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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.



Day of Religion Part 2 – Confirmation
November 6, 2017, 1:37 am
Filed under: Minnesota, St Paul

After our morning at the peaceful Buddhist Temple, the confirmation at the Cathedral was like a mad house. Well – like a full house anyway. I tried to look at the art like it was art but of course I have spent hundreds of hours in the Cathedral (and that was today alone!).

The Cathedral is majestic. Often I walk there and back from my house. I like hearing the bells. I like how stately it is. And the art inside is amazing – but it’s dark. As Lily pointed out mostly you see a lot of suffering. It does make you wonder what the crucifix is the symbol of the Church – not a resurrected Jesus or an angel or Ricky Bobby’s little tiny baby Jesus. I’ll have to go back another today – today there were too many people and most of the art is far away – on the ceiling really but I bet on a sunny day you can see it.



Starting our day of religion at Watt Munisotaram Buddhist Temple
November 5, 2017, 7:07 pm
Filed under: Minnesota

To hedge our bets or maybe to offset some things we’re not down with for the Catholics, we celebrated Aine’s confirmation by going to the Watt Munisotaram Buddhist Temple. It was chilly and cloudy but still the beauty shined through. It’s kind of amazing – out in the middle of nowhere about 35 minutes from our house is this gorgeous temple. We were the only ones we saw. It’s very peaceful; everything was open unmanned. So when we bought trinkets, we left money in the donation box. Inside the main temple the painting on the wall tell the story of Buddha – not unlike the Stations of the Cross. It’s cozy and inviting. Outside the Statues are grand and gold.

Our mini miracle is that everyone decided it was worth getting up early to go. NO one really fought while we were there. And I got a picture of all three girls!

Maybe I’ll try this afternoon to get good pictures of the Cathedral to post. The Temple seems so amazing because it’s different – but the Cathedral isn’t too shabby either.



Lily starts first year at University of Winnipeg
September 3, 2017, 2:12 am
Filed under: Canada, Winnipeg

This week grandpa and I dropped Lily off to school at the University of Winnipeg. It’s kind of amazing how excited you can be for someone else. Lily is so ready for college. She’s going to rock it. She’s going to love it!

She’s so brave. She went assuming she’d know no one. Turns out she knows one person and I think she’s grateful for that. She’s taking Rhetoric and Communication. Classes don’t start for a few days. She would prefer if they would have started a week ago. You know that feeling that you just want the start to be over.

We got her settled into her down – a single en suite! We did a quick trip to Ikea of Winnipeg to help fix it up. We got her sorted with a bank and wire transfers. (Pro tip – don’t wire money to people. Double pro tip: if you do and it’s a large sun find a Walmart. They could not have been nicer about helping us despite the fact that it took at least an hour. Yup – the other people in the Walmart line were wishing us into the cornfields!)

She thinks she got a job – not bad for 48 hours in the country. It’s at a hot dog joint attached to what we assume it the college bar hang out. (Pro tip for college seekers: drinking age in Canada is 18.) With reciprocity for Minnesota students the tuition (and board) at U of Winnipeg is not crazy. It includes some great perks – like a bus pass. Yet, it doesn’t include broadband access. (At $30 bucks a month per student I’m hoping the provider will use some of that crash to invest in rural areas!)

The people we encountered were unbelievably nice. Friendly Manitoba is more than a catch phrase.

We already miss her. Lily is the voice of calm and reason. She watches out for her sisters and she is a super pleasant person – especially after 10 am. We are already planning our first visit.

And here are some of our non-school pictures from the trip. Winnipeg is beautiful. Our weather was perfect. Lily may want to look back at this in January.



Somali Independence Day – July 1 – a reason to learn a little about our neighbors
July 3, 2017, 6:01 am
Filed under: St Paul

Yesterday I just missed enjoying the Somali Celebration down on Lake Street by minutes. We walked around watching the different booths pack up – we were there too late. But it was fun especially to see the women decked out in sparkling hijabs and made up in a way that I don’t usually see.

I was thrilled to see today that there was an informative session tonight at the Minnesota History Center. (It’s Somali Week!) So Aine and I went to visit to learn more about Somalia and Somalis in Minnesota. It was interesting. We saw some Somali dance, music, poetry, hiphop and heard a keynote speaker in Somali. The keynote was a woman who had been recruited to play basketball at an American college and after was traveling back and forth encouraging other young woman to take up basketball. There was a fair number of young women in the audience (who seemed to understand Somali) so that was nice to see.

I hate to admit that my knowledge of Somalia is very limited. I know that a huge percentage of Somalians in the US are based in Minnesota. That was all I knew. Tonight I learned more about the importance of 1960. In 1960, the Somali Republic was established when two British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland united. (Clearly I’m skipping huge chuck of Somali history here but tonight focused on Independence.) The Somali Republic became the Somali Democratic Republic in 1969 under Mohamed Siad Barre, who touted a scientific socialism focusing on the national over clans. In 1991, a civil war broke out, which led to fighting among factions. There was some relief from fighting in 1998.

Transitional governments were set up in 2000 and 2004. More fighting in 2005-2007 – although apparently with less intensity than in the 1990s. The Federal Government of Somalia was established in 2012, after Kenyan troops entered Somalia in 2011. Somalia is currently considered a fragile state. They are working toward stability but continue to deal with insurgents, especially in the countryside.

The first speaker to take the stage tonight spoke about the importance of maintaining Culture, Language and Religion. I think he’s right – it’s important to keep those three alive both in a home country and an adopted country. Our lens is through life as Irish Americans. We have absolutely seen that happen with Irish culture. (Language being a little different.) There’s room to celebrate nation of descent and choice. I think the last performer highlighted that duality. He was a hiphop artist, American of Somali descent. He sang – don’t judge me by my clan but my merits. He also noted (I think it was he) that this is a big week as we celebrate Independence Day for Somalia and the US.

It was an interesting event. I’m glad we went. I’m glad I learned a little bit about folks I see around Cedar Riverside, at the YWCA and various cultural events around town.




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