Browsed by
Tag: social commentary

explore mn!

explore mn!

i started in april at lake maria in the middle of minnesota with snow on the ground and an ambitious summer planned. i finished up my visits to 72 minnesota state parks and recreation areas in october, stopping at rice lake on the way to the southern part of the state.

so many people get caught up in their pockets of home, work, favorite destinations. so many people talk about visiting other countries regularly, heading to a coast every spring break, living the winter months in the southwest US.

but you don’t hear a lot about people visiting different areas of minnesota, about how varied and interesting our own state is. i traveled across most of the counties during my summer travels, sat in the four biomes the state boasts (pretty good for a non-mountainous state), found the place where three watersheds diverge, and drove through the highest points in the state and the lowest. i watched fireflies blink from the prairie in june in the southwest and saw the milky way spread across my vision during a moonless, clear night in august in the northeast. from lake bronson to beaver creek; blue mounds to grand portage; wow does minnesota have a lot to offer.

minnesota has 76 state parks and recreation areas in all parts of the state, providing outdoor activities for all residents. and we do like our parks: every year, more and more minnesotans use the parks. unfortunately, the state congress has been underfunding the parks system. like education, the parks system used to get a large chunk of its money from the state’s general fund and the rest from fees, licenses, etc. now, only a fifth of its budget comes from the general fund. other funding at this point includes the legacy amendment, lottery money, licenses, and fees. at the same time, the parks want to increase its system. people want more groomed trails and acres in their parks and more people use them, but even still, funding is cut.

this means that fees continue to increase and the DNR reduces funding to more of the smaller parks, especially in rural minnesota. last winter, cross-country ski trails at 20 parks went ungroomed. while volunteers are readily welcomed, to do so means that liability insurance needs to be increased.

cuts will start to be made, with 34 parks on the chopping block (including grand portage, the the one at the very tip of the arrowhead AND the final destination in the most beautiful part of the state, in my opinion). this means trails go ungroomed, so much so that they may no longer be trails. campgrounds may be closed for part or all of the season. those 34 parks, of course, are rural parks in sparsely populated areas with fewer regular visitors.

these, of course, are the parks most vital to seeing the state and encouraging residents to get outside.

while i will happily pay more for camping and for my annual permit, not everyone can afford to or is able to do so. and i would encourage all mn legislators to step up and upkeep the parks system that we should be so proud of, one that is available to ALL minnesotans.

but what i really want to encourage is all minnesotans, especially those in the metro, to visit more of the lesser-known parks. head up to grand portage and judge cr magney – even stop at grand portage national monument and sit at the edge of north lake superior, where the hills are tall and tower above the low-level lake and the milky way is visible as soon as you look up at the night sky.

find the restored prairies and bison herd at blue mounds, where you’re so close to south dakota that the wind whispers across the tall grass, telling you to go west.

step onto the swinging bridge over beaver creek, where the water runs clear over polished stones with watercress green in the current.

follow the mississippi river from its source at itasca, the crown jewel of the state parks system, through lake bemidji, schoolcraft, savanna portage, crow wing, lindbergh, lake maria, fort snelling, frontenac, john latsch, great river bluffs.

learn about the rise and fall of late 19th-century towns as the railroad chose to bypass both crow wing and forestville.

step onto the white sand beaches of zippel bay, and listen to the waves of lake of the woods breaking on the shore at night a half mile away in the campground because it’s so quiet.

learn about this great state we live in; the parks are so much more than recreation. you learn about the history, wildlife, ecology, geology, and environment that make minnesota what it is.

there is so much to see in this state we call home, and the parks are the best way to learn what it has to offer. get out there and explore them.

mn state parks: top 10

mn state parks: top 10

here’s my definitive (sort of) list of the top 10 state parks in minnesota. after a summer of driving and traipsing around the state to visit 72 state parks and recreation areas, this list is the result of what parks i would visit again given the chance.

i knew that not all parks would be my cup of tea, and not all parks would be a destination. but here’s what i do know: there is a park in close proximity to every minnesotan. there’s no excuse to not visit a state park. however, if you want to make a park in minnesota a destination? here are the 10 parks i recommend.

EDIT: apparently i need to clarify some stuff. i enjoyed the north shore. i consider jay cooke to be a part of the north shore parks. but i guess it is not because the big lake is not visible. but here’s my thing: EVERYONE LIKES THE NORTH SHORE. everyone GOES to the north shore. the parks there are visited SO MUCH. they are not in danger of losing funding or support. so i include jay cooke as my favorite “north shore” park even though no big lake. and i include judge cr magney on my bonus national monument park. if i could place grand portage national monument on my state park list? it would probably be #3 or #4. But here’s the thing: you need to GET OUT AND LOOK AT THE REST OF THE STATE. it is FANTASTIC, this state. sure, the north shore is great, but so is itasca and hayes lake and whitewater and BLUE MOUNDS. GET OUT THERE!

1. itasca

itasca was the first state park and is considered the crown jewel of the parks system. it’s the 3rd-most-visited park in the state (behind snelling and gooseberry) and is the 2nd largest (just closely following st. croix at 32,700 acres), located up by park rapids (it’s about 20 minutes from bemidji). it houses the headwaters of the mississippi and the biggest red pine in the state.

it’s also got two campgrounds, several cabins, a lodge, a restaurant, an interpretive center, ANOTHER interpretive center, two gift shops, the best CCC built structure, a wilderness drive, bike paths, hiking paths, several historical sites, and many lakes where you can spend some time.

two anecdotes: 1) i passed through from bemidji to home and only planned on spending 30-45 minutes at the park. i ended up spending 2 hours there. and this was a drizzly gross day in july; 2) right after visiting, a coworker of mine stopped by and asked me about itasca and if he should take his visiting parents there. i said absolutely, though he wasn’t convinced. after he got back, he came to my office and raved about the park. next time his parents visit, they want to spend a week there.

so NO JOKE when i say that itasca is the real deal. i convinced my entire family to spend 5 days there next june. that’s how much i am enamored by itasca.

it’s number one in my book. 😍

2. blue mounds

here’s why i like blue mounds state park, even though the average person will take a look at its location (far SW corner of the state) and wonder why this is worth the trip.

take a look at that picture: take in the wide blue sky, the waving grass, and imagine that a buffalo herd is wandering across the prairie. (blue mounds has a bison herd but they weren’t wandering close to the fence this day.) to me, blue mounds screams: GO WEST GO WEST GO WEST and i want to load up my car on an early june morning and set out across south dakota, across the prairie, to the hills, to the rough red buttes, to the mountains.

minnesota is in a great place of the country. while non-mountainous, it houses three (perhaps four) distinct biomes, highly unlikely for a non-mountainous state. it’s also home to three watersheds, also unlikely for non-mountainous states. so while a geological wonder, most people just see boring corn fields or monotonous tree-lined roads.

get out and visit blue mounds because it’s a great example of the diversity this state has to offer. the rangers are harboring a patch of dirt that grows native prairie grasses, which supports the bison herd that lives in the park. the location, buffalo ridge, also shows us the varied altitude within the prairie, giving way to lower areas on one end of the park to wide vistas.

go west without even leaving the state.

3. jay cooke

and in stark contrast the wide-open spaces of blue mounds, we hop to the northeastern-ish area of the state, with tall pines and slate rock.

most people gravitate to gooseberry, but i would offer that jay cooke is the far superior (ha) park. just south of duluth, it’s where the st louis river is getting close to its final destination in lake superior. with the lack of shrubbery and grass due to slate, it’s a fascinating landscape (all up the north shore, really). the st. louis rolls its way around islands and over rocks, which seem to be the perfect location for a pine to take hold.

i can speak to the campground, as jay cooke was one of four parks i camped in over the summer. the spot was spacious – more than enough for two tents – and i was able to put my hammock up between two trees. the trail to the office and lodge was lined with tall pines, which smelled great, and the park had programming every night (the night lori and i were there, it was hoots and howls or something like that).

jay cooke is right outside carlton, which is a nice little town with a lot of historical significance once you dig in a little. the restaurant scene was surprisingly nice, and the drive on 210 to duluth from jay cooke was EXCELLENT.

4. william o’brien

i have to admit – i visited william o’brien park in early may when the trees were barely starting to bud and the ice was JUST out. when i stopped at WOB, it was starting to rain and get gloomy. i wasn’t sure how i was going to like this park.

BUT, despite the gloom and rain and late spring, i would go back to WOB in a heartbeat. in fact, any of the parks on the st. croix river (see below), and just the drive along the st croix river, are worth the visit. WOB is in a very excellent location in the state, where the deciduous forest meets the coniferous forest, so you have pines and maples hanging out together in this picturesque location along a rumbling little river on its way to the mississippi.

here’s how i knew WOB is a winner: it was raining and i barely got out of the car so i could get the shot above, but even just a short car tour through the park and i was sold. in fact, i might head back there in the next couple weeks so i can experience the park again when it’s not so gloomy

5. interstate

interstate is on my list for many of the same reasons that william o’brien is on my list, with one distinct point: the park is located directly on the st. croix river, giving you excellent locations for camping and listening to the water sliding past. the river valley and bluffs of the st croix are gorgeous, and although this park is small and bordered by busy hwy 95, it’s worth the visit and the stay.

i stopped at interstate the same day as WOB, so i know i’m missing out on  a lot of loveliness that this park has to offer. another thing i am doing next time i visit is stopping over to the wisconsin side (hence the name of the park), which offers the same sort of setting with much more park. the minnesota side makes up a small part of the interstate park.

interstate is also close to taylor’s falls, a quaint little historical village on the st croix.

6. frontenac

if you’ve ever taken the drive from the cities to winona or la crosse, you know the river road is one drive that you want to take at least once. frontenac seems like it’s a park that might seem a little boring at first: you drive through old frontenac, then up a slightly barren bluff to get to the top. but once you’re there? you’ve made it.

the chippewa river in wisconsin, one of the hardest working rivers in the country, dumps into the mississippi just northwest of wabasha, creating a delta that makes up lake pepin. yep, lake pepin is not the result of a man-made dam but a naturally made delta by a river that’s outputting so much water into the mighty mississippi that it creates a lake.

and frontenac state park gives you a giant view of the widening of the river, letting you take in the bluffs and barges and buoys. there is a series of wooden stairs that take you down to the riverfront, switchbacking their way down the bluff through the trees and foliage with the occasional deck overlooking the river with informational placards and benches.

while you’re there, make sure to take a quick tour through old frontenac, a very historical town with old plantation style houses that line the river to take in the view. the whole village is placed on the national register of historical places. i knew i was in for a treat when there was a horse paddock in the middle of town 🙂

7. zippel bay

from the highly populated area of the metro and southern part of the state to the far north – zippel bay is the most northerly state park in minnesota, located on the southeast side of lake of the woods. (garden island recreation area is more north, but it’s located on an island in the middle of lake of the woods 30 miles from shore.)

white sand beaches and the shorter, less dense aspen of the area give this park an almost otherworldly feel. i stood on the edge of the lake and felt like i was on the edge of the world (well, edge of the country, that’s for sure). this lake has a different feel from the much larger lake superior, which is lined with tall pines and cliffs. and it was sparse – i was one of 3 people in the park and felt very much isolated, not only from people but from civilization. as i slept in my tent that night, i heard the waves crashing on the shore – a half a mile away.

it might seem like this park is almost too eery to recommend, but i highly recommend this park, if only to take the time to separate yourself from civilization. like i said, i heard the waves a half a mile away. it is never that silent in my neck of the woods. it’s rare that anyone experiences that kind of silence or darkness. the park is beautiful and awe-inspiring and eery and invigorating.

8. hayes lake

i almost didn’t include hayes lake in my top ten. in fact i’m still hesitant to add it, but it’s in a part of the state that people rarely visit and i think it’s important to expand our horizons.

also, it’s one example i’ve found of a man-made dam doing a lot of good for the environment. i’ve learned a lot about a lot of things while on my parks visits: the dakota resettlement saga; the oak savannah; the ecology, topography, and geology of minnesota; preservation and conservation efforts; and man-made efforts to contain rivers. in most cases, i’m pro-river, pro-environment. get rid of the control of the rivers and let water do its thing.

but hayes lake is in the middle of a lake droughted area that has a lot of wildlife passing through. so the addition of hayes lake in the early 1900s was a boon for the wildlife in the area, which you can see in the photo above. when i visited, there were a ton of fowl on the water, just paddling along.

the park is also quintessential north – the blue, crisp lake and green, tall pines.

9. whitewater

if i hadn’t lived 10 miles from whitewater for three years, i might not have placed it on this list. but since i knew more about whitewater than i would’ve with one visit, i would recommend a visit because of the park as well as the area of the state. the whitewater river flows through the park, creating the valley and large bluffs surrounding the park. there are several trails throughout, awesome trout fishing, and a fire tower if you feel adventurous. there’s a small “lake” in the park (i call it a pond where i come from), along with several picnic pavilions and picnic tables. it’s a great place to take a day trip. st. charles has a small bike shop for those who need to get a tune-up before heading out on the trails.

i’ll also give a shoutout to the bluff country of southeastern minnesota while i’m here: lanesboro, rushford, preston. the area is fantastic sight seeing, and if you’re a biking buff, check out the root river trail.

10. glacial lakes

number 10 was hard. i was wavering between sibley state park, banning, and glacial lakes, and in the end glacial lakes won out because of the varied area surrounding the parks. there’s a lake with cabins available to stay in and camping, as well as boating and swimming.

but i think the topography of the area is really interesting. it’s where the glaciers left gravel deposits as well divots, so there are hills and lakes throughout. it’s also technically in the prairie, and there is preserved prairie within the park with native grasses and flowers, but the area also boasts some hardwood forest, so you can see how the hardwood forests have encroached a bit on the prairie.*

BONUS: grand portage national monument (and judge cr magney)

the farther north you get in minnesota, the more isolated you feel and fewer people you see. on the north shore jaunt, i stayed at judge cr magney park (home of devil’s kettle falls), where the light pollution is so small that you could see the milky way as soon as you stepped outdoors.

but keep going north to the tip of the arrowhead, past the majority of north shore visitors, and check out grand portage national monument.

the drive there turns out to be one of the most breathtaking in the state, with the road curving up large hills through the pines and the expanse of the lake to the east. at this point, the lake no longer crashes against tall slate rock outcropping but laps at shoreline.  as you pull into the national monument area with grand portage bay opening up below you, you can see why this was a popular place for furtraders and native americans coming and going in their large canoes.

unfortunately for lori and me, we got there too late for the visitor’s center, but we scoped out the historical displays and stood on the long dock. it’s not hard to imagine the haven this would have been.

********

every park i went to had something going for it. there was always something that was interesting, whether it was geological, topographical, the types of trees, water feature, etc. my top ten may not necessarily be anyone else’s top ten, especially since i confess to be a true trees and lakes kind of girl (and a person who appreciates south dakota).

what is great and what i encourage you to do is visit all the parks and find out for yourself what you like, whether it’s a refuge of a lake amid flat fields of corn (split rock creek state park, kilen woods), cascades (anything on the north shore), bluffs and river valleys (great river bluffs, beaver creek valley), or exploring the boglands (big bog – which is super interesting!).

and let’s take one paragraph to give some extreme props to the civilian conservation corps – the CCC. many, many of the parks i visited had some construction done by the CCC – whether it was the swinging bridge at jay cooke, the lodge and cabins at itasca, the water tower at lake bronson. your short history lesson: the CCC was a work relief program put in place 1933-1942 in efforts to get the economy going again (great depression, you know). it provided jobs to 3 million young men, who earned $30/month ($25 of which was sent home). the CCC planted 3 BILLION trees after conservationists pointed out that the loggers hadn’t planted any replacement trees. they construction trails, lodges, building, facilities in 800+ parks across the country. they created state parks, updated forest fighting methods, and did some public building and roadway construction. it was so popular that 82% of the public agreed with how it was working (can’t imagine that today!). so the style of the buildings you see in the state parks? that’s due to the CCC.

so. minnesota’s tourism office isn’t wrong one bit. explore minnesota. it’s really, really quite the mixture of greatness.

RUNNERS UP: here are the parks that i think you could also visit but are in the same area as other parks that i place higher on the list:

  • banning
  • anything on the north shore (hm… maybe cascade is the best one that’s not gooseberry)
  • beaver creek
  • st. croix
  • sibley
  • lake bemidji
  • maple river
  • BIG BOG
  • lac qui parle for the biggest cottonwood in the state
  • crow wing
  • great river bluffs

*you see a lot of oaks in this transition area. this is the oak savannah, and it used to be primarily oak trees and prairieland. oak bark is especially resilient to fire due to its thickness, so those trees stood after the other hardwoods succumbed to FLAME when prairie fires came through. after settlers started pouring in and putting out the prairie fires, the oak savannas disappeared and the hardwood forest started encroaching on the prairie. 

this great state

this great state

i’ve got four state parks left to visit. i’m thinking about my thing i want to send to the startribune. here’s a start! please comment thoughts, edits, what i missed. i’m not satisfied with my conclusion. halp!

i started in april at lake maria in the middle of minnesota with snow on the ground and an ambitious summer planned. i finished up my visits to all minnesota state parks and recreation areas in september, stopping at st. croix on the way home from visiting a friend in wisconsin.

so many people get caught up in their pockets of home, work, favorite destinations. so many people talk about visiting other countries regularly, heading to a coast every spring break, living the winter months in the southwest US.

but you don’t hear a lot about people visiting different areas of minnesota, how varied and interesting our own state is. i traveled across most of the counties during my summer travels, sat in the four biomes the state boasts (pretty good for a non-mountainous state), found the place where three watersheds diverge, and drove through the highest points in the state and the lowest. i watched fireflies blink from the prairie in june in the southwest part of the state and the milky way spread across my vision during a moonless, clear night in august in the northeast. from lake bronson to beaver creek, blue mounds to grand portage, man does minnesota have a lot to offer.

minnesota offers 76 state parks and recreation areas in all parts of the state, offering outdoor activities for all residents. and we do like our parks: every year, more and more minnesotans use the parks. unfortunately, the state congress has been underfunding the parks system. like education, the parks system used to get a large chunk of its money from the state’s general fund and the rest from fees, licenses, etc. now, only a fifth of its budget comes from the general fund. other funding at this point includes the legacy amendment, lottery money, licenses, and fees. at the same time, the parks want to increase its system. people want more groomed trails and acres in their parks, more people use them, and even still, funding is cut.

this means that fees continue to increase and the DNR reduces funding to more of the smaller parks, especially in rural minnesota. last winter, cross-country ski trails at 20 parks went ungroomed. while volunteers are readily welcomed, to do so means that liability insurance needs to be increased.

cuts will start to be made, with 34 parks on the chopping block (including grand portage, the the one at the very tip of the arrowhead AND the final destination in the most beautiful part of the state, in my opinion). this means trails go ungroomed, so much so that they may no longer be trails. campgrounds may be closed for part or all of the season. those 34 parks, of course, are rural parks in sparsely populated areas with fewer regular visitors.

these, of course, are the parks most vital to seeing the state and encouraging residents to get outside.

while i will happily pay more for camping and for my annual permit, not everyone can afford to or wants to do so. and i would encourage all mn legislators to step up and upkeep the parks system that we should be so proud of, the one that is available to ALL minnesotans.

but what i really want to encourage is for all minnesotans, especially those in the metro, to visit more of the lesser-known parks. head up to grand portage and judge cr magney – stop at grand portage national monument and sit at the edge of north lake superior, where the hills are tall and tower above the low-level lake and the milky way is visible as soon as you look up at the night sky.

find the restored prairies and bison herd at blue mounds, where you’re so close to south dakota that the wind whispers across the tall grass, telling you to go west.

step onto the swinging bridge over beaver creek, where the water runs clear over polished stones and watercress green in the current.

follow the mississippi river from its source (itasca is the crown jewel of the state parks system), through lake bemidji, schoolcraft, savanna portage, crow wing, lindbergh, lake maria, fort snelling, frontenac, john latsch, great river bluffs.

learn about the rise and fall of late 19th-century towns as the railroad chose to bypass both crow wing and forestville.

step onto the white sand beaches of zippel bay, hearing the waves of lake of the woods breaking on the shore at night a half mile away in the campground because it’s so quiet.

learn about this great state we live in; the parks are so much more than recreation. you learn about the history, wildlife, ecology, geology, and environment that make minnesota what it is.

there is so much to see in this state we call home. the parks are possibly the best way to see the state, so get out and see it.

#notjuststraws

#notjuststraws

today i bought popsicles because the popsicle brand came out with a cane sugar, real fruit kind of pop. yum!

imagine my dismay when i opened the (cardboard) box and found that the traditional paper wrappers had been replaced with …

PLASTIC WRAPPERS.

today we get news that china is no longer buying our recyclables (a former large market).

there’s been a recent brouhaha over plastic straws and how mcdonalds and starbucks plan to eliminate plastic straws, either replacing them with paper straws or no straws. this begs the question: WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THAT PLASTIC GLASS?

manufacturers continue to plasticize everything, and most if it isn’t recyclable plastic. my waste service only takes bottles for recyclable plastic. what does that mean for the rest of my plastic? it goes in the trash, which means it goes in the landfill, which means it sits there for thousands of years.

i’ve been really aware of my plastic usage lately. i haven’t done much about it yet, but i plan to crack down on myself in the upcoming months. i need to do some research on how to reduce my plastic usage, where i’ll need to shop, what brands to look out for. i’ve already prepped for my next batch of laundry soap, which i will make with borax, soda, and bar soap.

as our landfills fill and we see photos like below making more waves, what is it going to take besides some people clucking their tongues about plastic usage and very few actually doing what they can to reduce their plastic footprint? even with some chain stores eliminating plastic bags, i still watch people go through a checkout with one item, then leave with that item they carried up to the lane in a plastic bag (WHYYYYYY).

i know i can do better; i fail over and over on the reusable bag front, but when i forget them, i make sure to stuff my plastic bags to the brim. when the checkout dude tries to put my 4 items in three bags, i say uh-uh, you put that all in one bag. at coborn’s, i request a paper bag after they ask “is plastic ok?” NO IT’S NOT WHEN HAS PLASTIC EVER BEEN OK

this is not just about straws. this is about putting the burden of plastic consumption on the consumer. this has got to start with manufacturers and them realizing that plastic isn’t the answer, even if it’s the cheaper option.* as a consumer, i will gladly pay a little more for an item encased in glass, tin, aluminum, or paper over plastic.

i know this can be done on that level because i saw it with HFCS. in 2010 when i became hyper aware of eating devil’s syrup, it was everywhere. now, about half the products that i avoided in 2010 use sugar in their ingredients instead of corn syrup. if people start demanding that less plastic be used, i bet it will make a difference.

next year my goals will include using less waste. whether that means purchasing more items in bulk, bringing in my containers to the food coop, or even making sure i really do put my reusable bags in the car.

and until popsicle brand starts to wrap their pops in paper again, no more popsicles for me, even with the revised ingredients list.

*i never understood how plastic can be so cheap when gas is so expensive. they are both made from oil. ALSO, recycled paper is basically worth nothing right now. companies could grab up that recyclable paper for $ZERO and create recycled paper packaging.

on laura ingalls wilder (and the ALA)

on laura ingalls wilder (and the ALA)

when asked about the most influential books i’ve read, there are two series in my top ten: one is the harry potter series and the other is the little house series. i’ve written a few times before about LH, most often when reminiscing about my aunt colettie, who snagged me remainder books from her time at the rochester school system library. i also remember reading them very young, when the librarians at the small gradeschool i went to wouldn’t let me out of the children’s section to explore chapter books.

for me there’s a romanticism to reading the LH books – from laura’s time in the big woods, gathering food from the woods and eating maple syrup candy that had been poured onto smooth cold snow, to the endless prairies of south dakota and the harsh winters with grains stored in walls. i know it was rough going, but 7-year-old me wanted to live in that world.

this past week, the association for library service to children (a division of the american library association) voted to change the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.

first, a little background on the LIW award. the award was established in 1954 when it was giving to laura herself and it’s been given every 5 years through 1980, then til 2001 every 3 yrs, then 01-16, every 2, and now every year, to a childrens author or illustrator whose books have made a substantial and lasting contribution to kids’ lit. past winners include maurice sendak, beverly cleary, eb white, and dr. seuss. the authors who receive this award have a “substantial and lasting contribution” and “occupy an important place in literature for American children and that over the years children have read the books and the books continue to be requested and read by children.”

the ALSC decided to change the name of the wilder medal because of the LHoP books’ racist themes throughout. they claim that the books are inconsistent with their core values. i have a beef with that. the books are a product of their time, just like mark twain’s books. they also reflect the thoughts of people around her: ma hated american indians and pa didn’t.

this line from pa in particular is pretty ahead of its time:  They “would be as peaceable as anybody else if they were let alone.” Pa says. “On the other hand, they had been moved west so many times that naturally they hated white folks.”

there was this line in the books when it was first published:

There the wild animals wandered and fed as though they were in a pasture that stretched much farther than a man could see, and there were no people. Only Indians lived there.

laura was just mortified when someone pointed out the line to her. she wrote her publisher post haste:

You are perfectly right about the fault in Little House on the Prairie and have my permission to make the correction as you suggest. It was a stupid blunder of mine. Of course Indians are people and I did not intend to imply they were not.

that line now says settlers. i think that in itself is reason to keep the wilder name on the medal. the thing is, her books fully embrace the theme of the medal. and given the above, i think laura the author embraces the ALSC’s core values, “which include inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness.”

and if the ALSC really wants to embrace their values, well, they’ll change the name of the carnegie medal as well. despite his philanthropic ways, there were some controversies in his life. and perhaps we should pore over randolph caldecott’s illustrations to make sure they also embrace those core values? and dr seuss, who also has an award named after him, supported the internment of japanese americans during WWII! (afterward, he changed his mind a bit with horton hears a who as an allegory for hiroshima.)

this all said, i can understand how someone reading the books outside of the white person lens sees these books as a glorification of racism and stereotyping of native americans. but as a set of historical, semi-autobiographical fiction that was explaining the time and perspective, i don’t know how we can’t see that laura’s books aren’t still relevant and educational.

i was reading reddit’s books forum and saw this comment:

As a proud Native American and member of the Blackfoot tribe, I am disheartened to hear that children will no longer have it explained to them what our roots are.

Growing up in public school we often learned of the struggles minorities faced in the history of this country, but my Native ancestors were ether under represented or left out all together.

These books were my first experience of what non-res people heard about my people. It raised questions that were sometimes hard, but gave all the class the ability to look at our history through the lens of today. A reminder not to repeat the mistakes of hatred from the past.

I think that this award for all its flaws sparked an important conversation. A conversation that is no more. One less source of truth about my nearly extinct people.

i think it’s important to hear those other voices. but did the ALSC just get complaints and decide to change the name based on those, or did they go out and find other perspectives from american indians, like the one above? and do the ALSC’s awards reflect the author or the author’s works? in EITHER case, if the ALSC is going to change the name of the wilder award, it needs to take a closer look at its other awards and how they relate to its core values.

i’m disappointed that the award has been renamed. while her award hasn’t been revoked and her works still widely published and read, stripping laura’s name from the long-time award does a disservice to historical viewpoints, a turn-of-the-century female author, and to the spirit of laura and other long-read authors.

no title please

no title please

i have so many things i want to do an armchair legal review of and can’t focus on which one i’d like to do. on top of that, sometimes a person just wants to not listen to the news because it seems like every day there’s another piece of craptastic news that happens. at some point it just becomes noise.

anyway, if i ever get inspired to pull out my legalese hat and put it on, perhaps i will. or maybe i’ll just turn off my phone and go for a paddle on the lake or sit on my patio and hope nothing blows up. not like i can do anything about it*.

*my resignation is starting to be overwhelming. is this the point? can i be done being angry?

ambivalent gun control

ambivalent gun control

wow it’s been a while since i blogged! well, no time like the present.
first things first: i signed up for the earth day half marathon. huzzah. i’m still not sure how i feel about that. 
***************
but what i really want to talk about, and i’m kind of afraid to, is gun control/violence. 

first, i want to tell three short stories. 

when i was small, i went with my uncle squire to buy a gun (for him – not me). we went to a house out on a lake, where squire checked out a couple guns the owner was selling. he ended up leaving with one. i do not know if the whole enterprise was legal or not. 
then in my early 20s, i went with a friend to fleet farm, where she placed an order for a gun that would be in her name and under her background check, but was actually a birthday present for her minor brother from her parents. this is a straw purchase and illegal (which i didn’t know at the time). 
and just recently, i heard a story from a friend about how her niece’s first year of hunting was shot down (pun not intended!) after she mishandled her gun. she took the classes and training, but on deer opener a bee (or wasp or some ugly bug) got in her face, and she waved her gun around, pointed it at people. that was it for her. no more hunting.
and second, a disclaimer: i am not going to do [much] research in the post, as it would take hours and hours that i don’t have. but i am going to pose a lot of questions that i may research later. 

the intro

ok, so i don’t deny that the rash of school shootings is a horrible, horrible thing. i don’t deny that we should be doing more thorough background checks and making sure that those whose names the guns are in should be the actual owners.
and if we as a country outlawed guns, then those people who would lash out like this would find another way. but for a moment, think about the st. cloud mall stabbing: no one was killed when that maniac went on his stabbing spree (besides him). can you imagine if he’d had a gun? there would have been so many casualties. so yes, outlawing guns could help curb quite a bit of gun crime. 
but i also see the other side. people choose to pick up that weapon and kill other people. i know many responsible gun owners, whether it’s for hunting or funsies. i’ve shot guns. my sister and dad own guns.
so what is causing those people to bring an arsenal into a school (and other places) and kill people? and how can we help those people while also letting responsible gun owners partake in the 2nd amendment*?
i’ve been seeing a lot of posts on FB about how bullying is a cause of school shootings.  shooters are generally outcasts and not well-liked. to stop school shootings, be nice to your classmates.
welcome to high school. that’s what high school IS. a bunch of cliques of popular people and not so popular people and nerds and the weirdos. 
a while back, my HS classmates (i am a member of the FB group) were trying to brush aside the clique thing, saying we were above that. what on earth! of course it was the popular people who were saying this (read: not me). of course there are cliques. there were cliques in my gradeschool, in a class of 18! 
what pushes the few over the edge? can we agree that it is not violent movies and video games?
is it a combination of being low on the totem pole combined with mental illness/abuse/substance abuse and then access to guns? and why is it mostly boys**? 
and can we blame this entirely on just mental illness and access to guns? i don’t think so.

i think there are two contributing factors. 

first, we live in a country that is inculcated with fear. we are afraid to go out at night. sometimes i’m afraid to go running in the SJU woods (rape). george zimmerman was afraid of a black teenager in a hoodie eating skittles. people in st. cloud are afraid of change. so we arm ourselves against the things we’re supposed to be afraid of***. 
are we really afraid of these things, or are we afraid because we are told we should be afraid? this is a huge cultural problem that is partly due to the media focusing on tragedies and bad news instead of the good things. we are actually safer these days than back in the “old days” when kids would run around all evening without a care in the world. we just hear more about when bad things happen. sometimes those rose-colored glasses were helpful.
second, US citizens need access to helpful, affordable (maybe free!) health care and support systems. instead of spending all our federal dollars on arming ourselves with weapons (again with the fear), perhaps we keep that in-house and spend it on arming ourselves with healthy, fulfilling lives. 
oh, there’s a third i guess. we need to stop the over-masculinization of society. a man’s a man and doesn’t show any vulnerability or sympathy. so what if boys cry? who cares if they want to play with a barbie instead of a tonka truck? does it matter if a girl beats a boy at soccer? “you’re going to let a GIRL beat you?” when some father is screaming this at his son, not only does that shame the boy, but it shames the girl for being better than a boy. and why is shame involved at all? if we can’t prepare ourselves to lose to other, whether woman or man, life is going to be pretty miserable.

call for a ban?

let’s talk about banning certain guns and accessories. i’m not convinced it will work. it MIGHT reduce casualties. i briefly tried to find out if the columbine shooters used bumpstocks and couldn’t find anything. they used a pump-action shotgun. 
In the 49 shootings from columbine to 2013 (https://www.cga.ct.gov/2013/rpt/2013-R-0057.htm), the AR-15 was used in two. (a few were unidentifed, so we can’t rule those out, but i’m focusing on what we know.) a majority of the guns are semi-automatic, but they also include revolvers, handguns, and shotguns. 
shootings will still happen if we ban certain items. the only way to completely eliminate this is by eliminating guns altogether (which at this point i may have convinced myself of, but i go back and forth on this issue all the time).

where we’re at

but here’s what to remember: when your rights start to infringe on others’ rights, that’s when we have a problem. and i understand that responsible gun owners’ rights are to be taken into account. but it’s a tool – a very violent, deadly tool.  but i have a right to live. and someone who is mentally unstable with a gun cannot infringe on those rights, and i can’t infringe on the rights of gun owners.
see the circle? what i think we need to focus on is making sure our populace is healthy and those who aren’t are noticed and treated well, and we need to work on erasing this overwhelming feeling of fear that we in the US are so hardwired to exalt.
but that may take a while, and in the spirit of being a fence-sitter on this issue, a ban might not be a bad idea.

appendix

*people forget about the first half of the second amendment: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
**the first “modern-day” school shooter was actually a girl. “Brenda Ann Spencer, a chronically abused and molested mentally unstable 16y/o girl on a cocktail of intoxicants, is actually considered by many to be the first modern school shooter. On Jan 29, 1979 she took the 22 shot gun her father (the abuser and molester,) had given her a month before for Christmas, (immediately after a school psychiatrist recommended she be institutionalized as a danger to herself and others,) and opened fire on the morning crowds outside the elementary school across the street from her home. ”
***of COURSE there are things that some people should be afraid of. people in violent relationships, in precarious situations, etc. fear shouldn’t be ABSENT but it shouldn’t RULE our lives.
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140728-why-is-all-the-news-bad
https://www.quora.com/Has-there-ever-been-a-school-shooting-carried-out-by-a-girl

happy christmas! have some birds.

happy christmas! have some birds.

happy 2nd day of christmas! know what i can’t understand? people who take their christmas decorations down the day after christmas. don’t they realize that the christmas season has just begun??
so here’s the deal. the 12 days of christmas? no, it’s not a marketing ploy to rack up sales 12 days before christmas. it’s the liturgical christmas season between dec. 25 and jan. 6, the epiphany (you know, when the three kings* visited the baby jesus in bethlehem).  unfortunately, all the hype for christmas happens a month before christmas, and the season itself is practically forgotten. 
so, let’s take a look at how the christmas season plays out. before dec. 25? it’s actually advent, the time of waiting and preparing your heart for jesus. each sunday we get to light an additional candle on the advent wreath, purple, purple, pink, and purple, until christmas arrives. my friend melissa, a liturgist at a catholic church and sponsor of this post**, actually runs purple and pink ribbons on her tree until christmas, when she decorates it. i remember growing up on the tree farm and having one family come out on christmas eve to cut down their tree. 
so what happens during the 12 days of christmas besides a very rich lover sending you a bunch of birds? here’s what we’ve got for the 12 days of christmas:
12days
The first day  is Christmas, the celebration of baby jesus’ birth. it’s also a day you traditionally give your loved one a partridge in a pear tree.
The second day is Boxing Day and is also known as St Stephen’s Day. he was the first christian martyr. and two turtle doves.
The third day celebrates St John the Apostle. three calling birds.
The fourth day is the Feast Of The Holy Innocents – the day when people remember all of the baby boys who were killed by King Herod in his search to kill the Baby Jesus. four french hens!
The fifth day is remembering St Thomas Becket – he was the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th Century and was killed on December 29 1170 for challenging the King’s authority over the church. fiiiiiive goooooldeeeeen riiiiiiiings
The sixth day remembers St Egwin of Worcester, who died on December 30 717. he was known as the protector of orphans and the widowed. six swans a swimming.
The seventh day (New Year’s Eve) celebrates Pope Sylvester I. In some eastern European countries New Year’s Eve is still known as Silvester. seven geese a laying.
The eighth day (New Year’s Day) celebrates Mary the Mother of Jesus. (this is also a holy day of obligation, which TOTALLY BLOWS when you’re up all night revelrying. eight maids a milking.
The ninth day honors St Basil the Great and St Gregory Nazianzen – two important fourth century Christians. nine ladies dancing.
The tenth day is the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus – this marks the day Jesus was named in the Jewish Temple. ten lords a leaping.
The eleventh day  celebrates the Feast of Saint Simeon Stylites who spent 37 years living on a small platform on top of a pillar in Aleppo. (WHAT ON EARTH. this might need some more research.) eleven pipers.
The twelfth day, January 5, is also known as Epiphany Eve – it’s the day before January 6 which is known as the Epiphany. 12 drummers drumming.
many countries in europe still celebrate the 12 days, but in the US it’s practically forgotten. once dec. 25 rolls around, it’s sayanora christmas.
what i’d like to start doing? i wouldn’t mind celebrating christmas like hannukah is celebrated. each night get a small present or do something fun, with the big party on ephiphany (which makes total sense since that’s when the kings came with their GIFTS).  OR, for those families who have multiple christmas parties and people to exchange gifts with, why not do it during the 12 days FOLLOWING christmas, during the actual season? 
i know that the retail marketing has got us all hyped up and wound up and grabbed by our wallets, but it wouldn’t take much to make the christmas season part of how we celebrate christmas. and i’ve said it before: i wouldn’t mind seeing more off-color christmas celebrations become more mainstream. like actual caroling, or something equivalent to trick or treating. or krampus  (hee heeeee!). i feel like christmas has gotten too ooey gooey and blown out of proportion and saccharine. 
*or two, if you’re the kings at my mom’s house. one got beheaded for coming out of the closet (hannah was playing “kissy kissy” with two kings, and being ceramic, one broke.)
**(she says not to take her too seriously. i had to school her on what the triduum*** was her first year as a liturgist.)
*** the three days before easter: holy thursday, good friday, and holy saturday. 

oui oui

oui oui

i did some research on the paris agreement/accord/whatever since i wanted to know more and figured you might too! 
the most incredible thing about the PA is that every country is taking care of its own business of its own accord and is actually doing it, with 202o as the goal start date. each country sets goals to combat climate change, and all countries except three have signed on of their own volition because IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
for the record, nicaragua at first decided not to sign the agreement because it wasn’t RADICAL ENOUGH. the president said 90% of its energy will be renewable by 2020, and they wanted countries to be punished for not meeting goals. (they’ve since are considering reconsidering because they don’t want to be lumped in the same category as the ridiculous US.) the US, of course, is out because trump. and syria isn’t a part of it because syria’s a war zone. 
so.
(i mean, even north korea’s on board. really, DT?)
the countries that are a part of the PA have agreed to some stipulations:

  1. they want to hold the increase in global average temp to below (like, way below) 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. ideally, the limit would be 1.5ºC pre-industrial levels. (pre-industrial means pre-1750.) for the record, pre-industrial average world temp was 13.8ºC (56.84F) and in 2014, average world temp was about 0.8 C warmer than that. so, the world’s countries want to keep that at 1.5º or less, with AT MOST, 2º.  (remember average world temp does not mean average MN temp. when idiots huurrr durrr about global warming when it’s -15ºF, please just roll your eyes so hard they end up in the snowbank across the street.)*
  2. they want to make sure that climate change does not affect food production. there are a lot of people on the planet, and we need to feed them (preferably NOT corn, but we’re using that as an example ugh). think about the impact of a global increase in temperature on the US bread basket – all those plains may just end up being desert that doesn’t support food production. insane weather patterns also affect food stores, as there may be droughts or floods.
  3. and finally, the first-world countries recognize the benefits they had with the industrial revolution and how coal and other polluting methods to create the standard of living they now have. through this agreement, the countries that had that benefit will help out the developing countries to make sure their paths to development is a greener one. 

witheartha couple important points:
this is completely voluntary.
and there is no repercussions if a country drops out or doesn’t meet its goals. 
THAT’S how serious the world is taking this. 
so, here’s DT’s quote on why he decided to leave the PA:
“The agreement is a massive redistribution of United States’ wealth to other countries,” Trump said. “It’s to give their country an economic edge over the United States. That’s not going to happen while I’m president. I’m sorry.”
let’s talk about that massive redistribution of US wealth. that’s how point 3 above is handled. the developed countries that had the advantage of early development are going to commit $100billion a year to help the developing countries and overall greenification of the earth. in march last year, the US gave $3billion to the green climate fund, and as of now, there is $10billion in it. i believe it works as a grant system. it will also directly help countries most affected by climate change, like small island countries.  
now, here’s a wrench i’m going to throw in the system. heard of the international monetary fund (IMF)? i feel like this is a perfect thing for the IMF to jump into. the IMF is “189 countries working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.”
if there’s ever a time to use the money in the IMF to do all those things, i think this is it. as of 2016, the IMF had about $668billion in it. 
anyway, that’s an argument for another day. 
so, once DT announced the US withdrawal from the PA, it’s not like we suddenly aren’t in it. part of the provisions, even though it’s voluntary, is that it will take a good four years for the US to get out of it. a country can’t even begin withdrawal proceedings until it’s been in the agreement for three years, and after the withdrawal has been sent, it will be active one year after it’s been filed. the earliest the US can get out of the PA? Nov. 4, 2020…the day after the next presidential election
(seriously, all this brouhaha may be for naught.)
so, that’s a lot of political information on the PA and doesn’t really go into what countries are actually planning on doing as far as greenification. i was listening to “pod save america” this afternoon, and it already looks like china and india are well on their way to exceeding their goals, and china’s on its way to becoming a global leader (bye bye US as a global leader). but that’s another post. meanwhile, 400 new coal jobs were added in may in the US. we’re nowhere near 2011 levels of coal employment, and i doubt we ever will be. laid off from a coal job? time to go back to school and learn a new trade. like solar panel installation and upkeep. and that’s also another post.
REMEMBER: this is the only earth we’ve got. if the earth goes to pot and is inhabitable for humans, WHAT ELSE MATTERS**? who cares about the economy, refugees, travel bans, and especially transgender people in bathrooms. GET IT TOGETHER, PEOPLE.
*do you NEED a post about the science behind climate change? i mean, there are a TON of peer-reviewed sciencey environmental studies out there you can look at. and 97% of scientists agree that it’s human-made. that’s the same effectiveness as a condom when used correctly. you take those chances, so why not these? (also, you’re making cleaner air and water and a better place to live – is that REALLY so bad, even if climate change isn’t human-made?)
**in all seriousness, the earth don’t care. we’ll get wiped out and the earth will live on for millions more years and not give two hoots about people. but i’m sure you care, at least for the next 50 years or so. #humansnowhereearthdontcare
Sources: wikipedia, wikipedia, and pod save america.

i’m a state worker. i belong to a union. contrary to popular belief, i do work a lot. that said, the republican-controlled state legislature decided to put language in the MN state agencies funding bill to cripple bargaining rights for wages and health insurance.
i’ve worked in private sector and now in a unionized environment. at my current job, i know i’m getting a fair, equal wage (you can actually go online and look me up – go ahead). my health bennies are pretty awesome. and guess what? i actually am a full union member. after seeing what happened at roch comm and tech after the new president came in and tried to clean house, i consider it a small price to pay for the knowledge that the union has my back if i’m ever unfairly let go.
and after five years, i’m actually pretty proud to work for the state of MN. and i’m proud to be a union member. now, if i were to go back to the private sector, i’m not going to cry about it; i work hard and i do good work, so i know that any job i hold is because i’m good at it. but after seeing 8 rounds of layoffs at my last private-sector job, i can easily say that i will take my union state job over that. 
i wrote to the governor to ask him to veto that bill. gov. dayton is a pretty pro-worker governor, so i’m fairly confident that it won’t pass. and after seeing five emails come through about this, i’m sure state workers all over are calling and emailing him to get rid of that bill. to all anti-union people, i get it. you think your employer does a fine job, and it’s probably so. but are you willing to quit when it’s not doing so fine? that’s what unions help with. i am still ambivalent about unions in general, but i’m glad i have one.