November 30, 2009
Honored by Minnesota Women's Press
as CHANGEMAKER - 2009
Kristine Holmgren and The Dead Feminists Society of Minnesota
Salons are “funny, respectful and provocative”
by Kathy Magnuson
In October 2008 Kristine Holmgren, former Star Tribune columnist and well-known nonprofit professional and advocate for Minnesota families, decided the time was right to organize a salon of feminists. And so The Dead Feminists Society of Minnesota was born.
Holmgren started the group with the intent of "knowledge sharing, networking and growing our developing feminist community in the Twin Cities." She created a Meetup page online and started spreading the word.
The first gathering was held in February and by June the membership was at 100. The number has been growing each month and by October had reached 170. Typically 25 to 30 attend each month. Attendees are "self-identified feminists," Holmgren said. They are married or single, straight, lesbian or transgendered, women and men.
The Dead Feminists Society meets the third Wednesday of most months from 7-9 p.m. in a space provided by Common Good Books in St. Paul. The meeting's format is usually a speaker on a designated topic followed by discussion. When Common Good Books closes for the evening, the group often moves across the street to W.A. Frost to continue the conversation for another hour or two.
The guest speaker at the first salon was Adrienne Christiansen, an associate professor in the political science department at Macalester College. She spoke about her research on women and the media. Other salons have included discussions of books, movies, generational differences of feminists and gender bias in theater.
The conversations are "deep, revealing and satisfying" according to Holmgren.
The salon atmosphere is "funny, respectful and provocative," she said. "We come away with broader knowledge each time we gather. We are making a difference by opening up conversations about equality, fairness and expectations of how women are treated and how we treat others.
"When I get the topic and phone potential speakers who have been recommended, the response has always been 'yes,'" Holmgren said. "It is gratifying to learn that women are still eager to share their knowledge and experience."
Salon attendees agree. "This is the only place I can come and talk about things that I think are critical to me and are not seen as controversial. Things like how my employer is treating me, my opinions about the war and the economy," commented one attendee.
"I didn't know this conversation [about feminism] was still going on," said another. And, "I did not know you could explore these ideas with other women."
The salons will continue into 2010 along with the idea for a new program called Raising the Bar, which will focus on connecting younger women and older feminists in mentorship relationships. The name for this new program comes from "expecting more from ourselves and each other," according to Holmgren.
And, as she said of the Dead Feminists Society, "Especially in times like this we need each other more than ever."
Be a changemaker:You are welcome to join the Dead Feminists Society. Sign up, find out when the next meeting date is, register and RSVP on the website: www.meetup.com/Dead-Feminist-Society-of-Minnesota
Minnesota Public Radio -
Holiday essay, November 24, 2009
Minnesota Public Radio publishes my holiday essay, exploring the important connections we enjoy; especially during difficult times. Read it here.
MinnPost: Opinion published November 24, 2009.
When Susan When Susan J. Berkson and I, both former, liberal op-ed contributors to the Star Tribune, read Michael J. Bonafield's Thursday MinnPost interview with conservative Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten, something snapped.
The result was the following interview, modeled after Bonafield's conservative-leaning column titled "Quite Right."
We offer a different title and a different slant on the same topics.
Read their response in MinnPost; November 24, 2009.
On a more personal note. . .
for Grace and Alex
Grace Deason and Alex Hiller
My oldest daughter Grace Deason married her long-time love, Alex Hiller on Saturday, September 19th. In response to requests for a copy of the toast I offered the bride and groom. So many folks have asked for a copy of the toast, I offer it here.
Ode to Marriage, to Grace, Alex
and the Craft of Knitting
One night while still in Northfield, when Grace was in her teens,
We sat and knit and watched TV in home-made socks and jeans.
(Knit six, purl four, repeat three times; the second color carry),
And that's when Gracie turned and said, "I don't think I will marry."
(Purl two, pass, slip and slide to cable) "Well, honey - I'm confused!
With all the choir boys in this town, there MUST be one for you!"
But Gracie shook her pretty head, (purl six and carry one),
"There's not a single boy in town who knows how to have fun."
I smiled and told her, "Honey," (Pass slip stictch and knit four),
"This town is not the world, you know. There's more. A whole lot more.
When you go off to college (rib stitch three inches straight),
You're going to meet the right man - and I know he'll be great."
Our needles clicked in silence the, as Gracie shook her head.
(Seed stitch for eight, then stockinette) and it was time for bed.
The years went by like lightening, and Grace moved off to Mac.
And when she packed her knitting books I knew she wouldn't be back.
For she had met a man, she said - a kind man, full of fun -
Who loves adventure just as she - (knit front to back, skip one).
A man with humor in his heart, with goodness to the core,
Who loved her from the get-go, (knit, slip, knit, slip, purl four).
Together they begin today a pattern all their own,
Designed from hopeful fibers, organic and home grown.
So lift your glass as I lift mine - a toast to A and G!
May life be sweet and simple; (knit one, knit two, knit three).
And may the pattern they design be knit with thrills and fun,
It starts on this, their wedding day - a life of love well done.
Star Tribune publishes April 2009 commentary: A prayer for the unemployed. . .
"No one in my family has ever had to do what I'm doing today. . . "
by Kristine Holmgren
She was 60 years old, and unemployed. She lost her job, she said, when a younger employee was promoted to manager, and did not know what to do with her.
"It was little things at first," she said, "like isolating me from my younger colleagues. Making sure I never had the tools I needed to do a good job."
At first, she did not accept the treatment. She pushed him for the tools she needed. When he took the department in directions she did not understand, she asked questions.
In the end, he asked her to quit. She regrets giving in. She regrets resigning. It made everything easy for him, impossible for her.
And so it came to pass that I came upon her, collapsed on the steps of the Ramsey County office building like a broken bird. It was cold and she was in tears.
She was a pale, elegant woman in a pink sweater, a scarf and beautiful black boots. Something sunny emanated from her, even in the drear of March.
I asked if I could help, and through her tears she told me she would be OK. She was resting on the stairs, waiting to regain her composure. She did not want to humiliate herself in front of a county worker.
"Look at me," she said, "crying like a crazy woman. ... I came to apply for food stamps. All I want is a little help with groceries. What is wrong with me? I don't know why I'm so upset."
Ambushed by emotion and humiliation, only when she arrived at the building did she realize she could not make it through the door. "This is so painful," she said.
I sat by her side and she held my hand. After several minutes, she took a deep breath and rose. "I think I'm ready," she said as she turned to face the Ramsey County office door.
I took her elbow and walked with her into the large waiting room, filled with ragged people filling out forms.
I assured her I would be nearby, took a seat by the wall, and waited. When she was finished with her application, she approached. Her tears flowed still.
"My mother was a Norwegian immigrant. Until I was 8 years old, her whole family lived in our house. The whole family. Their lives were not easy. But no one, no one in my family has ever had to do what I am doing today."
"I never, never want to go through another day like this," she said. "I'm so glad none of my people are alive to see this day."
That's when I lied.
I promised she would find a good job. I promised she would find a boss who appreciated her skills, who honored her mastery. I promised she would find a workplace where she would be celebrated, not tolerated.
That evening I asked God do me a favor. I know he is busy. Even so, I asked God to listen up, to get busy. I asked God to help the woman at the Ramsey County building.
I asked him to join her in this fresh hell; to step into the fire with her, to protect her and all of us from the unknown, frightening future.
I asked him to make my unholy lies into graceful truth.
A flower for my mother. . .
published by Minnesota Monthly
by Kristine Holmgren
My mother bought 12 white carnations every Mother's Day. She cut one from the dozen before church and pinned it to the front of my dress to wear during Sunday school. A white carnation on Mother's Day meant one's mother was alive. A red carnation meant she was dead.
The carnation was a part of her holiday, but until spring of third grade I had little understanding of the meaning of the white blossom. No one I knew had ever died. But in April of that year, my eight-year-old cousin Cheryl was diagnosed with acute leukemia and died in 72 hours. Two weeks later, my grandfather died of a stroke.
Overnight, death invaded my world. Grieving relatives moved into our house. They slept in the living room and in my bed; their suitcases were lodged in my mother's sewing room. I was eight years old, like my dead cousin, so I became something of a treasure to my despondent relatives. Aunts, uncles, and cousins who never noticed me in the past suddenly sought me out. They rocked me, patted my head, and uttered tender words.
But the attention could not mask the true purpose of their visit. They were there to mourn the loss of a dear child and a beloved grown-up. I remember walking into the bathroom and finding my aunt crying in my mother's arms. My cousins huddled around the piano, but never played a tune. My father disappeared into his workshop for hours each night and emerged with dark circles under his eyes. The sadness seemed to last forever.
One day, it ended. Mother's Day arrived and the aunts and uncles were gone. The cousins returned to wherever they came from. And my mother's white carnations appeared in a vase on the kitchen table.
Mother's Day was a cold Sunday that year, and I sat shivering at the kitchen table while my mother made oatmeal. She wore her ragged green chenille bathrobe and padded through the kitchen in her hand-knit slippers, reaching for sugar and milk and salt while stirring the gruel in the double boiler. It was all so strange, remarkable, and odd. One moment we were a family in pain, surrounded by death and nonstop weeping. The next, I was ready for Sunday school on a day like any other. My mother stirred the oatmeal, shifting from one foot to the other and humming a vague and familiar tune.
Then something happened I can never forget. She put down her wooden spoon, stretched her arms toward the ceiling, and surrendered to her fatigue with a yawn. It was a weak whimper, ordinary and simple, but it seemed to originate from a deep well of despair. She sounded so vulnerable, I felt something break open behind my heart. I began to cry. "I don't want you to die," I wept.
My mother turned to me, stunned. "What are you talking about?" she said, as she reached for the washcloth above the faucet. She rinsed the cloth in cold water and pressed it to my cheek, shaking her head. "Such foolishness," she said. "No one is going to die."
She held my face in her hands and scowled. Then she reached for a carnation and pulled a safety pin from her apron pocket. "A white carnation," she said, pinning the flower to the front of my dress, "because your mother is alive."
Those who have lost a mother know the truth: Death does not remove her love from us. Our mothers never leave us; rather, it is we who move away from them. Long ago, they cuddled us near their hearts, rocking and nursing. We fussed for our freedom, straightened our backs, and insisted on our first steps of independence. Once we learned to walk, we rushed to our playgrounds, ran to our school buses, and left them behind. Our mothers offered to hold our bicycle seats as we learned to balance, but we pedaled away from them. They worked to pay for our high school proms, college classes, and real-estate down payments. We drove our cars to far-away cities and married people they didn't understand.
We are always leaving our mothers behind; still, they love us without complaint. We grow up and forget their loving vigilance until an awful phone call brings us home.
My mother died five years ago, two days before her 87th birthday. In her hospital bed, she seemed tiny and pale. Her generous hands were stiffened with arthritis. "I know I have to go," she murmured behind her oxygen mask, "but I will miss you." Then, in one terrible moment, her breath halted, her heartbeat failed, and death's shadow blocked the sun.
But the terrible moment passed, and I was surprised by a miracle: Death did not remove her from me. The end of life could not make her abandon me. She became a deep part of my life-present in my prayers and daily decision-making. Like all mothers, mine loved me with the ferocity of forever.
On Mother's Day, I wear a single white carnation near my heart.
Still relevant, after all these years. .
Nightmare of Fascism "best of the web"
I wrote a piece for the commentary pages of the Pioneer Press, following the attacks against this nation on September 11, 2001, continues to draw kudos and awards.
Click here for the essay "Nightmare of facism..."
This essay is still identified by several search engines as one of the "most forwarded" essays on the internet today.
National Public Radio publishes
Kristine Holmgren's critique of Elizabeth Edwards
Someone had to say it; John Edwards is a scoundrel and Elizabeth Edwards blew it.
Long before other commentators acknowledged this fact, I challenged Elizabeth Edwards to stop protecting her husband and tell the truth.
Charlie Rose referred to this essay when he interviewed Elizabeth Edwards on May 15th. At that time it was clear that Edward's book deal offered her the opportunity to make history by shedding light on the duplicitous domestic circumstances in our nation's capital.
She chose instead to save the appearances of her unfortunate, damaged marriage to John.
In her commentary, I blast the hypocrisy of the Washington elite and calls for honesty and reflection on the declining moral atmosphere in Washington.
Click here for link to National Public Radio's featured essay by
Family fitness goals featured in
two metropolitan newspapers
Clarie Deason, Grace Deason and Kristine Holmgren
My girls and I were featured in the Minnesota Women's Press and the Daily Planet when we shared our appreciation for the extraordinary community of women they met and engaged at the SWEAT SHOP, a personal gym and workout studio in St. Paul, MN.
Since this photo was taken, the entire family has lost weight, gained muscle mass and expertise with yoga, pilates, balance ball and tap dancing.
announces staged reading of
NORTHFIELD -- For more than two decades, Kristine Holmgren made Northfield her home.
Now, the St. Paul resident and emerging playwright will use the community as the setting for her first play, “Paper Daddy.”
A staged reading of the play, which is set in a contemporary, albeit alternative, version of Northfield, is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26 at Theatre in the Round. Eventually, Holmgren, a former Star Tribune columnist, hopes the play will be picked up by Minneapolis theaters or the Northfield Arts Guild.
The production, Holmgren said, centers around Charlie and Sam Pomeroy, the ex-wife and daughter, respectively, of the now-deceased Franklin Pomeroy, a fictional Carleton College dean. Twenty years ago, Franklin abandoned his marriage with Charlie and his relationship with Sam. Now, with the former dean’s ashes sitting in an urn on her kitchen table, Charlie and her daughter are forced to organize a memorial and come to terms with Franklin’s life — a process complicated by the arrival of an unexpected visitor.