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‘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)

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


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)

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


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


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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Bluebell 422

Lawns to Legumes program will create new pollinator corridors

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Homeowners may be eligible for funding to help boost Rusty Patched Bumblebee population

Staff from the partner organization Blue Thumb led a Lawns to Legumes workshop at North Regional Library earlier this month. The new state-funded Lawns to Legumes program will help residents convert at least part of their lawn to flowering plants that provide pollinator habitat. Minnesota is home to about 450 native species of bees, many of whose populations are declining. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)http://monitorsaintpaul.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Web_Lawns-to-Legumes-02.jpg

When the legislative session ended last year, Minnesota was granted something it has never had before: its own state bee.
The Rusty Patched Bumblebee was once among the most widespread of all wild bees seen in the Midwest, but its population nosedived in the early 2000s – it is now listed as an endangered species.
Minnesota is home to a significant number of the remaining Rusty Patched Bumblebees, and many are found in and around the Twin Cities. Bee experts believe homeowners can help this population of wild bees rebuild its numbers, one garden at a time.
At the close of last year’s legislative session, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) received $900,000 in state funding to develop a three-year pilot program focused on planting residential lawns with pollinator friendly plants. Other states are taking notice of the way Minnesota is funding this community-led program to protect and rebuild its diversity of pollinators.
The funding appropriation is through the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. BWSR worked with local conservation partners throughout the summer to develop program criteria. Funding has been distributed to those partners (primary partners include Metro Blooms and Blue Thumb). Community workshops have begun state-wide, with garden projects slated to be planted in the spring and summer of 2020.
Funding will be targeted in areas benefiting the Rusty Patched Bumblebee and other at-risk species; Minneapolis and St. Paul are in the highest priority area, as are sections of Southeast Minnesota.

Traditional lawns don’t help pollinators much
Dan Shaw is a Senior Ecologist/Vegetation Specialist with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. He said, “Bee and other pollinator populations are declining due to habitat loss, pesticide use, introduced parasites, and climate change. With Lawns to Legumes, we’re encouraging residents to transform their yards and gardens into places that support a diversity of wildlife.“
He continued, “Traditional lawns and non-native foundation plantings provide little benefit for pollinators. The idea is to restore natural habitat for wild bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and a wide range of insect species – all of whom play a critical role in pollinating our food crops and native plants.”
Minnesota residents who have an area that can be used for outdoor planting can apply for a combination of technical assistance (workshops and coaching) and cost-share funding. Shaw anticipates that Lawns to Legumes will provide assistance to about 1,500 people in total.
Renters are also encouraged to participate in increasing pollinator habitat: either by getting permission from property owners to garden, or by planting pollinator friendly plants in pots.
The state’s efforts to provide critical habitat for the Rusty-Patched Bumblebee will also support Minnesota’s other pollinators and wildlife. Participating residents will be asked to provide before and after photos of their yards, and receipts for related expenses if they qualitfy for cost-share funding.

Apply in December
In December 2019, Blue Thumb will begin accepting applications from residents for the first round of individual support as part of the Lawns to Legumes program. Check the Blue Thumb or BWSR websites for updates and applications. Applicants can receive up to $350 of funding through a reimbursement process. Funding decisions will be made and all notifications emailed in February 2020 for spring garden installations.
• 2nd application round will open in March 2020, for summer and fall installations.
• 3rd application round for 2021 plantings may open depending on available funding.
Shaw explained, “In this partnership, BWSR is collaborating with a large group of conservation organizations around the state, as well as municipalities. As a small agency, we don’t have a lot of staff so we’ll be relying on our partners. We’ve been busy training our trainers. They include skilled volunteers in the conservation field like Master Naturalists, Master Water Stewards, Master Gardeners and others who are already well-grounded in environmental education. They’ll be participating in as many as 40 workshops for landowners across the state over the next three years.”
Another important contributor to the Lawns to Legumes program is the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Students there are developing graphics and messaging for a social media campaign to raise awareness about residential pollinator plantings.

Be part of a movement
Shaw said, “Sometimes I see this more as a movement than a program. Every garden project we fund will have signage, so people can see that homeowners are making a difference.
“There hasn’t been much funding for homeowners to create pollinator habitat before. This is a fantastic opportunity for our conservation partners to collaborate, and to educate the public at the same time.”

Plant these Top 10
The goal of the Lawns to Legumes program is to create areas of habitat in both urban and rural residential yards that will provide food and shelter for bees and other pollinators. Even small plantings can make a big difference, especially if there are enough of them to provide a matrix or corridor. These are the top 10 plants recommended by Lawns to Legumes to sustain pollinators in Minnesota:
Virginia Bluebell (shown above)
Golden Rod
Wild White Indigo
Red Columbine
Blue Giant Hyssop

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Two schools strengthen their longstanding partnership

Two schools strengthen their longstanding partnership

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Hamline Elementary and Hamline University Connection

Felipe Vasquez (left) is a freshman at Hamline University majoring in education/psychology. He is one of more than 90 HU students who tutor at Hamline Elementary, tailoring instruction to small groups and lowering adult to student ratios. Fifth grader Isabella Martinez Rodriguez (right) practiced her reading.(Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

There’s only one thing that separates Hamline Elementary and Hamline University, and that’s Snelling Avenue.
Last year, the two neighboring schools agreed to expand an educational partnership they began in 1991 (the partnership actually began over 100 years ago but became official in 1991).
Dozens of Hamline University students are in Hamline Elementary classrooms every week working as tutors, mentors, and student teachers. Hamline Elementary students regularly engage in enrichment activities offered at Hamline University, such as all 4th and 5th graders learning to swim in the campus pool.
The result is an innovative model that brings best practices in educational theory, research, and direct experience to students in both institutions.
Hamline Elementary is called a Collaborative Learning University School. Principal Kristin Reilly said, “There isn’t another school like ours in the state. We are building the program in the two schools simultaneously. We share a tremendous learning synergy.”

Hamline Elementary Principal Kristin Reilly in front of one of the “Wonder Walls” seen throughout the school. In the inquiry-based model, students begin with the phrase, “I wonder,” and follow a process of discovery toward learning. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

How did this all come about?
Reilly said, “When Hamline Elementary changed from a language academy to a community school a few years ago, our enrollment decreased. We were in that place of needing to find a new identity. Our staff, our parent group, and community members had many conversations about how to increase enrollment. We decided to deepen what already existed: our longstanding partnership with Hamline University.”
She continued, “The new Hamline Elementary program builds on an Inquiry-Based Learning Model rooted in curiosity, asking questions, and following an active path toward learning. School staff and all of the education partners at Hamline University use this model to help students meet their individual learning styles and needs.

“Everything happening in this building has to do with strengthening relationships and maximizing community connectedness.”

The partnership model
Last year a fifth grade teacher gave his class an assignment: to design a functional tennis shoe. Working in pairs, students learned basic design elements, how to make form match function, and how to create an advertising and marketing campaign. College students from the digital media arts department at HU taught the elementary school students how to develop and print a 3-D model of their designs.
Reilly said, “This project illustrates how we’re two campuses, but we’re connected. Because of our connection, elementary school students know how to navigate a college campus (with their teachers.) It’s normal for our students to be there, and many of them are from families where college was not part of their experience. Another advantage for our students is that many of the education partners at Hamline University are people of color, which allows our students to see themselves as college students. The majority of our staff at Hamline Elementary is white.”

Inquiry-based teachers

Hamline University Literacy Professor Maggie Struck (center) in a de-briefing session with graduate students in the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. The partnership with Hamline Elementary gives HU students experience in an inquiry-based learning environment. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

All student teachers at Hamline Elementary now come from the education department at Hamline University. The student teachers have studied and experienced the model of Inquiry-Based Learning firsthand. They have likely spent significant amounts of time tutoring or mentoring at Hamline Elementary before becoming student teachers.
Education grads right out of college sometimes struggle to get their first fulltime job. Reilly said, “We had three student teachers last year, and they were all hired for permanent positions in the district. The feedback I got from the hiring principals was that these new teachers were very well-prepared – that they were, and I quote, ‘completely different educators.’ That’s because we trained them from the beginning. They left our school understanding what inquiry-based teaching was, and how they could use it to help all children succeed.”
Hamline Elementary is part of the St. Paul Public School system, and is located at 1599 Englewood Ave. For more information or to schedule a visit, call the front office at 651.293.8715.

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You eat vegetables right? So, you’re already eating vegan.

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

So points out Colin Anderson, owner of the only vegan grocery store and bodega in the Twin Cities

Colin Anderson has no set menu. He encourages customers to enjoy what’s there today, rather than what they missed yesterday. It’s a life lesson served up with a vegan croissant. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

There are neighbors to Eureka Compass Vegan Food (629 Aldine St.) who walk their dogs past every day, but have never stepped foot inside the vegan bodega.
Owner Colin Anderson thinks they should and knows they’ll find something they like.
“You eat vegetables, right?” he asks the people who don’t think eating at a vegan place is for them.

It’s a neighborhood bodega
Since opening his corner store, Anderson has been a one-man shop, manning the grill, creating vegan and gluten-free recipes, doing the books, stocking the shelves, and bantering with customers. Over two and a half years since opening, Anderson estimates that he has made 2,500 items – never repeating a recipe.
Anderson is modeling his corner store off the beloved bodegas of New York City, first made popular by Puerto Rican immigrants in the 1940s and 50s. These small convenience stores sell staples, accept packages and hold onto keys for visitors in lieu of doorman. But more than that, they’re neighborhood landmarks whose charismatic staff can point you to the best handyman and best tacos in the area.
“I love this neighborhood,” observed the 12-year resident who more often than not has a punk rock album playing in the bodega. “I love being a spot where neighbors come and just talk, where they strike up a conversation with someone they’ve never met before. We’re both at Eureka. That’s really all you need to start a conversation.”

He launched a Patreon page
Anderson has recently launched a Patreon page to expand the reach and impact of his mission by sharing the stories and lessons of his journey to make veganism more accessible and achievable for all who wish to progress towards more compassionate and conscious habits of consumption.
With this crowdfunding membership platform, people can pledge as little as $2 a month for access to recipes, interviews, and behind-the-scenes insights. Those at $5 a month or more get access to instructional cooking videos too, and the benefits increase with each level of support.
Part of this is in response to Anderson’s customers telling him they wished they had just recorded their conversation to show a friend or parent. Plus, the Patreon site allows him to show deeper and more emotional content than what he posts on Facebook or Instagram.
Right now there are about 30 subscribers. “I’s been a very helpful outlet for me to express myself more honestly,” said Anderson.

Eureka Compass owner Colin Anderson doesn’t think the term “vegan” should scare people away from his bodega, and he thinks everyone will find something they’d like. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

It was what he wanted to see, so he started it
Three years ago, Anderson and his wife, Erin Parrish, took a 10-year anniversary trip. While driving the coast from Los Angeles to Portland, they ate at a bunch of different vegan places. Anderson was thrilled to find vegan options outside Indian restaurants.
At the time, he was working as the assistant manager at the Chuck and Don’s Pet Food and Supplies store in Roseville, and he’d worked at a variety of restaurants over the years. He’d been sober for awhile, deciding he wanted to be present for this life. He’d gone vegan for some of the same reasons, as well as the desire to take action and live out his environmental justice values.
“This is what I want to see in the neighborhood. Nobody else is going to do it, so I guess I will,” said Anderson.
So he found a building that used to be a pizza joint near his house of 12 years, launched a Kickstarter in June 2017, and opened up with three tables. There was no set menu, which was confusing for some.
Anderson encouraged customers to experience what was on the menu that day, as it was the first and only time he had made that particular item.
It’s a life lesson served up with a croissant. “Don’t worry about what you missed yesterday. Enjoy what’s here,” said Anderson. “This isn’t the sort of place you show up to once and have it figured out.”
For awhile, he supplied a skyway restaurant with Jackfruit BBQ, and was only open in the Midway on the weekends, but by last fall he had dropped the other gig and was back to being open six days a week. Earlier this fall he experimented with offering a larger grocery section, but didn’t see the customer support for it so he’s zig-zagging again and is back to cooking more.
Anderson believes that organic, vegan food should be accessible to everyone. So he started hosting pay-what-you-can dinners. The nacho nights were especially popular.
Coming up is the “Pay What You Want/Can Gluten-Free and Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner” on Wednesday, Nov. 26 from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. “I did 350 plates last year and hope to do 500 this year,” remarked Anderson.

Dreaming of a vegan
“I love this business,” he observed. He doesn’t view himself as being in competition with the other vegan restaurants and businesses out there, but instead seeks to collaborate and support them, sharing information with his customers in person and via his social media channels.
“We’re creating a business ecosystem,” observed Anderson.
His big dream is to launch a vegan marketplace somewhere in the Midway area and offer a place where a bunch of vegan businesses can gather under one roof. He’d love to see coffee shops, bakeries, groceries, lunch counters, and clothing around a performance space.
This would help each business thrive as they wouldn’t have to purchase all the needed equipment themselves, but could share items like walk-in freezers and dish rooms.
“It’d be a destination spot,” he said.

Starting with small steps to make change happen
Anderson pointed out that three of the four leading causes of death are lifestyle-related, and can be fixed by changing one’s diet. “Let’s stop making ourselves sick,” said Anderson. He supports eating raw and vegan, and saving the money each month that goes towards prescription drugs you don’t need if you change what you eat.
“It’s not progressive,” he pointed out. “It’s regressive. It’s going back to how we used to eat.”
He is glad to see that young farmers are deciding there is a better way to do things, and returning to older practices. It may not be as cheap at the start, but he thinks it is in the long run when people aren’t facing high medical bills and poor health, as well as the impacts of agricultural pollution.
“I’m going to do my part so that your grandchildren can see a monarch butterfly,” Anderson tells people, while letting them know that the biggest pollutor is the agriculture industry. By switching to a vegan diet, people make a positive impact on the environment.
“If we don’t start with small steps, we will never move forward,” he remarked. He believes that when you magnify those small steps by more people that is when change happens.
One of his favorite quotes is: “If you really wanted to change something, you’d vote with your dollar.”
Another is: “We’re all afraid of the solutions that will rob us of our excuses.”

Shopping locally himself
Anderson makes a point of stocking as many local items as possible, establishing an environmental justice standard for himself that favors less packaging and less transportation. The shelves are stocked with many products made within 10 miles of the bodega, and more made within 200 miles of this location.
“I don’t want to tell you to ‘shop local’” said Anderson. “I want to set an example.”
He gets items when others nearby order them too to cut down on transportation impacts to the environment. When he does get plastic wrap or boxes, Anderson offers them to other entrepreneurs and customers who need the packaging to ship things so that they are reused and don’t end up in a landfill.
The vendors he works with focus on small batches of high-quality items, and use sustainable practices, such as recyclable packaging and sourcing from those who pay fair wages to employees.
Anderson is working to address the way many people operate today without giving a thought to how their food gets to them. Anderson says that many operate like this: “Your food just comes out of a facility, shows up at grocery store and you buy it,” He talks to his customers about the 14-20-hour days some people are working in order to get this product out to them. He has one vendor who quit a good job at General Mills, moved in with parents and teaches yoga classes on the side to pay the bills in order to launch their new hustle.

Creating place he wants to be
“I understand it’s my responsibility to help create the place I want to be in,” said Anderson.
“I care about what I do, and try to do my best. I have a pretty clear vision of what I want the transcript of my life to say when it’s done.”
Contact editor Tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com.

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Planet Princess Foods

Planet Princess fills gaps for good grain-free bread

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Founder Alisa Dale (center) with her son, Samueal William, and his wife Kristin William.

When St. Paul resident Alisa Dale couldn’t find a great gluten-free bread, she decided to make it herself.
She began baking grain-free buns and bagels at GIA Kitchen (955 Mackubin St.) with other small start-ups to mid-size businesses who lease space in the licensed commercial kitchen in 2017. Everyone on the Planet Princess team lives in St. Paul.

What drove you to start your own business making gluten-free items?
About four years ago, I learned that my body reacts to gluten, and I needed to stop eating it. That was hard to hear because I really love bread! I honestly tried practically every gluten free alternative out there. But I found them quite unsatisfactory in one way or another: in taste, in texture, and especially in ingredient quality and nutrition.
Being a happy foodie, I resolved to create gluten free, grain free bread reminiscent of the hearty, traditional bread I missed. I had a lot of boxes to tick! It had to toast like bread, have a crumb like bread, stay soft and moist yet not break apart or get soggy. And it definitely had to taste great. And I was determined to do all of this using quality gluten and grain free ingredients, clean enough to be non-GMO with no binders, additives or preservatives.
At the time, I didn’t realize this quest would be a two-year journey. It was challenging and fun, and once I perfected the recipe, it was really gratifying.

What sets your products apart?
There is a huge gap in the market for really good gluten free and especially grain-free bread. In fact, one of the major food trends identified in 2019, projected to grow in 2020 is grain free eating. Consumers are turning away from grains for a number of reasons.
We fill this gap!
Planet Princess breads are so much more than “just” gluten free. Our products are “set apart” in several categories: they are protein rich, low carb, gluten and grain free, and they contain seven vitamins and five minerals. Not to mention that they are delicious and function just like traditional bread.
When you eat a Planet Princess bun, you get so much more! 10 grams or more of protein, as low as 7 net carbs, 4 grams of fiber, 7 essential vitamins and 5 minerals from non-GMO ingredients. This bread nourishes your body! One of our continuing efforts is to build that understanding with consumers.
Our buns are also Keto and Paleo friendly. People struggling with insulin resistance or diabetes have become some of our biggest fans as well! Our majority ingredients register low on the glycemic index.
Our customers keep us going! We really enjoy demos when we get to talk with them face to face, and we are so grateful for their support.

How is the Twin Cities food scene evolving and where do you fit into that?
The Twin Cities food scene is vibrant and growing quickly! New makers are entering the scene, creating amazing, local food products that are truly unique. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has a wide range of resources and offers so much support to local makers. Minnesota is unique in its support of food entrepreneurs, financial and otherwise. We are so lucky that way.
And I have to give credit to the many incredible co-ops in the Twin Cities! They are so supportive of locally made products. Honestly, if you want to find locally made, unique food products before they go “mainstream,” check out your local co-op. They have been invaluable in our business building. If it weren’t for them, we would not have been able to do this.
We fit into the food scene as makers who are providing something new and unique. Since we bake in a community commercial kitchen, we get a great opportunity to share ideas and resources with one another. And makers understand the hard work of starting a food company like nobody else. There’s a natural camaraderie there. Food entrepreneurs are really great people. They are talented, enthusiastic, and committed as well as generous and approachable.

What challenges and benefits do you face being a woman entrepreneur?
The benefits of being a woman entrepreneur are exciting. There are so many local agencies and organizations that expressly support women entrepreneurs, providing networking, education, and other opportunities. Plus, in my experience, businesswomen themselves are generous about supporting other women business owners, especially those just starting out. They gladly share connections and helpful information. They are natural mentors. That has been a Godsend to me so many times. I want to offer whatever I can and pay it forward to other women entrepreneurs, too.
We are just now poised to start the process of raising capital to expand our production capacity and grow our distribution. And statistics on venture capital to fund women owned businesses are a bit daunting as I begin the process. For example, 40% of small businesses in America are owned by women, generating $1.8 trillion a year. Yet women still receive just 7 percent of venture funds, particularly angel funds.
This may be another challenge for me to overcome! In truth, though, I have no direct experience with it so far. And in spite of this financial landscape, I feel confident (especially in Minnesota!) that we will find the investors who deeply understand what we have, how on trend and timely it is, and how many people are looking for it. And they will support us financially into the next phase.

What’s your favorite Planet Princess Foods product?
I would say that I use the Plain bun most often for burgers. But my favorite is the Cinnamon Raisin ‘Bagels’. They are so yummy and smell so good when you toast them. Besides, I can feel like I just “treated” myself, yet still get all the good nutrition they contain. The Garlic, Rosemary, Sundried Tomato Buns are awesome, too.
Find Planet Princess items at both of the Seward Co-ops, all three Mississippi Markets, Eastside Co-op, the Wedge Co-op, and the Fresh and Natural Foods in Shoreview and Hudson Wis. Plain buns are also featured at Alma Restaurant in Minneapolis. For those who live outside the Cities, buns are available for delivery online at azurestandard.com, a national healthy foods distributor. We hope to be available on Amazon soon.
If you want to stay informed about new locations and new flavor launches, join us on our website!

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Jennifer’s ex tried to convince her, others she was crazy

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

She finally left, but the abuse continues through court system

Jennifer* grew up in a loving, two-parent household in the suburbs. She didn’t think she was in an abusive marriage but she knew that after five years and two kids, she had to get out. On the day he started screaming at her in front of her mom, she decided she’d had enough. She kicked him out.
It was only later that someone gave her a label for what she had experienced: domestic violence or intimate partner terrorism.
“I was so naïve,” admitted Jennifer, age 41. “I am an example of someone who is educated and grew up in a loving home, but had no idea that emotional, financial, or psychological abuse existed – or what it was.”
A business and French major, Jennifer had gone back to earn her master’s from Carlson in business management. She dated Dave* for two years and they got married in 2011. Their son was born in 2013, and their daughter was an infant in 2016 when they split up.

No, she didn’t see any signs
“The number one question I get is ‘Did I see any signs?’” Jennifer pointed out.
“No I didn’t. That question isn’t helpful. People think I went to Vegas and married a douchebag. When we first started dating, he came across as very alluring.” He was well-groomed, took care of himself and was attractive. “He didn’t fit the mold of what I thought an abuser would be,” she said.
Now, Jennifer knows she’s the typical victim. “We’re all helpers,” she observed. “We’re all pleasers.”
When they were dating, Dave might mention that his back hurt. She was quick to call the chiropractor for him to schedule an appointment. She’d feel good that he felt better. “Five years later, you’re exhausted from doing everything for him and not helping yourself,” Jennifer said.
He always came across as a victim, even from the start – something she knows now should have been a red flag. His family life was horrible. He believed everyone was mean to him at his job. When he took a class, he leaned on Jennifer to do the work. All of his past relationships failed because of the women he was with. Things were never his fault.
Jennifer used to think that being abused in a marriage meant black eyes and physical beatings. But Dave never hit her.
He engaged in gaslighting behavior, telling her she was misremembering what he’d said and pretending that other things never happened. When they moved into their newly-built dream house in the suburbs, a fixture in their master bathroom didn’t work, so Jennifer had to use a bathroom down the hall to blow dry her hair. It was a bit of a hassle. One morning, tired from a night awake with her baby, Jennifer absent-mindedly plugged the blow dryer into the outlet – and it worked. She excitedly told her husband about it, and asked when he had fixed it. “It always worked,” he responded. “What are you talking about?”
Jennifer remarked, “He tried to make me feel crazy.”
During an argument, he would go on and on, and keep her up late. Other nights, he’d wake her up every two hours. She was exhausted. When she’d finally leave the room for a break, and then come back ready to talk anew about the 3.5-hour-long conversation they’d just had, he’d look at her and deny it occurred. At other times, he’d refuse to talk about something unless she could remember word for word exactly what he’d said previously – down to the right pronoun.
Everything was always Jennifer’s fault.
He’d hide her computer mouse or her keys. After she looked through the entire house, she’d find the item in the room where she had started, the room where he was.
He spent all their money and racked up credit card bills, buying things for himself but not Jennifer or the kids. “It was always about him,” said Jennifer. He was arrogant and entitled. At one time when they were strapped for cash, Jennifer agreed to give up a hobby for the month and let him take the $200 to attend a family event without her. He blew that and more at a casino – and never said thanks. He earned thousands in cash at side jobs, telling her he made less than he actually did. He quit a well-paying job and relied on her to cover their living expenses.
Every house they ever lived in had holes in the walls. He’d punch the walls or throw items at the walls. “He would hit other thing that hit me,” said Jennifer, even when she was pregnant. In fact, she’s learned that abusers often intensify when a woman is pregnant or they have a child because the attention isn’t focused on them anymore. When she was pregnant with their son, she shut a door and he kicked it open, hitting her so hard she fell down. When she’d tried to leave a room, he’d stand in the doorway and block her exit.
Sometimes she’d call Dave’s mom to come help. She found out later that his mom had helped remove the guns in every house he had ever lived in. That’s the kind of information she wishes someone would have told her before they got serious.
Dave said a lot of put-downs, Jennifer recalled. When she called him out on the mean things he had said, he’d retort, “Kidding, just kidding! You need to learn how to take a joke.” He tried to isolate her from family members and friends. He bullied and manipulated and lied, while showing her just enough affection here and there to give her hope.
These incidences didn’t happen every day. “This type of abuser will play the victim and then seem ‘normal’ for awhile before another incident,” observed Jennifer. “Each time I would make excuses for his behavior and there would be many days in between the next incident. The longer I was with him, the shorter the time in between incidents became. In the beginning it was maybe only monthly, if that. By the time I left, it was probably every other day.”

Jennifer was surprised to find she was among this statistic.

Significant incident
On the day Jennifer had finally had enough, it wasn’t that it was worse than it had ever been, but that the thousands of straws piled together finally broke the camel’s back. They had an infant, and he wouldn’t her sleep. So her mom came over so that she could get more than 45 minutes every three hours. Jennifer laid down and Dave came in to change the garbage can in their room, upset that she wasn’t cleaning their house. Then Dave insisted they run errands. Jennifer gave in, got up, and left with Dave. When they finally got back home, she was beyond exhausted. He started yelling at her in front of her mom.
“Because my ex showed his behavior to my close family member, it become real and I something I had to get out of,” said Jennifer.

Thanks to a support group, Jennifer now recognizes how the desire for power and control led to abuse by her ex.

Abuse affects kids, too
To help resolve disputes after their divorce, they were assigned to a parenting consultant (PC) with the understanding that they would split the fees equally. They did an intake together, and then meet separately with the PC, who immediately referred Jennifer to the Domestic Abuse Project (DAP) in Minneapolis after seeing the interactions between the two of them. “When he said that to me, I was so confused. Because he’s so mean to me verbally in the things he says?” Jennifer recalls asking. “I didn’t quite get it.”
But she did start a 16-week support group at DAP in late 2016, and it was life-changing. When she heard the stories that the other women in her support group told, she couldn’t help but cry. “They all said something that was just like my life,” said Jennifer. “It was freaky.” One in three women have been in an abusive relationship, which means that Jennifer is far from being alone in her experiences.
She admits, “I feel ashamed and stupid that I should have known better, but also so glad and strong for getting out. It also was important to hear that these men, more than likely, will not change. I stuck around for a long time hoping he would change… that never will happen.”
In her support group, Jennifer learned that abuse isn’t just physical and verbal. It’s also psychological, sexual, financial, and emotional. And it doesn’t just affect the mom when a dad engages in intimate partner terrorism. It negatively affects the kids, too, and those issues continue after the divorce.
“When I left my abuser my kids were tiny (newborn and 3-years-old). My son had already started having issues with anxiety,” said Jennifer. “During our separation and long process to divorce, my son developed emotional trauma/PTSD. He has issues learning and issues with memory. He has regressed and speaks in ‘baby talk,’ and gets frustrated easily. Overall, both kids are extremely attached to me – and have to sleep with me at night.”
Both have a lot of emotional issues compared to their peers and have trouble focusing.
One of the things that Jennifer learned during her support group really sticks with her: “If you help a mom, you help the kids.”

Jennifer never reported her ex-husband to the police. She hoped he would change. She wanted to give her kids a happy family. She didn’t understand why he acted how he did.

No justice in family court
Jennifer has not found justice in the court system. Instead, Dave has continued to abuse her, changing some of his tactics but not the controlling behavior and disrespect that drive his actions. “He can be as abusive to me as he wants and there are no repercussions,” Jennifer said.
When it came time to sell their dream house after the divorce, he moved back in and refused to cooperate with a real estate agent in order to put the house on the market. He wouldn’t respond to emails about the sale. Jennifer didn’t have enough money to pay the bills due to the financial abuse and had to move back in with her parents. The high cost of continuing legal bills means that she’s still living with her parents.
Mediation didn’t work. “It didn’t matter what I said, he said no. He was that entitled,” said Jennifer.
When it was time to exchange the kids, he would give her an address in Blaine. Then he would tell her they were actually in Chanhassen And then he’d say they were in Woodbury. If she responded that he could drop them off at her house, he’d refuse and insist that she come to him. A PC advised her to do that anyway, and then go home and wait. But she struggled with her kids’ needs, to eat and go to bed and not be pawns in a game of power and control, and how to balance those things. Today, she’s protected somewhat by an order to exchange the kids at a local police station, thanks to a PC ruling.
There isn’t much she has to say that’s positive about the court system she’s now been involved in for three and a half years.
Jennifer has been shocked that the court system recognizes that Dave is abusive and has mental health issues, but has still granted him overnights with the children. “When people hear just a portion of my story they assume I have full custody,” she observed. “People outside of divorce have no idea that custody equals three things: physical, legal, and parenting time.”
Jennifer and Dave have shared joint physical and legal custody since their divorce, which means they have to reach decisions together on things like education and health. “He always wants more parenting time because if he gets it, he pays me less child support,” said Jennifer. Dave currently has their 6 and 4-year-old for two overnights once a week, 24 hours at a time. Jennifer is concerned about her kids during that time as their dad doesn’t always feed them, refuses to take them to a doctor when they have a fever, “forgets” about occupational therapy appointments, leaves them sitting in poopy pants, and ignores safety issues.
“I picked up my son one day and he had a Cascade dishwasher pod in his mouth,” recalled Jennifer. When she said something about the dangerous poison to Dave, he yelled at her. “Don’t tell me what to do on my parenting time!”
When she asked the PC about it, she was told, “Something needs to happen for something to happen.” In other words, the child needs to be hospitalized, require surgery, or die for the court system to restrict his parenting time. “The slogan should be ‘Reactive not proactive,’” said Jennifer, who wishes that the courts would put the well-being of children first and enforce the statues that limit parenting time and custody in cases of domestic violence.
“It’s sad because the system is so reactionary. Instead, when abuse is proven, all custody should be given to the non-abusive parent, and the abusive parent should need to earn their way back,” said Jennifer. “Sadly, I do not see the system changing.”
It doesn’t take long for Dave to get mad and fire a PC, leaving Jennifer to pay the bills. It takes about three months or longer to get another one, and things are pretty difficult during that time as he refuses to follow any previous agreements.

‘You need to get along for your kids’
Jennifer has been frustrated when they get a new professional involved in their family as each time they tell her they will be drawing a line in the sand and moving forward, and that the past is in the past. She believes that what has happened before is important to know to understand what they’ve already done and what their situation is, but is told to essentially forget about the past. Move on.
And so it keeps repeating itself.
It’s a situation that’s common enough to have its own term: domestic abuse by proxy or post-separation abuse, as in domestic abuse through the kids after the couple has split up.
The police in her city know them by name because of how often Dave has called complaining that she is withholding the kids from him when they’re sick or when it’s not actually his parenting time. He threatens and yells at Jennifer and her parents regularly at their home. But it is never enough for the police or courts to take action. Recently, their new judge told them he wasn’t going to restrict Dave’s involvement despite his threats and parental negligence because “he loves his kids.”
Jennifer often hears the refrain, “You need to get along for the sake of your kids. You guys need to figure this out for your kids.”
She asks, “How do I?”
Editor’s note: *Names changed for protection.
Contact editor at Tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com

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