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Bad Cat Creations
Coffee with sugar, a particular routine, a pack of cats, confident, all on her own terms… She is never shy with her smiles and I found her easy to talk to. She doesn’t want you to get the wrong impression- she isn’t soft she may even be gritty- tattoos, dark edgy hair, and a dress style you can’t just buy off the rack. However, I saw a soft side too (look at the picture of her holding her cat), she is kind and seemed loyal and honest. Fun, quirky, a robust true laugh… things I took with me after meeting Christina.
May I introduce you to Christina:
I was born in 1981 in Copenhagen, Denmark to an Icelandic Mother and a Minnesotan Father. I spent my first few years of life in the tiny farming town of Ogilvie, MN and moved with my widowed Mother to Bemidji around the age of 3. My Mom eventually remarried to a hot-rod mechanic and we moved to the outskirts of Bemidji to an old two story log home built in the 1930’s by my Dad’s maternal grandparents. We had no next door neighbors and I had no siblings, often feeling alone and stranded in the middle of the Chippewa National Forest, my imagination took hold.
As a child I would wonder through the woods surrounding our house, often playing a story or a character in my head, with my trusty yellow lab, Susie, by my side. Some days I was a princess, captured by an evil queen, some days I was a pirate on a treasure hunt for lost gold (which happened to be my play jewelry I would ask my Mom to hide and then diagram a map for me to follow). I picked flowers for my family, collected rocks for my collection, and danced within fairy rings. My Mom embraced art in our lives, and we were always trying new creative avenues. I loved playing with paints, stringing beads and listening to music (of all genres). All in all, a creative and fun childhood.
Growing older, I began to resent being stuck in the woods, far from friends and things to do. We did at times live in town in a home we owned, but always ended up heading back out to our home in the woods for freedom and the stillness. As years went by and I became a teenager my need to leave grew more and more. I couldn’t wait to get out and live my life, discover who I was as I often felt stifled here.
When I was 20, I packed my bags and left for Minneapolis, I was never coming back.
While living in Minneapolis, wanting to find who I was, I realized I had always known who I was. What I was missing was my voice.
Art had always been a coveted dream in my mind, something I loved and had been striving for. I wanted to be an Artist. I told myself time and time again I would never be an Artist because I couldn’t draw or paint the things I saw in my head. It would break my heart over and over. While working at a shop in Minneapolis that sold jewelry making supplies, I pursued jewelry techniques as I had enjoyed making rather primitive jewelry as a child. It all seemed to come so naturally to me. I would spend all day working at the store, building ideas for jewelry in my mind, to get home late at night and pull together the small jewelry kit I had assembled for myself and work and re-work old jewelry. One night, inspired by pendants that were given to me by a customer at my job that day, I got up in the middle of the night with an idea of what should be done with those pendants. I was too afraid to lose the idea in my sleep. After a couple hours of stranding and link working I held up my finished necklace and said ‘YES! This is exactly how I saw it in my head!” That would later come to be my first “Aha moment”. I realized that maybe I couldn’t draw or paint the images in my head, but I had found MY medium for creation and my voice as an Artist.
It was soon after that, when my jewelry box was over flowing, as well as my friend’s and family’s, that I decided it was time to take it to the next level and start my business. Bad Cat Creations was born in 2002.
After 3 years in Minneapolis, I grew weary of the constant stream of noise and distractions. I missed the sounds of loons and crickets at night, having never become accustom to the sirens and noise of the city. The end of that last year could not come soon enough. I bought my home (a small mobile home) and moved it out onto my family’s property. Still unsure of where I wanted my life to go, after a year I closed up the house and headed to Pennsylvania to get a degree in special effects make-up. I don’t know if getting that degree and moving to Hollywood was ever a real goal in my mind, but at the end of my schooling, just about to graduate I realized it was not the industry for me. So, still not wanting to “go home” I headed to Arizona and started working for the Renaissance Festival, looking for new experiences and travel. Those first few months of life in the Southwest left me feeling unhappy and a little lost. When in conversation with one of my closest friends, she asked “if special effects doesn’t make you happy, then what does make you happy?” Without hesitation I said “I love doing my jewelry designs!” This was my second “Aha moment”.
With new determination, as well as wanting to be close to my family, I returned to Bemidji for the final time and began the journey to fulfill my dream.
I began to see Bemidji with new eyes and a new place of promise. Feeling secure and free in my little home in the woods, taking in all the beauty around me in my own yard that I seemed to have missed before, I pushed myself to pull inspiration from all my experiences and travels. Pursing art festival after art festival, toting my wears, telling my story and meeting fellow artisans and new artists looking for advice on how to “get started” selling goods, a brainstorm started brewing.
Having always had the dream to own my own store, I decided I would not waste anymore time simply dreaming of it. I would make it happen. I had decided I would not only follow my dreams, but I would chase them down and make them my reality! And if I could help other artists along the way, and bring new and different products to my community- I would do it, and do it with a smile.
I often joke that opening my shop was purely a selfish dream, I wanted a fun little boutique like the ones I loved in Minneapolis and other places in my travels, and if no one else was going to do it, then I would! But in actuality, I wanted to fully embrace my community and help it grow into the artist community it is blossoming into. I began to meet wonderful people, and find new love of old places I had once never given a second glance too. I love that I can walk through my downtown area and encounter friendly strangers and smiling friends. I love the strong sense of community, and the feeling that if we can be a strong community, then we too, as individuals, are strong.
I have some serious pride of my town Bemidji. It is a fun, warm, loving, and creative community. I often wonder how I didn’t see these things before, but I don’t spend too many precious moments thinking of the past, wanting to savor every moment enjoying the present and dreaming of the future.
Lake Bemidji Waterfront
Strong is how I would describe Kathryn Lavelle. Brought here by an abusive man, ripped from the environment she knew and left here to survive on her own- now a single mother after escaping the clutches of yet another abusive relationship. In search for a ticket out of here Kathryn found instead a town that embraced her and helped her heal. She found a place that her life’s pain could be used to help others, she found a home. I will let her explain why Bemidji is her town
I was born on September 5th, 1967 from strong-New York born-half Irish-half Italian-church going-Catholic parents at St. Claire’s Hospital in a small New Jersey town called Denville. I lived in NJ until I was 9 years old and then my family moved to Maryland. I grew up in Maryland…Fallston to be exact…until I entered adulthood.
I attended Fallston High School, wherethe majority of my time was mostly spent skulking through enemy territory. Fallston was a lily white, somewhat affluent, mostly conservative community that seemed hell bent on showing me to my place and forcing me to stay in it. Let’s face it, at the time I was not pretty…I was not popular…I was not a cheerleader…I was never what you would call successful in school. I always felt out of place…as if I was supposed to be living somewhere else…some magical town or city where I could just be myself, breathe deep and be appreciated for my strengths and talents. I later attended Harford Community College only to eventually find myself great with child as they sometimes say, and I had to drop out after only half a year. I had become a statistic, just another one in my long life of statistics…teen pregnancy…sexual assault survivor…teen dating and domestic violence victim. I found myself a young, single parent living in Baltimore City, bartending week nights at a little motorcycle bar called The Loft so I could try and support my infant son. I eventually met and began dating a man from Minnesota when my son was about 3 years old, and we ended up following him back to his small hometown of Clearbrook. So that’s basically the extremely short, bottom line version of how I actually came to end up here in God’s Country, as some of the old timers are still inclined to call it. Before that point, I hadn’t ever given Minnesota a glancing thought…I’m not even sure I could have found it on a map because Geography was yet another school subject I definitely did not excel at (to the extreme chagrin of my father). My entire life’s game plan (from a 16 year olds perspective) was to hopefully graduate from high school…move to Florida where I’d help a friend’s grandma run her bed and breakfast…and write beautiful poetry to the majestic Sun as he slowly spread his amazing golden red and pink streams across the darkening sky. Talk about your culture shock when I finally ended up in Northern Minnesota…
Marriage number two didn’t fare so well…5 years in all…and I divorced the man we originally followed to Minnesota in the first place. I found myself with 3 kids by then, my two daughters Brianna and Mollie who were 3 and 4 years of age…and of course my son David who was 7 by that time. I was fully intending on moving back to Maryland with my tail tucked between my legs so I could hear family members say, “I told you so” for about the next 20 years. I moved out of our home in Clearbrook and got as far as Bemidji where I found a small trailer…REALLY small…in Northern Township. We signed the rental agreement, month to month, and then the children and I moved in. My plan was to work until I had just enough money to get bus tickets for me and the kids. Then we’d travel back to the East Coast so I could start from scratch yet again.
That was 14 years ago and I have lived in Minnesota a total of 19 years…5 years in Clearbrook and 14 years in Bemidji…almost half my life has been lived up here in the great Northland. You may be wondering then, why I never moved back to Baltimore. I didn’t move back because…when a place gets a hold of you…it gets into your blood, brain and bone. It sings to your spirit and says, “Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you! Better late than never, girlfriend…better late than never!” I got as far as Bemidji and realized…almost as soon as the first box was unpacked…that I was here to stay…that this was HOME! And all of my best laid plans…my eventual escape from Minnesota back to the East Coast from whence I came…became thwarted by this wonderful, eccentric place of energy and possibilities. Bemidji had in fact gotten a hold of me. I would like to add that my Brooklyn born, Irish East Coast bred dad finally ended up following me here to Bemidji after a few visits, and has lived here now for about 7 years. All of my social activist tendencies have come from this man…and it’s been wonderful having him here to spend time with…where he has had the opportunity to watch his grandchildren grow…and now has that same opportunity with his great-grandchildren! And he too, has come to think of Bemidji as his home.
At this point in my life I consider B-town to be my one true hometown, because it was the one I had been waiting half my life to find. Bemidji was the place where I first found my stage legs, my performer’s heart and my singer’s voice. It was the place where I became trapped in an abusive 10 year marriage from hell (my 3rd one) and yet it was also the place that helped me use those horrific experiences to reach out and teach others so they could begin their own journey of healing. It was the place that showed me unbearable heartbreak, pain and sorrow and yet it was also the place that gave me renewed hope and finally…FINALLY…true and unconditional love! It is the place where my children grew up and my grandchildren now embark on their own journey of growing and learning. It is the place where I live and work and breathe and dance and count my abundant blessings. Bemidji is the lake, the land and the sky…coming together to form a more perfect union of township and rural living. Bemidji brought my husband Cody and I together and Bemidji is where we’ll grow old together…me probably a little faster than him since he’s 12 years younger…but together none the less!
I love so many things in, around and about Bemidji.
..I love the Diamond Point Park…I love the lake trail…I love Preachers Grove in Itasca State Park where Cody asked me to be his wife…I love Paul Bunyan Broadcasting where I am currently embarking on a new career as a part time weekend DJ…I love the Wild Hare Bistro and Coffee House because sometimes “you just wanna go where everyone knows your name”, and they even remember what your usual is when it’s too damn early in the morning for you to verbalize it! I love the smell of Harmony Coop and Sunrise Natural Foods, and the wonderful people who work there and lovingly share their wisdom and knowledge. I love having a pint of Guinness at Brigids Cross Irish Pub because it reminds me of the Cat’s Eye in Fells Point, Baltimore. I love being able to walk into my local bank where the tellers know my first name and they’re always letting me know how much they enjoyed the last play or performance I was in. I love how random people see me walking down the sidewalk and ask how my family is. This is the kind of magic you don’t get in a large city…the magic of people connecting on a personal and emotional level that we sometimes take for granted. There are subcultures within our fair city that are reminiscent of true M. Scott Peck communities, and for me these pockets of evolving humanity are essential for my survival as a true human being…to know that people care about me and for me and are working with me to make the world a better place.I like to think of myself as a true Bemidjian because so many people in this town know me…what I’m about… and they still don’t try to change who I am. What an empowering feeling that is! People who live here can be their own true selves, and that in itself is a wonderful gift. I feel I am accepted and in some cases even respected (I hope!) for my domestic violence experience and the work I do to bring education and empowerment to northern community members. In Bemidji I am most recognized as being the domestic violence outreach and education coordinator for Northwoods Coalition for Family Safety…but I am also known for many others things as well. Bemidji has never tried to keep me in a box, rather it has allowed me to experience life on many levels. I have been an actor…a writer…a poet and playwright…a singer…a friend…a wife…a mother and a grandmother…a social activist…and I am very content to live out the rest of my days here, growing and learning while weaving my life in and around the diverse seasons and landscapes of the area.
So to wrap up and bottom line my story…who am I? I am an aging hippie living with her younger husband in an Earth home in Northern Township with 6 cats, 2 dogs and a large corn snake. I am the proud mother of three amazing adults and two gorgeous grandbabies. I am a good someone to have in your corner if your back is up against the wall because I will fight hard for what’s right and just. I am the one who will stop and be late for work if an animal is hurt on the side of a road because I must get out and try to help it. I am the one with an overflowing full plate and a few more on the back burner thrown in for good measure. I am a loyal friend and a relentless foe. And I am…most certainly…a true and loyal fan of my adopted home town…better late than never…Bemidji Minnesota!!!
Filming “Common Ground”
North East of Bemidji
Ashley was the one to contact me. She asked me if I would take part in her LPTV show Common Ground. I was so new into my project this prospect made me nervous. We met and discussed the possibility at a downtown coffee shop. When we left I was going to take part in Ashley’s show and she was going to participate in my project. She would be filming me taking pics of someone and I in turn would take pics of her filming someone,a very snake eating it’s own tail tale. What I learned is Ashley is learning to live in the Greater North. Brought here temporarily for a job, she is staying for reasons not listed in the travel brochure.
This is Ashley:
I was offered a job, I was moving to a new city! Life, as I knew it, was great! I received a packet in the mail from the Bemidji Chamber of Commerce, including ALL the information I needed to know about the city of Bemidji. Sure, the temperature looked colder…. and my friend’s eye’s nearly bugged out their heads when they saw 50 below in all of that information…but, it never really impacted me?
I guess, a naïve Ohio girl had never felt 50 below, so it was no big shake. I was ready!
On my 24th birthday, I loaded up my car and headed North with my mother by my side! As we passed each state line, my excitement grew! By the time we reached Motley, (next day) it was 8 p.m. and my excitement flew out the window somewhere on Highway 10. Where in the heck is this place, Bemidji? After two angels assured us we were headed in the right direction, we finally reached our destination!
The cold, winter months drug on, but I was reporting for Lakeland News at Ten and meeting several key community members! I was driving on the ice with a vehicle to cover stories with the DNR, which was shocking to me! I was watching Ice Rescue Searches with the local emergency departments. I covered Logging Days, an annual tradition in Bemidji. I watched two police officers in training, get zapped by the tazer gun. This process was all part of their training. They did ask if I wanted to be zapped too- now if that isn’t Minnesota Nice, I don’t know what is? I politely declined to be zapped! I watched winter blow away and summer swarm in with mosquitoes. I vividly remember ducking to the ground, thinking a pterodactyl was flying overhead! Thankfully, the mosquitoes don’t like me.
Soon, I met a great friend, who insisted on keeping me here. So I agreed when she asked me to meet a new guy, who had just moved to town too! Things were great- I was new to Bemidji and he was new to Bemidji. We were learning what this town has to offer, together! I became obsessed with the outdoors! I began to learn of the vast trail system. I was bike riding, running, swimming in the lakes and enjoying life in the North Country. We savored the summer days until winter blew in again and I was offered a job to leave, a morning anchor position, at a TV station in Wisconsin. I visited the small Wisconsin town, I even interviewed for the job, which was offered to me. After a lot of tears, many long conversations, a list of pros and cons, I decided this is my town! Bemidji, the last place on earth I thought I’d be living! Now granted, my love interest, Dale Turner had a lot to do with my decision to stay, but thankfully, I’ve never regretted staying here!
Bemidji is a unique place. It’s a close-knit community that thrives on togetherness. Whether it be volunteerism, community events, or a night out on the town we do it together. You see the same faces everywhere you go and to me, that’s ok! I enjoy the small town feel of Bemidji. I cannot believe the vast appreciation for non-profits! There are even businesses that allow you to volunteer your time, during the workday. Not too many other cities, especially larger ones, would be so willing to let employees reach out to their communities to lend a helping hand! I think it is awesome, I can say I live in a town that thrives on community!
Working for Lakeland Public Television for the past four years, I have learned just how important all non-profit organizations are to this area. Through my line of work, I have been fortunate to work within the Bemidji community and surrounding communities. Many communities rely on Bemidji, as it is the closest “city” to most of their towns. Not only do they rely on Bemidji for shopping, but for entertainment. We have a great venue for performance, art and outdoors! I have learned a great deal about the arts of northern Minnesota from a new show that I produce and host on Lakeland Public Television called Common Ground. Common Ground is a weekly series that highlights northern and central Minnesota. We explore the worlds of art, history and culture right here in the North Country! Meeting such talent in my very own community is such an adventure! The people of Northern Minnesota are great and the community I have learned to accept as my own is priceless! I have thoroughly enjoyed my 4 years in the Bemidji area and plan to call this place home for a very long time!
I could never have imagined the lifelong memories I have created here in Bemidji, MN. I now love the outdoors, have a new appreciation for the arts and thoroughly enjoy taking an active part in my community! Lastly, I should tell you there was some information missing from that very first packet I received from the Chamber of Commerce. It failed to mention, I would find love and lasting friendships here in Bemidji, MN. It’s for those reasons, I call Bemidji, home.
I had just finished a meeting downtown. A truck with a trailer pulled up and parked as I crossed the street heading toward my vehicle. The emblem on the side resembled that of a super hero, and maybe Kirby (The Bike Guy) is a super hero, at least in the world of bikers. Kirby grew tired of trying to make a living and decided to try to earn money doing what he liked instead. This decision seems to have served him well. Mobile bike repair with same or next day service is something this town obviously needed. But there is a man behind the business
Meet Kirby H. (aka The Bike Guy):
Water, pine trees, wood smoke and ‘smores, that was the beginning of my personal Bemidji. I guess I am lucky that my parents loved to camp. When I was a kid the word “Bemidji” was magic. I have heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but to an eight year old growing up in the middle of the Red River Valley, the word “Bemidji” conjured up a thousand pictures. Here a few words about my town, you will have to fill in your pictures yourself.
Summer, the camping was in the summer (and still is for my wife, kids and I) but since I arrived here in 1997 summer has grown into more than I could even have dreamt it would. I love to fish, enough said about that. Really, I love too many fun summer things to even start listing them, so I will list the fun Bemidji things I don’t do: rollerblading on the bike trail (no time), windsurfing (but my friend, Drew, is going to teach me this summer) and Muskie fishing (not enough patience). That’s it.
Fall, okay the smell of the leaves on a damp morning – I will never be able to put that into words so I won’t even try. My dog helping me find birds is the highlight for me, my wife prefers to round up her friends and head to “Girls Deer Camp.” When our kids were younger they loved to rake leaves into a big pile and bury each other (wait a minute, they still do!), the pumpkin patch, “Spooky Dinner” (our annual Halloween bash for the kids, their friends and our friends) late season walleye fishing on the Rainey, bow hunting, late season mtn. bike rides on 60 degree days in November, and finally the first snow arrives!!!
Winter, I would call it “the best season of all” but that would just not be fair to the other three. At Buena Vista Ski Area I fell in love with skiing the minute my oldest brother, Mark, rode a chairlift to the top with me and said “See you at the bottom!” I became and addict, I would beg, borrow and steal rides with my friends and their families, I signed up for any and all denominations that were sending a bus for the weekend, any way I could get there was fair game. On church trips we slept in the train cars that still sit in the Logging Village; those hot/cold then hot/cold bunks are where I left some of my best nights of sleep, ever. I could not believe it when, in the fall of 2005, Liz Letson called me and asked me to run the rental shop (I had managed a ski/bike service shop in Grand Forks when I was in college, so I knew the biz backwards and forwards). I tried to act cool but I think they saw the excitement in me in the first five minutes. I loved every minute of it (if you can figure out how to bottle the energy of two hundred school kids that just rode a bus two hours to get there, you will be a billionaire) but I am leaving to run my own business; I am still going to Ski Patrol but I will miss being a bigger part of the experience that people have there.
Spring, everything comes to a stop, slush turns into mud, then it snows again, then that turns in to mud; all on its own schedule with no regard for what us lowly humans want to get done. It is fun to drill holes in the trees and get the main ingredient for syrup out, but other than that I have come to appreciate the “shoulder” time of early spring. Spring gives a person time to transition from one season’s toys to the next. I get our winter gear stowed and roll out the bikes and boat for a little TLC. Relining the fishing rods and finding the life jackets means it is time to look forward to another summer and the circle begins again.
Ruby “works” at KD Floral flower shop on the corner of 3rd St. and Minnesota Ave. I find myself returning to this shop time and again not so much for the flowers (which are always fresh and beautiful) but, rather to see Ruby. Always friendly and happy to see you, she greets customers with her caring brown eyes and a wag of her tail. ‘Pet therapy’ is what I call it, what would you call it?
If you haven’t already,
Squirrels, birds, frogs, trails, snow banks, lakes, and creeks. It’s the perfect place for a dog. There’s always something to do where I live. You should see all the forest left to explore! I love to run on the trails that are out by our house. You can run and run and tumble and nothing gets in your way. And in the winter sometimes the snow is so deep my head barely shows above the top. Yea, it’s pretty great living here.
I didn’t always live here, or at least I didn’t always live where things were as wonderful as they are now. Let’s just say my previous owners weren’t very nice people to my brothers and me. We became street dogs, were starving, and had nowhere to go. About two years ago, we were found running across the road, north of Bemidji. A nice man brought us home. After some loving, I went to live with my family I have now. I always get enough food to eat and they love me so much. Everyone says I still look like a puppy since I’m so small, but I’m growing up. Next year I’ll be five!
I spend most of my time at my mom’s store. We go downtown every morning to KD Floral. It’s a pretty great job I have. Most of the time I get to sleep and look cute, but when the customers come in I usually get to greet them, especially when the mail carrier comes. He always brings treats. There are a few customers that come in and ask just to see me. That’s what’s so great about Bemidji. You can always find a loving face, a familiar smile, and if you’re a dog, someone to pet you.
On days when I don’t go to work with my mom, I get to stay home with my dad. Man is that great. I get to sleep in, chase squirrels in our big back yard, and lay in the sun when I get tired. We live close to several parks with walking trails, where I love to run. Night time walks and weekend runs are my favorite. It’s so beautiful here. When you look around you can see the pure beauty of creation; we’re lucky. We don’t have to look at skyscrapers or smell stinky air. It’s just trees and lakes and beautiful people.