I am back! Had a wonderful time with the Murray 7th & 8th graders up at Wolfridge Environmental Center up in Finland, MN on the northshore. For those who don't know about the program, it's a leadership/team-building/cultural ed/environmental experience every Fall for around 70 Murray students. The students learn leadership skills working together on creative problem-solving, including how to make Murray a better school; they give presentations on the different cultures represented at the school; they help each other overcome challenges on ropes courses and rock-climbing walls; and they learn about nature and its importance in our lives. Btw, they have enormous fun doing all of that under the banner of "We're More Alike Than Different." They come back to the school and their shared experiences at Wolfridge help to set the school atmosphere for the rest of the year. 

It's a well thought-out and successful program that really does make a difference at Murray and, I have to believe, to those who attended as they move on through school and life. It has evolved under the early support of Ann Bulger, a neighbor who understood its worth and championed it for many years until her death. The mantle has been picked up by several teachers who put in the extra hours needed to make it such an amazing experience for the students, some who have never been outside of the city in their lives. I really look forward to it and consider it an honor to be a part of it when I can get up there. Great kids, great teachers, great school.

Wolfridge is also an important part of the elementary school's 6th grade experience. It isn't quite as comprehensive but is still very meaningful for some of the same reasons. Both schools are rethinking how those trips will work in 2 years when the 6th grade moves from St.AP Elementary to Murray. I've been chatting with both schools to help figure out a way to preserve those important programs in preparation for that transition. We have some time, but it's something that needs to be figured out so we can get all the ducks in a row.  

We had a great Open House on November 3 at the Park Midway Bank. There was a nice turnout of business and residential neighbors who were treated to lovely music (Phil Rukavina's lute,) good food (Speedy market,) refreshing beverages (little wine shoppe,) good conversation and a chance to hear from our grantees who support so much good in the community. State Representative, Alice Hausman was there connecting with grantees who might need a little extra legislative help with their programming, funding, etc. John and Carrie Tinucci of the soon-to-open (Dec. 7?) Colossal Cafe were also warmly welcomed by the attendees. A really nice event. Thanks to Rick Beeson, Terri Banaszewski and the rest of the Park Midway Bank staff for their usual hospitality and to the grantees for sharing their stories.

I had a nice meeting recently with Kari Canfield, the relatively new head of the Midway Chamber of Commerce. We wanted to get a chance to get to know each other better, especially in the aftermath of the zoning and design mash-ups going on in the Creative Enterprise Zone. She is very understanding of the community concerns while ably representing the business perspective. We both agree that communication needs to stay open between all stakeholders and to borrow a phrase from Murray, "We're more alike than different." I continue to be impressed with the quality of neighbors in that area and their interest in working together to find ways to make it successful for all. Speaking of zoning, the City has called together a group of business and community reps (including yours truly) to sit on a panel talking about how best to maintain industrial zoning in St. Paul. It used to be fairly easy when there were large swaths of industrial area where no residents ventured to just make it all industrial - no one cared. But now with light rail, the industrial is being broken up by other more resident-friendly zoning, so it's a patchwork quilt that requires surgical precision to blend it all together. We all want to maximize revenue for the city through land use, but there are other considerations these days and the differing stakeholders have to understand how to work together to figure it out. Recurring theme, right?

D12 - is looking forward to light rail construction wrapping up this month which should allow traffic to get back to the new normal. The Raymond Avenue Traffic Calming Plan passed the city council last week with the proviso that a permanent parking solution for the University/Raymond area be developed starting next spring. It will hopefully provide impetus for everyone to get real about the amount of parking that will be needed to support the businesses before and after light rail. D12 and the city will be leading those efforts...the St. Paul Almanac is looking for stories. If you've got one, submit it. Just go to the D12 website.

Schools - Murray seems to be having a good year. As mentioned, Wolfridge should be getting incorporated into the school culture as we speak by the returning students...the Barnes & Noble book fair fundraiser is happening Dec. 1 at the Har Mar store...The Parent forum on Monday, Dec. 12 will help to explain how the new school plan will effect High School choice...The Pilot One on One tutoring program is once again looking for tutors to help Dec and Jan. This year there are three classes a day, Monday through Friday. Tutoring starts at 11:22 and runs continuously until 2:00 pm. People can come in for 1 to 3 hours any day of the week. Contact: cindy.thrasher@spps.org or 651.293.8740. Training/orientation is provided...Ann Johnson, principal at St.AP Elementary is back from a brief medical leave and looks great. I got a chance to catch up a little last night when I presented to SAPSA, the parent/teacher org re fundraising coordination between the Foundation and the school. That will be especially important as the transition to K-5 and 6-8 comes closer. Btw, they are bursting at the seams over there with more than 500 kids. That's up from the lean years when there were less than 400.

listserv - has been awash with calls for Razoo donations. As you may know that's the big annual online giving day and it is increasingly successful in its 3rd year. If you'd like to donate that way go to the GiveMN.org site, find your favorite charity (could be the Foundation) and donate as much or as little as you'd like. They make it pretty easy and there are many worthy orgs. You might also be one of the random donors who is awarded additional money for the charity of your choice (could be us.)...Mary Leonard's Chocolat Celeste is offering delicious deals and shipping discounts on their wonderful chocolates - great idea for the holidays...crooks are apparently doing their holiday shopping early by stealing packages delivered to front door steps. Have the holiday goodies delivered to the PO or neighbor if you're not going to be home...favorite posted headline of the month so far, "Missing a hen?"

St.APnotesthere will be a plane flying around in the evenings for the next 3 weeks doing survey mapping or so they say (aliens, shhh)...tonight on the corner of Hendon and Cleveland there will be information from the MN Students Co-op about energy saving windows...the library has their usual smorgasbord of events including computer labs, exercise clinics and storytimes. Check the full schedule out here...the Schubert Club has a full winter line-up and its affiliate, Music in the Park Series offered a lovely concert last Sunday with a piano/cello duo that absolutely charmed the audience. Julie Himmelstrup continues to bring in the best...Speedy market will host a holiday light recycling bin this year in their outdoor market area. Just bring the old ones up and dump 'em - they'll get recycled and you can get some more energy efficient ones. Should be up soon.

That's all for now. Take care of yourself and be a good neighbor.