Water is life

 When I was a little girl poisonous chemicals were sprayed freely to kill randomly, to knock down the dust on unpaved roads and dumped into sewers to be forgotten. Rivers in the East caught fire, Duluth’s own waterfront was littered with junked cars and a family drive through industrial cities was filled with smokey haze and strange smells. I was told it was the “smell” of jobs and money being made.
The adverse effects of those actions were documented by ecologist, Rachel Carson in her ground breaking book, Silent Spring, which inspired the modern day environmental movement.
In the words of the late, Maya Angelou “When we know better, we do better.”


What was once a rare event, today I see eagles flying nearly every day above my Moose Lake, Minnesota home. When the sun does shine the sky is blue. We are doing better, but more work needs to be done.

From water shortages to animal extinction today’s children have spent their lives threatened by dire warnings. Our young adults have grown cynical as industry and government concede their future for immediate rewards that have the potential to cause irreparable harm to the environment.
The Arapaho have a saying; “Take what you need and leave the land as you found it.” We must offer the next generation hope by ensuring the land will be left better than we found it.
For more than a century, mining has sustained families on the Iron Range. We have supplied the ore to win a war. Powered by immigrants and protected by unions, iron mining has not only served us in war time it has also provided economic security for hundreds of hard working Northlanders and their families. The development of taconite, recovery of ore from mining waste and new methods of steel making are extending the life of this important industry.
Research and development and new investment continue to find ways to support the industry and the families who depend on iron ore mining. Government regulations have reduced the negative impact to our environment. But over the years we have also seen how mining’s cyclical nature has resulted in devastating shut-downs and the flight of our young people to big cities. Understanding our iron ore deposits are finite we must empower our communities to develop new industry suited for the 21st. Century that will serve our communities and protect the region’s fragile ecosystem.
As a young journalist I was told the 8th District is powered by Taconite, Timber and Tourism. These were the three legs of the stool that supported the Northland economy. State and federal mining regulations and forestry management practices have allowed us to use our resources wisely while maintaining our tourism industry. In an effort to expand our economy a full court press is now underway to mine non-ferrous metals within the St. Louis River and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness watersheds.
This new-to-Minnesota mining process comes with the promise of new jobs. It also comes with the potential for dangerous pollution to our air and water by the exposure of sulfide-laden rock and its harmful runoff if it is not done right. This form of mining has had devastating, long term consequences for other communities and we must proceed carefully by utilizing science based evidence along with our hearts and minds focused sharply on the future health of our children and grandchildren.
I am not yet convinced non-ferrous mining (also known as sulfide mining) can be done safely, nor that we can protect our environment from the potential harm this form of mining may bring under the current plans now being debated. One miss-step will burden generations to come. While I agree copper, nickel, gold and palladium are the building blocks of the future…I know in my heart that without water, our most precious strategic reserve, there is no life.
Until there is science based proof that this new-to-us mining process can be done safely I believe these strategic reserves should remain where they are; deep under ground.
For children’s sake we must get this right.

Family Values 2.0

I’ve been giving a lot of thought about the definitions of family and family values lately. Most of my childhood was spent in a traditional family unit. I had a mom, a dad and six brothers. But compared to the popular television program at the time; Leave it to Beaver, ours was anything but traditional.

Alcoholism and its ugly symptoms including domestic violence were our distant cousin often visiting unannounced. The threat of violence and poverty were a constant. I remember neighborhood kids taunting me saying their parents were going to call “Welfare” on mine.  At six years old I didn’t know what welfare was, but I sure had heard a lot about the poor house. 

CIMG7448Children of the depression, my parents greatest fear was the “poor house.” Mom could stretch a pound of hamburger, a box of noodles and a can of tomatoes to keep us fed and she made sure we went to Sunday school clean and pressed, our hair slicked back with sugar-water. 

With the occasional helping hand from extended family, and our community along with well placed mentors we survived and thrived.

I’ve spent a lifetime studying what makes a family.  Most families are not the Cleavers. The definition of family reaches beyond that traditional family unit, genetics or living under the same roof. 

The Republican Party would like us to believe otherwise. Inspired by Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Schlafly for decades it has proclaimed itself the keeper of family and family values; values we have allowed them to define and use to divide families, communities and our country. This is also the party that fights to reverse critical social policy and our healthcare reform in favor of rewarding the wealthy one percent.

After years of interviewing friends and neighbors and reporting on the issues that impact our community I can report the concept of family has evolved far beyond  some mythical image embraced by those who would hold us captive in poverty and the fear that is left unfettered promoting a long list if isms. (sexism, Racism, Age-ism, Colonialism and more.)

Today’s family is extended, non-traditional, same sexed, heterosexual, singular, plural; all the above and much more. Defining family is more difficult that catching lightning in a bottle.

I’ve been blessed by the wonderful families that have come into my life.  Among them, a single mom working part-time, going to college full-time and raising four healthy and happy children.  Another mom working toward sobriety and the return of her children. A family headed up by a grandmother and community leader willing to call out injustice as she sees it, while standing firm in her resolve to create a better life for her kids. 

I also want to tell you about another young couple I know and love.  Until recently they would not have been allowed to marry.  But Minnesotans understood the ‘heart wants what the heart wants’— and voted to approve same-sex marriage.  That young couple is now happily married, owns a home and is creating a life together under the full  protection of  law. I am proud to say Minnesota’s DFL party led the fight to establish laws and programs to ensure these amazing families have the opportunity to survive and thrive.

The members of my party have a strong work ethic, we respect every human.  We stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves. We are generous, honest and hold an open mind. We strive to live life well and do what we can to ensure others have the opportunity to live well. We are spiritual, fair and honest. That is the definition of family values in support of the evolving family.

With the 2018 midterm elections we have a unique opportunity to create the future we want for our children and grandchildren.  To give hope to the generations that will inherit our legacy.

Our first step must be reclaiming the title as the party of family values; DFL, the Party of Family Values 2.0


Why I support the union movement in America


If there is any doubt about the importance of unions just ask my 92-year-old mother.  Her husband was a proud member of the 49’ers and knew there was value and power in numbers.  He gladly paid his dues knowing his union fought for workers rights and on the job safety.  It also made sure its retirees could live with dignity thanks to pensions and healthcare.

My step-father has been gone for ten years, but my mother continues to reap the benefits of his union membership.  While the pension is small the health benefits pack a powerful punch in paying for needed care not covered by medicare.

I spoke with my mom today and we agreed that life would be a lot difference for her, had it not been for the 49’ers.  She lives comfortably in her own home and receives the care she requires to remain independent.

Today I am thankful for unions and the efforts they have made to protect working men and women and their families in America.


Womens’ Work

We’ve been told

We are not smart enough.  We are not strong enough.  We are too young. We are too old. Wait your turn.

 We have been beaten. We have been sexually harassed and abused.

We’ve been told be good. Don’t tell.

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We have

Given birth to, set the table and  fed a nation.  We have fought in wars; domestic and foreign.

We are nurses, doctors, educators, farmers, wait staff,  daycare providers and serve tirelessly in many professions.

We hold down jobs, bring home the bacon (cook it) and  raised families

We have sacrificed our health and well-being so that others may thrive.

We have learned from our experiences and we, the women survive.

We do not

Value the measure of a person simply by the balance of their  investment portfolio.

 Nor  do we pre-judge a person by age, the color of their skin, religious beliefs or sexual orientation.

We Must 

Support future and current leaders who have lived our stories.

We must work to ensure our government is reflective of all the people it serves.

 We must also step up and become those people in every level of government.

It is time 

Women take a seat at the table.



My body—my story

When I was eight months pregnant I developed a pulmonary embolism and was rushed to the hospital.  At the time, I seriously thought that chest pain, severe shortness of breath and swollen extremities were standard operating procedure, right along with baby showers, weight gain and a glowing complexion.

A mad dash to the emergency room in Duluth and two weeks in the hospital convinced me otherwise.

I will always be grateful to the doctors and nurses who saved my life during a very frightening time in our lives. 

In my 9th month, I gave birth to a robust baby boy.

Before we left the hospital the doctor told my husband— that in no uncertain terms—-we should never be pregnant again.

Faced with a potential life or death situation… the issue of birth control moved front and center in our lives.  Luckily future pregnancy prevention was available and I am  here today to celebrate joyous and life affirming events including our son’s wedding this summer to a wonderful woman…. with the hope that one day I will live long enough to be a grandma.


My story is mine and has a happy ending.  But over the years I have listened to the heart-rending stories of other women who have been faced with more difficult decisions involving birth control and pregnancy termination.

Their stories have strengthened my belief that our government and politicians should stand down and defer to the decisions made between a woman and her doctor.   

Coming of age in the 1970’s–I cannot imagine a time when family planning options are not available.  Yet, it seems there are those who are willing to chip away at a woman’s right to own and control our bodies. In honor of the women who fought to make choice a reality I will fight to maintain the right for other women to access affordable birth control and access  to reproductive healthcare.

Redefining the party of my youth

What is our responsibility for the well-being of others? Is it possible for us to live in harmony with those who don’t share our religious or social beliefs? At a certain age the call to answer universal questions becomes harder to ignore or place in the hands of those we believe are a bit smarter or more powerful.CIMG7491.jpg



Among the more pressing involves the legacy we leave our children and defining the care and respect we must focus on our elders, people with disabilities and those who have been beaten down simply because of the color of their skin or country of origin. In a perfect world— a hard day’s work is enough to finance a family’s basic needs with more than a few dollars left over to educate our kids, take an occasional vacation and set aside for a rainy day. But in the real world the rain never seems to stop.

Many Northlanders live pay check to pay check and shop for bargains at big box stores or the local dollar store. When the check doesn’t stretch ’til the end of the month… a visit to the food shelf is the only thing preventing a child from going to bed hungry. While many of us work hard to make ends meet with an ever shrinking dollar—- foreign interests and powerful corporations reap the rewards provided by hard workers in the Northland. The power of the “one percenters” continues to grown as they  grow richer. Sadly while we focus on work—the strength of our unions is also being chipped away along with the power of our voices. Redistricting, voter suppression and apathy have tipped the balance of our representation in Washington in support of a Republican Party it’s founders would not recognize today. Choosing to exercise our vote for either party seems an exercise in disillusionment.

In our hearts we know building a wall is not the answer—nor is demonizing others. We question whether proposed tax cuts will really help the average Northland Family and why the majority in Washington seems relentless in its effort to weaken our current health care system (the backbone of rural health care.)

Our foot soldiers in the battle for justice and the war on poverty grow weary, beaten down by those who argue— giving a hand up or creating an even playing field—gives rise to socialism. Struggling to redefine itself— the Democratic Party must also take responsibility for the situation in which we find ourselves today. Inspired as a kid by President John F. Kennedy I’ve always thought of myself as a Democrat.

I’m not ready to give up that thought. But I know the party of my youth can no longer conduct business as usual. It too must redefine itself as the party of new ideas; one willing to boldly fight the opposition on its terms—quarterbacked by new leadership with convictions mirroring its members. It must be done quickly.

Faced with the probability of multi-million dollar mid-term campaigns, lack of money in the high stakes game of politics must not be a barrier for qualified leaders of the future. Nor should our gender, sexual orientation, race or religious belief.

A woman’s place is in the house and senate

When my mother was raising seven children she took part-time work to help fill the financial gaps during a time when a woman’s place was in the home child rearing, homemaking and budgeting the income provided by the man of the house.

Mom was also the referee, nurse and teacher of right and wrong.bettycookie

While others in our small rural community may have considered us poor, we never went to bed hungry, regularly scrubbed clean and sent off to Sunday School most weeks.

A child of the Great Depression she carefully guarded money and knew how much we had right down to the nickel.

When I was five years old I learned the value of that nickel and the dangers of foolish spending on a hot summer day.  The neighborhood kids were headed to the store to buy frozen pops and I wanted to join them on their adventure.  For weeks these kids had taunted me that their folks had threatened to call the “welfare” on my family.  I didn’t know what the welfare was… but there had been lots of talk at home about the poor house and how people who didn’t have money were sent to that terrible place.

My mom kept her big black purse on the highest kitchen shelf.  Somehow I managed to move a chair to the counter, climb up and take the money without being caught.

That precious nickel was spent on that long ago summer day and helped me feel like a normal kid as my tongue became stained by the ill-gotten frozen pop.  When I got home I was caught red-handed. (or should I say purple tongued.)  Mom grilled me and explained in no uncertain terms stealing was wrong and hurt everyone. She sent me to the living room to await my punishment when Dad came home.  Sobbing and filled with guilt it seemed as if hours passed until I learned my fate.

When Dad did come home he said not a word.  Mom’s punishment had been enough.  I had learned stealing was bad and a nickel meant something for a family struggling to make ends meet. 

This is just one childhood memory of a time when a woman’s place was in the home and one of the many lessons defining  who I’ve become.   

Pulling up my news feed today and reading about Senator Susan Collins and her courageous stand against the latest Trump Care proposal  I cannot help but think about my mom. She would have made a hell of a politician.