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Wondering why virtual socializing is so tiring?

Wondering why virtual socializing is so tiring?

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Have a little grace

By Amy Pass

Amy Pass

Sometime last month I started feeling disenchanted with video chat. At first I thought video chat was amazing. It was heartening to see the faces of my friends and family in the midst of so much upheaval. With the steady stream of news and the constant background of grief over things that had been canceled or postponed, I felt energized knowing we still had a way to connect with familiar faces.
But then, after just a few more weeks, something shifted. I was tired after virtual meet-ups, and my friends started saying the same. Virtual meet-ups were exhausting. I started reading widely on the subject and found a number of possible explanations.
First, when we see ourselves on the screen all the time, our attention is divided between our own video and that of others. It isn’t normal to spend conversations in front of a mirror, seeing our own facial expressions, hair, lighting, clothes, etc. This divided attention keeps our brains a whole lot busier.
Next, a study of virtual meetings in 2014 demonstrated that delays of just 1.2 seconds in virtual calls make people feel that others are less friendly and attentive (International Journal of Human-Computer Studies). Our brains are wired for in-person conversations and we are designed to notice slight delays, shifts in speech patterns, focus, and non-verbal cues. We struggle to understand each other when the technology is not instantaneous.
We also don’t have access to the full range of non-verbal cues in a virtual chat. While it is true that the vast majority of how we communicate is in facial expression and tone of voice, we also learn a lot from body posture. Virtual calls wear us out because we are trying to catch non-verbal information while seeing so little of someone.
In addition, while on virtual calls, we almost always have more distractions in the background – kids, spouses, pets, deliveries, even other phone calls and texts. Essentially, we’re multitasking a whole lot more. And remember that our brains are already multitasking managing our image on the screen while paying careful attention to the limited and delayed non-verbal communication we’re receiving from others.
As if that isn’t enough, it seems likely that some of the exhaustion is related to the restlessness and frustration of being homebound. While virtual chats alleviate some of the loneliness, they also serve as a constant reminder that we aren’t seeing our friends in person. The tired feelings may have less to do with the chat itself and more to do with video chat as a constant reminder of the current situation.
So, what can we do? That study about virtual delays suggests that when a conversation is slower-paced, delays have less negative impact on perceptions. So, maybe take it slow. Pause more often. And if you are experiencing poor quality audio/video it may be best to postpone the chat to another time.
If the virtual chat allows for it, turn off the video feed of yourself or switch to a mode where the majority of your screen is allotted to the current speaker. Perhaps, back up from your screen and ask your friends to do the same so that you can see more than just faces. If you’re able, set your screen up somewhere where you can keep doing the things you would normally do while visiting and still be seen. This gives your brain a rest from watching yourself, allows your friends to see your body language, and helps the conversation feel more natural. Sitting carefully in one place to keep your face on the screen is uncomfortable and unnatural.
Virtual socializing is not the same. And it’s ok to find it disappointing. We are designed for in-person interactions that involve all of our senses. We don’t need to pretend that online birthday parties, open houses, or baby showers are the same. Acknowledging that this is different and tiring might alleviate the stress of trying to make it work. And, as with in-person socializing, it’s ok to say no sometimes…or to opt for a smaller group of people…or to be honest when you start a conversation that this is hard and exhausting but you want to see people anyway. Chances are good that your friends feel the same. Then turn from the screen and pretend they’re sitting next to you.
Amy Pass earned her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Bethel Theological Seminary. But perhaps her greatest lessons have come from raising two children and maintaining a 21-year marriage.

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Working together in Minnesota

Working together in Minnesota

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Building a Stronger Midway

By CHAD KULAS, Midway Chamber of Commerce

Chad Kulas

& Doug Loon, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce

Every employer and employee feels the historic impact of COVID-19. Those of us in the network of state and local chambers would like to thank employers and employees throughout Minnesota for navigating this crisis to mitigate the health impacts and keep our state moving forward. And if you are a business that is currently struggling or confused about the resources available to you, reach out to us. We can help – whether you are a chamber member or not.

Businesses are innovating and leveraging available resource
Minnesota is blessed with a landscape of innovative companies and skilled workers. Employers and employees are continuing to find ways to work safely, keep essential operations open, meet customer demands and protect critical supply chains. Most impressive, companies are showing their ingenuity to transform operations almost overnight to supply products and services critical to bringing this pandemic under control.
Chambers of commerce share the goal of ensuring a healthy business community and economy. The stakes are higher today, and our efforts are escalated as we fight this pandemic. We are working tirelessly for our members – and everyone in the business community – listening to their needs and responding in their best interest.

Chambers are bringing businesses together
Your local and state chambers work with businesses of every type, size and industry, and in every corner of the state. By listening to the needs of businesses, we are able to make connections between challenges and solutions – during this crisis and long afterward.

Doug Loon, Minnesota Chamber

Chambers are advocating for employers and employees
Minnesotans’ health and safety are paramount concerns for all of us. We share the goal of our elected officials to reduce the spread of the virus and simultaneously protect the long-term strength of the private-sector economy. It’s a delicate balance, and we have worked with legislators and Governor Walz and his administration to make decisions with this balance in mind.

Chambers are speeding resources and assistance to keep communities thriving
Every company is impacted by the state and federal directives related to COVID-19. Those deemed essential are doing what they can to keep shelves stocked and meet customer demands. If they were required to close their physical doors, many are continuing remotely or pivoting their operations. This was not their choice, but they are reviewing every funding option available to continue to make payroll, or act in good faith on behalf of their employees to keep their businesses open while mitigating health impacts.
The twists and turns of the pandemic are changing daily. Your chambers of commerce provide timely and trusted information to navigate this crisis. We know businesses are looking for funding and resources to mitigate this crisis. Your state and local chambers are here to help you navigate the various options and maximize the benefit for your business and employees – whether you are a chamber member or not. Our offices may be closed due to the “stay at home” order, but we are only a phone call or email away.
Businesses contribute to our shared quality of life in Minnesota. Generations-owned family companies and new entrepreneurial start-ups are equally important parts of our state’s story. The remarkable response of employers and employees everywhere is evidence that Minnesotans are well-prepared to weather this pandemic storm. Working together, we will position Minnesota to return to full productivity and full employment as soon as possible.
For more information, contact your local chamber at www.midwaychamber.com.

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Is Facebook your best friend?

Is Facebook your best friend?

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Stop the presses!

By DENIS WOULFE, Denis@MonitorSaintPaul.com, 651-917-4183

I’ve seen the world of marketing dramatically change during my years with the Monitor working to help businesses develop the most effective marketing plan. My clients today have many more options to get their messaging about products and services to their client base than they did 20 years ago. Many of our print advertisers also use Facebook and other social media corridors to reach their target audience. Some also have fairly elaborate websites which provide valuable information about their business operation and its mission.
Is Facebook a business owner’s best friend? Yes, Facebook can be a great tool for a business owner but sometimes businesses may not be aware of the obstacles that exist to really reach your target audience. For one, if you are familiar with the Facebook algorithm, you know that Facebook has its platform set up such that for most users the posts they see are most likely those of their family and friends. For a business promoting their products on Facebook, they should realize that only 5 to 10% of their followers will see their post through organic reach. That’s when a business that has, say, 1200 followers might reach only 60 to 120 of those followers with any individual post.
As the user of your Facebook account, you can check your reach by looking at any individual post and comparing your followers with your “reach.” If you think that your post is going out to everyone who likes your business, I’m sorry to report that just isn’t happening.
The other reality is that as a business owner, your goal is to bring in new business. Facebook and other social media can be a great tool for reaching your existing fan base, but ultimately you are trying to reach new customers who have never heard of your business. That’s not going to happen if your posts on Facebook about Half Price Burger Night are most likely seen and “liked” by your Mom, your neighbor, and your cousin who lives in Chicago. Just because you reach someone or have a follower does not mean that the follower is someone local or someone who can buy your product.
Then there is the notion that Facebook is free. Let’s face it: if you have to hire someone to manage your social media accounts and put up content, that’s not free. Worse – if you are the owner and spend your days and nights curating your social media accounts, that’s not good either. We all learned the concept of Opportunity Cost in Economics 101, and if you are spending a lot of your time as a business owner on social media, then many other aspects of your business operation are being ignored. Time is money, after all!
Social media, for that matter, can be a mixed blessing as having a Facebook page means that others can post on your site if they have had a bad meal, a bad roofing job, or something else. Once you commit to having that social media presence, you have to be vigilant about monitoring the site and responding to feedback from other posters. Knowing how social media can embolden folks to say things online that they would never say to someone face to face, dealing with the repercussions of negative publicity can be challenging, to stay the least.
I might also add there that not every business lends itself to social media. If you have a restaurant or brewery, you likely have a following who watch for deals online, but if you’re a contractor, or nonprofit, or someone from another industry, your social media site may not be the first place that people look.
Likewise, I also know of some businesses that spend thousands of dollars setting up their websites. Some businesses have updated their websites many times over the years but still don’t have visitors to the site. Again, just because you build it does not mean that people will see it. You need something to draw people to your website and not every business has it.
As I often tell my advertisers, promotion is about getting in front of prospective clients on a regular basis. It’s true that there are often better approaches in advertising – using colorful photos and graphics, having people in your advertising, using quotes, and using approaches that appeal to people’s sense of humor, their compassion, and their humanity. But much of my advertisers’ messaging focuses on encouraging folks to Buy Local and reminding readers that as business owners, they have a stake in Midway, Como and Frogtown neighborhoods just like residents do. And my advertisers have also heard me advise this over the years: Repetition, repetition, repetition. Studies suggest that consumers need to see an ad message seven, eight or more times before they actually pull the trigger and make a purchase.
It is, after all, a symbiotic relationship – businesses need residents as patrons and residents need businesses to stabilize their community, contribute to the local tax base, and make their neighborhood have the kind of Walkability Index that is the envy of every other neighborhood. Wouldn’t everyone want to have their coffee shop, their dentist, and their mechanic within walking distance of their home? True, you certainly can “like” your second cousin’s coffee shop in Seattle on Facebook, but you LOVE the coffee shop that’s only five minutes from your front door. That’s the beauty of Buying Local!

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Gratitude, radical acceptance and seeing the silver lining

Gratitude, radical acceptance and seeing the silver lining

Posted on 15 April 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Too Much Coffee

Tesha M. Christensen

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN, Tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com

Is this really happening? I don’t know about you, but I’ve asked myself that more than a few times the past weeks as we’ve gotten the news that more and more things are shutting down. Schools and colleges. Barber shops, optometrists, fitness centers, theaters, museums, and concert halls. Restaurant and coffee shops (although they’re still doing take-out and delivery as of press time). Sporting events. Government and courthouse buildings. We’re all being encouraged to stay at home, and socially distance when we’re out for only the essentials. Jobs are on hold. Education is on hold. Lives are on hold.
But are they?
Sure, we’re living in unprecedented times as we watch the world battle the coronavirus pandemic. And it involves making changes to our daily lives in big and small ways.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t still connect with each other, continue learning, and grow as people.
I have a friend who has spent a large part of her adult life in an abusive relationship, one that has continued to be traumatizing past the divorce because they have a child together. She sent me this the other day, and I found it so inspiring, I wanted to share it with Monitor readers:
“I’ve done a whole lot of work in the past few years on handling difficult things emotionally. The most impactful things I’ve found and work to model for my child are 1) gratitude; 2) radical acceptance; and 3) purposefully and consistently focusing on the silver linings.
“I highly recommend spending time reading about radical acceptance. It’s been super helpful to me. It’s basically about letting go of worrying about what you can’t control, but actually spending time reading about it is really helpful and a good thing to model for kids I think. The goal is to teach them resilience and use this experience to train their way of thinking for the inevitable obstacles life will throw in their path.
“To some extent this is helping me now, that I’ve already done this work in my head and in my son’s. We are looking at this as the best time in our life because we are together. We are safe. We have everything that we need. This will end. So we may as well enjoy it.”
This doesn’t mean that she’s not finding it tough to simultaneously work and school her child at home. It doesn’t mean that sometimes tears don’t overtake her. And it doesn’t mean she’s going around pretending this isn’t happening because she’s focused only on the good without seeing the bad.
What it does mean is that she’s accepting this current situation as she has other tough things in her life, and she’s focusing on what she can control. Herself. She can manage what is within her own grasp and she can decide what she tells herself. Mindfulness techniques and prayer have been powerful ways to get through difficult times for centuries.
New today is how we can use technology to connect while we’re staying at home. My kiddos have discovered the joys of Messenger Kids and Facetime this week as a way to see, talk to and play with their friends without physically being in the same room. This, is, indeed a different life on screen than disappearing into a video game. I’ve connected with folks via Google Hangouts, GoTo meetings and Zoom video conferencing. We held a virtual birthday party for my niece. Then there’s regular phone calls, text-ing, emails, and letters – and a printed newspaper Editorial page. I asked via the our Facebook pages what folks are doing right now to stay occupied and connected.
Rebekah Peterson said: “My elementary age kids are posting a video daily to their classmates (using a private Facebook group) asking one question (what was your favorite part of the day, show and tell, etc.), and asking the students in their class to respond with a short video. They love seeing their friends via video.”
Others have created private Facebook groups for their block, and focused on getting to know and help those closest to them.
Morgan L’Argent shared this group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/flatten.the.curve/. Folks are organizing some really creative and innovative things via Facebook. Some hung shamrocks in their windows for kids to look for as they walked by on St. Patrick’s Day. Others are decorating with hearts and rainbows in their front windows. Musicians are live-streaming concerts, and comedians are doing live comedy hours. Others are doing live meditation and mindfulness. There’s a Live Cat Stream and the Auburn Squirrel Project. (Yep!)
Peter Danbury posted: “Inspired by a story about Italians doing something along these lines, some south Minneapolis neighbors on Nextdoor had the idea of a nightly community sing-along, with people singing through a window or from their porch or front stoop every evening at the same time. A lot of us liked the idea, and we settled on singing John Lennon’s Imagine at 7 p.m.”
If dancing is more your jam, turn on the lights in your house once it gets dark, open the shades, and dance like a maniac in your living room. Maybe you’ll find yourself doing a dance off with the neighbors.
Others are simply slowing down; baking bread, cooking a meal, reading a book, journaling, figuring out how to conserve things, and planning their gardens.
Our children are watching us (all of us, not just parents and grandparents) and learning how we handle crisis. When they look back on this time in their lives, they will remember how they felt. They will remember the emotional climate in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. They will remember the board games and movie nights and walks through the park – the dance parties and songs from our front stoops.
Let’s come together for their sakes – and our own.
I’d love to hear more about how you’re connecting and managing. Email, reach out on Facebook or Instagram, or send me a letter.

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We’re here to help you through this situation

We’re here to help you through this situation

Posted on 15 April 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Building a Stronger Midway

By CHAD KULAS, Midway Chamber of Commerce Executive Director

Chad Kulas

It’s hard to read anything these days in the news not about COVID-19. The virus has spread throughout the world and in every state of the U.S. Here in Minnesota, we are not immune though we have been doing very well in many national rankings. Minnesotans have done a good job listening to direction, and taking necessary precautions as they stay at home and avoid taking unnecessary risks. A crisis like COVID-19 has two main problems – the health scare and the economic impact. The Midway Chamber has been doing what we can to help educate our members in a number of ways. I’ll share some here.

Tips on working from home
For many, this is a big adjustment. And to do it effectively, you should look at more than just firing up the laptop and using your cell phone. Do you have your laptop or desktop at an appropriate angle and distance from you? Is your office space well-lit and (as best as you can) free of distractions?
For most of us, we have become a lot more aware of virtual office tools like the Zoom call (and probably all had our moments where we forget we’re on mute or have the rogue child or pet in the background). Take a few minutes to look up tips for how to best use the new technologies and discover what works best for you.

Giving back
Hopefully your life hasn’t been too disrupted. If the worst thing is you now share an office space with your family, consider yourself lucky as many others cope with layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts. If you can, think of those in need at this time and give back. There are several nonprofits looking for help, as many of them now find themselves with a new set of challenges. If you sew, you could make masks for people to wear in public. Another way to give back is by getting take-out as our local restaurants are in desperate need of your support. You could even take to social media after ordering food (or beer as the taprooms are in business for take-out and delivery) and let everyone know who you’re supporting.

Resources
Finally, many businesses and residents need financial support. Thankfully, there are several programs available from all levels of the government to foundations like Otto Bremer. In Saint Paul, if you are a business with under $2 million of revenue and have been in operation in Saint Paul for at least three months you can apply for a Bridge Fund Grant of $7,500. At least 300 small businesses will receive the grant, with the checks expected to go in the mail late April or early May. A Bridge Fund is also available for residents with income at or below 40% of Area Median Income and at least one minor child under 18 in the household. There will be 1,000 households who receive $1,000 through the program. Bridge Fund applications are due April 19; for more information go to www.stpaul.gov.
While it may be hard to find news not about COVID-19, it is also hard to take walks and not see sidewalk chalk of inspirational messages from kids. Walks are a lifesaver during this time and positive messages from some of our youngest neighbors remind us that we will get through this, and hopefully take time to reflect and remember all we do have.
The Midway Chamber has a webpage dedicated to tips, resources and more related COVID-19 at www.midwaychamber.com/pages/Covid19.

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CaseyHansonRosenberg

One walk, one family board game at a time

Posted on 15 April 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Gen Z: What we think

By Casey Hanson-Rosenberg

Casey Hanson-Rosenberg

Outside, the streets and playgrounds are barren and abandoned. The darken husks of tattoo parlors long for the college students who used to stop in without an appointment to get their boyfriend’s name tattooed onto their wrists. Inside, teenagers are still crying over math problems. Has anything really changed? This is not an academic roadblock that any of us planned for, and teenagers everywhere are learning to adapt.
Not having to commute to a location that is designated as a learning environment has taken a toll on our academic lives. I, along with my peers, feel that it’s far harder to perform with prime productivity in our personal palaces of passivity. The added stress of the current situation also makes it harder to focus on academics. The feeling that I’m not actually in school permeates as classes become an aberration and deadlines lose their gravity. The implementation of online schooling has helped bring a schedule back into our lives, but it is still hard to shake the general monotony and lethargy of doing all of your work in the same room.
This loss of structure has been a big blow to our mental health. On top of that, it has become harder to contact mental health specialists and school social workers. Without being able to see our friends in person, a lot of us are losing the social support systems that we used to rely on. Being stripped of the dopamine releases that we got from hugging, talking, and performing ritual sacrifices with our friends along with the current situation has thrown anxiety gasoline on the serotonin-deficient fire that is our collective mental health. In order to keep from feeling like the people from Plato’s Allegory of a cave, a lot of us have resorted to biking, hiking, or taking walks. We have all been taking things one walk around the neighborhood and family board game at a time. I have been able to spend so much more quality time with my family, which I appreciate and view as one of my largest and sturdiest anchors during this time.
A lot of us have begun taking up new hobbies and revisiting our past obsessions. I started sewing again, which I haven’t done in years. Having free time isn’t something that a lot of us are used to. With colleges getting more and more competitive, it feels like we are constantly supposed to be expanding our resume or bulking up on extracurriculars. This is the first time in a while that I have been able to take a breath. I am finally able to do things because I want to do them, and not because it would look good on a college application. ACTs being canceled and rescheduled in June has given us more time to study, although a lot of colleges are no longer requiring an ACT score. A break from the constant work frenzy that we are so well acquainted with is something that we all need during these times.
As graduations get canceled and our lives feel more and more like a YA novel, it can be hard to remain positive. I truly believe that my generation will come through this a stronger community. Every group chat and every zoom lecture makes us appreciate each other even more. As I look into my classmate’s eyes I can tell that we all hope that this is the only apocalypse that we live through.
Casey Hanson-Rosenberg is a junior at Great River School (1326 Energy Park Dr.). She hopes to major in journalism or creative writing in college.

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AmyPass_image0000sm

Go ahead: Let some things go and break a few house rules

Posted on 15 April 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Have a little grace

Amy Pass

By Amy Pass

I don’t really know what to tell you. Every person is so different, and what you need right now, in this time of pandemic, is different from what someone else might need. And some of your needs will change from day to day. Some of you will find solace in a new yoga practice, learning to play the ukulele, and doing virtual museum tours. Others need to take a nap, and snuggle on the couch watching movies.
You might need a good cry from time to time. Or a good run. Some of us need to read poetry and listen to the daily briefings every day at 2 p.m. All of us need to keep getting things done, despite the fact that we’re at home much more of the time and the dishes are piling up in the sink because we’re always home and we’re doing all the cooking and the projects are strewn from one end of the house to the other.
I don’t know what you should do. But I can tell you this one thing. We all need a little kindness right now. When you’re irritated with the way everyone else in your house is doing things and your child is melting down for the umpteenth time today, remember that everything has changed in the last few weeks. Even the grocery stores are different. Your family is feeling it, too. It’s ok to not keep it all together right now.
Now is the time to give in to things. You know how there’s some things that you never, ever do with your kids…not bad things, just conventional rules that you don’t break? But every once in a while you let it go just this one time? Like during the holidays or on birthdays? I don’t know what those rules are for you, but if you find that you’re falling apart or everyone else in your house is falling apart, it might be time to break one of those rules. As a treat.
If you feel like running away, chances are good that others in your house feel the same way. Is there a way to run away together? Can you pull together rather than pulling apart? What might running away look like in this time of pandemic? Maybe you look at each other and say, “I’m tired of this, too. Let’s have a picnic.” And maybe your picnic is in the yard or at the park or maybe it’s on the living room floor. Perhaps, running away is ordering ice cream from one of the local small businesses. Or watching the comedians on YouTube while drinking orange juice out of fancy glasses. Maybe it’s a video call with family or friends…while you’re all watching the same movie?
If you’re a couple without kids, these things still apply. Be kind. To yourself and each other. Let go of something that doesn’t matter. If you’re a single person, living alone, it’s even more important. When you’re tired of everything, it’s time to walk away from the shoulds and the oughts. Break out the fancy glasses and the phone calls or video chat.
Yes, of course, it’s important to find the new routine in daily life now, to eat nutritious food, get some exercise, sleep regularly, and get the work done. To be grateful for one thing every day. To do something for someone outside your family every day. I, personally, have been watching for the routines my family is settling into so that I can reinforce them, keep coming back to the same things. Developing a rhythm helps our brains to rest and eases some of the constant background stress. But it’s also important to let some things go. Maybe even one thing every day. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to each other. We are all fighting a hard battle.
Amy Pass earned her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Bethel Theological Seminary. But perhaps her greatest lessons have come from raising two children and maintaining a 21-year marriage.

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Hope for the Heartbroken

Hope for the Heartbroken

Posted on 15 April 2020 by Tesha Christensen

An inspired journey

“By combining doula work, funeral education work, and celebrant work, families can benefit from continuity of care that no one else is offering,” stated Angela Woosley of Inspired Journeys. (Photo submitted)

By Angela Woosley,
651-300-0119
www.inspiredjourneysmn.com

Over the past month, the Coronavirus pandemic has upended our lives, and many of us are struggling to adjust to the new normal. Unemployment, job insecurity, health scares, and general anxiety are common features of life during this topsy-turvy time. But for many of us, this pandemic comes at the absolute worst time – at a time of grief.
If someone you love has died, whether due to COVID-19 or not, it may feel like the world is spinning out of control. It’s common to feel out of sorts when we are grieving under normal circumstances, but with everything else we are experiencing, death of a loved one right now may feel like too much to handle. I want to offer some words of advice and comfort for those who need it most.

Take a deep breath
It’s okay to slow down and take a moment to gather your thoughts. Death is not an emergency, so if you are having trouble sorting through your jumbled ideas, press pause. Think about your wishes for a service and what you know about the deceased’s wishes for a service. Do you want burial or cremation? What kind of service do you want? Write your wishes down; sort through your thoughts over time. You can honor and remember your loved one the way you want, but it may look a little different. Be flexible with timing; don’t let anyone rush you.

Hang onto these moments
There’s a fair chance you were unable to be with the person who died just before their death. Most facilities aren’t allowing visitors in order to keep patient populations healthy. You are not alone in this heartbreak. Perhaps you can ask staff to take pictures of your loved one – a picture of their face, a picture of staff holding their hand – either before or after death. If you are able to be with the person you love, take pictures together. Times like this can be a blur; pictures can help us freeze these moments to help us remember and work through our grief later.

Be present with your grief
When you hurt with grief, it can hurt so much you may wish you could feel anything else. Grief is a healthy, natural reaction to losing someone we love, and it’s okay to sit with these feelings and experience them. Remember to eat and hydrate, then do what feels right. Light a candle, say a prayer, write a letter to them, draw for them, walk in nature, cry your eyes out, laugh your heart out, remember the best moments you shared. Share your grief with others and let them know what you need. Grief is not the time to be Minnesotan about it – ask people directly. They likely want to help but have no idea what to say or do. You’re doing them a favor to ask for their help.

Adapt your funeral
Due to limitations on gatherings, you may be planning a simple service with only a few people present. Don’t forget to include people remotely! With a Zoom meeting, Tribucast service, FaceBook Live, or other webcast/livestream service, you can include people from far and wide at the funeral. For folks who can’t participate online, let them know when the service will be and ask them to light a candle or say a prayer at that time. Look at your list of wishes and see what you can include in a service now.

Plan for the future
Next, think ahead to the coming months. Eventually, guidelines about social distancing will relax, allowing you to hold a celebration of life that incorporates the elements you can’t include now. To help you focus some of your energy (and possibly your feelings of grief), work on plans for that larger celebration of life now. Gather together their most treasured belongings, enlist friends to make handmade crafts, sort through photos for a video or picture board, make a playlist of songs, and find the perfect readings.

Advice you can ignore
One last note about planning: If your loved one “didn’t want you to make a fuss” about their death and asked you to keep it simple, you are allowed to take that advice with a grain of salt. We come together to honor, remember, and grieve for the person we loved, but more than anything, grief rituals are for US, the living. Rabbi Earl Grollman might have said it best: Grief shared is grief diminished. Find those points of connection and share your grief with rituals that speak to your love and your loss. The person you have lost is worth it.
Angela Woosley is a trained mortician, educator, end-of-life doula and celebrant who recently started Inspired Journeys in the Twin Cities, the first of its kind natural deathcare provider.

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What’s up with the zebra?

What’s up with the zebra?

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Tesha M. Christensen

Too Much Coffee

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN, Tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com

What’s with the zebra?
You may have noticed a zebra show up on the front page of the Monitor. Maybe you noticed a smaller one at the bottom of page four in our information box with a little notice:
The Monitor is for profit and for a purpose – and we don’t sacrifice one for the other. We consider ourselves a zebra company, one that is both black and white. As a media company, we work to highlight issues, solve real, meaningful problems, and repair existing social systems. We are working with our readers and advertisers to create a more just and responsible society that hears, helps and heals the customers and communities we serve.
Yes, I’ve been binge listening to the podcast ZigZag with journalists-turned-entrepreneurs Manoush Zomorodi (Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business) and Jen Poyant (Executive Producer Note to Self, 2 Dope Queens). This season has hit upon so many of the issues I’m thinking about as a journalist and entrepreneur that I’m glued to the speakers.
I’ve been pondering the distinction of for-profit and non-profit for some time. Here, in the Twin Cities, we have a few non-profit newspapers, such as the Bugle in St. Anthony Park, the Alley in Phillips, the Community Reporter in the West End of St. Paul, and Access Press (statewide). And then we have the neighborhood for-profits including the Midway Como Frogtown Monitor and its sister newspaper the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger, Greening Frogtown, the Northeaster, North News, the Villager, and Southside Pride.
What is different between us? There’s the obvious distinction that the non-profits have a board of directors who set the direction for the organization, while the for-profits have a single owner or two who make decisions. But aside from that, both structures pay editors, publishers, freelance photographers and writers, and sales staff. Pages are paid for primarily through advertising revenue, of which some is through grants and some via neighborhood groups. And both types of newspapers exist to educate and inform, serving that vital role in our democracy that’s integral to our First Amendment rights as American citizens.
When I set up TMC Publications, I considered going with a new(ish) form of corporation, the B (or benefit) Corp. Locally, Peace Coffee is a certified B Corp. At the end of their 20th year when they switched from non-profit to for-profit status under the helm of new owner Lee Wallace, Peace Coffee began searching for ways to further solidify their mission to creating good by supporting small-scale farmer cooperatives with industry-leading prices and committing to earth-friendly practices along the way (as explained on their web site). They learned about the B Corporation movement, a global initiative of businesses in every industry that see profit as secondary to the importance of people and planet, and they signed up.
However, as TMC Publications is a relatively small company, I wasn’t sure that B Corp really made sense for us, as it would increase our paperwork while not really changing how we do business.
Then I heard about Zebras.
Zebras believe in cooperation versus competition, sharing versus hoarding, mutualism versus parasitism. They are both/and, black and white. The point is to be sustainable, to offer good jobs at living wages, but not to grow so exponentially that we break apart. (Learn more at www.zebrasunite.com.)
According to Zebras United founding members Jennifer Brandel, Mara Zepeda, Astrid Scholz and Aniyia Williams, this alternative model balances profit and purpose, champions democracy, and puts a premium on sharing power and resources. “Companies that create a more just and responsible society will hear, help, and heal the customers and communities they serve,” they explained over at Medium.com. (I resonated so much with that line that I pulled it for our infomational box on page four so that I can continue to be inspired by it.)
Interestingly, zebra companies are often started by women and other underrepresented founders, they point out. The statistics about who gets large, venture funding is terrible but maybe not surprising as we see how sexism nad rascism is still ingrained in our society. Three percent of venture funding goes to women and less than one percent to people of color. Women start 30 percent of businesses, but they receive only 5 percent of small-business loans and 3 percent of venture capital. Yet when surveyed, women say they are in it for the long haul: to build profitable, sustainable companies.
These four women who began Zebras United believe that developing alternative business models to the startup status quo has become a central moral challenge of our time. “Think of our most valuable institutions – journalism, education, healthcare, government, the ‘third sector’ of nonprofits and social enterprises – as houses upon which democracy rests,” they wrote.
Ah, yes. There’s the place for journalism.
That’s where I see this field that is so important to our society.
Here at the Monitor, I’m not planning to make millions as an owner, and I’m content telling the stories of these neighborhoods. I believe it is important to provide connection, battle the anxiety and depression so prevalent today, and educate ourselves on the issues we face.
That requires cooperation. We can’t run quality articles without solid information from residents and organizations. And we can’t print pages, pay workers decent wages, and inform without solid financial backing from local businesses who support our work.
We’re in this together.
I’d love to hear what you think as your wrestle with these ideas. Send in a letter to the editor.
(Psst – Mention this editorial and your support for zebras and get 20% off your next ad purchase.)

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What’s brewing west of downtown?

What’s brewing west of downtown?

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Building a Stronger Midway

By CHAD KULAS, Midway Chamber of Commerce Executive Director

Recently, a group of community-minded people met at Urban Growler Brewing to talk about the merits of the part of Saint Paul west of downtown. Initially, they called it “Midtown” but the name may change, perhaps to “Capitol West.”
At the meeting, as well as follow-up conversations, a diverse group of community leaders have participated which have included developers, small business owners, district councils, construction companies, nonprofits, elected officials and others from local government. The group is led by Dr. Bruce Corrie, a member of the higher education community and local community supporter. A steering committee is made up of community organizations including the Union Park District Council, the Midway Chamber of Commerce, local government, nonprofits and business.
What are they trying to accomplish?
The two big questions are 1) How can we encourage economic activities in the region? 2) How can we connect residents, especially low-income residents, to jobs and wealth building opportunities in the region?
How can they accomplish these goals? One viable option is a jobs board (or job exchange) where employers can search for job candidates and job seekers can find out what jobs are available. The exchange may also be able to connect with other job boards already in use. The exchange would be free to users and would feature resume uploads with the ability to receive notifications for new opportunities. A user could search for jobs by zip code or region, and resumes could get matched with jobs.
One potential benefit of the job exchange is getting more residents to work near their home. It is estimated around 32% of the employed residents in this area work in Saint Paul. Getting more residents to work in their community means reducing their carbon footprint, travel time to work and residents will feel a closer connection to their community.
Why focus on this area? There are an estimated 3,900 businesses with over 81,000 employees, with an annual payroll over $3.4 billion (in zip codes 55103, 55104, 55105, 55108, 55114, 55116 and 55117). It includes major commercial corridors including University Ave.and Snelling Ave., and major redevelopment sites including the Ford site and near Allianz Field. The area is diverse (35.5 percent minority) and 46 percent of the residents rent.
Being able to connect more businesses with residents can help raise income levels and create more stability. Another point of interest for the Midtown group is to help job seekers acquire skills which will lead to career advancement.
What’s next for the group?
• Getting into more detail on how to better connect job seekers with local employers.
• Determining what the job exchange needs in order to be successful and get it functioning.
The group will be meeting again in the coming month – those interested in learning more or wishing to participate may contact Dr. Bruce Corrie at brucecorrie@gmail.com.

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