Essay: Diabetes diagnosis shocking and scary

Only five days before my 18th birthday, I was kind of happy about it, but I was feeling weird changes in my body: my mouth was very dry and I’d had vaginal infections. In the beginning, I wanted to think that that it wasn’t related to possibly having diabetes, but I kind of suspected it because I come from a diabetic family.

Love bridges cultural gap

When I first met my boyfriend’s mother, Mee, she looked at me in disgust. It wasn’t because of the way I dressed, talked, or even acted, but because I was not Hmong like her.

I come from a dirt-poor, steaming hot country called Paraguay in South America. My mother, Susan Covey, adopted me. Beyond that, I know next to nothing about my background or heritage. I’m an American girl, but dating Seng Thor has opened up a foreign world to me here in Minnesota – the Hmong world.

Smoking shouldn't be a family tradition

I remember the day I rode around the resort in a golf cart with my grandfather and we just talked. That was the last time I was with him. I watched him struggle with the effects of emphysema for about two years before he passed away last year when I was just 13.

His death made me think a lot about how families influence habits like smoking. And it made me worry about my parents, grandma and other relatives, who all smoke.

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Two cultures, one family

Like hundreds of Twin Cities couples, Laura Lee and Abe Knudson are trying to raise their kids, hold two jobs, pay their bills and manage to find a little time for themselves.

What they are also doing is blending two cultures that stretch 8,000 miles from Minnesota’s Iron Range, where Abe grew up, to the highlands of Laos, where Laura’s parents were born.

Mac-n-cheese or ugali? This teen eats both

Having parents who don’t really understand your culture can be hard. I’ll have a conversation with my dad that goes like this:

“Hey, Dad! Can I go to the mall today?”

“You go to the mall all the time and it’s such a waste of money. Back in my day, we didn’t have a mall to go wander around in. We chased grasshoppers instead and we were so happy!”

“Um, Dad. Pretty sure if there were a mall in the middle of the village, the kids would rather go there instead of chasing grasshoppers.”

Teens cut spending. Parents help out.

Teens have cut their spending on clothes by 14 percent since this time last year, and younger teens have slashed their clothing budgets by nearly a fifth, according to a Star Tribune report on national survey of teens released Wednesday by Minneapolis-based Piper Jaffray & Co. But parents continue to shield their children from the brunt of the recession.

March Your Turn Winner: Working with what you've got

I have worked every summer since I can remember growing vegetables, tending to them and selling them.

I am Hmong. When my family arrived in the U.S. we had close to nothing. With help, my parents were able to buy a plot of land and work it, and sold produce at the Minneapolis Farmers Market.

I dreaded summer. It was supposed to be a break from school, a time to run around and have fun, but for me and my older siblings it meant waking up at 6 a.m. and laboring in the heat.

February Your Turn winner: death can't stop a daughter's love

Do you remember how we used to have tickle fights? I would be laughing so hard that I would cry!

And I won’t forget to mention your sneaking around in my “secret diary.” I still remember your answer to why you read it. “If you didn’t want me to read it, you would have hid it.”

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VIDEO: Taking school seriously

Mark Oliveras started taking his classes at Humboldt Senior High School more seriously when he realized that doing well in school could save him from the difficult life he’s led so far — never being able to afford rent and moving all the time.

Your Turn runner up: Cowgirl Diaries

It’s no secret that my relationship with my father had been on a slow decline since the cowgirl days of childhood. Every so often, he would do something that would startle me, things that I thought were out of his nature. However, trends that cannot be dismissed, and must be acknowledged as aspects of character. Whenever confronted with criticism, his hot temper takes control. My mother has taken the heat for seventeen years, but in the summer of 2008, it was my turn.

Your Turn runner up: 2008 -- Year of change

I lost control, and before I knew it, blood was staining my long-sleeved shirt. Looking in the mirror was just another reminder of my sagging self-esteem. My face was loosing color, just like the days lose light.

Chewing khat changes brother into angry stranger

When I come in the door from school, my brother, I hear you fight with your friends and I can see you in your room chewing “khat.”

From the Internet, I have learned that the branches of dried leaves are a natural stimulant from the Catha edulis plant, a large shrub which grows in East Africa and Southern Arabia. Fresh khat leaves are crimson-brown and glossy but become yellow-green when they dry. They also emit a strong smell.

Back in Africa, our father says, men use khat as a recreational and religious drug. Our father’s use of khat is one reason our parents divorced. Now our mother worries about you.

Ruun was the best sister. Then illness struck.

Every day as I wake up and try to go ahead with my life I think about my middle sister, Ruun, and the pain she goes through each day.

I don’t even know if she is okay because — immobile, unable to speak and confined to her bed — all she does is just look at me with a blank stare. I feel sad because I think I can’t help her in any way.

Ruun, who is 20, was stricken with bacterial meningitis six years ago shortly before our family moved from Nairobi, Kenya, to America. It began as a run-of-the-mill ear infection. But it soon became life-threatening and she was hospitalized.


Immigrant women find help against abusers

“Nagma” was 18 years old when she was swept off her feet by a man while attending college in her native Zambia.
She graduated two years later with a degree in journalism and a baby daughter. Nagma moved in with the baby’s father soon after the birth. It seemed like happily-ever-after to her.

But it turned out not to be the fairy tale ending she hoped for. Twenty years later, Nagma, 38, is a resident at Home Free, a shelter for abused women and children located in Plymouth.

Love and happiness turned into the nightmare of domestic abuse. It began in Zambia. It followed her when she relocated to the United States.

Your Turn -- excerpts from essays on effect on teens during economic downturn

There were so many compelling examples of how teens are being affected during this economic downturn that we wanted to create a list of excerpts from their essays to share with you.

A good friend of mine has been playing volleyball for years. She usually plays club volleyball and gets way better than the rest of us. She is a great athlete with potential to do some amazing things on the court. This year when I texted her to see what team she made, she answered that she didn’t try out. I was so confused that I personally called her and asked if she had misspelled something. The star of our team last year was not playing volleyball so that her family could save money. – Siri Keller, 15, Southwest High School

When gas started dropping me and my friends would scream and high five each other when we drove past a gas station and saw that gas was down to $2.75. – Heather Thomas, 17, Faribault Senior High

At my job I have noticed that the auto repair business is slow. I worry a little that my hours, if business got slow again, would be cut back like it was for about 5 months last year into this year. But I think that if I had the chance to give up my job for someone who needs a job to support their family, I would gladly do so. – Christen Hildebrandt, 18, Faribault Senior High

Your Turn November winners

ThreeSixty received 120 entries for its November Your Turn contest that asked teens what impact the economic downturn is having on them. Teens are definitely being affected and are changing the way they think. Many mentioned realizing they don’t need so much stuff, clothing or even much wanted Play Station 3 game system. Even more are worried about paying for college and the majority of you are looking for your first, second and even third jobs to help out your families and save for your education. From home foreclosure, to having to move in to cramped quarters with a relative, this economic downturn is being felt by the majority of you.

This month’s Your Turn winner is Anna Bertel from Southwest High School in Minneapolis. Anna’s single-income family recently moved in with her grandmother and Anna and her mother are now sharing a bedroom. Anna is keeping her head up and counting her blessings, but admits she wakes every day not knowing what it will bring.

Gift of faith at Christmastime

Hypnotized by the idea of getting presents from a jolly old man who ate the red and green sugar cookies I decorated for him, the true Catholic spirit of the Advent and Christmas was lost on me as a child. My parents tried their best to involve me in the more traditional activities: lighting the candles on our Advent wreath, counting down the days until Christ’s birth with an Advent calendar, setting up the nativity scene at our Church. This proved futile. As a young child I could not grasp the significance of the Christmas season any better than I could grasp the meaning of what it meant to be a Catholic.

Jewish teen questions God, finds religion

These doubts soon materialized and by the end of eighth grade I was denouncing “God” as a delusion. This is when the second part of the question comes into play. If I dismiss “God” as fantasy, how can I consider myself Jewish? This is something that laid siege to my mind for a while.

Lesson from China's Great Leap Forward: Don't blindly follow leaders

My grandpa Yue Zhou was a 27-year-old college instructor in communist China at the time of the Great Leap Forward, which took place from 1958 through 1963, and it was a time of extreme hardship for the people of China.

Smoking ambushes my brother

I looked outside the fogged window one cold winter afternoon to see my 15-year-old brother smoking a cigarette. I couldn’t believe it. Was this the same kid who got upset when our father smoked, who told Mom “I don’t want to be around that”?

My Dad started smoking when he was seven. It was his way to relax and rebel. Now he’s so dependent he’d rather have cigarettes than food. And you can tell. His voice is deep and raspy and he coughs a lot. The smell, ashes and burn marks are everywhere.

I don’t want my brother to turn out like that. Then I noticed that all his friends were smoking, too. In fact, when they’re skateboarding in the street, rolling past one another with ease and showing off their new tricks, they also pass along a cigarette.

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