This morning I was reading the paper online and found an article that hit home with me. http://www.startribune.com/local/west/112352039.html
This article talks about Edina residents that have been talking about needing to be more pedestrian friendly around parks, schools, and in some neighborhoods. I don't live in Edina, I live in Richfield, but on the Edina border near the Southdale/Galleria/SuperTarget area. I do agree with this article in many situations. I believe in our hurried up world, large traffic jams, etc we have made many neighborhoods short cuts to avoid hwy 62, 494, 35W, 100, etc. As a result, we see increased traffic on France, York, 66th Street, 70th Street and more. In fact many of those streets have gotten so much busier over the years they have become extremely dangerous for pedestrians or bikers to try and cross, many of these roads are even scary to maneuver in a car!
In my neighborhood we have fought with Richfield AND Edina City Councils to try and get stop signs to make it safer for our children to cross the street to go to the park, ride their bikes and for the many elderly residents that live on the Edina/Richfield border. For years we have been told there aren't enough accidents, enough people getting hit and enough traffic, I beg to differ. I have, as many of my neighbors have, personally seen too many bikers (so far all adults), car accidents and pedestrians(again all adults) get hit on Xerxes right behind Cub Foods Edina because it is used as a short cut to avoid traffic. However, the Edina/Richfield borders split Xerxes right down the middle so each city tells us their hands are tied and to contact the other city. On my road, I have seen way too many close calls of my own children almost getting hit by cars coming fast around corners or over our small hill knowing there is no stop sign, so they don't even slow down to look for people or bikes.
I avoid France Avenue between Crosstown and 494 like the plague even in my car, because of how crazy busy it is and how hurried people seem to be. I used to walk the 3-4 blocks to Target with my children when they were younger, but now that they are older, we have to drive. When they were younger, they were in a stroller so I could run, literally run, across York Avenue to make it across before the light turned red. I think it is crazy how close I live to Target and I have to drive because of how short the walk lights and how busy the roads are. Every day I see the many senior citizens who live in the community narrowly missed by cars as they try to walk or scooter across York to Target or Southdale.
I see the same thing happening in Richfield along 66th Street. I think it is crazy we live only 4 blocks from our local Elementary school and we can't walk to it because 66th Street is so extremely busy and pedestrian friendly. I wouldn't even walk on the sidewalks on that road when my babies were in a stroller because the sidewalk is right up against the road and there are so many businesses and driveways and very rarely are drivers looking for walkers or bikers before they tear out onto 66th Street trying to beat traffic.
I live in an area with a walking score of 88 (out of 100) (Check out www.walkingscore.com to check your own neighborhood.) and we do walk many places, however we could walk to that many more if Edina and Richfield would get over their traffic analysis and just get out of their cars and start walking around the neighborhoods, shopping centers, restaurants, parks, and schools and see how safe things really are. Have them do it over a 6-12 month period, on nights, weekends, and week-days. Have them walk around in the summer, during the school year, and in the winter. If they all live to tell of their experiences, I think they might change their tune on sidewalks and pedestrian friendly areas.
A few years ago Edina had a great comprehensive plan for the area between France/York and 66th and 78th Streets to make it more pedestrian, car, bus, and biker friendly. It was a great plan and included some really good ideas of rezoning, along with some really bad ideas too, but it was a start. I think if Edina went back to the drawing board and started to look at ways to make it safer and easier for their seniors, families, and the rest of the community to get around Southdale/Yorktown/Galleria/Centennial Lakes areas without having to jump into their cars, they would not only alleviate some of the car traffic, they would maybe be able to start bringing Southdale Mall back to life a bit and increase their own 'real' walking score. I also think if they started with a large area like that area, they could use the lessons learned to create safer areas around their entire city near their parks and schools.
Richfield needs to stop worrying about rezoning areas for 'greater density' and give up on silly bike paths that make no sense and start focusing on the youngest and oldest residents and how to make their lives safer and easier since they are the ones that are most affected when they can't walk places.
Being home for a long 5 day weekend with all the children, brought out great things for our family. It brought us closer, we were able to have long, lazy days filled with board games, movies and sledding. We also were able to have good one on time with our 3 school-aged children and find out more about their lives. This one on one time led to us finding out one of our daughters is being teased at school.
As our weekend drew on, my husband and I pieced more and more together and found out our normally very strong, independent, and normally our leader is getting teased at school so much she is wanting to change what she looks like. That was alarming on many points, because she normally doesn't care what she or anyone else really looks like, fashion isn't her thing, style isn't something she has or cares about. So when she told my husband she wanted to change how she looked, we got worried.
A little back story here, we live in a community where we are blessed to live with many different types of people from all over the board. We have higher income, lower income, and middle income, we have blue collar, white collar, high school educated, college educated, we have single parent homes, mixed with multi-generational homes, and every color under the sun. It is great and we love that our family is living around all aspects of people and life. We have also discovered over the years, our children tend to be the minority in many cases because all of them have blond hair and 2 of them have blue eyes. We think it is great they are growing up learning about differences instead of sameness.
Which brings me back to this weekend, our daughter had stopped washing her hair and brushing her hair this year, which isn't too far from the norm considering she has never really cared what she looked like. However, it has gotten really bad and we finally figured out this weekend why. She has been getting teased at school this year for having blond hair by some girls of different backgrounds. Well, our daughter noticed her hair looked darker when it was dirty and messy, so she liked it better that way because she didn't feel so different from the others at school and the girls didn't tease her as much.
This puts us in new territory as parents. First, we haven't had to deal with teasing before and now we are dealing with teasing about how our child looks. As a parent I am crushed she has to even deal with this, especially in 2nd Grade, but then I think back to when we were growing up and you know, getting teased was just part of growing up. I think it is more how the parent handles the child who is being teased than the actual teasing itself. I think teasing is a part of life, children are brutally honest sometimes and yes, my daughter is one of the few blonds in her school. We have chosen to tell her she is unique and special and usually when someone teases it is because there is something they don't like about themselves.
I have no idea why they have chosen our daughter to tease and frankly, don't care. We will do the right thing which is to contact the school, teacher and hope they talk to the parents of the girls and the girls themselves. We hope it stops, but all we can really do is to love our daughter and try and teach her to love herself, no matter what she or anyone else looks like.
Is this what some call, 'Reverse Discrimination' as some people have said? I don't know, all I know is we live in a melting pot and people will always have differences, we are designed that way naturally. I think how our families and society handle teasing is more important than trying to stop the teasing. Life isn't fair, never will be. We aren't supposed to all be the same and we don't deserve sameness. We need to teach our children how to love themselves no matter what others tell them and to hopefully be kind to others and love others the way they would want to be loved.
I am sending my daughter off to school tomorrow morning with freshly washed, brushed and styled hair, her best uniform and hopefully a new attitude about herself and her looks. We have told her she is loved and being different is great. We have told her to imbrace hers and others differences and we have told her, she doesn't have to be friends with those girls, but she does have to be nice to them no matter what. Mostly, we have told her she can come to my husband or I no matter what and she can tell us anything and we will do our best to listen, love, and help if needed.
I am so unsure about how to start this blog or even what I am going to write. I am still in shock, disbelief, and utterly afraid for not only my children, my friends children, my relatives, and my city that I have called home my entire life, even when I wasn't living here.
I was up north recouping from another bout of Pneumonia, just relaxing with my family away from the schedules, school, activities, friends and extended family. We had just put all the children to bed when my husband I decided to watch TV, I almost wish I never turned it on that night. I wish I was still blissfully unaware of what is happening seemingly under my nose in my city, with kids that could have been me or any one of my friends had we grown up now instead of during the 80's.
I am still shocked about the 20/20 story that ran about 3 Suburban Minneapolis kids who were hooked on heroin and my feelings about that story and my emotions are still running in a million different directions. It is almost like I can't or don't want to comprehend what is happening in the city I have loved for so long, in neighborhoods, schools and streets I know well. As a parent, I am terrified, I am shocked, scared, speechless, sad, angry, actually I am beyond angry, I am downright pissed off! I feel like I have been living a lie and I feel like I have been living in the dark. Did you all know that Minneapolis has some of the purest and cheapest heroin in the country?! Right here in our little 'Metropolis' of Minneapolis and our comfortable middle class suburban neighborhoods filled with families, there are children doing heroin. I mean come on, one of those kids was from Wayzata and went to Wayzata high school, another went to a small, private school! I know that shouldn't mean anything as drugs can be anywhere, I am just shocked, shocked, shocked.
Why has heroin tripled in use over the past 3 years in Minneapolis? I know much of it is because of how pure it is and how cheap it is. That purity means it is very, very addictive even if only used once. These drugs terrify me, it means my children, if they make a really bad decision some day in high school or college, will more than likely be screwed up for life. How does a parent stop this from happening? I have 4 children ages 9-2, I am still worrying about how to keep them healthy, do their clothes fit from season to season, teaching them to cross the street and tie their shoes. My oldest child is in 4th Grade and we are now starting to have to discuss the body, changing parts and all, and the 'S' word. (Not sure if I can type that word out for the paper) After Friday night, I realize I am so ill prepared for parenthood and all it has to bring. I can barely grasp the concept of speaking to my children about the birds and bees, let alone things like heroin and prostitution.
As a taxpayer, citizen and almost lifelong Minnesotan, I am pissed off that these drugs are so easy to get in my city. I am pissed off that there are children selling their bodies for a cheap high. I am pissed off at these other parents that don't know what their children are doing until it is too late. I don't watch the nightly news often, I do try to read the paper a few times a week though, how did I not know this was happening here?
As a citizen, I urge you to stand up and start taking back your neighborhoods, start getting involved again with the children in your neighborhood, befriend that only child, that loner child, or the one next door to you with a ton of friends. Get to know your neighbors, we need to bring back community and bring back knowing our neighbors and knowing what is happening in our neighborhood. As a parent, stop being your childs friend, they have their own friends. Speaking of friends, know their friends, their friends families and where your children are going and who they are going to be with. Get them involved in sports, church, and youth groups and volunteer at those places! You don't have to monitor their every move, but you should know their general lives. Make sure your children know that you are a safe place for them. Let them know they can honestly talk to you about anything and then be there for your children when they need to honestly talk to you. I am not sure if these will work, but I believe being involved limits the openings for bad things/people in our children's lives.
I don't know how to change what is happening to our kids in our city and our communities, I only know we should all be scared and we all need to open our eyes. I don't know how to stop your children or my children from doing drugs. The kids in this story seemed to have it all, they were in high school or college, they played sports, they had supportive families and lots of friends. On paper, they just don't seem like kids that would get into heroin. How is this stopped? I have not one answer, only more and more questions all of which upset and anger me. All my questions only make the tight feeling in my chest get tighter when I think of it and the fear I now have of the areas I have always felt safe in.
I hope this blog opens your eyes to our safe little haven we have called Minneapolis, our small town in the big city, feeling we have carried with us and lets you know we are truly now a big city, with big city problems, even in the suburbs. If you would like to watch the story behind this post, here is the link: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/ I haven't stopped thinking of these kids and their families and praying for their recovery, I can't imagine what they and their families have and are going through.
Last night after seeing a report on the news about our last major factory in the US that makes regular light bulbs (incandescent) closing down and 200 American workers losing their jobs, I did some research.
First of all, it was our own government that caused these 200 US workers to lose their jobs in the middle of one of our biggest recessions, it was also our own government that caused more outsourcing of American jobs, considering that almost all CFL's (Florescent bulbs) are made overseas, mainly China. It was all started with a 2007 energy conservation measure that was passed by Congress; it set standards essentially banning all ordinary light bulbs in the US by 2014.
In many people's minds, our government forcing us to be more energy efficient is a good thing, for me, I don't buy into it. There is only 1 light fixture in my home that uses CFL's and the ONLY reason I even use them there is because it is an old fixture and it burns out too many lightbulbs because of heat. I can't wait for the day, I can replace that light fixture so I can use regular light bulbs again.
I have many issues with CFL's, mainly because of how bad they are for the environment, mainly my son's environment. My son is on the Autism Spectrum. What many of us don't know and don't see is Florescent bulbs flicker, almost like a strobe. We can't see it however many on the Spectrum can and it is almost like them having a strobe light in their room. My son was extremely agitated when I used them in his bedroom lamp, because it too runs hot so, I used CFL's in there. Until I figured it out, he couldn't sleep, he was moody, agitated and aggressive. Once I did some research and figured out what it might be, I quickly replaced his light bulbs with regular ones and instantly, he was back to 'normal'. That was the end of CFL's in our house. So I continued to do more research on CFL's and discovered some things that disturbed me.
Besides them being made almost completely in China, they also contain Mercury. Yes, each bulb only contains up to 5 milligrams of Mercury compared to the old Mercury Thermometers that contains 1/2 gram to 1 1/2 grams of Mercury. (Which for those of you like me, 1 gram of Mercury is equal to 1000 milligrams). OK, well wow, that doesn't seem like too much mercury, however when you think of every household in the United States and all businesses using CFL bulbs, that equals a lot of Mercury back into our environment, not to mention our homes. I live in a very modest story and a half in Richfield, yet just counting my light bulbs on my main floor, I have 22 light bulbs, that equals 110 mg just on my first floor. If I count the rest of the house, I add 34 more lightbulbs adding 170 more mg equaling just in my home up to 370 mg of mercury. Again doesn't sound like much, so I did some research.
I discovered that 1 in 6 US children are exposed to toxic levels of Mercury in the womb, mostly from environmental forms of Mercury such as those found in fish. OK, well, how much does the EPA believe is safe? Well, lets start with another fact first, a can of Albacore tuna contains as much as 52.7 micrograms of Mercury in it. (again for those of you like me, there are 1000 micrograms per milligram) Well, that totally sounds safe, until you read that the EPA says only 3.7 micrograms of Mercury is safe to ingest.
Doing more research, I discovered the GE website and looked under how to dispose properly of a CFL lightbulb. Did you know you can't throw them away like a regular lightbulb? Here is what GE says: "..like paint, batteries, and other hazardous (wait, did they just say 'hazardous'?) household items, CFL's should be disposed of properly." Before you dispose of them, put them in a plastic bag, well that sounds environmentally good, what happens when they take away our plastic bags too?
They went on to say, don't throw them away in the regular trash and if your trash company incinerates, never throw them in there. However, they were nice enough to say that IKEA (only company listed) takes back CFL's and disposes of them for you.
Then, I read about what to do if a CFL breaks: "sweep up, don't vacuum", "place broken pieces in a sealed plastic bag (again that darn bad for the environment plastic bag!) and wipe down area with a damp paper towel to pick up any stray shards of glass or fine particles. Put the used paper towel in the plastic bag as well." Then comes my favorite part! "If weather permits, open a window to allow room to ventilate." What the heck does the room need to ventilate for or from?!
I am sure all the environmentalists feel they are 'saving' the world by making us use CFL's, just like they are saving the world by having us use Lithium batteries and 'electric' cars. Ha, just a quick fact on Lithium people...it is mined mostly in 3rd world countries by child labor! But heck, all is fair in 'saving' the environment! Oh and yes, those electric cars, yes they 'magically' get power by that little outlet in the garage, yes the energy is just 'magic'.
I am all for picking up garbage, using less,,..which us Americans hate to hear, and trying to keep our country, air, and water clean. But it all comes at a price that I am not willing to pay, so keep your recycling, your CFL bulbs, and your Prius's out of my house. I will stick with my V8 SUV, my regular light bulbs (which I plan to stock up on), for those of you wondering, no I don't recycle.
Today my husband and I took our 3 daughters and 3 of their friends to Como Zoo. It was a beautiful day for the zoo and our youngest daughter had never been there, plus I needed a bit of a distraction from thinking of 9/11/01 just for a couple hours.
As we were laughing and joyfully watching our 2 year olds face light up with each new animal she saw watched the other 5 girls, skip and run through the zoo from one attraction to the other I found myself upset again. I noticed that Como Zoo didn't have any of their American Flags at half staff today and I was very upset by it. I went up to probably 5 different employees during our time there to let them know their flags weren't at half staff and each time, I just got a weird look, an 'uh OK', or some other half-hearted reply. I gently reminded them today was September 11th and our flags should be at half staff, empty stares. I don't know if they ever put their flags at half staff later on in the day or not, we were there for almost 3 hours and they didn't while we were there. Because of that, on the way home, I was talking to my husband and we started noticing other flags that weren't at half staff dotting the Twin Cities, most in front of office buildings that are empty on the weekends. I started thinking to myself, I bet many people don't know flag etiquette anymore.
See, when my husband and I were growing up, we remember saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school every morning, we weren't allowed to 'touch' the flag in the classroom and every morning I remember the 'big kids' got to go out together and hoist the flag up the pole and every afternoon we would watch other big kids taking the flag down and folding it oh so carefully. The flag didn't fly on our schools flag pole in storms, on weekends, at night or during the summer months. It only flew during the school day. So, I got to thinking and did some research on 'flag etiquette' today.
First of all, today was Patriot Day and all American flags should have been flown at half staff as ordered by Governor Pawlenty. So, on to some of the rules I discovered, I will list the ones that meant the most to me, you might know others as there are many, but easy to remember.
-The flag should never touch anything beneath it (such as the ground)
-The flag should never be used as wearing apparel (should never be on clothing, blankets, etc)
-No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America
-The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing
-When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner
-The flag should be lighted at all times, whether by sunlight or by an appropriate light source
-The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations
There are many more simple and easy rules to follow when it comes to our American flag. I will put some links up at the end of the blog post. But all these things I saw today and have been seeing over the years, I got to wondering a few things. When did we forget about the correct way to display our flags, when did it become OK for our athletes to wrap themselves in the American flag after winning sporting events? When did it become OK for our children to not say the Pledge of Allegiance in our schools? Are we not all living in the same country, enjoying the same freedoms our flag stands for?
My husband is truly the word-smith in our family and I wish I could say things as well as he does, but I will try. He mentioned to me, that he wondered with the lack of respect we show our own flag for our country, how can we expect others to respect our flag or for that matter, our country? Wow, I agree. Maybe it is time to go back to the basics, go back to the time when our flag was honored, our flag was saluted, we stood for our National Anthem with our hands on our hearts, our hats off our heads and we saluted our soldiers and our American Flag stood for something.
As a child, I never really understood what the flag stood for, other than the stars representing each state, but now as an adult, who vividly remembers 9/11/01 and who is raising 4 children in this changed country, this changed world of ours, I see how much we have lost just by not understanding a few simple and basic rules about our country's flag.
Here are the links I found: