Archive | Family

‘Reverend, you can lean on me’

Posted on 29 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen


When Lake St. burned, Father Joe Gillespie gathered each night with others at the Church of St. Albert the Great in Longfellow. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Father Joe Gillespie’s first pastoral ministry was at Cook County Hospital in 1968. He moved from Minneapolis to Chicago, and started his new job with energy and enthusiasm. Then Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, followed by violent anti-Vietnam War protests at the Chicago Democratic Convention. Chicago suddenly turned into a war zone.
When Lake Street burned in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, Father Joe said, “Those memories of Chicago came pouring back.” He felt a sense of post-traumatic stress and abandonment, saying, “We had no police, fire department, or mail service; even the paper boy couldn’t come here.”
But Father Joe knew he had to stick around. Despite invitations from nephews in Plymouth and church administrators in St. Paul to take shelter with them, Father Joe didn’t go looking for a way out. The Church of St. Albert the Great in Longfellow is his home.
Instead, he gathered with neighbors and parishioners on the church grounds each night. Together they watched the Walgreen’s drugstore at the end of the block go up in pentecostal flames. Three dozen residents from Volunteers of America slept on the basement floor of the church during the curfew, fearing that their Lake St. residence would burn to the ground.
Father Joe walked up and down Lake St. every day during the week of unrest. Usually he walked alone, remembering places his family had frequented when he was a kid growing up in the neighborhood. His eyes welled with tears outside the ruins of the Town Talk Diner, where he had gone many times with his father. He could almost see himself and his three siblings sitting high up on stools, dangling their legs and sharing a single pancake.
Father Joe attended the Ecumenical Clergy March on June 2 with hundreds of other faith leaders, and walked the neighborhood streets once more. When the march ended at the George Floyd Memorial site, everyone was asked to kneel in silence. Father Joe dropped to one knee, but found he couldn’t stand up again unassisted. An African American woman nearby said, “Reverend, you can lean on me,” and helped him to his feet. That’s the way he sees it now. This is a time to lean in, lean on, and help each other stand strong.
The Church of St. Albert the Great recently reopened for services on Pentecost (the seventh Sunday after Easter) at half capacity. Father Joe explained, “Historically the early Christians had to celebrate in secret, just a few at a time. They celebrated in the catacombs so they wouldn’t be seen. They celebrated during the plagues. They just kept going. I guess you could say that we’re right on target.”

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Church adapts

Posted on 26 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

In touch through video calls, telephone, email, and postal mail


Joy and Randy Nelson keep in touch online with their fellow members at Holy Trinity Church. (Photo by Terry Faust)

Randy Nelson participated in a recent congregation-wide meeting, along with nearly 100 members of his church, Holy Trinity Lutheran (2730 E. 31st St.), but Nelson could only see 30 fellow congregants at a time. Those 30 were on his computer screen in his apartment.
At a time when church buildings in Minnesota are closed and gatherings with more than 10 people are banned,* Holy Trinity and religious groups all over the state are using computer technology to bring their congregations together. By necessity, church members like Nelson, a retired Lutheran pastor, are becoming computer savvy.
“Before the pandemic, I had never heard of Zoom,” he said. “Now I seem to be using it almost every day.”
At Holy Trinity, church meetings are conducted on Zoom, but the Longfellow Lutheran congregation uses a different technology known as Vimeo for video broadcasts of its weekly church service.
“The service is recorded so we can watch it anytime,” Nelson said. “The videos do help to bring the church into our home but they are no substitute for being there in the pews with our fellow congregation members. For me, at least, videos make the services seem like a spectator sport.”
While they can watch the Holy Trinity service anytime during the week, Nelson and his wife Joy have decided to watch it at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning. “That is a traditional worship time for us, so when we watch the service at 11 it does feel like we are part of a larger group, even though there are only two of us in our apartment,” Nelson noted.

Maintaining connection virtually
At St. Albert’s Catholic Church (2836 33rd Ave. S.), the 9:30 a.m. mass on Sunday is livestreamed on Facebook. “We can see there are at least 110 households present for that service,” said Mike Vitt, a longtime member of St. Albert’s parish. “We are together virtually, so that way we can maintain some connections. We can feel each other’s presence even if we are not together physically.”
Greta Gantriis, a member at St. Peder’s Lutheran Church (4600 E. 42nd St.), said she misses being with long-time friends on Sunday morning. “The online service does keep us connected, but it is not the same as being together in person. So many of us are part of a long-standing community of people with a Danish heritage. St. Peder’s has done so much to maintain that sense of community.”
Like Gantriis, Rita Juhl, another St. Peder’s member, wishes she could be together with fellow congregants on Sunday morning. “But that is not possible now. We have to adapt to this new reality,” Juhl said.

Volunteering in the community
At a time when so many people are finding themselves quarantined at home, churches in Longfellow and Nokomis have made a special effort to stay connected with the members of their congregation.
“With the shutdown in place, many of our members have rediscovered the telephone,“ said Holy Trinity’s senior pastor, Ingrid Rasmussen. “When the shutdown occurred, we contacted everyone in the congregation by phone. We continue to keep in touch that way – particularly for the small group of people who don’t have access to reliable computer communications. We also have a newsletter that goes out every week, by email and by postal mail.“
Rasmussen said that Holy Trinity has maintained its connections with people in the neighborhood who may not be church members. “We know that many neighbors are suffering financially as a result of the pandemic. They may have lost their jobs or been furloughed. We have an emergency fund that can help in special situations.”
Even with the shelter in place orders in effect, Holy Trinity members continued their community outreach efforts. “A number of us are involved as volunteers at Longfellow School, the education center for mothers with children and pregnant mothers,” Joy Nelson explained. “Earlier this month, we were able to participate in an event at the school. We brought gifts over for the graduates. They came outside one at a time.
“With proper social distancing, we stood in the school yard with bells and signs congratulating them. We volunteers were able to see each other in person and even talk to each other through our masks.”

Joint church food shelf busy
At Minnehaha Methodist Church (3701 E. 50th St.), a group of four area congregations jointly sponsor the Minnehaha Food Shelf. The four include Minnehaha Methodist, Nokomis Lutheran, St. James Episcopal and Living Table. George Gallagher, the food shelf’s director, said he has seen an upswing in food shelf use as the pandemic has taken hold in Minnesota.
“Our demand surged in April when we served 880 client, a 22% increase over the previous month,” Gallagher said. “Right now, we are able to keep up with the demand. But our biggest concern is whether we will be able to keep doing that as more people are laid off and furloughed. People in the community have been very generous. Our contributions are up. That is a good sign that we will be able to meet the need in the months ahead.”
“Our church buildings may be closed, but that doesn’t mean that our churches are closed,” noted Minnehaha United Methodist Pastor Becky Seachrist. “We continue to fulfill our mission. Now, we have to do it in new ways.”

* 25% of capacity
*Gov. Tim Walz has issued a new executive order enabling places of worship to hold indoor services, starting on May 27, at 25% of their capacity, as long as they follow public health guidelines. Churches and other places of worship must provide six feet of separation between attendees. Indoor and outdoor events are limited to a maximum of 250 participants.

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Songs for Singing’

Posted on 26 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Inspired by Minnehaha Creek, Okee Dokee Brothers releases latest album to spark hope during COVID-19 pandemic

“Keep that Hope Machine running strong,” urge The Okee Dokee Brothers in the first track on their latest album, “Songs for Singin,’” released during the Minnesota Stay at Home order.
The songs were born out of neighborhood sing-a-longs at Minnehaha Creek in Ericsson, down the street from where guitarist Joe Mailander has lived for three years.
The two-disc album has 27 singable songs and includes a songbook with lyrics and chords.
In their search for singable songs, the children’s music duo of Mailander and Justin Lansing learned it can be easier to write more complicated ones. They also learned these simple songs hide in little everyday moments.
Their goal with this album is to help people stay hopeful and connected.
The first track on the new album, “Hope Machine,” was released on April 7, a few weeks into the nationwide coronavirus quarantine. Inspired by a Woody Guthrie journal entry, people resonated with the hopeful song.
“It was a really powerful moment,” remarked Mailander.
Real music with real people
As their popularity has grown, the Okee Dokee Brothers has moved from small concerts to larger venues. Yet, Mailander believes that music doesn’t have to be played only by professionals at large arenas, so he started a neighborhood band, playing in back yards of neighbors and in local parks with friends.
“It was a way to make real music with real people,” explained Mailander.
Fans are familiar with Mailander and Lansing’s adventure-style albums. Their 2012 release, “Can You Canoe” was created during a paddle down the Mississippi River, and “Through the Woods” in 2014 was inspired by a trek along the Appalachian Trail. “Saddle Up” in 2016 followed a month-long horsebacking trip along the Continental Divide. “Winterland” in 2018 explores the wonders and beauty of winter they saw during a dogsledding excursion in northern Minnesota.
“Songs for Singin’” is a departure from that and focuses on simple songs people can sing together at home.
It’s a fitting message for these times.
And it is why the childhood friends decided to release their album several months earlier than planned.

Inspired by his own
neighborhood band
Childhood friends Mailander and Lansing grew up together in Denver, Colo. Mailander went to college at Saint John’s University in Minnesota while Lansing was in Chicago. For a time they both lived in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood. Then Lansing headed out to New York before returning to Denver. Yet, they’re still a 50/50 songwriting team. One starts a song and then sends it to the other. They go back and forth with edits and suggestions until the song is done.
“His songs are my songs and my songs are his songs,” said Mailander.
The green space along Minnehaha Creek drew the Mailander family to the Ericsson neighborhood. “After a long day at work, I need to go outside and refocus,” said Mailander.
He, his wife Alison and 3-year-old son Hap value the connections they’ve made in Ericsson since moving from the Northrop neighborhood.
He appreciates how his neighbors share tools and resources.
“We’ve been surprised by how well we’ve been connecting with families that value the same authentic relationships and music,” observed Mailander. “They take time out of their busy schedules to do simple things like stand around and catch up on each other’s happenings. We get together to process what’s going on.”

‘We can all be musicians’
It was a natural transition to come together to play music and sing.
“I’ve been really interested in community singing and the power of folk songs to bring people together,” said Mailander. “I’ve also been really interested in making music that isn’t professional and perfect. It’s casual music making.”
Kids have the expectation that only the Justin Biebers of the world who make a lot of money can be singers, Mailander observed. “We can all be musicians,” he said.
The neighbor kids. Their parents. His son. “The music we make can be really beautiful even if it isn’t rehearsed,” said Mailander.
“We’ve been doing it forever as a species. Don’t over complicate it.”
In some ways, singing has been taken away from many people, except for church songs. It used to be something the community gathered around. After World War II, there were competitions between neighborhood bands, Mailander pointed out.
When he tells people to join in, he often hears, “I can’t carry a tune. I can’t sing so well.”
“If we all show up with a positive attitude and do our best and no one judges another, we sound pretty good,” said Mailander.
Mailander hopes people in the neighborhood are inspired to start their own bands.
Their neighborhood band sings favorites, such as “You Are My Sunshine,” “Down by the River,” “Jamboree,” “Peace Like a River,” “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” and “This Land is Your Land.”
“We don’t play long songs that no one knows the words to,” explained Mailander. “We make it easy and accessible.”
They invite all ages, the grandparents and the kids, and the folks without kids. He put out a little chair and ukulele for his toddler. The shakers and tambourines can get a little wild, but they roll with it.
Local musicians who drop in for the neighborhood band nights include folks from The High 48s and No Man String Band.

‘These are all times for singing’
Inspired by folk singers such as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, Mailander and Lansing explore the rhythms of everyday routines in their new album. Song titles point to those daily cycles: Afternoon Walk, Language of the Flowers, Let’s Throw a Party, Singin’ for Me Supper, and Hushabye. The Day disc has 15 songs and Night has 12.
As the duo point out in the first pages of their songbook, these songs build off “rhythmic steps on a morning stroll; syncopated raindrops in the afternoon; clanging in the kitchen; the rocking chair’s lullaby. These are all times for singing, and each song is a reminder to be present through the different seasons in a day.”

‘We’re all family’
The nationwide shutdown has affected the Okee Dokee Brothers too, as they earn 60% of their revenue through concerts, not to mention the merchandise sales. The shows also perpetuate interest in the band. If the closure of concert venues continues into the fall, “it’ll be pretty devastating,” admitted Mailander.
Those who are buying their physical album help keep them going. Locally, copies are available at Homespun (2709 E 38th St.) and Red Balloon (891 Grand Ave. in St. Paul). They’re also sold at their online merchandise store (
As they encourage in the songbook: “So sing to the sunrise and sing to the moon. Sing with your kids and sing with your neighbors. Sometimes it just takes singing a song with one another to remind us that we’re all family.”


Neighborhood Band
It’s okay if you don’t know the song
It’s okay just follow along
It’s okay if you get the words wrong in the Neighborhood Band.
It’s okay if we make a little noise
It’s okay if you wanna rejoice
It’s okay if you’ve got a bad voice in the Neighborhood Band

Little Pete plays his horn in the street
Old Man Stan plays his pots and his pans
Sally from the alley plays the big finale with the Neighborhood Band
It’s okay without a saxophone
It’s okay without a slide trombone
It’s okay without a microphone in the Neighborhood Band

So join the chorus, lend a hand
We’re not great, we’re not grand
Nothin’s proper and nothin’s planned
In the Neighborhood Band
It’s okay (wooo!), It’s okay (wooo!), It’s okay!

It’s okay if we never get found
It’s okay if we’re the worst in town
It’s okay if no one’s stickin’ around to watch the Neighborhood Band
It’s okay if we don’t agree
It’s okay in a different key
It’s okay as long as we
Can find some harmonyyyyyy

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Family bonds over games

Posted on 26 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Standish resident launches Kickstarter June 2 for Open Ocean, a game his kids and their neighborhood friends tested and approved


The Bodkin family at play. (Photo submitted)

Standish resident Joel Bodkin has loved fish since he was three and won a goldfish at the state fair.
That combined with a love of making things and a passion for board games has led him to a June 2, 2020 Kickstarter launch for his very own board game.
Open Ocean is a reef building card game for 1-5 players that combines the fast-paced dynamics of card drafting with the strategy of tile placement in your reef.
“If you love family games, like Sushi Go!, Kingdomino, Azul or Splendor, (which are all awesome!) this will be right up your alley,” stated Bodkin. “It’s easy to learn, easy to teach, great with players of all ages, and takes 20-30 minutes because being able to fit a game in between dinner and bedtime is important in our family.”
Most drafting games are very much like playing multiplayer solitaire and after returning from a convention where he was testing his first game, the idea kind took off, Bodkin explained. “My kids got involved, and it snowballed from there.”
Kid tested

Standish resident Joel Bodkin

Bodkin and his wife, Allison, have lived in Standish for 12 years. During the day, he’s a product designer for Target. Games are his personal creative outlet. “They take all the things I love about design – story, illustration, craftsmanship – and combine them into one box,” he observed. “All that you have to add is the most important element of any design: people! Each player brings their own stories, experience, and passions to the table, and gets to create memorable moments that live on well after the board is cleaned up.”
He started making games with his two kids, Walt and Lily, when they were really little, trying to teach them more complex mechanics in easily understandable ways. Soon, Bodkin was running mini neighborhood playtests in his living room with their friends.
“My kids had so many fun ideas and so did their friends. The hardest part was cutting cards that didn’t work for this game, but it means we have plenty of cards for the team game sequel,” he said.
For Bodkin, games are a way for him to share and teach his kids the things he loves most in life: making things with his hands, creativity, problem-solving, strategy and storytelling.

His earlier memory is playing Husker Du with his dad and brothers in front of their wood-burning stove before bed. “Dad graduated us to Miles Borne when my brother Jeff was four by making a card holder for him by cutting slots in a 2×4 because his hands were too small to hold the cards,” recalled Bodkin. “The list got longer as I got older. Endless games of ‘War’ and ‘Go Fish’ with my Aunt Jo. Zilch at my grandparents kitchen table. Euchre with my papaw over donuts on Sundays, and at every family get together on my dad’s side.
“It gave our free time together purpose, which made space for conversations, and gave us all a chance to teach and to learn.”

Bringing it to life
Bodkin has been making things since he could first hold a crayon. It is how he’s wired. In the past few years, Bodkin said he has discovered what he was meant to do with that creative energy: create games.
He’s got another game ready to go if Open Ocean is a success, and has 10-15 ideas for games scribbled in various notebooks and stages in Tupperware containers around his house.
“I love the Kickstarter community because it is full of creators pursuing their dreams, and incredible people investing in ideas they believe in and helping bring them to life,” said Bodkin. “As a game creator it’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you hold something in your hands that you’ve worked on for so long. I want everyone who backs Open Ocean to feel that too, and that’s why I’m taking it to Kickstarter.”
His goal is to produce Open Oceans as quickly as possible, and has about 95% of it done already with sample copies made. He’d love to get it out before Christmas, but given the current state of the world and fluctuating timelines for manufacturing and shipping, it will likely be released in January 2021.
“People are home, they have time, and board games are a wonderful way to connect with family and friends,” stated Bodkin. “It’s an entry-price-point game, with a lot of replayability, and is actually really great for players of all ages. We play it with my 74-year-old inlaws and my 7-year-old daughter.”
It is currently available on Tabletop Simulator and will soon be on Tabletopia, two online platforms for playing board games online. An older version of the game is available to play as a print-and-play version on his website.
“I hope people enjoy the time they spend playing it together and create great memories, and dive into the wonderful world of hobby board games,” stated Bodkin.
Subscribe to Bodkin’s email list at for more information, updates, and invitations to game night at Dreamer’s Vault.

** Note – Open Ocean was fully funded within 24 hours, and stretch goals have been unlocked.

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On the watch for raptors in river gorge

Posted on 26 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

14 species of raptors in the neighborhood

A bald eagle surveyed the Mississippi River from high atop a white pine. There are at least 90 active bald eagle sites in the Twin Cities.(Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The Mississippi River Gorge runs right through the most densely populated, highly-urbanized part of Minnesota. The gorge is part of the Mississippi River Flyway, through which more than 300 species of birds pass every year on their spring and fall migrations. Of course, not everyone is just passing through.
Longfellow bird expert Dave Zumeta said, “We have identified birds of all shapes and sizes in the gorge. Some of the easiest to see without binoculars belong to the family of birds called raptors. We know of at least 14 species of raptors that migrate through, and/or winter in the gorge: the turkey vulture, the bald eagle, nine kinds of hawks, and three kinds of owls.”
What makes a bird a raptor? All raptors have hooked beaks, sharp talons on their feet, and very keen eyesight. The raptor’s beak sets it apart from other birds. All raptors have the same beak design, curved at the tip with sharp cutting edges to rip and tear apart their prey.
Bald eagles, which were on the U.S. Threatened and Endangered Species List until 2007, are now frequently seen soaring above the river gorge. Their numbers have been restored by the banning of the pesticide DDT and better habitat protection.
There are two bald eagle viewing spots along West River Parkway. One is between the RR bridge at 27th Street and the Lake Street Bridge, and the other is below Fairview Riverside Hospital. Both viewing spots are near nest sites. With West River Parkway closed indefinitely to cars, the bird watching is better than ever.
Zumeta is encouraged by the rise in population of bald eagles. He said, “When I moved to Minneapolis in 1981, I think there were about 200 breeding pairs left in the state. Now that number has climbed by a factor of almost 10. Minnesota has among the most breeding pairs of bald eagles of any other state besides Alaska. It’s a huge success story.”
Adult bald eagles are recognized by their white head and tail feathers, and their brown-feathered bodies. Their wing span averages 6-7.5 feet from tip to tip. Nests are constructed in large white or red pine trees, aspen or cottonwood, near lakes and rivers. There are an estimated 90 active eagle nests in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, according to the Minnesota DNR.
Eagle nests are built of sticks, commonly 6-8 feet across, and added to each year by the returning resident pair. Females lay up to three eggs beginning as early as January. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs, which hatch in about 35 days. Eaglets start flying at three months of age, in late May through early July. Four weeks or so after they learn to fly, young eagles leave the nest for good.

Peregrine falcons: fastest birds
Another spot to see raptors is near Lock and Dam #1 at the Ford Dam site. Zumeta said, “There are great opportunities to see peregrine falcons here. The Observation Deck is closed due to COVID-19 but when it’s open, I think it’s one of the best place to see peregrines in the whole Twin Cities. For the second year, a pair is nesting on the underside of the Ford Bridge. Last year, they successfully reared four young there.”
Peregrine falcons are the fastest birds in the world. Zumeta said, “They are extremely territorial, and have been clocked dive bombing at 180 miles per hour. Several years ago I was walking across the Ford Bridge and I saw a Cooper’s hawk flying by. All of a sudden, a peregrine falcon dropped out of the sky like a shot. It must have been defending its nest. The Cooper’s hawk barely got away with its life.”
The Ford Dam site is also a likely spot to see great egrets. These spectacular white birds ply the waters of the gorge quietly looking for fish, frogs, snakes, and crayfish to eat. Great blue herons frequent this area as well. In flight, the great blue heron curls its neck into a tight “S” shape, and its legs trail distinctly behind its tail. Both the great egret and the great blue heron are big, showy birds – not raptors – but fun for new birders to identify.
Of three species of owls that are seen in the gorge, the barred owl is the only permanent resident. It is a large, stocky owl with a rounded head, no ear tufts, and a handsome horizontal striped chest plumage (the bars that give the owl its name). The barred owl nests in cavities in pine, spruce, fir, and cedar trees. It has a signature call that sounds like, “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all?”
Whether listening or watching for raptors, be patient, and be willing to be surprised. Zumeta said, “With birds, there’s always more to be seen. Eagles, ospreys, most of the hawks, vultures, and peregrine falcons are all more common in the gorge than they used to be. Here we are in the middle of a major urban area, with the chance to see least 14 species of raptors in our own neighborhood.”

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Games, music & art >> Connect

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Kristi Anderson, at right holding Barney, appreciates seeing her neighbors at least once a day from a distance while they come together to sing. With her, from left to right, son, Josh (holding Boomer, the white dog); daughter, Taylor; and husband, Scott. One day, Caitlin Nightingale, whose parents live on Isabel Ave. and who is without a studio due to COVID-19, offered to snap photos of families on their front steps, part of her #frontporchproject. (Photo courtesy of Caitlin Nightingale Photography)

Play a game together with your neighbors when you join in the LoLa Scavenger Hunt. “Walks outside are still allowed, and are good for your physical and mental health. I intended this scavenger hunt to bring an element of novelty and excitement to an ordinary walk in the neighborhood, and also encourage neighbors to walk farther and longer,” observed local artist Jinjer Markley. “Also, it’s a game that we can play ‘together,’ and even check on each other’s progress by following the hashtags. My hope is that more frequent distance-greetings with our neighbors will make us all feel more like part of a community.”

Markley has lived in the Wonderland Park area of Longfellow for over six years with her husband Presley and her 13-year-old daughter. She was inspired by a similar activity in Lexington, Ky. where her mother lives. As Longfellow already has an established group of artists, it was easy to replicate the neighborhood game here.
She got enough volunteers to run two concurrent scavenger hunts – one in upper Longfellow, and one in lower Longfellow. The hunt started on April 15 and will continue through May 15.
“Go on walks in your neighborhood, looking in windows for art. Don’t forget to say hi from at least six feet away if you see a neighbor – even if it’s just with a wave. If you find art in a window, take a selfie with the art in the background – try to find all of the artworks on the scavenger hunt flyers, visible at If you post the selfie on social media, tag it #lolaquarantineartcrawl or #lolaqac. You could follow the tags to see who else is out and about in your neighborhood!”
The maps are also available online at the League of Longfellow Artists (LoLa) Facebook page or

Neighborhood sing
Each night at 7 p.m., neighborhood join in the Seven Oaks Front Porch Sing.
Kristi Anderson, who has lived on Isabel Ave. for three years, was inspired by news reports of Italians singing on their balconies, and people singing in Spain and Israel. When she heard about the local idea of singing “Imagine,” she pulled out the email list from National Night Out and suggested they step out onto their front steps or yards, sing and dance together.
“We have a pretty enthusiastic group of people,” said Anderson. “It’s nice to see your neighbors out there.”
The sing started with Isabel Ave. homes and stretched out from there. Anderson sends out an email each day with a list of 3-4 songs, lyrics and links to song videos. Fellow resident, Phil Hide, who also lives in the middle of the block, has taken over setting up a speaker to share the songs via Spotify each evening. They’ve done the Beatle’s “Here Comes the Sun” a few times, knowing it is a song some hospitals play when patients are released or removed from ventilators. In mid April, they sang a song from local musician Nachito Herrera, who returned home after COVID-19 hospitalization. For fun, they’ve also done the Hokey Pokey.
At the end of each Sing, they clap together in gratitude for frontline workers.
Anderson is glad to have an updated email list of neighbors. Sophia Kim used the list in April to put together a care package of prepared food for her friend – a single parent of a 12- and 14-year-old who has been working double shifts at the Hennepin County Medical Center emergency room. More than a dozen neighbors contributed to that effort. Neighbor Ann Prosser used the list to get the word out that Blue Cross and Allina were seeking homemade masks and to share other resources for making them.
Anderson includes a bit of art in her emails, as well: a photo of the painted rocks she sees while out walking her dogs. She began attributing them to the Rock-Painting-Artist Fairy – who turned out to be neighbor Gina Jorgensen.

In related news:


Lola Art Crawl Cancelled for 2020 as Alternative Formats Explored

Uncertainties and safety concerns around COVID-19 inform tough decision

On Tuesday, April 14, the steering committee for the League of Longfellow Artists (LoLa) notified artists
and supporters that they are cancelling what would have been the 12th annual LoLa Art Crawl originally
scheduled for Sept. 19–20, 2020. Given the high likelihood of a fall resurgence, or simply a continuation,
of COVID-19 infections, they felt that it would be risky and impractical to invest time and money in preparing for the crawl as usual. Instead, they will be exploring other ways to share the creative output of
LoLa artists with the community.

Artists have been understanding of the decision as they are coping with the effects of the coronavirus and
physical restrictions in their own lives. “I am disappointed and heartbroken,” said Maya Brown of mayamade.“I do however understand and think it’s the best decision for everyone.”

The crawl has been an annual event since its founding in 2009, and the committee members—Steve
Clark, Lisa Anderson, Sharon Parker, Sue Romain, Chris Miller, and Ken Wenzel—came to the decision
to cancel it with a degree of disappointment and resignation.

The decision was informed by a few realizations: (1) Public health concerns around welcoming strangers
into close proximity inside artists’ yards, homes, studios and small businesses; (2) Uncertainty about what
lies ahead and the likelihood that it would have to be called off as we got closer to the date; (3) The financial
hardship faced by our neighborhood businesses, which provide a significant portion of the funding
that makes the crawl possible. “Frankly, we didn’t even want to ask,” said Parker about soliciting sponsor
Normally, if the crawl were to go forward as in the past, volunteers would need to start preparations now.
“Spending thousands of hours of volunteer time between now and September only to cancel is not the best
use of our resources,” said Bob Schmitt in response to the announcement. Schmitt is past administrator
and co-founder of LoLa along with Anita White.

LoLa artist Megan Moore stood next to her mural on the Minnehaha Scoops building earlier this year.
The artwork wraps around the building, see it at 3352 Minnehaha Avenue.

This spring and early summer, the organizers will be communicating with LoLa artists and other stakeholders in various ways, using technology that has become increasingly common in these days of coming together while distancing, as well as phone calls, email, and other means. The group’s goals remain to showcase and promote LoLa artists in their art-making, exhibiting, and sales; involve local businesses in ways that are mutually beneficial; and connect with the community.

They expect to employ a mix of social media, the LoLa website, and home and business activities throughout Longfellow for community members to explore and enjoy the richness of our artist community and small independent business partners in appropriate physically distanced ways. The forms this will take are yet to be determined and will be informed by the networking and communications described above.
Among the projects in the works are a series of art “scavenger” hunts, with flyers made available via Facebook and NextDoor. Please watch for announcements and news from LoLa in The Messenger and other media in the coming months, and on social media via the handle and hashtag LoLaArtistsMN.

When you go on walks and bike rides in the neighborhood, look for art all around you—on buildings and utility boxes, in the windows and front yards of artists’ homes, and even on top of Little Free Libraries (one LoLa artist, Terry Faust, makes “Wee Weather Vanes” for LFLs)—as we continue to make and share our art in sometimes surprising ways.

“We will grow out of this setback. And we will flourish,” said Schmitt.
“We move ahead with courage,” said White.

LoLa is the League of Longfellow Artists, which is a volunteer-driven community organization that showcases, nurtures and supports Longfellow art and artists. It began in 2009 as a small grassroots effort to raise the visibility of artists living or working in the Greater Longfellow Neighborhood of South Minneapolis.

The annual LoLa art crawl started with 42 artists at 20 sites and has grown ever since, with 119
participating artists in 2019 exhibiting at 56 sites. LoLa looks forward to meeting with the public again
next year.

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Kids learn through play

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

While you’re at home during this extended break from school, try these ideas from Free Forest School


Free Forest School Executive Director Anna Sharratt said, “This idea started as an outdoor play group. It has turned into a river I’ve been riding for several years now.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Let them be kids, outdoors. Let them learn through unstructured play in nature.
That’s the cornerstone belief of Free Forest School, a volunteer-led program that operates in 200+ cities across the country.
Right now, their weekly outdoor gatherings are, of course, suspended, but it’s easy to put the principles of Free Forest School to use during this extended break from school.
Longfellow resident Anna Sharratt developed the idea for the program five years ago, when her young family lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. She and her husband had signed their four-year-old up for a pre-K learning program, and the kids didn’t set foot outdoors for a whole month.
Sharratt, who grew up alongside Minnehaha Creek and camping in the BWCA, was stunned. She said, “In my way of thinking, learning and nature are inseparable. I had hoped to meet other families in the neighborhood, thinking we could get together outside of school, chill out, and play. I found parenting in New York City to be very competitive. The idea for Free Forest School grew out of that longing for non-competitive, quality time spent outdoors with other families.”
Two months after Sharratt started the first chapter of Free Forest School in Brooklyn, her family moved to Austin, Texas. Once seeds were planted in those two places, people started contacting her from around the country asking, “How can I start this up in my town?”

“There is no such thing
as bad weather,
only bad clothing.”
~ Scandinavian saying

Focus on supportive communities for parents and kids
The Free Forest School model is straight forward; it focuses on creating supportive communities. Parents can parent in different ways while encouraging child-led, unstructured play.
Sharratt said, “There are so many people who attend our play groups. Adults say they forge a deeper relationship with their kids through unstructured play, because so many of their usual power struggles disappear. There is less adult talking and explaining, there are fewer rules.”
The suggested age range for children is 0-6 years, but the majority of kids are 1-4. Every Free Forest School chapter has a director. It’s that person’s job to recruit parent facilitators from the community and to train them.
One of the ongoing Minneapolis sites is Theodore Wirth Park, where a Free Forest School chapter has met on Monday mornings at a certain trailhead for the past four years.
Sharratt explained, “We have a strong emphasis on place-based learning, so we go back to the same place throughout the seasons. Kids love to explore in the rain and mud of April, the heat and humidity of June, the snow and ice of January.”
Place-based learning might come as something of a relief during this time of staying at home, or close to home. According to Sharratt, young children are just as happy, maybe happier, going back to the same place over and over again.
Now that even playgrounds are closed or discouraged, here’s the best news yet. Find a scrappy patch of woods near your house; any nearby nature spot will do. Take the kids there and, after making sure it’s reasonably safe, led them take the lead in their own unstructured play.
Sharratt encourages parents to think back to their own memories of childhood, asking, “What places in nature were most meaningful for you? It’s probably not the trip your whole family took to a national park, though it could be. It’s more likely a tree you loved to climb by yourself, or a vacant neighborhood lot where you built a fort with your friends. These are experiences that give kids a sense of autonomy, which is especially important in this time of ‘helicopter parenting.’”

“Kids are hard wired to learn through play in nature, but parents can get in the way with too much structure and over-scheduling.” ~ Anna Sharratt

Every day outside
It is unlikely that Free Forest School playgroups will be meeting this summer, given the current health emergency.
In the meantime, the website is resource rich, and includes a COVID-19 inspired initiative called Every Day Outside on the blog. It’s a place to share ideas, play prompts, inspirations, and ideas for child-led activities. There are also weekly emails that dive deeper into the value of unstructured play for the whole family. For more information, visit or or email
“It may look like we’re educating children, but we’re really educating adults,” said Sharratt. “Kids are hard wired to learn through play in nature, but parents can get in the way with too much structure and over-scheduling.”
So, even though Free Forest School isn’t formally meeting right now, Sharratt said the emphasis hasn’t changed one bit. Today is the perfect day to get outside with your kids. Let them cross a stream on rocks or climb a tree. They might look like they’re “just playing,” (and what’s wrong with that?) but they’re also developing their sense of spatial awareness, large and small motor skills, balance, critical thinking, and much more.

In a nutshell
Free Forest School ignites children’s innate capacity to learn through unstructured play in nature, fostering healthy development and nurturing the next generation of creative thinkers, collaborative leaders, and environmental stewards.

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The ‘Warbler Wave’ is coming

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Numbers will soar in mid-May


Why get excited about warblers? They’re incredibly diverse, colorful, and beautiful. They’re great singers too: a delight to the eye and the ear. They are passing through the Twin Cities right now from their wintering grounds in Mexico and Central America. Pictured here is the American Redstart, courtesy of Nina Koch (Tropical Wings, River Falls, Wis.). (Photo by Nina Koch)

Longfellow resident Dave Zumeta walks the neighborhood every day, with eyes and ears lifted toward the sky. He has been an active birder for 61 years, and this guy knows his stuff. He has identified 182 different species of birds between the railroad bridge at 27th St. and West River Rd., and the Lock and Dam #1 – a distance of less than four miles.
Zumeta was hooked on birding by the time he was eight years old. It’s an activity that doesn’t require any fancy equipment to get started, especially for children. It’s a great family activity, and many species can be seen without binoculars.
Zumeta said, “All you need to do is to look and listen when you walk outdoors.”
Many people think spring is the most exciting time of year to bird watch. The “Warbler Wave” has officially started, which means that the northern migration of these small songbirds (5” average length) to their summer breeding grounds has begun.
The warblers are trickling in from Central America and Mexico, but their numbers will soar between May 10-20 in the Twin Cities. Some of them will stay in this area all summer, but many more will continue their migration to Northern Minnesota and Canada. According to Zumeta, “A person can see a ton of these little birds before the trees leaf out.”
Warblers are Zumeta’s favorite birds, bar none. He not only knows the subtleties of their markings, but can also recognize their songs. His favorite place to watch for warblers isn’t Costa Rica or the Greater Antilles Islands. It’s a sinkhole on 34th St. and 47th Ave. just a stone’s throw from his house. He said, “Seven Oaks Park is the reason we moved where we did. I think it’s one of the best places to bird watch anywhere – and it’s a warbler magnet.”
Zumeta has seen 26 different kinds of warblers there over the years. Even their names are beautiful: the Mourning Warbler, the Hooded Warbler, the Golden-winged Warbler, and the Bay-breasted Warbler, to name a few.
Because the sink hole is a large, natural depression in the ground, it affords protection for migrating warblers from wind and cold. The best days for birding, according to Zumeta, are nasty, rainy, windy mornings in mid-May. He said, “I’ve seen dozens of Yellow-rumped warblers hopping around on the pavement feeding on days like that. The park is surrounded by ornamental conifers such as white pine, white spruce, and northern white cedar. Warblers and other songbirds feast on the insects living in the buds.”
Zumeta is a longtime co-leader of the Longfellow Community Council spring and fall bird walks in the River Gorge. He has generously offered to take out family groups of up to three people for one-hour informal warbler walks between April 25 and May 25, if all are willing to practice social distancing. The suggested minimum age of children is seven years old. Binoculars (and binocular skills) are helpful, but not necessary.
Dave Zumeta can be reached at for questions or scheduling.

1st of 3
This is the first of three consecutive stories on Birds in the Mississippi River Gorge with local bird expert Dave Zumeta. Watch for Raptors in the June Messenger. These stories are meant especially for families with young children. If your child is interested in bird migration, look up the Blackpoll Warbler – an almost unbelievable long distance marathon flier.

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