Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mark Dayton for Governor of MN

What makes them run: Dayton focuses on budget crisis, schools, jobs
Posted 9:52 am, July 28th, 2009 by Steve Perry

[This interview originally appeared in the July 24 issue of PIM Weekly Report.]
Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton (DFL)--the lone gubernatorial candidate to declare unequivocally that he'll run in next September's primary with or without his party's endorsement--sat down with PIM last week at his downtown Minneapolis campaign HQ.
Mark Dayton/vitals
Born: 1947, Minneapolis; Education: B.A., Yale University; Electoral record: Lost 1982 U.S. Senate race to Dave Durenberger, defeated Bob Heinrich to win 1990 race for state auditor; ran unsuccessfully for DFL gubernatorial nomination, 1998; won 2000 U.S. Senate race versus incumbent Rod Grams; campaign website.
[See previous What makes them run interviews with 2010 gubernatorial candidates.]
PIM: Why are you running for governor?
Mark Dayton: I don't want to be part of the first generation in our nation's history to leave our state and our nation worse off for our children and grandchildren and future generations. And that would be my verdict of my generation today. And also that would be my verdict on Minnesota, the state I love. I think we've been going profoundly in the wrong direction in the last couple of decades with the executive leadership that we've had, and I think Minnesota's election next year is a pivotal one. Just as last year's national election was.
Are we going to continue on this course, destroying the basic fabric that's made this great and successful in the past, or are we going to make the changes in direction necessary to create a better Minnesota? That's the theme of my campaign. A better Minnesota.
PIM: What are the two or three most important challenges facing Minnesota, and what would you do to solve them?
Dayton: Well, first, by all accounts we're going to face another fiscal crisis of the proportion of the last one. We've got to restore a progressive tax system to Minnesota. By Gov. Pawlenty's Department of Revenue's own account, the wealthiest 10 percent of people in Minnesota pay only two-thirds of their proportionate share of income in state and local taxes. I ran against Rod Grams in 2000, and at the federal level he was proposing a flat tax where everybody would pay the same percentage. Well, in Minnesota that would be an improvement. We don't even have that. We have 80 percent in the middle paying basically a proportionate share of 10.2 percent, and then we have the wealthiest people in the state paying about two-thirds of that proportionate share.
If they paid the same proportionate share as the middle class, that would be $3.8 billion of additional revenue for the next biennium. Gov. Pawlenty says revenues are fixed, so everything else has to be axed to fit within that parameter. I think we'll see even more in the next year just how drastic the consequences are of that. And it would be even more draconian in the next session.
So I say we've got to turn all of the cards face up. We've got to look at the income side, we've got to look at the expenditure side. We've got to see on both sides what we need to do.
Number two, I'd put revenues into K-12 education, early childhood, and higher education also. We've got one school district in Minnesota already operating on a four-day school week. We've got a couple of others who are following suit this fall. We've got teacher layoffs across the state.
My last two years in the Senate, I visited a couple hundred Minnesota schools and a couple thousand classrooms. I saw a lot of dedicated teachers working under difficult conditions with a lack of resources and basic educational tools. And classrooms with 30-35 students in the elementary grades and 45-50 students in high school classes.
We can't create the educational advantages that we've provided in this state that have made a critical difference in our social and economic success if we're underfunding public education.
Third is job creation. You know, I was commissioner of economic development for the last DFLgovernor, Rudy Perpich, and his mantra was Jobs, jobs, jobs. I think I know from firsthand experience how to go out there as a governor and work for Minnesota--go anywhere in the country and anywhere in the world, if necessary, and work with businesses here to help them solve their day-to-day problems and help them to expand and grow here and provide quality jobs.
Fourth is health care. I support affordable health care for every Minnesotan and every American. I hope that the president and the Congress can resolve that issue, because they have the financial resources that no state has to address those concerns. But I'm skeptical of their ability, without going to a national single-payer system, which is what I think we're going to have to eventually do. We're going to have to take this outrageous, obscene profiteering out of health care. I mean, United Health Group just announced a quarterly profit of almost a billion dollars. Well, they don't provide health services. They just take money from people for health care and pay less back than has been paid in.
As long as you've got a third of every health care dollar going for insurance company profits and pharmaceutical industry profits, you're never going to be able to afford to pay for health care for everybody in this country. So that's going to be a case where the states have to react to whatever the federal government does to work things out over the next six to nine months.
You can go the gamut of issues, and I always hesitate to single out a few issues, because I think one of the roles of a governor--and, as I learned, a senator--you've got a very diverse state with statewide concerns. What's critical in northeastern Minnesota in terms of the mining industry, and an unemployment rate there of greater than 30 percent, does not directly impact southwestern Minnesota. Although it does, because it affects the whole state economy. But the agricultural part of southwestern Minnesota then affects the industrial area of northeastern Minnesota. So you've got to be a generalist to be effective as a statewide leader.
I would just quickly add also, transportation. We've let our highway system deteriorate. Our public transit system has deteriorated. That's one of the basic, essential functions of government in terms of creating a productive, successful society and one that fosters economic growth--having good education, productive people, a sound transportation system and other infrastructure. Those are the ingredients state government can provide, first and foremost, to encourage business growth and expansion.
PIM: How many campaign events have you attended so far?
Dayton: I don't know. A couple thousand. See, I mean--others may get into, I've been to this number of events or this number of counties. We've got people running who haven't been in every county in Minnesota. And if they've been there, it was to hold a campaign fundraiser. I'm in a different league from anyone else in this campaign in the fact that I've been traveling all over this state for 30 years. I've held thousands of events around this state. More importantly, I've been in thousands of meetings and worked on thousands of projects, rolling up my sleeves and helping people with thousands of problems around the state.
I'm steeped in [this state]. That's what my campaign is based on. They asked Picasso once how long it took him to produce a certain painting. He said, all my life. What I offer Minnesota is a career in public service. I'm the only person [in the governor's race] who's run a statewide general election campaign and won. I've run seven statewide elections and I've won five of them. More importantly, I'm the only person who's run a statewide agency. I've run three of them over nine years.
I know how government works and how it should work. I know how to make it work. That's what I want to bring to Minnesota. If other people want to think the measure is, how many campaign events have they put on?, I just respectfully disagree. I don't think that's what this is about. I don't think that on September 14 of 2010, people are going to vote based on how many campaign events somebody has had. They'll vote based on what [candidates] have done in the past and, most importantly, what they offer for the future of Minnesota.
PIM: What are the main messages you're hearing from Minnesotans as you campaign around the state?
Dayton: I think people are really worried about the future. I think people are torn--on the one hand, I think they're very tax-averse, because even people who have jobs are feeling the insecurity, as well as flat or declining [wages]. Obviously, now, with the unemployment what it is, and some areas in double-digits, you've got serious economic concerns.
And people are also really understanding that what we're entering as a nation is a profoundly different era from the past, where we won't have that sole economic supremacy that our economy and production and jobs and services were all based upon. So how we grapple with that is going to be a huge challenge facing whoever is the next governor, just as it is facing President Obama today.
I think people on the other hand also recognize that our roads are worse, our highways are worse, they're concerned about the quality of education, they're concerned about public safety--so they're also concerned about the quality of services the government provides.
So you've got this tension between what people want and need and also what they feel they can'tafford to pay for.
PIM: If you don't receive your party's endorsement, will you run in the primary?
Dayton: Yes. I've said that from the outset. I wrote a letter to the party leadership back in 1997 when I was running for governor before. At that point I'd been endorsed twice before, for senator in 1982 and for auditor in 1990. But I said [in the letter] that after a lot of soul-searching and reflection--and this was almost a year before the convention of '98--I said that I believe, in a democracy, the legal and ethical responsibility resides with the voters. With the people. And that the proper role of the convention endorsement should be for the party leadership to recommend to voters who the nominee should be. But that, again, legally and morally, the people should decide who the nominee is.
I can't say it any more articulately than you wrote it the last time. But I'm saying the same thing.
PIM: Who, or what, would you say are the most important influences on your life and outlook?
Dayton: Well, again, I'm shaped by a life experience that goes back to 40 years of what I call public service--teaching in New York City, learning firsthand about real poverty and what that does to people's lives. Working for a couple of outstanding public leaders--Fritz Mondale when he was senator, and Rudy Perpich as governor. Winning elections and losing elections and traveling all over this state for all those years, both in campaigns and in public office. Fifteen years of state and federal office, and being steeped in the real life experience of millions of Minnesotans. And rolling up my sleeves and working with local governments when I was state auditor and when I was commissioner of energy and economic development.
That's what ultimately, especially as a public servant, has made me who I am, if that's your question.
Growing up, my father was certainly my personal hero. He's just about to be 91, and he's still living an ethic of public service. His favorite saying from the Bible is, "To whomsoever much has been given, of him shall much be required"--that sense that our family was extremely fortunate in what we'd been given, and we had a responsibility as well as an opportunity to give back. That was certainly influential.
My first political hero was Robert Kennedy. I was a junior in college back in 1967-68, and I was pre-med in college. I worked three summers as an orderly in surgery at the old Abbott hospital. So my first career interest, I thought, was medicine. So I was pre-med and playing ice hockey for Yale.
Then the Vietnam War impinged on my consciousness and broadened my political and social horizons. I started looking at the world around me and realizing what was going on. I was still in college, and I followed that campaign closely. I can still remember--not only was Robert Kennedy against the war, he cared about people less fortunate than he. He had a social conscience that I just thought was so genuine.
I can remember I had just finished my junior year in college and gone home. I was sitting in the basement of my parents' home in Long Lake. They had gone to bed, because they didn't even like the Kennedys. They were Republicans.
I watched the California primary, and there's Kennedy on the television declaring victory and saying, "Now it's on to Chicago!" I was reaching forward to turn off the television, and suddenly there he was lying in a pool of blood. He'd just been assassinated. That scene was replayed over the next few days, and there was just something about seeing my political hero die for the causes he believed in that lit a political flame inside me. I could never just be comfortable being comfortable in my parents' comfortable home again.
So I went back, withdrew my medical school applications, and decided that I needed some real-world experience. So I got the job teaching at a public school on the lower east side of New York City. Ninth grade general science. I always said they taught me a lot more than I taught them. That was the beginning of the broadening of my own social awareness. The contrast between the life that I was brought up in and the good fortune I had just by virtue of where I landed on the planet--there was nothing I'd done to deserve that; it was just where I'd arrived--versus what these guys were having to endure.
In my view, the enormous injustice of that contrast in a society that had the resources to provide for everybody, just really seared me and shaped my social and political conscience.
PIM: What's the first thing you can remember wanting to be when you grew up?
Dayton: I wanted to be the starting goalie on the U.S. Olympic hockey team [laughs]. But my junior year, my throat got split open with a skate. I was sitting in a hospital bed at Yale-New Haven hospital in an oxygen tent with this ice all over my neck, and they had this tracheotomy kit right next to me in case my windpipe closed, because it tore my windpipe and cracked my larynx.
I was coughing up blood. They had this tracheotomy kit sitting out there because they figured I didn't know what it was. Well, I'd been an orderly in surgery [laughs]. I knew exactly what it was. At that point, I assessed that my goals-against average was going [up] and my grade-point average was going [down], and I came to realize my future was not going to be as starting goalie for the U.S. Olympic hockey team.
Then, as I said, there were three summers I spent as an orderly in surgery at the old Abbott hospital on Stevens and 15th. That to me was just a fascinating experience. You know, [they're] saving lives. Back in those days, before they had liability insurance issues like today, I could scrub in and hold retractors. And the doctors appreciated a young person with interest. They took the time to tell me what they were doing. I could watch a Caesarean and watch this blue mass appear and take a breath and become a human being. It was just miraculous. Unbelievable.
That was probably my first pragmatic career decision. I worked one summer at Dayton's and it didn't take me long to realize I wasn't meant to be a retailer. Nothing wrong with it, it just wasn't what stirred my soul.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Halloween Around the Corner

This is me last Halloween. Now here it is almost October already. I remember all the Halloweens when I was growing up. My cousin and I and the neighbor kids had such fun. Every year we would figure out what to wear for our costumes, then we would tramp around the neighborhood and bang on doors. "Trick of treat, money or eats, throw your garbage down the street," we shouted gleefully. There were only two houses that wouldn't participate. We filled their mailboxes with rocks and sticks and dirt. Naughty us!
When I grew up and had kids of my own, I always made sure they had great Halloweens. I'd take them around to the houses and they would run up and get their candy. They loved to see how much of a haul they would make. They always did quite well.
Now all my kids are grown. I really miss the good old days. I suppose that one of these days I'll be celebrating Halloween in a nursing home or Senior apartments. Meanwhile, I decorate my office cube. One year I won the prize for the best decorated cubicle. And sometimes I have a Halloween party and invite all my friends. Will you come to my Halloween party?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Growing Up in Vadnais Heights, MN

This is me when I was a little girl growing up on a farm in Vadnais Heights, MN. We sure had snowy winters back then. I had to shovel all that snow and I was only three years old! I sure had fun on the farm, though, playing in the woods and meadows, playing with my dogs and teaching them tricks, playing board games and having treasure hunts with my cousin Diana and our neighbor Theresa and Tammy Fast. Those were the good old days. There was only one really bad part about my childhood, and that was in the form of my evil grandfather. Other than that, I had a lot of fun. If he hadn't been in the picture, it would have been even better.

My grandmother raised me and instilled in me a love of reading and education. She always put my hair in curlers so I could have Shirley Temple curls. I didn't really like sitting there so long while she fussed with my hair, but I put up with it.

I learned to love all the family get-togethers on holidays. We celebrated New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, Valentine's Day, St. Patrict's Day, Easter, my birthday, Mother's Day, Memorial Day, my cousin Diana's birthday,4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. To this day, I love holidays. I even created a Yahoo group to celebrate them.

All are welcome to join so we can celebrate holidays together.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Biker Chicks

I've always been intrigued by biker chicks. Oh, to fly away in the wind on the back of a Harley. I did ride with an El Forestero and an Outlaw, on a few separate occasions, back in 1968. I sure had a lot of fun back then. I remember that 1968 was a very good year.

Angry Kitty

Have you ever felt like this?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

First Wives

Picture of:
Colleen Sue Downey Morse


They're showing up at movie theaters en masse--some, like the 15 members of a women's group in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in stretch limos and evening gowns. They're calling in to drive-time radio stations, like Raleigh, North Carolina's WRAL-FM, which solicited listeners' divorce horror stories and revenge fantasies--and found its switchboards lighted up like Times Square. And they're throwing parties, like the one last week for Patti Kenner's 52nd birthday, in which 60 of her female friends gathered for cocktails, then adjourned to a Manhattan theater to hoot and laugh their way through all 105 minutes of The First Wives Club. Even though Kenner and most of her guests are still happily married to their first husbands, they found plenty to identify with in the hit movie about three women of a certain age, dumped for younger models, who get mad and then get even. "Doesn't everyone, even in the best of marriages, want a little revenge once in a while?" asked Ann Oster, 45, who works in real estate in New Jersey. Living well, of course, is the best revenge of all: after the screening, Kenner gave each of her friends a special First Wives memento--a string of pearls in a little velvet pouch.
Women scorned, women afraid of being scorned--and some curious men along for the ride--are helping The First Wives Club break records. Its $18.9 million opening weekend was the highest ever for a so-called women's film and captured more than one-third of the movie-going market from competition such as Bruce Willis' Last Man Standing. The characters played by Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Bette Midler are like the Furies crossed with the Three Stooges--college friends spurned by their husbands in middle age who plan a madcap payback. But for all the one-liners and pratfalls, the movie is more than satiric fluff. Like Thelma & Louise, which five years ago set audiences to cheering when Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon blasted a trucker's rig to smithereens--or last year's Waiting to Exhale, which had women yelling "Go, girl!" at the screen--The First Wives Club is dipping into a bottomless well of shared female rage. It is rage at the imbalance of power that allows men to use up the best years of a woman's life, then trade her in for an ingenue--and rage at every single element that goes into that scenario: the obsession with youth and looks, the persistent inequality in income, the devaluing of a woman's contribution to the family and to a man's success.
"We're talking about betrayal," says First Wives author Olivia Goldsmith, who was herself downsized by divorce. "These guys are stealing not only the present but also the past. And after they steal part of your life, then they steal your property." After Goldsmith wrote the best-selling novel in 1992, her publisher sponsored a First Wife contest. "We received 1,500 letters, and they were tragic," she says. "I had never been so depressed." (The winning entry was like so many others: a husband runs off with his secretary after 23 years of marriage, leaving the wife to cope with a child's cancer--it had the distinction of being written entirely in verse.)
In fact, some first wives feared that Hollywood would trivialize their plight. "I didn't think I'd like this movie," says Marilyn Nichols Kane, ex-wife of America's most famous deadbeat dad, precious-metals consultant Jeffrey Nichols, who has been jailed twice for his failure to pay the $642,550 he owes her. "I thought it might be offensive--making fun of the suffering we've all been through. But I wanted to stand up and cheer. Remember that part where Goldie Hawn strips her husband's house? I did that!" Marilyn Kane, meet fellow fan Lynn Landon, second wife of actor Michael Landon, who left her for a younger woman and divorced her in 1982 after 19 years of marriage. "I used to say, 'Death would have been too good,'" she recalls. "Of course, now that he's dead...Who could have known? But my other fantasy was that his hair would fall out. His hair was such a big thing for him."
Fourteen years ago, Landon formed a support group in Hollywood called LADIES--Life After Divorce Is Eventually Sane--which has helped the exes of Gene Hackman, Leonard Nimoy and Jerry Lewis, among others, survive a breakup. "The public thinks that money makes it different for us," says Landon, "but I've seen firsthand first wives of Oscar winners who moved from mansions to little apartments"--or even, for a while, to their cars.
For middle-class first wives, that car often seems just one paycheck away. One woman, a program coordinator at a Los Angeles aerospace firm, claims her ex-husband refused to pay alimony or child support two years after their divorce. She couldn't afford the airfare or the time off work to go back and sue him for it. He "bought the boys gifts, which made him look like a hero, while I was working two jobs to pay for braces," she recalls. "I was living paycheck to paycheck, and he had a sports car, a camper, a boat." Though she has put her life back together and even graduated from college alongside her son, she feels a rush of satisfaction over her husband's medical problems. "He's in constant back pain after several operations. I always thought he'd get his. I feel vindicated."
Many first wives, it seems, indulge in revenge fantasies. But though rage at a bitter breakup may be natural, it can be dangerous too. Manhattan psychotherapist Carole Fudin reports that one of her patients shredded her husband's wardrobe. Another crashed her car into his. A third woman came within inches of running her husband down, hitting the brakes just in time. Fortunately, none of them went as far as La Jolla, California, socialite Betty Broderick, who in 1989 gunned down her ex-husband and his new young wife, an assistant from his law office, in their bedroom. "One way or another," says Fudin of her clients, "these women need to talk it out, write it out, scream it out." They must also take pains to keep the children from getting caught in the battling--something Diane Keaton neglects to do in the movie. The kids "will have their own rage to deal with," notes Fudin.
Some viewers are protesting that The First Wives Club does little more than perpetuate destructive myths about human behavior. "It's raw sexism," insists David Usher, who helps edit a men's magazine, The Liberator. "We stereotype men and women, and they act out these stereotypes, and it goes straight into the divorce courts."
Certainly women's hard-won independence--their entry into the world of work and sexual freedom--was expected to break down some of these gender patterns. In the old days, says Nancy Friday, author of The Power of Beauty, "men had all the economic wherewithal, and women owned beauty, and the wealthiest man got the most beautiful woman, and everyone understood that. When a woman lost her man back then, she lost everything." But those days were supposed to be over, and for many couples, they are. There is no shortage of jilted husbands out there. As Manhattan divorce lawyer Eleanor Alter, who represented Mia Farrow in her proceedings against Woody Allen, puts it, "In most divorces, the fault is not so unequal. Two people have a drink together and they misbehave. Two people drift apart. These aren't heinous things. That's life."
But despite the modern era of divorce, which began when California Governor Ronald Reagan (then on his second wife) signed the nation's first no-fault divorce bill in 1969, The First Wives Club has hit upon some lingering ugly truths. At about 40%, the U.S. divorce rate, which has plateaued recently, is the highest in the world. And between 1970 and 1990, the divorce rate for women between the ages of 40 and 50 increased 62%. Meanwhile, their chances of remarrying are not great: while about 75% of all divorced people eventually marry again, the rate for men is three times as high as that for women--and given men's propensity to marry down in age, the older the woman, the tougher the odds.
Divorce is traumatic at any age. But for middle-aged women whose husbands leave them for what Bette Midler in the movie calls Pop-Tarts, the emotional and economic devastation can be profound. "Remember," says Lynne Gold-Bikin, a divorce lawyer and former chair of the American Bar Association's Family Law Section, "the first wife is normally the one that lives over the store, who puts hubby through school, who works and raises the kids." The second wife gets not only the fruits of his career building but also the benefits of his midlife interest in family. "Now, when she has the baby, he's in the delivery room--he wasn't there the first time," says Gold-Bikin. "And she gets the fur coat."
Nor, for upper-class women, does a big chunk of money necessarily make up for the loss of social status. "It's more than just divorce from the husband," explains Manhattan lawyer Raoul Felder, whose clients have included Mrs. Martin Scorsese, Mrs. Huntington Hartford and Mrs. Mike Tyson, and who is currently representing the seventh Mr. Elizabeth Taylor, Larry Fortensky. "It's divorce from the star aura. I've seen the diaries that some of these first wives kept when they were married: 'We're meeting Dr. Kissinger here. Dinner at Martha Stewart's.' And suddenly it all ends. People gravitate toward money and fame. And money and fame usually go with the husband."
Of course, these are the problems of the more fortunate. Poorer women will see little in The First Wives Club that they can relate to. "This idea of leaving for a new trinket is more for people who are used to living well," observes Betty Nordwind, executive director of the Harriet Duhai Family Law Center, a nonprofit legal-aid service in Los Angeles. Among her divorce clients, if the husband has a younger girlfriend, that is likely to be "reason No. 20" for the split, with violence, money troubles and addiction the more pressing concerns.
At all income levels, however, divorce ends up being a better financial deal for men than for women--even though the laws in most states require an equitable distribution of property. According to 1996 data from the Social Science Research Council in New York City, a woman's standard of living declines 30% on average the first year after a divorce, while a man's rises 10%--although again, younger women are more likely to have careers to fall back on. For one thing, the man's income is usually higher to begin with, so he can afford better lawyers during the settlement. For another, says Frank Furstenberg, sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of a study on children of divorce, "women continue to support the children, and child support doesn't make up the difference." Two-thirds of all divorces involve minor children, and according to Columbia law professor Martha Fineman, author of The Illusion of Equality, the average annual child-support payment is only around $3,000. "Equality is being applied with a vengeance against women," she says. "Assumptions are made about women's ability to earn wages that are unrealistic, given the discrimination and different rates of pay." The trend toward joint custody can also impoverish an ex-wife, since the father puts his money toward maintaining a separate household for the kids, not toward supporting hers. The kids too get financially battered. Ultimately, the average household income for children of divorce drops 30%, while the poverty rate for children living with single mothers is five times as high as for those in intact families.
The effects of marriage breakdowns on women and children have sparked the current bipartisan movement to shore up the institution of marriage and put the fault back in divorce. Two weeks ago, at a conference in Aspen, Colorado, Republican virtuecrat Bill Bennett spoke at a seminar of investors and media executives about the social scourge of divorce. "Don't just look at young black men or at women on welfare," he said. "We've got to look at ourselves. The middle class needs to set an example of standing by your family and your children and your commitments." The Masters of the Universe, many sitting with second or third wives, were visibly uncomfortable.
Bennett and others have targeted no-fault divorce, in which one member of the couple can choose to end the marriage without citing a specific factor, such as adultery or desertion. Lawmakers in Michigan, which is at the forefront of this movement, recently introduced bills to abolish no-fault divorce and put up new barriers to both divorce and marriage. "Marriage is a commitment," says Brian Willats, a spokesman for the Michigan Family Forum, which supports premarital counseling. "It's not just notarized dating."
Other family advocates view such measures as misguided. Putting fault back in divorce, says Gold-Bikin, enables "people to be very vindictive, and it allows lawyers to make a lot of money." If unhappily married people want out, they will find a way to get out. During the days when fault was enforced, notes DePaul University law professor Jane Rutherford ominously, "there were two things that increased--desertion rates and spousal homicide rates."
Reweaving the threads of our tattered social institutions is an admirable aim, but many women will settle for the more attainable goal of retrieving their lost self-esteem. And that, say many, is what makes The First Wives Club so uplifting. "They did something constructive with the money [by setting up a crisis center] and left you feeling that they were not bitter, bitchy women," says Beverly Hills therapist Carole West. Sugar Rautbord, a divorced Chicago socialite and author of the novel Sweet Revenge, agrees. "It's not about going off a cliff like Thelma and Louise did," she explains. "It's get down to earth, raise your children, get a bank account, buy your own boat, put yourself in a position to get even if you want to."
Birthday girl Patti Kenner also cheers the movie's celebration of female camaraderie--and charity. In lieu of accepting birthday gifts, she asked friends to contribute to a women's organization. Peg Yorkin, who used some of her more than $50 million divorce settlement from producer Bud Yorkin to found the Feminist Majority Foundation in 1987, says, "Feminism gives women options they probably didn't have 50 years ago. Women who might not be as fortunate as I am at least can usually do something." Marilyn Kane, for instance, has become a counselor for the Coalition for Family Justice, a New York group that assists women going through difficult divorces.
The history of feminism goes a long way toward answering the questions, Why this movie? At this time? Quite simply, the women who marched in the '70s are now, like Keaton, Hawn and Midler, facing 50--and the specter of being traded in for a new model, at work or at home. "Everyone I know who is hitting this age feels stimulated that they have another 30 years to live, but they have no blueprint on how to proceed," says Colette Dowling, author of Red Hot Mamas, Coming Into Our Own at 50. "This movie captures their new protest. This group of women has been very vocal about everything in their life since they turned 20, and they're not stopping now." For while divorce is not something to celebrate, it does not have to be a defeat.
--Reported by Ann Blackman/Washington, Adam Cohen, William Dowell, Marguerite Michaels and Andrea Sachs/New York, Wendy Cole and Julie Grace/Chicago and Jacqueline Savaiano and James Willwerth/Los Angeles

This is from:


Como Park Conservatory, St. Paul MN

Como Park has always been one of my favorite places to go in St. Paul, Minnesota. This is a picture of one of the rooms in the conservatory. It's beautiful. Many people get married here. My son Charles and his wife Becky got married here.

This conservatory has several large rooms as well as a middle part. There are lots of beautiful flowers, shrubs and trees. They even have a bonsai room. I went there with my sons Charles and Marcus. Each bonsai tree has a sign that tells how old it is. One was 300 years old, another was 400 years, and another was 800 years old. Charles said to me, "Mom, if you had these, they'd all be dead in two weeks!"

He's right. My plants always die. I guess I should quit singing to them.

If you want to know more about Como Park, here's the link:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Kit E. Khat

This is my cat Amy. Otherwise known as Kit E. Khat. She's mostly a good kitty, but she insists on always having her own way. I can't hold and pet her unless it's her idea. Luckily it's her idea quite a lot.

I've always loved having cats and dogs. I grew up with a lot of them on the farm. We raised chihuahuas. I also had a collie named Pal. Our cats were Boots, Sylvester and others whose names I have now forgotten.

Amy is a very friendly cat. Whenever we have visitors, she goes right up to them and insists on getting some affection. She loves to have her belly rubbed. She also loves to go out on our 3rd floor deck and watch what's going on outside. She hates going out in the apartment hallway, though, and howls loudly to show how upset she is.

Amy loves playing with her kitty toys. Especially the ones with catnip in them. She also loves jumping up on my lap when I'm at the computer. She's fascinated by the cursor moving around on the screen.

Amy is four years old now. I look forward to enjoying many more years with her.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ginny Dolls

One of my hobbies is collecting Ginny dolls, made by Vogue Doll Company. My cousin Diana and I had so much fun playing with them when we were kids. Several years ago I started collecting them again. Lots of women my age collect these dolls because of our childhood experiences with them. There are even Yahoo groups devoted to Ginny. Some women even get together to play with their Ginny dolls. There's a big get together every year, with lots of women and dolls, in Virginia. We also love making scenes with our Ginnys and taking pictures. In these two pictures you see the Minnesota Ginnys at home. One scene shows them having a tea party. The other scene shows them in a sing along, complete with piano.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Daughter's Birthday

My daughter Jennifer Rachelle Morse Spartz will be 39 years old in less than a week. I already sent her a happy birthday e-mail with a wonderful poem and a beautiful picture of flowers. Doesn't she know that she's my daughter and I love her dearly? She just doesn't care. I've tried so many times to contact her, with e-mails, letters, cards, Christmas presents, and in other ways. All to no avail. I just don't understand this.

I would at least like to know why she hates me so much. I don't have a clue. I have no idea why she acts this way. No one in the Downey family ever held a grudge. She must get it from her father's side of the family. I know his sister Kim is like that. She always talked about other people in a negative way. My cousin Arvin called Jennifer's house once to talk to her about it, but she wasn't there. Kim answered and told Arvin that she hates my guts. I was astounded. I never did anything to Kim.

I remember how my ex-husbands parents used to talk negatively about their neighbors all the time. I always thought Norma and Dave were very nice people. They had two little girls who my daughter used to play with. We went to church with them. I sure wish I'd never married into the Morse family. What a mistake that was! I'm still paying for it emotionally.

Now my ex-husband claims he's a Christian. He's never even bothered to apologize for all the grief he gave me. He also makes no move to tell my daughter the truth about what was going on when she was growing up and why he was never home.

I wouldn't care so much if it weren't for my grandchildren. If my daughter wants to be such a person, there's not much I can do about it, but she shouldn't be depriving her two children of a relationship with their grandmother.

At the top of this blog you'll see a picture of my daughter and her husband.

My Grandchildren

I finally met my two grand-
children. They are so precious to me. Meeting them made me so very happy.
I've been estranged from my daughter for 20 years. She won't say why. I was never able to meet my son-in-law or my grandchildren until last month at my oldest son's wedding. Sara is 14. Jake is almost 16. I'm so sad that they were not part of my life all these years. I've missed being with them. All I had were pictures that my son gave me and a few pictures that I found on the internet. I treasure these pictures.

It's my hope that when Jake and Sara are grown they will come to see me of their own free will. I just hope they don't believe the lies they've been told about me, thanks to my ex-husband and his mother and sister. I guess my ex doesn't believe in telling the truth. Whenever I think about the situation, which is often, depression sets in. The doctor prescribed Lexapro.

I just don't understand why my daughter thinks her father is Mr. Wonderful and I am the wicked witch. During the eight years of our marriage, he was involved in drugs, alcohol and other women. My daughter told someone that I must have drove him to it. They told her that he was doing those things before I ever met him and continued to do them long after I kicked him out. I tried my best to be a good wife. I was a very good mother. I would make dinner, add candles to the table, but my husband never came home. Many nights I cried waiting for him to come home. Once he went to empty the garbage and came home three days later. This was certainly not conducive to a good marriage.

I remember one Christmas he was busy having an affair and didn't come home for many days. Finally he came home carrying my present...an unwrapped package of pantyhose in a brown paper bad. And the smell of the other woman on him.

He drove a taxi for a few years. He later admitted that he carried one female passenger's suitcase into a motel and that she then threw herself at him. So what could he do but have sex with her? What indeed?

My grandmother told me that if I married him I would ruin my life. She cried when she found out we were going to get married. Oh, how I wish I had listened to her.

Maybe someday my beloved grandchlden will come to see me. I've included a picture of them at the top of this blog.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Oldest Son Now Married

My oldest son, Justin Ulysses Morse, is now married. It was a wonderful wedding. I'm very happy that I have another daughter-in-law. That makes two now. It makes up for my daughter not speaking to me for twenty years.

The wedding was at a small but beautiful park in Minneapolis. The reception was at Jax, which is a long-time Minneapolis icon. The Groom's Dinner was the night before.

I have a lot of pictures of the wedding and reception. You can see some of them on my website. http://www.april-knight.com/

Three of my children are married now. One to go. The youngest, Marcus, is only 20, so he still has plenty of time.