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refuge.

{shelter from the storm}

Sister, Sister Why young women are

choosing convents over careers

Prisoners of Fear Trapped by agoraphobia

Love and (not quite)

Marriage

Can your relationship handle sharing it all?

The secret life of stay-at-home moms

PLUS:

Chefs dish on their favorite go-to foods and WCCO-TV reporter Jason DeRusha reveals his own personal refuge: home. spring 2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 1


Magazine Editor-in-Chief Ellen Burkhardt Art Director Lauren Gantner Managing Editors Bethany Onsgard Lana Walker Senior Editors Carolyn Deutsch Megan Hanson Janae Olinger Colleen Powers Associate Editors Lauren Caffery Megan Hussong Daniela Przybyszewska Erik Williams

Assistant Art Directors Kathryn Holahan Jay Jorgenson Karen Locke Yaisha Neiderhiser Staff Photographers Liz Johnston Amanda Pointer ... Web Web Editor Nicole Holdorph Web Associate Editor Trey Mewes Web Programmer Andrew Osthoff Web Designer Melanie Boyung Web Writers/Bloggers John Grimley Jake Thiesse Jeremy Woodson ... Thanks We would like to thank the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota, Elizabeth Larsen, Jeanne Schacht, Scott Dierks, Wally Swanson, and Al Tims. This publication is made possible by the Milton L. Kaplan Memorial Fund. Cover photo by Lauren Gantner

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E DITOR’S LETTER At a glance, it was nothing more than a refrigerator box sitting next to the recycling bin. But to a nine-year-old bookworm, that hollow brown rectangle represented more than a shell to be discarded. It offered adventure, privacy, invisibility—my own personal reading room. I didn’t have much to hide from, especially when compared to the chaos facing many Americans today. There was no credit card debt lurking in my mailbox, no home foreclosure forcing me onto the street, no need to rely on a government check to compensate for a year of joblessness. But as a third grade girl, that box was my temporary refuge, my shelter from the storm. The message of finding sanctuary in someone or something—as voiced by Bob Dylan in “Shelter From The Storm”—inspired this very magazine. Refuge—both the magazine and the website—goes beyond those cardboard boxes and romantic relationships that serve as escapes. It embraces the realities

of life, including the circumstances we are unable to control. It debunks the stereotypes of homelessness (pg. 16) and enters the mind of a soon-to-be nun (pg. 22), exploring if there’s more to life than material goods and traditional careers. Most of all, Refuge recognizes that in the midst of challenges, joys also abound. Whether it is a chef’s favorite comfort food (pg. 5) or pets boasting more bling than P-Diddy (pg. 36)(or is he Sean Combs now?), Refuge recognizes that each person’s sanctuary uniquely reflects their identity. No matter where you find yourself today, consider this your chance to take a break from life, from chaos, from stress. Consider this your shelter from the storm. Best,

Editor-in-Chief Ellen Burkhardt

Photo by Lauren Gantner

Staff Writer Jennifer Thomsen


table of contents.

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Finding Balance

Eating disorder clinics are using yoga to help victims recover.

Daydream Believer

New science reveals that a wandering mind may be the key to achieving goals.

4

On the Home Front

5

Culinary Corner

How one family copes during deployment.

features 13

Common Ground

16

Home Street Home

6

Seeing Beyond the Bars

7

An Open Door

A Twin Cities nonprofit forges relationships with felons.

Taking the Veil

25

Game On

28

What’s your Refuge?

At the Queer Student Cultural Center you don’t have to be out, but you can always come in.

9

Mind Trap

For agoraphobia sufferers, safety is limited and fear abounds.

10

Sanctuary from the Streets

11

Surfing Sofas

41

respond

New Country, New Me

When Daniela Przybyszewska first came to the United States, she thought she knew what to expect. But after eight years, she’s still making adjustments.

*Like what you see? Check out our website at refuge.umn.edu for stories, extra multimedia, blogs, and more.

Photographers Liz Johnston and Amanda Pointer explored the Twin Cities to see where people go to escape life for a while.

Lease on Love

35

Staying Plugged In

36

Designer Dogs, Couture Cats

Minneapolis’s Peace House offers a haven to those in need.

Travel the world, one couch at a time.

Online games like World of Warcraft get a bad rap. But after spending time with a few avid gamers, Andrew Osthoff realizes the benefits may outweigh the so-called harms.

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Making Sterile Comfortable Children’s hospitals are creating more friendly environments for patients.

Stephanie is moving to Chicago. But as Colleen Powers finds, she’s choosing the convent over a corporate career.

relate

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Jeremy Woodson discovers that the homeless of Minneapolis find the strength to carry on with or without a roof over their heads.

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Local chefs dish about their favorite foods.

rethink

At Little Earth of United Tribes, Jennifer Thomsen finds a women’s group planting the seeds of change.

Couples share how shacking up can change relationships. Mommy blogs and other social networking sites keep stay-at-home caregivers connected to the outside world.

When it comes to pampering pets, how far is too far?

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Eat, Pray, Love

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From Hand to Foot

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I Wanna Be Like You

40

The Punk Rocker’s B&B

One woman’s quest for answers across Italy, India, and Indonesia.

How one artist overcame personal tragedy and got back to the canvas. Why fictional friends matter.

Multipurpose houses give touring bands a place to play and stay. spring 2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 3


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Finding Balance

Photo illustration by Amanda Pointer

Eating disorder clinics are using yoga to help victims recover

by Megan Hussong Dallas Rising was obsessed with numbers. Calories burned, miles run, pant sizes dropped—she crunched numbers with exactness. “I went to the gym every single day, no matter what,” says Rising, program director for the Animal Rights Coalition in Minnesota. “When it snowballed from compulsive exercise to anorexia, I turned to The Emily Program.”

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An eating disorder treatment clinic, The Emily Program was formed in 1993. With six Minnesota locations, their programs focus on holistic treatment in which eating disorder victims work toward recovery with the help of a dietitian, therapist, and medical staff. Components of a patient’s treatment plan can include art and music therapy, cooking groups, and meditation. Yoga is the most recent addition. “We believe in a holistic

and humanistic approach to eating disorder recovery,” says Lisa Diers, dietician and lead yoga instructor at The Emily Program. “Yoga encompasses that approach.” Collaborating with a former colleague, Diers helped produce Movement for the Mind, a 45-minute yoga DVD to support clients’ home recovery. “Yoga allows the student to discover his or her true self, not what others tell them they need to be,” she says. “Everyone benefits in their own way.”

For Rising, the mind and body connection achieved through yoga is the most beneficial aspect of her practice. “Exercise was punishing my body. I was exerting my dominance and control and making my body submit to me,” she says. “But yoga is about honoring the body and appreciating it. It’s a lot healthier.” Another eating disorder victim helped by yoga is Meghan McAndrews, managing editor at Tiger Oak Publications in Minneapolis, Minn.. For her, the biggest benefit of yoga is decreased anxiety. While studying abroad in 2003, McAndrews developed anorexia and turned to The Emily Program a year later. Yoga wasn’t yet an official component of The Emily Program, but McAndrews became involved in the practice on her own. She credits yoga with developing self-awareness about her illness. “Your body and brain are completely disconnected when you’re sick with an eating disorder,” she says. “Breath by breath, yoga helped me link my brain to my body in a way that it hadn’t been in years.” The calming effects of yoga are rooted in science. Several studies have shown that yoga reduces cortisol, the stress hormone found in blood that regulates blood pressure and the body’s sympathetic nervous system. According to Diers,


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medical research shows up to 90 percent of illness and disease is stress related. A combination of psychological, emotional, and physical releases, yoga counterbalances that stress. “Physiologically, yoga helps with stress relief and postural alignment,” says Jillian Croll, a dietician and counselor at The Emily Program. “It allows people to experience their bodies in a way that emphasizes connection and kindness with the body rather than

me accept its limitations and be much more appreciative of its strength, flexibility, and resilience.” In fact, McAndrews grew to enjoy yoga so much that she became an instructor. Although she no longer teaches, her mirror-less studio offered people a place of safety and security, somewhere to find healing. “I’ve had clients go through a yoga session with me and just glow,” says McAndrews. “They were sweaty, tired,

“Yoga is about honoring the body and appreciating it. It’s a lot healthier.” unkind assessment.” The very idea of yoga can be a hurdle for those with an eating disorder, however, as was the case for Dallas. “I didn’t want to wear tight clothes or feel my stomach in folding positions,” she says. “I was afraid of seeing women who were stronger, more flexible, or more fit than I was. But once I tried it, I realized how totally different yoga is from other exercise.” Not intended to be an intense, calorie-shedding workout, yoga has other benefits lacking in traditional exercise. “Yoga helped me to actually see, feel, and accept my body as it was at that very moment,” McAndrews says. “It helped

exhilarated, emotional, and finally able to exercise again. That builds so much confidence.” It was in that environment that Rising began her own healing process, guided by McAndrews. Although a valuable outlet for purposeful relaxation and mental and physical healing, yoga alone can’t conquer an eating disorder. But when included with nutritional therapy and family support, yoga not only helps achieve a successful recovery, it can bridge the valley between one’s head and heart.

Daydream Believer New science reveals that a wandering mind may be the key to achieving goals by Jennifer Thomsen As anyone who has tried to force an ah-ha moment knows, break through ideas often come on their own timetables. The thoughts that occur while soaping up in the shower, eating dinner, or sitting in traffic aren’t just whimsical nothings. They are the very tangible benefits of daydreaming. Eric Klinger, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Minnesota, has been studying, professing, and writing for decades that by reflecting on and examining life’s everyday activities, people move closer to attaining their goals. According to his research, almost half of people’s waking hours are spent daydreaming, a time to learn from past experiences or rehearse possible future events. University of British Columbia researchers looked at brain activity while people daydreamed and, in May 2009, published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study focused on two areas of the brain previously thought to turn one another off, only functioning when the other was not.

Instead, they found that the executive parts of the brain that assist in solving problems and the creative parts that operate when minds are idle both act simultaneously when the mind wanders. As Klinger explains, “While daydreaming, you make connections that you might not have made if you were thinking simply in the linear, directed fashion. That’s what makes this mindwandering state a creative sort of mode, because you see things in connection that you hadn’t seen.” Although constantly focusing and being productive might seem like the best way to get ahead, a long, hot shower could be just as­—if not more— beneficial.

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On the Home Front How one family copes during deployment

To Krystall Boyung, Sergeant Daniel Boyung of the Marine Corps is just Danny. To their children Ethan and Landon, he’s just daddy. But for the past four years, Krystall, 3-year-old Ethan, and 2-month-old Landon have been forced to continue life as normal despite Danny’s absence from their home in West Bend, Wisconsin.

REFUGE: When Danny is gone, is there anything you do that helps counterbalance missing him?

like raising the boys with him gone?

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KRYSTALL: My older

REFUGE: Do you ever find

brother has been taking Ethan on his days off and spending one-on-one time with him. My other brother is the hunting-fishing type of person, so he takes Ethan and goes ice fishing and snowmobiling and all that stuff, which is a huge help.

KRYSTALL: When he

REFUGE: What’s it

(to Wisconsin) a month before I had Ethan so I could be with our families, and that was very helpful. After the second deployment, I moved back to San Diego and tried going back to school and raising Ethan by myself. It was hard to try to study, take classes, and run a household by myself.

brothers involved?

REFUGE: How are your

talk to Danny while he’s gone?

involve myself with my family as much as possible.

REFUGE: In general, what are the things that make it easier when Danny is gone?

KRYSTALL: Definitely my family; my parents are a huge help. My older brothers have also been really helpful. My mom helps with early morning and late night feedings when she can, as well as does the laundry, dishes,

KRYSTALL: I don’t really think it’s while he’s gone, I think it’s before and after. Every time he gets ready to leave we fight a lot and push each other away. I think it makes it easier.

REFUGE: Are you able to

KRYSTALL: I try to

KRYSTALL: I moved home

and cooking. Other than that, we try to go out and do as much stuff as we can.

was on the ship they had calling cards, which helped, but you randomly lose connection. You’ll be having a conversation, then communications just shut down and you have no way of calling them to know if they’re okay or not. You have to wait for them to call you, and it can be shut down for days.

REFUGE: Emotionally, what are some of the difficulties you have with him being gone?

that you get really upset, sad or depressed when he’s gone?

KRYSTALL: I do, mainly at holidays and birthdays and big things that he misses. I think he’s missed every holiday except for Christmas since we’ve been married, as well as every birthday and every big milestone in Ethan’s life.

REFUGE: How do you deal with that?

KRYSTALL: For us, we try to keep busy. But for Danny, we send cards and packages and we’re constantly trying to take pictures and videos to send him. I try to let Ethan pick out something to put in a package or draw a picture, which is just a scribble but for him it’s a big deal. You just try to celebrate and do everything you normally do. You have to try to let him know that he is missed, that we want him around.

Photo by Karen Marie

by Melanie Boyung


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Culinary Corner

More than a craving

Local chefs dish about their favorite foods by John Grimley and Jake Thiesse

“I love a straight-up margherita pizza from Punch Pizza with fresh tomatoes and basil. It’s fast and I love the price point.”

Photos by Liz Johnston and Amanda Pointer

—Joseph Wuestenhagen Head Chef Hell’s Kitchen

“There’s something about pot pies and pot roasts to me. When you can put whatever you want in it, it comes out great.”

—John Sievers Head Chef Dixie’s on Grand

“I love making fancy macaroni and cheese with gorgonzola, brie and Port Salut.” —Noah Barton Chef Chino Latino

Everyone has their own personal checklist: mashed potatoes to calm anxiety? Check. Ice cream to recover from heartbreak? Check. Chocolate to fix… everything? Check. What is it about food that makes everything better? While food scientists and psychologists search for a concrete answer, discoveries made by experts at Flinder University in South Australia may explain why food feels like a BAND-AID for life’s battle wounds. According to the study, food cravings replace everyday cognitive abilities and redirect the brain away from negative stressors. Since it’s easier to resolve a craving than an actual problem, most people seek the healing powers of Ben and Jerry’s over real solutions. More often than not, the extra scoop does the trick, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess what the person will do next time stress comes knocking. A few pints later, and comfort food has successfully lured yet another rational being to its lair of temporary bliss. —Lauren Caffery

*Want more? Find recipes plus a video on how to make the ultimate puppy chow at refuge.umn.edu spring 2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 7


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A Twin Cities nonprofit forges relationships with felons by Bethany Onsgard Sometimes, it’s a relief to go to prison. The living space may be cramped and alonetime lacking, but with the

nagging pressures of past arrests and money trouble removed, prison is the first chance many people have to learn who they are beneath the rap sheet. But those who go in must also come out. Some offenders find that going to prison is the best thing that ever happened to them. “Many of them say that going to prison saved their life,” says Bridget Sanders, a women’s reentry service

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coordinator at Amicus, a Twin Cities organization that’s breaking the mold with its personal approach to helping prisoners. While other programs focus on reforming prisoners, Amicus is making sure they know they’re part of a tight-knit group. “This is different,” says Sanders. “Until now I’ve never worked in a place where the whole model is about relationships. Most people don’t like felons, don’t see them as real people, but they’re welcome here. This

is a community.” Every week Sanders, who works with the Sisters Helping Sisters program, meets with the all-women groups in Shakopee to help them work on empowerment, accountability, and steps for planning for their future, including finding a job and a place to live. “It’s hard work,” says Sanders, or “Ms. Bridget” to the Sisters. “I tell them it’s

going to challenge them to change their thoughts, to think about forgiveness and forgiving themselves.” For some of the women in the program, this is the first time they’ve ever heard that message. “I think that a lot of women don’t know they get a choice,” Sanders says. “They don’t know they have the choice not to get beaten or to be in abusive relationships. We teach them that life is a choice.” For other prisoners, what they really need is a more personal connection. That relationship can be found with the One-toOne program, also housed beneath the Amicus umbrella. Matching volunteers with inmates, One-to-One is unique from other programs in that it doesn’t make an attempt to play the role of therapist or social worker. “We don’t damn them, save them, or preach to them,” says Chris Doege, Amicus’ community engagement coordinator. “What they talk about during the visit is up to them. We want them to talk about how blue the sky is that day and how much they hate Brett Favre. It’s not a mentorship, it’s a friendship.” For some prisoners, meeting their One-toOne volunteer is the only reason they have to go to the visiting room. Amicus hopes that by forging these friendships, prisoners will learn to trust and eventually

have that relationship change them for the better. “For some of them this is the most positive relationship they’ve ever seen,” Doege says. While there are numbers, charts and graphs to show

“For some of them this is the most positive relationship they’ve ever seen.” that the programs at Amicus are helping prisoners, Doege and Sanders agree that the real marks of success are the relationships. Sanders still calls to check up on the women who have finished her program, and her office walls are lined with letters, cards, updates and family pictures from women she has helped. Amicus receives dozens of letters and testimonials, all to the tune of this one, written by an unnamed participant: “You fight hard for us. You let us know that someone has our back. Many of us would not have made it as far as we have without you. You say it’s about us—with us, you made it happen, too.” Photo by Liz Johnston

Seeing Beyond the Bars


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An Open Door At the Queer Student Cultural Center you don’t have to be out, but you can always come in

Photo by Amanda Pointer

by Jennifer Thomsen They call them the pacers. They are the men and women trying to appear nonchalant as they pass the entrance to the Queer Student Cultural Center (QSCC) for days, weeks, even months before finding the courage to go inside. But once they take that step, the fear fades. “No one’s looking at you, they don’t really care if you go in or not,” says Chase Martin, one of many pacers who eventually made it across the threshold and into the “safe space.” Behind a tall partition, the safe space is a room provided by the QSCC to anyone identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and supportive straight allies. Sunny and comfortable, its brightly painted walls don a row of vibrant identity flags representing several queer groups. Shelves are full of books, magazines, pamphlets, and a collection of DVDs, all about queer culture. There are tables and chairs for eating and chatting, three computers

for surfing or studying, and long, velvet-covered couches where students lounge in front of the television. Dozens of students come to the QSCC every day and many first came seeking the same acceptance as Martin. “I’ve always had straight friends,” he says. “I never really had gay friends when I was in high school, and I just wanted to find more people that were more like me and know what I’m going through. That’s why I started coming here.” To get to know people, Martin attended one of the eight social and support groups that regularly gather in the QSCC. Most meetings are open to anyone with an interest and respect for the theme, but a few meet behind closed doors and offer

support and anonymity for those in the process of coming out. “It’s a safe place, but it’s also a place to come and learn about gay culture,” linguistics and economics major Sean Fehrman says. “There’s more to the culture than just fornicating; that’s the big stigma. But it has developed; it has a history.” Fehrman says the QSCC provides the atmosphere and resources to start understanding gay culture, allowing people to feel more comfortable with their identity. Today, the QSCC is a registered nonprofit, evolved from the nation’s first queer student organization, Fight Repression of Erotic Expression (FREE). The group started on the Twin Cities campus in 1969, even pre-dating New York

City’s Stonewall Riots, and is widely regarded as the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. Some students chose to attend the University of Minnesota specifically because it offered them a unique space to belong. Threats or experiencing verbal, emotional, or physical violence are realities in the queer community; baggage those individuals carry into every room. The QSCC provides an environment where the atmosphere is different. “Safe space isn’t just about not being harassed, it’s also not having to explain yourself,” says one student who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s not having to defend yourself; not having to say wait, I am normal.”

The Queer Student Cultural Center is located on the second floor of Coffman Memorial Union at the University of Minnesota. spring 2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 9


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Mind Trap For agoraphobia sufferers, safety is limited and fear abounds by Trey Mewes

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Former agoraphobia sufferer Judith Bemis in her Minneapolis home.

and acting as a parasite of the mind. After a year of cognitive behavioral therapy and enough insight to write her own self-help book, Bemis now spends her days running the Open Door, an organization of anxiety and panic disorder support groups located in Minneapolis and St. Paul and sponsored by the National Alliance on

Mental Illness. Since 1985, she’s been free of her fears and teaching people to accept, then conquer, their own panic. “I just learned to be accepting and allowing and not focus so much on it,” Bemis says. “For me, that was the answer.”

Photos by Liz Johnston

The melodies of classical composers helped Judith Bemis cope with staying indoors on hot summer days. Journaling and the books she plowed through—women’s biographies and history— kept her distracted from the constant fear of panic attacks. For 20 years, Bemis suffered from agoraphobia. Complicated to define, agoraphobia is a fear of leaving home or other areas you believe are safe, and tends to produce panic attacks. “Summer was the worst time when I was at home,” says Bemis, a former music teacher. “I didn’t have to leave my house. It became almost like a prison.” Bemis, who taught music at public schools until 2003, had her first panic attack in 1965 when she was 27 years old. The experience made her feel like she was dying, and after that she mainly felt safe when she was near a hospital, in her classroom, or at home. “I was pretty isolated for a while,” she says. “You learn to live in fear.” Bemis says it’s difficult to describe living with agoraphobia, but no matter how it starts the disorder keeps growing and growing, feeding off the fears and doubts agoraphobics feel


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Making Sterile Comfortable Children’s hospitals are creating more friendly environments for patients

Photo by Liz Johnston

by Carolyn Deutsch Its white walls, metal adjustable bed and mounted TV are sufficient for someone staying for a couple of days to recover, but for the thousands of children in long-term care, hospital rooms leave much to be desired. Some children spend months, even years, living in hospitals due to long-term or life-threatening conditions. For these children, the hospital room is their bedroom, dining room, playroom, classroom—their entire home. A study from the Journal of Child Health Care showed that more than 50 percent of children consider the physical environment of a hospital to be memorable and important. In fact, this element of their stay outranked all other categories of the study, including procedures performed or interaction with staff members. “A more personal environment—an environment that’s more normal—is more supportive to [a patient’s] emotional needs,” says Jason Albrecht, the pediatric palliative care coordinator and childlife specialist of the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. Albrecht has seen kids

decorate their hospital rooms to extremes: girls covering everything with pink, sports fans turning their rooms into shrines for their favorite teams— one patient even had his room decorated with 1,000 origami paper cranes his classmates had sent him for luck. “Kids feel a sense of empowerment and pride when they make their room look good,” Albrecht says. The Amplatz Children’s Hospital plans to provide patients with a more comforting and supportive environment when it opens its new facility in 2011. The 390-square-foot private patient rooms will include refrigerators, microwaves, bed-side patient controls, and areas to store medical devices so they won’t constantly be in view. The hospital plans also include a separate kitchen and laundry room for patient’s families to use. Albrecht’s favorite aspect of the plans is the teleconferencing equipment included in patient rooms. “Parents who can’t be at the hospital can interact anytime they want­—they can engage in medical rounds,” Albrecht says. “It will make kids feel much less confined, less separated from family and friends.” Each floor of the hospital will also be decorated

with a different animal theme; a study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that nature themes lead to less anxiety and fewer doses of pain medication in patients. Medcenter One Children’s Hospital in Bismarck, North Dakota, is

be completed in September 2010, includes elements such as two pirate ship nurses stations, a fiber optic-lit hallway, an under-the-sea explorations treatment room and Peter Pan character clocks in each patient’s room. “The support of a magical setting puts us that much ahead of eliminating fear and alleviating pain,” says Carrol Meyers-Dobler, executive director of the Medcenter One Foundation.

The new University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital is expected to open in 2011.

also planning to renovate its building to provide a healthier, more kidfriendly environment. The project is called Amber’s Dream, named after Amber DesRoches, a cancer patient at the hospital who, during a long hospital stay, made plans to redecorate the hospital using her favorite Peter Pan book as inspiration. Amber passed away after a four-year battle with leukemia, and following her death her parents approached the hospital with the idea. The project, funded by the Medcenter One Foundation and expected to

Medcenter One plans to build a playroom modeled after the Darling children’s bedroom from Peter Pan as well as an additional room for children who are 12 or older. “We’re meeting the needs of not only our little patients but their families as well,” Meyers-Dobler says. Ultimately, however, the plans for both hospitals revolve around their primary focus—the children. “When people arrive at the children’s hospital, we want them to know by the setting that we really understand children,” Meyers-Dobler says. “That’s what we want to create.” spring 2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 11


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Sanctuary from the Streets Minneapolis’s Peace House offers a haven to those in need

by Erik Williams Hussein Jamal sits quietly in a folding chair. His dark hair is cropped, his solemn eyes reserved, and his clothes are as weathered and weary as the look on his face. A few men surround him on the outdoor patio of a colorful two–story building in Minneapolis’s Phillips Neighborhood. As they stand around an unused grill, a breeze catches their cigarette smoke and trails it heavenward. None of these men have any place to be but here, at the Peace

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House. “This is a place to come and have peace for three, maybe four hours a day,” says Jamal, 30, as he closes his eyes to rest. “It’s a place to shut the world out.” For almost 25 years, the homeless, drug addicts, lonely, and wayward have found a place to belong within the walls of the Peace House. Started in 1985 by a group of activists fresh from the Peace Corps and led by the late Sister Rose Tillemans, the Peace House is now run by volunteers and co-directed

by Tillemans’s successor, Catherine Mamer. Created to provide people with an escape from poverty, substance abuse, and mental health issues, wanderers have gathered there every day since it opened, usually showing up well before the doors open at 10 a.m. A crowd of over a dozen men and women has gathered this day, and there is a sense of family in the air. An exceedingly skinny man walks to the door, his ragged trench coat waving in the wind. “Hey boy, where you

been hiding?” asks another man with friendly concern in his voice. “Ah man, I was just here Tuesday,” the man in the trench coat quickly replies, bolting for a spot near the front door. A sign that boldly declares “NO DRUGS NO GUNS” decorates the entrance, and the simple words seem to have a marked impact on the patrons of Peace House. “No one breaks the rules here,” Jamal says. “They don’t want to mess it up for themselves.”

Photos by Liz Johnston

The outside of the Peace House on Franklin Ave. in Minneapolis. Wanderers have gathered here every day since it opened in 1985.


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Once the doors open, regulars file into the large rectangular room, claiming a seat around its edges or bolting for the free coffee and donuts near the back. Several head to the kitchen in back and put on aprons— today they are making lunch. One man stands off to the side. His face is partially hidden beneath an enormous grey beard and his ragged apparel boasts thousands of signatures. His name is Daniel. Nonchalantly, he coolly tosses three cigarettes onto the coffee table in front of him. “You can have ‘em,” he whispers to two men close by. The men grab the cigarettes as if they were gold. “Thanks, Pop!” yells one. Daniel nods and walks to a chair. He is soon fast asleep, his ink-

covered top rising and falling with his breath. The names on his shirt represent something more than meets the eye. “For Daniel, your name is the most important thing you own,” says Pat Helin, a Peace House volunteer of five years. For Daniel, his name is all he can afford to give to others. As those inside assemble for daily meditation and discussion, Jamal still sits on the patio. He doesn’t know where he will be tomorrow or where he will go when Peace House closes for the day. Perhaps he will join up with some of his newfound friends out on the street. Perhaps not. Either way, he knows that the doors to Peace House will always be open tomorrow.

Surfing Sofas Travel the world, one couch at a time by Karen Locke Before spending two nights in his San Francisco living room, 22-year-old Karina Mancini only knew Carl Shawver from his profile on couchsurfing.org. But after a weekend on his couch, the two left together for a week-long trip to Tokyo. That kind of personal connection is one of the many upsides of couch surfing, a growing travel trend that replaces the privacy of a hotel room with a free bed, however beer-stained or lumpy. Couch surfing is an alternative accommodation to hostels and resorts while traveling, and is provided by people offering up open couches in their home. Sites such as couchsurfing.org serve as a platform for surfers and hosts to connect, giving users an opportunity to create profiles and post pictures. There, hosts are vouched for so others can see if they are—or aren’t— trusted in the couch surfing community. Not all of Mancini’s experiences are as ideal as they were with Shawver, however. She once received a message from a man requesting to surf her couch whose profile didn’t include any photos, information, or references. Uneasy, she brushed him off, saying she’d be out of town. A few of the site’s users looked out for her, sending her messages discouraging her from letting him stay and describing him as unfriendly and strange. Most surfers just pass through, only gracing the living rooms of strangers for one night. “It’s a little awkward at first, but you end up wanting to be the best host,” Mancini, who has also hosted, says. And when travelers and their would-be hoteliers get along, couch surfing can turn into the insider experience that used to be relegated to the pages of Lonely Planet.

Peace House coordinator Mary Cassioppi visits with Calvin Cain and Pesfasion Ravin. Both frequent the Peace House for group meditation and meals. spring 2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 13


14 { refuge magazine } spring 2010 Justin Jackson at the Little Earth Youth Development Center feeds worms that will be used in the community’s urban farming project.


COMMON

GROUND

Photos by Liz Johnston

At Little Earth of United Tribes, Jennifer Thomsen finds a women’s group planting the seeds of change. Photos by Liz Johnston. Dawn Segura bends over a black plastic seeding tray, carefully spacing out tiny onion seeds into eight neat soil trenches. She’ll deposit about 300 seeds in this tray before labeling the side with pink duct tape. As she works, raindrops pitter-patter against the translucent plastic walls of the greenhouse. Across the table, her cousin, Sindy Wright, showers 72 broccoli seeds with a plastic watering can causing water to drip though the saturated tray’s compost-laden soil onto the earthen floor. The cousins are members of the Women’s Empowerment Group from Little Earth of United Tribes, a south Minneapolis housing community that is owned, operated and populated by urban Native Americans—the only one of its kind in the United States. Together with five other members and helpers, they made this trip to the rural farm of Women’s Environmental Institute (WEI) in Almelund, Minn. to learn more about the art of farming. Right now, their carefully planted seeds represent hope, not only for a bountiful harvest but for a renewal of pride in their community. Darlene Fairbanks takes the wheel of the Little Earth Suburban for the long drive back to the city. She is a resident advocate at Little Earth and started the Women’s Empowerment Group about five years ago. Their Thursday afternoon meetings focus on issues that affect the women’s lives, from parenting to addiction to abuse. Fairbanks has long been instrumental in bringing together community resources to help Little Earth’s residents understand the value of eating—and now growing—healthy food. This small group of women plans to plant traditional crops for what will be a distinctly modern urban farm. Generations of Little Earth’s Native American residents have been cut off from healthy eating and fresh produce by history, education, economics, and a major highway. Now, they are returning to the land to regain cultural traditions and remedy shortened life

expectancy and epidemics of diabetes, asthma, and other dietrelated illnesses. In the last year alone, the urban farm at Little Earth has gone from concept to reality with the knowledge and support of two environmental and food justice organizations: WEI and Milwaukee-based Growing Power. Last June, a group of 40 Twin Cities residents spent two days in interactive workshops on the Growing Power farm, learning to plan, grow, operate, and profit from a similar enterprise. Valerie Martinez of the Indigenous People’s Green Jobs Coalition and her children were among the Little Earth residents on the trip. When the group’s bus arrived at the Milwaukee farm, Martinez remembers being in awe. “It was a whole neighborhood block worth of greenhouses and animals— goats, chickens, bees,” she says. “It was really amazing because it was right in the heart of the inner city; the community looked very similar to my own.” Growing Power creator Will Allen has become better known for his dirty fingernails than for the years of college and professional basketball he played. The popularity of movies like the Oscar-nominated Food, Inc. and books like Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma has catapulted Allen from the small glory of his working urban farm to international attention. His philosophy, centered on red wriggler worms helping to create nutrient rich soil, has been big news in The New York Times and O magazine. It has also earned him hundreds of thousands of dollars in foundation grants like the MacArthur Foundation “genius award.” “He really believes it is about the soil, and about rebuilding the soil,” Martinez says. “That’s the model we have to use in the Phillips neighborhood because our soil is so contaminated.” Karen Clark, Minnesota state representative and executive director of WEI, helped Little Earth procure the land the farm spring 2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 15


will be on from the Minnesota Department of Transportation option is a more expensive neighborhood bodega. Although for $1 in 2007. Two-and-a-half football fields in length, the the store carries the minimum amount of produce required vacant earth is separated from the development by a side by a city ordinance, it’s often not fresh. street and from Highway 55 by an enormous noise barrier Wright also has children, and says her food stamps would wall. Having represented the Phillips neighborhood for only buy six oranges. With a large family to feed, choosing almost 30 years, Clark knew much of the area was subject less healthy products becomes an economic necessity despite to arsenic soil contamination. Highway exhaust and other the serious consequences. “One thing with the Phillips pollutants were sure to be continuous issues for growing community and Little Earth, there’s high rates of diabetes, food. When Clark first brought Allen to hear about the asthma, and lead levels,” Martinez explains. “The only thing project and see the site, he immediately agreed to play a part. that offsets those diseases are good food. With Little Earth, Last autumn, Allen gathered about 70 participants, we’re talking about families that are on welfare, that don’t including many Little Earth residents, in a community have a lot of money, that don’t have cars, and we don’t have gymnasium for a lesson in vermaculture. Following the co-ops in our neighborhood.” lecture, they created habitats for indoor composting. In the urban Native American community, the access They did so by drilling holes in the bottom of large plastic problem goes deeper than geography or economics; it has storage containers which would hold red wriggler worms, to do with education. “My mom died at 50 years old from a little dirt, and some vegetable or fruit scraps, and then diabetes,” Martinez says. “I was 25 and I thought that set the habitats inside another container. The holes serve all American Indians had diabetes—that we get it and it as strainers for the worm pee, an organic super fertilizer is hereditary. That was my understanding.” The doctor referred to as “worm tea.” treating her mother explained that diabetes is often a Two of these worm bins went into the common room curable disease brought on primarily by poor diet decisions. at the Little Earth Resident’s Association (LERA), where The new information, coupled with her mother’s death, early childhood coordinator Lucy Arias helps 38 prechanged Martinez’s life, turning her into an advocate for school students feed the worms weekly. The other bins environmental and food justice. went to five families, one of which was Fairbanks. “I have History, Martinez says, plays a large part in urban Native adopted my three grandchildren and American’s ideas about food. When one has asthma and is allergic to fur, so first placed on reservations, American we haven’t been able to have any pets,” Indians were denied the ability to hunt, she says. “I brought home this bin of gather, and farm in their traditional ways. worms and, oh, he was excited.” Her Instead, they were provided with rations appreciative grandson Antonio also or “commodities” including flour, sugar, has worms in his first grade class at lard, and processed and canned goods, Seward Elementary, so he was able to which are still distributed on reservations educate Darlene on the ins and outs of today. This created a fundamental shift vermaculture. and limited the diversity of what native In 2009, WEI was named Growing people ate. “When you grow up with a Power’s ninth Regional Outreach family that only cooks with these certain Training Center in the U.S. for its things, it’s not about being poor anymore, promotion of Allen’s mission to bring it’s about a trained, learned habit,” Justin Jackson in the Youth Development Center uses “worm tea” to fertilize new fresh food, gardening knowledge and Martinez says. As the years went by, many plants during pre-school classes. entrepreneurial and community spirit of the old traditions were forgotten. to what he calls “food deserts.” These Further separating American Indians are where primarily urban people end up living in an area from their customs was the practice of whisking native without convenient access to affordable fresh food for youth away to boarding schools until the 1940s and 1950s. themselves and their families. Boys and girls, including both Martinez’s mother and Little Earth is one such desert, and cousins Segura and grandmother, attended such schools where they were reWright are examples of why a neighborhood urban farm educated with the intention to “kill the Indian, save the would make such a big difference in this community. From man.” Often, students were physically threatened if they Segura’s front door, the nearest grocery store is 10 blocks practiced tribal rituals or spoke their native languages. As away and located across a major highway. The other nearby adults, this “silent generation,” as Martinez refers to them,

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Photo by Liz Johnston

“I was 25 and I thought that all American Indians had diabetes—that we get it and it is hereditary. That was my understanding.”


Photo by Jennifer Thomsen

“I think I could have faced a lot of things a lot stronger if I had my history, my culture and my identity at an early age.” moved into city centers looking for work. They had survived there are so many people who are good-hearted and they traumatic childhoods but were stripped of traditional say, ‘We’ll come and help,’” Rep. Clark explains. “If they knowledge and pride. In turn, their children inherited low do that, if there’s too much of that, then it won’t belong to self-esteem and unexplained humiliation about their culture. the people, and it will die.” Because of this, Clark was very Martinez says she is also part of this lost generation, excited when the women’s group stepped up and declared which has high rates of drug and alcohol addiction. “Since that growing their own food was something they wanted to they were born,” Martinez says, referring to her own children, do. “I’ve been instilling that pride of who they are, where they Many local food activists and environmental organizations come from, our culture, our history. I think a lot of times in have offered their help to the women’s group and Little the inner city you don’t get that. I think I could have faced Earth youth groups that are also showing an interest in the a lot of things a lot stronger if I had my history, my culture, farm project. But so far, everyone in that support web has and my identity at an early age.” limited their involvement in sharing through presentations Mirroring this cultural installment, the women’s group or demonstrations when requested. They are choosing to walk plans to plant traditional items like ceremonial tobacco, alongside the residents on this journey, recognizing that for wild sage, and sweet grass on their farm plots. This will Little Earth, the urban farm is much more than a vegetable create outdoor classrooms for educating youth and give the patch. “It’s 10 moms from that community spearheading community access to items that they currently have to travel the project,” Martinez says. “Every day they are an example, to reservations or wait for powwows to obtain. because once it happens to somebody that looks familiar, Sitting behind her desk at LERA, Arias looks at a bag of who has a similar situation and shows they can change, it 2,000-year-old squash seeds that some of the Women’s gives you all the hope in the world that you can do it, too.” Empowerment Group members brought back from a *Want more? See how Little Earth preschoolers help with the farm plus Northern indigenous farming conference. “Someone can more exclusive content at refuge.umn.edu give us this bag and say, ‘Go, feed yourself,’ and we’d probably be dead this time next year because we wouldn’t have the knowhow to grow, cook, or preserve this food,” Arias says. “It’s a lost art.” Information and education are what the Women’s Empowerment Group is all about. By continuing to learn and grow, they obtain a little more power over their situation, and can try to better their whole community. The urban farm differs from many former “salvation” projects that have come pre-packaged for the residents of Little Earth. Unlike the others, it is moving at a pace those involved can handle with a scope to which they are willing and able to commit. Little Earth residents at the site of the future urban farm. They work with compost containers built with the help of Growing Power’s Will Allen and other local volunteers. “One of the tensions is that spring 2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 17


HOME STREET HOME Jeremy Woodson discovers that the homeless of Minneapolis find the strength to carry on with or without a roof over their heads. Photos by Amanda Pointer.

Jim Harding has pneumonia. Nevertheless, on this sunny but cold Saturday afternoon he’s at his normal post on Lyndale Avenue and Dunwoody Boulevard. Cars make their way down the I-94 exit ramp, stop at the light, and there he is, holding a cardboard sign, waiting for someone­—anyone— to hand him some spare change. Oversized Carhartt overalls, a blue sweatshirt, and a ripped service-issue jacket make his torso bulge, but at least he’s warm enough to stand against the February wind. Business is slow today, but Jim has a goal: make at least $150 by tomorrow to help him pay for antibiotics on Monday. Hopefully he’ll even be able to put a few dollars toward the car he’s buying from his ex-wife. Life was different two years ago, before he lost his job and apartment and was forced out on the streets. Now, all he has are his tools and an old Ford F-150 that can’t make it much further than the few blocks required to find a new parking spot to avoid being towed.

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Today, the main thing on Harding’s mind is where he will sleep. His usual spot­—“the camp” under I-394—won’t help his pneumonia, but shelters in the area are crowded, and securing a spot for more than a day or two is nearly impossible. If he can get a ride he might go to his ex-wife’s apartment in Chaska, where she’s living with their 11-yearold daughter under Section 8, a housing program subsidized by the federal government. But that would be risky­—Section 8 tenants can be evicted for allowing people not on the lease to sleep in the apartment. Harding’s best option is to seek help at the Basilica of St. Mary. According to a 2008 Homeless Assessment report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are 671,888 homeless people in the United States. Of those, 423,400 are individuals while 248,500 are families. But with a constantly moving and often hidden population, exact numbers can be hard to obtain.


Photos by Amanda Pointer

spring 2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 19 Caption information righthere


Tallying the homeless at a state level is no easier. In Minnesota, the Ahmerst H. Wilder Foundation, a nonprofit organization geared toward health and human services, conducts a one-day study every three years on the number of people who experience homelessness across the state. The most comprehensive study of its kind in the nation, researchers found there were approximately 9,000 homeless people on any given night across Minnesota in 2006. Of those, 35 percent were families, and over two-thirds lived in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. While numbers are valuable, an area often overlooked in studies like those conducted by HUD and the Wilder Foundation is how the homeless utilize their surrounding environment to survive, whether that may be an emergency shelter, a highway underpass, a church advocate, or a random motorist. In the United States, where dreams revolve around having a roof over your head to call your own, envisioning life without a home is nearly impossible. But for many homeless people, happiness and comfort mean more than an address. ... On Lyndale, Harding has suspended his operation for now. The corner wasn’t as lucrative as he had hoped, but it wasn’t a complete waste, either. Just before calling it “In a couple of quits, a woman in a white Toyota stops to give him a months I won’t new jacket and a pair of snow be out here,” he pants. After calling him over says, staring up to the car, she chats for several minutes before pulling away. “That’s Linda. She always stops at the altar. “I’ll by here,” Harding says. As be at the church the slim 52-year-old reaches down to pick up his backpack, but I won’t be he winces in pain, stopping for a second to grab his chest. here.” Before walking over to the Basilica for some rest, he stashes his new clothes in his truck next to some rusty tools and a giant pink piñata. “I have a sign that says ‘My son needs therapy,’” Harding says with a smile. He may be homeless, but he tries to have fun with it. Another sign that reads “Out of work stripper” goes with a pink feather boa. Before reaching the Basilica, he yells at a woman holding a sign on Hennepin Avenue. “Hey lady, why don’t you get a job?” He chuckles and shakes his head. “I love to say that to her.” Inside the church, Harding sits in the sanctuary to get warm. He’s well-known here, and church officials give him more freedom than most of the homeless that frequent

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Dirty clothing and blankets provide makeshift beds under the I-394 overpass in downtown Minneapolis.

A sign found on the ground near the “camp” where many homeless people take shelter in downtown Minneapolis.

the building. “But I also go to the church, and I’m sober,” Harding explains. The sanctuary at the Basilica is as beautiful as it is historic. Nestled inside the traditional stone walls are detailed stained glass windows depicting various saints and scenes from the Bible. Three massive purple drapes hang from the balcony above the altar in honor of Lent. As if sitting in his own living room, Harding tosses his jackets on the marble floor and stretches out on the wooden pew. As he talks, his voice echoes before disappearing toward the high ceiling. Away from the streets, this is where Harding finds support and resources. In the past, church members and outreach workers have helped him find work, often using Craigslist to locate labor and carpentry jobs. Once a week, he heads to a nearby Subway on Hennepin Avenue for a free sandwich, purchased by church outreach workers. The maintenance manager at the Basilica lets him store tools in the basement,


At the Subway on Hennepin Ave. church members provide the homeless a free meal once a week.

and, every once in a while, a family will take him in for a few days, giving him a shower and clean clothes. Because of this help, Harding has decided to become a member of the church and get confirmed in the Catholic faith, despite his reservations about Catholic beliefs. Born Jewish and raised Baptist, he says he’s converting because of the treatment he has received from people at the Basilica. “They never treated me this way at a Baptist church,” he says. Harding also has ambitions to get off the streets. “In a couple of months I won’t be out here,” he says, staring up at the altar. “I’ll be at the church but I won’t be here.” ... Less than a mile from the Basilica on Nicollet Mall, Jeff McGovrn sits outside of Macy’s. Most people strolling by hardly notice his hunched frame against the green marble wall or his sign that reads “Anything helps. God Bless.” It’s taped to the bottom of a two-liter bottle, which doubles as a tray for passersby to drop money in. Every few minutes, he takes a sip from an Aquafina bottle before stashing it behind his backpack. Underneath the brim of a camouflage hat, his foggy grey eyes struggle to focus and there’s more than a hint of alcohol on his breath. “I’m out here because I ended up being unemployed, and then I started doing this stuff,” he says, lighting a cigarette.

McGovrn was fired from his job at Tennant, a manufacturer of equipment and coatings for concrete floors. Now, 54 and homeless for more than five years, he says he can’t work because of the injuries he has sustained from years of working and living on the streets. “I’m in pain 24/7, so what do you do?” As he speaks, he takes another sip from his water bottle. “You just deal with it.” To help “deal with it,” McGovrn goes through almost a liter of vodka a day to mask his less-than desirable situation. “It’s kind of like a disguise because you just want to forget about everything,” he says. “That’s why we drink.” But vodka costs money. Along with the change he collects outside of Macy’s, McGovrn receives General Assistance, a state program available for homeless individuals without children. The $203 monthly check allows McGovrn to buy food, Kamchatka vodka (or “camp cheetah,” as he likes to call it), and cigarettes. It also pays for the $120-per-month room at Glenwood Residence. Glenwood Residence is a wet/dry shelter where clients are allowed to return to their rooms drunk, provided they don’t bring alcohol on the premises. Unlike other shelters that have a curfew, residents can come and go as they please. According to their website, the idea is harm reduction. If the residents spring 2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 21


can return to the shelter intoxicated, they are less likely to stay out on the streets while drunk, avoiding injury or arrest. McGovrn feels like he gets by pretty well at his post outside Macy’s. A Barnes & Noble down the street has a bathroom and he can sit in the lobbies of nearby buildings to get warm, as long as he doesn’t fall asleep­—security guards kick people out for sleeping. Unlike Harding, McGovrn embraces his situation. He’s content as long as he’s still receiving G.A. and living at Glenwood; he has done away with aspirations of a better life. “You know I have my limits,” he says. “If I get 12 bucks out here, that’s a day. I call it quits. I get a liter of vodka and two packs of cigarettes and that’s it.” ... Surviving without a home is hard, but it’s much easier when you’re on your own. For families, shelters, and other transitional housing are necessary to get basic services for children. Without these services, parents run the risk of having their children taken by the state. Shelters also help keep kids in school, providing a reliable place where they can be picked up and dropped off. The People Serving People shelter in downtown Minneapolis is one of the most comprehensive family-oriented shelters in the state. There, services for every member of the family are offered, including an Early Childhood Development Center, a tutoring center for school-age children, and a computer lab where parents can learn basic computer skills and look for job and housing opportunities. The building décor adds to the supportive atmosphere. Every wall either contains a mural or is painted in calm, tranquil colors. Residents can find space to chat and read at tables in the cafeteria or on the bright orange chairs in the lobby. After a family is admitted to PSP, they are assigned a resident advocate. An “We’re all in one advocate’s main function is to find provisions and resources little room so it for those housed at the shelter, according to associate can be stressful,” advocate Megan Beukema. she says. “It’s not But perhaps more than that, an advocate is someone to like you can just talk to. “I always tell people they can come in for stamps go to another and bus tokens or to just talk,” she says. Another aspect room to get a of Buekema’s job involves little peace.” planning and implementing activities for residents around the shelter. On this particular day, residents play a game of Deal or No Deal in the cafeteria as a fun way to distribute

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donations and other items that come to the shelter. It’s a popular activity among the residents because everyone who plays wins. The residents get their tickets and advocate coordinator Jocelyn Groce calls out the numbers. Behind her, two large steel racks are stocked with toys, personal hygiene products, board games, bed sheets, even a palm tree soap dispenser. After a resident’s number is called, they pick five “cases”—note cards cut out to look like small briefcases. They then look at each case and decide whether to keep the prize or swap it for another case. Groce announces each prize option and then gives the dramatic ultimatum: “Deal or No Deal?” The entire cafeteria erupts. “Deal!” “No deal!” “Take it!” Some prizes don’t quite line up with the residents’ wishes. One boy turns down a toy truck and ends up with a pink Hannah Montana toy microphone. He eventually gives it to his little sister. A mother picks a case for a girl barely old enough to talk. It contains a skateboard, bringing glares from some of the older children. Activities like this provide an added sense of relief for families experiencing dire situations. One mother, Phaedra Price, has been at PSP since September 2009 with her 12-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son. She says the games, field trips, and other activities planned by advocates give her opportunities to bond with her kids in some instances and provide her with relief from them in others. “We’re all in one little room, so it can be stressful,” she says. “It’s not like you can just go to another room to get a little peace. The activities are nice to give you a break.” Price moved to Minneapolis from Chicago in search of a better situation, but without a job, she and her children ended up at the shelter. She says sometimes she feels like she’s in jail—residents at PSP have to be inside the building by midnight and in their rooms by nine—and has often contemplated giving up and returning to Chicago. But after graduating from PSP’s 13-week Workforce Development program, Price applied for and got a job at the Metropolitan Club, a fine dining restaurant opening in the new Minnesota Twins stadium. Soon after finding the job, she


Jim Harding hugs a fellow member of the homeless community at Subway.

won the Simpson Housing Lottery, a program for families in emergency shelters who have recently been evicted. The lottery is held every Tuesday, and winning families are able to apply for apartments where up to 70 percent of their rent is subsidized by Simpson each month as long as residents remain working or in school. Price knows that without the help of PSP, she might not have been so lucky. “People here, they inspire you, they make you feel welcome,” she says. “They supply you with everything you need so you don’t have to struggle as much as you would if you were on the streets.” All three cases—Harding, McGovrn, and Price—involve veiled facets of homelessness seldom conveyed by statistics. Those aspects involve the many ways homeless individuals find a sense of peace in their situation. For some, it means seeking support from a personal advocate. Others turn to drugs or alcohol to numb their situation. Then there are those who look for help beyond this

world. Back at the Basilica, Harding admits he’s stubborn and reluctant to accept help, but knows he can’t go on much longer without employment. “It bothers me,” he says. “I’ve never had to count on anyone to do anything for me. My dad taught me that if you can’t do it yourself, then it isn’t worth doing. It’s hard for me to get past that.” Still, Harding will continue to make use of the help he receives from the church with the hope of finding work and eventually getting off the streets. For today, though, the goal is just $150 and a warm place to sleep.

*Want more? Look for additional photos and a behind-the-scenes video at refuge.umn.edu spring 2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 23


TAKING

THE VEIL Stephanie is moving to Chicago. But instead of entering the corporate world, Colleen Powers finds she’s choosing to join a convent. Photos by Amanda Pointer.

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Stephanie Baliga graduates from college this spring. But while her peers apply to graduate schools and jobs, she’ll be applying to convents. As many of her friends celebrate weddings, she’ll be taking vows to be married to the Catholic Church. An economics and geography major at the University of Illinois, Stephanie is one of a growing number of young women choosing to step off the beaten path of societal expectations and pursue life as a nun. A 2009 Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate study for the National Religious Vocation Conference found that two-thirds of women’s religious communities currently have members taking preliminary temporary vows. While members of such communities still tend to be older in age, an increasing number of women in their 20s and 30s are now seeing religion as an option for the future. “Our society has alienated people from life,” Stephanie says. “Sacredness has been eliminated from mainstream society. People are looking for something beyond mundane everyday life and finding it in the Catholic Church. They want to dedicate their life to it.” As someone who helps young women decide their religious paths in her vocations outreach work with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Sister Patricia Tekippe agrees. “The pace of everyday life in U.S. society does not encourage depth in relationships. Shallowness is almost expected,” she says. “These women are not satisfied with shallow. They want more.” Sister Sarah Hennessey, a member of the FSPA in temporary vows, thinks that desire is especially strong among the current generation of young women. “Particularly among the millennials, there’s a real hunger for a meaningful life and a connection to some tradition,” she says. Though religious life allows women to step outside of mainstream society, it should not be seen as an escape or a last resort. In fact, nine out of ten respondents to the NRVC/ CARA survey were employed before entering religious life, and 70 percent of respondents had at least a bachelor’s degree. “I have to be careful when a woman first contacts me to make sure she’s not escaping something in her life,” Sister Patricia says, adding that the life of a nun isn’t always easy.

“Community living provides joy and mutual support, but living with other people and having meaningful relationships is very intense. It takes time and effort and prayer.” That lifestyle, however, can also be a major attraction. “What really drew me was the community life, living with other sisters who are committed to God,” Sister Sarah says. Many communities have regular prayer throughout the day as a group. Sister Sarah’s day typically ends with her and a fellow sister eating dinner, sharing the day’s events, praying, and watching TV together. Sisterhood can be especially demanding for nuns in active or apostolic orders. There, women spend their days serving their communities through schools, hospitals, homeless shelters, and other ministries. Rather than hiding from life’s problems, nuns must be able to face them, taking on the problems of others both in prayer and in service. As soon as she began to consider sisterhood, Stephanie knew she wanted to be part of an active order, as opposed to a contemplative community focused on constant prayer. “I fail at that. I can’t be quiet,” she says. “I want to be active in the world.” Choosing a community means searching through the more than 850 sisterhoods in the United States, from those that are part of established, centuries-old orders such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, or Benedictines to new ones being formed today. Stephanie hopes to join one of the new communities, specifically a Chicago-based Franciscan group focused on poverty relief. The last stop on a long road of discernment, this decision took a lot of time for Stephanie. Her journey began during Adoration, a Catholic service in which the Eucharist—which is believed to contain the actual presence of Christ—is exposed for quiet worship and prayer. Though she had long planned for a life of poverty and public service, Stephanie had never connected that idea with her faith, which for years took a backseat to schoolwork and competitive running. But during Adoration at a youth conference after her freshman year of college, Stephanie received her first call from God. “It wasn’t like a vision, but a very deep feeling of peace,” she says. “I saw myself holding hands with Jesus and walking into a sunset. It was like, Jesus is my friend, a more personal and intimate relationship with Jesus.” At first, Stephanie’s life and plans didn’t change much. It wasn’t until several months later, after a foot fracture forced her to take a break from running, that she experienced another call, again during Adoration. “I felt directly called to be a sister at that point,” she says. “I had not really thought about it at all. It was definitely a call from God because I would not have decided to do this by myself.” Despite that strong feeling, Stephanie says that she decided spring 2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 25


“Sacredness has been eliminated from mainstream society. People are looking for something beyond mundane everyday life and finding it in the Catholic Church. They want to dedicate their life to it.” to pretend it hadn’t happened for about a year. She didn’t tell anyone about her call, and instead applied for a major graduate school scholarship. “My faith was growing, but it was kind of weird because I was denying a lot of things that God was telling me,” she says. After confiding in her theology professor about the calling, Stephanie finally faced up to the idea of becoming a nun and began to seriously search online and contact sisters. “I had no idea what I was doing,” she says. “I had no idea what this meant or what options there were.” A few months later, she found out that she had received the scholarship. She turned it down. For Sister Sarah, the decision to become a nun was even more difficult, partly because she wasn’t even a Catholic when she first began to consider religious life. While studying in Mexico, she met a group of nuns and one asked whether God had a call on her life. “It made me go to a deeper level,” she says. “I really desired to live my life for God and commit myself to a community in a healthy way.” It was seven years before she knew for sure that religious life was what she wanted. “I was really confused,” she says. “I did a lot of asking.” Ultimately, she says she had to be sure that her personal choice to become a nun was as strong as her call from God. Sister Sarah has been with the FSPA for eight years as of this upcoming fall and is anticipating her final vows. Sisters typically must wait six to nine years before they can take that last step and become a permanent member of their religious community. For women like Stephanie and Sarah who are unsure of their calling, nuns like Sister Patricia are there to help. Among her duties is hosting a monthly retreat that allows women to spend 24 hours seeing what life is like as a Franciscan sister. While she grew up having a nun in her family, she says that most women don’t have that personal contact, so she tries to provide it for them. “An inkling starts in our hearts,” she says. “I tell them to find out more and pray about it. Always take the time for quiet and prayer, and ask God to speak directly to your heart.” As younger women are drawn to religious life, it’s important for those already in the sisterhood to adapt to their generation. Sister Patricia says she shortened the retreat from a full weekend to 24 hours to better accommodate busy college students. The Internet has also become an essential tool. Since both men and women considering religious life increasingly find information online, FSPA has updated their website to offer a virtual tour of their chapel and a form to submit online prayer requests. These features especially allow the FSPA to connect with young members of the community.

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Even with these new outreaches, the Catholic Church is still associated with tradition and conservatism. However, according to Sister Patricia, it’s more than that. “It’s a countercultural choice to enter a religious community,” she says. “It’s stepping out of the rat race and taking time for quiet in everyday life.” Young women considering religious life today must prepare to face confused or judgmental reactions from those with more mainstream plans and expectations. “For a while my cover-up was ‘not-for-profit work with a poverty relief organization’—which isn’t a lie!” says Stephanie. When she tells people she’s becoming a nun, she says she gets mixed reactions. “A lot of people do give you a look like, ‘You’re a psycho;’ or, ‘Are you from 1800 or something?’ But a lot of people think it’s cool.” In addition to reactions from friends and strangers, Stephanie also had to deal with her parents’ response to the news. “My mom at first was upset, but now she’s really happy about it,” she says. Her dad has yet to come around, however. “His mindset is mostly about making money, and obviously I won’t be making any money,” she says. “So he sees it as a kind of failure.” Sister Sarah faced similar confusion when she announced her choice. “The celibacy part in particular was like, ‘What are you doing?’” she says. But once her friends and family members listened to the reasons for her decision most of them understood. Once she told someone at a party that she was becoming a nun and immediately began to laugh in embarrassment. “My friends got really mad, and they jumped in and supported me,” she says. “They were like, ‘It’s not a joke! This is real!’” Despite the recent increase in numbers, religious life may always be seen as a strange choice for young people. But that doesn’t mean it will stop being a choice. “Religious life will always have a place,” Sister Sarah says. “There will always be people who are called to it.” Sister Patricia is also optimistic about the future. “The women who are interested in talking about being a sister and what life is like are such fun human beings. I’m inspired by them,” she says. “The earth is going to be in fine hands when it’s time to give it to the next generation.”


GAME

ON

Online games like World of Warcraft get a bad rap. But after spending time with a few avid gamers, Andrew Osthoff realizes the benefits may outweigh the so-called harms. Photos by Amanda Pointer.

Several nights a week, Tim Eisenbeisz is responsible for the lives of nine other people. Were his attention to lag for mere seconds, they would be beaten, sliced, or burned to death. Nearby, Matt Wohlsdorf wades into combat, parrying blows that would crush any normal being. Without his practiced skill, Wohldorf’s comrades would surely be overrun. During their weekly adventures in World of Warcraft (or WoW), players constantly depend on one another. However, while Eisenbeisz and Wohlsdorf met through a mutual friend, most of their group, known as “The Black Watch,” has never been face-to-face. If not for the game, they never would have met at all. Fortunately, hundreds of miles don’t affect virtual battles. spring 2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 27


While WoW is not the first game to offer an online world where players can gather, it is the most successful. Originally released by video game giant Blizzard Entertainment on November 23, 2004, World of Warcraft now has 11.5 million subscribers worldwide—more people than the population of New York City or Cuba. Since its launch, the game has spun off into a comic book series, tabletop games, and a handful of novels. Plans for a World of Warcraft movie directed by Sam Raimi have also been announced. On its path to becoming a gaming monolith, however, WoW has also become synonymous with video game addiction. Parents and psychologists often cite the alleged dangers of online games, usually claiming players are sucked into a system that gives them a false sense of achievement. Often the fear is, at worst, players will lose interest in socializing; at best, they may lose touch with reality. The “average WoW player” is often imagined as someone socially ill-equipped, mentally unstimulated, and host to a bad hygiene problem. Neither Eisenbeisz nor Wohlsdorf reflect this stereotype. Eisenbeisz’s goatee and straight, shoulder-length hair give him a slightly wild appearance reminiscent of Guy Fawkes, but his measured speech and sharp, intelligent eyes belay this impression. Wholsdorf describes the game using sport analogies—a departure from the typical gamer vocabulary—and he certainly doesn’t smell bad. Both college students are friendly and quick to grin while explaining why they play the game. In fact, if either man were a social misfit, he would have less success in killing monsters. In order to conquer the

game’s hardest portions, each player must know not only their own responsibilities, but also be able to effectively diagnose and discuss strategies with teammates. Eisenbeisz describes WoW and other massively multiplayer games as providing a way to socialize while focusing on challenges, similar to sports. But unlike physically active events, the focus in WoW is exclusive to mental skill. “I’m not the sort That mix of brainpower and close teamwork is hard to find of person who outside video games. “I’m not goes out to bars,” the sort of person who goes out to bars,” Eisenbeisz says, Eisenbeisz says, smiling. “It’s hard for me to get into social gatherings.” smiling. Though he is generally relaxed and easygoing, Eisenbeisz says it’s easier to have meaningful conversations with others while they are connected through activities requiring mental prowess. “Our conversations are pretty funny, so runs aren’t too serious,” he says. “We talk about more than just WoW. Politics comes up a lot.” It’s an odd dynamic at first glance, because most massively multiplayer games don’t just allow friends to play together—they actually rely on the camaraderie. In WoW, many characters belong to a guild—a player-run organization within the game. Guilds can be formed around different goals, but they usually help members make friends with whom they can go adventuring. Magic spells and fighting monsters is fun, but it wouldn’t work without the help of others. Non-gamers are also giving WoW attention. Academics—including anthropologists, economists, and even epidemiologists—have shown interest in how it operates as both a community and a game. Something about WoW’s virtual world and how it mirrors reality tends to fascinate. Randy Jordan knows this better than many. Jordan has co-hosted the last 140-some episodes of The Instance—a podcast dedicated to all things WoW. The Instance has long been among the top five on iTunes’ video game podcast chart, placing far above the official podcast produced by Blizzard Entertainment. Jordan sees little use in bragging about this achievement, however. Instead, he notes the incredible amount of hours that go into producing all the other podcasts about the game—not Tim Eisenbeisz plays World of Warcraft from his bedroom in Burnsville, Minn.

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Jesse and Breanna: A virtual romance taken offline World of Warcraft had over 230 servers and 7 million participants on that magical night in November 2005. It was that night when the character of Jesse Hanssen and Breanna Miller first met. Both were night elf druids and Breanna was recruiting for her guild. Jesse joined, and over the course of the next six months the two talked extensively over Skype while playing. Even though they were both living in Brookings, S. Dak. at the time, Jesse could not convince Breanna to date in real life until May 19, 2006. Soon after their first date, Jesse accepted a job in Eden Prairie, Minn., a four-hour drive from Breanna. The two spent almost every night talking on the phone or over Skype and playing World of Warcraft together. On September 19, 2007, Breanna drove to visit Jesse in Eden Prairie. He took her to the Japanese gardens, dropped down on one knee and proposed. After a few minutes of shocked silence­—a rare occasion for their relationship— she screamed, “Yes!” Jesse and Breanna were married December 13, 2008 in a wedding Jesse describes as “just perfect.” While their characters have not married on World of Warcraft, they still play together a couple nights a week. —Janae Olinger

a game you can’t beat.” Unlike single-player games, WoW doesn’t have a definitive ending. If a group beats the most difficult boss in the game, there are still more magic items to be had. In some respect, “winning” in WoW is impossible for the same reason people can’t “win” at real life. In a world driven by communities, Jordan, Eisenbeisz, and Wohlsdorf have found a space to fit in with WoW. For Jordan, he says he may not have met some of his closest friends had he not started playing. ���A lot of people don’t understand such a thing as World of Warcraft and think it’s a fake world where you play a fake person who does fake things, and that when you turn it off it disappears and it doesn’t exist,” he says. “And that is the hardest misconception to tear down, because it is absolutely the opposite.” spring 2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 29

Photo by Steve Schatz from Leonard Studio

to mention the fan-made artwork, fiction writings, and other online material—as impressive. “You wouldn’t think that World of Warcraft podcasting is a very big niche, and it is,” says Jordan. “Whatever you can think of on TV or the Internet that encourages there to be a community of millions of people…there’s nothing like World of Warcraft for podcasting.” Three years ago, about a year after The Instance launched, Alea Iacta Est (or AIE) was formed as an in-game guild so fans of the podcast could show their support and adventure together. While the average guild size is debatable (dedicated raiding guilds usually have about 60 people), AIE is the largest one in existence. According to Jordan, the guild has over 6,200 members. Jordan credits AIE’s success to its members, whom he describes as being genuinely helpful and composing a terrific community. Though the guild is far too big to go into dungeons as a single group, guild-wide events are common, the most famous being AIE’s biannual craft fair. Weeks before fairs are held, members begin gathering in-game materials. When the event arrives, they gather to hand out enchantments and items to fellow guild members. “No guild can do what AIE does in one night in the craft fair,” says Jordan. “In fact, I would challenge any five guilds in the world to get together and do such a thing.” These extra aspects of the game attract some players over the better-known WoW features, like killing monsters. Other appealing facets include collecting and selling in-game pets and cosmetic items to rack up as much gold as possible. Of course, the majority of the game is still built around fighting monsters. Jordan, Eisenbeisz, and Wohlsdorf all participate in raids, where the game’s most dangerous monsters are found. Rewards for overcoming such challenges are significant, but even seasoned players can be caught offguard by new fight mechanics. To a new player, these battles are utterly confusing. “It takes an incredible amount of coordination,” Jordan says. “That’s something I think people who don’t play WoW or video games like this at all can’t begin to grasp.” Wohlsdorf describes differences between small dungeons and raids as being similar to differences between pick-up baseball games and the major league. The group’s success depends on each player’s skill and knowledge, and fast communication can be vital. In some fights, a single person can cause the whole group to die, costing everyone to repair their equipment and forcing them to spend time traveling back to the dungeon. This type of experience is different from other competitive games in an important way. “If Blizzard is doing their job right, my raiding team has never won,” Jordan says. “It’s


What’s your Refuge? Whether you’re five, fifteen, or fifty, you need a place to relax and unwind. From living rooms to yoga studios, individual refuges differ as much as the people seeking them. We explored the Twin Cities to see where people go to escape life for a while. Photography by Liz Johnston and Amanda Pointer

Joey Brandys the} 3rd 30 { refugefinds magazine springLair 2010SkatePark in Golden Valley, Minn. a good place to unwind and catch up with friends.


WCCO reporter Jason DeRusha finds joy in reading his two children Seth spring 2010to { refuge.umn.edu } 31 and Sam at their home in Maple Grove, Minn.


32 { refuge magazineKen } spring 2010 finds that taking knitting lessons at Bella Minneapolis resident Krenz Lana is a great way to relax after a stressful day at work.


2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 33 InInaddition additiontototeaching teachingatatCore CorePower PowerYoga, Yoga,spring Nora Nora Byrne Byrne uses usesyoga yoga totorelax relax and andrejuvinate. rejuvinate.


Todd Pointer relaxes a 2010 long day at work by playing his drum set in his 34 { refuge magazineafter } spring home in Minnetonka, Minn.


Michael “Mickey� Henle enjoys reading hisspring favorite Spider-Man, at 2010 {comic, refuge.umn.edu } 35 Big Brain Comics on Washington Ave. in Minneapolis.


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Lease on Love Couples share how shacking up can change relationships by Yaisha Neiderhiser Taking a relationship to that infamous next level means different things to different couples. For some, moving in together ends in happily ever after. For others, it results in sneaking around, separate beds, and the dreaded breakup. But such are the risks of love, and most couples

36 { refuge magazine } spring 2010

choose to take the leap, hoping for the best. One such couple is Erik Dorn and Mandy Nallick. After dating for more than two years, the pair decided that the time was right to move in together. “We’ve both seen divorces with our parents and we wanted something different for ourselves,” says Nallick.

According to a March 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, many Americans take this road. And that decision seems to be for the best, as the CDC data also shows that 51 percent of couples that bunk up before exchanging rings end up married within three years. Together for just over three years now, Dorn and Nallick agree that sharing their space has been a mostly positive experience. However, it’s still an adjustment. “It can be hard when you don’t

have as much time alone or separation, especially in this place,” Dorn says, referring to their one bedroom warehouse-style loft. But overall, cohabitation has helped the twosome know more about each other, get along better, and grow closer. “I walk around naked now; I let it all hang out. I figure if he’s going to marry me someday he should know what he’s getting into,” says Nallick, laughing. While the choice to move in together may seem ideal, Keith Luettel quickly


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relate

found that premarital cohabitation doesn’t always end well. After dating for seven months, he and his girlfriend moved in together. “It was convenient and economical, but those can be bad reasons to live together so quickly,” he explains. Often, such realizations can only be seen once the move has been made.

to find Del and Karen Hammerschmidt, a couple who sings a much different tune about spending too much time together. After 52 years of married bliss, they still spend almost every moment together. But even the most loving marriages take effort. “We get through it because we love each other and

Photo illustrations by Yaisha Neiderhiser

“Make time to be apart,” says Luettel. “It’s just as important as spending time together.” One negative aspect that surfaced for Luettel was that he and his girlfriend failed to maintain separate lives. They lived together, worked together, commuted together, and even worked out at the same gym together. Looking back, the problem is clear. “Make time to be apart,” he says. “It’s just as important as spending time together.” Eventually, Luettel’s relationship deteriorated, ending with his ex cheating on him. “I think living together contributed to her cheating. She obviously wasn’t ready to settle down and she felt trapped,” he says. “Don’t ever ignore the red flags. In the end, they killed the relationship.” Pivot 180-degrees

respect each other,” Karen says. “We stick together through thick and thin.” Adds Del, “Find a good person who loves you for you, and the rest will fall into place.”

Staying Plugged In Mommy blogs and other social networking sites connect stay-at-home caregivers to the outside world by Janae Olinger Slapping yet another Post-It note on her Apple notebook, Rachel Denbow types away as her children, three-yearold Sebastian and sevenmonth-old Ruby, watch a video in the nursery. This is one of the few quiet moments Denbow has in her day. As a work-athome mother and blogger, she spends whatever free minutes she can spare compiling to-do lists for her two Etsy shops, Pony Party and Red Velvet Art. Between diaper changes and meals, she also makes time to type out a few in-process blog posts. “I make lists to keep my mommy brain focused on responsibilities and dead-

Social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and a myriad of blogs are flooded with moms helping, hoping, and hanging on to their social lives while caring for their children. “Social networking and online media have allowed me to keep up with women much easier than trying to schedule a coffee date and jam new ideas and funny stories into the space of an hour,” Denbow says. But, just like offline, life online is not always easy. Those commenting on Denbow’s posts also take the liberty to weigh in on her parenting. “If it isn’t constructive and I don’t know the person, it does hurt my feelings,” Denbow says. “But

“I’m learning how to shake them off and move forward without letting them ruin the rest of my day.” lines,” Denbow says. “It’s taken me a while to figure out a system that works, but we’re getting there.” Denbow is one of the approximately 35 million American mothers who go online, according to a 2008 study by eMarketer, a company that researches and analyzes trends in digital marketing and media.

I’m learning how to shake them off and move forward without letting them ruin the rest of my day.” Maintaining life online may take a little time away from children, but it can also be beneficial as an outlet, resource, and social network for at-home moms.

spring 2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 37


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relate

Designer Dogs, Couture Cats When it comes to pampering pets, how far is too far?

Without a care in the world, she strolls down the sidewalk, a Swarovski crystalembellished bow tying up caramel-colored locks of conditioned hair. That she’s a dog is the first surprise. The second is that her owner has no clue how pampered this pooch is. “Overboard doesn’t seem overly excessive,” says Graham Fulmer, a clerk at Minneapolis pet store Bone Adventure. Every day he sees first-hand how far today’s pet owners will go

to guarantee that their dogs, cats, and guinea pigs are accessorized to the max. A lot of times pet owners don’t think they are spoiling their pet because some things, like buying toys and paying for medicine, are necessary to be a responsible pet owner. Brooke Fox, proud owner of BasenjiRat Terrier mix Ella, says that at the bare minimum, a pet should be well-fed, vaccinated, and given attention. “Every dog should be given a chance not to get sick,” Fox says. All the food, toys, and

Cornelia Griffin cradles her pampered pooch, Enzo.

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vet visits can get expensive. Fox says she’s paid more than $600 in medical bills and about $40 a month in toys and treats for Ella. But that’s typical for a responsible pet owner, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website. Estimated firstyear pet care costs range from $235 (for fish) up to $1,843 (for a large dog), according to the site. With the struggling economy, more people are aware of how much things cost, Fulmer says.

People want to support local businesses, which is part of the appeal of Bone Adventure. The store’s products include items produced by local companies, like northeast

“Overboard doesn’t seem overly excessive” Minneapolis-based pet food supplier Sojos. “A fanatical pet owner is someone who spends $70 a day on pet food,” says dog owner and Bone Adventure patron Jessica Hill. “I buy my dogs organic, non-toxic products, which can be expensive.” Fox says that she buys organic, American-made rawhides for Ella, which are pricey as well. But neither Fox nor Hill think they are fanatical pet owners. “People forget dogs are dogs, not children,” Fox says, relaying a story of seeing a pet owner pushing their dog in a stroller. Some gestures, however, are out of love, Fulmer says. Regardless of strollers, snuggly critters with the highest-quality collar or bed are really just enjoying the perks of having a loving owner. And the pets with no Swarovski crystals—they have love, too.

Photo by Liz Johnston

by Kathryn Holahan


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Eat, Pray, Love One woman’s quest for answers across Italy, India, and Indonesia

by Megan Hanson Following years of unhappiness and worry that ultimately culminated in a divorce, one woman set out to accomplish something sought by many but obtained by few: to find—and accept—herself. Taking a year out of regular life, Elizabeth Gilbert traveled across Italy, India, and Indonesia, eating, praying, and loving her way to personal happiness. Her aptly named memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, recounts her experiences eating her way around Rome; meditating in an Indian ashram; and living with a stranger in Bali, Indonesia. While her experiences are stellar in and of themselves, the truly remarkable story is in the journey. Interesting and adventurous, Eat, Pray, Love

is an easy, devour-it-in-onesitting read. Readers find themselves as captivatingly lost in the story as Gilbert is in her thoughts and surroundings. But while all the anticipated life struggles of a memoir are present—love interests, new friends, and selfexamination— there are also elements of serious philosophical thinking that elevate the novel from a diary to a relatable work of non-fiction. During one of her meditation sessions at the ashram in India, Gilbert considers why she can’t get over her post-marriage boyfriend. While contemplating her situation, she remembers a story her friend Deborah, a trauma counselor, told her once about her time spent with Cambodian refugees. “‘But don’t you know,’ Deborah reported to me,

If you liked Eat, Pray, Love • Devotion by Dani Shapiro • Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor • A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson • Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert • Or see the movie, due out August 13, 2010 starring Julia Roberts

‘what all these people wanted to talk about, once they could see a counselor?’” Gilbert writes. “‘It was all: I met this guy when I was living in the refugee camp…’” While these bits of humor and comments on human nature are refreshing, the one area where Eat, Pray, Love falls short is bringing Gilbert’s experiences to the reality of actual people. Not everyone can take a year-long vacation from life, and although Gilbert’s memoir provides inspiration and a

temporary escape, a tone of impracticality permeates the pages. However, that could be less of a criticism of Gilbert’s writing and more of the culture that make experiences like Gilbert’s worthy of a book deal. In the end, Eat, Pray, Love is a worthy read—a fantastical yet relatable memoir that transports you around the world without the annoying jetlag.

spring 2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 39


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From Hand to Foot How one artist overcame personal tragedy and got back to the canvas

Paintings by Ron Gramling called Hayward

by Erik Williams Ron Gramling stands precariously over his canvas, sweat dripping from his curly hair. His arms rest at his side motionless. Gazing downward at his paintdrenched tube socks, he carefully blends the colors into his painting one toe stroke at a time. Gramling, a 20-year painting veteran, has been creating art with his feet since 2005. After developing Cumulative Trauma Disorder—the leading workrelated injury for painters— in his arms, Gramling was left unable to use his hands for more than a few minutes at a time. With his arms in a constant state of numbness and pain, Gramling found himself mentally paralyzed. “I basically went crazy and turned into a recluse,” he says. “I spent all of my free time staring at a wall for about a year.” After several failed attempts trying to paint with his left hand, Gramling ran the idea of painting with his feet by a few friends. “I didn’t have any idea what I was doing,” he says. “I tried sitting down and strapping a brush to my foot, but that didn’t work.” For the next year, Gramling struggled to imitate with his feet what his hands had done for

40 { refuge magazine } spring 2010

years. But between gripping a brush with his toes and twisting his feet into unfamiliar positions, his muscles began to tighten and cramp, leaving him unable to stand for any great length of time. Once again, a physical hurdle blocked Gramling from his work. “I was terrified,” he says. “Every cell

in my body wanted to paint.” It took another full year for his feet to recover. When they finally did, Gramling took precautions about the amount of pressure he put on his feet, settling on working in short bursts to prevent cramping. “Eventually I put on a sock and used my foot as a brush,” Gramling says. “My right leg sort of took

over the movements of my right hand.” Over the length of his career, Gramling’s paintings have been featured in numerous galleries around the country, including the Corner House Gallery in Iowa. His work has also been displayed at many art shows, such as Salon International and the International Museum of Contemporary Masters of Fine Art. He recently completed a full-length documentary of his experience and has hopes of breaking into the Sante Fe and New York markets. All this acclaim speaks to the quality of Gramling’s work. “The detail is ridiculously good because of the style he has painting with his feet,” says Mike Ganrude, a musician who collaborated with Gramling on his documentary. “It’s something you don’t ever see, but it makes his paintings more detailed because they are literally painted with his toes.” Gramling insists that his ability to paint with his feet means more to him that just having a unique talent. “It’s not about the foot,” Gramling says. “It’s about how the foot has made my mind rethink my views on life.”


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I Wanna Be Like You Why fictional friends matter Being wooed by Edward Cullen or dueling with Jedi Knights may strike some as ridiculous, but research shows that getting swept up in fiction can have positive effects on a person’s behavior. An Ohio State study found that people who relate to fictional characters are more likely to adopt the characters’ positive actions than readers who don’t experience much identification. In fact, readers identifying with characters who display positive behaviors are much more likely to do so themselves. by Lauren Caffery “J. K. Rowling does such a brilliant job weaving the story and giving just enough information to keep you wondering. I use the stories to get away from my own thoughts, my own reality, and let my imagination run wild.” —Katie-Lyn Puffer, 23, of Lakeville, Minn. on Harry Potter

“Back in the late 1990s, when Digimon first came out, its setting, characters, and story were all very engrossing. I had never had any experience with anime before, so it was all new and unique to me. I would watch it every day, even episodes I had seen 100 times. The best part was seeing the humans bond with their Digimon and each other.”

“I started playing about three years ago, and I found it addicting. The world in which WoW is set is huge. I really enjoy the questing aspect of the game because it is strategic and allows you to gain levels. I find people that I have things in common with and chat with them, or we help each other.”

“I can’t quite explain it. If I could have any power in the world, it would be ‘the force.’ As Jerry Seinfeld said, ‘When you’re a little boy, being characters (in real life) like Batman, Superman, Spider-Man aren’t fantasies, they are options. We all think we really are superheroes.’”

“I enjoy the variety of personalities NCIS has developed. We see them in a professional capacity, a recreational one, and in their private moments. The mixture of humor, tragedy, and drama makes the show more enjoyable.” —Shan J., 49, of Evansville, Ind. on NCIS

—Jeremy Driscoll, 22, of Mequon, Wis. on Star Wars

“Reading is an escape for me. I use the stories (especially Harry Potter) to get away from my own thoughts, my own reality, and let my imagination run wild.”

—Sarah Nusser, 22, of St. Paul, Minn. on World of Warcraft

“Where do I start? I envy Bella so much, having Edward and Jacob fighting for her attention and love. I am married with children but I would love to have that much devotion and adoration toward me.” —Louise Wilson, 35, of Radcliffe, Manchester, United Kingdom on Twilight

—Andrew P., 18, of Dallas, Tex. on Digimon

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replay

The Punk Rocker’s B&B by Jay Jorgenson Equipment? Check. Full gas tank? Check. Set list? Check. Place to stay? Not yet. For many bands, even the cheapest motels make touring impossible. That’s why some groups find refuge in dilapidated homes, or what have come to be known as “punk houses.” These makeshift hotels are spaces that a band, or sometimes several bands, rent out. Usually run down and on the verge of being condemned, groups waste no time making them their own, spray-painting the walls or setting up performance areas in the

basement. When hosting out-of-town bands, the house serves as both venue and temporary home. Punk houses aren’t limited to residential homes, however. Sometimes, an unexpected building ends up as a venue, undergoing a complete transformation to become a musical Mecca. Take The Church, a former Episcopalian church turned punk house. After walls that once displayed scripture received a healthy

dose of spray paint and a keg replaced communion wine, the only thing left to do was book the band. Unfortunately, the property was bought out by the neighboring Children’s Hospital of Minnesota and destined for destruction as part of the hospital’s

“These shows are usually illegal in some way and exposure can lead to tickets, eviction, and a general bummer for everyone involved.” expansion. The last show at The Church played on June 16, 2007, after nearly a decade of hosting bands. While Minnesota has punk houses, other areas of the United States boast greater numbers and more highly publicized house venues. In Portland and Philadelphia, websites and MySpace sites solely dedicated to the venues exist. “We usually have a lot of touring bands come in and play with us,” says Kent Boersma, drummer

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for Univox, a Philadelphiabased funk/soul band that also owns its own venue, called Pink House. “Then we split up any tabs that come in. It isn’t hard to get people to come out for the shows.” Finding these punk culture hot spots is often difficult, as they are typically independent and low profile. Many bands discover them on underground Internet message boards, like Minnesota’s TCPunk and Modern Radio. Often, many of the shows are kept quiet for a reason, including sound ordinances, underage drinking, and the occasional smoking of marijuana. “There’s a reason they usually try to remain word of mouth,” said Matt Hawbaker, a musician who has played in several house venues. “These shows are usually illegal in some way and exposure can lead to tickets, eviction, and a general bummer for everyone involved.” Whether it’s a church turned secular or a house gone punk, punk houses offer more than a place to play. They give bands a place to stay.

Illustration by Sean Folstad

Multipurpose houses give touring bands a place to play and stay


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respond

New Country, New Me

Photo by Liz Johnston

When Daniela Przybyszewska first came to the United States, she thought she knew what to expect. But after eight years, she’s still making adjustments. I still remember March 27, 2002. It was late and I was tired from the long flight from Europe to the United States. But I was so excited. This was a new start for me, an experience I had been anticipating. I grew up in Bulgaria, a small country in southeastern Europe. Ten years ago during a trip to Poland, I met my husband and moved there. That was my first experience being “the foreigner” and learning a second language. I enjoyed living in Poland, but when my husband signed a contract with an American company, I was happy to move to the United States. After two-and-a-half years in Poland, I was ready for a new adventure. In my imagination, America was the place I had seen in the movies. Wall Street and Working Girl showed well-dressed people busy with their professional life. Everyone lived in a beautiful house. American life seemed like a dream, and I thought I knew something about this huge country and its people. I didn’t think it would be hard to adjust. When I arrived in Minnesota, I saw a different side of America. The high heels I’d pictured were actually flip-flops. Elegantly dressed people were few and far between. I rarely saw people walking outside. Actually, I barely saw people walking at all. In Europe, most people walk or use public transportation. In Minnesota, people drive. While I know it wasn’t as hard for me as it is for some other newcomers, I quickly found myself in a place I knew nothing about. My first problem was that I didn’t speak English. I felt stupid when I was the only person who didn’t laugh at a joke. I felt dumb when I didn’t know how to respond to everyone asking, “Is it cold enough for ya?” Everything confused me. Everything frustrated me. I felt like a mute and I started to doubt my own intelligence. “I am sorry, but I don’t speak English.” I was tired of constantly repeating the same sentence. For my first short sentences in English, I credit obnoxious TV ads. It’s easy to understand and remember words when a woman shows a telephone receiver and says, “Call now!” or when they show

large, unhappy people and the sign next to the recommended diet pills reads, “Lose weight!” But the loud ads could only get me so far. To learn more, I enrolled in a school for English as a Second Language (ESL). There, I met some amazing people–people who had lost family members to war and had to fight for their lives. Their courage and desire for a better life fascinated me. A Somali classmate once told me that she had learned to never look back because the last time she had, she saw her house burning. That day, she lost all of her possessions. All she had left were her children, and she came to America to offer them a better life. We told each other our stories. Even though no one could build full, coherent sentences, somehow I understood. I understood that the Somali girl missed her mom and that the Columbian woman couldn’t wait to see her boyfriend again. I understood that the old Bosnian couple were veterans from the recent war in former Yugoslavia and missed their children. I understood so much with so few words. As my new friends and I improved our English, we got to know each other more deeply. I found some of my best friends at ESL, and although many of them have gone back home to Brazil, Mexico, Japan, and other countries, we still keep in touch, upholding our vows to never to forget one another. Even though I still occasionally hear a word I don’t quite understand, I can confidently say that I now speak English. But with the new skill came a new problem–my accent. I have become very aware of it, especially when people seem to be struggling to understand me. On many occasions, I stay quiet, exchanging speaking for comfort. But I have also received many compliments. People are usually impressed when someone immerses themselves in a different culture and works hard to accommodate a new way of life, as I have. Many find it fascinating, and their positive comments encourage me. But as much as compliments cheer me, criticisms of my accent hurt me. When I decided to go to college and started seriously thinking about what major to choose, I talked to people about my concerns. I would mention journalism, but add that I was concerned about English not being my first language. It was then, when I needed encouragement the most, that I was surprised to find people at a lack of positive words. Instead, people would say, “Yeah, I understand,” or “Oh, you’re right.” But in the end, I realized success is up to me. I don’t need to rely on compliments and don’t need to be discouraged by criticism. At the end of this semester, I will graduate from the University of Minnesota with a degree in journalism and an optimistic future. And that’s something I’ve achieved on my own. spring 2010 { refuge.umn.edu } 43


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