Archive | FEATURED

WEB_Ford Area C Meeting 08

Area C not deemed emergency

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Area C (background), as photographed from the opposite bank of the Mississippi River, is just south of the Ford Bridge. The Ford Motor Company dumped unknown quantities of industrial waste, including solvents and paint sludge, on the floodplain of the Mississippi River below the bluff near its St. Paul assembly plant between 1945-1966. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

People urged to stay off site for safety


Over 150 people turned out to hear the latest findings about Area C from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in a packed meeting room at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church on Feb. 20, 2020.
The topic of discussion, called Area C, is a dumpsite where the Ford Motor Company dumped unknown quantities of industrial waste, including solvents and paint sludge, on the floodplain of the Mississippi River below the bluff near its St. Paul assembly plant between 1945-1966.
MPCA hydrogeologist Amy Hadiaris has been monitoring ground and surface water in Area C since 2007. She presented the most recent data and summarized the position of MPCA by saying, “Clean-up is needed, but we do not see this as an emergency situation.”

Community concerned
Community members expressed a deep level of concern about the dump site during the meeting, submitting a half-inch-thick stack of index cards with questions for MPCA staff to address.
Friends of the Mississippi River Executive Director Whitney Clark asked the last question of the evening. He asked, “Is it right for the Ford Corporation to leave their waste for future generations to clean up?”
Someone then called for a show of hands for how many people would have Ford remove it all if they could – and nearly everyone in the room raised theirs, including MPCA staff.

Testing being done
In this investigative stage, nine groundwater monitoring wells will be added to the existing 10. Friends of the Mississippi River and the Capitol Region Watershed District requested and support this increase in monitoring activities.
Hadiaris explained, “MPCA has a set process for evaluating the safety of ground water. We are testing for 65 volatile organic compounds, and 80 semi-volatile organic compounds. One of the big concerns is lead, which was added to all paints of that era.”
At the request of MPCA, the Minnesota Department of Health reviewed site data to assess health risks related to Area C. It was determined that only minimal threat exists if trespassers contact contaminants in soil or other physical hazards. There are no other ways for people to come in contact with contaminants, unless they trespass on the site.
To further discourage trespassing, MDH recommends repairing broken fence segments and adding signage between the Hidden Falls Regional Park walking trail and the southern boundary of Area C.

Waiting for two+ floods
Hadiaris said, “This is a contemplative process. We will wait for at least two flood events before making a clean-up decision and presenting it to the Ford Corporation.”
There will be another community information meeting once MPCA completes its feasibility study. To be placed on the email update list for Area C, contact Sophie Downey at sdowney@fmr.org.

Comments Off on Area C not deemed emergency

Truce Center 10

Truce Center opens in Summit University

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Community conflict resolution center is response to gun violence

Stand out quote from the wall in the Reflection Room:
“Another day,
another chance.”

It’s no secret that the city of St. Paul has been hard hit by gun violence in the last several months, and that the victims have been disproportionately African American.
Miki Lewis, an African American man who grew up in the Summit University neighborhood, felt called to do something about the violence.
He started formulating a plan last summer, and opened the 8218/Truce Center on the northwest corner of Lexington and Selby avenues in December. He said, “This is a place where kids ages eight to 18 can come to learn, to relax, and to figure out how to settle their differences peacefully.”

Understanding value of their own lives
Walking through the door, visitors are welcomed into a room filled with African artifacts. Lewis explained, “Africa is where we came from, so it seems like the right place to start.”
The 8218/Truce Center is both a space for conflict resolution and an African American museum. Lewis created the dual mission because he saw a multitude of needs going unmet for young people.
The center offers classes in community awareness, conflict resolution, health and wellness, entrepreneurship, leadership, self-respect, depression, suicide prevention, and African American history. Lewis and his team of volunteers mentor African American youth in gaining more self-knowledge and understanding.
Students earn a certificate of leadership when they complete all of the courses. Lewis said, “We teach them things they aren’t being taught in school.”
Leaving the reception area, a visitor walks through a doorway over which a sign is posted, “For Colored Only,” a remnant from the Jim Crow era of segregation. Every inch of the African American Museum shows images of the African American experience – images that speak both to great struggles and to great accomplishments. Lewis said, “There is no substitute for our kids knowing the reality of who they are. We’ve got to help them understand the value of their own lives, and that starts with learning their history.”

Space to be safe in
Lewis was born just a few blocks away, on Hague and Milton. He said, “Gun violence always had its mark in this neighborhood, but it has gotten so much worse. I’ve been mentoring kids out in the community for more than 20 years, and I knew it was time to create a space where they could come and be safe. I feel like, if you don’t know who your neighbors are – it’s a lot easier to get in trouble. And there are just fewer places for kids to go these days. ”
Youth come to the center to learn about themselves, and they also come to learn about each other.

Miki Lewis is the founder and director of the 8218/Truce Center. He is shown standing in the Reflection Room, where photographs of more than 50 Minneapolis and St. Paul residents who died of gun violence or drug overdoses line the wall. He tells young people, “This is one wall I do not ever want to see your picture on.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Reduce violence in community
If there’s an argument happening out in the community, or bullying, or threats, Lewis and his volunteers can help. He said, “Because I’m from this neighborhood, I’m a known person. We’re here to help parties mediate their differences, and to get conflicts resolved safely. This is our effort to reduce community violence.”
While the center is dedicated to mentoring African American youth, anyone is welcome and encouraged to take a tour. The 8218/Truce Center is located walking distance from several schools at 175 Lexington Ave. N. Hours are Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m; call 651.340.4081. Visit www.8218trucecenter.org to learn more.

‘We’re in this life together’
Lewis is finalizing the details of getting non-profit status for the center. Since it opened, he has paid the bills himself. He said, “I believe we’re all put here to assist in saving the world. I can’t do it by myself, and neither can anyone else. We’re in this life together. If someone wants to make a donation to the center, they’re welcome to. But what would light me up more than anything would just be for people to come down to the center and learn some African American history.”
As Lewis is fond of saying, “Just do what your heart allows you to do.”

Comments Off on Truce Center opens in Summit University


Welcome Frogtown readers

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

From Editor and Owner Tesha M. Christensen:
The Monitor is expanding into the Frogtown neighborhood. If you’re a regular reader of Greening Frogtown, you know that Tony Schmitz and Patricia Ohmans (shown at left wth their daughters 25 years ago and today) are retiring from the business of putting out a newspaper every two months, and they are passing the torch onto the Monitor staff. We’re delighted to add over 5,000 new readers, and have set aside monthly space in our publication that will be clearly labeled Frogtown.
We are commited to bringing the community together in our section of St. Paul.

Send story tips, letters to the editor, comments, ad inquiries, bulk drop site suggestions and more to Tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com or call 612-345-9998.


Read past Greening Frogtown papers here: http://greeningfrogtown.com/archive/

Comments Off on Welcome Frogtown readers

WEB_All Energy Solar 05

All Energy Solar celebrates 10-year anniversary

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

‘The time is now’ for solar power, according to co-owner Michael Allen

Richard Franco has an exterior Smart Meter that measures his home energy use in 15 minute increments. He also gauges his family’s energy consumption (and availability) using an indoor meter and a smart phone app. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The numbers are in. The U.S. Department of Labor’s statistics predict that over the next decade, solar installer jobs will grow more than any other occupation.
All Energy Solar is a company in the Midway that designs, installs, and monitors solar power systems for homes and businesses – and they’ve been doing it for 10 years. Their new, expanded headquarters in Energy Park made it possible for the company to stay in St. Paul during a time of significant growth.
The solar energy industry is booming, which is good news for the environment and for the economy. The jobs that are produced can’t be outsourced or done by robots – the work has to be done by local people.
President and co-owner Michael Allen said, “Last year, we installed more than 1,000 solar power systems. This year, our goal is 1,250 installations. While our company has a six-state reach, the lion’s share of our business is right here in the Twin Cities.”

‘They did the heavy lifting’
Richard Franco was an All Energy Solar customer in 2019; he had 12 solar panels installed on his home last spring. He said, “I’d been interested in solar panels for a while. There were tax credits and rebates in place, it seemed like a hedge against energy costs continually rising, and, of course, there are the obvious environmental benefits.”
Franco had seen signs for All Energy Solar in his neighborhood, and appreciated that they were a local company. When one of his neighbors had solar panels installed by All Energy Solar, Franco knocked on his door. The neighbor described his experience as extremely positive, and Franco’s would turn out to be as well.
In Franco’s words, “They came out and evaluated everything, determining that my steeply-pitched, south-facing, relatively unobstructed roof was perfect for solar panels. They did all the heavy lifting, and got the logistical stuff set up with Xcel Energy. While I was making sure my homeowner’s insurance would cover solar panels, All Energy Solar didn’t pressure me in any way.”

“We’re proud to be part of this economic sector based on renewable energy. With Governor Walz calling for statewide carbon-free energy by 2050, awareness of the benefits of solar energy
will continue to grow.”
~ Michael Allen

Individualized assessments set them apart
Michael Allen was working in the solar energy industry for 10 years before he started All Energy Solar with his brother Brian a decade ago. He said, “It’s easy enough to buy a solar energy system over the internet, but it will likely end up costing you more in the long run. We believe that individual attention is essential for having a system work optimally. If it isn’t installed properly, it might not be up to code or pass the insurance inspection.”
He added, “We model every home or business we work on in 3-D imaging, and interpret exactly how the panels will be integrated with smart, efficient design. There are trees and structures that get in the way of the sun. If the south side of a property is shaded, maybe the panels will have to be placed on the east or the west.
“Our consultants are highly skilled at at site design, and every site is different.”
All Energy Solar helps homeowners choose a system that is appropriate not only to their site, but also to their energy needs. Energy use is evaluated on a 12-month cycle, and those numbers inform the design of each solar power system.
Community solar gardens are growing in popularity, and Allen supports the idea – to a point. He explained, “When you look at it carefully, it’s a continuation of the idea of renting electricity. Somebody builds a solar garden in an outlying area, pumps a lot of energy into the grid, and customers get a slight credit on their Xcel bill.”
He believes the motivation for installing a home solar energy system is the same as what gets people to buy, rather than rent, their home. It’s empowering to generate your own electricity — and it’s a sound investment.”

‘The time is now’
According to Allen, the technology of solar panels hasn’t changed much over time. They use the same technology developed by scientists at Bell Laboratories in 1954. What has changed tremendously in the inversion technology that converts DC (direct current electricity collected from the sun) into AC (alternating current electricity that can be used in the home).

Solar panels typically come with a 25-year warranty. Once they’re installed, they are relatively maintenance free. There is no need to keep them clear of snow and ice. The panels are dark colored, and will clear themselves on their own. Allen said, “Don’t go up on your roof to check on them!”
The solar industry is a global industry, with the U.S. being – so far – a very small part of the market. According to Allen, “Not even 2% of the energy used in this country comes from renewable sources. Collecting energy from the sun is a simple, safe technology that we just haven’t adopted in a big way. We have the opportunity to move forward with the Green Economy in this state and in this country, and revolutionize our infrastructure to be truly renewable. All of the technology is ready. The time is now.”
For more information on installing solar panels on your home, or to learn about job opportunities with All Energy Solar, visit www.allenergysolar.com. Company headquarters are located at 1264 Energy Lane, St. Paul.


Benefit this year
If you install a solar panel system in 2020, 26% of your total project costs (including equipment, permitting and installation) can be claimed as a credit on your federal tax return. If you spend $10,000 on your system, you owe $2,600 less in taxes the following year. The solar tax credit will be less in 2021, and will expire in 2022.

Comments Off on All Energy Solar celebrates 10-year anniversary

WEB_Menopause Center 01

Menopause Center guides women through transition

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Menopause Center Administrator Coleen Boeckman (left) and Advanced Practice Registered Nurse/Certified Nurse Midwife Catherine Mascari (right). The center is at 576 Minnehaha Ave. W. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Menopause doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. The word is derived from Greek and means, literally, “the end of the monthly” – but it’s a long process, and it just isn’t that simple.
The Menopause Center of Minnesota offers education, counseling, and resources to help women 35 and older deal with issues and symptoms caused by perimenopause and menopause.
Becky Mendoza has been with the practice since it started 20 years ago. She is an advanced practice registered nurse and certified nurse practitioner with a focus on women’s health. She said, “Perimenopause and menopause can be very hard for women, but they don’t have to be. There are many ways we can help women be more comfortable, healthy, and symptom-free.”
Catherine Mascari was one of the Menopause Center’s first clients. She now works alongside Mendoza, and is an advanced practice registered nurse and certified nurse midwife. Mendoza and Mascari’s clients are healthy, low-risk women experiencing the physical, emotional, and psychological challenges of hormonal fluctuations during perimenopause and menopause.
Perimenopause is a transitional phase which typically begins in a woman’s late 30s or early 40s. It is the precursor to menopause. Ovarian function declines, and levels of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone rise and fall unevenly.
In menopause, the ovaries are no longer producing estrogen or progesterone. Menopause is defined, in hindsight, as 12 consecutive months without a period. The average age for reaching menopause in the U.S. is 51 years.
Beginning in perimenopause, women may have hot flashes and night sweats – both of which can leave them wringing wet with sweat day or night. Many women experience something unaffectionately referred to as meno-fog: frequent lost trains of thought, lack of word recall, and cognitive dullness. Hormonal imbalances can trigger irritability, mood swings, depression, anxiety, and for some, a loss of libido (sex drive). Approximately 40% of women will continue to have symptoms years after menopause has occurred; the frequency and intensity of symptoms can range from pesky and infrequent to almost constant.
Mascari said, “It is a rare woman who has no problems or frustrations as she enters this time of significant change. An important aspect of self- care is to surround yourself with understanding, helpful, and courageous people.”
“Sometimes women don’t feel understood by their partners as they go through these changes. Men have a corresponding male menopause, but it usually isn’t as significant. We encourage all couples to take the effects of menopause seriously, and to work on having open, clear communication with each other.”

Personalized care
The Menopause Center is for women only, and limits its scope to a consulting practice. The clinicians do not perform physical exams, and there are no lab services available.
Mendoza explained, “Clients receive personalized guidance and counseling to help them manage their menopause transition with ease. Some women choose hormone therapy, and some do not. Some choose to take supplements such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D, and some do not.
“We are here to give clients the personalized care they might not get from their primary doctor, because this is our sole concern.”
The Menopause Center of Minnesota is located in the same building as Lloyd’s Pharmacy at 1576 Minnehaha Ave. W. They accept Blue Cross Blue Shield and Preferred One, and are able to arrange payment plans. Their telephone is 651.698.0891; web address is www.menopausemn.com.
Suggested resources: The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Menopause by Robin Marantz Henig: Oprah Magazine (September 2019); The Wisdom of Menopause by Dr. Christiane Northrup.

“The changes of perimenopause and menopause occur spontaneously as women age. These changes bring opportunities for growth and new self-awareness – and they can be challenging.”
~ Menopause Center of Minnesota


Tips from Catherine
Life style choices for better health in perimenopause and beyond:

✓ Consider a Mediterranean approach to food choices, more plant-based and fewer animal-based items.
✓ Stay flexible, balanced, and strong as you age. Try weight-resistance activities like swimming, interval walking, yoga or pilates for a minimum of 75 minutes/week.
✓ Limit caffeine intake and alcohol consumption.
✓ Stop cigarette smoking/vaping.
✓ Make yourself and your health a top priority.

Source: Catherine Mascari,
Menopause Center of Minnesota

Comments Off on Menopause Center guides women through transition

Current Law on Custody & Parenting Time

Assume mothers get custody of kids in domestic abuse cases? Think again.

Posted on 10 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Violence Free Minnesota Executive Director points out abuser more likely to get custody in contested cases than mom

Over the past 40-year history, the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women (MCBW) has witnessed huge changes in how society thinks about domestic violence but there is still more work to be done, according to its executive director Liz Richards.
There are still plenty of myths to be dispelled.
“While we are proud of our history, the landscape of our work and the movement to end violence is more complex and challenging than ever. The movement to end relationship abuse must be highly iterative and adaptive,” said Richards. “As advocates and survivors, we continuously search for new and innovative ways to end relationship violence in Minnesota and beyond. This is why we are excited to embrace our new identity as Violence Free Minnesota: The Coalition to End Relationship Abuse.”

Fathers getting children more when mothers bring up domestic violence
Richards is proud of the progress her organization has made for women in Minnesota.
“In 1978, if you were experiencing domestic violence, you had few options,” she pointed out. “If you fled, there was no place to go. If you called the police, there was no crime.”
Today, there are shelters, organizations aimed at helping survivors, support groups, and laws that protect those in abusive situations.
Yet, there still remains a disconnect between that progress and family court. “What goes on in family court doesn’t mirror that,” remarked Richards.
Instead, new research done by Professor Joan Meier at George Washington University Law School shows what is actually happening in family court.
“The general presumption is that moms get custody in divorce cases,” observed Richards. While that may be true when you look at all of divorce cases, those where couples can agree on what to do about their kids, it isn’t true when domestic violence is a factor.
Current Law on Custody & Parenting Time In contested cases, a father is just as likely to get custody as a mother, Richards pointed out, citing Meier’s research.
And what shocks people is what happens when there’s domestic violence.
“If you look at the contested cases with domestic violence against the mother or child abuse by the father against the child, fathers are more likely to gain custody,” said Richards.

The study looked at more than 2,000 custody cases involving child abuse, domestic violence, and parental alienation nationwide. There is no study specific to Minnesota and no state agency that looks specifically at domestic violence, but Richards believes that Minnesota mirrors what has been found at a national level.
“When there are contested cases and domestic violence, fathers are receiving custody more frequently,” stated Richards.

Why is this happening?
That’s not an easy question to answer, but Richards thinks that part of the answer lies in how the family court system has evolved.
She began her career as a family law attorney who worked in Hennepin, Ramsey and Chisago counties before taking a job with the MCBW 10 years ago.
Richards believe that part of the problem is that so many parties are unrepresented by legal council, and lack the knowledge and guidance of an attorney. Part of that is because of high fees for legal services that stretch over years. “You have parties showing up not understanding the system,” observed Richards.
At the same time the caseload of judicial officers has grown tremendously. Ancillary court services have been cut – Hennepin County is the only one in the state that still offers custody evaluations. These were the people who used to be able to spend more time with cases and provide the court with more outside data to determine what was happening within a family.
“We’ve got this perfect storm,” Richards remarked.
There’s been a movement within family court to streamline the process. “They keep looking for the thing that will make it better,” Richards said.
One Hennepin County judge began sitting down with both parties within a week or so after they filed for divorce to figure out what they could agree upon, and then set up a process for managing the finances and custody. It worked so well for that one judge that the county and then much of the state instituted it for everyone, giving it the name of Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC), which is followed by the FENE (Financial Early Neutral Evaluation) and the SENE (Social Early Neutral Evaluation). However, things are so backlogged now, it can take months for an ICMC to occur, and longer for the ENEs.
“Now instead of becoming a way to make things smooth, it’s become a roadblock,” observed Richards.
Then there’s the issue with requiring mediation between an abuser and a victim, she pointed out. It doesn’t account for the power imbalance found in abusive relationships.
Plus, it is set up in a way that further abuses the victim.
At an FENE or SENE, each person gets to tell their side of the story without comment from the other – even to correct blatant lies. And each side is paying for their attorney to be there but the attorneys aren’t allowed to speak as there is an attitude that they augment conflict. “The process in and of itself can be very damaging,” said Richards. It is only natural to want to respond when you hear mistruths, but participants have to ignore that.
“It’s just insane as a process,” said Richards.

‘We need a smorgasboard of options’
She doesn’t think there is one magic answer to the problems in family court. “We need a smorgasboard of options,” Richards said.
In some cases, the domestic violence that occurred isn’t relevant to a financial division or custody. It could have been an isolated incident that occurred at the end of the relationship when it was most stressful. But in other situations, the domestic violence played out for years through coercive control, financial manipulation, and psychological, sexual and physical abuse of one partner by the other. Sometimes there was direct physical and sexual abuse of the children, and other times emotional and psychological.
Richards believes the system needs to ask about domestic violence immediately, gather information on it, consider the context, and factor it in. “Who is doing what to whom, with what impact?”
That should be followed up with this question in custody cases: “What is the impact and effect on children?”
The Battered Women’s Justice Project in Minneapolis has created a system focused on this, pointed out Richards. Termed the SaFER Approach, staff are working to educate family court professionals across the country.

Kids affected when moms are abused
“We know there is a high correlation between those that engage in domestic violence and child abuse,” observed Richards.
Plus, research has shown that domestic violence in a home affects the children who live there, whether or not they are physically hurt.
“What we know about resiliency of children is definitely linked to support of the non-abusive parent,” said Richards.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t think the system in place is set up to adequately account for that.

‘It takes two’ is a myth
There is the idea in family court that there are two equal parties in a divorce. “The mantra is that it takes two,” observed Richards, and that both parties are engaged in conflict. These are then termed “high conflict” cases.
That doesn’t factor in the reality of domestic violence. Where there’s intimate partner violence, one person is exerting power and control over the other and is engaged in manipulating the system. “If you have a father who has been engaged in coercive control, they’re highly skilled in using these same tactics in the family court system,” said Richards.
For example, the abusive party may sets things up to make the other parent look inflexible when they’re trying to keep things consistent for the kids. The abusive parent works to create chaos by trying to change the schedule, not show up, or move the pick-up location.
“What is the other party supposed to do?” asked Richards. “It is assumed that both parties have the best interests of the children at heart. In a situation with domestic violence, one is trying to use the children as a tool for the manipulation. It’s just a set up.”
Richards said, “If you have one parent who is working to abuse and manipulate, what does it mean for the other parent to go along?”
She pointed out that some judicial officers do a better job than others at recognizing this dynamic. There aren’t any standards for training in domestic violence dynamics for judicial officers, and the system overall isn’t set up to adequately understand and recognize domestic violence.
The domestic violence organizations in the state are primarily shelter-based, and they’re dealing with the emergency shelter needs of their clients. There aren’t any that have the resources to also manage what happens after the emergency when the victim is in family court fighting an abuser.
“Some of these cases stretch on for years,” observed Richards. “This is a problem across the country.”
She believes that Minnesota’s 12 best interest factors in statute 518.17 used in determining custody arrangements are supposed to place the focus upon kids. But Richards acknowledges, “There is a breakdown in what the law says and how it gets implemented in court.”

Does a child need a parent who is not safe?
Part of the problem is the insistence that every child needs to have two parents, a belief Richards says is deeply ingrained in society. To that, Richards asked, “Do you think it matters if one of the parents is sexually abusing a child? Do you think it matters if one of the parents is physically abusive towards a child?”
What is best for children is to have two safe parents, stressed Richards. “But if it’s not safe parenting that’s happening, it’s not in the child’s best interest.”
She doesn’t believe that the standard should be equal access to both parents, and doesn’t support any change in state law that would make 50/50 parenting the base assumption.
“I think safe parenting has to be the standard,” Richards said.
Some argue that women make false claims of abuse to get their way in divorce cases. “I have yet to see one person claim domestic violence and it made their life better,” said Richards. “Most people who talk about domestic violence do because it’s happening in their lives.”
The incidences of false allegations are extremely rare, she said. “The parent most likely to make false allegations are fathers and not mothers.”
But this idea, like many others that show up in family court, are not driven by evidence. They’re driven by emotion, according to Richards. They’re myths that society has adopted as true.
“It plays out in people’s lives and it’s devastating,” she said.
Contact editor at tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com. Read more articles in this series at http://monitorsaintpaul.com/category/voices-against-violence/


“HIGH CONFLICT” – To the court, “high conflict” can refer to cases that just won’t settle. To many mediators, it can mean that parties are unable to communicate effectively. To custody evaluators, it can refer to anything from frequent disagreements to severe, long-term domestic violence. Labeling a case as “high conflict” can often distract from what is actually going on, according to the Battered Women’s Justice Project. It can also disguise things as “high conflict” that are not conflict at all, like intimate partner abuse, child abuse, and child sexual abuse.

CONTESTED CASE – When parents can’t agree on custody and parenting time arrangements, it becomes a contested case and the court is involved in making the decisions.

“Alienation” – Sometimes called “parental alienation syndrome,” this theory has been rejected by the psychological definition book, the DSM-V, as it lacks any scientific basis. However, it is still being used in the family court system. Often used to limit protective mothers to supervised or no visitation, it assumes that problems in a relationship between an allegedly abusive father and the children must be caused by alienation. The most common context of alienation claims is that fathers accused of abuse counter with claims of alienation.

ICMC – The ICMC is the first appearance in Family Court. It is supposed to happen about 3 to 4 weeks after a filing for divorce.

FENE – A Financial Early Neutral Evaluation (FENE) is part of the Alternative Dispute Resolution process in Minnesota divorce cases. An FENE involves a half-day session (or more) with a court-appointed neutral. This neutral is typically an experienced family law attorney, or a CPA familiar with the financial issues.

SENE – A Social Early Neutral Evaluation is a voluntary process parents may choose to participate in when they disagree about custody or parenting issues. Typically the SENE will involve both parties, both attorneys, and two court-appointed custody evaluators (one male and one female). During the session, each party (and his or her attorney) is given the opportunity to explain what they would like for a custody and parenting time arrangement, and why.


Comments Off on Assume mothers get custody of kids in domestic abuse cases? Think again.

Summer Camp Guide 2020

Summer Camp Guide 2020

Posted on 10 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Boys who love to sing may enjoy creating music during the Boychoir Boot Camp Aug. 3-7 at Concordia University. The camp is for boys entering first to fifth grade. (Photo courtesy of the Boychoir)

Create a cardboard castle, a cigar box guitar, or a Lego robot. Connect with long-time friends and make new ones while learning how to kayak, juggle or sew. Make a puppet, animated cartoon, stationary, or your own song.

There are so many summer camp options in the Twin Cities area, your kids will have trouble picking just one!

Browse below for more information on some of the camps offered locally.



Experience outdoor activities at AuSM camps tailored for youth age 6 and up and adults with autism. Two residential camps where campers stay several days and nights are also offered in northern Minnesota at several locations.

Blackhawks offer several exciting half- and full-day soccer camps for players ages 5-18 that encompass a wide variety of activities and skills. Specialty camps focus on specific skills such as ball control, shooting, and goalkeeping.


Spend some time “Monkeying Around” with your primate pals, go for the gold in “Animal Olympics”, take an “African Adventure” without leaving Como, or try on the hat of a zookeeper or gardener in “Behind-the-Scenes!”. Como’s camps focus on developing children’s appreciation for the natural world through play and exploration, behind-the-scenes experiences, interactions with zookeepers and gardeners, and up-close encounters with plant and animal ambassadors Five-day, half-day or full-day sessions for preschool to grade eight. Extended care available.

Camp Como

Free Forest School of the Twin Cities is a free group, open to young children and their parents or caregivers. This is a welcoming and non-judgmental group where parents and caregivers can practice giving children space and autonomy to explore and create in nature. Free Forest School meets every day of the week throughout the year at wilderness areas
around the metro. Share a snack, take a hike, play in the woods, and have circle time. Parents get a chance to unplug and step back… Kids and their imaginations take the lead.
Cost: Free

Want to make a film just like the professionals do? Feel like biking 10 (or 20!) miles a day? Have a secret stash of poems you want to share? Feel a need to express yourself through paint and paper-folding? Maybe you’d rather argue for the defense in a real courtroom? Friends School will be the place to do that–and more–from June to August for ages 4-14. Weekdays, half- and full-day. Extended day care in the mornings and afternoons and need-based financial aid available.



Speak, hear, sing, and create in German while exploring subjects ranging from history and art to science and music during five-day, half-, full- and extended-day sessions for grades K-13 at the Germanic American Institute.

Travel back in time and learn about life in the 1800s. Explore seasonal Dakota activities including the maple sugar camp, wild rice village, life in the tipi, hunting games, methods of travel, language and song. Three-day, half-day camps. One-day Pioneer PeeWees camps offered for ages 4-5.


High school students ages 15-18 can explore the craft, prepare for college, and connect with other young writers in the Twin Cities, while working closely with Hamline Creative Writing faculty and published authors.

Join the Minnesota Waldorf School for good, old-fashioned summer fun with outdoor games, natural crafts, water play, gardening, fairy camp, and much more. For children ages 3.5 to (rising) 6th grade.
651-487-6700 x202

Summer sessions for ages 6-14 are run by the University of Minnesota’s Rec & Wellness Camps. Camps also offered in partnership with MIA and Richardson Nature Center.

Make your own games and design circuits. Paint with pizzazz. Search out connections between visual art and creative writing, and explore the life of a story in journalism. Options at SPA cover a wide range of academic, arts, and enrichment activities for grades 2-12.

Music day camp for aspiring young musicians – offering a setting where children can explore their musical knowledge and ability through classes, creative play, and presentations by renowned professionals.

Summer is a great time to try dance. Programs include workshops and camps for ages 3 and up, and weekly drop-in classes for teens and adults,.

Located at 30+ sites, with several locations in the Midway-Como neighborhoods, St. Paul Urban Tennis offers a summer program for all age groups and skill levels. Tennis lessons combine high quality instruction with life skills learning. Sampler Camps offer a condensed, 4-day version of the lesson program. Scholarships available.

Summer 2019

Learn about devised theater, music and other performance art forms during these one- to two-week, half- and full-day sessions for those preK to grade 12. Two theater classes offered in collaboration with the Science Museum and Minnesota Zoo.


Sew, knit, felt, dye, and more. Take home hand-made creations from half-day, weeklong classes, for students ages 6-16.


Climbing camp in single day, half and full day sessions run early June to late August for ages 6-13.

Explore the variety of Y Summer Programs at over 60 metro-area locations. Programs include flexible three-, four-, and five-day options for preschool and up, as well as day camps, overnight camps, Teen Wilderness, family camps and more.



Kids entering grades 3-10 spend a full week immersed in animal learning and fun at one of four AHS locations.

Solve mysteries of the past in this three-day History Detective Camp for ages 10-13. Or, young ladies ages 9-12 can step back in time in a unique Finishing School for Young Ladies day camp.

Creative cultural camps exploring Peru & Ecuador through art that reuses discarded materials. Sessions for ages 4-teen run late June – July.

Climb high, climb far during the Discovery Day Camp’s high energy activities offered near Fort Snelling Mondays to Fridays June to August for ages 5-15.

Modern Olympic fencing camps for all ages run from 10 a,m,-2 p,m, Monday-Friday in June and July.

Explore international circus arts at Circus Juventas. Five-day, full-day sessions and one-day sampler camps offered for ages 6-18.


Experience cultural and language immersion; 15 languages to choose from. Resident camp for ages 6-18 and family camps.

Make butter, ice cream and bread while learning about science, agriculture and history at the Bruentrup Heritage Farm in Maplewood. Plus, students will play old-time games like townball and do arts and crafts during three four-day sessions.

Professional Irish Dance training by director Cormac O’Se, an original member of Riverdance.

Girls and boys ages 6 to 17 can design and build their creative ideas, mixing art, science and technology during partial-day, weekday camps. There are more than 120 classes available over 10 weeks.


Pick from an amazing variety of camps for children grades K-12. From fencing to Lego robotics, baseball to history field trips, there is a camp to jump start a child’s summer adventure.
612-728-7745, ext. 1

Minnehaha Academy Minneapolis Private School

Explore clay through sculpture or wheel-thrown pottery in half or full-day sessions for ages 6 and up.


Students ages 8-17 enrolled in the weeklong, half-day camps will experience a variety of circus disciplines (including Trampoline, Static Trapeze, Acrobatics, Circus Bike, and of course Flying Trapeze).


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list of every camp in the Twin Cities. If you would like to be included in next year’s guide, please send us detailed information on the camp.

Comments Off on Summer Camp Guide 2020

Web_Jessica Kopp 16

Jessica Kopp steps into new role on school board

Posted on 10 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

She views her job as connecting community, SPSD

Former middle school teacher Jessica Kopp started a new part-time job in early January. She is one of two newly elected members of the Saint Paul School Board: a four-year, non-partisan position which she won with more than 20,000 votes.
Interviewed after her first two weeks on the job, Kopp said, “I’m aware of the bigness of it right now. Our school board has a budget of more than $700,000,000. We’re the second largest school district in the state, with more than 35,000 students in K-12, transitional programs, early childhood education, special needs, adult basic education, and more.
The school board administers almost 70 different programs across the city. Being on the Saint Paul School Board is a big responsibility.”
Kopp doesn’t want the identity of the elected official to be her dominant one. She sees herself as being a connector between the community and the district in her new role.
The 20+ year Midway resident feels she was “accidentally prepared” for becoming a school board member. Kopp was very involved at Hamline Elementary when her daughter (now 12) was a student there. She said, “Although we’d lived in the neighborhood since 2000, it wasn’t until 2013 that we really felt we were part of the neighborhood.”
Kopp credits her involvement with Hamline Elementary for solidifying her family’s sense of belonging.
She often talked about the foundational value of neighborhood schools during her nine month campaign last year. Kopp said, “St. Paul has some really awesome specialty schools, but we also have to invest deeply in our neighborhood schools. As I travelled to different parts of the city, the message that ‘neighborhood schools strengthen neighborhoods’ resonated with a lot of people.”
The idea of running for school board was born out of those years of working in the school district and in the community. Kopp didn’t claim to know much about local politics when she started campaigning, but she did know how to organize – and she had years of experience helping to rebuild Hamline Elementary when it was facing declining enrollment and funding levels.
Kopp had a campaign team of talented, smart, dedicated volunteers working behind her. Some had political experience, but most didn’t. She said, “Because of the years I spent teaching, I’m good at recognizing people’s strengths – and getting them to work from their strengths.” She ran her campaign the same way she approached advocating for education as a community activist, which was by doing the very best she could.
St. Paul schools face many challenges in the coming years including budget shortfalls, declining enrollment, and racial disparities in both learning and discipline. Kopp believes there’s a full palette of opportunities within the district, and that there’s a school for every student out there.
Her advice to families considering where to send their children? “Don’t just read the demographics online – go into the schools and talk to staff, students, and families. Move away from your computer and pick up on the real vibe of a place before writing it off.”



Jessica Kopp has three broad areas she wants to influence during her tenure on the board:

1. To contribute to a school board and school district that are welcoming, responsive, and accessible to all.

2. To build strong partnerships between the school district, the city, and the county – so schools can concentrate on teaching. Mental health, food insecurity, and homelessness are issues more appropriately handled by staff at the city and county levels.

3. To support diversity of education in both teaching and learning.

School board meetings are held on the third Tuesday of every month at the District Office, 360 Colburne Street. The public is welcome to attend and participate. Jessica Kopp can be reached by direct email at Jessica.kopp@spps.org.

Comments Off on Jessica Kopp steps into new role on school board

Reusing electronic waste = free and affordable computers

Reusing electronic waste = free and affordable computers

Posted on 10 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

PCs for People diverts electronics from waste stream, promotes digital inclusion

PCs for People Tech specialist Chang Yang tests more than 100 donated computers
every day. If a computer can’t be repaired, its usable components are refitted and
its unusable ones are recycled. Last year, PCs for People provided affordable computers and related technology to 804 customers in the 55104 zip code. At its most recent
community event in this part of St. Paul, 50 computers were distributed to families
at no cost. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin) >> Read more on page 5.

Last summer, PCs for People expanded to a 31,000-square-foot warehouse in the Como neighborhood. National communications and marketing director Tina Stennes said, “We were bursting at the seams. Our original location at 1481 Marshall Ave. is still our home-base for retail, but it was also our recycling and refurbishing space for 20 years.
“We’ve been able to increase both the scope and scale of our operations since we expanded. Our combined workforce in the two locations is now close to 50. One fifth of the employees at the warehouse are adults with disabilities.”
Stennes said, “Everybody that works here has a real passion for our mission, which is to provide income-eligible adults with equitable access to technology. In my previous job (in workforce development), I saw that lack of access to technology was a huge barrier to people trying to get ahead.”
PCs for People accepts donated computers – and other forms of digital technology – from individual and corporate donors. Items do not need to be in working order. Corporations are considerable donors because the average lifespan of digital technology in the corporate world is three years. There are a lot of digital electronics entering the waste stream.
The new warehouse is stuffed with used laptops, desktops, old typewriters, outdated cell phones, ancient car phones, hard drives, miles of USB cords, and every component imaginable, but there’s room for more. Email recycle@pcsforpeople.org to schedule a free pick-up of your used digital technology.
Privacy protection is a huge issue when it comes to refurbishing computers. Stennes explained, “We hold the highest industry certification for data security. The donor should do a data transfer prior to coming in, but we’ll do the rest. The computer is literally wiped clean of all personal information; the donor is given a transfer of ownership. We guarantee that the parts will be refurbished or responsibly recycled.”

Free computer events
PCs for People hosts about 10 community events each month, where they bring refurbished computers out into the community for distribution at no cost. Participating families are pre-selected using income eligibility based on the free and reduced lunch program guidelines. Most of these events take place in schools, and everything needed to operate the computers is included.
Stennes said, “In 2018, 60% of the customers we served through our community events or through our store had never owned a computer before. Often students know how to operate a computer, but their parents don’t. We follow up with new owners, providing tech support and digital literacy support. Every computer comes with a no-questions-asked one year warranty.”

Saytun Ahmed is a customer service representative at the Marshall Avenue store. She spent a day on the line in the new warehouse, getting a feel for the recycling process. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Affordable computers for sale
When a prospective customer enters the Marshall Ave. store, they are greeted by a customer service representative. Each customer provides income verification paperwork; acceptable forms are listed on the website www.pcsforpeople.org. Income eligible customers can purchase a desk top starting at $30 or a laptop starting at $50, which is approximately 1/10 of the used market value. Each refurbished computer comes with all new RAM, hard drive, Microsoft Word 10, and the same warranty as computers distributed through community programs.
Another point of removing digital barriers is having affordable access to the internet. Income eligible customers can choose to buy low cost internet (as low as $15/month). This service is prepaid, has high speed 4G, and runs off of a mobile hot spot.
“We want customers to have an experience in our store that is as professional as any other retail outlet, and we want them to leave with a computer that fully meets their needs,” said Stennes. “Customers often come back and tell us what they’ve used their computer for. Or, they’ll send an email saying, ‘This is the first email I’ve ever sent. Thank you!’”

PCs for People national communications and marketing director Tina Stennes said, “Last year, we provided affordable computers and related technology to 804 customers in the 55104 zip code. At our most recent community event in this part of St. Paul, 50 computers were distributed to families at no cost.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

PCs for People started in St. Paul, has expanded to Denver and Cleveland, and plans to open soon in Baltimore and Kansas City. If you are interested in their mission of digital inclusion and waste stream reduction in St. Paul, email volunteer@pcsforpeople.org to learn about volunteer experiences for groups. No tech experience is needed.


Comments Off on Reusing electronic waste = free and affordable computers

Paper artist releases book to let children know it’s ok to be wrong or right, happy or sad

Paper artist releases book to let children know it’s ok to be wrong or right, happy or sad

Posted on 10 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

‘Always be you’

Ioana Stoian knows that messages are crucial to children, and wants adults to let children know that feelings are okay. Hear more about her parenting style on Thursday, Feb. 27 at the Hamline Midway Library. (Photo by Jan Willms)

When Hamline-Midway paper artist Ioana Stoian gave birth to her son, George, who is now two and a half, she and her husband searched for books to read to their young child.
“The board books we found were mainly counting or colors,” Stoian said. She said that any books with messages for the very young were not what they were looking for, and they often changed the words as they read them. “There were messages that you can’t do this because you’re too small, or this is bad and this is good. We had to vet the books, and I didn’t want to keep changing the words,” she noted.
So Stoian wrote a poem to her son and then realized she wanted to share the message. “I wrote the book I wanted my son to see when he was a baby. This was the message I wanted him to hear, and I don’t think I’m alone,” said Stoian. “Always Be You” was published in November.
The book celebrates a child’s emotions and feelings and lets a child know it’s okay to be wrong or right, happy or sad.

Universal character
“I wanted the character to be gender neutral,” Stoian said. “When you have a person as a character, all these questions arise. What color is the hair, the eyes, the skin?”
To make it as universal as possible, Stoian chose to make it a flower, not any particular gender or color. “Any parent or child can identify with it,” she said. The book became a collaboration between herself and the illustrator, Dawn M. Cardona.
“She is extremely talented and handcut the illustrations,” Stoian said. “She is also a mom, and we have a lot in common.” For her book, Stoian made every sheet of paper and then sent it to Cardona. “I hand-glued each individual letter down for text,” she said.
Stoian, who is British-born, said she and her husband, a native of Minnesota and also a paper artist, have a small publishing company in the UK that published “Always Be You.”
“All the words come genuinely from me to my son,” Stoian said. She was able to avoid a publisher making changes to her writing. She also was able to select her own illustrator, which was very important to her.
The book was printed and bound in Germany. “It’s very hard in America to print board books,” Stoian explained. “You need specialized machinery, and it’s very expensive. I found a really good company that printed on sustainable paper. We could have done it for a third of the cost in China, if it were all about the money. But I wanted a high quality product that would feel good in spreading this message.”

Respectful parenting
The message for a child to embrace emotions, and that it’s okay to be jealous or angry or shy, is an idea Stoian and her family promote.
“Children are taught to share, but they don’t understand the concept of sharing until they are three or four,” she said. Her book encourages the feelings of happiness or sadness a young child may experience. “Violence is never okay,” she said, “but thoughts are okay.”
Stoian exchanges and shares ideas on parenting with other parents, educators and communicators who are part of a group called Friends of RIE MN (FORM.)
‘When you first move to a new place, you look for a community where you will fit in. At first, I was part of a paper artist’s community, and we did a lot of paper making at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts,” Stoian said. “And when I had my child, I found FORM, which is based on respectful parenting. We meet once a month and discuss parenting, and it is free and open to all.”
She said the group recently had a Hamline professor come in and talk about bringing up boys in today’s world. Stoian organizes a free play gathering each month, when adults mingle and kids play. “Finding this community and learning respect is how we brought up our child,” she said.

Child isn’t an object but a person with emotions
Stoian said that society often sends the message to parents that their child is an object, rather than a person with a need to express emotions. “Children are innocent when they are born,” Stoian continued, “and throughout all of life they are trying to find out who they are. It is very rare that a person is 100 percent confident in their body and mind as to who they are.”
“Messages are crucial to children,” she said. “If we give the message that feelings are okay, it’s okay to love whoever you want, think of the world we could live in.”
Stoian said she has reached out to some different birthing centers with her book and to spread the message children need. She hopes to have discussions using the book with new parents and expectant parents.
Her aim is to get the book into as many libraries as possible. “Most of the things I do, I want to be available for everyone. I love the library system here; it’s amazing. It’s open to anybody, so if you don’t have the money to buy a book, you can get one for your child.”
Reflecting on her book, Stoian said it took exactly nine months to complete. “It was just like having a baby,” she joked. Although children’s books can reportedly be very difficult to write, she said she did not find that to be the case. “The book came purely from my heart,” she said.

Take it slow
She said she considers the paper of her book to have a slowness to it, and she compared it to the slowness of life when a child is born. “Having a newborn is a slow time, just like the beginning of life,” Stoian said. “It is such a beautiful time and goes by so fast. We need to savor it, because we can never get it back.”
Her book offers a parent the opportunity to slow down and have a conversation with his or her child, to talk about feelings and thoughts and life on this planet.
If someone is interested in purchasing “Always Be You,” Stoian encourages them to buy a copy from an independent book shop. “While it’s easy to buy from an online retailer, we need to support independent book shops so that they continue to be there,” she noted.
Stoian is hoping the book can be the focus of parental discussion groups, also. She welcomes anyone who is interested in learning more about respectful parenting to attend a gathering of FORM.
> Stoian will be leading a discussion on respectful parenting alongside Carolyn Paetzel (founder of FORM). It will be held at the Hamline Midway Library at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27.

Comments Off on Paper artist releases book to let children know it’s ok to be wrong or right, happy or sad