Tag Archives: Blog 5

The Pandemic’s Negative Impact on Mental Health

The overall mental health of plenty of individuals has deteriorated noticeably throughout the pandemic. KFF has an article outlining very alarming statistics in regards to it: https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/

4 in 10 adults have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, only 1 in 10 did. A poll KFF did found that “many adults are reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and well-being, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.”

Adults of all age groups have had their mental healthy negatively impacted from the pandemic. Young adults age 18-24 have the most reports of experiencing anxiety or depression during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey conducted by KFF “also found that substance use and suicidal ideation are particularly pronounced for young adults, with 25% reporting they started or increased substance use during the pandemic (compared to 13% of all adults), and 26% reporting serious thoughts of suicide (compared to 11% of all adults). Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, young adults were already at high risk of poor mental health and substance use disorder, yet many did not receive treatment.”

Getting help for mental health problems isn’t easy. Many people keep these issues to themselves, making it sometimes hard for loved ones to even realize that they are struggling inside. I encourage anyone struggling to reach out to someone. There are many resources outside of family members or friends that people can use.

Minneapolis’ 2040 Plan isn’t Enough

In January of 2020, the Minneapolis 2040 plan went into effect. This plan covers one-hundred various topics, from transportation to public health, and sets a framework for the city to follow for the next twenty years. While the plan was a large step for the city council to make, and was weighed in on by thousands of citizens, the plan does not actually do enough.

Why? Because the plan makes some large claims without a real sense of accountability. For example, under the page dedicated to homelessness, the plan claims it will “eliminate homelessness” in the 20-year time frame it has set for itself. This promise has been made to the city before, including by Mayor Jacob Frey. The plan includes eight action steps, but no information about how or when those steps are going to be taken. This is a serious issue that needs a serious response, something this City of Minneapolis does not seem to be doing.

It has been over a year since this plan went into effect, and yet we have seen no real movement on this front. In fact, between the response to encampments with Covid-19 and during the uprising, I think the problems with the cities responses to these issues has become even more clear to the public. The city needs to take a stronger stance and start making real moves if they actually want to address this issue and help residents like they say they do. With just 19 years left to eliminate homelessness, I am skeptical about the city’s capability to hold itself to such a large promise.

The 2040 plan does a good job at acknowledging the work that needs to be done in our city and could truly be used as the framework it set out to be. However, if the city doesn’t start making moves soon, the plan is going to fall apart. I know the amount of work that went into this plan and I don’t want to see that happen. Instead, I want the city to act on their plan, and to lay out for residents what exactly they actually plan to do to address the housing crisis in Minneapolis. The plan was good, but it is not enough.

Bearded dragons are great pets. Are you a great owner?

This article from PETA, “Bearded Dragons for Sale? They—Like All Other Reptiles—Are Not ‘Pets.’” Is missing so much valuable information.

I do agree that bearded dragons are not starter pets, and they require a lot of research before committing. That is where my agreement ends, however. The tone of this article is incredibly negative and only offers you two choices. Either you don’t own a bearded dragon and you’re responsible or you do and you’re a cruel person.

They include a list of 6 bearded dragon facts. The very first one is, “Bearded dragons eat crickets. As the guardian of a bearded dragon, your life will include many trips to the pet store to buy these crickets, who will often escape into your home and chirp all night.”

For starters, obviously, if you don’t want to deal with bugs don’t get a bearded dragon. If your only issue is crickets, don’t worry. They aren’t your only option. Bearded dragons love Dubai roaches, which are higher in protein and live a lot longer than crickets. Horned worms are an excellent source of hydration and super worms are a great source of protein. Super worms can be bought in larger quantities and they’re easier to keep alive. However, if you have super worms in your bearded dragon’s diet be sure you’re keeping them hydrated because their skin can be difficult to digest.

The next bullet point on the list says that they’re illegal to own in Hawaii. That only applies to people in Hawaii and doesn’t add to the argument on either side. The next point is that bearded dragons can lay eggs. There are ways that you can deal with this and make your bearded dragon comfortable. Typically, you’ll want to provide your female with a dig box. After she lays her eggs make sure you have some yummy bugs for her and give her some space. Some females enjoy taking a warm bath after they lay their eggs. 

Next, they bring up that there are foods that are toxic to bearded dragons. There are also foods that are toxic to dogs and cats. You need to do your research. There are plenty of foods that aren’t toxic. PETA mentions not feeding them avocado. That’s fine, you can feed them squash, zucchini, bell peppers, arugula, collard greens, swiss chard, radicchio, mustard greens, dandelion greens, wild dandelions, endives, romaine lettuce, and many other leafy greens and vegetables. There are even some fruits that bearded dragons enjoy, but fruit should be a treat for special occasions. Mine loves bananas and would probably eat them every day if I let him.

The rest of the list and the article discusses issues that you could easily fix by doing your research before buying a bearded dragon. That’s really what being a responsible owner comes down to, research. Not just research into bearded dragon care but also of the place you’re going to purchase them from. Places like PetSmart and Petco don’t have a great reputation when it comes to caring for bearded dragons, but they aren’t your only option. If you live in or around the Twin Cities, Twin Cities Reptiles in Saint Paul is amazing. They treat their animals with respect, and the employees are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful.

My last warning is that owning a bearded dragon can be expensive so consider whether you can take on the financial responsibility. Bearded dragons themselves aren’t expensive, but you have to factor in the cost of the enclosure, proper lighting, food, and veterinary bills. There’s a lot to know and that may feel overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for bearded dragons to live good lives as pets.

A Proud Minnesotan

I’m a fifth generation Minnesotan. My dad’s family immigrated to Minnesota from Northern and Eastern Europe in the 1800s. My great great grandparents established an urban homestead. They grew their own food and lived within walking distance of downtown St. Paul the state’s capital. My grandparents and parents continued the family tradition of growing and preserving our food, despite living in the post-war era nor living in St. Paul anymore. I have been lucky often to continue to be taught this valuable skills from my family.

My sister’s and I with the Easter bunny in St. Paul circa 1996.

I grow up in during my youngest years in St. Paul off Rice Street. Being able to participate in Rice Rec events and the Rice Street Parade were some of my fondest memories.

I was able to see the Mall of America be built. We were lucky enough to spend time at Camp Snoopy. And I grew up watching my favorite movie franchise filmed here as well… The Mighty Ducks.

Duluth, MN

Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes so growing up I spent lots of time at our family cabin or at friend’s cabins. We would go fishing a lot. I would go jet skiing and wakeboarding. In the winter would go to neighborhood ponds to ice skate. Or go ice fishing on the lake.

I have developed a great connection to this state I call home for all these reasons. However, as I’ve gotten older I realize all the amazing benefits of living in Minnesota. Like the incredible access to healthcare and choice we have here. The expanded medicaid services that are offered within our state to support those with chronic medical condition. I have experienced the benefits of these programs after having my oldest daughter who is medically complex.

This past year has been another testament to the fondest I have for this state. Though not always favorable our state has shown great leadership throughout this pandemic. And with that it was announced today that the state will be expanding its vaccination qualification to all adults over the age of sixteen on Tuesday March 30, 2021. This is far ahead of schedule because at the beginning of the vaccination campaign it was estimated that having all adults of 16 in Minnesota be able to qualify for vaccination it would take until at least the end of the summer 2021. This is big deal and an important step for our state.

This is all to say I am a Proud Minnesotan born and raised!

“You’re on Your Own”

By Leslie MacKenzie

I have been part of a story gathering project for the past six months with Transition US, a national (and global) resilience-building movement. I’ve been interviewing people across the nation to hear how they saw a problem in their community, envisioned a solution, and then took action to make their community more caring and connected, more sustainable, and more resilient.

In January I interviewed Judith Alexander and Deborah Stinson of Port Townsend, Washington. In 2005, they were part of a small group of volunteers who went to Bay St Louis, Mississippi, to help that little community of 10,000 with cleanup after Hurricane Katrina. As federal dollars poured into New Orleans, this little community struggled without help and without funds.

When the volunteers returned to Port Townsend, they realized that their own coastal community would be just as vulnerable if/when they were struck by a natural disaster (in Port Townsend’s case, an earthquake). What could they do now to be ready then? Judy and Deborah met with the recently formed Local 2020/ sustainability group and asked if they would take on a preparedness project.

Continue reading “You’re on Your Own”

The Difference Between a Poisonous Animal and a Venomous Animal

It is often that one will hear the phrase “Careful! That snake is poisonous!” and I am quite sure that I have said it myself a number of times. In my effort to learn more about the other inhabitants of our world, I set out to better understand the difference between a poisonous animal and that which is venomous.


Poisonous animals are that which use their toxin in a defensive way. For example, the Poison Dart Frog is a tropic-dwelling creature that contains a toxin on its skin. When another animal tries to consume the frog, the toxin is released and it is all downhill for the predator. Therefore, most snakes and spiders, which are often referred to as poisonous, are not under that umbrella.


Venomous animals play an active role in injecting their prey with the toxin they carry within. As an example, Killer bees, a hybrid of a honey bee, sting and therefore inject their toxin into whatever they decide to sting. With this knowledge, one can see that most snakes are in fact venomous and not poisonous.

The line gets blurred when it comes to plants, while they obviously cannot strike a victim, some plants do have protrusions that can inject a toxin to whatever may be unlucky enough to brush against it.

Lessons learned here

Positive Versus Negative Effects of Social Media on Children and Adolescents

Social media has now been around long enough for us to see the effects it can have on not only us, but our children. Are those effects positive? Are they negative? Let’s discuss the two opposing views.

Five aspects of social media use:

  1. Few restrictions on expression
  2. Easily share information
  3. Support one another (“Likes”)
  4. Various forms of expression
  5. Socialize in an alternative setting

Positive Effects

According to Angela Barnes and Christine Laird from an article about the effects of social media on children, there are many ways that social media can be used in both positive and negative ways. Regarding the positive aspects, Barnes and Laird state that social media opens the doors for creativity, interactive learning, and the ability to connect with others who share common interests. They continue this idea by stating that social networking can help students connect, as face-to-face interaction may seem more daunting at a younger age.

Negative Effects

On the opposing side, Barnes and Laird state that social media may also have negative effects on children and adolescence. The first negative effect that is mentioned is its impact on mental health. They state that “the level of effect, according to research, seems to go up as teens’ use goes up. Their level of contentment can decrease, and their likelihood of getting into trouble or being depressed can increase” (Rideout, 2010). Another concerning aspect mentioned is the issue of cyberbullying. With many different forms of social media, come many different ways young adults are allowed to oppress and intimidate those who are perceived as more vulnerable. The difference between bullying and cyberbullying is the fact that children, adolescents and even adults are the victims of not only negative comments from peers face-to-face, but from a whole network of complete strangers online.

The use of social media is a powerful thing. We have found that it holds both positive and negative effects, so the most important thing you can do is to pay attention to your child’s level of usage and keep open communication about what they experience online.

Why aren’t more people talking about cults?

I remember a while back I read about a cult called NXIVM that operated at a pyramid scheme, but was basically a sex cult that was exposed for manipulating women into getting branded. I was like “Whoa! This is a thing?” and then I realized that of course its a thing, and the only reason we aren’t hearing more about cults right now is because cults don’t want to be exposed for what they are to the public.


I am definitely just a person who is fascinated by the mystery of the cult. I played a video game last year called Far Cry 5 that was based on a red neck cult taking over rural Montana, and I watch basically any documentary or television show about cults that I come across.

The most recent documentary on a cult I saw was about a cult I have always been fascinated by called the Bhagwan Shree Rashneesh. The documentary was called Wild Wild Country, and they basically did take over a rural city in Oregon, and eventually their practices lead to violence, and ultimately the poisoning of 700 people by contaminating the local water system with Salmonella.

Many people think that cults are a thing of the past, simply because the extreme cult groups of the 70’s-90’s have crumbled from within, with a few ultimately leading to criminal convictions or mass suicide.

We still clearly live alongside cults, but they have gotten better at hiding their intentions. Many say (myself included) that Scientology is a cult, and clearly we just found out about NXIVM and the brainwashing and manipulation of many young women who were branded with their logo.

To learn more about cults of old and new, read this list of podcasts about cults.


Is Social Media Bullshit?


In my next three blogs, I’ll focus on the current and future state of social media, especially its connection to marketing, public relations, and society. I hope to shed some wisdom on the subject from my perspective as a professional in the media and non-profit industries, while referencing our class readings.

In the wake of the recent Parkland school shooting, social media has been used as a critical tool by all sides to politicize and capitalize on the event. However, it is the youth who have been outmaneuvering and outdoing their adult counterparts on social media during this movement.

For example, when Donald Trump, Jr. “liked” two news article that pushed the notion that a few vocal Parkland students were hired actors, one of the students reached out to Melania Trump – who has a White House initiative to stop cyber-bullying – to ask:

Screen Shot 2018-03-16 at 4.51.26 PM

A “like” on Twitter by Donald Trump Jr. can have a enormous effect because he has over 2 million followers, who will inevitably perpetuate the false news. The result of the youth strategically, and naturally, pushing back through social media has resulted in Melania Trump supporting the youth and a recent meeting with one of the Parkland survivors.

This is a good example of the effectiveness of social media as a public relations and social engagement tool. But on the other side of the coin is the equally adept, but terrifying, use of social media to motivate and activate the Parkland school shooter, as well as others who have come before him. (I’m intentionally omitting the Parkland shooter’s name as to not bring him more attention, which was part of his motivation.) The Parkland school shooter and others have used social media to promote their twisted agenda, to learn how to kill effectively and efficiently, and to gain support for their actions.

So is social media bullshit?

I feel that B. J. Mendelson’s book “Social Media is Bullshit” is a misleading title. It’s not that social media is bullshit, it’s that certain individuals are bullshit and they use tools to further their horrible agendas. The book’s author, B. J. Mendelson, asserts, “All marketers, professional or amateur, are full of crap.” This statement and too many others in his book are expressed absolutes and hyperbolical.toolbelt

I’ve been working in the media industry for the past 20 years and the non-profit industry for nearly the past 10 years. Since my background and experiences are more rooted in traditional media (Film, TV, radio, print, etc.), I can see the evolution from previous forms of media to today’s, with the evolution of technology.

Similar to the past, it’s not that media, or even social media, is “bullshit”. Media is simply a tool. As with all tools, it can be used for good and it can also be used for bad. Take a hammer for instance. A hammer is a useful tool when building something. However, in the wrong hands, it could also be used as a weapon to kill someone. Again, the same instrument is merely a tool.


Battling Parkinson’s Disease with Grace was Ali’s Greatest Fight

With the recent passing of Muhammed Ali, I don’t really think about his boxing career. Instead, I think about his strength and grace as he battled Parkinson’s. He was such a strong man whose life changed forever by a progressively debilitating disease.

Another strong man touched by Parkinson’s is my father. I have seen firsthand how the disease effects a person’s quality of life. Like many people, I associated Parkinson’s with the severe tremors that actor Michael J. Fox suffers from. When my father was diagnosed five years ago with the disease, he never experienced tremors, so I thought the doctor got the diagnosis wrong.



Movement symptoms of Parkinson’s

My dad was an avid walker. He walked a couple miles each morning around my parents’ neighborhood. Everyone knew the social Irishman. After a couple of falls on his walks, which he contributed to the uneven pavement, he changed his routine to walking indoors. He met up with his friends at HarMar—a regular place for walkers. Not long after, he noticed that his legs were always feeling stiff and that his paced was slowing down. I thought he simply needed to do more stretches.

However, my mom noticed that dad’s gait was changing from regular steps to more of a shuffle. He finally went to the doctor when the pain in his legs became unbearable. Originally, the doctor sent him to physical therapy, but it only provided temporary relief. Next, they gave him cortisone shots to relief the pain. Again, the benefits didn’t last long. Eventually, they sent my dad to see a neurologist. The diagnosis came back as Rigidity Parkinson’s Disease. Our family had never heard of that form of the disease. We now know that the four main motor symptoms of Parkinson’s are:

  • Tremors
  • Slowness of movement
  • Stiffness, and
  • Trouble with balance

There is no cure for Parkinson’s. However, there are medications that can provide mild relief from the symptoms. The National Parkinson’s Foundation is a great resource for families to learn about the disease and find support.

It’s hard to see all of things that Parkinson’s is taking away from my dad. But, like Muhammed Ali he is fighting it with strength and grace.