Archive | FEATURED

‘No one will believe you’

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Abused for years by her dad and a troubled system, Renee and mom are finally free

Renee and mother Nadine fought for some normalcy during her childhood despite her father’s abuse. Today, they are happy to say they are survivors. (Photo submitted)

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
To the outside world, Fred* was a model citizen who worked at the top of the Hennepin County Social Service department as comptroller.
To his family, he was a dictator who was abusive and impossible to please.
His moods were up and down, he was controlling, manipulative, critical, blaming, cruel, rageful, isolating, hateful, belittling and unethical, recalls his daughter, Renee, now age 57.
She and her mother, Nadine, now 77, finally escaped into hiding in 2007 and go by alias identities.

He was careful to never leave visible marks
As comptroller, Fred was in charge of finances for the Social Services Department and Crisis Management.
“He knew the ins and outs of how to work the system,” said Renee.
He’d throw things at his wife and daughter, pulled his wife’s hair, and whipped Renee with a belt, but he was careful to never leave any visible marks.
Diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), anxiety, and depression, Renee doesn’t remember much about her childhood. She’s blocked out most of the memories.
“But I do remember the feelings they provoked, and how the abuse has affected me,” she said.

‘No one will ever believe you’
“Imagine being in an environment so abusive and stressful that as an infant in the womb I did not even want to come out!” Renee said. She was a month overdue, and wasn’t born until her mother had been induced.
At three, she was so stressed and nervous that she had failed to thrive. She was underweight and her hair came out in hand fulls.
She was fearful all the time, didn’t get her needs met, and rarely talked.
“My father controlled everything from when we slept and when, what and if we ate,” recalled Renee. She remembers a house full of yelling, name calling, swearing and threats. Plus, her dad threw things and broke them.
“We walked on eggshells constantly in our home never knowing what would send him into a rage,” said Renee. One day something might be fine, but the next day the same thing would be a major offense. “His rules were always changing, throwing us off on knowing how to behave to prevent one of his explosions. Everything was always our fault (never his), and we were the cause of everything wrong for him.
“We were stupid, lazy, worthless, oversensitive, crazy, emotional cripples and weak. We were told no one would ever hire us, want us or believe us.”
She worked hard to stuff her feelings and emotions so that they weren’t used against her.
“Sometimes my feelings became so intense because of not being allowed to express them that I had to find a way to release them,” she remembered. “I started burning myself when feelings became more than I could possibly hold inside.
“I felt like a teapot about to explode and the burning of flesh felt like letting off steam.”
She didn’t start talking in school until junior high. Her grade school teachers were always telling her mother, “She doesn’t talk.” Her mom wanted to know what she could do. Now they both know that’s a symptom of abuse.
Renee remembers that kids at school thought she was stuck up, but she was just afraid to have friends. She didn’t want others to know what happened in her home, and felt ashamed and embarrassed. She didn’t want to subject any one to her father’s abuse.
She had made that mistake before. She had invited friends over, and Fred accused them unjustly of stealing from him. He caused such a stink in the neighborhood that after that no one was allowed to play with her.
Renee didn’t get to do the usual after-school activities that other kids did, and she wasn’t allowed to work outside of the house. It was another way to control her and keep her dependent financially upon him.
“He was great at finding a person’s weaknesses and using it against them,” observed Renee.
If Renee or her mother enjoyed anything, they paid dearly for it. “I never was sure if it was because dad was jealous or if he just really enjoyed making us miserable,” remarked Renee.
He anticipated any question of leaving by telling them that no one would believe their story. After all, he was a successful comptroller in the social services department. If they couldn’t go there for help, where could they go?

Still paying dearly as an adult
As an adult, the abuse continued although it looked different. When Renee called home to talk to her mom, he would lie and say she wasn’t there. He’d threaten Renee that she couldn’t have anything to do with her mom if she didn’t do what Ed wanted.
When Renee’s husband died, she was left to raise her two stepsons, who were initially treated much better than she was because they were males. At first, Fred spent time and money on them, recalled Renee, but eventually he started to use them for his personal gain and the abuse began for them, too.
“He would often make me chose between my stepsons or my parents and extended family,” said Renee. “I would end up paying dearly for trying to be a good mom to the boys.”
Finally, one day her youngest stepson and the most laid back of the two, did what everyone dreamed about but never had the guts. He punched Fred and left.

Finally, they went into hiding but he used system against them
As he aged, Fred didn’t get any better. Instead, he escalated to threatening them with knives and loaded guns. He manipulated or “bought” friends to carry out some of his dirty work, as well.
Finally, Renee helped her mom leave Hennepin County and they went into hiding together in a new county.
They decided to leave at a time inbetween his rages because they thought he wouldn’t be watching them as closely. To their dismay, they discovered that their local police didn’t understand that line of reasoning. “I think the victim knows the situation best and when to leave,” remarked Renee.
To retaliate, Fred started hiding and getting rid of their assets, along with the things he knew Nadine and Renee cared most about.
“The legal battle in the divorce was a joke,” stated Renee. “My dad blatantly lied through the court hearings and was in contempt of nearly every court order. He was rarely held accountable or punished for refusing to obey court orders.”
He used the court system to harass them by filing false accusations, wasting their time and money to defend themselves. “Nothing was done to stop him from doing this,” said Renee, who is still shocked by how things played out in the court system. “When finally threatened by the courts for jail time, he moved out state so he wouldn’t be arrested.”
Both Renee and Nadine filed for orders of protection, but Fred appealed them. Renee’s remained but her mom’s was removed by Hennepin County Judge Bruce Peterson. This was despite Fred pointing a loaded gun at them both during a rage. “Apparently, leaving a threatening message on my voicemail, confronting us, screaming, and pointing a loaded gun at us was not reason to give my mom the OFP because my dad didn’t say he was going to kill us (that time),” stated Renee. “Apparently, perpetrators have to tell you they are going to kill you before they pull the trigger.”
She was also frustrated by the family court insistence that her mother attend mediation with her abuser in the same room. “How is this going to be productive when the abuser is abusive and controlling?” she asked.
Her parent’s divorce was messy, ugly and complicated, Renee observed, and is now studied by law students.
“We found that the legal/judicial system we always believed in is not just. Victims keep getting re-victimized by the system,” said Renee. “How do we fix a broken system?”
She advocates, “Get involved, have a voice, educate and contact your representatives!”

Shouldn’t be ‘Why doesn’t she leave’ but ‘Why does he do that?’
Renee is working to help people understand the dynamics of abusive households and to recognize what’s happening.
“I feel most people do not understand abuse or people would not ask why doesn’t she leave him? Why not, ‘Why does he mistreat someone who loves him’ or ‘Why is this acceptable in society?’”
She added, “Most people think the abuser is mentally ill because certainly no one in their right mind would behave as the abuser does. But actually, domestic violence is a learned behavior.”
Renee has found support and help at the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women (now Violence Free Minnesota), the Alexander House in Anoka, Home Free Community Program, the Domestic Abuse Project, and DomesticShelter.org. She’s also grateful for the various domestic abuse support groups she has been a part of, therapists she’s worked with, doctors and some educated priests. She and her mom benefited from the local food shelf and community action groups.
She recommends that others check out the free app InsightTimer for its meditations, and Lisa A. Romano’s talks.
Today, Renee knows that she is still affected by the abuse she’s lived through. It is part of how she lives and her relationships with others. She’s found it difficult to trust in herself or others. Her self-confidence is low, she has trouble expressing emotions, she replays memories, and doesn’t always want to be touched, and can be jumpy, nervous, and easy to frighten. She suffers from a chronic illness.
But she’s a survivor. One who is working to transcend the wounds of the past, to learn to love herself, and to be comfortable in her own life. She’s got a future filled with hope, laughter and freedom. She believes her future is a gift from God.
* Name changed for protection.
Contact editor at tesha@longfellownokomismessenger.com.

Click here to read her mom’s story.

Comments Off on ‘No one will believe you’

Tags:

Celebrate Minnesota as the Peacebuilding power state for all

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Peacebuilding Leadership Institute opens first office in Nokomis

Community members and leaders had two reasons to celebrate with Donna Minter, her staff, board, and volunteers last month. The organization Minter started 10 years ago recently won a U.S. Peacebuilding Award for Excellence from the Alliance for Peacebuilding, a Washington D.C.-based international organization. And, after many years of operating out of a storage closet, Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute finally has a brick and mortar office space. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute (Peacebuilding) received the 2019 Melanie Greenberg U.S. Peacebuilding Award for Excellence from the Alliance for Peacebuilding. Donna Minter, PhD, founder and executive director of Peacebuilding, travelled to Washington DC to receive the award last month.
A local award celebration was held on Nov. 1, 2019, at the new Peacebuilding office (their first), located at 5200 47th Ave.S. In her comments, Minter said, “Isn’t it only appropriate that an organization whose name is ‘Peacebuilding’ should finally have a building?
“We are known for being an institute without walls, one that delivers most of its trainings out in the community – but it’s great to finally have some walls!”
Tonja Honsey, Peacebuilding board member, incarceration survivor, and member of the Anishinaabe people, opened the celebration with a ceremonial sage smudging. Minter explained that the office space had been a storehouse for ammunition before Peacebuilding moved in, and she welcomed it being cleansed and blessed.
Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley included some sobering statistics among her personal comments. “Hennepin County,” she said, “has between 25,000-30,000 people involved in the criminal justice system, the seventh highest number in the country. The work that you’re doing at Peacebuilding should be embedded in the Hennepin County workplace.”
Since 2010, Peacebuilding has trained 3,000+ Minnesotans to be more resilient, trauma-informed, and focused on restorative justice. The goal of the signature Peacebuilding training, Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience – the STAR Training, is to learn how to transform psychological trauma into non-violent power.
Minneapolis community organizer Tommy McBrayer completed the one-day version (called the STAR-Lite Training) earlier this year. He said, “The training helped me learn to identify different types of trauma. Now I’m passing some of what I learned on to the people I serve in my job in the Central neighborhood. It helps them to develop resiliency, and gives them some options other than revenge.”
St. Paul City Council member Mitra Jalali Nelson talked about moving to the Twin Cities after working for years as a middle school teacher in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. She said, “I started asking right away, who was doing healing circles in this community? Who was doing work with peacebuilding? I found Donna and her organization quite quickly. We need to be investing in programs like this one.”

Donna Minter, founder and executive director of the Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute, addressed guests at the Grand Open House. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The STAR Training was created at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding in Virginia. A New York City non-profit requested the training in the aftermath of 911, and provided a $2,000,000 grant to support its development. Minter, who is a neuropsychologist and forensic psychologist, took the STAR Training to add to her skill set. She was so impressed that she decided to bring the five-day training back to Minnesota to share with her community here, and it’s still going strong.
In addition to STAR and STAR-Lite Trainings, Peacebuilding offers a free, monthly film series, two free, monthly healing circles called “Coming to the Table,” Restorative Justice Training, and Resilience and Self-Care Training. Visit www.mnpeace.org to check the schedule for upcoming trainings and events.
Peacebuilding has also sponsored Luna Fest for the past six years, a traveling film festival of award-winning short films by, for, and about women. Luna Fest raises money to support Peacebuilding’s racial and economic equity trainee scholarships: to ensure that all who want to attend Peacebuilding’s trainings are able to do so regardless of financial limitations. Luna Fest 2020 is scheduled for Wednesday, April 29 at the Riverview Theatre.

“The STAR Training helps
people develop resiliency,
and gives them options
other than revenge.”
~ Tommy McBreyer, STAR-Lite graduate

Comments Off on Celebrate Minnesota as the Peacebuilding power state for all

Longfellow climate activist walks the walk every day

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Standing in front of her electric Chevy Bolt, Jean Buckley said, “I use my buying power to make an environmental statement. I believe in making educated, responsible choices.”(Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Longtime Longfellow resident Jean Buckley believes each of us can make a difference in the current climate crisis.
She said, “I’ve always been a strong environmentalist. I believe every human being has a responsibility to protect earth’s finite natural resources. Some people choose to be what are called ‘first adopters,’ which means taking on higher costs when technologies or products are new. First adopters are willing to bear those initial costs, with relative certainty that the costs will come down when the technologies or products become more main stream.”
Buckley was a first adopter of residential solar energy, among many other things. Ten years ago, she had solar panels installed on her garage roof. That first set of solar panels produced enough energy to power her house until she bought an electric car last year. She is now adding more solar panels to the roof of her home to produce the extra energy she needs.
Over the next 10 years she will receive rebates from Xcel Energy as part of their Solar Rewards Program, and she won’t ever have to pay for electricity or gasoline again. Visit www.xcelenergy.com to learn more about their Solar Rewards Program.
When the Volkswagen Jetta TDI came on the market, it was the greenest car available. Buckley bought one early on, and was able to sell it back to VW after their emissions scandal broke. With the money from the resale, she purchased an electric Chevy Bolt. This car qualified for a $7,500 federal tax credit. She frequently travels to Duluth to visit her grandchildren. Money from the VW settlement is helping build infrastructure for electric vehicles; this includes more charging stations along highly traveled corridors like 35W.
Buckley has made most of her home improvement decisions from the standpoint of what’s best for the environment. She said, “Many of these choices have higher costs up-front, but I believe they are cost-effective over time. The metal roof I chose for my house cost about 20% more than asphalt shingles. It will last at least 100 years though; I’ll never need to replace it. I’ve lived in my house for 25 years and as someone who hopes to age in place, the metal roof made sense both environmentally and economically.”
On Earth Day 2019, Buckley retired from her job with Ramsey County as an Environmental Health Educator. Prior to that job, she worked for the city of Bloomington. Her areas of expertise included renewable energy, building efficiency, water quality, and recycling. She said, “I had a long career as an educator. I’m still finding ways to encourage people to make positive changes for the environment.”
Buckley is involved in her neighborhood as a Block Club Coordinator. Block Clubs are a function of the city of Minneapolis (visit www.minneapolimn.gov to learn more.) The focus of Block Clubs is often on crime prevention, but can include other things depending on neighborhood interests. On Buckley’s block, she has organized a list of neighbors willing to share tools and skills, or barter for professional services.
She said, “We think our network is even better than Next Door, because it’s neighbor to neighbor on our own block.”
Since retiring last spring, Buckley has literally put on a new hat. She proudly wears a cap that identifies her as a River Educator with the Mississippi Park Connections Program: the nonprofit partner of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (the 72-mile section of the Mississippi River that flows through the Twin Cities). The program gives kids the opportunity to get out on the river, and have a national park experience right here in the Twin Cities.
In addition, she volunteers with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and 350.org on various climate issues such as pension divestment from fossil fuels, and investment in clean energy.
When asked what drives her seemingly endless supply of energy for environmental causes, the matter-of-fact Jean Buckley gave a surprisingly sentimental answer. She said, “It’s the Starfish Story.” So here, in closing, is the Starfish Story (author unknown.)
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy throwing something into the ocean. He asked, “What are you doing?” and the boy answered, “I’m throwing starfish into the sea. The tide is going out and if I don’t put them back, they’ll die.” The man said, “Don’t you see that there are miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!” The boy picked up another starfish and gently put it back in the water. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “Well, I made a difference for that one.”

From Jean Buckley
Did you know that every 4th grader in the U.S. can obtain a free pass for themselves and their families to visit more than 2,000 federal lands and waterways for a whole year? The hope is that this “Every
Kid in a Park” will help to
build the next generation of passionate and informed
environmental stewards.
Visit www.everykidinapark.gov to learn more.

Comments Off on Longfellow climate activist walks the walk every day

What’s happening in the neighborhood?

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

END OF YEAR DEVELOPMENT UPDATE

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN

3801 Hiawatha Ave.
The southeast corner of Hiawatha and 38th may not be empty much longer.
Base Camp Development and DJR Architecture have proposed a four-story, mixed-use multi-family building for the site. It would have 102 units and 2,300 square feet of retail space in the 36,865 square foot structure set on 0.85 acres.
The Longfellow Station residential building next door is five stories tall.
The commercial space will be located at the Hiawatha/38th St. corner with a 52-spot parking garage taking up the bulk of the remaining first floor.
A highlight of the plan is a spacious second-story plaza overlooking Hiawatha Ave. Units available will be a range of studio, alcove, and one-bedroom ranging from 375 to 695 square feet. The c-shaped building will also offer six walk-out units right off Hiawatha.
There will be just over 50 parking stalls compared to 102 units because it’s in a transit oriented development (TOD) district and the building will be accessed using the drive lane currently used by the Longfellow Station apartments off of 38th, pointed out Longfellow Community Council (LCC) Program Manager Justin Gaarder.
A public hearing hasn’t been set yet, but will be shared by the LCC when it is.

Portico at the Falls
The plan for Portico at the Falls, a 37,000-square-foot, four-story building on the former Greg’s Auto Site at Nawadaha and Minnehaha Parkway (4737 Minnehaha), has been approved by the city.
The building project by The Lander Group, Assembly MN and Martha Dayton Design will offer 26 condos with 10 flexible floor plans. Prices will range from low $300s to mid $900s for the one bedroom plus den, two bedroom, and three-bedroom units.
In response to residents’ concerns, Assembly submitted a revised plan that converted the original two-story townhome-style units along Minnehaha Ave. into one-story flats. The first floor will still have a front entry stoop and landscaped approach from Minnehaha.
The individual at-grade parking garages off of the alley were replaced with two condos with at grade patios. All parking will now be below grade and there will not be a drive lane along that side of the building.
The building will still have 26 units and 27 underground parking spaces plus a car lift system that provides the ability to have owners park a second car over their first car. Assembly anticipates a total of approximately 37 cars in the parking garage using this lift system.
The building remains a four-story building, with the fourth floor set back on Minnehaha as previously shown. General building materials and massing are similar to that shown at prior community meetings with modifications as necessary to accommodate the townhomes.
Low limestone walls, concrete walks, and high-quality landscaping (including pollinator-friendly approaches) will provide a setting for the building that complements its aesthetic and creates a connection to the park. Bike parking will also be provided both outdoors and within the building.

Time for stage 3 at Minnehaha Crossing
The third stage of the Minnehaha Crossing project is underway at the former Rainbow site at Minnehaha Ave. and Lake St. Midtown Corner is the next project in Wellington Management’s multi-phase redevelopment there.
The new, six-story Midtown Corner project will include 189 apartments, of which 38 affordable apartments will be available to households earning 60% or less of area median income. Studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units will be available for rent starting early 2020.
The project also includes 8,600 square feet of ground-floor retail space. An additional 3,500-square-foot retail building, located in the southwest corner of the site, will be constructed in 2022.
Building construction began in October. Prior to that, the existing parking lot in front of the Aldi grocery store was improved.

Starbucks at 42nd?
The planning commission said no again to a proposed Starbucks drive-through at 42nd and Hiawatha.
Property owner Nick Boosalis of Wash Me Corporation proposed two buildings at the 0.57-acre site (4159 Hiawatha Ave.) to replace the car wash. One is the Starbucks single-story drive-through at the interior of the lot. The second would house a restaurant and office space that would surround the drive-thru building and would have frontage on E. 42nd St. and Hiawatha Ave. A 17-stall surface parking lot was proposed along the east side of the property. The submitted materials indicated that the buildings would be engineered to accommodate up to nine additional stories in the future for residential expansion.
The applicant received a conditional use permit and site plan review from the city planning commission on June 11, 2018 to construct a new four-story building with a coffee shop drive-thru and 43 dwelling units. The approved building had a very similar footprint as the most recent one. Those approvals expire two years from the date of approval on June 11, 2020. According to the city staff report, the applicant has indicated they prefer to construct the first floor at this time without the upper residential floors which requires a new application to the planning commission.
The city of Minneapolis recently adopted a regulation that prohibits new drive-thru facilities city-wide, but will allow anything that went through prior to Aug. 8, 2019.
Residents have expressed concern about adding traffic at that intersections.
“This intersection is already overloaded during rush hours. If it’s use is even close to the drive through at Cedar and the parkway our neighborhood and it’s habitants will suffer,” said local resident Eric Johannessen in a written statement given to the planning commission.
Fellow neighborhood resident Joanna Olson wrote, “The thought of a drive‐thru on that corner is terrifying to me as a bicyclist and pedestrian using that intersection at least twice daily.”
The proposal was denied by the planning commission on Oct. 21 due to traffic safety concerns. The developer appealed that denial to the Minneapolis Zoning and Planning Committee and it will be back before the committee on Dec. 5.

28th Bridge
The completion of the 28th bridge at Minnehaha Creek has been delayed due to weather and issues with utilities. Public works staff is working out options with the contractor to determine the new timeline.

Look for more updates in the next edition of the Messenger.

Contact the editor at tesha@longfellownokomismessenger.com.

Comments Off on What’s happening in the neighborhood?

Informal networks promote community building at Becketwood

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Members of the Cat Consortium around 19-year-old Tally the Cat include: (left to right) Linda Kusserow, Bonnie Porte, and owner Clare Fossum, who relied on the other women during a recent time away. (Photo by Terry Faust)

by Iric Nathanson
Earlier this year, when Clare Fossum had to spend time recovering from a medical procedure, she knew she could rely on her neighbors at Becketwood Cooperative to look after her elderly companion while she was away from home recuperating at a local rehab center.
Fossum’s companion happened to be her 19-year-old cat, Tally, who had made friends with two neighbors, Bonnie Porte and Linda Kusserow. Porte lived down the hall and Kusserow was two floors away. They each took turns feeding Tally, bringing her fresh water and spending time with her while Fossum was in rehab.
“It was a great relief for me to know that Linda and Bonnie were there every day looking after Tally,” Fossum said. “She knew them and they knew her. It was not as if some strangers were always coming and going in the apartment. That would only have upset her.”
Fossum, Porte and Kusserow had been part of an informal network of cat owners at Becketwood who looked after each other’s pets when they were away. The neighbors at the “55 plus” senior co-op bonded over their common connections to their feline friends and formed their own friendship circle within the broader Becketwood community.
The network has evolved into a more formally structured Cat Consortium with two teams, one for each wing of the building. Cat owners email their team members when they need a neighbor to care for their pet.
“It is all very well organized,” Porte explained. “We even have a form that people fill out indicating their kitty’s food preferences, their medication needs, and the contact information for their vets.”

Comfort Singers
While their small feline friends brought members of the Cat Consortium together, other neighbors at Becketwood have bonded over their love of singing. They are known as the Becketwood Comfort Singers. They bring their music to people at Becketwood or in a care facility who may be house-bound or seriously ill or facing end-of-life issues. Their leader, Ruth Gaylord, patterned the Comfort Singers after a similar group she had formed at the Basilica of St. Mary.
Gaylord, a former high school choral director, lives with ovarian cancer. She said that she has thought about being surrounded by beautiful choral music when she is dying. “I would like a small ensemble to sing beautiful music to me as I approach the end of this life. So I looked for men and women from Becketwood who had experience as choral singers who would want to be part of a small ensemble to offer that gift to others.”
She added, “We offer our singing to those who request it, and then only when we have checked with them or their families in advance to find out what kind of music they would like to hear. Some people don’t want to be sung to when they’re going through a difficult time. We understand that.”

Member activities

Enjoying an excursion to Urban Growler are, left to right, (starting in the front) Carol Bechtel, Mickey Monsen, Gerhard Johnson, Loren Flicker, David Liddle, Lorene Liddle, and Howard Bergstrom. (Photo by Terry Faust)

The Comfort Singers may be a select group with limited membership, but that is not the case with more than a dozen special interest clusters at Becketwood known as the Member Activities Committees. The individual committees are coordinated by an umbrella organization, the Members Activities Council (MAC).
“They may be called committees, but they are activities for people who may not like to go to committee meetings,” says Bob Kirk, a former MAC chair. ‘We have a craft committee for people who like to paint, knit or quilt, a workshop group for people who like to do woodwork and a pantry committee for folks who want to help run our little convenience store. If you are having fun at Becketwood, you are probably involved in a MAC committee.”
Kirk, himself, has had fun organizing a series of pub crawls sponsored by Becketwood’s Excursion Committee. “When all the brew pubs started opening up, I thought people here might want to see what they were all about. They all liked that first excursion so we started doing more of them,” Kirk said.
“Now, when we do a pub crawl, some of us come for the beer, but others come for the camaraderie even if they are not beer drinkers. If you are sitting next to someone who has just moved into Becketwood, it is a good way for you to get to know the newcomer or the newcomer to get to know you.”
Newcomers also get to know their neighbors in Becketwood’s workshop which hosts a coffee gathering every weekday morning starting at 10 a.m. “Morning coffee used to be all men, but women have started showing up and they always welcome,“ said Joel Mortensen, who co-chairs the Workshop Committee with Todd Gulliver.
Ray Mikkelson, a coffee drinking regular, admits that he comes down to the workshop for some male bonding. Mikkelson remembers taking a tour of Becketwood while he and his wife, Helen, were still on the waiting list.
“I kept wondering where the men were; I didn’t see any on the tour,” said Mikkelson. “Then somebody told me that I should go to the workshop in the basement. When I got there and opened the door, I saw a group of men drinking coffee and having a good time. They took me in right away and I felt at home. This is where I want to live, I told myself, and it made our move to Becketwood much easier for me.”

Community building
Wayne Tellekson, another workshop regular, also serves as a tour guide for people who are thinking about moving to Becketwood. “When I talk to prospective members about our community I tell them about the experience that my wife, Sindy, and I had when we first arrived here. We had moved from Mendota Heights where we didn’t have much contact with the people who lived nearby. On the second day we were here, two of our new Becketwood neighbors came up to us,introduced themselves, told that they were having a picnic in the courtyard, and invited us to join them. I looked at Sindy and said, ‘We are home!’”
Tellekson added, “I tend to think that we have this strong community because the people who are looking for a sense of community are the people who come here. They are not just looking for a place to live. The Twin Cities have lots of options for seniors if that is all you are looking for. They have heard that Becketwood is a welcoming place. And so when they come here, they help to build on that sense of community.”
* Editor’s note: Writer Iric Nathanson is a member of the Becketwood Cooperative.

Comments Off on Informal networks promote community building at Becketwood

Tags:

Neighborhood mail carrier retires after long, satisfying career

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Jay Morgen was inspired by grandfather, who could find all those big silver mailboxes ‘like magic’

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Jay Morgen hung up his mail bag at the Minnehaha Station for the last time on Friday, Aug. 31. After nearly 20 years with the US Postal Service, the veteran mail carrier retired.
During summers spent in South Dakota, Morgan remembered bouncing along dusty back roads in his grandfather’s old jeep. His grandfather was a rural mail carrier, and he liked to bring his grandkids along when he could.
Morgen said, “It seemed like magic that he could find all those big silver mailboxes, and he knew every farmer by name. The memory of those times played into my decision to become a mail carrier years later, but it wasn’t my first career.”
He had to suffer through 18 years at a West Lake Street car dealership first, doing financing and sales in a stuffy, crowded office. In Morgen’s unedited words, “I hated it!”
When he was still at the car dealership, Morgen contacted the US Postal Service. An avid golfer and long distance runner (with several sub-three hours marathons to his credit), he thought a walking mail route would be a good fit for him. He longed for a job that required mental concentration, provided a lot of outdoor exercise, and gave him time alone to think.
Morgen took the US Postal Service battery exam, so named because it contains a battery of different tests used to determine if a candidate is best suited to be a letter carrier, a mail handler, or a clerk. The test was given to thousands of applicants in an auditorium at the U of M.
He was sent to Carrier Academy, assigned a blue uniform, and began working as a trainee in April of 2000.
Since then, the world of mail delivery has changed completely.
Morgen said, “When I first started, on a Monday there would be a dozen or more tubs of mail to deliver for each route. Now three tubs of mail are considered a lot. The volume of mail is about 15% of what it used to be, but the volume of packages has increased at least 10-fold.”

People made route wonderful
Assigned to the Minnehaha Station for the last 16 years, Morgen averaged 12+ miles of walking per day – more when he worked overtime.
He said, “The people on my route made the job wonderful. I’ve written well over 100 thank you notes in the last few weeks. I never could have been a mail carrier in the suburbs, where you drive from mailbox to mailbox and never get to talk to anyone.”
While he will miss his customers, there are a few things Morgen will not miss.
He said, “The last couple of winters have been really hard because of all the ice events. In the course of my career, I’ve fallen dozens of times. As a carrier, you learn to pull your arms in when you fall – to aim for the snow when you’re going down. Of all the surfaces, painted wooden steps are the worst.”
And in every season, of course, there are dogs. Morgen said, “I had 34 incidents where I was bitten, some nips and some multiple bites. I think I’ll always be a little leery of dogs, but I also understand why mail carriers frustrate them. Every day we come onto their property; they bark, and we leave. But then we come back the next day, and the whole thing happens all over again. Who wouldn’t be frustrated by that?”

What’s next: tiny home and golf
For his next chapter of life, Morgen is setting out on an adventure.
He purchased a tiny home from Escape Traveler in Rice Lake, Wis., and is moving to Austin, Texas.
He said, “I don’t know the city at all, but their weather is good. I’m going to treat myself to a lot of golf for the next few years. My first order of business will be to meet a bunch of people, because you need people.”

Things he’s learned as a mail carrier
Morgen’s 20 years of pounding the ground as a mail career have taught him all kinds of valuable things: to dress in layers, to be kind, to bring extra socks and gloves, to carry a first-aid kit complete wet wipes, to write thank you notes, to stick to a schedule, and to know his route backwards and forwards.

Comments Off on Neighborhood mail carrier retires after long, satisfying career

Tags:

Rename Historic Fort Snelling?

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Minnesota Historical Society convenes listening sessions across the state

The Minnesota Historical Society held its fifth public listening session about the possible renaming of Historic Fort Snelling earlier this month. Audience members responded to questions like, “What should the MNHS consider in a name for this site?” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Does the name Historic Fort Snelling accurately reflect the multiple histories of this place?
That was the question asked by the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) when it convened the fifth in a series of six listening sessions across the state on Monday, Oct. 15.
The public meeting was held at Northern Star Scouting Base Camp, 6201 Bloomington Rd. and the purpose of the listening session was to hear public comment about the possible renaming of Historic Fort Snelling.
MNHS deputy director of learning initiatives Kevin Maijala, said, “We want to be clear that the fort itself will not be renamed. However, the fort is just one piece of the 23-acre parcel owned by the historical society.”
The larger Unorganized Territory of Fort Snelling is owned by several different entities including the Minnesota DNR, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, the Veteran’s Administration, Minnesota Department of Transportation, the U.S. Navy, and the Boy Scouts of America.
Fort Snelling sits directly above the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. Archaeological evidence demonstrates that the area has been inhabited by humans for more than 10,000 years.
The reason for considering a new name is that this confluence of rivers is also a confluence of stories, and many believe only one story is being told by the current name.
MNHS is in the process of a major revitalization project at the site, with a $34.5 million budget (a combination of state of Minnesota appropriations and private donations.) Included in the revitalization is the creation of a new visitor center with 4,000 square feet of exhibition space.
Maijala said, “We’ve been trying to tell a more expanded story at this site since 2006. Many voices make up our history here, and it is our job at the Historical Society to make sure those diverse stories are heard.”

Another Minneapolis resident spoke about why the site is important to him, and why, in his opinion, the name should not be changed. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Historic Fort Snelling has been the site of many divergent experiences: some well-known and some not. Soldiers, veterans and their families, enslaved and free African Americans, Japanese Americans, and Native Americans have all lived (and sometimes died) at the fort.
Audience members at the listening session spoke across a broad spectrum of opinion.
Pam Costain, a former Minneapolis School Board member, said, “I walk in Fort Snelling State Park regularly. The confluence of these rivers means a lot to me, both historically and spiritually. This is the place where many Dakota women and children died in the winter of 1862-63. We weren’t told this story in Minnesota for a long time, and now is the time to start. I’m in favor of choosing a name that reflects this story, and also reflects the beauty of the confluence (Bdote in Dakota) because names matter.”
Dr. Curtis Dahlin is a historian with a deep interest in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. He said, “I see Fort Snelling as a military site; that’s what is important to me. I think the MNHS wants to turn it into a Dakota site, and I don’t want to see that happen.”

Participants attending the listening session viewed information panels about Historic Fort Snelling, including its 2006 designation as a “Site of Conscience.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

To ensure a positive listening process, a neutral facilitator set ground rules for respectful communication including refraining from interruption and argument, taking turns, and asking questions for clarity and better understanding.
So far, MNHS has received more than 5,000 responses on a web-based survey about the proposed name change for Historic Fort Snelling. Go to www.mnhs.or/fortsnelling/naming to complete a survey before Nov. 15.

Comments Off on Rename Historic Fort Snelling?

Tags: ,

Longfellow filmmaker tells redemptive stories of covering up racist tattoos

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By JAN WILLMS

Billy White helps a customer cover up a tattoo. (Photo submitted)

When the white supremacist rally took place in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, and a woman was killed, many people were upset. It was a frightening reminder of how hateful symbols and actions were surfacing within this country.
Billy Joe White, owner of the Red Rose Tattoo shop in Zanesville, Ohio, watched the news coverage along with everyone else. But he decided to do something.
He offered his services pro bono to anyone who might want to come in and get a racist tattoo covered up.
His story has now been documented in an Emmy-nominated short film, “Beneath the Ink,” shot and directed by Cy Dodson, a filmmaker who lives in the Longfellow neighborhood.

Redemptive stories
Although the tattoo parlor was in Dodson’s home town in Ohio, he did not know anything about it. “I just saw an article going around on social media about Billy and how he was covering up tattoos. A fellow had driven three and a half hours from Cleveland to get a large head of Hitler on his calf covered up. I found it interesting and redemptive. People had opened up about their past lives.”
So while he was back in his hometown working on another project, Dodson connected with White and talked a bit. He said he had a couple people coming in that weekend. One of them was John, who had a KKK tattoo on his back. He had adopted an African American kid and wanted to cover up the tattoo.
Dodson spent the weekend in the tattoo shop and the next day talked with John at his house. John was willing to cooperate and talk about his past, what led him to get the tattoo, and what had changed in his life.
“I went back to Minnesota, edited the film and realized I needed a few more shots. So a couple months later I returned to Ohio and shot a few more things,” Dodson said.
“It all happened at once,” Dodson said, regarding the strong response to “Beneath the Ink.” It premiered in Cleveland, and then it showed here at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF). It just started going around the country, and it’s done pretty well.
The film has won a dozen awards on the film festival circuit. “The festival route has been successful,” Dodson said. He did not submit it for an Emmy nomination, but the film went online and GQ picked it up for its website. “They thought it was a good fit for the Emmys, and wanted me to release it to them,” Dodson said. “They knew it had the opportunity to be at least nominated.” The film has also qualified for the Academy Awards.

Filmmaker Cy Dodson says “Beneath the Ink” has set a new bar for his filmmaking. (Photo submitted)

Learning how to tell a perfect story
Dodson began his career in Ohio after graduating from college in 1996.
”I took a job working in news in my hometown,” he recalled. “I jumped around for a while and ended up at KSTP in the Twin Cities. I have been freelancing since 2006.”
Dodson said he does a lot of work for corporate and nonprofit organizations, but he likes finding human interest stories in his films. He said he thinks this latest documentary about white supremacy and its rise is about a broad range of people and a current issue.
Dodson has made three documentaries in the past four years, but he said none have resonated like “Beneath the Ink.”
“My other films took a lot longer than this one, weeks and weeks of shooting for a result about the same time,” Dodson said. “For ‘Beneath the Ink,’ I didn’t shoot as much footage and the editing was not as time-consuming. With this film, I wanted to be focused on the story and not try to do a lot of other things and waste my time and everyone else’s.”
His background in working for news stations helped develop his filmmaking process, according to Dodson. “It kind of forces you to do it all in a short amount of time,” he explained. “You do it quickly and efficiently and in a short amount of time. You know how to tell a story, and you keep doing that over and over. You learn how to tell a perfect story.”
His experience led him to want to tell longer stories rather than the two-minute news items. This led him to his documentary work.

Norwegian project next
His next project has already taken him to Norway. He is documenting the story of the Letnes family from northern Norway. Stephen Letnes, a member of the family and a composer for “Beneath the Ink,” joined Dodson on his trip to Norway.
Dotson said that typically, the oldest son in Norwegian families inherits the family farm, and the second son survives on his own. Three of the Letnes sons moved to the Fargo-Moorhead area and started potato farms. The film will be about a family lineage story and Norwegian immigration to northern Minnesota.

A new bar for himself
“Beneath the Ink” has set a bar for his filmmaking, according to Dodson. “When you have something successful, how do you build on that?” He said he shot and edited the film himself, then brought on producers. He said he met his co-producers at a film festival. He brought on Melody Gilbert, a local film producer, to help with international distribution.
“You just build as you go,” Dodson said. He claimed the learning process of making films is what he likes best. But he admitted that the success of this film has brought on a new series of challenges.
“You meet with lawyers, you’re on the phones, you’re in meetings, there’s distribution. I’ve never sold a film before, and it’s trial by fire.”
Dodson, who considers himself an introvert, said he thinks shooting “Beneath the Ink” in his home town was helpful.
“The people opened up to me, and it was a different pace. There were never any questions asked, and everybody trusted each other,” he remarked.
But he said taking his film to festivals across the country has helped him be more assertive and feel more comfortable interviewing people. “It forces you to give your spiel and talk with people,” he stated.
When he attended the Emmy celebration in New York, he connected with people in the industry. He said that while LA is considered the mecca for narrative fiction, New York is the stronghold for documentaries.
He said he would like to extend “Beneath the Ink” from a short 12-minute documentary into a documentary feature.
“There are still a lot more people coming in from across the country wanting cover-ups. I am looking at teaming up with producers and doing a longer story,” Dodson said.
“I think I have aligned myself with good people to take this to the next level.”

Comments Off on Longfellow filmmaker tells redemptive stories of covering up racist tattoos

Tags:

Sacred Sites Tours seek healing through storytelling

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Reverend Jim Bear Jacobs ended a Sacred Sites Tour with a song atop the indigenous burial ground at Pilot Knob Hill. He said, “These tours are meant to raise the level of collective conscience. We owe it to the people of Bdote to understand their story.” >> SEE RELATED STORY ON FORT SNELLING NAME. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Bdote is the Dakota word for “meeting place of rivers.” It refers to the junction of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers: a confluence that many Dakota people consider their site of creation. The junction of these two mighty rivers is just below Fort Snelling, and directly across from St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Mendota.
Reverend Jim Bear Jacobs (Mohican) is a local theologian, historian, and story teller. He created Healing Minnesota Stories in 2011 to foster understanding and healing between Native and non-Native people, particularly those in various faith communities.
He said, “Native people have suffered deep trauma, losing their land, language, and culture over time. While countless people and institutions contributed to this trauma, it happened with the full participation of Christian churches. We all need healing. Healing is doable, and churches have a role to play in that healing.”
About 40 Sacred Sites Tours are offered annually through Healing Minnesota Stories; each tour visits three sacred sites in the Bdote area. Jacobs thought interest in the tours might continue through the 150th commemoration of the 1862 US-Dakota War in 2012 and then wane — but interest kept growing. More than 7,000 people have participated in his tours to date. Only 4-5 are open to the public each year; the rest are for church groups, colleges, and universities.
Along with his friend and co-presenter Bob Klanderud (Dakota), Jacobs uses the power of storytelling to heal because, “stories make invisible pain visible.”

Sacred Sites Tour participants gathered at the Fort Snelling memorial site. More than 1,700 Dakota people were interned here during the bitter winter of 1863, before being deported from their Minnesota homeland. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Sacred Sites Tours start on the lawn of St. Peter’s Catholic Church at 1405 Sibley Memorial Highway, the oldest Catholic church in Minnesota.
Jacobs explained, “The first treaty between the U.S. Government and the Dakota people was signed in 1805, and the first piece of stolen land is right here. The treaty stated that cooperative use of the land beneath our feet would be protected in perpetuity. The Dakota people were assured the right to move across this land nine miles in any direction: to make their home here, to fish, hunt, and gather, to live out their lives in peace.
“This nine-mile radius of stolen land includes all of downtown Minneapolis, most of downtown St. Paul, and everything in-between, even the Mall of America,” said Jacobs.
He continued, “Like Fort Snelling, we believe St. Peter’s Catholic Church was erected as a sign of supremacy and domination over the Dakota people in their most sacred place. We hold no ill will toward St. Peter’s at this time, but we cannot ignore their presence here either. To address some of the pain we feel, the church has taken several steps to address healing. One step is that every year on the second Saturday in September, they offer their grounds to the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota for their annual Pow Wow. This September marked the 20th year.”
The second stop on the tour is in Fort Snelling State Park, the most visited state park in Minnesota. In 1987, the Dakota community erected a monument near the Visitor Center: a circular enclosure made of logs that fan open to the sky. The monument bears the Dakota words, “Wokiksuye K’a Woyuonihan,” and the English words, “Remembering and Honoring.”

As tour participants parted, Reverend Jim Bear Jacobs said, “We believe that every human being is called upon to be an agent of justice – in a world that desperately needs us.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Jacobs said, “This valley is a place of birth, life, creation, and genesis. We tell stories of how full-term pregnant women used to walk for days to deliver their babies here. But this valley is also a place of pain, anguish, death, and genocide. This was the internment site for more than 1,700 Dakota (primarily women, elders, and children) when the 1862 U.S.-Dakota war ended. They were forced to march 150 miles from the Lower Sioux Agency in western Minnesota. They overwintered here through brutal conditions until they were deported the next spring.
“To this day, there are far more Dakota people living outside of Minnesota than there are living within. This was a diaspora.”

A meaningful part of the tour experience was being given time for quiet reflection throughout the afternoon. At the Fort Snelling memorial site, each participant received a pinch of tobacco to leave as an offering for those who died.
Jacobs said, “Walk among the trees and as you do, listen into the ears of your spirit and your heart. Hold the tobacco close, to solidify your prayer in this place.”
The final tour stop was Pilot Knob Hill, a 112-acre parcel of public/private land in Mendota that is a sacred indigenous burial ground and meeting place for Dakota people. A big circle was marked on the ground, divided into quarters and filled with four different colors of gravel (signifying the different colors of humanity).
Standing in the circle with tour participants, Jacobs said, “The earth cries out for help; her people need direction. For the protection of the earth, and for those who make their home here, we must all come together in solidarity.”
Reverend Jim Bear Jacobs is director of racial justice for the Minnesota Council of Churches. When he accepted that position last year, he brought Healing Minnesota Stories with him. The Sacred Sites Tours are now operated under the auspices of MCC. Tours are appropriate for ages 18+ and are offered at no cost, though free will offerings are greatly appreciated.
For information about the 2020 schedule, contact jimbearjacobs@mcc.org.

Comments Off on Sacred Sites Tours seek healing through storytelling

Long buried toxic dump at Hidden Falls Park getting attention

Posted on 08 November 2019 by Tesha Christensen

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

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
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.
“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. It’s unknown whether concentration levels are safe for human health or the environment. 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 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.”

Comments Off on Long buried toxic dump at Hidden Falls Park getting attention

Nilles-Filler-Combo-Online-ad-10292015