com.

Read her mom’s story. Click here.

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Keep for Cheap: New voices on St. Paul music scene

Keep for Cheap: New voices on St. Paul music scene

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Band co-founder Autumn Vagle said, “Song writing started for me as a way to gather my thoughts. I’m from northern Minnesota, from a musical family. I grew up listening to classical rock like Paul Simon and the Beatles. I write songs when something is on my mind, or when I’m frustrated.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

According to Autumn Vagle, she and her fellow band members chose the name “Keep for Cheap” because they just liked the way it sounded. Called KFC for short, the five-person band has been playing around town for a couple of years now.
They’ve opened twice at the 7th Street Entry, played several times at Honey in Northeast Minneapolis, and entertained during events at Hamline University – where three of the band members are students.
Vagle (song writer, lead vocals) is a senior there, studying communications and digital media arts. She founded the band with junior Kate Malanaphy (electric bass, backing vocals). The two met in Hamline’s A Capella Choir, led by Dr. George Chu. Under his direction, the choir strives to push musical boundaries. Vagle and Malanaphy have been doing that together, both with the a capella choir, and with their commitment to developing their own music.
According to Vagle, punk music is very popular on the local music scene. She said, “With KFC, we’re doing something different. Our style is country-flavored indie rock with strong female vocals. As a band with non-male voices, we know it is important to speak up. We strive to be safe people – allies to those who are from marginalized communities.” The band is filled out with Bert Northrup on guitar, Lydia Williams on drums, and Ted Tiedemann on guitar.
Keep for Cheap just released their debut EP (extended playlist), called “Get Along.” Vagle said, “This is what new bands do now, make an EP. It was our first time in a recording studio. We had some 12-hour recording days at Henriksen Sound, but we loved it. The songs are kind of sad lyrically, but not musically. The message is that even when things are hard, we should try to get along. We were able to pay the production costs with money we had earned as a band, which felt good.”

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Key to aging well

Key to aging well

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Lowery and Mary Ann Smith have found that depression, stroke recovery made easier by staying active

Lowery and Mary Ann Smith on their balcony, with the river behind them. (Photo by Jan Willms)

By JAN WILLMS
Lowery and Mary Ann Smith seem to have found the key to aging well. Stay socially and physically active, learn new things, grow spiritually and keep strong family ties.
For Lowery, who is 90, being physically active has meant playing racquetball on a weekly basis at LA Fitness or the Midway Y. “My oldest membership card at the Y was 1962, so I’ve been a member 57 years,” Lowery said. “Our sons were on the swimming team and went to Camp St. Croix. The Midway Y has been a big part of our family.”
He also competes in discus and shotput in the Senior Games, an equivalent of the Olympics for seniors.
“The Senior Games changed my life,” Lowery said. “When I was 85, I sank into a depression and felt like I was in a dark room I could never get out of. I felt like I had accomplished nothing in my life.” But as he learned about the Senior Games, he worked his way out of that depression.
The competition with others as well as with himself was a strong factor that moved him forward. He attended the nationals in Birmingham, Ala, in 2017. In June of this year he participated in Albuquerque, N.M., where he played singles and doubles racquetball and won gold in both. He took third in shotput and fourth in discus throwing. “It’s a lot of the stuff I did in high school,” he commented.
A year ago while he was competing at the Senior Games in Mankato, a young woman approached Lowery and asked Lowery if he would agree to be interviewed and filmed for an ad for Blue Cross Blue Shield.
“Nobody had ever asked me that before, and I thought why not?” he said. They shot video for four and a half hours and created a 30-second ad that ran for three months. BCBS later videotaped Lowery following his activities on a typical day, and those 12 hours of shooting resulted in a three-minute film. In mid-December of last year BCBS ran a full-page ad on the back page of the Star Triune of Lowery holding a discus.

Make it a habit
He also does strength training and aquarobics. Mary Ann, 83, has done aquarobics three times a week but had to slow down a little after she had a stroke in May. “That crimped my style a little bit, and I have only been going once a week,” she noted. She attributes the aquarobics workout to having helped her recover from the stroke. “The exercise just has to become a habit,” she said.
Mary Ann, who has a PhD in Education, taught home economics early in her career. “I was at the University of Minnesota when I finished up my career at the college or education. I worked in staff development for the extension service and worked with educators out in the counties,” she said. “It was a fun career.” Her home economics background also led the family to eat well-balanced meals. “I don’t think we have ever done anything radical, but we are just aware of serving sizes and that when you pick up a few pounds, you have to take them off right away,” she said.
For his part, Lowery said he was raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where his parents were teachers. His family later moved to Rapid City, where he attended high school and college, getting a degree in geologic engineering.
“My first job out of college was with Exxon,” he said. “I did geology work in Casper, Wyo., then worked on a well in Montana. Then I really found my career in technical sales. I had an engineering background, and I liked people. I sold explosives to mines and quarries.”
Lowery joined the J. L. Shiely Co. He then ran a Frack sand company and eventually started his own company, Ag-Lime Sales, Inc. “Fine limestone dust was generated from crushing limestone,” he said. “We had a quarry on Grey Cloud Island. I ran that, as the sole employee, for 27 years. I shut it down when I was 87.”
However, he still maintains his office in the Griggs Building on University and goes there five to six times a week. The sign on his door reads “Lowery’s Man Cave.”
“It’s a place to go and catch up, and I can work on my website,” he said.

Get involved and keep learning
Besides going to his office, Lowery starts out each week with a group of friends that meets at a Dunn Brothers to drink coffee and discuss books. He also attends a 7:15 a.m. Toastmaster’s meeting, an organization he has belonged to for many years.

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World’s only oboe bass duo offers monthly music series at Lyngblomsten

World’s only oboe bass duo offers monthly music series at Lyngblomsten

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Rolf Erdahl (double bass) and Carrie Vecchione (oboe and English horn) make up the musical duo OboeBass! Erdahl said, “By returning to Lyngblomsten nearly every month, we’ve gotten to know people and hear their music stories. One woman told us, ‘I wish I’d listened to classical music before I was 80!’ We hope our programs inspire people to expand their own musical experiences, because it’s never too late to learn.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Carrie Vecchione and Rolf Erdahl just finished their first year of monthly music education programs at the Lyngblomsten Care Center, and they will be back in 2020. Performing as the duo Oboebass!, their series explored composers, ensembles, instruments, conductors, ideas, and compositions that make up the multi-faceted world of classical music.
Barbara McClelan is a Falcon Heights resident who didn’t miss a first Friday performances all year. She said, “I like how well thought out the programs are, and how much fun Carrie and Rolf have playing music together.” McClelan is a member of the Lyngblomsten Community Sage Singers: a group made up of resident and non-resident singers and directed by Macphail Center for Music faculty.
On the first Friday of November, the duo introduced Igor Stravinsky’s piece “The Rite of Spring,” which premiered in Paris in 1913. Vecchione and Erdahl called their presentation, “The Riot of Spring.” They explained that the public had reacted to the Paris debut with an actual riot. Members of the audience heard the first strange, uneven bars of music and began to fight, shout, and throw things at the conductor. Was the piece a reckless abomination, or a work of genius? It’s a matter of personal taste, but “The Rite of Spring” became the most talked about musical composition of the 20th century.
Vecchione and Erdahl approach each session this way. They offer a piece of music or a composer for consideration, tell stories, play selections, and sometimes invite audience participation. They also provide resources for further study, in the form of suggested readings and supplemental listening. OboeBass! presentations are engaging and educational, and give listeners the rare opportunity to hear classical music played just a few feet away.
Both members of OboeBass! earned doctoral degrees in music performance: Vecchione on the oboe and English horn, and Erdahl on the double bass. Former professors at Ball State University in Indiana, they moved to the Twin Cities in 2006. They have been tenure track music professors, and professional orchestra musicians. At this point in their long careers, they are focused on performing and teaching as a duo – and they keep finding new ways to make that happen.
Erdahl said, “We started as a married couple looking for repertoire written for our instruments, and quickly learned that there wasn’t much. Fortunately, we have composer friends, and continue to find new composers and performance opportunities. The wide range of styles and expression, and the high quality and appeal of the music written for us, convinced us that we could pursue a career as a duo specializing in new music for oboe and double bass.”
Since 2008, OboeBass! has received several grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. They first started doing music education programs for elementary schools, but have since developed programming appropriate for all ages and life stages. Vecchione said, “We’ve had a lot of success doing our programs inter-generationally, as well.”

“We value the bridge that OboeBass! provides
for young and old to come together
to enjoy and appreciate the power
of music in all of our lives!”
~ Andrew Lewandowski, Lyngblomsten

Listen on the first Friday
The year-long series at Lyngblomsten will be offered again in 2020. Toward the goal of building an intergenerational audience, community members are encouraged to attend. Neighbors, families, homeschool groups, and music classes are all welcome to join the residents of Lyngblomsten for these lively presentations. The recommended minimum age for participation is upper elementary school.
Vecchione explained, “Our ultimate goal is to keep live music performance alive. We’ve travelled to more than 100 senior care facilities across the state. We’ve particularly enjoyed the year-long series at Lyngblomsten, because it gives us a chance to get to know the people who attend regularly. We are not just providing entertainment here; we are providing an opportunity for active listening. Some people may not appear to be actively engaged because of mobility issues or health conditions, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t listening.”
OboeBass! is on an exciting trajectory, inspired by their love of lifelong learning. While both Vecchione and Erdahl still aspire to play with orchestras at a high level, they are involved in creating a rich repertoire of their own chamber music to perform.
Erdahl said, “We received a grant from Chamber Music America, and were able to commission a piece by Valerie Coleman. She’s a very ‘in’ composer, and we should be receiving the piece any day now. We had three amazing pieces written for us this year.”
OboeBass! performs in the Nelson Benson Chapel at the Lyngblomsten Care Center, 1415 Almond Ave. There is a small parking lot, and plenty of on-street parking. The performances are free and open to the public. Carrie Vecchione and Rolf Erdahl will present their programs at 10:30 a.m. on the first Friday of each month in 2020, except February and April.

Mary Ann also belongs to a couple of book clubs, one in their old Longfellow neighborhood that she has attended for 40 years.
“One of the things that has helped both of us,” said Mary Ann, “is that we really like to keep learning, and we are involved with things that help us keep learning new things all the time.”
Lowery also noted that their spiritual life is important to them. They belong to Bethlehem Covenant Church, and over the years have gone on six mission trips to Chile.

Lowery said he also believes strongly in family, and hosting family celebrations over the years as well as adventurous trips to the Grand Canyon, Switzerland and other destinations has been something he really enjoys.

Enjoy the view
And then there is the view. The Smiths live on the 20th floor of an apartment in St. Paul that overlooks the Mississippi, and the city. Every room of their apartment has a large window that lets the light in.
“The other morning, when I was going to Toastmaster’s, it was still dark out when I was getting ready. We could see the rowboats down on the river, from the rowing clubs. There were lights on the ends of the boats; I hadn’t noticed that before,” Lowery said.
“In the fall, the river turns crimson,” he added.
“One of our hardest years was when we decided to move out of our house, but every day we are glad we chose this place,” said Mary Ann. “It’s refreshing to wake up to these views every morning.”
“The weather is amazing up here,” she added. “You can see the storms coming in.”

 

In addition to the EP, KFC recently released a music video filmed and directed by Keegan Burckhard. Vagle acknowledges that being in a band (and doing the communications/marketing piece) is challenging as a fulltime student, but that it’s what she wants to pour her energy into.
Here are the links to the EP “Get Along” online:
• Bandcamp: https://keepforcheap.bandcamp.com/album/get-along-2
• Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/3QffWplEQYSkoMviShc9r7?si=sUlVzPmtR-S5t7vN3IRkkQ
• Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/album/get-along-ep/1483261945
For more information about KFC, email Autumn Vagle at info@keepforcheap@gmail.com.

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Zero Waste Saint Paul is on a mission: to advocate, connect, and educate for a better environment

Zero Waste Saint Paul is on a mission: to advocate, connect, and educate for a better environment

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Erin Pavlica, co-founder of Zero Waste St. Paul and longtime Midway resident. During a recent Intro to Zero Waste training, she said, “We’re not expecting anybody to be perfect. Come as you are, and do what you can. ZWSP is a way to connect with others who have the same concerns. It can be lonely if you’re trying to challenge the status-quo all by yourself.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Zero Waste Saint Paul (ZWSP) co-founder Erin Pavlica has a passion for low waste living. To hear her talk, that passion drives almost every aspect of her busy life.
The longtime Midway resident is an active member of the Hamline Midway Coalition’s Environment Committee, one of the driving forces behind the Facebook Barter/Sell page in Midway and Frogtown, and a principal player in the recent successful effort to ban black plastic and Styrofoam take-out containers in St. Paul (effective January 2021).
Pavlica offered a class through St. Paul Community Education on Nov. 19, called Zero Waste Recycling 101. She fielded questions about composting and recycling, and offered encouragement, as well as information. A few students were overwhelmed by the effort they thought was needed to adopt a zero waste lifestyle.
One myth about reducing waste is that householders need to buy a bunch of fancy stuff to get started, and Pavlica was quick to burst that bubble. She said, ”Almost everything I use as a zero waster comes from our kitchen, like mason jars. A lot of what we buy for our family of six comes from the bulk section of grocery stores and co-ops. I also carry my own silverware everywhere I go, even to parties. I might look kind of kooky, but I don’t care. Most of the events I go to would probably have compostable products, but those take energy to make too. I’d just as soon skip them. We have to be thinking about upstream pollution, as well as downstream.”
More than 40% of what goes into the trash is food scraps and other organic waste. Recycling food waste converts it to compost, which puts nutrients back into the soil in about 90 days. Ramsey County collection sites enable people to drop off food scraps that would otherwise be thrown in the trash – these are then processed into compost and used for gardening and landscaping.
Pavlica said, “A lot of people don’t think about food recycling, but it’s huge. If residents don’t use the drop-off organic waste sites or compost on their own, their food waste is trucked to the municipal incinerator and burned. Food waste is wet, heavy, and inefficient as a fuel source. The average American family of four wastes about $1,500 every year on food that’s just thrown away, so it’s a money issue, too.”
Pavlica had a long list of suggestions for people wanting to clean up their recycling as well. Since switching to no-sort (or single stream) recycling, the quantity of recycling in St. Paul has gone up – but the quality has gone down. They suggest downloading the new, more user-friendly app from Eureka Recycling to get the definitive answer on what is and is not recyclable.
Pavlica said, “Don’t ‘wish-cycle.’ Just find out what’s true.”

Top 10 suggestions for better recycling:
1 Anything smaller than your fist is not going to get recycled, and will likely just mess up the equipment at Eureka Recycling. For example, save reasonably clean tin foil once it is no longer usable. Keep smashing it into a firm ball until it is the size of your fist; then put the ball in your recycling bin for pick-up.
2 If you must use plastic water bottles, make sure they are empty before recycling. If a plastic bottle isn’t empty, it’s too heavy to be sorted at the MRF (Materials Recovery Facility). They use an air puffer to sort and direct plastics to the right place.
3 If you have a plastic bottle with a cap, screw the cap onto the bottle before tossing it in your recycling bin. The cap alone is too small to be recycled.
4 Recyclables should stay in their original shape (except cardboard boxes, which should be broken down.) For example, don’t crush aluminum cans to save space.
5 Do not recycle metal aerosol cans – they can explode. Put them in the trash.
6 Non-food related glass is not recyclable, because it is tempered and melts at a different temperature. Putting it in the recycling is wish-cycling.
7 Many plastic films can be brought to big box stores (CUB, Target, Home Depot) that have collection bins.
8 Dispose of unwanted, expired, and unused medications for free at public drop boxes in Ramsey County. The nearest location is the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center at 425 Grove St. The CVS at Snelling and University avenues also accepts controlled substances, aerosols, inhalers, illicit drugs, and chemotherapy waste. Do not flush any medications down the drain. Note: CVS destroys the medications; they are unable to redistribute them.
9 When it comes to plastics, only numbers 1, 2, 4, and 5 can be recycled.
10 Holidays are the most wasteful time of the year. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s last year, USPS, FedEx, and UPS together delivered around 2 billion packages in the U.S. Where is all that cardboard and plastic going—and what is it doing to the environment along the way? Buy local, reduce packaging, and skip the wrapping paper.

What can St. Paul residents bring to their Ramsey County drop-off site?

• Vegetables, fruits, meats (including fats, oils and grease), poultry, fish, bones, grains, dairy, coffee grounds and filters, and tea bags.

• Non-recyclable paper including greasy pizza boxes, paper towels, tissues, non-foil wrapping paper, and paper bags.

• Compostable cups, plates, utensils, and bags. Check for the compostable logo from the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) on the item or packaging to make sure it is compostable. Remember, composting is a process that requires air. If compostable products are put in the garbage, not the compost bin, they are no better than trash.

Upcoming events:

The ZWSP is offering a six-week Zero Waste Challenge Feb. 2-March 15 at the East St. Paul Mississippi Market. Cost is $45 for members/ $50 for non-members.

For a one-day primer, register for Saint Paul Composting 101 on Jan. 11 from 3-5 p.m. at Fly Freak Studio, 755 Prior Avenue North. Cost is $12. Or sign up for Intro to Zero Waste on Jan. 18 from 1-3 p.m. at Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply, 1771 Selby Ave. Cost is $20.

For more information about upcoming events and classes, visit www.zerowastesaintpaul.com or check out their active Facebook community, Zero Waste Saint Paul Connections Group.

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