Alexis Ehlers is a photographer for 406 Woman and owner of ACE Photography & Design. Lexi is an alumni of the University of Montana where she graduated with highest honors and a double major in Media Arts and English. Lexi enjoys snowboarding, taking trips to Glacier National Park, music, and playing in Flathead Lake. This summer she will be traveling to Ireland to explore her heritage while capturing more beautiful photographs.
photo by leAh elhers
A retired professional athlete that has no plans to slow down is our business feature in this issue. Read Rachael Seymour’s story about Jess Cerra and learn more about this inspiring entrepreneur who helps make this community better.
18. Radishes and Relationships 23. a sk the Butche R 26. t he Bigfo R k Ba RR el c lu B
28. Weaving the past i nto the pR esent, o n the page
32. s p R inging f o RW a R d in the 406 Design 38. c ustomize You R l ook Music 40. Women W ith l asting l egacies
46. h aile Y and pa R ke R 50. B R istal and Bo BBY 32... 8 406 w oman.com woman 4 06
photo by Alex roszko
It’s that in between time of year where winter is still lingering but you can sense a bit of a change and the anticipation of brighter, longer, warmer days are ahead.
It’s a good reminder that change is inevitable and whatever season in life you are in, know it will not last forever - so be present, be patient, learn, grow, and ENJOY!
We hope you find inspiration in the pages of this issue.
Cindy & Amanda
406 w oman.com 13
“If winter has the courage to turn into spring who says I can’t bloom just the same?”
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Published by Skirts Publishing six times a year
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My daughter gave me the gift of time recently with my young grandson, Beckham. She knew that February was generally quiet with work projects and invited me to spend some time in the French Alps while she and her husband kept busy during their jobs at the Les Contamines Domaine Skiable (the local ski resort with an impressive 120 km of skiable terrain). She didn’t have to ask twice.
As the quote points out, time is the final currency and I couldn’t agree more. As I get older, hopefully wiser and definitely grayer, I realize how important it is for me to spend time surrounded by people I love doing things I enjoy. This is important in my personal life as well as my professional life.
It’s easier for me in my personal life.
I, like many of you, have to work. I have discovered that there isn’t a “dream job” for me but I try to make the most of tasks at a job even if they aren’t always “my favorite” thing to do. I’ve discovered the key for me is balance, prioritizing and patience.
A couple tricks I’ve learned to help enjoy the “work” ride…
• Learn to say “no”
• Take breaks (even mini ones) throughout the day
• Treat yourself to a lunch break
• Ask for flexibility in your schedule
• Be frank about your priorities and communicate your boundaries
• Prioritize your health
• Practice compassion
• Block out time for those that are important in your life
• Ask for help when you need it
I’m pretty sure I only have one shot at this thing called life so I plan to “give it all I got” and enjoy as much as a can along the way.
Enjoy springtime in Montana!
What did I learn this issue?
About lady bugs, radishes, and relationships from one of our favorite doctors who has returned with her column, Dr Austine Siomos. She always has something interesting to share. Read her story on page 18.
view current and past issues of 406 Woman at
www.406 w oman.com
About Jess Cerra and her interesting background that led her co-create The Last Best Ride as well as develop a popular nutrition bar. Read Rachael Seymour’s story on page
704 C East 13th St. #138 Whitefish, MT 59937
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“Don’t waste the time. Time is the final currency, man. Not money, not power – it’s time.”
– David Crosby
Kristen & Beck
When a ladybug lands on you, what is your first thought? My thoughts include good luck!, don’t kill it, how many spots does it have? Ladybugs are considered to be good luck in varied cultures.
There are some good reasons for this. Farmers see ladybugs as a sign that natural pest control is underway for their crops. Ladybugs are predators that can control aphids and spider mites. In some cultures it is believed that anything a ladybug touches will be improved.
The spring is an ideal time to think about making something better. A problem we run into in having these aspirations is how to decide. I was talking to a friend who was struggling with anxiety, and he said, “I just can’t decide what to pay attention to.” His words stuck with me. His words are a great way of laying out this dilemma, in small moments and in the bigger questions. To what do we pay the most attention? Going further, where should we put our energy and passion?
As I write this, the psychiatry and psychology world has been buzzing about the most recent study investigating what makes people happy. The Harvard Study of Adult Development began in 1938. It started with 724 participants and then expanded to spouses and descendants of the original group. This is the
Radishes and Relationships
By Austine K. Siomos, MD – Pediatric Cardiologist at Rocky Mountain Heart & Lung
longest longitudinal study of human life ever done and is ongoing, consisting of over 2,000 people. This study covers multiple topics, including physical health and socioeconomic status. The news that came out in the past few months is that the most important factor in lifelong happiness is strong relationships
John Stuart Mill, English philosopher and one of the earliest male proponents of gender equality, wrote “Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness, on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit.” I thought of this as I was reflecting on a discussion with another friend. She told me that one of her jobs in her family is “cultivating social relationships.” At the time, I found this strange. However, in thinking about this study on happiness, her focus is wise. She is committed to community. She can see that putting passion into relation ships will promote lifelong purpose, and as a side effect will bring happiness to all involved.
Just as happiness can be a byproduct of strong relationships, health can be a byproduct of delicious food. The other day I saw beauti ful bunches of radishes at a small local farm stand. I brought them home, cut them up and took them in a container to an athletic event. I’m used to children, including my own, reject ing my healthy food. However, on this day, ev
ery person seemed to want to try a radish. It was a wonderful surprise. My youngest child actually decided it was his favorite vegetable, which he may have said just to flatter me.
Radishes are a group of root vegetables. They are most commonly red, but can be black, white, yellow, pink or purple. The radish is likely native to Southeast or Central Asia. They are beautiful, and can enhance salads, cooked dishes and serve as garnish and decoration. Radishes have a variety of health benefits:
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reduced risk for diabetes
Radishes contain glucosinolate and isothiocyanate, which help regulate blood sugar levels. Radishes enhance our ability to make adiponectin, a hormone that protects against insulin resistance.
Improve cell repair
Radishes are 95% water. One cup of radishes supplies 30% of the daily recommended Vitamin C. Vitamin C counteracts free radicals and oxidative damage and promotes recovery of cells.
reduce risk of vascular disease
Radishes are rich in antioxidants and contain calcium and potassium that naturally lower blood pressure. They are also a good source of natural nitrates that improve blood flow.
A combination of water, zinc and vitamin C in radishes is an excellent boost for your immune system, or a supportive treatment for viruses that come along.
I have wondered at times whether I should be taking collagen. We know about vitamin C and its role in collagen synthesis due to the discovery of Scurvy in the 1700s. More recently, physicians and scientists have studied more subtle benefits of collagen. A meta-analysis in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine in 2018 combined 10 studies on bone and tendon healing, finding that oral vitamin C was correlated with increased collagen I synthesis and crosslinking. Scientists who study collagen will usually counsel that collagen supplements cannot be absorbed unless they are broken into smaller amino acids. We are able to get these amino acids naturally in our diet. My conclusion so far is that taking vitamin C naturally in my diet to improve collagen function is superior to directly taking collagen.
Radishes are rich in antioxidants and contain calcium and potassium that naturally lower blood pressure.
Vitamin C promotes cross-linking of collagen and strength of connective tissue. We can be the vitamin C for our community. We can cultivate community and value strong relationships, which increases our collective capacity for lifelong happiness. I plan on planting a variety of radishes once the ground thaws. The more time I spend outside, cultivating a garden, the higher the likelihood that I will be a landing spot for a ladybug.
This is a quick, vibrant salad, great for a spring meal.
Ingred I en T s: (4-6 servings)
• 2 cucumbers
• One bunch radishes (any color)
• One watermelon radish, if available
• ½ red onion
• 1 cup vinegar (rice vinegar or distilled white)
• 1 bunch fresh dill (dried is fine as a substitute)
• 1 lime
1. Finely slice the cucumbers, radishes and ½ red onion using a knife or a mandolin
2. Transfer the sliced vegetables to a bowl with the vinegar and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, ideally in a cold place such as the refrigerator
3. Pour the vegetables over a strainer to eliminate the excess vinegar
Dr Austine Siomos
Pediatric Cardiologist Austine Siomos, MD, brought her training and expertise with pediatric patients to Kalispell Regional Healthcare in September 2015. Dr. Siomos practices at Montana Children’s Specialists, a department of Kalispell Regional Medical Center. She is also part of Montana Children’s and its team of more than 40 pediatric specialists. She has been recognized for several academic accomplishments, including receiving a Pediatric Resident Professionalism Award. She also conducted extensive medical research and devoted time to community service, serving at a Denver clinic for uninsured patients, setting up medical clinics in Guatemalan villages, and working with Habitat for Humanity. She enjoys spending time with her husband and children, as well as baking, recycling and studying languages.
4. Finely chop the dill
5. Zest the lime and squeeze the lime for juice
6. In a bowl, combine the “quick pickled” vegetables with chopped fresh dill, the juice and zest of one lime, salt and pepper to taste
7. Transfer to an attractive serving dish, serve immediately or refrigerate until serving
406 w oman.com 21 food}
InsT ruc TIO ns:
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Ask the Butcher
food} Ask the Butcher 406 w oman.com 25
AT LAST! The BarrelBigfork Club
By Bennett McChesney & Mary Wallace
Over the years, the Bigfork Liquor Barn has been fortunate enough to claim a stake in many barrel programs across the nation. They have featured barrel picks such as Buffalo Trace & Blanton’s. Now the Liquor Barn aims to bring several more private barrel picks into the store.
What is so special about a private barrel pick?
The use of wooden barrels is imperative to the whiskey-making process. All whiskey must age in a wooden barrel before it is deemed “acceptable” for consumption. Because of this, all distilleries keep their barrels of whiskey in distinct aging rooms, commonly referred to as a Rickhouse/ Rackhouse. Barrels sit in these rooms for years until they are eventually popped open, processed, and bottled. Popular distilleries like Buffalo Trace produce over 1000 barrels of whiskey every day. Because of this constant production, some distilleries choose to dedicate their extra barrels toward what they call “barrel programs.” Being a part of a barrel program grants you the chance to purchase an entire barrel of whiskey at wholesale cost. The whiskey comes pre-bottled and labeled “single barrel select” upon arrival.
GREAT NEWS FOR FLATHEAD VALLEY WHISKEY LOVERS!
The folks at Bigfork Liquor Barn are very excited to finally unveil the launch of Bigfork’s very own Barrel Club! For years, they have dreamed of forming a more inclusive whiskey group for the Flathead Valley. In other locales, barrel club members oftentimes have to be accepted into a secret society or pay an egregious fee. The Bigfork Barrel Club is absolutely FREE to join and ALL members are accepted.
The Bigfork Barrel Club has already begun hosting club-exclusive events called Private Openings. These events are scheduled to happen between the hours of 8:00-8:50 am on Saturday mornings (1 hour before official store opening), at the Bigfork Liquor Barn and will be exclusive to Barrel Club members only.
Discussion at these Private Opening events will primarily focus on bourbon whiskey; however, other types of whiskey will be featured regularly. Whether it be Jack Daniels, Macallan, Jameson, or Buffalo Trace; the Bigfork Barrel Club will be inclusive of everything whiskey.
Every event will consist of a variety of feature whiskies, which Barrel Club members are granted first access to. What does this mean exactly? It means Barrel Club members will be the FIRST potential customer to any new whiskey that comes into the Liquor Barn! Bottles such as Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, and even Blanton’s will be offered to Barrel Club Members first. During these events, the Barrel Club will also host a lottery-style drawing that will earn members a chance to claim & purchase a premium bottle of whiskey.
And since it IS called the “barrel” club for a reason, certain Private Opening events will feature the unveiling of all Bigfork Liquor Barn’s future barrel picks!
Additionally, here are more Barrel-Pick Benefits for Club Members:
• First access to all barrel-pick selections
• Pardoned from the “one per customer” policy (3 is the max for BC members)
• Higher quantities are only granted DURING private opening events
• First-to-know basis on future barrel selec tions via newsletter
• Buy 2 get 10% off the third bottle (Barrel-Pick Bottles Only)
While on the subject of whiskey, the crew at the Liquor Barn would like to invite their customers to revisit the “Cheap” World of Whiskey.
“It’s crazy how often quality whiskey gets overlooked because of “cheap” qualities,” said Bennett McChesney at the Liquor Barn. “Characteristics such as plastic bottles, screw-top lids, and low price tags turn people away without a second thought. But when searching for a good bottle of whiskey, these qualities should be one of the last things a good whiskey hunter takes into account. With a little research, one might find that there
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are quite literally thousands of quality, inexpensive whiskies available in every state. The Bigfork Liquor Barn proudly carries an assortment of some of the most highly credited and affordable whiskies across the country.
Take a look at these underappreciated, but very affordable selections all priced at $30 or less:
Old Benchmark No.8 (80 Proof) 750ml, comes from the Buffalo Trace Distillery located in Frankfort, Kentucky. They are often toted for their allocated products such as Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, and Weller. Benchmark, for whatever reason, always seems to fly under the radar. As a matter of fact, it has the same mash bill as Buffalo Trace & Eagle Rare; it is just aged fewer years. On the palette, Benchmark has a mellow caramel taste, followed by a vanilla & charred oak finish. The perfect sharing whiskey.
Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond (BIB) (100 Proof) 750ml comes directly from their own distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. Founded in 1783, they’ve almost been around longer than any other distillery in the United States. Evan Williams BIB is often compared to Henry McKenna, which comes in at an average retail price of $55. On that note, Henry McKenna is very difficult to find while Evan Williams BIB is quite common. Coming in at 100 proof, you’d think this whiskey might be a little spicy. However, that is not the case. Flavors of vanilla, caramel, and oak fill the palette. Meanwhile, these flavors overtake the high proof of the whiskey almost completely. One of the more notable, affordable, and flavorful whiskies on this list.
John E. Fitzgerald Larceny (92 Proof) 750ml comes out of the Heaven Hill distillery in Nelson County, Kentucky; Larceny is the only wheated bourbon on this list. A wheated bourbon is a whiskey that consists of a mash bill that uses wheat, instead of rye, as the secondary ingredient of the batch. The final product is a sweeter, less spicy, tasting bourbon. Larceny has been loosely compared to Pappy Van Winkle and is priced around $100-$200 less on the retail scale. However, one thing Larceny has that Pappy does not, is availability. It came in as one of the most highly-produced whiskies in the United States following its “whiskey of the year” award in 2021. Upon first taste, you’ll find that cinnamon spice, nutmeg, and of course, wheat are very present. The heavy wheat takes away much of the spiciness allowing for a very smooth finish.
Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond Straight Rye (100 proof) 750ml also comes from the Heaven Hill distillery and is the only rye whiskey on this list. However, in terms of rye, Rittenhouse barely constitutes. Rittenhouse only contains 51% rye on its mash bill (the lowest percentage possible to qualify as rye) and is often referred to as “barely legal whiskey” because of its low rye content. Being unique as it already is, Rittenhouse also has a distinct “fruity” flavor. Notes of peach and banana fill the palette all while staying remarkably smooth. Even at 100 proof, its low-rye percentage takes away much of the spice. Perfect for whiskey lovers and mixologists alike.
The Bigfork Barrel Club held its first Private Opening event on Saturday, February 18th and the event included a lottery draw for 7 bottles of Bigfork Barrel Club picks! It is not too late to join the Bigfork Barrel Club! Stop in at the Bigfork Liquor Barn and get all the details before the next Barrel Club Private Opening event.
406 w oman.com 29 food} B A rrel c lu B
So did I.
Weaving the Past Into the Present, On the Page
By Leslie Budewitz
On a clear blue spring Sunday three years ago, my husband and I went walking through Lone Pine Cemetery, just north of Bigfork, then ventured up the road to the tiny Creston Cemetery, tucked in a meadow above Montana Highway 35. Not for the usual reason. For research.
After nearly a dozen “cozy” or light-hearted mysteries (think Agatha Christie with recipes), I was writing my first standalone suspense novel, Bitterroot Lake (written as Alicia Beckman). My main character, Sarah Carter, has discovered a mystery surrounding the death a hundred years earlier of a housemaid at her family’s lodge in northwest Montana. She wanted to know more about the young Swedish immigrant, and so did I. She decided to visit the cemetery where the woman was buried.
The housemaid doesn’t exist, of course, except in readers’ imaginations, and mine. And the cemetery on the page is not one of the real cemeteries in the Flathead Valley. But visiting cemeteries in use at the time of her death in 1922 helped me better see the world in which she lived and died. I saw the weeping willow bent low over the graves and the tall spruce and pines reaching to the sky. I saw the markers—simple granite rectangles, carved lambs for babies, stone benches and modern polished marble. Unique markers that offer a glimpse into the person, like the one designed to resemble a baseball.
I thought of the feet that had walked between these graves, the tears shed, the good and hard times remembered. Cemeteries are rich with stories. Our afternoon walks gave us a reminder of the valley’s history as well as its present— both date back to early white settlement and are still in use. The markers bear the names
of founding families, some still known, others forgotten, and of families we know today. They reveal ethnicities of early residents, particularly the Swedes, Norwegians, and Irish. The short lives and the long ones.
And beautiful views. Have you ever noticed that cemeteries often give us astonishing vistas? Drive to the top of the Conrad Cemetery in Kalispell, and you can see forever.
While you’re there, soak in the history. Start at the Conrad family mausoleum, then peer over the side of the cliff to a slough that branches off the Stillwater River. It’s said that Alicia Conrad drove her carriage along the road east of the cemetery, then climbed up the stone steps to visit her husband’s grave. You can still hike down those steps, as I did while researching a novel in progress. But you won’t want to walk up or down them in the shoes and skirts of a lady of 1902.
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The same day we visited the cemeteries, we also found the last standing ice house in the valley, in Somers. It’s boarded up but easy to see from the Great Northern Rail Trail, the walking and biking path that runs along the old railroad route. I’d seen drawings and photographs of old ice houses, but once I saw the tall wooden building, burnished with age and weather, I also saw how my main character would get trapped there by the villain—and how she would fight her way free.
At the heart of the story is the family’s lodge, on the shores of Bitterroot Lake. (While I’ve borrowed the name of the real Little Bitterroot Lake, my version is fictional.) Northwest Montana is dotted with historic lodges, some private, some public. I loved picturing Sarah and her ancestors warming themselves beside the native stone fireplace, living in rooms still scented by the fir, pine, and spruce logs, gazing out at views like those at Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park or Flathead Lake Lodge just south of Bigfork. And to be honest, half the fun was furnishing my fictional lodge with old railroad china and hand-hewn chairs, spotted in the wild or in photographs in old magazines and local museums.
Writers, like other artists, hold images in the back of our minds, never knowing when they’ll emerge. Later that year of the cemetery visit, I wrote a historical novella in my Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, a prequel set in 1910, the year my main character’s great-grandparents came to Jewel Bay, my version of Bigfork. There’s a murder, of course. And a funeral. In that era, families often took a Sunday afternoon picnic to the cemetery to visit their departed loved ones. So it wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine the victim’s family inviting the community to celebrate his life with a picnic after the burial. I could see the lawn, not yet covered with graves, rolling down the hillside, the Swan Mountains sparkling on a clear autumn day. I could see the women in their long skirts, the men in their suspenders and high collars, quilts spread out on the grass. And I could see one man taunt another, less fortunate, and watch my feisty main character, a new bride new to the town, spring to his defense. Would I have thought to write that scene had we not visited the cemetery a few months earlier? I can’t say, but I hope you’ll visit—in real life or on the page with me—and feel the stories beneath our feet.
A few resources on local history: Bigfork: A Montana Story, book and video available at Bigfork Art & Cultural Center; visit the History Project on the upper level.
Bigfork Village Historical Walk—pick up the pamphlet in Bigfork and follow the markers.
A Timeless Legacy: Women Artists of Glacier National Park, book and video available at the Hockaday Museum of Art and regularly shown on Montana PBS.
Northwest Montana History Museum, in the historic Central School in Kalispell
And of course, cemeteries throughout the valley!
Leslie Budewitz writes the Spice Shop mysteries set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market and the Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, set in a fictional version of Bigfork, Montana, where she lives. Find the novella “An Unholy Death” in Carried to the Grave and Other Stories: A Food Lovers’ Village Mystery. As Alicia Beckman, she writes moody suspense, including Bitterroot Lake and Blind Faith .
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I thought of the feet that had walked between these graves, the tears shed, the good and hard times remembered. Cemeteries are rich with stories.
profile} l eslie Budewitz
Springing Forward in the 406
By Michael Connolly, General Manager Hooper’s Garden Center - hoopersgc.com
After a long winter in Montana, gardeners of all types are getting excited for the longer days of sunshine and warmer temperatures that will soon be arriving in their locale. Finally, we can do something outside instead of just reading articles online or looking through seed catalogs. This is especially true
for the 2023 growing season since most areas of the state had a very unusual weather event last fall which caused significant breakage of shrubs and trees and prevented most people from doing what they often traditionally do for autumn cleanup and spring preparation. The following are seven quick highlights a gardener can start doing as you venture outside at the closing of winter and the onset of a beautiful spring. Utilizing these steps now outside in your garden or landscape can save hours later where you can instead spend your time going to your favorite local nurseries and greenhouses shopping and looking at new plant varieties, seeds for your vegetable garden, or what flowers are going to be popular this year.
Trees & Shrubs
Pruning and its timing is arguably the most asked question regarding trees and shrubs, especially this time of the year. Pruning involves the removal of branches or other portions of a plant to control growth, form, maintain plant health/vigor, and enhance fruit and/or flower development. Pruning may be done on deciduous trees while the plants are still dormant until they start to bloom for flowering varieties. Shade tree species may also be pruned this time of year until the leaves start emerging with the exception of Birch and Maple trees which prefer to be pruned in mid-summer.
Shrub pruning falls into three categories depending on when they bloom:
Non-Blooming Plants: Prune at any time to desired size and shape. Examples-Burning Bush, Cotoneaster, Willows.
Spring Blooming (April-Early June): Pruning should be done after blooms have finished on the shrub until July 4th, and then pruning should stop to make sure you have blooms for the following season. Examples-Forsythia, Lilacs, Bridalwreath Spirea.
Summer Blooming (Mid June-September): Prune at any time while dormant or plant is actively growing. Examples-Roses, Potentilla, Pink Blooming Spirea.
Spring cleanup for your perennial beds is straightforward with cleaning up the beds of leaves and debris and cutting your perennials back to just above the ground. There are some perennials that do not require being cut back such as hellebores. The easiest way to determine if a perennial should be pruned or not is by its appearance. If the perennial plant's appearance looks like it does during the growing season then it does not require pruning.
It is still early to do much with annual flowers, but the most worthwhile tasks would be cleaning out your beds that have any leaves or debris from last year’s growing season. It is also a good time to clean out any of the containers or hanging baskets that you may have used last year and clean them up. Inspect them for cracks and dispense the old dirt and work it into the beds outside so you have room for fresh soil this season.
Fruits & Berries
Regarding fruit trees, pruning is once again the most often asked question at this time of the year and the guidelines are the same as we had previously discussed with the trees. Pruning may be done from now until your trees start blooming. The blooms are the proverbial stop sign for the early season pruning. This timing will vary depending on the fruit species that you are pruning but stopping pruning when the blooms show is consistent throughout all of the fruit trees that grow in our area.
Berry plants are a little bit more diverse as far as the pruning. If you did not remove the fruit bearing canes of your raspberries last fall you can do that now as they have died. It is also a good time to thin out some of the living canes that will have the fruit this year. Thinning encourages larger berries.
This is a great time of year to get out and make sure your vegetable garden or vegetable patch is cleaned up from all the other debris and leaves from last season so that you can start with nice fresh soil. Wait until your
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home} h ooper’s G A rden
to the desired height and shape. Do not be overly concerned about cutting to a specific height as many so-called experts maintain, as those rules do not truly apply to Montana Roses and our unique growing conditions.
Once your ground has thawed and dried, give your lawn a good raking to clean up any leaves or debris from last season. Pre-emergence weed killers should be applied anytime from early to Late April, before crabgrass and other weeds emerge from the ground. Timing for lawn fertilizer application is dependent on the type of fertilizer you are using. For conventional fertilizers it is recommended to wait until Mid-May to apply. Natural or organic fertilizers may be applied as soon as the ground is thawed and dried out.
Springing forward and getting out into the Garden & Landscape now not only feels wonderful after a long winter, but it provides a great first step to a beautiful outdoor living area and a successful year of gardening to be enjoyed all season long in the 406.
Michael Connolly has been gardening, growing, landscaping, professionally designing and educating within horticulture for nearly 40 years, including being a member of the Hooper’s Garden Center family for over 30 years. A graduate from the University of Minnesota Agricultural Campus. He is a proud father of four amazing children and is passionate about educating and helping others in realizing the true beauty of plants in the outdoor and indoor landscape environment.
406 w oman.com 35
Once your ground has thawed and dried, give your lawn a good raking to clean up any leaves or debris from last season. Pre-emergence weed killers should be applied anytime from early to Late April, before crabgrass and other weeds emerge from the ground.
Spring into Design
By Callie Reagan and Wright’s Furniture
Snow may still be on the ground and coating the mountains but Spring is coming and in fact, is just around the corner. Montana has a short outdoor living season so making the most of it is paramount. Prepare early and make sure you plan your design accordingly. Now is the time to get custom-designed and ordered furniture for your outdoor spaces so you can use these spaces for as long as possible.
Wright’s Furniture stocks a large amount of outdoor furniture and accessories for the spring/summer season in its showroom. They even make styling easy with over a dozen grouped designs that include seating areas, dining, and outdoor accessories in their beautifully remodeled front showroom. You can buy directly from in-stock inventory or you can touch and feel them and custom order your own design.
Work directly with the Wright’s Furniture design team to make custom selections to match your needs. Design services are free to all customers.
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Outdoor furnishings are available in many styles, colors, materials, and sizes. They also can offer extra function and comfort to your outdoor spaces. Product specialists are available to assist with specific details on what makes each type of outdoor furniture material special and durable.
Materials that are often sought out in our area are teak which is great for a wet environment, resin wicker, aluminum which offers lightweight but functional and sturdy options, and out door performance fabrics which offer styling options in weath erproof materials that are also fade resistant. In our region, we do well with natural teak tones, brown and gray aluminum, and wicker and sling collections in neutral tones.
We often talk about the need to layer your design spaces to add variation and interest to your spaces. Those accessories can be available both in stock and made to order. These include umbrellas and their bases, outdoor area rugs, occasional tables, outdoor lighting, outdoor pillows,
Accessories are items that you can keep for many seasons, or if you are interested in changing with the seasons or trending colors they are an inexpensive way to make updates. Blues, greens, and reds have been popular in outdoor living throughout the seasons. This season's trending colors for interior design are rust orange, mustard yellow, deep forest green, rich navy blue, and black. These are anticipated to be the trending colors for this season's outdoor spaces.
Wright’s Furniture is awaiting your next visit and looking forward to assisting you in finding the perfect items to make your outdoor living spaces ready for another spectacular Montana Summer.
with free local delivery and install. visit the Wright’s furniture showroom in Whitefish or learn more at wrightsfurniturestore.net
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6325 HWY 93 SouTH, WHITEfISH, MonTana 59937 | 406.862.2455 | oPEn DaIlY |frEE loCal DElIvErY | frEE DESIgn SErvICES
Wright’s furniture is open 7 days a week, offering complimentary design services
Accessories are items that you can keep for many seasons, or if you are interested in changing with the seasons or trending colors they are an inexpensive way to make updates.
Women with Lasting Legacies Featured in Final Symphonic Spectacular Shows
Glacier Symphony’s final two performances of the Symphonic Spectacular 40th season, Midori: World Virtuoso and Carmen: Opera in Concert, center around two powerful women’s stories. The first is our featured soloist for our April 8th concert, the established and applauded violinist, Midori Goto. The second story of our season surrounds the main heroine of the Carmen: Opera in Concert show on May 13th and 14th. The character Carmen is one of the most controversial and thrilling leading female roles in the history of opera storytelling, and Glacier Symphony is looking forward to sharing this centuries-old story with Flathead Valley audiences.
The April 8th performance will showcase the exceptional artistry of Midori in the deeply emotional Violin Concerto by Robert Schumann and the Glacier Symphony's performance of the dynamic masterpieces by Respighi, which illustrate scenes in Rome, Italy during the Romantic Era. Mirroring Glacier Symphony’s 40th season, Midori is celebrating the 40th anniversary of her professional career, which began in 1982 when she debuted with the New York Philharmonic at age 11. Midori is known for her impeccable playing, even despite on-stage adversity. A well-known story surrounding Midori’s career is when she performed Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade After Plato’s Symposium at age 14 and played so intensely that multiple
strings on her violin broke. Without missing a beat, she switched her smaller violin fitted to her for the concertmaster’s much larger violin and proceeded to play the piece flawlessly. Ever since, Midori continues to display the same mastery of music and exceptional calm on stage that can only be fully understood by the audiences who see her play in person.
Midori transcends beyond her musical talent as a visionary artist, activist and educator who explores and builds connections between music and the human experience and breaks with traditional boundaries, which makes her one of the most outstanding violinists of our time. Throughout her career, Midori has created and participated in impactful initiatives close to her heart.
The artist founded Midori and Friends, which brings inspiring musical activities to students in New York City through schools, community organizations, and hospitals. Founded by Midori in 1992, the program includes comprehensive in-school and afterschool music offerings in partnership with
more than 75 public schools. Midori founded the non-profit called Music Sharing, which makes both classical and traditional Japanese music of the highest artistic standard available to children. It sponsors a Visiting Concert Program, an Instrumental Instruction for the Disabled Program and the International Community Engagement Program (ICEP) with Midori and other professional musicians as participating artists. Midori also is a leading force for Partners in Performance, an organization that presents chamber music concerts throughout the United States with the goal of stimulating interest in classical music, specifically in smaller communities outside the radius and without the financial resources of major urban centers. The violinist also supports the Orchestra Residencies Program, which aims to provide meaningful musical experiences now for the next generation of youth orchestra musicians. Finally, in addition to her many other initiatives, Midori has joined United Nations in its Sustainable Development Goals, which are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
Midori transfixes audiences across the world, bringing together graceful precision
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By The Glacier Symphony Team
Photos provided by Glacier Symphony orcheSTra & chorale
and intimate expression. Midori’s presentation with Glacier Symphony at McClaren Hall at Wachholz College Center will be no different. Midori has performed with, among others, the London, Chicago, and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras; the Sinfonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks; the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics; the Mahler Chamber Orchestra; and Festival Strings Lucerne. She has collaborated with such outstanding musicians as Claudio Abbado, Emanuel Ax, Leonard Bernstein, Jonathan Biss, Constantinos Carydis, Christoph Eschenbach, Daniel Harding, Paavo Järvi, Mariss Jansons, Yo-Yo Ma, Susanna Mälkki, Joana Mallwitz, Antonello Manacorda, Zubin Mehta, Tarmo Peltokoski, Donald Runnicles, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Omer Meir Wellber. It is rare to see an artist of her talent and experience in one’s lifetime and Glacier Symphony feels especially grateful to be presenting this artist to our local community this spring.
Glacier Symphony is also incredibly excited to present a concert version of Carmen , a historic opera that presents a tragic romance and strong, spirited leading female character of Carmen , who will be played by the soloist, Pascale Spinney. Glacier Symphony’s orchestra, chorale and multiple guest soloists will perform the wildly popular opera together
to create a layered and vibrant musical representation of the story. However, the opera was not always very popular with audiences. In March of 1875, when French composer George Bizet first premiered Carmen at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, the elite Parisian audience at the time was taken aback by the leading femme fatale, on-stage fighting and dramatized murder. One scathing review after the Paris premiere states, “I won't mince words. Your Carmen is a flop, a disaster! It will never play more than twenty times!" – Jean Henri Dupin. Although the opera was too scandalous for France in the late 19th century, it was applauded in Vienna later that year, and its popularity soon spread to Brussels, London, Barcelona, New York, Saint Petersburg and more international cities over the immediately following years. More complimentary reviews resulted after the opera’s spread to new audiences, even Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky went to see Carmen and called it “a masterpiece in every sense of the word.”
Ever since, audiences are fascinated by the melodrama, fine arias, duets, engaging choruses, scandalous romance and characters, making Carmen the most frequently performed opera across the globe.
Our performance features a full cast of acclaimed opera singers, including Pascale
Spinney, Andrew Surrena, Hanna Brammer, Alex Boyd, and Benjamin Sieverding, alongside Glacier Symphony Orchestra and Chorale. The opera will be sung in English, rather than the traditional French version, so many can enjoy this iconic opera and legendary story. Do not miss being a part of history as this opera continues to captivate audiences as it approaches its 150th anniversary!
Audiences are encouraged to purchase tickets at www.glaciersymphony.org/concerts or call our box office at 406-407-7000, as both concerts will receive high demand, especially Midori as she will be performing for one night only. Glacier Symphony is proud to present such significant final performances in its Symphonic Spectacular season that highlight the talent and stories of women in music.
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music} Gl A cier s ymphony & c hor A le
The character Carmen is one of the most controversial and thrilling leading female roles in the history of opera storytelling, and Glacier Symphony is looking forward to sharing this centuries-old story with Flathead Valley audiences.
270 Nucleus Ave. Columbia Falls, MT 59912 - Monday through Saturday 10am to 6pm 406-897-2667 The Pairing Special Ginger & Black Garlic olive oil, and honey Ginger white balsamic. When bought as a pair in any size, save 20% on the pair. www.genesis-kitchen.com Artichoke and Truffle Pesto can be used as a spread on crackers or bread or add to your next pasta dish for a boost of flavor!
July 8th, 2022
The Lodge at Whitefish Lake
Tell us about you…where are you from, what do you do for a living, where do you live, etc.
We are Parker and Hailey Paul and we currently reside in Austin, Texas. Parker grew up in Los Angeles and I moved around, but Montana is definitely home. Parker is the Motion Design Director for a digital advertising agency focusing on fortune 50 companies. I am an esthetics instructor in Austin at The Avenue Five Institute. We have two small dogs, Luna and Winston. We love to take them on weekend hikes on local trails, and they are frequent fliers to Montana. We love our home, the people, food, and outdoor activities in Austin - but we’d rather travel at any chance we get.
Hailey - What is the trait that you most admire in Parker?
Parker has unbelievable compassion for other people, and because of that he truly focuses on what is important; our marriage, families, overall health, and experiences.
Two months before the wedding I got a lifelong diagnosis that we were not expecting. He has tackled every single battle with me so effortlessly and is always keeping our focus on the positive. He refuses to let anything stop us; I think he has five trips planned this year! His compassion and forward thinking are enough to get anyone jumping for joy, over the moon excited about life and I admire him like crazy for it.
Parker – When did you realize you wanted to get married to Hailey?
I knew I wanted to marry Hailey after a month with her in Montana. I originally met her in Austin and we dated briefly. So, when we reconnected, I didn’t take any chances.
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Photos by Ashley J Photo and Film (Ashley Jourodnnais)
Parker has unbelievable compassion for other people, and because of that he truly focuses on what is important; our marriage, families, overall health, and
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was the most perfect and dreamy day, but what I enjoyed most was seeing the love and joy on my dad’s face and hearing it in his voice as he pronounced Parker and I as husband and wife.
I locked up the house in Austin and moved to Montana to take my shot. I proposed six months later.
Why did you choose the venue you did to getting married?
This was easy! We booked The Lodge at Whitefish Lake two days after Parker proposed. We knew it was going to be an intimate party, as our family and friends are scattered all over the US and Denmark. I wanted these guests to get the best of Montana, and I wanted to keep everything as close to home as possible. My family and I have frequented the Lodge over the last decade and it's always great; I feel like everyone I know holds a fond memory of “The Lodge!”
The outdoor space by the lake was perfect for my vision of an easy, breezy, summer garden party. Since I was planning everything from Texas, it was really helpful to know I had a venue that came with amazing food, drinks, and staff that I already trusted. It’s extra special to us all now.
Hailey – What did you enjoy most during your wedding day?
I have been dream doodling weddings since
I was 7 years old. The dresses, the rings, the aisles, the cakes. I love weddings! My vision changed a lot over the years, but one thing was certain - I wanted my dad to walk me down the aisle and officiate the ceremony. My family is everything, and my dad is outnumbered by three headstrong women. He taught my sister and I to never settle, never tolerate, and always know that we are enough on our own.
My wedding was the most perfect and dreamy day, but what I enjoyed most was seeing the love and joy on my dad’s face and hearing it in his voice as he pronounced Parker and I as husband and wife.
Parker – What is your favorite activity to do as a couple?
Yikes, we have a lot of fun together so that's tough. What we do most often that I appreciate is our date nights. We love food and every week we aim to try a new restaurant.
I’ll make the reservations early so there is always an excuse to dress up and eat something potentially great together. We have the same taste in dishes and aren’t afraid of anything so we always have a good time.
Photographer ashley J photo and film (ashley Jourodnnais)
Venue the lodge at Whitefish Lake
Celebrations in Bigfork
Caterer & Dessert the lodge at Whitefish Lake
Florist april vomfell, flathead farmworks
Music dJ - graham
mcdonald, sidecar audio
Dress mimi’s Bridal
Makeup Makeup by molly guymon
taran West rings Engagement Ring: calvin's fine Jewelry, austin
Her Wedding Band: Max Stunt Jewelry, houston
His: ceremony Jewelers, la
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January 7, 2023
Venue Snowline Acres
Photos by ACE Photography & Design
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Tell us about you…
Bristal – I was born and raised here in Kalispell and I am currently working as a line cook at a local brewery and loving it. We live in Evergreen at the moment but are hoping to purchase a house soon for us and our four cats.
Robert “Bobby” – I was born in Waco, Texas and moved to Kalispell in 2005. After I graduated, I returned to Waco and completed a Toyota Technician certification course. I am currently a mechanic at a local shop.
Bristal – What is the trait you admire most in Bobby?
The trait I most admire about Bobby is that he is unwaveringly kind and hardworking. He is always there when I need him and is truly my best friend.
Bobby – When did you realize you wanted to get married to Bristal?
I realized I wanted to marry Bristal after she visited me in Texas while I was in school. I realized we both felt at home with each other and could always find laughter and bliss with one another.
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The trait I most admire about Bobby is that he is unwaveringly kind and hardworking. He is always there when I need him and is truly my best friend.
I realized we both felt at home with each other and could always find laughter and bliss with one another.
Why did you choose your wedding venue?
We chose Snowline Acres as our venue because it was absolutely stunning inside and out. The staff there were also so kind during the planning process and helped us every step of the way to make sure we had the most memorable wedding day we could have hoped for.
Bristal – What was your favorite thing about the wedding day?
My favorite thing was that every person who attended felt like family. It was amazing to have everyone there and to see them all enjoy themselves and get to be together like one big family gathering. They all got into the spirit of Christmas too and we had a lot of guests arrive in “Ugly Christmas Sweaters,” which I’m certain we have tons of photos of, including my dad who changed into the most hilarious Christmas suit for the reception (thank goodness).
The wedding was Christmas themed as it has always been a dream of mine to have
a Christmas wedding. My family has always been big on Christmas, huge light displays, picking out the perfect tree each year, little Christmas villages set up around the house, and most of all spending it with family. Christmas has always been about the time spent with friends and family over everything else and that same feeling I get each year around Christmas was exactly how I felt at our wedding and it was the most wonderful thing for me to have on such a special day.
We set up a guest tree instead of a guestbook where the guest got to sign and hang an ornament on a tree we decorated with special ornaments that represent friends and family.
Bobby – What is your favorite activity to do as a couple?
Bristal and I like to spend our time together watching tv shows, playing video or table games, fishing, and working on my car together.
Photographer Alexis Ehlers, ace photography & design
Assistant Photographer Josue Rullan
Venue snowline acres
Celebrate Caterer fatt Boys
Homemade by mom Laurie and my aunt tonya
Music michael Boucher
Dress analisa splendidesty shop
mimi’s Bridal rings
Bobby’s is a custom ring made by an artist in Russia who makes rings centered around performance/sport tires.
Bristal’s is from the vintage collection from zale’s.
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Going To The Sun Gallery
Proudly Features Artist Ke'vin Bowers
Featured 10. Jess c e RR a Profile 14. h oope R ’s g a R den c ente R 18. t he Women of Westc R aft 28. m a RY Beth d unn, cnm Finance 22. t he p o W e R of a pR ope R pR equalification 66 406 w oman.com 14... woman 4 06 704 C East 13th St. #138 Whitefish, MT 59937 firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright©2022 Skirts Publishing Published by Skirts Publishing six times a year view current and past issues of 406 Woman at www.406 w oman.com Health 26. Yoga Beginners Q&A 30. Ro B otic s u R ge RY s ets t hings Right 34. s easonal a ffective d iso R de R 44. c onsistenc Y The Inconvenient Secret Nonprofit 38. n ate c hute f oundation History 40. oR cha R ds of the l ake 18...
Riding with Success at Every Turn
I’m meeting Jess Cerra at a mostly empty restaurant. It’s the only night we’re able to meet before she leaves Montana for a bit, jetting off to the four corners of the U.S. I can’t say I’m not nervous when I meet the retired professional athlete and entrepreneur. As one of the founders of The Last Best Ride and creator of JoJé Bar, her head must be spinning from the speed of it all. But when I meet her, she smiles bright and has a familiar, grounded charm that’s almost a telltale sign of a Montana local sitting down and talking to you like a friend. Tonight, she sits next to me drinking a whiskey sour with whipped egg whites explaining the excellent texture and excited about a family dinner later that evening.
Jess Cerra was born and raised in Montana and was quick to take her world on. She learned to ride a bike within minutes after her mom paid a neighbor boy to teach her and rode away from him. Her first business was a small snow shoveling enterprise in the third grade to buy an expensive coat she wanted. In high school, she wanted to move beyond the valley to college. But growing up with a financially disadvantaged background, getting the money would prove to be a challenge.
Fortunately, her guidance counselor Barbara Mansfield was able to help her make the right steps to apply for and win enough local scholarships that she received her bachelors with no student loan debt. While at college she studied exercise physiology and participated in a study about diminishing calcium in male cycling athletes. Her job was to recruit male test subjects; but after some found out what the test entailed--including riding with a rectal thermometer in place--Cerra was challenged to complete the test herself. When she complied, her professors discovered she was churning out Olympic-level results with no
training. According to Cerra the reaction was immediate. “She said ‘Come on, we’re getting you out on a mountain bike!’”
The next few years were a whirlwind for Cerra; race training with elite mountain cyclists, competing in prestigious competitions around the world and eventually competing in triathlons. Competing and winning. Within a few years, however, she developed an injury that caused her to move from triathlons to compete in road racing, taking the strain of running off her body.
After retiring in 2019, she moved back to Whitefish, with her thoughts on gravel racing. Her mind expanded during the pandemic, however, to gravel racing and the community itself.
“The great thing about gravel racing,” she said, “Is that it’s unsanctioned. You don’t need to buy a license or move yourself up in categories like in road racing or mountain biking in order to qualify for certain
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Photo by Andy Chasteen
Written by Rachael Seymour
Photo by Alex Roszko
events. You can just show up and be who you are. You can stand on the start line next to someone who’s raced the Tour De France and it won’t matter!”
In 2020, Cerra realized Flathead County was the perfect place to open up a gravel racing event. In 2021, she and her now husband Sam Boardman, along with Stella and Willie of Great Northern Cycle and Ski, created The Last Best Ride: an explosively popular competition that takes cyclists on one of two routes, with a total of 149 miles in and around Whitefish and encapsulates the beauty Montana has to offer.
From the beginning, however, Cerra understood that this was an opportunity to give back to the community that helped her. The Last Best Ride (TLBR) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, where 20% of the proceeds, including registration fees and any additional donations are sent to the Barbara Mansfield Champion Scholar Award. Named after her guidance counselor, the program awards girls with financial need and academic merit from Montana schools who want to achieve a post secondary education. “I’ve always wanted to have my own scholarship so I can give back to the community. Not even from a money standpoint, but to show young women like me there’s someone who cares, wants to invest in them so they can go to college.” Cerra also believes that it’s more than just being a part of Montana, but a figure in the cycling community. Diversity, equity and inclusion were crucial to the meaning of TLBR and she believes it’s the key to the future of endurance sports. She understands that cy-
cling needs to open its doors and expand to those outside of tradition to be included. She’s happy to think there could be a para rider or a non-binary cyclist that could win the TLBR and she wants other pillars in the sport to pave the way for future participants as well.
Thanks to outside donations, The Barbra Man sfield Champion Scholar Award was awarded to six girls from two different schools in the valley, and one outside in 2022. For all of Cerra’s hard work, she’s grateful for the help she received getting TLBR off the ground and running smoothly each year. She’s thankful for all the people who take the time to volunteer each year, and her parents for supporting her through every step.
Something that’s also taken shape as part of her life is JoJé. The popular nutrition bar was created by Cerra in 2010, when her coach was diagnosed with Lyme disease and needed to become gluten free. Cerra, who’s always loved to cook and worked as a personal chef for endurance athletes on the side, decided she wanted to help by creating a cookie-like baked bar her coach could eat and still perform and compete. “It was delicious and since my coach loved to eat cookies, it saved her life,” Cerra jokes. Word got around about her tasty and nutritious food. Soon everyone began to suggest she look into creating a business. And thus, JoJé was born. Since then, JoJé moved along by itself as its own business, sold nationally by REI and Amazon, before being acquired by Alete Active Nutrition, a platform of sport nutrition brands and athlete founders. Working together with other brands like SaltStick and Bonk Breaker, Cerra is now Vice President of product and community development. Most
of what her plans are for 2023 revolve around helping and maintaining growth of Alete including creating recipes, gluten free certifications, nutrition, and making sure the business plays an active part in the outdoor community.
The restaurant where we met was now swarming with people. Her husband, Sam, found a spot to sit nearby to do some work while they waited for the rest of the family. Though they’ve known each other for years including, as Cerra teases, a five year stint where he was her unpaid intern, Cerra grins from ear to ear when she tells me they got married earlier this year. “It was at the courthouse and it was incredibly romantic,” she laughs. Later in the year when all the excitement of TLBR is over and most of her larger deadlines for JoJé and Alete are done, they plan to go on a biking trip to Switzerland with friends for their honeymoon. After everything Cerra has accomplished, she deserves it.
The Last Best Ride takes place in Whitefish on August 4-6, 2023. Visit www.thelastbestridemt.com for more information.
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featured} Jess cerrA
Something that’s also taken shape as part of her life is JoJé. The popular nutrition bar was created by Cerra in 2010, when her coach was diagnosed with Lyme disease and needed to become gluten free.
Visit www.aletenutrition.com to learn more about JoJé bars and other active nutrition products.
Photo by Dominique Powers
Photo by James Netz
Photo by Wil Matthews
HOOPER’S GARDEN CENTER
New Owners Embrace a Flathead Valley Legacy
Written by Mary Wallace - Photos by Amanda Wilson Photography
The Hooper family and Hooper’s Garden Center have been a mainstay in the Flathead Valley for 49 years. What started as a shack-like structure and a leaning greenhouse is now a sprawling facility with 80,000 square feet of greenhouses (24,000 of that being retail), sitting on 16 acres just east of the Flathead River Bridge.
But what makes Hooper’s . . . well, Hooper’s, has always been the Hoopers. Bob & Cheri took over Pierce Nursery on the eastern edge of Kalispell on December 7, 1973. They propped up the leaning greenhouse and sought the advice of Grover Milam at Holland Greenhouse. Even though his recommendations seemed counterintuitive at the time, (he told them to start the plants in cold frames with minimal heat) they followed his instructions because they had promised to do so. The result was a nursery full of plants that would be hardy enough to grow and thrive in the Flathead Valley’s climate.
Hooper’s soon gained a reputation for the hardiness of their plants and eventually found themselves outgrowing their location. Then in June 1998, they received notice that they would have to vacate the property where half of their operation was located. The Hoopers hastily drew up a design concept for a larger operation on some napkins in their kitchen. By some kind of divine luck, the acreage they needed became available just over the bridge from their then storefront. They purchased the new property in July 1998 and spent the next eight months on a marathon of building. By the skin of their teeth, the initial retail center was ready for planting season in March 1999. Their growing production facility was still at the old location that year and they ferried product as needed on a car trailer several times a day to keep enough stock in the new retail store.
The majority of their plants have always been hand-grown. During plant production season, the planting area is elbow to elbow with employees planting seedlings. Over the years, Cheri worked in the office and retail, while Bob managed things in the back. Cheri estimates that nearly 2000 people have worked there, to the point where kids of the original crews spent the gardening season working at Hooper’s.
“It’s been a wonderful life in the nursery business,” said cheri, “but we were getting tired.” They started looking for someone to come in with fresh eyes to take over the business. It took them 12 years and they turned down several offers for the place, but one day the stars aligned and they met Phil & Kim Aitken. Finally, in Phil, they felt they had found someone who could confidently take over the reins.
So, it’s official - Bob & Cheri Hooper have sold their business. They will be around on a limited basis this upcoming season to help with the transition. “Phil is ready to take all this on, he is willing to listen, and he has great ideas!” said Cheri, “And the Hooper’s crew already loves him.” They felt so comfortable, in fact, that they also sold him the Hooper’s name and reputation, and Phil means to honor their legacy.
Phil came on board in January and has been spending time learning everything about the operation. “My job is to basically be a sponge right now,” said Phil.” I am calling myself the ‘Assistant Owner’ until I have absorbed every bit of expertise from the Hoopers.” All of the current employees have agreed to stay on and right now, most of them are working in plant production, so Phil has been learning the ropes there. With the General Manager Michael Connolly’s help and the help of a seasoned team of workers, plants are growing and products are arriving daily.
“We are all family here, and all of the family (employees included) are excited to welcome Phil & his family into the fold,” said Cheri. On the day we visited, the plant production area was currently in the throes of handling 17k-20k geraniums. By the end of March, some bedding plants will be ready to move into the retail building for early planting.
Hooper’s employs 40-60 people during peak season. While many local businesses have been struggling with finding help, many Hooper’s employees come back year after year. Take Reggie Adams for instance. She has worked in the greenhouses, worked in the retail store, and ran a cash register over the years. She retired and then was later persuaded to return to take on the position of bookkeeper.
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Above photo from left to right – Phil Aitken, Leah Morrison, Del Rambo (real estate broker) Cheri Hooper, Bob Hooper
profile} h ooper’s G A rden c enter
Phil’s wife, Kim, grew up in Shelby and the couple knew they wanted to settle in Montana if not immediately, then eventually. The Aitkens owned a brewery and had been purchasing hops from Glacier Hops Ranch in Whitefish. After several visits, they felt the Flathead Valley calling and they bought a home five years ago. When they learned of the opportunity to purchase Hooper’s they jumped on the chance.
Phil’s main focus is to preserve continuity during the transition. “We don’t have any plans to make big changes - no reason to mess with success.” Retail customers will be happy to know that a new point-of-sale system has been installed, including more cash register stations to make check-out quicker for staff and customers. A new logo has been designed, and there are plans to improve Hooper’s online presence, including an updated website, social media, and possibly even online seminars.” Phil’s stepsister, Leah Morrison, is also joining the team soon.
Phil has dubbed Michael Connelly the ‘Chief Continuity Officer.’ “We are a close-knit bunch here, and Michael has come to be the face of our operation,” said Cheri. “He’s been with us for over 30 years, and he runs a good ship. Everyone’s job here is to listen to Michael and follow his lead.”
“Gardening is the #1 hobby in the world,” according to Michael. “Garden centers were considered an essential service during Covid, and because many had to stay home, there were many new converts who discovered the joy of gardening.”
“We don’t just want our customers to buy our plants,” said Michael. “We want them to be successful gardeners and help them create a little bit of paradise in their garden that they can enjoy all season long.”
He shared a story of a customer who was frustrated and was going to quit - he was literally going to cut down all his fruit trees. Turns out he just needed the proper fertilizer and plant care management. Michael worked with him for three weeks straight and it turned things around for him once they found the proper fertilizer for his little corner of Montana.
One thing that many may not know, is that the water and soil in different areas of Flathead County are uniquely different. From Somers, Lakeside, Bigfork, Kalispell, Columbia Falls, and north to Whitefish - each has its own soil attributes. “There is a map upstairs that reflects each area’s water and soil, along with the custom blend fertilizer recipe that Hooper’s has learned works best for each location,” said Michael.
“Hooper’s has become a destination nursery and greenhouse,” said Michael. “We have clients that travel to the Flathead from Idaho, Washington, and a very loyal following from all areas of Mon tana. Some call ahead with a list of plants they are looking for so they can be sure they will be available when they arrive.” Michael also shared that some of their favorite customers just love being in the greenhouses in the spring. They even bring their sack lunch and eat it while en joying a bit of respite surrounded by the beauty of the flowers during their lunch hour.
Look for Michael’s monthly gardening articles in this publication, starting with this issue - with his tips for coming out of winter and preparing for spring. “We want to make you a better gar dener,” said Michael.
A couple things that it seems many are wondering about are:
1. Will Hooper’s be offering workshops like they were doing prior to covid? The answer is ‘Yes.’ There is also talk of garden clubs, and ‘Feature-a-Grower' events.
2. Is Hooper’s going to hold their annual Homegrown Holiday Bazaar? Again, the answer is a resounding Yes! It is scheduled for november 3rd, 4th, and 5th, 2023.
Phil said there is also talk of holding an Oktoberfest event in the main building, but that is very early in the planning stages, so we will have to stay tuned for further updates.
And as for Bob & cheri Hooper? What do they have planned for this new season of their lives? They are looking forward to being retired. not surprisingly, they want to have a BIg garden at home, and spend time with their grandchildren. cheri's hobbies include painting and wood burning. Bob loves to work on old cars. “There is no place like the Flathead,” said cheri. “But we are big car show people and we hope to go to attend some in Phoenix over the winter.” cheri also laughingly shared that whenever they travel, they always like to stop at greenhouses along the way.
Hooper’s Garden Center is located at 2205 Montana Hwy 35, Kalispell, MT. Stop in and say Hi!
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“We don’t just want our customers to buy our plants,” said Michael. “We want them to be successful gardeners and help them create a little bit of paradise in their garden that they can enjoy all season long.”
Photos from top to bottom - Leah Morrison, Michael Connelly, Tyler Summers (production and maintenance manager) - Hooper's Transplant Team - Phil Aitken, Cheri Hooper, Leah Morrison, Bob Hooper
BUT YOUR’E A GIRL! Lessons From the Women of Westcraft
By Brenda Wilkins - Photos by Sky Vault Media
“But you’re a girl?” he says when he learns I lead a construction company in a normally dominated male industry. I nod, and usually smile. I’ve found silence a powerful response to the surprise, usually from a man, but sometimes another woman. I’m accustomed to being, and seeing, women in non-traditional positions of power.
My mother partnered with my father in their first construction company in 1972. Completely self-taught, with only a high school diploma, she ended her career with a slew of awards and admirers. Her influence on the business and community was significant. She proved that a driven, creative, and fierce woman can build anything – even in a man’s world. Perhaps that’s why I had the naive hubris to start a consulting company in my twenties and add a second career at Westcraft Homes in my forties.
Being the “girl” in charge is a career bonus because of the powerhouse of Westcraft women. They are proof of how intelligence, capability, leadership, drive, and heart can build an exceptional team. From our Operations Manager, Cindy who fearlessly steps up to learn and master anything, then sets the example of optimal performance. To our Warranty Coordinator, Tara, whose efficiency, and profes-
sionalism show us the power of calm laser focus under pressure. Heidi whose optimism and fierce work ethic as our Sales, Home Delivery and Warranty Manager – plus chief salesperson – holds the light and cheers everyone onward with the precision required to balance customer dreams and rigorous standards. Rhonda, who’s done almost every job since Westcraft started fuels us with vision as a designer, pre-construction, and process whizz.
Helena our AP & Purchasing Specialist’s detailed work keeps thousands of data bits where they belong and adapts to process changes like a boss. As our Pre-Construction Assistant Gail, whose ‘I’m up for anything’ attitude shows us love in motion becomes a savant at whatever she tackles. And Andrea our Marketing Director’s digital and marketing prowess pushes us into the world, with essential energy and humor that keeps us on our toes. The combina-
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Above photo from left to right: Rhonda Michaels, Helena Oruste, Gail Anderson, Andrea Cameron, Brenda Wilkins, Tara Ricks, Cindy Tudhope, Heidi Antonini
tion of their attitudes, skills, heart, grit, and drive makes up a remarkable team.
And before I go much farther it is important to note that while this women’s magazine focuses on top notch women there is a remarkable minority of men at Westcraft Homes who also bring extraordinary commitment, skills, and work ethic to round out Westcraft’s mighty team. Marvin, Bob, Nick, Trevor, Zach, and Cam, you’re all so lucky to have these women as your colleagues! And they’re lucky to have you too.
My first career as a leadership consultant gives me a broad perspective to identify and celebrate the choices of Westcraft women that positively impact our team-based culture, powerful performance, and resilience that help strengthen Westcraft Homes.
it is one of these women’s greatest strengths. They adjust quickly, with great attitudes and sensitivity to the pressure that change puts on each other and the company.
– They step up and do whatever needs to be done for the good of the customer, one another, the team, and the company. Concern for each other’s success elevates the company. Having each other’s back builds trust. Trust increases the speed and quality of work. Each time they cover each other their energy becomes an exponential asset for Westcraft.
4. They Understand Communication –Communication is the greatest ongoing challenge in every business and industry. “Over communicate” is an oft repeated phrase in Westcraft, knowing that our best work comes from the ideas, inquiry, information, and improvements that are specific and documented. Personal check ins, support, listening, and high-fives fortify the business-focused communication and results.
I know I’m lucky to serve the Westcraft team as a leader, because in almost 40 years as an executive coach and consultant to over 60 companies I’m acutely aware of Westcraft’s rarity. I’m often asked how to create and sustain a culture where everyone, and the business, thrives.
Decades ago, when I began researching the little-known profession of coaching, and serving as an advisor to the International Coaching Federation, few leaders understood or bought into coaching as a leadership philosophy and skill. Today leaders’ knowledge about coaching ranges from minimal to mastery as demand for skilled coaching grows exponentially. But perhaps most important, employees’ expectations for a coach-approach from their leaders is growing too. Even if they don’t call it by that name.
They Treat the Company As Their Own
–Adopting an owner mindset with conscious focus on high performance standards for each other is one the characteristics I most appreciate from Westcraft women. They care about our customers, our homes, and our reputation. They understanding every action impacts the company every day. I trust their representation.
3. They Pivot Successfully – Understanding that construction is unstable because of economic forces, customer confidence, and innumerable factors requires a stomach for change and ambiguity – all the time. Their ability to pivot what they do and how they do
5. They Question and Apply PressureQuality questioning and process pressure are part problem-solving discussions when quick decisions are required. And if there’s an occasional pause to catch their breath, they reevaluate past performance and generate new possibilities. Numbers one and two above are essential for productive conversation, but equally important is the courage and motivation to strive for higher standards without ego or defensiveness.
6. They Have Fun – Jokes, pranks, stories, social events, and more are part of the Westcraft culture. Stressful work needs decompression and laughter is a powerful team tincture. These women have wicked senses of humor that fires (mostly appropriate) within Westcraft’s walls. And when stress starts to bring someone down, optimism, grace and a good laugh is the best medicine.
These days in the Flathead Valley when businesses struggle for employees and dream about reliable and stellar teams, learning how to be a leader-coach is a competitive advantage. Westcraft employees regularly say it’s the best place they’ve worked and how much they love the company and each other. Their feelings about the company propel their work ethic and standards, and it’s my job to serve and sustain those feelings. It’s the hardest part of my job, but it’s a key priority because for the last several decades Gallup Inc.’s research reports the sobering truth that employees’ primary reason for leaving jobs is their boss. Not the work, not the team – the boss. So as leaders, upping our skills can be our personal competitive asset.
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Being the “girl” in charge is a career bonus because of the powerhouse of Westcraft women. They are proof of how intelligence, capability, leadership, drive, and heart can build an exceptional team.
There are core concepts for all coaching and extensive resources for leaders wanting to develop coaching skills. If you are one of those, see some resources below. To consider adding or expanding coaching skills consider some introductory concepts.
1. Coaching is a partnership between coach and client, or coach-leader and employee inside a company, whose process is dependent on specialized listening, questioning, perspective framing, challenging, supporting and accountability skills and agreements.
2. Developing coaching skills requires intentional learning and training, plus understanding the unique requirements in the coachleader and employee relationship where power and influence are unbalanced.
3. Coaching in its purest form, is focused on catalyzing changes or refinement of perspectives, mindsets, goals, and behaviors for the purpose of actively assessing and achieving goals.
4. Coaching is regularly confused with mentoring, therapy, consulting or advising. Be-
cause a significant number of leaders confuse the differing skills, it’s essential for aspir ing coach-leaders to become informed, and experienced as coach-leaders to continu ously evaluate their skills, ap proaches and mixing of skills.
Some good coaching leader resources are The Leader As Coach a Harvard Business Review article. Looking for a book to start with consider Becoming a Coaching Leader The Proven System for Build ing Your Own Team of Cham pions by Daniel S. Harkavy. Looking for more resources or just want to visit about coaching as a leader reach out to me at email@example.com.
Working with the women of Westcraft inspires me daily, reminds me of the power of a single committed woman, and motivates me to keep serving women who lead themselves through the rollercoaster of life and womanhood.
Dr. Brenda Wilkins has decades of experience consulting and coaching executives and entrepreneurs in various industries across multiple countries and cultures with her company BMG Management Inc. She’s also Westcraft Homes Inc.s’ CEO and “Girl in Charge”, volunteer, author, researcher, and passionate Montanan. Office: 406-257-8249 Sales: 406-885-6081 westcrafthomes.com
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Shop With Confidence With the Power of a PROPER Prequalification
Have you ever heard the saying “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” In the mortgage industry, this is far too common. Many lenders (especially online lenders) offer immediate approvals to their customers, often without reviewing or verifying any of the information provided on their loan application. While it’s always nice to get a quick answer, especially when it’s the answer you’re hoping for, an improper preapproval can be devastating to hopeful homebuyers as they watch their home purchase fall apart. Mann Mortgage understands this and it’s the reason we’ve built our reputation on showing our customers THE POWER OF A PROPER PREQUALIFICATION.
By The Loan Advisors at Mann Mortgage
Let’s break this down in detail. Mortgage prequalification is the process of determining how much money a lender is willing to lend a borrower for a mortgage loan. This process is important because it helps borrowers understand how much they can afford to borrow, and it also gives them an idea of what kind of interest rates they might qualify for. There are two types of prequalification: full and proper mortgage prequalification and lender prequalification where no information is verified.
A full and proper mortgage prequalification involves a lender reviewing a borrower's financial information and verifying it through documentation. This process takes a more comprehensive look at a borrower's credit history, income, and debt, providing a more accurate assessment of their ability to repay a loan. This is the Mann Mortgage way, with the goal of helping borrowers avoid surprises by verifying information up front to identify
any potential issues that may arise during the underwriting process (these could include discrepancies in credit reports or insufficient income to repay the loan). This allows borrowers to address these issues up front, reducing the risk of delays or denials. In contrast, a lender prequalification where no information is verified is a less formal process that relies on the borrower providing information verbally or through an online form. In this case, the lender may not verify the information provided by the borrower and may only provide a rough estimate of the borrower's loan eligibility. This process can often lead to inaccurate approvals, inaccurate interest rate quotes, and home loans that unravel at the end.
As a lender, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than to talk to a borrower that received a quick prequal and then had their home purchase fall apart. By reviewing a borrower's credit report and verifying their income and
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Mann Mortgage: Top Row Left to Right - Justin Lovitt, Shane McChesney, Steve Paulson, Maddi Paulson, Tony Reynolds. Bottom Row Left to Right - Emily Wilson, Tonia Paulson, Ashley Clay, Jylisa Butcher, Tina Alire, Ashley Abraham
debt, Mann Mortgage can quickly determine if the borrower meets loan program guidelines and how much they can afford to borrow. We also take it a step further and have an underwriter review the information so rather than hoping or guessing the loan scenario fits, we actually know for sure. We call this our BUYER READY APPROVAL, and it puts our customers in a position to make the strongest possible offer. They can shop for a home with confidence, and Sellers have the peace of mind of knowing that their accepted offer is already underwriting approved. It’s a huge advantage for our customers, as most lenders don’t actually underwrite a loan scenario until the borrower is under contract.
Some helpful tips when shopping for a home loan:
1. Get a proper prequalification! Choose a BUYER READY APPROVAL with Mann Mortgage and shop with confidence!
2. Lenders that send you house hunting without reviewing your credit, income and assets are potentially setting you up for a miserable homebuying experience. Interest rates are determined by credit score, loan type, and loan to value. If a lender doesn’t know your information, expect your rate, program, or loan terms to change. IF YOUR DOCUMENTATION HAS NOT BEEN VERIFIED…. YOU ARE NOT PRE-APPROVED!
3. Make sure your lender has your overall best interests in mind. There are so many important factors that come into play when choosing the best overall home loan. Many borrowers make the mistake of only focusing on the lowest interest rate, even though there are other factors equally important to their transaction. Mann Mortgage specializes in thoroughly evaluating your transaction to make sure everything is considered, including interest rate, down payment, closing costs….even if you need money left over for landscaping or furniture!
4. Make sure your lender is reviewing the homes that you are interested in making offers on. Not all property types are acceptable for all loan programs so a quick peek to make sure the home you’ve fallen in love with looks good for the loan you’ve been approved for is always a good idea.
If you ever have questions regarding the homebuying process, we’re here to help. Contact one of our trusted Loan Advisors at 406.751.6266, or apply online at kalispell.mannmortgage.com.
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As a lender, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than to talk to a borrower that received a quick prequal and then had their home purchase fall apart.
Yoga Hive Q&A
By Yoga Hive Montana
We've all been a beginner many times in our lives; nervous on our first day at work, worried if we get something wrong, the fear of not wanting to look silly. even advanced yogis struggle remembering which is their right foot from time to time… Let us answer some common questions to help ease your mind so you can relax into a practice and live your best life!
Yoga Hive Montana is your local community to help you find the FREEDOM to be yourself. Our yoga is for everybody and every body. It is our hope that our answers will ease some of your concerns, and help you realize that you can push past those fears to start your yoga journey TODAY! Let our Yoga Hive family come alongside you in a safe environment with the friendliest nonjudgmental bunch that you’ll ever find!
Take a big inhale and exhale; let's go...
Why should I start practicing yoga anyway?
Yoga has tons of benefits and it’s for absolutely everyone — it’s for the young, the old, the flexible, the inflexible, the weak and the strong and it will teach you so much about yourself. We recommend yoga for anyone who is looking for an outlet for stress, a complementary balance to their workout routine, a way to relieve stiffness in their body, or simply a way to connect with a new community. It is a coming home to your body, mind, and spirit.
Do I have to be flexible to practice yoga?
No, you don’t have to be flexible to do yoga… It’s an urban myth that people who are tight can't do yoga. It’s a little bit like thinking that you need to be able to play tennis in order to take tennis lessons. Yoga isn’t just stretching, it's extremely toning, calming, meditative, spiritual, healing and opening. Flexibility is only one aspect of it. Naturally, once you practice yoga for a period of time, you will gain flexibility with a myriad of other benefits.
Can I do yoga if I’m injured or have a physical disability?
Yes, you can! Here at Yoga Hive Montana, we feel strongly that yoga is for every body. Meaning any body type, shape, size, and all ability levels. Our highly trained and experienced yoga teachers have tools to help you practice yoga in a way that is safe and works for you!
Will yoga get or keep me in shape?
If you practice regularly and eat healthfully, yes! Absolutely! Just like with any physical
activity, you won’t see continued results unless you practice regularly. How you fuel your body is also a large part of getting physically and mentally healthy. Yoga can be as strenuous as cardio or as easy as your regular post workout stretch. Yoga can also be everything in between. It is definitely possible for yoga to help you lose weight and/or get the body you want.
Why do I need a yoga class? Can’t I just do it by myself with a book or video?
You certainly can do yoga by yourself with the use of a book or video but most yogis (especially inexperienced ones) will agree that this isn’t as safe as practicing yoga with a live teacher. Doing yoga poses incorrectly may cause injuries! Live yoga classes allow your yoga teacher to see your body in the postures and can make corrections to your alignment or assist you with appropriate modifications and adjustments, as needed. At Yoga Hive Montana, ALL of our classes are taught live, and you get personalized attention from your yoga instructor, even in group sessions! We
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also offer livestream and on demand classes plus a Yoga 101 class to help beginners create a strong yoga foundation for regular practice. Private one on one classes are available to offer individual assistance to get you on your mat and on your way to feeling successful in your yoga class.
How often should I practice yoga for best results?
Yoga is amazing—even if you only practice for one hour a week, you will experience the benefits of the practice. If you can do more than that, you will certainly experience more benefits. We suggest starting with two or three classes per week. You will likely find that after a while your desire to practice expands naturally and you will find yourself doing more and more. If you’re unsure about which classes to begin with, call us at 406.862.1571 and we’ll help you choose what’s right for you!
Is Yoga a Religion?
Yoga is not a religion. It is a philosophy and a practice that began in India an estimated 5,000 years ago. Yoga sometimes interweaves other philosophies such as Hinduism or Buddhism, but it is not necessary to study those paths in order to practice or study yoga. It is also not necessary to surrender your own religious beliefs to practice yoga.
What are the benefits of yoga?
Yoga is the most holistic approach to wellness. There are hundreds of reasons why one should do yoga. Here are just a few:
• Yoga helps in weight loss/ fat loss
• With regular practice, flexibility improves drastically, reducing the risk of injury
• All the vital organs start functioning better, increasing the efficiency of your body’s digestion, circulation, respiration and other such processes
• Practicing inversions help in clearing toxins from the body thereby acting as a natural detox
• Yoga calms the mind and in turn helps to fight anxiety, anger, excessive stress, etc.
Yoga Hive Montana wants to answer all your yoga questions, giving you a boost of confidence to get started on your journey! Yoga is magical and will change your life if you let it. Feel free to reach out and ask any lingering questions you may have! As we’ve all begun our own practices, we are sure that we too, asked a lot of the very same questions that you have. With Yoga Hive Montana, you are never alone. You will quickly discover that you are surrounded by a community that understands and is here to help you rise up on both your best and worst days. Our studio environments are safe, supportive, and encouraging of your growth.
Call us at 406.862.1571 or find us online at: www.yogahivemontana.com.
Want to dive right in? Shelle is leading an amazing retreat to Greece in June for women who want to be Fearless & Free! Find out all the details on the website.
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Here at Yoga Hive Montana, we feel strongly that yoga is for every body. Meaning any body type, shape, size, and all ability levels. Our highly trained and experienced yoga teachers have tools to help you practice yoga in a way that is safe and works for you!
Q&A WITH Mary Beth Dunn, CNM
What brought you to the Flathead Valley?
We left Tennessee in January 2018 to travel the U.S. in our RV with my husband and four kids. We spent our first summer in Montana and fell in love. We moved back the following spring.
What’s your specialty of practice?
Certified Nurse Midwife/CNM.
In other words, I am an OB/GYN Advanced Practice Registered Nurse or Nurse Practitioner.
Tell us about your medical education and experience.
I have a Master of Science in Nursing through Frontier Nursing Universi ty' s Community Based Nurse-Midwifery Education Program. I graduated in 2015. I practiced at a CABC accredited free-standing birth center and regional hospital in Tennessee for two and a half years before working as a travel nurse. When we moved to Montana, I took a position at KRMC as a Shift Unit Supervisor for 18 months. I then took a CNM position at Heart and Hands and caught babies in Whitefish for one year. We moved to Guatemala for a year as missionaries, doing medical care and child outreach. I returned to the valley in February 2022, working as a Registered Nurse in Labor and Delivery and joined Logan Health Midwives the next fall.
What is the best part of your job?
I am passionate about meeting women where they are. I feel so humbled and privileged to share in the most important day of women's lives. It is an honor.
What are some of your professional interests?
I love physiologic birth and supporting women through this process. I enjoy learning about women – their families, and lives - because we, as midwives, can integrate these into their healthcare to help them reach their birth and overall health goals.
What do you enjoy most about working in a team setting?
I love the different skills and experiences we all bring to the table. I like that within Logan Health Women's Services, we have a collaborative team to meet each patient's needs from normal to high-risk and even in the realm of mental health. Every team member is respectful of each others’ strengths and scope of practice, from midwives, to physicians, to perina tologists.
What is your #1 tip for new parents?
Always have a plan but always be willing to change. In other words be prepared but not rigid. Take a deep breath. You were made to do this!
What do you like to do in your free time?
I adore my children and love spending time with the four of them. We enjoy traveling, hiking, camping, kayaking, mission work and serving others.
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ROBOTIC SURGERY Sets Things Right
By amanda Sheppard
In August of 2022, Kristi Parrotte was making every effort to enjoy her yearly motorcycle trip with her husband, patiently waiting for the call that would determine the course of her treatment. Earlier that month, she had been diagnosed with a granulosa cell tumor in her right ovary, a rare type of ovarian cancer that required surgical removal. Now, she was awaiting a call to find out where and when her surgery would take place. Her phone rang and she answered the call from Dr. Shawn Barrong, surgical gynecologist at Logan Health Women’s Care. To her relief, the tumor was still in stage 1, still operable via minimally-invasive surgery, and she was scheduled for surgery two days after her return.
For Kristi, life has no limits. Being a mom of three, a real-estate broker, and a co-owner of a physical therapy clinic and a fitness center, life only stops for her to enjoy the finer things with her family: hiking, skiing, camp-
ing, riding motorcycles, and simply spending time with each other. When not thriving in the great outdoors, Kristi is winning titles as a fitness and figure competitor. She was crowned Mrs. Montana in 2012, Ms. Figure America in 2014, and has recently taken first in all her divisions last November, including receiving her PRO status in both Bikini and Figure.
“I love competing,” she says, “not to bring home the trophy or any winnings, but just to show my body who’s boss and show women that if you put your mind to something and are determined, you can pretty much do anything.”
But life seemed to slow down rapidly in 2021, when Kristi started noticing symptoms of fatigue, back pain, and bloating. She visited her energy healer, who was concerned that there was a high heat on the right side of her body that couldn’t be explained with her symptoms. After consulting her primary care physician, Kristi had two CAT scans and two MRIs, before she was advised to have a surgical consult with Dr. Barrong.
Dr. Barrong uses the da Vinci robotic system, a state of the art robotic surgical device, to perform minimally-invasive gynecologic surgeries. Kristi and her husband had talked with Dr. Barrong the day they set off on their motorcycle trip. First diagnosis, then labs, then waiting for the call that would inevitably interrupt their plans. Fortunately, with the tumor being in stage 1, Kristi was able to receive same-day surgery in Kalispell just two days after returning from her trip.
With Dr. Barrong at the controls, the surgery was completed in a few hours. Extra precision had been required to dislodge the tumor that had grafted onto Kristi’s spine. And after the tumor was extracted, great care was taken to eliminate all of the remaining cancer cells. Following the procedure, Kristi stayed one night in Kalispell, then immediately left to meet her daughter at college in Bozeman, along with her mother.
“Two days, and I was up walking the streets of Bozeman with my girls.”
Kristi was also able to jump right back into the gym as before. “I just paid attention to what Dr. Barrong told me I could do, then I
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set up my goals and intentions for the day. To have to be out of the gym for a long period of time, mentally it would be very hard for me.”
Part of Kristi’s amazing recovery can be attributed to the capabilities of the da Vinci robotic surgery technology. “You just feel a lot better a lot faster,” Dr. Barrong explains. “We used to do these big incisions and patients would have to stay sometimes six days in the hospital for post-op recovery. And now literally they are in the hospital for an hour and a half after surgery and can go home, so they can get back to doing normal things. The average return to work after a procedure like this is less than a week.”
Kristi echoes this sentiment: “Robotic surgery is the way to go. No question at all. The recovery time is amazing. I know I wouldn’t have felt nearly as good if I had the regular surgery.” But just as important to her is the physician behind the machine. “It’s important to have that doctor that you trust and Dr. Barrong is amazing. I trust him with my life.”
Looking back on the challenges and fears that Kristi and her family faced, she ultimately attributes her confidence and healing to her faith. “Without my faith and the power of prayer I am not sure I could have made it through. But I know God was in control. It was both in God’s hands and Dr. Barrong’s talent.”
Now Kristi is back to her usual speed: winning competitions, working out, and living life enthusiastically. To the women around her, she gives this advice: “It’s so important to listen to our bodies and not just put a band-aid on something that’s bothering us. Listen to every little sign and symptom. Trust your gut. Trust your intuition.”
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Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) resolve with seasonal shifts, and make this disorder separate than an underlying diagnosis of depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. These shifting symptoms typically include more feelings of isolation or withdrawing from one’s social support, increased depression, and fatigue or lack of energy. There is a difficult line to draw between the energetic slowing down of winter and SAD. For many individuals with mental health symptoms, this “line” means that functioning in the “normal” societal rhythm is no longer a reality. The desire for hibernation or confinement overtakes the ability to perform day to day tasks. It should be noted that there is also a form of seasonal affective disorder with primarily anxious and restless symptoms that is more common during summer months. For the timing of this discussion however, I will primarily focus on the depressive form and symptoms of SAD.
Timing is everything. As above, the difficult separation from SAD and other mental health conditions is timing. Symptoms typically occur in a fall to winter pattern, with resolution in spring and summer months. Due to this, it might take multiple years to identify the shift or seek support. There is also an association with major winter holidays and worsening mental health disorders. Is this the seasonal pressure to perform traditions that don’t align with your values? Is this the isolation of not being able to travel to or be near to those who you
Here Comes the Sun A Discussion about
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Written by Haley Peters, APRN, FNP-BC Kalispell OB-GYN
For those of you who have recently joined us, welcome to Montana’s 852 days of winter. Soon, the commute to and from work will be warm and bright rather than icy and dark. Many of us in the northern hemisphere feel significant shifts with the darkness that winter brings. Seasonal Affective Disorder, with the appropriate acronym SAD, is an increase of depressive symptoms as seasons change and daylight is limited.
would like? Is this associated with being around toxic family dynamics? Or is it none, some, or all of the above? Winter can be hard with or without seasonal shifts in mood. If you, in any season, are experiencing worsening mental health, please contact a trusted healthcare provider or reach out for support. Resources are also listed at the bottom of this article.
So now you realize your uptick in “winter blues” is really SAD. What can you do? There is controversial data around the treatment of seasonal affective disorder. The information given is for education and support, not individualized treatment. Again, please have an individualized discussion with your healthcare provider before implementing any medication or supplementation.
Many mental health disorders share symptoms of underlying health disorders such as thyroid hormone imbalances, anemia, or autoimmune conditions. Focusing on the timing of these symptoms, and discussion of comprehensive symptoms is beneficial when having an initial work up.
Light Therapy and Activity:
Which came first, walking outside or seeing the sunshine? Both light therapy and regular exercise or activity are primary treatments for seasonal affective disorder. Time outside or in light best
supports SAD symptoms through supporting a circadian rhythm (sleep cycle rhythm). This is seen with hypothalamus activation, which is a part of the brain in charge of many of your hormones. Activity not only releases endorphins, but also supports better sleep at the end of the day, which can be an ongoing struggle for many people facing mental health symptoms.
To take or not to take the medications? There is no right or wrong with the decision of taking medications, but discussing options with an open mind and with a trusted source is best. Typical antidepressant medications include serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) as well as selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). However, other medications exist as valid options as well depending on specific symptoms of mental health. Many people who are on baseline medications year round, will work with their provider to increase their doses during the winter months, to support SAD symptoms.
The world of supplements can be confusing, so please discuss with a healthcare provider. Many will recommend vitamin D3 as well as calcium (for absorption). Vitamin D3 is synthesized from sunlight, but if light exposure is low and intake is low, these levels can drop in the winter months.
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Be mindful that many supplements can build up in your body over time, and monitoring levels might be required.
Many people are in counseling and benefit from talking to a trained professional. Counseling can be used to reframe ways of self-talk, support better coping strategies, or highlight patterns that might need more awareness or support. Counseling is preventative and should be used over time. In times of crisis, please refer below for resources.
Winter months typically lend to a slower pace; where food that has lasted since fall (squashes, onions, root vegetables) take longer to cook and digest. In addition, the “to do list” of summer maintenance might be buried under snow and ice. Making sure you get enough rest and sleep are also supportive to your functioning. It is okay to say no if you are feeling overcommitted or overworked. Be realistic with what is the level of too much for you and your family.
For discussion with your healthcare provider, make sure you share that the appointment is for a mood concern, so time can be appropriately scheduled for your care.
9-8-8 suicide and crisis Lifeline (24/7 services previously 1-800-273-TALK (8255) Suicide Prevention Lifeline)
The Montana crisis recovery Project 1-877-503-0833 (M-F 10am-10pm Free, anonymous crisis counseling)
The Montana crisis Text Line (Text MT to 741-741. 24/7 access to crisis counselors)
The Montana Warmline 877-688-3377 (M-F 8am-9pm; Weekends 12pm9pm. Staffed by people with lived experience, providing emotional support to prevent crisis)
Haley Peters (she/her) is an ANCC Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner who aims at providing health care that is individualized and acknowledging that health looks different for everyone. She graduated from Montana State University with a degree in nursing in 2014 and worked as a nurse for 7 years before graduating from Chamberlain University in 2021 with a Master’s in Nursing as a Nurse Practitioner. Haley has a passion in the clinic for discussing sexual health, mood concerns, contraceptive management, bleeding concerns, and wellness support through annual visits.
After a period of providing nursing care in Palmer, AK, Haley and her family moved back to Kalispell, where she and her husband were both born and raised. She has provided critical care nursing over the last four years and found love for the supportive care Kalispell OB-GYN provides.
Outside of work, Haley continues radiating radical acceptance and love into this world. She compassionately parents (although yells at times too) two young children with her partner, Richard. She has a deep appreciation for the local abundance of summer produce and local makers – dreaming of days spent in a large garden, kneading bread, and preserving foods.
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Nate Chute Foundation Growing and Evolving with the
By Kristen Hamilton
It’s not new news that Montana’s suicide rate ranks as one of the highest in the nation and residents of the Flathead Valley are all too aware of what it feels like to live in that reality. And while they were founded over 20 years ago and remain the only organization solely focused on suicide prevention, the Nate Chute Foundation is growing, evolving, and optimistic as they continue to support their community.
When 1999 Whitefish High School graduate Nate Chute unexpectedly took his own life just weeks before attending Montana State University, his parents, Terry Chute and Jane Kollmeyer immediately felt called to process their grief through action to prevent further loss. Soon after Nate’s passing, his parents established the Nate Chute Foundation and registered the organization’s 501(3)c nonprofit status. Quite literally a kitchen table organization, the board consisted mainly of friends of the family who were looking for a way to bring about change and prevent further tragedy.
In the early years, NCF provided funding for specialty training for teachers, local clergy, and police officers; suicide prevention commercials on local television stations; the Whitefish High School ROPES program; Whitefish CARE; depression screening for students; and mental health counseling. As the organization thrived and local donations spoke to community’s desire for more support, they hired their first paid employee, an Executive Director, in 2017.
Today, the foundation has three full time employees, two part time employees and a volunteer board of directors made up of nine community members. I spoke with Kacy Howard, Executive Director; Jenny Cloutier, Program Director; and Nicci Daniher, Development Director, recently about the local nonprofit and how they are working to promote mental wellness and reduce suicide in our community. I was moved by the dedication of these three local Montana women who are committed the mission of the NCF. They are all Certified QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) Instructors, which is the most widely taught training in the world as an emergency response to someone in crisis and can save lives.
Howard, who was born and raised in the Flathead Valley and a close friend of Nate’s in high school, has been at the helm of NCF since 2017. Before working with the foundation, Howard spent nearly a decade working in community mental health. Howard oversees all of NCF’s operations including programs, fundraising, and nonprofit and board governance. And, while she loves the behind-the-scenes work of helping NCF thrive, she says that the most impactful and energizing part of her work is getting to connect with the humans in our community and help cultivate safe spaces to have really difficult conversation about the real-life issues that we all face. “There’s something cathartic and healing about getting to call on the grief and loss that has been a part of my story to help others find hope in their own,” Howard says.
After living and working as a mental health therapist for three years in Aus-
tralia, Daniher is grateful to be back in her hometown. She has a Master’s Degree in Advanced Clinical Social Work from Columbia University. Daniher saw how many of her classmates, including herself, suffered from depression and anxiety in high school and was drawn to the idea of utilizing her long-standing relationships in the Valley, along with her knowledge of mental illness, to support the NCF through development and fundraising. “I want to change the climate and improve the wellbeing in our schools for my own kids and the future generations.”
As one might imagine, working in the realm of suicide prevention can take its toll. Especially after experiencing a suicide cluster in 2021 in which 10 local youth took their own lives, NCF knew that there was opportunity to grow their programs to help better meet community needs. After soul searching and researching, the organization decided to
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move into the space of resilience building and upstream prevention: instead of just focusing on risk factors, warning signs and how to help a friend with suicidal ideation, they wanted to be able to add selfcare strategies to their offerings. Howard explained, “In some ways, traditional suicide prevention efforts are too focused on crisis mitigation. We believe that we need to start looking upriver and do more resilience building work to help people have the skills and connections so that they hopefully don’t get to that crisis moment, or when they do, they are at least better prepared with some tools and skills to navigate that place."
In order to expand programming, it was necessary to bring in new staff. After serving on the NCF board for two years, Jenny Cloutier joined the team. Her Master’s of Education and Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership, as well as also being a lifelong resident of the Flathead Valley, brought a familiarity with schools and strong connections to other nonprofits and businesses in the Valley. Said Cloutier, “I love that the programs we offer are free of charge. From removing financial barriers for those in need of professional services to providing over 2000 local students with suicide prevention training to implementing prevention strategies in local organizations and businesses – we are really looking to create a community that is aware and competent.” She added, “Mental health does not discriminate. It affects us all.”
School presentations are the largest program at the NCF. Presentations are facilitated in 7th and 9th grade health classrooms across Flathead Valley. The classroom setting allows these discussions and trainings, using evidence-based curriculum, to be held in a smaller setting where students feel more comfortable asking
questions and adults can be aware if any young person seems to be struggling with the content. Topics covered include how to start and manage difficult conversations about mental health, healthy self-care, and coping strategies, and how to reach out for help.
In 2022, the Nate Chute Foundation:
• Presented suicide prevention curriculum to over 2205 students
• Offered advanced suicide prevention training to 77 teachers and school administrators
• connected 120 students to additional help after their participation in one of the school presentations
• Presented to 40 local businesses and organizations and trained over 950 people
I asked about the series of PSAs that are on the foundation’s website that I found to be very powerful. Daniher explained that while these stories were launched during COVID to reach people that were missing day-to-day contact, the messages have proved to be effective tools and stories of hope even after the pandemic. The series is called From Surviving to Thriving: Stories of Hope & Resilience and I’d encourage you to take a look.
The stories are told by local members of the community in hopes that they will inspire you to remember to never give up hope, that help is available, and recovery is possible. We are all in this together.
community Access to services: NCF offers financial assistance to help those in need access critical therapeutic services and support.
We provide funding for youth and adults to receive preventative counseling, postvention counseling for individuals and families impacted by a suicide, and funding for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) through Logan Health Whitefish Behavioral Health.
community Training: NCF offers five different evidence-based prevention curriculums free of charge to business and organizations.
Trainings for schools: NCF provides health class presentations, educator professional development, and policy & procedure consulting.
can you do?
donate money –100% of donations go to the foundation with 70% directly impacting programming.
Help with Bluebird Boxes –for survivors of suicide.
Participate in training with your company –become aware and educated.
Follow on social media and share and spread positive messages.
As we wrapped up, Howard remarked that Nate’s parents continue to be involved in the foundation. “They turned a tragedy into something that helps the community.” She praised their passion and dedication.
Although it’s hard to know the value of all the foundation does, Cloutier added “The support the community has shown is amazing. People believe in what we do.”
988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline - Text or Call 988 www.natechutefoundation.org
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The women at the Nate Chute Foundation Office from bottom-clockwise: AnnMarie Bowlus, Kacy Howard, Rachel Winthrop, Jenny Cloutier, and Nicci Daniher
Orchards of the Lake The Early Cherry Industry in the Flathead Valley
By Terri Lynn Mattson for the Northwest Montana History Museum
Since 1893, when the first trees were planted on the eastern shore of Flathead Lake, the valley has been home to one of the country’s most flourishing cherry crops. While a sudden cold snap in 2022 wreaked havoc on the cherry orchards of Flathead Lake, overall, the region provides the perfect environment for growing this fruit. Most of today’s orchards are located on the eastern shore of the lake, with few exceptions on the west shore. Flathead Lake sweet cherries are one of the most exceptional types of cherry in the United States, and have been so since their early years, when they became a chief export of the valley in the early 1900s.
The earliest orchards on the lake were located in the Woods Bay area. Named for John Wood, the Woods Bay area is just south of Bigfork. Credited with planting the first cherry trees are schoolteacher Margaret (née, Grant) Estey, John’s sisterin-law, and her sister, his wife. Both the Grant and the Estey families had moved to the region to grow fruit. While some cold snaps completely destroyed apple crops, the fruit orchards slowly picked up steam in the area. Experimentation to make the crop commercially viable began with Mr. Yenney a nearby resident who also built the first road in the Woods Bay area. He attempted to ship some cherries to New York and back to determine how well they would travel. About 1910, cherry trees yielded about 200 pounds of cherries per tree as a result of the good soil and weather conditions in the area. It wasn’t until 1929 after the Robbin brothers planted an orchard of 700 trees near Yellow Bay that cherries were considered viable commercial crops, some 36 years after the initial orchards by Woods Bay.
In 1935, a cooperative of small orchards was formed and built a storage and packing plant for cherries in Kalispell. The Flathead Lake Cherry
Growers’ Cooperative helped allow the smaller orchards to create a cohesive and competitive business model for the region. Seasonal jobs in the orchards provided income for high school girls and the packing plant provided seasonal work for other workers. By the 1940s, Flathead Lake was considered the fourth largest producer of sweet cherries in the country. Seasonal work at the cherry warehouse run by the cooperative began—at least according to the season of 1946—in mid-July. In that year, 100 “sorters, packers and warehouse boys” were employed for this season, anticipating a crop of about 700,000 pounds. Cherries were packed and sold in 14-pound bags or five-pound gift bags. Refrigerated rail cars at this point carried cherries all the way back east to Chicago. Now named the Flathead Lake Cherry Growers, Inc., the cooperative operates out of Bigfork.
Because of its position in the United States cherry production, there was eventually a community festival that rose up in recognition of one of the largest exports in the area: the Cherry Blossom Festival. By the 1950s, articles in the Daily Inter Lake regaled the public with the royalty for the
event, including the selection of the event queens in late spring, one 1954 article listing the decision date as early to mid-May for that year. That same article lists the Yellow Bay Community Club, the Upper Bear Dance Women’s Club, and the Montecahto Club as participating in the election process for the position.
In 1935, the introductory year for the Flathead Lake Cherry Growers, Flathead County high school arranged to conduct the contest for queen of the east shore festival. Elections for this first year were held on Thursday, April 4 with the final selection on Tuesday, April 9. The Retail Trade Bureau of the chamber of commerce planned to select princesses from surrounding schools. The Inter Lake states that the Bureau intended to “make a start on the festival feature and elaborate it other years”, suggesting that with the birth of the Flathead Lake Cherry Growers’ Cooperative, the Cherry Blossom Festival was also born. The first occurrence of the event was held on May 19, 1935. An article published in 1984 recounts the early history of the festival, and notes that the first festival was held a few years before the next one due to crop failures and the destruction of many
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This color postcard from about 1960 shows a cherry orchard on the shores of Flathead Lake. (From the Northwest Montana History Museum collections)
of the cherry trees, which had to be replanted. Today, the Cherry Blossom Festival still exists in a far smaller form without the royal court, and a larger Cherry Festival now takes place at Polson in late July or early August.
By understanding cherries, the families at Woods Bay were planting the start of a legacy and flourishing industry for the region. Today, over 100 small orchards surround Flathead Lake that produce an average of 3 – 5 million pounds of cherries annually. A drive down the east shore of the lake still provides a beautiful glimpse of cherry blossoms in bloom every spring, and most years, picking begins in mid-July. Thanks to the insight of a few pioneering families of fruit growers, the Flathead Valley has become home to a unique variety of sweet cherry, a sustainable resource, and a springtime community celebration.
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Printed in a collection of 10 photographs by Meiers Studio in Polson showing the many sights of Flathead Lake, this black and white postcard shows one of the many cherry orchards on the east shore of the lake, somewhere between 1950 and 1970. (From the Northwest Montana History Museum collections)
Taken from a newspaper clipping run in 1984, this photograph shows the first Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and her court in 1935. At center is Doris Marken, who was crowned for the event, and on either side from left to right are Duane Dickinson and Susie King. (From the Northwest Montana History Museum collections)
I have had the pleasure of writing for 406 Woman magazine for approximately 10 years. I have a hard time imagining that I have any hardcore long-time faithful readers. Not because they might not like my writing, but hopefully because it’s not the sexiest of subject matters. As you may know, this publication drops every two months or six times a year. Sometimes my deadline rolls around and I am particularly psyched about some aspect of dentistry and the article comes easy. It writes itself. Other times I must get the creative juices flowing in order to not only inform the reader about dental health, but also attempt to entertain the reader...you.
Consistency The Inconvenient Secret
My guess is if you look to the right on the next page there is a photo of me looking like Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth had a baby. Truth be told I am a much older man than that lad you see there. Ten years older to be exact. I look different but I can assure you I am still “not your ordinary dentist.” I will see about updating this photo soon.
One thing that I’m learning in my forties is that consistency is appreciated by my aging body. Our biological systems that maintain homeostasis can’t handle the roller coaster lifestyle we subjected them to in our teens and twenties. The irregular sleep schedules, eating habits, drinking habits, exercise routines, etc.
About 2 years ago I found myself out of shape and heavier than my wife or I would prefer. I had recently made some great new friends who were very adventurous and I knew that unless I got my butt in gear, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them. So, I started using that expensive
Wave membership that I had been paying for for years. Obviously as a long time Whitefish resident I saw familiar faces there. One such familiar face was in pretty good shape, the kind of shape my wife would prefer me to be in. So I confided in him, “hey man, what’s the secret? Show me the shortcuts man.”
He just smiled and said, “There are no shortcuts bro. You need to be consistent. You can’t go hard for two weeks in the gym and expect change. Talk to me in three months, in six months, hell in six years.” He was right. I changed my mindset to the long game and later that year I found myself being asked, “hey man, what’s the secret?”
Consistency is a force of nature. It should be rule number one in every area of our lives that we want to maintain or improve. Every day that I’m practicing dentistry I do hygiene exams. In other words, patients have their teeth cleaned more or less every six months and I pop in to
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by dr. John F. miller ddS - SMILE MONTANA
review any new x-rays that were taken in addition to examining their teeth and overall oral health.
It is not uncommon for me to see mouths and smiles healthier and more attractive than mine multiple times a day. It should come as no surprise that these are my favorite visits with patients as I don’t need to deliver any bad news. Instead I say quickly and sincerely, your teeth are amazing!! I wish my smile looked as good as yours. Whatever you’re doing it’s working so don’t stop doing it. I don’t need to instruct the 40-year-old who hasn’t had a cavity in 20 years on the ABCs of oral hygiene. Their consistency is paying off and will continue to do so forever if they maintain the routine that got them there. A routine that includes quality brushing of the teeth morning and night, flossing more than three times per week, avoiding dietary habits that have a negative impact on their oral health, and coming to hang with their dental hygienist at least twice a year. That’s the secret.
I also have patients that consistently develop one or two cavities a year. They have become desensitized into thinking only having one cavity is a success. “Only one?!? That’s Great!!” With that response I know that they don’t have the desire to improve. They can’t break from that one destructive habit that’s keeping them in optimal oral health.
Finally, at the far end of the spectrum I have patients that put little effort into maintaining and/or improving their oral health at all and only see me when a tooth has reached its expiration date and needs to be put out of its misery.
We love all of these types of patients. It’s a crazy and diverse life experience we are all enjoying and everyone is navigating their own difficulties and making their own priorities. We are in the business of helping people with their dental problems without judgment.
The path to the best places we want to be in life physically, emotionally, financially have no shortcuts. If you are not where you want and/or need to be, and are not progressing towards them, evaluate the inconsistencies in your approach and if you want it bad enough you will make the change.
I don’t know about y’all, but I have thoroughly enjoyed this winter. Watching my kids develop into little ski monsters just makes me so proud. I appreciate this community and recognize it as the village that’s raising my children. I am grateful that I can provide a valuable service alongside my colleagues at Smile Montana to the Flathead Valley.
Thank you for your support and for making it to the end of my ramblings.
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One thing that I’m learning in my forties is that consistency is appreciated by my aging body. Our biological systems that maintain homeostasis can’t handle the roller coaster lifestyle we subjected them to in our teens and twenties.