Women Shattering Political Glass Ceilings in 2016

This year’s election has felt more divisive and caustic than previous elections. That’s no secret. So in such an environment, it’s helpful to focus on the positive: Women achieving public office.

On my ballot there are at least three women running for positions that a woman has never held before. I think that’s exciting.

I think it’s worth talking about these potential milestones, regardless of your political leanings.

Let’s take a moment to address why celebrating this kind of diversity is important. Continue reading Women Shattering Political Glass Ceilings in 2016

Turning on the Heat 2016

Every year I note when I turn the heat on (yes, I’m a nerd).

This year was pretty average. We’ve got some highs in the low 70s coming up, so maybe we could have lasted longer, but today barely breaks 60 and I’m tired of being cold.

Plus, my daughter was complaining. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a frugal furnace monster.

West St. Paul City Council Ward 3 Race: Dave Napier vs. John Ramsay

The heated elections in West St. Paul continue. I already posted about the West St. Paul mayor election, and now I’m going to look at the West St. Paul City Council Ward 3 race. We have the incumbent city council member Dave Napier running against challenger John Ramsay (who also ran in 2014 and lost a close race).

Much like the West St. Paul mayor’s race, in city council we’re facing the same issues. I think it comes down to vision and investment vs. penny pinching.

You can read the Dakota County Chamber of Commerce candidate questionnaires and watch the public television candidate forum and meet the candidates (though it does not include John Ramsay). You can also get details from official sites for John Ramsay and Dave Napier.

Dave Napier has been on the council for four years and has been involved and advocating for strategic planning. In the candidate forum he talks about getting community input and then pursuing those goals.

John Ramsay talks about the importance of business to the exclusion of everything else. He campaigned hard against the Robert Street project in 2014, and continues to declare this necessary, vital project a fiasco. Continue reading West St. Paul City Council Ward 3 Race: Dave Napier vs. John Ramsay

West St. Paul Mayoral Election 2016: David Meisinger vs. Jenny Halverson

The West St. Paul mayoral and city council races are heating up in 2016 like never before. In my opinion, the campaign comes down to a choice between the penny-pinching approach of the  incumbent Mayor David Meisinger and the investment approach of challenger and current City Council Member Jenny Halverson.

I blogged about the West St. Paul mayor race back in 2014 because I was frustrated about the lack of coverage, clear details and accountability. Not much has changed.

Last time around I spoke directly to the candidates, trying to clarify some of the false and misleading statements. I didn’t get very far with that, especially when one of the candidates, current Mayor David Meisinger, blocked me on Facebook when I asked follow-up questions.

So this time around I opted to cut to the chase and look at what each candidate has already said. Many of these statements are snippets from the Dakota County Chamber of Commerce candidate questionnaires. I encourage you to read the full responses there, and watch the public television candidate forum and meet the candidates. You can also get details from official sites for David Meisinger and Jenny Halverson.

This post is my opinion, and you’re welcome to your own opinion, so please educate yourself and vote on November 8. Continue reading West St. Paul Mayoral Election 2016: David Meisinger vs. Jenny Halverson

Back to School

Today is the first day of school. My kids are off to second grade and fifth grade (middle school!).

Pardon me while I celebrate the end of summer.

(I’m a work-at-home dad. Summer is not so easy.)

School can always be kind of crazy making. I’m 37, I’ve been out of school for… a long time, and I still have recurring nightmares about getting lost in school, unable to find my classes or remember my schedule.

This prayer seems apt:

Even when there’s not much to be nervous about—my kids have it pretty easy—they’re still nervous.

Just looking at this photo from the superintendent, the welcome wagon at high school—especially the high fives—makes me a little nervous. It’s a welcoming gesture, sure, but it feels like window dressing for the high school experience. When it comes to finding a seat in the cafeteria or sitting next to someone on the bus or just walking down the halls, will those smiles and high fives still be there?

Honestly, I feel a little bit of relief that I don’t have to deal with any of it, that the kids are off and the house is quiet again. They’re as prepared as they’re going to be, and they’ll have to face it themselves.


Summer Book Club 2016

Last year I did a summer book club with Lexi. We’d read the same book, then go to the coffee shop for snacks and talk about it. This year we did it again.

And Milo joined in.

I didn’t think Milo was ready for chapter books. He’s been reading those numbered early readers (1, 2, 3) that I find brain-numbing, and I thought he was still struggling with those. But when I started the book club with Lexi, he wanted in. He’s definitely not ready for the harder middle grade books Lexi is reading, so we opted to do a separate book club with him and he totally nailed it.

As we talked about the books, it was clear Milo completely understood what he was reading. I even tested him to see what he could read, and discovered he couldn’t actually read a lot of the bigger words. But he could still figure out what was happening in the story. That’s pretty incredible. (My wife the teacher is rolling her eyes; apparently this is what all kids go through as they learn how to read.)

So I did book club with both kids. We didn’t get started until July, and reading for two different kids took more time, but we still got through three books each.

Lexi’s Book Club:

  • Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass
  • I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin
  • Bird by Crystal Chan

Lexi’s favorite: I Lived on Butterfly Hill

My favorite: Every Soul a Star
(Learning about solar eclipses was pretty cool—we’re planning to check out the 2017 total solar eclipse in Nebraska next summer.)

Milo’s Book Club:

  • Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst
  • Ellray Jakes Is Not Chicken by Sally Warner
  • Stink and the Incredible Super-Galactic Jawbreaker by Megan McDonald

Our favorite: Lulu and the Brontosaurus (we both liked that one best)

Since we got a late start and I couldn’t seem to keep up with both kids, it didn’t feel like we got through many books. Both kids are wanting to keep doing book club in the fall (I imagine more motivated by the chance to go get a snack than anything), so we’ll have to see. It is a fun way to engage with them.

Patwin Lawrence: Calling Out a Candidate for Inconsistencies

Patwin Lawrence is a candidate for the Minnesota Senate in District 59, and I think he may have inconsistent personal and political views that he’s not disclosing to voters.

This has been a weird national election season. I’ve learned (the hard way) that being too outspoken about politics is obnoxious. But I also think it’s important to talk about. Politics is messy, but it won’t get any better if we completely ignore it.

And as I’ve said before, local election coverage is weak at best.

So I’m diving in (gulp). I’m asking public questions of a local candidate (and acquaintance) because I think it’s important voters be informed to make their own decisions.

So full disclosure: This is an oddly personal and political blog post. Continue reading Patwin Lawrence: Calling Out a Candidate for Inconsistencies

Favorite Books So Far in 2016

So we’re halfway through 2016. How’s your book reading going?

I’m on a ridiculous pace: 104 books so far this year. Of course I read a lot. If this pace continues, I’ll beat my record of 203 books in 2014. But I don’t really care about that. While I like to talk about the numbers because they’re shocking, I’m not in it to set records. I’m in it to read good books.

I also track the racial and gender diversity in my books. So far this year I’m at 52% racial diversity (books written by or featuring main characters of color) and 54% female authors. Last year, my most diverse year to date, I managed 54% POC and 56% women.

So I’m on track there, which is encouraging. Seeking out diverse books isn’t always easy, but I’m starting to see it pay dividends as I try to understand the world around me and help my kids navigate it.

But enough about numbers. Let’s talk books.

Favorite Fiction Books So Far This Year:

  • Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.
  • Copper Sun by Sharon Draper
  • Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past by Diane Wilson
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  • Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff
  • Roots by Alex Haley
  • Frindle by Andrew Clements

Favorite Nonfiction Books So Far This Year:

  • Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles
  • Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World by Laura Barcella
  • Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark by Addie Zierman
  • Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity by Beverly Daniel Tatum
  • Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew G.I. Hart

I’ve got about 25 library books sitting in my to-read stack, so I’m excited to discover some more great books in 2016.

How Do We Overcome Our Bi-Partisan Ignorance?

Ignorance stalks us wherever we go. Stupidity too—it’s easy to lash out in anger or dismissiveness. And maybe arrogance as well, to think that none of these apply to us. To me. We—I—live a great contradiction.

It’s so prominent in the political debate in this country right now—filibusters and sit-ins over gun rights, refusing to consider Supreme Court nominees, etc.. One side decries the other side’s actions, even though the first side has used the exact same tactic in the past. Both sides do it.

And so it goes. And that’s just in politics.

I read a lot. Some might say too much. In that reading I come across portrayals of overwhelming ignorance. Just this morning, in a matter of pages I read about The Colored Motorist’s Guide that told black people in the first half of the twentieth century “where they could and could not sleep, in what towns the citizens would shoot them if they stayed after dark,” and then that “deaf schools banished sign language, declared it backward and a threat to the wholesome spoken word, subscribed to the theory that sign language would encourage the deaf to marry only each other and create a perpetuating race of non-hearers, and swaddled the hands of their most defiant students in thick cotton mittens.” Continue reading How Do We Overcome Our Bi-Partisan Ignorance?

Giving Cancer the Middle Finger

I’m excited to read the new book from Nora McInerny Purmort, It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too). You may have seen the headlines about her: she married her husband after his brain cancer diagnosis and they decided to have a child even though he was dying.

A book about cancer and death? Oh joy, right?

Yeah, Nora is freaking hilarious. I saw her speak a few months back and the whole place was laughing to tears. She’s one of these incredible people who can make us laugh in the face of cancer and death.

Sometimes we need to give cancer the ol’ middle finger.

The Pioneer Press has a great profile of Nora, and I just loved this section:

Grieving widow books are thriving, many offering some version of “God gave me strength and made me a better person.” Not Nora Purmort.

“I hate that sh–. I didn’t want to write that book,” she says. “I don’t think things happen for a reason, and it’s not nice to say this is God’s plan.”


A work-at-home dad wrestles with faith, social justice & story.