Night Owl Meditations: A Blog About Life

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Written by Jessica Ripley

Night Owl Meditations is a blog I began with the purpose of writing about the random things that I think about on any given day. At first glance through the posts, it may appear capricious. There is humor (off-beat), and I also write about personal experiences in relationships, mental health, love, art, mysticism and anything else that feels relevant to me at the time.


My most recent post is entitled “Girl of Darkness,” and it is a metaphorical exploration of trauma. I read a book recently by intuitive coach Colette Baron-Reid called, “The Map,” and my post was inspired by the exercises in the book. It was an exercise for me in facing my inner nightmares brought on by trauma I had experienced, which caused me to live for a long time with undiagnosed PTSD. 

I have recently begun, mostly on my own, but also with the support of loved ones, healing from the trauma to have a better life. I haven’t written
about it much because I’ve been experiencing it instead. The idea of facing and incorporating your shadow is a Jungian concept that I have found brings peace. 


The National Prohibition Act of 1919 may have resulted in 13 years of widespread, organized crime, but for the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) it was a moral victory, providing families protection from alcohol addiction that had resulted in domestic violence and loss of employment, leaving many women and children destitute.

Creating a National Organization

By the 1800s, women were fed up with their lack of civil rights. They couldn’t vote, own property or have custody of children. They witnessed rampant alcohol consumption with detrimental societal effects. 

Instead of sitting quietly, they created an organization that supported various social reforms focusing on prohibition, education, public health, better working conditions and women’s suffrage. The WCTU became an official organization at its first national conference in Cleveland in 1874. Two years later, the International Woman’s Christian Temperance Union formed. At one time it was the largest women’s organization in the world, boasting over 370,000 members.



Girls' Night Out: Hop Aboard! Taking a Trolley Tour of Local Microbreweries

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Written by By Kim Zabel Photography by Kim Zabel

As our group gathers for our microbrewery trolley tour, we notice that our trolley has a name. We are about to board the trolley Charlie. In fact, all the trolleys, including Charlie, at the Rochester Trolley and Tour Company are named after the Mayo family and partners: Will, Alfred, W.W. Mayo, and Henry. 

Historically, many streetcars were often named after locations and/or famous leaders (Louisiana, Napoleon and Jackson, for example), and, yes, there was even a streetcar named Desire. 

Whether it is trolley cars, microbreweries or beers, a good reason exists for every name. 

First Stop: Forager Brewing Company

Forager Brewing Company derives its name from the process used to forage ingredients in their hand-crafted brews from local growers. Simply put, foraging is the act of searching for food or provisions. 



Local Author Mary McCarthy

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Written by Catherine H. Armstrong

When your diagnosis is brain cancer and the location is inoperable, the future can feel daunting. Rochester resident Mary McCarthy lived these fears and wrote about them in her autobiography, “A Pilgrimage of Hope: A Story of Faith and Medicine.” 

The story of McCarthy’s illness began in March 2011 with what she assumed was a fainting spell. “I was healthy that morning,” she remembers, but by mid-afternoon she experienced the first of many seizures that were later diagnosed as Grade Three Oligoastrocytoma, a low-grade form of brain cancer.

Not On My To-Do List

“Brain tumor was not on my list of things to do,” McCarthy jokes. “I had mailed a deposit (that morning) for a trip to a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in January of 2012.”

Over the next six weeks McCarthy’s seizures continued, requiring many overnight stays at Mayo Clinic. “Nights in the hospital were lonely, and I shared my fears with the Lord and was consoled,” McCarthy says. She explains that these devotionals helped her understand the importance of prioritizing personal relationships and increased her resolve to complete treatments in time for her planned pilgrimage, only 10 months in the future.


The girls bound into the room, chatting and giggling. They don’t look like yogis. However, they clearly know the routine of this class as they help teacher Chersten Keillor take mats and equipment out of her large totes and set them up.  


Chersten begins class by having the girls find a comfortable position, close their eyes and notice the sounds around them. She uses a chime to indicate when an exercise is starting and ending. The girls are still and quiet, eyes closed, focused. 

The girls then lie on their backs and put bean bag “buddies” on their bellies. This extra weight helps them feel their stomachs rise as they focus on breathing very deeply, which allows the kids’ heart rates to slow. This is a stress management technique that is very effective for kids and adults, and practicing it in class will make it easier for the girls to access these strategies when faced with a stressful situation. 


At first, my father covered up her forgetfulness. Mom always hated driving and handed over the keys without regrets, a blessing for our family. We didn't have to worry about her harming anyone or us hurting her feelings by taking the keys away.


Mom hid her troubles at family gatherings. I assisted her by using people's names in conversations so she wouldn't have to ask. As with all Alzheimer's patients, things got worse. We had to take away her checks and credit cards, then make excuses why I had to pay every time we went shopping.

Although my father did his best, protecting her in so many ways, he lived in denial at times. "Yesterday your mom couldn't remember who Debbie was," my dad told me. 

"Yeah Dad, it's called Alzheimer's," I responded. 


The aging process is difficult for many people. Throw in a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia, and difficult quickly becomes terrifying. The sudden realization that one’s basic memories will be taken away leaves the entire family feeling bereft and unsure about the future. 

In early 2011, my father was diagnosed with dementia. In the five years since the diagnosis, this highly intelligent man who holds three master’s degrees and was once proud of his exceptional memory has become a shadow of the man he was. He no longer consistently remembers his five children and sometimes not even his own wife of 60 years. If only we had realized earlier what we know now.


Human trafficking, the buying and selling of human beings, happens in Rochester. Though difficult to believe, we cannot deny the truth. Repeating the powerful words spoken by William Wilberforce, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say you did not know.” If there is one thing that the Rochester community has done well, it is the refusal to look away. Rochester is fortunate to have a number of organizations educating our community, advocating for change and providing direct services to survivors of this horrific crime.



Dads & Grads: Growlers, Rock Climbing Accessories, and Timely Gifts

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Written by Rochester Women Magazine



Local Author Laurie Jueneman Climbs the Mount Everest of Depression

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Written by Catherine H. Armstrong

Depression creeps up quietly, often abruptly and frequently without cause or reason. It cares nothing for age, income or education level; and it leaves its victims debilitated and sometimes with thoughts of suicide or without hope for the future. Unlike other medical disorders, mental illness often comes with a stigma leaving many too embarrassed to seek treatment. Local author and speaker Laurie Jueneman hopes to change that. Her recent novel, “Climbing the Mount Everest of Depression,” is a memoir detailing her own journey through depression, and it bears witness that there is hope for better days ahead.


In “Climbing the Mount Everest of Depression,” Jueneman shares her journey in poignant and painful detail. Like so many other victims of mental illness, Jueneman was embarrassed by the stigma associated with diagnosis and was initially resistant to sharing her concerns with those who could help her most. As a result, she became an expert at hiding her symptoms. “People think that if you look okay, you are okay,” she stated. “We get very good at putting on masks every day. In order to survive and get going, I had to pretend.”


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