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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

>> Editorial: Let’s start believing women and children

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Crowd rallies to support extending Midtown Greenway into St. Paul

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition Co-Chair Andy Singer, who led the five-mile bike tour, shows riders the rail line (behind him) where the Greenway would be. “The Greenway is really important for providing this East-West connectivity,” he said. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

More than 250 riders and supporters gathered at Lake Monster Brewing in St. Paul on Sept. 15 for the Sierra Club’s 24th annual bike tour and a community rally to extend the Midtown Greenway into St. Paul.
“We’re trying to keep the momentum going in our effort to extend the Greenway over the river and through St. Paul,” said Soren Jensen, executive director of the Midtown Greenway Coalition.
A feasibility study released in June found that the Short Line Bridge over the Mississippi River, where the Midtown Greenway currently ends in Minneapolis, could be rehabbed into something structurally sound that could accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians – even if the once-daily train left running to the ADM mill on Hiawatha Ave. continues. Its potential has galvanized people and organizations on both sides of the river who are eager to make this connection.
“On board are organizations representing tens of thousands of people,” said Jensen. “People are excited.”
In addition to creating a link from the heavily used Greenway in Minneapolis to St. Paul, its continuation would improve bike access to Allianz Field, the Minnesota United FC soccer stadium. Further, with St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter’s proposal in August to convert two (of four) lanes of motorized traffic on Ayd Mill Rd. to bike and pedestrian paths during its upcoming mill-and-overlay resurfacing project, it opens the possibility of creating a seamless bike route from the Midtown Greenway all the way to downtown St. Paul.
Alex Burns, chair of the Sierra Club’s Land Use and Transportation committee, spoke to the crowd assembled on the Lake Monster patio before the tour.
“How we develop, build and connect people and places has huge environmental consequences,” he said, naming transportation as the number one source of carbon emissions in the country, including in Minnesota. “This is a real plan. Transportation solutions have to be central to any plan to address the climate crisis.”
St. Paul City Council Member Mitra Jalali Nelson, who represents this area, said she was seeing just what it takes to get a bike lane in the city.
“Inertia has not been kind to what we care about changing,” she said. “I see piece by piece how you’re shaping our infrastructure.” More people riding means fewer people in single occupancy vehicles, she added.

East-west connectivity
Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition Co-Chair Andy Singer, who led the bike tour, spoke of the neighborhood’s transition from heavy industry to housing and light industry. The brewery itself, at 550 Vandalia St., is located in a building reflecting this mix.
“The Greenway is really important for providing this East-West connectivity,” he said.
The five-mile tour approximated the route of an extended Greenway, traveling from Lake Monster east to Allianz Field, then west toward the river and back. Several St. Paul officials rode along, including Chief Resilience Officer from the Mayor’s Office Russ Stark, Ramsey County Commissioner Trista MatasCastillo and Council Member Jalali Nelson. Riders experienced firsthand protected bikeways, a road marked with sharrows (streets painted with bike symbols indicating a bike route), and some quiet streets. But there were also some treacherous crossings, underscoring the need for infrastructure that allows people to safely ride.
At Allianz Field, participants heard from David Zeller, spokesperson for Minnesota United FC Soccer Supporters Dark Clouds. A bike commuter himself from the Hamline-Midway neighborhood, Zeller said Dark Clouds advocated for as much bike infrastructure as possible around the stadium, right down to permitting people to bring their helmets inside the stadium.
“We have the ear of the team,” he said.
Back at Lake Monster Brewing, Co-Founder Matt Zanetti said the greenway would roll right past his brewery, and its location – at the crossroads of two cities – could make this the most bike-friendly epicenter in the country.

A matter of equity
Commissioner MatasCastillo stressed the importance of improved infrastructure as a matter of equity and accommodating all abilities. She called for investing and prioritizing not just in striped lanes, but in protected bikeways.
“We know more women use the paths when they’re protected,” she said.
St. Paul City Council Member Dai Thau told the crowd he grew up in North Minneapolis and would bike to Minnehaha Falls, sometimes 2-3 people to a bike.
“There’s a joy about being on a bicycle, the wind is coming at you, you’re riding with your friends,” he said. As an Eagle Scout, he said improved bicycling was also a matter of environmental justice and that it is important to protect the environment and to have equitable transportation.
Council Member Thau also brought up Ayd Mill Rd., a portion of which is in the ward he represents. After hearing the mayor’s proposal, he had publicly expressed concern about reducing traffic lanes on the resurfaced road, calling for further study. He told rally goers he was surprised by the announcement and called for transparency in decision making.
“If we’re gonna make Ayd Mill Rd. work for everybody, let’s all be at the table,” he said.
Speaking next, Minneapolis City Council Member Cam Gordon said he was also surprised by the mayor’s announcement, but “My surprise became Woo HOO! Yeah! It’s about time!” This he yelled with a fist pump, to huge applause.
“It’s time we started thinking of it as the Twin Cities Greenway,” Council Member Gordon said. “Let’s connect it up.”
Chief Resilience Officer Stark reminded people that this proposal is “literally 20 years in the making,” the original idea for which was to make it a long linear park.
“Ayd Mill Rd. is the most studied road in St. Paul. We know exactly what will happen with Ayd Mill [with the proposed changes],” he said. “The road will still be able to carry lots of cars. It’ll also carry lots of bikes and pedestrians.”

A Boost for Electric Vehicles
Falling during National Drive Electric Week, the Bike Tour and Rally to Extend the Greenway featured an electric vehicle display that gave people a close look at more than a dozen zero emission electric vehicles on the market and the opportunity to talk with their owners.

Minnesota may soon see more options for purchasing electric cars. On Sept. 25, Governor Tim Walz announced that he has directed the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to implement clean car standards which would require manufacturers to deliver passenger cars, trucks and SUVs that produce lower — as well as zero – emissions.
The new standards are intended to increase consumer choice in Minnesota by providing more access to vehicles with better fuel economy and by increasing the availability of used electric vehicles. According to Gov. Walz, initial estimates indicate that these two policies combined could reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by two million tons by 2030.

Climate change threatens the very things that make Minnesota a great place to live, from our magnificent 10,000 lakes to our farmable land and clean air,” said Gov. Walz in a public statement. “If Washington won’t lead on climate, Minnesota will. That is why we are taking bold action to reduce carbon emissions in a way that increases car options, protects public health, creates jobs, and saves Minnesotans money at the pump.”

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Long buried toxic dump at Hidden Falls Park getting attention

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

The Mississippi River looks tranquil as it flows through Hidden Falls Regional Park, where people come to fish, hike, and relax. Just a few yards north of where this was taken, a cyclone fence separates parkland from Area C – a dump containing unknown quantities of toxic chemicals that are leaking into the river and ground water. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

When the river rises, it rinses through the industrial waste which leaches into surrounding river and ground water

Hidden Falls Regional Park is located along the Mississippi River bluffs just below Lock and Dam #1. Trails run through shady, wooded bottomlands; long stretches of sandy shoreline offer a reprieve from busy city life.
But a short hike north from the picnic shelters brings visitors to a tumble down cyclone fence that defines the northern park border. Called Area C, this is where the Ford Motor Company dumped unknown quantities of industrial waste onto the Mississippi River flood plain from 1945 to 1966 near its now closed St. Paul plant.
The location of Area C has been public information for years. The dumpsite looks benign, more neglected than threatening. It is covered with concrete, soil, and scrub vegetation. However, its contents are lesser known and almost impossible to quantify.
Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) executive director Whitney Clark said, “Areas A and B were known dumps on Ford Redevelopment Site on top of the bluff (the former Ford Motor Company.) Their contents were moved to Area C in the 1960s, back when environmental standards were non-existent. The components of Area C fit into two categories. The largest category, which forms the top layer, is non-toxic construction debris. Underneath all of that lies an unknown quantity of toxic industrial waste contained in metal drums.

River corridor director and site leader Colleen O’Connor Toberman (right) talked with visitors about Area C, a toxic dump site owned by the Ford Corporation just upriver from Hidden Falls Regional Park. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

“We believe that the quantity of toxic waste (including industrial solvents and paint sludge) is enormous.”
Because public pressure is so important, FMR staff and volunteers informed Hidden Falls Park visitors about the potential threat of Area C on Sept. 28, Oct. 5, and Oct. 12. Staff and volunteers gathered on site at the park in morning and afternoon sessions, and engaged visitors interested in learning more. Visitors were able to sign up for FMR updates and future meeting notifications. People using the park are likely to be among its strongest advocates and, once the snow flies, are much harder to reach.
At the request of FMR and the Capitol Region Watershed District, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) will hold a public information meeting in February 2020 to explain current site monitoring, requests for additional study, and long-term clean-up options. Contact site leader Colleen O’Connor Toberman at ctoberman@fmr.org to be notified of public meeting details, and to receive FMR updates on Area C developments.
Toxic waste is leaking from Area C into the river and groundwater at levels considered unsafe for humans. FMR and their partners are pushing for additional testing through the MPCA to ensure proper risk evaluation.
Clark said, “Modern dumps are lined with clay soils and other geo-technical materials that prevent leakage. Area C is nothing like that. It’s just a whole bunch of metal barrels sitting on the Mississippi flood plain, covered by a huge volume of construction debris. When the river rises, it inundates Area C – literally rinsing through the industrial waste, and leaching into surrounding river water and ground water. Metal barrels corrode, and some of them have been there since 1945.”
FMR has partnered with the Capitol Region Watershed District and MPCA to put added pressure on the Ford Corporation.
Clark said, “They have agreed to do a full spectrum feasibility study; this means that they could decide to do absolutely nothing when it’s over, or they could decide to haul all the debris away. We don’t believe that the investigation done to date has been adequate to inform their feasibility study. They need more extensive data.”
He continued, “That’s what we’re telling our constituents. We are pushing for the best-informed feasibility study, so that this situation can be dealt with ethically – not just legally. The Ford Corporation is in the process of selling the redevelopment site to Ryan Companies, but the river parcel (which contains Area C) will continue to be the Ford Corporation’s responsibility.”
Toberman concluded, “There’s a big gap between public information, and what people actually know about. All of the data that’s out there has been published by Ford the Corporation and its consultants, in partnership with the MPCA. This is an area that park visitors and neighbors are very interested in, and we look forward to having a great turnout for the public information meeting early next year.”

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Midway Walmart to close Sept. 20

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

St. Paul’s only Walmart store, located in the Midway Marketplace at 1450 University Ave. W., will close Sept. 20. The pharmacy will close one week earlier, on Sept. 13.
The retail giant issued a statement on Aug. 28 citing factors that included poor overall performance. Employees commented on consistently high theft rates at the Midway Marketplace location, and its inability to provide a full scale grocery as also being contributing factors.
The store’s 333 workers will be encouraged to seek positions at other Walmart locations, the company said. The nearest Walmart stores are located in West St. Paul and Roseville. Employees who don’t choose to relocate will be paid through Nov. 8, and subsequently will receive severance pay.
Walmart is one of the world’s largest companies with revenues worth more than $500 billion, according to the 2018 Fortune Global 500 list. It is also the largest private employer in the world with 2.2 million employees, yet it is quietly closing stores across the US and Canada.
Other recent major retail closures in the neighborhood include Herberger’s in the Midway Marketplace, and the Rainbow Foods that was torn down in the adjacent Midway Shopping Center to make room for Allianz Field. It remains to be seen what kind of amenities will be developed to meet the needs of Hamline Midway residents.
Kraus-Anderson Realty is the development division of Kraus-Anderson Construction. They purchased the Midway Marketplace last March. The 324,430-square-foot center has been anchored by national and regional businesses including Walmart, Cub Foods, TJ Maxx, LA Fitness, and Dollar Tree for years. According to Kraus-Anderson Realty, redevelopment plans include the addition of office and retail space, residential and hotel development.

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Krueger writes updated version of ‘Huckleberry Finn’

Krueger writes updated version of ‘Huckleberry Finn’

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Local author of popular Cork O’Connor series considers ‘This Tender Land’ to be his best book


William Kent Krueger said that one thing he knew about this book when he started was that he wanted the kids to be on an epic journey, and the journey he thought most about was Homer’s “Odyssey.” (Photo by Jan Willms)

For years, local author William Kent Krueger has wanted to write an updated version of Huckleberry Finn.
“I knew it would be a story of kids on the river, but an updated version,” he said. “I knew when I wrote the story it would still be in the past, but I wasn’t sure just when.”
The multi-award winning author has spent the past three years researching and writing the book, while still working on his Cork O’Connor fiction series about an Irish and Ojibwe private investigator.
The result is “This Tender Land,” a story of four Minnesota orphans set in the Depression era, who flee from the Indian school they had been sent to and travel by canoe along the river, connecting along the way with others who are trying to survive hard times.
The book was published Sept. 3, and Krueger will have a full schedule of book signings in the Twin Cities area.

Crushing weight of
Krueger wrote “Ordinary Grace” in 2013, a novel about a young man, a small town and a murder, set in 1961. That book garnered him the prestigious Edgar award for best novel, and he contracted to write a second companion novel.
He said the idea for this second novel was to go more deeply into the effects of war on people of his father’s generation, the “Greatest Generation.” “It was an attempt to look at how war affected these men when they came back and tried to live ordinary lives. But it wasn’t the story I thought it would be, and over time my heart just wasn’t in it. I had a contractual deadline, but I wasn’t happy with the manuscript, and I ultimately spoke with my editor and publisher and asked them to pull it and not publish it. They were quite understanding, but reminded me I still owed them a companion novel.”
Krueger said that because “Ordinary Grace” had been so well received, there were extraordinary expectations for his next novel.
“They were crushing, and I was feeling the weight of those expectations the whole time. Once all that weight was off my shoulders, I felt free,” he explained. He put away his original manuscript and started over. “I could write what I wanted,” he said. And “This Tender Land” came into being.

How we remake ourselves in extreme need
“I wish I could tell you what ultimately led me to set the story in the Depression,” Krueger said. “I think one of the things I wanted to explore was how as human beings we react when we are in times of extreme need. The Depression just seemed the perfect backdrop to talk about how we respond to each other in those kinds of circumstances, and the truth is we respond in all kinds of ways.”
With their journey down the river, the kids in Krueger’s book see the broad spectrum of how people cope with harsh reality.
Krueger remembers hearing stories of the Depression from family members. His wife’s grandmother for a period of time lived with her family in an abandoned corn crib. Krueger’s father recalled how his dad was out of work, and families had to move in together. “My father came out of the Oklahoma Dustbowl, and stories of the Depression were certainly fresh in our parents’ minds.
“The Depression reshaped us as a nation,” Krueger said. “So much collapsed and disintegrated, and we had to come out of that and remake ourselves as people and as a nation. It was an epic period, and those children in the book are on an epic journey.”

Seeds of truth
Krueger is acclaimed for his strong characters and strong sense of place, yet he does not necessarily describe his characters in detail but lets the reader form an image in his or her mind.
“Unless something physical about a character is significant to his behavior or the story, I want people to imagine these characters in a way their imaginations create them,” he said. “What I shoot for is showing the weaknesses and strengths of a character.”
For “This Tender Land,” Krueger walked a lot of the land he thought his main characters might have walked. But for this book, he had to create a period of time that no longer exists and situations he has not experienced. For example, the Indian school and the Hooverville shanty towns he describes no longer exist, so he had to rely on extensive research.
“I tried to come up with specific telling details, and then I just imagined. There is a seed of truth in every story, and then the story grows. I tried to put as many seeds of truth in as I could. But it is just a story,” Krueger explained.
He said he always walks over the land he writes about, whether for his novels or for the 18 Cork O’Connor books he has written. “I don’t know how you can write about a place if you have not experienced it,” he said. “There is so much that is sensual and that you need to create movingly for a reader.”
“If you haven’t seen the color of a river, or smelled the river, or heard the sounds of a tree frog or watched the reflection of a bird across the river, how can you write about that? So I kayaked the river and walked the places Odie, the story’s narrator, walked. I climbed the hills.”
He also spent a lot of time in libraries and in Mankato, pored through the Archives of the Pipestone and the Gale Family History and read many old newspapers. When he writes his books, he said he does some research up front, some during the writing, and some at the end when he needs to go back and fill in any missing pieces.

Epic journey inspired by
Krueger said that one thing he knew about this book when he started was that he wanted the kids to be on an epic journey, and the journey he thought most about was Homer’s “Odyssey.” He said he began to think about places his characters could go that would mirror the places Odysseus journeyed. The orphans encounter One Eyed Jack, a flawed but redemptive loner who resembles the Cyclops. They meet Sister Eve, a modern version of Circe. Maybeth, similar to Calypso, tries to lure Odie off the river. The children come to a place that could be compared to the Land of the Lotus Eaters. And like Odysseus, Odie eventually finds his way home to Ithaca.
“With the Odyssey in mind, the story began to coalesce, and it was so much easier. I had all the elements in my mind, and I was able to put them together,” Krueger said.
He writes most of his books in a coffee shop, this time choosing the Caribou on Lexington. He is currently working on another Cork O’Connor book, “Lightning Strike,” which is a prequel to the others and tells of Cork’s boyhood and the people who shaped him into the man he became. “I’m having a ball with it,” Krueger said. He has two more O’Connor books contracted, but he does not see any end to the Cork O’Connor series at this point.
He also plans on writing another separate novel. “I am so grateful “Ordinary Grace” opened the door for me to be able to do the things I want,” Krueger said.
“I thought when I wrote that, it would be the best book I have ever written. I changed my mind. I think “This Tender Land” is better, and I love it just as much, if not more.
“It’s just a good story,” he continued. “It’s a very old-fashioned form of storytelling. I tried not to think of what audience to write for. I just wanted to write the kind of story that would appeal to me.”


Local book signings
by William Kent Krueger
Monday, Sept. 16, 7 p.m.
Barnes and Noble, Har Mar Mall

Friday, Sept. 20, Noon
Lake Country Booksellers
White Bear Lake

Saturday, Oct. 12
Twin Cities Book Festival
Minnesota State Fairgrounds
Saint Paul

Wednesday, Oct. 23, 7 p.m.
Subtext Books
Saint Paul

For a more complete schedule, go to  www.williamkentkrueger.com.


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Matching clients of color with therapists of color

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Midway business owner levels the playing field for people of color with mental health and addiction issues

As an adult, Katy Armendariz has delved into how she lost her cultural identity after being adopted from Korea, and she’s working to help others sort through various types of trauma through that lens. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Katy Armendariz wanted to start an agency that would level the playing field for people of color seeking help with mental health issues, and diminish the disparities between them and the dominant culture.
And so she did.
She started Minnesota CarePartner, located at the old Central medical building at I-94 and Lexington. Starting with a couple of part-time therapists, the agency has grown to 55 employees.
But this did not happen overnight, and along the way, Armendariz has struggled with her own traumas and issues while forging a path forward in building and strengthening Minnesota CarePartner..

Stripped of cultural identity
“I am from Korea,” she said in a recent interview, as she described her background. “My birth mom was homeless and had a mental health condition. She couldn’t parent, so she gave birth and then walked out of the hospital.”
Armendariz was first placed in an orphanage and then foster care, and eventually was adopted by a Minnesota couple.
“There were good intentions, but I was completely stripped of my cultural identity,” she recalled. “They denied any racial experience I had. I was exposed to a lot of comments growing up, and I started to grow very critical of the systems that create disparities between who is adopting and who is being adopted.”
Armendariz noted that oftentimes the child’s adoptive parents did not know how to do their hair, did not know much about their culture, and did not raise them around people who looked like them.

Burn out leads to new business
She attained her master’s degree and became licensed and started working as an Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) worker, then became a therapist. “But I was unfulfilled; it was just a burnout,” she said.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay in the social work field,” she continued, “so I went out and got my real estate license when I was pregnant with my second son. One week after I had given birth to him, I held my first open house. And I hated it, really hated it. I decided I didn’t want to do that.”
Armendariz was drawn back to the field of social work, but she determined she wanted to provide mental health services for individuals who faced disparities and families at risk of child protection services.
“In Minnesota, 85 percent of child protection services are with families of color,” she said, “in a system that is unfair and unequal.”
Armendariz went out and applied for a business name, got a tax ID and got certified for ARMHS and Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS.)
“I hired a therapist part-time, I made some flyers and brochures and set up a website, and I went out to several counties and told them what we wanted to do. And it just exploded. We now have 55 employees.”

Roots in Recovery
Minnesota CarePartner has a unique outpatient program, according to Armendariz.
“It is not a typical Minnesota model,” she said. “We take a social justice approach, where we validate and support.”
The program reaches out to people where they are, staff meeting with them in their homes or homeless shelters or libraries. “A lot of our clients have been underserved and over oppressed,” she said, “and programs designed by the dominant race don’t always work for people of color.”
As well as addressing mental health concerns, Armendariz’s agency has set up its own substance abuse program called Roots in Recovery. The program, which started last December, now admits 200 participants. The substance recovery, also, approaches things from a cultural standpoint, according to Armendariz.
“We deal with the experiences, systematic and traumatic, that contribute to addiction,” she said. “We take some of the more violent clients who have been kicked out of other programs. We will help them.”

Her own addiction
As Armendariz continued to build her organization, she struggled with her own problems with addiction.
“I was doing payroll, billing, hiring, marketing, clinical supervision and compliance, raising a family and dealing with a lot of unresolved trauma, and I started drinking a lot of wine. It became an addiction. I went to treatment, and it was one of the best things I could have done.”

Coffee Rehab
As the substance abuse program for Minnesota CarePartner took off, Armendariz started planning for a project that could employ addicts as they grew in their sobriety. She wanted to start a coffee house called Coffee Rehab, run and operated by individuals in recovery.
“I did a Kickstarter and found a location on East Lake St. in Minneapolis,” she said.
She had support from her Twelth Ward council member Andrew Johnson, who said the following about her proposal: “For anyone struggling with addiction, knowing they are not alone and getting support from others can make a huge difference. Having Coffee Rehab in our neighborhood is going to help many people on their path towards healthier and happier lives. It’s truly an asset for our community.”
Mayor Jacob Frey and Chef Andrew Zimmern were also supporters. She got T-shirts made. But the location fell through.
“It was kind of a sign I needed to slow down,” Armendariz said. ”Í needed to clean up in any areas where we are struggling.” She said that in a couple years, when her current lease is up, she will look again for a location that can house her agency and the coffee house.

Reflecting community they serve
Regarding her agency, Armendariz said, “I wanted to reflect the community we serve.” She said she looks for staff members who may speak the same language, share a similar background and look like the clients they work with.
“It is hard during a therapy session to have to use an interpreter,” she noted.
It is Armendariz’s hope that Minnesota will make an investment in communities of color, offer more opportunities for clinicians of color and help them get into school.
“We apply the same standards to all people, but starting out I had less credibility and more issues getting off the ground,” she said.
Looking back a few years to when she began her agency, Armendariz said she was not certain she had what it took to run a company. “Who am I, to think I can do this?” she recalled asking herself. “But through the process of recovery and sobriety, watching things fall into place and attracting a great staff, I know I can do this.”
Currently Minnesota CarePartner provides addiction services for adults only, but in mid-September this will include an adolescent program that will help children suffering from addiction. For mental health treatment, the agency treats all ages, including babies.

Exactly what she’s supposed to be doing
Armendariz said initially one of her biggest challenges was retaining staff. “There’s a big staff turnover when you don’t offer PTO or benefits,” she said. She also realized she was doing too many things at once and wearing too many hats. “When you do too many things, you can’t do everything with quality,” she said.
“But now I have an administrative team, a clinical supervisor and staff. I can wear the hat of manager.”
She added, “Being a start-up is really hard. People want to judge you and criticize you, and it is hard to build from the ground up.”
Right now, Armendariz said she feels amazing. “I am in a perfect spot, doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing,”
She said one of the greatest rewards she has felt has been seeing a culture at her company that is truly a safe space for clinicians and counselors of color, as well as others. “We have fun.”
“The staff members now stay because they get the mission and they believe in it,” Armendariz said. “Finally, after blood, sweat and tears and being out in the arena, I am glad now things are shaping up.”

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