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.


Water is life

Hummingbirds floating above a feeder faded pink by the sun… in a cloudless sky framed by giant cottonwood trees…in the distance the rhythmic sound of a creek snaking its way through McElmo Canyon; for the next few days this is my piece of heaven on earth.
Pecking away on my laptop I’m sitting in the shade steps from our cabin at the Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch. My husband is working nearby cleaning and repairing an old saddle  retired by a long ago cowboy to one of the many storage sheds on the ranch. I should be precise here. For him working with saddles isn’t work, it’s fun. This will be his third saddle since we started vacationing at the ranch.


Once or twice a year we pack up the car in Minnesota and make the long drive through Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado. Climbing to the top of Wolf Creek Pass our anticipation of the days ahead climbs right along with the altitude. As Gary guides the car along the hairpin curves we chatter about our destination; how big are the long horn calves? Will Bessie Mae’s surprise litter of puppies look like her? What about the mountain lion spotted in the canyon?
Questions soon to be answered when we settle in at the ranch and catch up with the owners and our friends Ming and Garry.

During our multiple visits over the years we learn this magical environment is dependent on limited water supplies that must be rationed and respected. Observing the day-to-day lives of the men and women who call the canyon their home I can say without a doubt their’s is hard work—a labor of love— requiring an eye to the future if their life is to be sustainable.

I’m struck by the similarities of ideals shared by these ranchers and our Native American friends and neighbors in Minnesota as they work to protect natural resources as an investment in the generations that will follow in their footsteps.

Many might view this piece of heaven in in the Four Corners in stark contrast to the abundance of water and lush forests back home in Minnesota. In a state where weekends mean a trip to the family lake cabin and the waining days of summer bring fall colors and the harvest of the wild rice crop… it’s hard to imagine that our ten thousand lakes and rushing rivers will ever go dry or that our fresh water supplies will ever become contaminated.

But the truth is—whether we live in the land of endless sky blue water or the land of enchanted canyons dependent on rationing and respect… our water is under threat. Our water must be protected. Water is life.DKJA6iyX0AYNvec