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Kate leads the revolution to safer schools and gun control
March 7, 2018, 9:12 pm
Filed under: St Paul

OK – maybe she isn’t singled-handedly leading the effort – but she’s there in the front row and I’m super proud of her. The MN School Walkout is a student-led effort to raise awareness and protest gun violence – especially in the wake of the school shooting in Florida last month. Apparently there were 15 schools participating. I saw that 770 people had signed up to participate as of yesterday. I’m terrible with estimating crowd size but I heard there were 2,000 students.

Kate worked with her school (CDH) to get involved. In fact, Kate was one of a few students interviewed for an Editorial in the Pioneer Press. For the CDH kids, the walkout started around 10:30; they walked (or drove) to Central High School where they met with the rest of the group and walked to the Capitol.

I caught up with them midway; I was Tweeting for the Women’s March at the event. They marched to the Capitol – cheered and then moved to the Leif Erickson Park (next door to the Capitol) for a rally. Their signs were great. They kids were super enthusiastic. Plenty of legislators watched and I talked to a few who also had kids in the crowd. People were proud and optimistic for our future to have kids so ready to rally. I couldn’t hear much of the speakers – but there was plenty of cheers. It was chilly (20 degrees and windy) and the park was covered in deep snow but the kids persisted.

Kudos to CDH for embracing the opportunity. I got a call saying Kate was missing from school, that many students were going to the walkout and that the school was OK with it. Please contact the school if as a parent you weren’t OK with it and your kid would get Saturday detention.

There was one odd duck in the crowd promoting “Castle Laws” but I have to give him props – he’s exercising his right to free speech!

Circuit Sisters Robotics Team Goes to State – ends up finalists
February 11, 2018, 1:36 am
Filed under: St Paul

A season of ups and downs and CAD and 3D printers, drivers, engineering books and alliances has come to a spectacular end. Aine’s all girl robotics team did very well.

They started strong and were even in first place a few times throughout the morning. During the morning two divisions of 24 teams each compete multiple times. For each match they are randomly matched with an alliance team. Each alliance gets points with each match. Rankings for the morning are based on points awarded throughout the 6 matches played during the morning. The ranking is shown throughout. It’s a moment of joy or a slippery slope of dismay as you team goes up and down. We had ups and downs.

The first match was awesome. But the third match was a little rough. The robot arm got weak, too weak to pick up the blocks. (I won’t even go into the scoring system for the matches as it’s so complex – but picking up blocks is a good thing.)  By the fifth match the arm was back to full strength and they even boosted the power.

At the end of the morning, the girls were ranked 9. Also at the end of the morning, the top four teams each select two teams to join them to form an alliance for the afternoon matches. Part of the robotics game is getting to know the other teams – trying to form potential alliances. Being in place 13 their odds were good but we just didn’t know. Aine was chosen to accept the alliance if they were asked. As the spots filled, we all started to bite nails. But thankfully, there were chosen.

So we stayed the afternoon. The first and fourth alliances duke it out and the second and third duke it out. Pleased to report that the girls’ alliance won in three matches against the second alliance. So on to the next bracket. Sadly their luck run out. They lost in two matches (it’s always best two out of three) to the first alliance. To be fair, the first alliance was very good.

We stayed for the awards. They got to troop across the gym floor to pick up their medals. We were all so proud. They all worked so well together. They cheered for everyone. The met so many people. They charmed and wheedled their way into great places all season.

Their coaches are awesome. Anne keeps everyone going and gets the school on board with everything. Her work has been such a game changer for Aine and others. Then there’s Walter – coach extraordinaire. He put up with a gaggle of 13 year old girls pulling in 13 different directions most days. He taught Aine so much about robotics but just about having a  positive attitude and how to embrace the iterative process. Without a doubt, robotics has been the best thing for Aine in 8 years at Nativity. We are sad to see it go but live on the fumes of its success!



Tweeting and Snapping for the Women’s March MN
January 22, 2018, 5:22 pm
Filed under: St Paul

Yesterday Aine and I volunteered to help with social media at the Women’s March MN event. It was awesome. She ran the SnapChat. I ran Twitter. We posted pictures, quotes, videos. It was a great way get involved and stay engaged. They were thrilled to have someone young enough to be proficient in SnapChat. And nothing I like better than live Tweeting a conference.

There was some controversy – mostly because this was an event with performers and speakers, not a march. It was indoors and required a ticket. It sold out, which meant there were people who wanted to go but couldn’t. The goal was to deepen the motivation and encourage action from a stronger base rather than reach out to wider base. That wasn’t my decision. The event is run entirely by volunteers so I think whatever happens is great.

The biggest thrill was meeting the woman who was 102 (and 2/3) . She had a great sign and had been one of the early directors of Planned Parenthood – in the 60s. That’s a tough chick! And she was thrilled to be meeting so many young people. Then we heard from women of all walks of life – elected officials such as Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American Muslim legislator elected to office in the United States, Andrea Jenkins and the first African American openly trans woman to be elected to office in the United States. There were performers like Soul Beautiful and K.Raydio. And there were activists such as Leslie Redmond – who had been married earlier in the day. That’s dedication.

Rather than try to recount the whole afternoon, I thought I’d share quotes and pictures we shared yesterday on behalf of the group:

  • People want to work with people they like – first step – get out and get to know people! @LegallyBlack18
  • “I honor the women before. She always speaks for truth!” @KorinaBarry
  • “Don’t be an ally – be an accomplice! Together we rise!
  • @namd4kids
  • “You must look into your heart. Know where you are missing the mark. Actions are born of self-determination. ” @libritos
  • “I was raised to believe that women have a rightful seat at the table. That women were the past, present and future!” @IlhanMN
  • “I come with too many invisible treasures … I am a refugee and I challenge humanity” @ifrahMansour
  • “Bodily autonomy is a basic right! Women can decide what is best for ourselves and our families. Consider this when you vote!” @karenkellylaw
  • “We’re here to let our elders know we haven’t stopped. We’re still going. Pass the message onto the next generation – you are strong and mighty”
  • @MariaIsa
  • “What if love was the most powerful word in the language. Love, Love, Love Love…” @annapoetic

33rd Annual Homeless Memorial Walk in Minneapolis
December 22, 2017, 3:59 am
Filed under: Minneapolis, Minnesota

You just never know what you’re going to find when you go for a walk – especially with Monica. Tonight Aine and I met up with Monica for the 33rd Annual Homeless Memorial.

The walk starts at the Hennepin Government Center and ends with a service at St Stephen’s Church and Shelter. It is in honor of the folks in the homeless community who have passed away in the last year; for the people and the families and friends of people who didn’t have enough money for a service or even an obituary and for the people who have served those people through their jobs and/or avocation.

Sadly 180 people in the homeless community died in Minnesota. People at St Stephen’s created placards with the name, age and location of each people. We each carried a sign. Aine walked for Donovan, Monica for Betty and I walked for Robert.

It’s about a 2 mile walk. It was cold. We saw some carolers and hot chocolate along the way. We met a lot of people on the walk, especially since Monica knows everyone. We walked with one person who recently found permanent housing through the VA. Aine told me later that she found him very interesting. He was walking with his dog. He had recently been reunited with the dog; thanks to the permanent housing placement. He had some ill health. He talked about how hard it had been finding housing. Dealing with safe shelters closing, living on the streets and who he trusted and didn’t trust when living outside. Then he mentioned that his dog had been sick and he was now in debt more than $900 for vet bills. And even with the vet visits, he didn’t expect his dog (who was older) to survive the winter. So sad.

We walked to the church, left the placards at the altar and then Monica gave us a quick tour of the shelter. Monica stayed for the ceremony, which included songs, stories and reading of the names and lighting of the candles. The ceremony was followed by a free dinner served in the shelter. An opportunity for folks to mingle and meet. Such a nice idea – that being said, it would be nice to see the purpose for it end. As I walked in the cold tonight I appreciated that I was outside because I chose to be out – and I felt for those who don’t have the choice.

How Does Birth Order Affect Self Esteem?
December 8, 2017, 2:56 am
Filed under: Minnesota, St Paul

Today was Aine’s science fair. She researched the impact of birth order on self-esteem. I wanted to post her results so that we could easily share with the many people who helped her out by taking the survey that was key to her project.

Here’s the quick take – birth order doesn’t have an impact on self-esteem. She used a survey to gauge self-esteem and compared results based on birth order (oldest, middle, youngest, only). You can read her whole report or check out her poster board in the picture

Aine’s robotics team is going to State
November 20, 2017, 6:49 pm
Filed under: St Paul


The Cinderella story of the robotics world is the meteoric climb of the Circuit Sisters. OK maybe I don’t mean meteoric, maybe I mean lucky as all get out!

Aine’s team is all girls. This is their second year. If you’re not wise to the world of robotics, the deal is you work and work and work and you get one meet to show your stuff. So today the girls’ robot probably didn’t not perform as well as it could have. They had five qualifying heat. At one point they were in 20th place out of 24; next we looked they were 16. I’m not sure where they ended in the ranking – and the beauty of robotics is that it doesn’t really matter. There’s a lot of room for wildcards.

So the drill is a morning full of qualifying heats leads to determining the top four teams. Those four teams each get to select two teams to form their alliance. It did not occur to us that the Circuit Sisters would be selected. But the first team chose the second team, third team selected the fifth – in other words the top teams were all forming alliances, which I thought might be good for the wildcards. But you could have knocked us all over when Circuit Sisters were the second choice of the first team!!

The next stage is a play off – the first and fourth alliances (and second and third) play a best of three tournament. The winners play each other for another best two out of three for big winners. Turns out the robot from one of the teams wasn’t working so Circuit Sisters ended up in the ring (only two teams of two in the ring at a time) all of the first three matches. Things were up and down. At one point, they forgot to turn the robot on. It didn’t move – at all. As luck would have it, another team on the other alliance made the same mistake. Yup it’s that kind of intense.

In the end, the first ranked team (Next Gen) just rocked -. really, really, really rocked and that brute muscle got the win for the alliance. And all of teams on the winning alliance go to State. But the girls had something about them that got them selected for the alliance. AND they were able to help out another alliance team with an extra motor and some expertise. So they absolutely proved their worth. And no one can underestimate the cheer-ability of 13 teenage girls!

Also the girls won the innovator award!!

So now we’re basking in the glory – and by basking I mean Aine has been figuring out how to make the robot better for the tournament in February.

I have to add that the robotics leaders are amazing. Mr Harrier and Mrs Dougherty have spent hours with these kids helping them learn how to build a robot, helping them how to work effectively with each other, helping them internalize the robotics (First Tech) motto gracious professionalism. These kids help each other, make room for each other and cheer each other on. Nice job leaders!

The terrible beauty of a well-kept homeless campsite – awesome and heartbreaking
November 18, 2017, 8:00 pm
Filed under: St Paul

My friend Monica and I have walked literally hundreds of miles together. She has introduced me to running, a more purposeful generosity, Minneapolis politics and the world of advocacy for the homeless. On a classically Minnesotan cool, crisp sunny autumn day a couple weeks ago she brought me face to face with an unusual homeless campsite.

It was amazing. The footprint is easily the same size as a generous house. There is a dining room, living room, sitting room, lots of sprawling space. And every inch of every room is filled with a little piece of art or tchotchke. The parameters of the space are loosely a bridge, a walking path, a rusted out truck and a shed-like building. You could walk by this place a hundred times and note realize how extensive it is.

The home is kept by a couple – that I will call Peter (Pan) and Wendy because this reminds me of Never Never Land. It’s as if someone brought everything out of your grandma’s house and rebuilt the home outdoors. Commemorative plates, dolls, a dining room set up with china! The tree decorated with empty pop cans and airplane bottles of booze is less grandma-like but crafty and weirdly beautiful when it catches the light. And clever use of refuse. Walking up to the “door” we saw pots of plastic flowers lining the walkway. There are matching sconces on the wall, tennis shoes, pictures and hubcaps.

Each item had significance or purpose at some time and it feels like that significance or purpose has been extended by being a part of this home. It’s post-apocalyptic; it’s timeless. It is the childhood fort beyond your wildest dreams. It’s very romantic – even as you imagine being out here in the dead of winter. Even as you imagine trying to get cover from the rain. Even as you wonder how this place has been preserved and not vandalized or gentrified. It still seems romantic.

Until Monica says – but just imagine the rats and mice. It’s snaps you back into grownup reality that while the creativity, perseverance and ingenuity are applauded, the need for a home without walls is heartbreaking. There is a chance that this couple sleeps in a shelter. Most shelters, most of the year, are run like bed and breakfasts – you can’t hang around during the day. So this may be a daytime haven. The couple is unable to qualify for more permanent housing together. (They are not teenagers; these are seniors.) They busk for money and apparently are gifted musicians. Mental health plays a role in their circumstances. As it often does with homelessness.

Visiting their home was a reminder to me that my reality – my worries and joys are not universal. I have a lot; I have so much I don’t save commemorative plates, hubcaps or shoes. I have to remember the other realities out there – when I donate, when I volunteer, when I vote.

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