From Foster Care to Public Defender

Back story: Esther Mulder was a ward of the state for most of her childhood. But in the eyes of one special judge, she was a diamond in the rough. As a teen, Mulder appeared in front of Anoka County District Judge Steve Askew, who reviewed her care and financial stability. He encouraged Mulder to dream big. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 2014, she returned to the Twin Cities to work as a public defender.

Update: The judge, now retired, and Mulder have exchanged e-mails and hope to meet soon. Mulder wants to thank him in person for his years of guidance.
Gail Rosenblum






Still thrilling us

Back story: Northfield’s Benjamin Percy made all sorts of noise this year with “The Dead Lands,” his genre-hacking post-apocalyptic vision of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and also debuted as the new writer of the Green Arrow series for DC Comics.

Update: He’s still writing the Green Arrow, travels too much for various projects and always is writing. Up in 2016: Graywolf Press will publish “Thrill Me,” a collection of his essays about the craft of writing, focusing on the art of suspense and momentum.
Kim Ode


Trading places

Back story: After a decade of climbing the TV ranks, KARE-11 weather forecaster Jerrid Sebesta took a leap of faith and traded fame for family. He quit his high-profile job, sold his Maple Grove home and moved to Willmar, Minn., to work as a life coach.

Update: Sebesta continues to speak around the region, inspiring others to pursue a life of financial freedom. He also handles marketing for Taatjes Financial Group and dabbles in videos, radio shows and podcasts. As for his original plan to move to South Dakota? “My wife and I still dream of living on the prairies of South Dakota someday,” he said.
Aimee Blanchette


The Monarch midwife

Back story: Fiona Lennox left the security and salary of corporate America to raise more than 400 butterflies — in her Minneapolis home.

Update: Lennox isn’t the only one who’s passionate about monarchs. She received offers of help — and hundreds of milkweed plants — from Twin Cities residents who said they, too, wanted to boost the flagging monarch population. After releasing 409 monarch butterflies for their flight to Mexico, and tagging 50 of them for the national research database Monarch Watch, Lennox said she suffered “serious empty nest syndrome.”


The laundry evangelist

Back story: Patric Richardson managed to fall in love with the most hated household chore — laundry. He has made it his mission to help others conquer the laundry beast with gusto.

Update: His passion for removing stains resonates with laundry lovers and loathers alike. To continue his mission to spread the love for laundry, Richardson holds “laundry camp” at his Mona Williams boutique in northeast Minneapolis (sign up at and plans to open a second location, where specialty laundry products will be front and center, including a $2,500 whirlpool laundry tub with jets.


The death of Jell-O

Back story: The merger in March of food giants Heinz and Kraft prompted speculation that jiggly Jell-O could fall under the cost-cutting ax, putting Lutheran potlucks in peril.

Update: Turns out there’s still always room for Jell-O — at least in our cupboards. But company employees weren’t so lucky: Refrigerators once stocked with Kraft treats such as Jell-O and cheese sticks were removed from headquarters in July. Perhaps we should share our recipe for Lime Jell-O Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise?


Bridge to a new life

Back story: In 1990, 20-year-old Jennifer Green sneaked away from a mental health facility where she was receiving treatment for bipolar depression and jumped 25 feet from a bridge. She lived, but shattered her back and wrist. For 25 years, Green wondered who had witnessed that jump, called police and saved her life. She wanted to say, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Update: Last March, Green, now 46, received a letter from a couple who said they witnessed her jump. While they wished to remain anonymous, they said they were happy to know that she was alive. Green, who lives in Illinois, has a job and good friends and is managing her chronic pain and depression. In 2016, she plans to produce a film for others living with mental health challenges on the theme of hope.


At home with art

Back story: When a funky art house in northeast Minneapolis hit the market last summer, it became an instant sensation. Artist Lauri Svedberg had spent 35 years turning her home into an installation, complete with wall-to-wall nature murals and rock mosaics on almost every surface. Despite predictions, the quirky house was not a tough sell. It quickly attracted offers and sold above asking price. “My fondest hope is that someone will buy it and keep it alive,” Svedberg said.

Update: She got her wish. New owner Annette Schiebout, a writer, singer and project manager, plans to keep the artwork intact. Schiebout, who lives nearby, isn’t moving in. She plans to use the house as a community arts center (Bella Luna Studios at the Wolf House, and eventually a B&B. She has hosted several readings, visiting artists and house concerts. “It’s so magical,” she said.
Kim Palmer


The bromance is over

Back story: Words that mash the buddy moniker “bro” onto innocent nouns — think “broga” for an all-male yoga class — took a leap forward last summer when guys started ordering brosé wine — yep, the pink stuff — during happy hours. Hangover cures included maca-broni and cheese.

Update: While “bromance” will forever be enshrined in the Oxford English Dictionary, the “bro” prefix is fading, fading, fading to bro-wn — if not to black. Our guess for the tipping point? Bro-tein shakes.


Skyway dream home

Back story: CityDeskStudio gave Aimee and Preston Jobe an offer they couldn’t refuse: $5,000 to haul away a section of a former downtown Minneapolis skyway, which had been parked in a field for nearly a decade. Architects Bob Ganser and Ben Awes selected the Jobes because of their proposal to turn the steel structure into a lakeside family home — and save the historic 280,000-pound behemoth from the scrap heap.

Update: Last summer, the Jobes spent $30,000 to transport the 84-foot-long skyway from Minneapolis to Up North. Its final resting spot is on their land along North Long Lake near Brainerd. This spring, the steel shell, outfitted with new glass walls, will become the top level of a 3,000-square-foot home designed by CityDesk for the couple and their son. “We live in an area with log homes and cabins,” said Aimee Jobe. “So it will stand out.”
Lynn Underwood






Wheel of giving keeps on spinning

Back story: The giving spirit has spread through the anonymous group 12 Ordinary Women, a grass-roots effort that began in Minnesota. Since 2014, the dozen unnamed women met monthly to select who would receive a much needed gift — from a laptop for a deserving college student to school tuition for the children of a struggling single mother.

Update: The monthly secret Santa got a boost from a 64-year-old retiree, who gave $5,000 to supplement one of the local groups that has sprung up. Across the country, others were inspired to found their own 12 Ordinary Women groups to support needy people in their communities.
Natalie Daher




Libido drug gets cool reception

Back story: After three attempts, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finally approved the first libido-enhancement drug for women last summer. Called Addyi (pronounced ADD-ey), the drug targets premenopausal women, typically in their 30s and 40, who have lost their sexual desire.

Update: Since launching in the United States, very few prescriptions have been filled. Is it the drug’s high cost (up to $800 a month), or the potential side effects (such as nausea and drowsiness)? Will it become popular? It’s too early to make a call on this one.








Still making the grade

Back story: Lindsey Schiffler returned home from vacation in August to find her Minneapolis apartment ransacked. Sentimental items? Gone. Far worse? Her flash drives and computer — containing four years of research for her doctorate from the University of St. Thomas — were gone, too.

Update: Despite many leads, Schiffler never recovered her research. Building on rough drafts sent earlier to her adviser, Schiffler “just kept plowing through,” re-interviewing about a dozen sources and re-creating data for her study of classroom management. “Going back to re-interview, I started to ask better questions that elicited more revealing data,” said Schiffler, a Robbinsdale Cooper High School English teacher. She hopes to defend her dissertation in February.