Page 1

Home School

Four families tell us what it’s like

Spaghetti Squash Recipes so good the kids will eat it

Your Voice

Reader-submitted home remedies

Dr. Julie Benson



+ Teacher

Of The Year

+ Side Hustles

For Extra Cash

Fall 2017

+ Off-Grid with

Maranda Lorraine

By women. For women. About women. A Brainerd Dispatch Publication

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CONTENTS Fall 2017

Our Voice Meet The Content Team 6

Her Career Teri Gerhardt



Her Health Just Keep Spinning


Her Style

Her Passion

Fabulous Fall Fashion

Northern Flemenco 4 Donna Dahl 20 How to (DIY) 22 Netflix Hidden Gems 24

Your Voice Share Your Happy 29 Home Remedies 41


For Her Side Hustles


Her Family “Mommed” It!

Her Table


Spaghetti Squash


26 Cover Story Julie Benson, Minnesota Family Practitioner of the Year 26

Dr. Benson, a practitioner at Lakewood Health System, was awarded for her exceptional work in family medicine and is nationally recognized for her intiative in Palliative Care.



Her Story

Her Family

Her Career

Off-Grid Living with

Home Schooling 36

Karla Johnson, Teacher of the Year 30

Maranda Lorraine 10

Follow Maranda and her northwoods swamp adventures in a new column in Her Voice.

Maybe you have thought about it before, but had reservations. Four local home schooling families tell us how they do it.

Karla Johnson, a ninth-grade Brainerd High School English teacher, shares her motivation.

Like us on Facebook • Fall 2017 | her voice 3

HER PASSION + poetry

Northern Flamenco BY JAN KURTZ Whirling, whipping, the white snow falls Around my northern cabin walls. Like little tornadoes prancing, In wild flamenco dancing.

One of a Kind

A pine log snaps its pitchy fingers! Within, the flaming fire lingers. A birch log clicks its peeling heels, Throwing sparks into a reel. The teapot hums upon the stove. . . Bubbles leaping up in droves Of frenzzzzzied sizzzzling hisses, Sending free its misty kisses.

Jan Kurtz once worked as an international student exchange counselor. Ana Somolinos, dancing with her daughters (in above photo), Catalina (in black) and Ines, (in white). Ana lived with Bruce and Cynthia Thompson when she was an exchange student some 20 years ago!

Corner of 7th & Laurel • Downtown Brainerd 829-7266 •

4 her voice | Fall 2017 • Share your voice with us on Facebook


One of a kind custom designed opal pendants created by E.L.Menk Jewelers

Ah, Gypsy one, let loose your steam. . . Weave my nights with Sevillian dreams. Hasten to fill my winter storm With memories of Spain to keep me warm.

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HER VOICE By women. For women. About women.


Meet The Content Team



Lisa Henry


Joey Halvorson COPY EDITOR


Sarah Herron


(entertainment tab)

CONTACT US: Advertising:

(218) 855-5895 Comments/story ideas:

(218) 855-5821

Mail: ATTN: Her Voice Brainerd Dispatch, P.O. Box 974, Brainerd, MN 56401 A quarterly publication of the Brainerd Dispatch. Printed by Forum Communications.

copyright© 2003

DeLynn Howard


always been a fan of Her Voice and hoped one day I’d be lucky enough to have an article printed in it. Then, a few years back, an opportunity came up for me to take on the role as copy editor, which I gladly accepted. I was happy to be part of such an inspirational magazine. Fast forward to 2017, and not only am I still copy editor of this great publication, but I was asked to become a member of a three-person team to continue the celebration of women in and around the Brainerd lakes area that Meg Douglas worked so hard to create during her time as editor of Her Voice magazine. I was raised in Merrifield and graduated from CrosbyIronton High School (Go, C-I, Go!) and Brainerd Community College (now Central Lakes College). I’ve been the newsroom receptionist at the Brainerd Dispatch since 1999. I’m also one-half of the cooking team of Puttin’ on The Mitts, the food column for the Dispatch. While I’ve written many columns and articles for the Dispatch, I still hadn’t had the pleasure of being published in Her Voice. I’m happy to say that changes with this edition. Look for “Mommed It,” a column I wrote about the struggles of teaching a lesson to my 7-year-old going on 17-year-old daughter, Isabella.

VOLUME 14, EDITION 3 FALL 2017 6 her voice | Fall 2017 • Share your voice with us on Facebook


Sarah Herron


belief is that each issue of Her Voice should inspire and educate our readers. To learn about the women who make up our growing community. I was born and raised in the Brainerd Lakes Area, married my best friend Nicholas, and we have three sweet ‘n sassy kids together. There is no other place I would rather raise our children, and with each story I read in this magazine I am more and more proud to belong to such an amazing community.

Writing has always been a passion of mine and I have enjoyed that my position at the Dispatch has allowed me to contribute to our special sections these past couple of years. I am looking forward to working with all of the wonderful women that take part in making Her Voice such an inspirational magazine.

Lisa Henry


had a St. Cloud childhood, but was born in Brainerd and found my way back with a job at the Brainerd Dispatch. After a couple years in, I was asked if I could help out during a busy season and design Her Voice magazine. I jumped at the chance! I remember pouring every ounce of creative energy I had into that issue. I wanted each page to be as unique and distinctive as the women it featured. Her Voice was so much more to me than a magazine, more than a design project. It was more like a movement, inspiring women, proving amazing things are possible. Today, I am raising my little women here in the lakes area Marin, 10, Nora, 5, and Ivy, 3, who I hope will one day share their own inspiring stories with you. I am just as captivated by Her Voice as I was back when I started and honored to have an even greater role as part of the content team. Everything we love about Her Voice is still here, well, except Meg Douglas. But don’t worry, she’ll be making guest appearances through her new adventures and writing. And thankfully, we still have Joey Halvorson, our lakes-famous photographer. We’ve put a lot of work and passion into this “unveiling” edition and hope you enjoy!

Like us on Facebook • Fall 2017 | her voice 7

Teri’s two passions are her work and her family. (left to right), Braydee, 23, Morgan, 21, Aaron, 11, Teri and Parker, 16.

Teri Gerhardt





When Teri Gerhardt was coming up through the ranks at Northern Pines Mental Health Center, she had an intern supervisor who said, “Teri, there is not one subject that you do not know about, that you have not lived through.” That supervisor was right.

“You name it,” says Teri, “I feel that we have gone through it as a family. I can look at each of my kids and the life we have been through together to include grief, loss, trauma, mental illness, divorce, chemical abuse and health concerns.” In 2000, Teri adopted two of her sister’s children and had to drop all contact with their mother. Teri was a single woman working at a bar and didn’t know until she went through the entire process that she was one of the first single parent adoptions in Crow Wing County. Following the death of her young son in 2002, Teri returned to college and became owner of the Last Turn Saloon where she’d been employed for some 15 years. She then attended college for her master’s degree in social work. Now the Director of Crisis Services at Northern Pines, Teri says, “I’m a survivor. I judge nobody, ever. I don’t care who you are. Life happens.”

hervoice voice| Fall | Fall2017 2017• •Share Shareyour yourvoice voicewith withususon onFacebook Facebook 88her

She grew up in a very dysfunctional family, in poverty, here in Brainerd. She had attitude and was a trouble maker. When she was 13, she was court-ordered to Chisholm House in Duluth due to aggressive behaviors. “I was not a nice kid. There was a probation officer – the only one that had faith in me - and I remember him looking at me and saying, ‘You’re better than this. That kind of hit home. I graduated high school, which I never thought I would do.” “I’m a firm believer that life happens for a reason,” she says. “It helps me do my job better; that’s why I love my job. I talk to people and they may think nobody gets it, but I can relate.” Teri started her career at Northern

Teri’s children always have friends coming and going at their house. They know Teri is a safe person to talk to.


ing and going at her house. They know Teri is a safe person to talk with. “They know that I get it,” she says. Teri spent seven total years in college to earn her master’s degree while interning and being employed. Seven years busting her butt, having to tell the kids, “We can’t go to the beach, can’t do this, can’t afford that. ”She now lives for her kids. Every single day she tells them she loves them. She didn’t have that growing up and wants them to know. Teri has two passions: her kids and her job. One aspect of her job is as Certified Peer Specialist supervisor. “Peers are a tremendous asset to the mental health field and relate by recovering from their own mental illness, sharing their story. In her position as director of Mobile Crisis Outreach, she spends numerous nights on call. MCO is dispatched 24/7 for any individual, of any age who may be experiencing suicidal/homicidal/behavioral symptoms or a mental health crisis. MCO responds to calls from law enforcement, hospitals, social services, jails and individuals within the community who call the crisis line. MCO goes in and assesses with the goal of keeping people out of the hospitals, if possible. Who can they be connected with? Can they be kept out of the hospital in the least restrictive environment? It’s not just adults. Teri’s experiences include

happens for a reason.”

Teri was a troubled teen.

Pines Mental Health Center as an Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services practitioner. The folks who hired her had faith in her, let her work around her college schedule and kids, let her grow. “I’m so grateful every day for that. Northern Pines lets me view every different aspect.” The only division Teri has not worked within is the school-based program. Reason? “I’m a collector of kids,” she says. She takes kids under her wing, her kids’ friends who are always com-

“I really want [people] to be honest with me so we can figure this out together.” adolescents displaying symptoms of psychosis, depression, self-injurious behaviors and attempts to complete suicide. “It’s about getting people to open up.” She tells individuals, “I’m the one you want to be honest with, and I really want you to be honest with me so we can figure this out together. What happened is OK. It’s perfectly OK.” That’s what they need to hear. “I remember that probation officer saying what he said. It changed my life forever. So if I can say that one thing to somebody and they remember it 10 years from now, guess what? It’s all that matters.” Prior to her pastime of playing with words, Carolyn Corbett taught elementary school for 14 years before resigning to sail off into the sunset. Upon her return, she tutored English and writing at Central Lake College. Today, as a freelance writer/editor, Carolyn has over 250 articles published in cruising, parenting, and general interest magazines.

Like us on Facebook • Fall 2017 | her voice 9



With Maranda Lorraine

Story and Photos Submitted By Maranda Lorraine


here is a big part of me that doesn’t want to write this. I am not a member of the “tiny house fad.” I’m not living off grid because it’s fashionable or a trendy experiment. I don’t give tours of my house and I don’t

need visitors seeking me out to take pictures of my fainting goats. I live my life and my privacy is of the utmost importance. I protect my homestead against the stressors of the modern day world and my hope is to keep this place at the swamp peaceful and harmonious.

I agreed to write this because I also believe that society, especially today’s women, need to know they have a right to be strong and self sufficient. Something so simple as chopping firewood is often not taught to women, when in all actuality, it’s incredibly easy and a great workout. I believe women need an encouraging voice in this hectic and often depressing world we live in. There is absolutely nothing wrong with chasing your dreams even if they lead you against the majority and clashes with modern day expectations. Being a brave and strong woman is a beautiful thing. As a young girl I would make a pact with myself that I would sleep outside from the time the snow melted in the spring to the first frost in the fall. Sometimes, I would wake up covered in a thin layer of snow on my sleeping bag, in an unexpected snowfall during late May. I loved the adventure of living outside. I’m not talking about camping. I mean pure and simply living outside. I would play all day in the woods and bathe in the lake at night. I would build elaborate tree forts with my little sister and dream that someday I would live in one. I was a strong, independent kid and I thrived in the woods. I loved it.

“For as long as I can remember I‘ve craved the outdoors. I love everything about it.”

Like us on Facebook • Fall 2017 | her voice 11

497 DAYS and counting without electricity, without Wi-Fi, into my off-grid life.

Swamp Life I live here at the swamp in a tiny, one-room shack that I’ve turned into a beautiful little home. I have oil lamps for light and a few candles. I heat with wood and do all my cooking on top of the woodstove. I cut all my own firewood and gather it from the forests around me. People ask me why I live like this, or what I do without TV. They wonder if I get lonely or scared. On the rare occasion that I tell someone I live off grid, the most common reply is, ‘Why?’ or ‘You’re crazy.’ Those are all viable questions and I understand why a person would want to judge me but I don’t need to justify my lifestyle to anyone and most likely I would never be able to explain my reasoning sufficiently. But let me ask you a couple questions. Do you enjoy your home? Are you happy where you live? I am; I love it here at the swamp. I love everything about my lifestyle. It suits me and I am very happy.


My Animals

I live here with my animals: one Aussie/Blue Heeler pup, two fainting goats, two cats, 28 chickens, and two ducks. In the winter I melt snow and in the summer I gather rain water to feed the animals.

12 her voice | Fall 2017 • Share your voice with us on Facebook


There was a power outage here in town and I didn’t know about it until three days later. I had no idea the power was out because I don’t have any electricity in the first place. I don’t have anything to plug in besides my phone and for that I have a tiny solar panel that works well. I had no idea the townspeople were suffering without electricity. My chickens went about their business as usual and I gathered eggs each day, the coffee was made and the garden was weeded. I went about my normal daily activities and never skipped a beat. It is moments like those that I worry about our society and our energy-addicted lives. It is possible, and dare I say, living simpler can be quite the treat. I believe I have a duty to myself to live as freely and as simply as possible.

Last Winter

“There is peace in simplicity.”

It was a challenge, I’ll be honest. It was my first year here and I didn’t have my firewood supply built up. I was gathering wood everyday, chopping enough to hopefully last through the winter. I was working on insulating my shack at the same time. Every day I would do as much as I could and hope it would keep me a bit warmer. I knew when my bottle of wine was freezing on my shelf that it was getting pretty cold and I was in for an interesting winter. If I felt like sitting on the couch and drinking some merlot by the fire, I would first have to start a fire and then place the wine bottle on the stove to try and melt some slush to drink. Often, I gave up on that idea and crawled into my sleeping bag with my snow pants and hat on. I would sleep with my two cats bundled inside the covers for warmth. Their water dish would be froze solid when we woke up in the morning but I was usually pretty toasty surrounded by fluffy, thirsty cats. And once again I’d start a fire and melt snow for them to drink. During the coldest part of the winter, I brought in some of my favorite laying hens to sit by the fire and warm their feathers.

“Chase your dreams even if they lead you against the majority.” Stay tuned for more from Maranda Lorraine in our Winter edition of Her Voice! Like us on Facebook • Fall 2017 | her voice 13



FALL FASHION By Sheila Helmberger One of the best parts about living where we do is the change of the seasons. Other than the opportunity to experience an array of temperatures, it also means we get to create a couple of different wardrobes each year. In the summer, there are sundresses, flip flops, tank tops and capris. But when autumn rolls around we have another whole world of goodness waiting with clothes that not only keep us warm and make us feel cozy, but are also stylish. Each age group has its own signature pieces but for the most part, the styles we wear in the cooler months, such as scarves and boots, are popular with everyone and vary only, if at all, in the material and patterns they’re made from. Today’s fashions are fun to shop for, fun to accessorize and fun to wear.

Photo courtesy of Among The Pines

14 her voice | Fall 2017 • Share your voice with us on Facebook

Beige, blushtones, blues and greys will flow into fall

Sue Conway is the owner of Among the Pines (ATP) located in the Baxter Village Complex on Highway 371. She says her customer base runs from younger women in their 30s all the way up to those in their 70s and beyond. “It is all about your attitude when it comes to fashion,” she says. Some older women have no problem wearing clothes that might be geared toward a little younger demographic, even ripped jeans, she says. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that some of the new things she says we’ll see coming out this fall are really nods to some of our old favorites. She says this year’s fall offerings will include one surprise for some people -- velvet. A piece she looks

forward to carrying by summer’s end is a velvet pomegranate red blazer Photo courtesy of from a new company based in Am- Among The Pines sterdam. Shiny fabrics are another item that will continue to be popular. She says she favors items that incorporate it, but in a more understated way, such as on a collar. Conway says there will be plenty of great items to pick up when dressing this fall. One-shoulder tops will be popular and the current off-the-shoulder and cold shoulder trends will also remain big. Expect to see a lot of florals in

the coming months in a variety of patterns. “Tops to bottoms to coats to accessories,” Conway says, “Florals will be big.” On the other end of the spectrum, plaids are also going to have some staying power. The

Floral and plaid will stay big

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Located in the Baxter Village Mall. 15670 Edgewood Dr. Baxter MN • 218-828-6364

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Surprise... velvet. Uggs, scarves and layers print has piqued interest in the past couple of years and looks to stick around even longer. Once found primarily in men’s clothing, the blend of colors is popular on all kinds of pieces for women. “Plaids will show up in everything from coats and sweaters to button downs and pants,” says Conway. In women’s work attire khaki is going to be very much in fashion. Shoppers will see khaki in pant suits, blouses and even with those great floral prints. Autumn has always been a time to celebrate great colors and this year’s pieces will include different hues of blue. Grey will remain a favorite as well, in all shades. Delicate pinks and blush tones and the tans and beiges that we enjoyed this spring will carry over to the end of the year also. “Fall is beautiful in the Brainerd lakes,” says Conway. “Each season brings its own fashion needs and fall is one of my favorites.” Sure, it’s always a little hard to say goodbye to summertime and the light and airy fashions that come with it, but we live in an area that embraces the change and no matter what your age is, there’s something a little exciting about welcoming in a new season, especially if it means wearing new, stylish attire.

Cold shoulder will remain popular

16 her voice | Fall 2017 • Share your voice with us on Facebook

“Uggs!” says 21-year-old Halie Peterson, when asked what her favorite fall fashion is. “I have the shorter, low ones,” she says. A college student in St. Cloud, she said she wears them with leggings as well as with jeans. It’s about warmth, of course, but she says she likes it that they look good on also and they’re comfortable. She says she’s excited to wear more scarves again this fall and that she owns several in different colors and patterns. “I like wearing long sleeves, too,” she adds. Twenty-year-old Cierra Meyer-Berg says she likes wearing different fashion boots with everything in the fall but when the weather turns colder, it’s all about layering for her. “I like to wear lighter jackets with another shirt underneath and then add a scarf.” Peterson agrees. “I wear some fleece pieces, too, but Uggs and scarves are definitely the biggest things I love in the fall.”

Sheila Helmberger has been a freelance writer for nearly 20 years. Her articles have appeared in a variety of publications. She enjoys sharing her own stories, as well as the stories of those around her. She has three children and three grandchildren.


Just Keep

Spinning PHOTOS BY JOEY HALVORSON By Denise Sundquist

A year ago, Jenny Holmes felt like her health was spinning out of control. This 41-year-old caught a glimpse of herself in a photo and didn’t like what she saw. Her high energy and enthusiasm for life were replaced with a more beige demeanor. Her body also reflected her mood: blah. However, everything else in her life was great. She was happily married to her husband, Brainerd Fire Chief Tim Holmes (he’s hot!) and the proud mother to Jackson, 14, and Izzy, 12.

“I was truly blessed by so many in my weight loss journey that I feel called to help others...”

- Jenny

Like us on Facebook • Fall 2017 | her voice 17

Jenny teaches a spin class at Takedown Gym.

Jenny “before” transforming herself.

“I kind of let myself go.

I had the mindset ‘life is too short, eat the cake.’

And I let that happen for too long.” - Jenny

Jenny made an appointment with Kelly Thompson, Nurse Practitioner at Lakewood Health System who has a special interest in women’s health and infertility. After a thorough series of tests, Jenny was relieved to learn she wasn’t lazy, but her thyroid was. Kelly prescribed medication to treat her thyroid condition as well as an antidepressant to take away or reduce the symptoms of depression. While she felt better and had shed a few pounds, Jenny was disappointed in her marginal results. She scheduled a follow-up appointment with Kelly and received some straightforward news, “If you want to lose weight, you’re going to have to work for it. It’s not going to just happen.” Kelly and Jenny talked about her diet and brainstormed better choices without giving up everything Jenny enjoyed. And just as Jenny was absorbing her nutritional goals, Kelly rolled out the next element of her lifestyle change: Exercise. Jenny is no stranger to work as a freelance writer and marketing consultant, but she always felt like exercising was a job. A few years ago, she reluctantly trained for, and competed in a 5K race. She hated every single step of running. Since running was out, Jenny settled into a routine of walking her dogs two miles every day, but more out of obligation than inspiration. Her Apple watch helped keep her accountable to her exercise and calorie intake goals. But walking can get a little boring when you’re an outgoing gal. On a whim, Jenny and her sister tried a spin class at Takedown Gym. “I thought Takedown was a wrestling gym. I had no idea real people worked out there.” She was shocked to discover she loved the class and soon found herself hooked. “Everyone had told me I would find that one thing I would like, but I didn’t believe them.” Nearly every morning this past year, Jenny

would put on her workout clothes, drop off her children at school and head to the gym. One way Jenny stayed committed was by signing up online for classes the week before. “It kept me accountable.” Besides spinning, Jenny dabbled in all sorts of new classes and also asked the fitness professionals a lot of questions, “I had all these new resources that really kept me on track.” Because Jenny is an extrovert, participating in fitness classes may be the perfect fit for her. “It’s an awesome social opportunity. You get to meet people that are fighting the same fight.” Jenny has made a lot of good friends through the gym from all different walks of life she wouldn’t have been friends with before. “You’re all vulnerable when you’re working out. Everyone is on the same playing field and you bond in a sense.” Like every normal person, Jenny occasionally misses class. When she hears that internal conscience telling her she’s worked too hard to skip for no good reason, she gets right back in the next day, “I don’t want to let myself down.” Jenny has learned a lot through this process, like you can’t out exercise a bad diet. “You can workout until you are blue in the face, but until you wrangle in your diet and figure out that balance, you won’t get the results you want.” Jenny still really like sweets, but enjoys them in moderation. “I struggle every single day, but I still enjoy life.” The Holmes family tries to eat most of their meals at home and focus on grilling lean protein, but they still enjoy fun family evenings at Rafferty’s and Buffalo Wild Wings. “It’s difficult; Tim is a good partner to have navigating nutrition, but the kids aren’t quite on board.” As she started to see changes in herself, Jenny thought, “God has brought me to this place for a reason.” She feels like he has blessed her to bless others. “In my eyes that meant helping other people to get to a bet-

18 her voice | Fall 2017 • Share your voice with us on Facebook

ter place in their lives.” After nearly a year of participating in classes, Jenny is now teaching classes after receiving her NETA Indoor Cycling and Beat Boss certifications. “It was scary becoming a spin instructor, but I wanted to help people the way other people helped me. I wanted to pay it forward.” Jenny believes spinning is for everyone. It’s easier on your joints than other exercises and you can dial it down to your ability or or you can crank it up if you want to challenge yourself. She describes it as a “choose your own adventure” kind of workout. Jenny doesn’t believe she’s your typical instructor; her goal is to make exercise more fun for people. “I’m not in the best shape of my life, but I’m in a lot better shape than I was at this time last year.” Kelly Kramer, owner of Takedown Gym and also a certified spin instructor, believes they are fortunate to have Jenny as a member of their staff. “People see she is real and believe ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’” Kelly loves the passion Jenny brings to her job and the positive and encouraging energy to her classes. Jenny has lost over 50 pounds this past year. But what she lost in weight, she gained in strength and inspiration. “I was truly blessed by so many in my weight loss journey that I feel called to help others find the courage and confidence to take the first step in their own,” Jenny said. “If I’m able to help at least one person change their lives for the better, I’ve served a purpose.”

Denise Sundquist was the health and safety coordinator for the Brainerd School District. Since her sons left for college, she has embraced a more active lifestyle including local triathlons, running races and mountain biking with her husband, Matt, on the Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail System.

Diane Stydnicki with

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Jenny and her husband, Tim (Left), and kids, Jackson, 14, and Izzy, 12.

Call for an appointment today! (218) 829-1166 | 313 NW 3rd St. Brainerd, Mn

Dr. Kristel Schamber

7734 Excelsior Road N. Baxter, MN 56425 (218) 829-2929 001559791r1

“It’s difficult; Tim is a good partner to have navigating nutrition, but the kids aren’t quite on board.”

Dr. Brooke Fenstad Like us on Facebook • Fall 2017 | her voice 19




onna Dahl has been directing the Park United Methodist Church choir in Brainerd for 28 years. She started participating in her choir 52 years ago and went up from there. She enjoys what she does and her light truly shines through her work with the choir. God has used her talents to create a great atmosphere in the church. The choir has helped her in all situations in life. Because of the choir, she has been able to smile again. With such a warm heart and kind spirit, she serves the community well with what she does every day. TP: How did you get started directing your church choir? DD: “I went to Hamline University for music education and when we first moved here I started singing in the choir. That was 52 years ago and I ended up helping with the church choir and then I helped the choir for children through third grade. I directed when the original director was going to be gone or wanted to be off. I have been the director of the choir for 28 years. They are good and I really enjoy it.” TP: What has been your most memorable part of directing? DD: “I think it’s the people because they are all so nice and they are good. They are good

to me and they like me; I try to make it fun with a variety of songs. Our minister, Pastor Justin, his 6th-grader sings with us and it is such a joy to have him. There have been some people who have been in there since I came in. I told one of our choir members before he left he had to replace himself. The next practice a young man came and sat down and said, ‘I’d like to sing in your choir.’ Everybody laughed because they knew what I told the previous member. I called up the old choir member and said I found your replacement and it was no longer a help for him to find [one] for me; he just laughed in reply.”

20 her voice | Fall 2017 • Share your voice with us on Facebook

TP: What have you gotten out of your experiences? DD: “I enjoy this so much and I try to be a good person. Without it I would be lost. I did direct Sweet Adelines and they were a bunch of great and dedicated women. That is also the thing with the church choir, they are a great bunch of people who are dedicated to what they do. Brainerd has a lot of great musical talent. It’s not everyone who can get up and do solo work and that type of thing but when you get a bunch of them together, tell them, ‘Work and listen to each other.’ They form a group and they are willing to work and have fun.” TP: What is your inspiration for doing what you do? DD: “I enjoy singing and as

I tell the choir, ‘Praise God in song.’ That is exactly what we do and it’s not just me. It’s all of the 15-16 members and the people who come and sing. After we get done with service, somebody will come and say, ‘Oh, I really love that song you did today.’ Another little man used to come up when we would have some kids’ songs and say, ‘Do you know I knew every one of those songs?’ What else can I say but just that I enjoy it very much.”

TP: What advice would you give others who want to be involved in their church? DD: “Come and sing in the choir. Things happen and the choir will get smaller and our church is trying to reach out to the community.

TP: What are your favorite songs for the choir and why? DD: “‘Come Serve the Spirit’” and that’s all the words to the song. The choir starts out real soft and gets louder and louder then goes back down. It’s an easy one. You don’t

TP: What do you hope others get out of what you do? DD: “A choir adds to the service, and as I said, we sing. We also have a bell choir and some of the choir members play in the bell choir. Everybody enjoys music, whether

Locally Owned - Quality Service

have to do a lot of practice with. It’s so simple and we used to sing in the park when people would come out and sit in their chairs. That’s why my choir is good; they just enjoy singing so much.”

it’s rock and roll or even rap. I enjoy classical and just think of these guys sitting writing all of these beautiful things and other people enjoy it so much. It’s fun. As long as you’re making other people happy, you’re happy, too ­— whether it’s music, literature, just walking down the street or carrying on a conversation.”

Tiffany Paul is the current Miss Central Lakes United States and loves to help out in her community by volunteering at local events. She loves to inspire others to show it doesn’t take perfection to achieve your dreams.

Virginia Knudson, “Top Attorney 2017” ~ Minnesota SuperLawyers Magazine

Only 5% of Minnesota’s Lawyers are awarded this title each year 001605729r1

Knudson has been named again as one of Minnesota’s top attorneys by Minnesota SuperLawyers Magazine for 2017.

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HER PASSION + do-it-yourself

Wood Burning

Wooden Spoons : d e e n l l You wi

poons Bamboo S ning tool Wood bur e with a variety com some tools d almost can be use t a th s p ti f o ding iron. like a bran

eraser Pencil with aper r carbon p o r fe s n a r T

Tape Inspiration

g book ult colorin d a n a g n si e I am u res from th some pictu d n a et intern

a orking are fest sa A cleared w e th table; it is I use a glass ouse. ve in the h option I ha

Have Fun! Be You! Be-YOU-tiful! By “OOPS! I ARTED ON IT,” MARY JO BADE

These utensils make a great addition to your kitchen or they make for a beautiful, personal, useable gift. I use mine every day, run them through the dishwasher and they are still in awesome condition! I made a rolling pin for my sister using the same technique. She loves to bake and loves her “from the heart” rolling pin.

Burn either side or both! Be Creative! Be Adventurous!

e caution *Please us ood gw when usin . Hot ols to g in rn bu hot. Allow things are nd tip to your tool a letely becool comp g the tip. in fore chang

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22 her voice | Fall 2017 • Share your voice with us on Facebook

Giftable Useable Art

*Tip: “Play” with your burner to find out which tip or tips you prefer working with and to find out what shapes or marks each tip makes.

Be sure to put the graphite side (the darker side) down.

Select or create a pattern

• Patterns can be simple or more

intricate, made by using dots, lines, line drawings, or coloring book pages. Patterns can be penciled on free hand or transferred on using transfer paper and pattern.

Apply your pattern

• If you are using transfer paper, cut the transfer paper about a quarter of an inch larger than your paper pattern. That way when you tape it down, you are taping both pieces together to prevent slipping. • After taping, place artwork/pattern on top of the transfer sheet, use a pencil to trace your pattern using medium pressure. • Remove all paper and tape before the wood burning process.

Burning the pattern

• Pick out a tip and screw it into the end your wood burning tool. • Heat up your burning tool for about 5 minutes. Some wood burners just need to be plugged in and others have a switch as well. • Once you have your pattern on your spoon and your burner heated you are ready to go! Be Brave! Be Patient!

• Start slow using light or no pressure on the wood. You can always go back over spots you want to be darker later on in the process. Take your time. Do as much or as little burning as you want. • When you have completed the wood burning process and project is cool, use an eraser to remove any unwanted lines or graphite smudges.

Care and additional tips

• Some spoons have a protective coating you can typically burn through. I find that sometimes I have to tap the tip of my tool on a hard surface to break off any coating crusties (soot) that may accumulate during the burning process • Over time, your wooden utensils may acquire an odor. You can boil them in plain water and set them in the sunshine to dry. This should help maintain your favorite kitchen implements for future use. Mary Jo Bade is a mother of two boys. Her husband and boys live in and enjoy the Brainerd Lakes area. She has several interests. She likes to make ordinary things fun to look at and often says “Oops I art-ed on it” upon completion of a project. She remembers holding a crochet hook as a very small child where creativity bloomed from there. Aside from creating and art she also has a love for animals, learning, medical science, numbers, fishing, and food to name a few. -”If you want to be a green bean, be a green bean, be the best green bean you can possibly be.”

Like Likeus uson onFacebook Facebook• •Fall Fall2017 2017| |her hervoice voice 23 23

HER PASSION + entertainment


Let’s face it, everyone enjoys an occasional day of lounging in pajamas, vegging out in front of the television, eating junk food and catching up on the latest binge worthy fanfare. The challenge is finding something worthwhile to watch. We are taking the guess work out of it for you with the following recommendations.


Rainy day Netflix binge watches

Enjoy the old episodes of Twilight Zone? Check out “Black Mirror.” It is similar in nature, providing more updated, but still bizarre, short stories with a touch of creepiness that still allows you to sleep at night after you watch them. So, if you like a little bit of scare factor but have to work in the morning, this would be a perfect fit for you. “Black Mirror” is a British science fiction show with three seasons now on Netflix.

For the comedy lovers, is “Girlboss” starring Britt Robertson. This is the lighthearted story of Sophia, a quirky 23-year-old spitfire looking for a quick way to make money without having to really work at it. She haphazardly falls into the world of fashion and finds she has an undeniable knack for it. Her trials and tribulations will have you busting with laughter. Currently one season is available.

Don’t Bother Pile:

If dark dramas are your thing then take a seat for “Bloodline.” In this chaos-fueled thriller, the Rayburn family finds themselves plunged into a world of deception when troublesome oldest brother Danny returns home for a celebration after a long hiatus. Academy Award Winner Sissy Spacek stars alongside a host of other talent to bring this intriguing tale of family dynamics mixed with bad choices to life. You’ll cruise through all 33 episodes and still want more.

Here’s a brief list of some that aren’t worth your effort. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Cable Girls,” “Haters Back Off,” “The Returned,” “Flaked,” “The OA,” and “The Characters.” Most of these are simply either too boring to continue watching or have overwhelmingly stupid storylines. Either way, your time is best spent elsewhere.

Searching for a more refined show with religious overtones? Select “Greenleaf.” Oprah Winfrey Network’s number one rated series is formed around a wealthy Memphis church family and the scandals that ensnare them. Winfrey, who executive produces the show, also has a recurring role as nightclub owner Mavis McCready. Powerful performances by co-stars Merle Dandridge, Lynn Whitfield and Keith David make this show a must see. Season one is currently available.

Into a more serious groove? Perhaps you should check out “The Keepers.” This true story docuseries about murdered nun Cathy Cesnik will certainly captivate you. Although there are only seven episodes, each one will leave you more intrigued. Webs of lies and secrets are bountiful in this real-life cold case file and some haunting new details come to light. As friends and family are interviewed years later, the mystery surrounding Cesnik’s murder in 1969 only grows.

If you fancy a good, albeit off-the-wall romantic comedy, then the series “Love,” starring Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust, is the one for you. Following the lives of painfully embarrassing misfits Mickey and Gus as they navigate life on the quest for long-term happiness, this show has a certain flare for odd, nerdy entertainment. Watchers beware, there is a lot of adult content, but it’s a great way to laugh the day away. There are two seasons with a third in the works.

Tamara Horton grew up in Crosslake and moved to Sauk Centre as a teenager. Currently she resides in Melrose with her husband and three children. In 2014, she entered the mass communications print journalism major at St. Cloud State University minoring in human relations. She will graduate in December of 2017. Horton is now serving a year-term as an Americorp VISTA working out of the Stearns Benton Employment and Training Council while finishing college.

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Personal Passionate Professional


You may think you’ll never need extended care. But what would happen if you did—and didn’t have a plan to pay for it? Extended care may affect your family members: • Emotionally, as they juggle time between you and their families. • Physically, especially if they’re your caregivers. • Financially, by potentially depleting your savings and their inheritance. A strategy for your care could be the best gift you’ve ever given your family. Tara Hemsing Woitalla, FIC, CLTC® Contact me today to learn more. Financial Associate Insurance products issued or offered by Thrivent Financial, the marketing name for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Appleton, WI. 14410 Golf Course Drive, Suite 105 Not all products are available in all states. Thrivent Financial Baxter, MN 56425 representatives are licensed insurance agents/producers of Thrivent. 218-454-8272 For additional important information, visit This is a solicitation for insurance. A Thrivent Financial representative may contact you. ICC15 28943 N1-16 Appleton, Wisconsin • Minneapolis, Minnesota • • 800-847-4836

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HER CAREER + Physician

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By JENNY HOLMES Julie was in eighth grade when her dad went into cardiac arrest. It was a time she will never forget, for a variety of reasons. But, perhaps, one of the most powerful results that came from a near tragedy was the influence doctors and nurses had on her life. “Rehabilitation care wasn’t available at that time, so he spent three months in the hospital,” she said. “A family physician coordinated all of his care, from the neurologist to the cardiologist. I was fascinated. I don’t know that I recognized it at the time, but when I started thinking I wanted to do medicine, I knew I wanted to do something like that.” In April 2017, Dr. Julie Benson was named and honored as the 2017 Physician of the Year by the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians. Inspired by the very individuals that helped save her father’s life, Dr. Benson practices at Lakewood Health System in Staples and is

board certified in both family medicine, as well as Hospice and Palliative Care. Each year, the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians honors a family physician that represents the highest ideals of the specialty of family medicine, including caring, comprehensive medical service, community involvement and service as a role model. Although incredibly humble, Dr. Benson has been described by colleagues and patients, alike, by these very attributes. However, when contacted via email by MAFP regarding the pending recognition, Dr. Benson thought it was a hoax and promptly deleted the message. “One afternoon, I went back into the trash for something else and decided to click on that email. It was generic, that I really wasn’t sure. And it was a really busy time, so I didn’t reply or submit anything. Then I got two phone calls and another email, and that’s when I realized it wasn’t a prank.” Like us on Facebook • Fall 2017 | her voice 27

Palliative Care

Focuses on improving the quality of life for people with serious illnesses like Cardiac disease, respiratory disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s disease, certain cancers, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), sickle cell anemia and Parkinson’s disease and many others. • Help find relief from associated symptoms and stress • Available for any age and any time during a serious illness • Support to family and loved ones

Palliative Care Team

Offer unique support that focuses on specific needs • Team of doctors and nurses • Social workers • Chaplains • Nutritionists • Pharmacists

Hospice Care

Helps dying people live their final months in comfort and dignity • Relieve pain and symptoms • Emotional and spiritual support • Arrange for necessary equipment • Family/caregiver support • Teach specific care techniques • Available for months, weeks or days Source: Minnesota Network of Hospice and Palliative Care

Yet, Dr. Benson still hesitated in responding. “It’s just not my thing,” she said, noting she had been nominated by a coworker. “It was very sweet, but it goes against my usual grain.” Touched by the thought behind the nomination and the community campaign that supported it, Dr. Benson conceded and participated in the process. Little over one month later, she was honored before friends, family and colleagues at an awards ceremony honoring the best of the best in the medical profession. “There are lots and lots of family doctors that deserve this,” she said. “You could walk down the hall at Lakewood or over to Brainerd, Crosby, Aitkin, and find a number of well-deserving family docs. The most important part of family doctors is they know where their boundaries are and when to ask for help. They care a lot. Most people who do family medicine really want to take care of their patients and they truly love what they do. I was just lucky some people wrote nice things about me.” The skill sets of family physicians are as diverse as the people they serve. Dr. Benson said the Rural Physician Associate Program exposed a once big city girl to rural Minnesota, as well as a versatile and varied medical field. “People tend to find a family doctor and stick with them. I have the opportunity to celebrate relationships built over time. I’ve seen many of my current patients for a long time. One of my patients and his wife had a child later in life that I helped deliver, and now I’m delivering his grandchildren. In some families, I might deliver a grandchild and care for a dying great-grandparent. While unfortunate circumstances, what’s humbling is these patients let you in to a vulnerable place in their life. They don’t necessarily share it with just anybody. It’s a really sacred space. It really truly is. I’m very honored when someone is willing to share those things and allow me to care for them.” In addition to offering a full spectrum of family medicine from OB to pediatrics, Dr. Benson also specializes in working with the elderly and geriatric. She is the Director of Hospice and Palliative Care, working with and guiding medical staff as they care for individuals with chronic or terminal illnesses. “A lot of people think palliative medicine is just another word for hospice, but it really isn’t. It’s a different way of looking at medi-

cine. My team does most of the direct care for patients at the end of life, and they have the best part of the job. I honestly believe that caring for people at the end of life is just like caring for people at the beginning of life. It’s the circle of life - so precious. It’s a time of great vulnerability, when the little things don’t matter as much and matter more than they used to: when we are willing to be most honest. Both times are a very sacred space. Like prenatal classes and preparing a family for the, sometimes, difficult labor process; end of life care is not always predictable, but it is possible to have a beautiful death, a time of celebration.” While uncomfortable with being singled out for recognition, Dr. Benson said she believes this opportunity provides a chance to raise awareness and educate others of Palliative Care. “This isn’t about me. But this is about providing good care and education. Most hospitals have some access to Palliative Care, but most of that care needs to happen in the home, not the hospital.” Dr. Benson sits on a variety of boards and committees to help raise awareness to her passion of quality Palliative Care, including devoting time as the President of the Minnesota Network of Hospice and Palliative Care, an organization providing education and resources for providers in end of life care. Dr. Benson has also testified on behalf of the field to help legislators understand what it is and why it’s so important. “We’re trying to move some of Palliative Care upstream into the home and help prevent hospitalization. That’s part of the responsibility of this award, I believe.” A busy mom and wife, Dr. Benson has found a way to create balance while literally on call 24-hours a day, seven days a week. “I’m really lucky because I have great staff around me and the support of administration. I love what I do. I have the best job in the world. I’m very honored by this award; but, in my head, good care is a team effort. There’s no way I could do what I do without everyone from the nurses to the front desk staff. None of this is worth anything without them.”

Jenny Holmes has been a contributor to Her Voice since 2003. A freelance writer and communications consultant, Jenny lives in Nisswa with her husband, Tim; their children, Jackson and Izzy; three dogs and a cat.

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HER CAREER + Educator

“Always keep working toward something.” - Karla

Karla Johnson Brainerd’s Teacher of the Year


By Susan J. Smith-Grier

oung Katelyn Meier nominated her 9th grade teacher for the Teacher of the Year Award. Karla Johnson had no idea she would be the recipient. Brainerd’s 2016 Teacher of the Year grew up with dreams of becoming either a doctor or a teacher. Fortunately for her students, Karla discovered at a young age she didn’t like the sight of blood, which steered her into teaching.

30 30 her her voice voice || Fall Fall 2017 2017 •• Share Share your your voice voice with with us us on on Facebook Facebook

enjoys all the benefits it offers. This is one of her favorite pastimes. She also enjoys reading and watching old movies. The school year keeps her busy with students, papers and theater. Summertime allows her the luxury of hanging out with friends and enjoying her down time. She is still happily involved, however, with theater during the summer.

Karla (left), with her brother and her mom.

Practicing What She Teaches

Building on a Firm Foundation Karla credits her mother for being her inspiration. “My mom is a big hero to me. She has always supported me unconditionally, and she’s the strongest person I know – very independent. I really look up to her.” Karla also lauds her mother for instilling her with perseverance and tenaciousness. This is evident in Karla’s commitment to her students. Her own teachers and those of her brother taught her the value of a teacher’s inspiration and encouragement. Her brother’s high school days were very challenging. Because of caring, dedicated instructors making the most of his efforts, he graduated. Witnessing his journey helped lay the foundation for hers. Karla is committed to bringing out the best in her students, no matter how daunting the task.

When the Light Bulb Comes On Working with 9th-graders can be challenging. That’s when kids transition from the dependence of childhood to the independence of teen life and young adulthood. Karla loves working with this age group because she understands their struggles and feels passionate about helping them find their vision, their voice. “When a student is struggling . . . I love seeing the light bulb, and then it just clicks. That’s probably the most rewarding thing for me. I love seeing them grow and not being defeated.” Early in her career, she had a small

but challenging class of students. Karla thought often of her brother and the amazing teachers who encouraged him. She was determined to never give up on these youths. She had no evidence she’d been reaching them, but they showed up day after day, and that gave her hope.

“I really think it’s important to help other people...” - Karla Confirmation didn’t come until years later. This summer, on separate occasions, she saw two of those students. “They thanked me, and I was really surprised because I didn’t know that I had made a connection with them.”

Karla’s other hero, besides her mother, is Mahatma Gandhi. His views on peace and nonviolence are a source of inspiration to her. “I think the most important thing for me is helping others,” she says, “I think I was really very fortunate growing up. I have a supportive family and a lot of teachers that really guided me and without them I wouldn’t be where I am now. I really think it’s important to help other people and work together to do what we can to make the world a better place.” Karla gave a bit of sage advice which bears repeating, “Always believe in yourself. If you have a goal, do everything in your power to strive for that goal, and once you achieve it, set another goal. It’s important that we don’t become stagnant. Always keep working toward something.”

Susan J. Smith-Grier is a writer, storyteller, blogger, and Reading Corps tutor of early elementary kids. Her heart beats to the ever changing seasons in Minnesota lake country, and she lives for those special times of hanging out with her awesome kids and grandson. She delights in wielding the power of words and story, and believes peace on earth Yoga is known for bringing harmony and is possible if we take the time to listen to each 15-3572_Ad Design Her Voice.qxp_Layout 1 7/6/15 8:26 AM stories. Page 1 other’s clarity to the mind while it keeps the body

Enjoying Downtime

in15-3572_Ad shape. Karla is an avid practitioner and Design Her Voice.qxp_Layout 1 7/6/15

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GUARDIAN/CONSERVATORSHIP • BUSI ESTATE PLANNING • TRUST/WILLS GUARDIAN/CONSERVATORSHIP • BUSINESS LAW Like us on Facebook • Fall 2017 | her voice 31 Like us on Facebook • Fall 2017 | her voice 31


Side Hustles

Tried-and-true ways to add to your cash flow



hances are, as you are making your way around the Brainerd lakes area, you’ve not only noticed a change in the colors of leaves, but also a change in store displays. Yes, it’s true; the holiday season is fast approaching. Gift-giving holidays are filled with joy, gratitude and memories of loved ones gathered around the Christmas tree. The downside to all of the generosity and memory-making is that it can put an epic pinch on the family budget. The good news is that holidays are predictable and we all have 364 days to get ready for them. describes a side hustle as, “A way to make some extra cash that allows you flexibility to pursue what you’re most interested in. It can also be your true passion – a chance to delve into fashion, travel or whatever it is you care about the most without quitting your day job.” This also applies to bringing in extra money on the side to give your budget some breathing room.

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The internet is filled with money-making apps and tools, but two of my favorites are Ibotta and Gigwalk. Ibotta is free, fun and an easy way to earn cash back for buying your favorite brands at your favorite stores. Users can make money through receipt scanning, loyalty cards and mobile in-app purchases. Gigwalk is a little more complicated, but is still a viable way to earn extra money. A Smartphone app, Gigwalk lets users search for “gigs” in their town, conduct tasks that take just minutes and pay anywhere from $3 to $20. Some of the gigs can include things like taking photos of commercial buildings, doing stock checks of items inside stores, or taking photos to show how competing brands are placed on shelves.

Direct Sales Offline

Home business and direct sales opportunities like Arbonne, Plunder, Tupperware, Tastefully Simple and Plexus are alive and well in the lakes area. These mini-businesses are very appealing to working moms who are looking for ways to generate income between school schedules or on weekends. Building a downline, or customer base, can take time but it can also be a year-round income stream with low start-up costs.

Mystery Shopping Offline

There are several reputable companies who are always looking for local “Field Agents” to conduct mystery shops in the Brainerd area. BestMark, a Minnesota-based marketing company, and TrendSource offer mystery shopping opportunities to anyone over the age of 28. These shops involve several reporting steps and the need to take Smartphone pictures of specific products or displays. Both companies pay reasonably well and will cover travel costs if the drive is over 30 miles.

Sell your excess stuff Online/Offline

As the world’s largest online marketplace, eBay is a great place for buyers and sellers to come together and buy or sell almost anything. Setting up a selling account with eBay is fairly straightforward but it’s recommended that sellers have a PayPal account to safely receive funds from buyers. eBay’s auction-like buying system also allows sellers to get top dollar for popular items and eBay University is crammed with useful tips and tutorials for newbies sellers. NOTE: If eBay seems too complex or scary, sell your excess “stuff” at a garage sale or flea markets. There are also specific groups on Facebook dedicated to selling items to someone in the same city as you.

Women’s Clothing Small through plus sizes Now featuring

Writing Services Online

From resume creation to creating newsletters and blog posts for business owners, anyone with writing chops can easily find decent paying work on online job sites like Guru and Upwork or even locally. The online site Fiverr is another option and I personally funded Christmas a few years ago using this site. Fiverr lets members offer services, or Gigs, to others for $5. These services can be anything from writing a tagline to creating a bio for someone. I also know of someone who is a proofreader on Fiverr and makes a respectable side income while her five kids nap or play. Fiverr may take a little time and patience to build up a client base but it can turn into an easy stream of extra income.

Ask about our personalized jewelry registry. Take the guessing out of gift giving - perfect for upcoming special events

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Join us for our monthly

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Thursday Event Like and follow our facebook page for event details Becky Flansburg is freelance writer and blogger from Minnesota who writes about parenthood topics and being a mom-in-business. She is also 1/3 of the Up North Parent team; an online site dedicated to exploring the Lakes Area and creating “me time” moments for hardworking parents. Readers can also find her on her personal blog or on Instagram. She believes that being a mom is the The.Best.Thing.Ever and Team Family is #1.


Use Money making Apps and Tools

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+ her daughter

Mommed it!

“They’re little. They don’t understand what they’re saying and can’t discern if it’s mean or not.” - DeLynn PHOTO BY KELLY HUMPHREY


“Mommed it!”

I think all parents want to instill good values, morals and manners into their children. We are particular about what we say and do around them as they are like sponges and sometimes not always in a good way.

34 her voice | Fall 2017 • Share your voice with us on Facebook

My daughter, Bella, will often point out the differences she sees in people. I know it’s what kids do. They’re little. They don’t understand what they’re saying and can’t discern if it’s mean or not. I remember noticing it when she was about 3 years old. We were at Target and there was a lady of a very small stature pushing her cart, shopping and minding her own business. Instead of quietly mentioning the lady’s size to me or

“I wanted nothing more than to duck into the underwear aisle to hide myself from the embarrassment.” - DeLynn hoping she wouldn’t acknowledge it all, she yells and points, “Mommy! Look at that short lady!” I wanted nothing more than to duck into the underwear aisle to hide myself from the embarrassment. And while I’m not sure the woman even heard her and Bella meant no harm by it, I still didn’t want those kinds of outbursts to become habitual. Fast forward about three years. Bella is even more aware of her surroundings now. She’s a keen observer and almost nothing gets past her anymore. More than once, she has been known to point out TO ME that I’m a plus-sized woman but she has done it in a way I do not ap-

prove of. Like lots of kids will often do, she uses words like big or fat. I’ve been trying to teach her God makes everyone different, that if we all looked the same, the world would be very boring. God makes people of all sizes. Some are tall; some are not. God makes some with curly hair while others have straight hair. Some people are covered in freckles. Some have a funny laugh. Some may walk differently. You get the idea. Of course, for Bella, she never seems to point out anything “different” except the person’s size. For instance, one day my husband, my best friend, Patty, who is one of Bella’s Godmothers and is also a plus-sized gal, and I were just hanging out at our house. For whatever reason, Bella decides to point out her dad is skinny. Then she hops on the couch next to Patty and says, “You’re skinny, too, Patty, except for right here,” and then proceeds to pat her belly! If you could have seen my face! Thank goodness Patty has a great sense of humor and knows Bella wasn’t being malicious, but I was still mortified and explained to her it wasn’t nice to point out something like that. As if it couldn’t get any worse, let me set the scene for you. Super Bowl Sunday. Our living room. My husband is flipping channels and lands on a channel where people are bowling. Out of nowhere, Bella comes out of her bed-

“I’ve been trying to teach her God makes everyone different...” -DeLynn room from playing and notices there’s a larger sized man on TV. She looks at me and says, “Mom, he’s big,” and then uses her hands to illustrate so. I think to myself, “Here we go!” But I wait. I’m more curious to see if those good values and manners I’ve been trying to teach her have stuck. So I just say, “Yeah,” and wait. She says, “Kinda like you.” I inhale deeply, close my eyes for a second and then say, “Uh huh,” and wait. And then ... “But that’s OK because that’s how God made him and that’s how God made you, too!” she says proudly. Here’s where you insert a huge smile on this momma’s face! Yes! Success! It worked. It stuck. She’s learning. It’s going to be OK. And then … “Kinda like, Patty, Mom,” Bella says, rather matter-of-factly. “She’s skinny in the back like how God made her but her front is mostly from food.” Sigh. A mother’s work is never done.

DeLynn Howard is copy editor of Her Voice and a member of the content committee as well. She has worked in the Brainerd Dispatch newsroom for 18 years. After more than 10 years of trying to become a mom, God blessed her with a beautiful daughter in 2010. She has spent the last seven years trying to do her best to raise her daughter right. “Let’s just say we’re a work in progress.”

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“I want to home-school, but...” “I need to work.”

“I’m too broke.”

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“I’m not a teacher.”


Home ling

+ education



All of these thoughts are legitimate concerns

for any parent dreaming of home schooling and maybe a few have even crossed your own mind. For those contemplating bringing their child’s learning back to their home base, the above challenges are all ones voiced, faced and overcome by the many families who have chosen to educate their children from home in the lakes area. Despite misconceptions and an occasional raised eyebrow from friends and family members, more and more families are opting to educate from home for a variety of reasons. Studies have revealed the popularity of home schooling is on the rise -- an estimated 2 to 8 percent growth rate over the last several years. On average, there are close to 2.3 million home-schooled students in the United States. Those wishing to dip their toes in the home-school waters must first file a letter of intent with the local school district to provide a record that a child will receive a home education instead of the formal alternative. Annual testing requirements and scores are still required even if the curriculum is taught at a different speed or in a different order. The style of test used, the standard bubble test or a verbal interview-type, among others, is completely up to the parent. Most home-school education processes are regulated at the state level, but criteria may vary from state to state. Families that choose to home-school spend, on average, $600 per student for a year’s worth of education curriculum while taxpayers contribute zero to that cost. Public education requires, on average, taxpayers to spend $11,000 or more per student.

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Jason and Sarah Johnson with sons Adam, 9, and Nick, 11. The strong support of other home schooling families has been a blessing for this Brainerd couple.

Flexib le hours, vacat ion and da s ys

While public and private schools offer their own list of benefits, the process of home schooling is no different. Many parents decide to teach their children at home because it provides the opportunity of customizing a program of study that caters to their child’s learning environment and specific needs. Home schooling also offers a chance for the learning pace to be set by the child so students who struggle with a subject, or excel, have options to either move forward or take the time they need to master a lesson. Strong support organizations are also in place when struggles or questions arise including local home-school co-op groups -- an organized group of dozens of home schooling families meeting together for

a common goal, along with a Christian Conference, called MACHE, that occurs every April. Jason and Sarah Johnson are just finishing up their second year of home schooling with sons Adam, 9, and Nick, 11. “Home schooling has its challenges, but these last two years has confirmed to me that it’s still the right choice for our family,” Sarah noted. “We decided to home-school for a variety of reasons -- more time together, being invested in their learning, our faith, among other reasons. We were almost at the end of our first year when our oldest son, Nick, started having some health issues. It has been a blessing to us that we did choose to home-school because I can’t

38 38 her hervoice voice| Fall | Fall2017 2017• •Share Shareyour yourvoice voicewith withus uson onFacebook Facebook

imagine trying to navigate all the appointments and surgeries with him being in public school. Being connected with all the resources available to us along with the friendship and support of other home learning families has been a blessing during the tough times and during the calm times as well.” The boys’ home-school weeks are filled with field trips, piano lessons and team sports at the YMCA, but Sarah shared their daily school work time tends to be shorter than an average school day. The Johnsons have also agreed as a family to “do school” all year around. By continuing their school time year-around their momentum of learning never falters. “We take vacations as a family often and there are plenty of times during the year that we just take a break from school work for a few days. This helps to keep us all from feeling burned out. I’ve also found that if my kids have too long of a break, it’s so much harder to get them back into the school mindset. Just for retention and attitude, it’s simply easier for us to keep our sons in school mode all year long.” Another plus to home schooling is the strengthening of relationships and family bonds. Time spent together is quality combination of loving, learning and reaching goals as a family. Siblings also learn valuable lessons on teamwork and problem solving skills while helping each other with schoolwork, a

The West children, (from top) Conner, Madison, Parker and Evander enjoy participating in each other’s lessons.

“It’s a great balance and a learnin g style that works w ell for our family.” - Brittany W est

fact that home-schooler and mother of four, Brittany West, appreciates. “Our almost 6-year-old daughter, Madison, is working on kindergarten curriculum but she has also observed her older brother Conner working on his first grade studies,” Brittany noted. “When she moves on to the next grade, we are confident that she will be able to pick up the lessons quicker because she’s already heard and watched her brother go through them. The same applies to our preschooler, Parker, as he learns from his sister’s kindergarten work. Our school and teaching time is kept flexible because we have a toddler and a baby that is due in November. The curriculum we use is written in such a way that, once I read the lesson to them, it’s clear enough for my three home-schoolers to be able to work independently on their own. It’s a great balance and a learning style that works well for our family.”

The Anti-social Misconception

When asked what the No. 1 misconception associated with home schooling is, Shannon Mills agreed it’s the notion all kids who are not in public school will become the stereotypical awkward, unsocialized child. As a home schooling family, two of Shannon’s daughters are home schooled while her oldest daughter, Summer, chose to return to public

school this year for ninth grade. Brecken, an eighth-grader and Ellie, a sixth-grader, are still learning from home under their mom’s tutelage. “I agree that the first thing that seems to pop into people’s heads is the socialization piece when they find out we home-school. There

are so many wonderful home schooling groups, co-ops and abundant resources for families to utilize now. There are frequent opportunities for home-schoolers to participate in activities and events with their peers. I.S.D. 181 has also been very open to welcoming home schooling

Aug. 1 thru Sept. 29




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“We love that we can create curriculum for our kids that reflects their abilities, learning style and even interests.” -Shannon Mills

Brecken Mills (Left), eighth grade, applies her cooking skills with her lessons, while her sister, Ellie Mills, sixth grade, works on a science experiment.

families into after-school sports or extracurricular activities. This also gives our home students a chance to make new friends and create lifelong memories.” Shannon also addressed the misconception that home schooling moms need to have teaching degree or education experience to be effective. Having middle school-aged home students, she confirmed that the top-rated curriculum available these days makes independent study much easier for older students. Ask any parent and they’ll tell you they want what is best for their offspring especially when it comes to preparing them for their future and these parents are no different. When asked what the best thing is about their schooling choice, all three moms had unique observations. “I appreciate knowing exactly where my kids are in their schooling,” Sarah affirmed. “I love being there for every little

change as they grow and we don’t feel like we are missing pieces of their life.” “Our whole family is involved with our home learning,” Brittany shared. “Our two-year-old, Evander, gets in on the action and my husband also acts as our ‘principal’ on Fridays. The kids have so much fun showing ‘Principal Dad’ what they’ve learned during the week! It brings the whole family closer together and helps keep everyone excited to learn.” “We love that we can create curriculum for our kids that reflects their abilities, learning style and even interests,” Shannon confirmed. “We also deeply appreciate the extra time together as a family and the option to invest and instill our own values into our children’s lives as well.” Sources:; Brainerd Homeschool Co-op; http://angi35.adventistschoolcon-

40 her voice | Fall 2017 • Share your voice with us on Facebook; Pine & Lakes Homeschool Co-op: groups/161317000602573/; homeschooling-info/mn-homeschooling-laws-forms/;;

Becky Flansburg is a freelance writer and blogger from Minnesota who writes about parenthood topics and being a mom-in-business. She is also 1/3 of the Up North Parent team; an online site dedicated to exploring the Lakes Area and creating “me time” moments for hardworking parents. Readers can also find her on her personal blog or on Instagram. She believes that being a mom is the The.Best. Thing.Ever and Team Family is #1.

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HER TABLE + spaghetti squash

Great Starch Substitute • Potatoes • Spaghetti noodles • Chow mein noodles Contains Essential Vitamins and Minerals • Vitamins A, B6, C and K, • Riboflavin, folate, iron, • Manganese, • High in fiber



paghetti squash is a versatile vegetable that can be eaten alone, with salad fixings, meat, or with pasta sauce. The Biker Chef and I grew some in our straw bale garden the past few years. Vine plants seem to really like the straw bale style of container gardening. You can even set up a trellis system by stringing wire between the poles at the end of the rows. Watch out for the deer! They also love it. This year, we put a fence around our garden in hopes of keeping them out and enjoying the fruits (or vegetables) of our labors.

Your local grocer and partner for all your party Patriot Avenue • 218-568-5001 42 her voice | Fall 2017 • Share your voice with us on Facebook


Locally owned and operated


JULY 16 - SEPTEMBER 26, 2017

Start by roasting it. A trick to softening the shell is to poke holes along the length of the squash, from end to end, creating perforation. Place it in the microwave oven for four minutes. When it’s done, you’ll be able to cut the squash in half a little more easily. Remove the seeds and inner pulp (think carving pumpkins), place the halves on a baking sheet with a little water, add a drizzle of olive oil, kosher or sea salt, and cracked black pepper. Roast

for 30-40 minutes (depending on the size and hardness of the squash) at 350 degrees. The Biker Chef likes to roast it with the rind side up and cover it so that the steam from the water and squash help to cook and soften the pulp. Katie Seipp Deblock, another huge fan of spaghetti squash, likes to roast it with the pulp side up to create a slightly browned and caramelized effect and the oil and spices cook into the squash.



Find them in your local farmer’s markets late summer to fall and year-round in grocery stores.

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HER TABLE from page 43


PHOTO BY JOEY HALVORSON From Katie Seipp Deblock

Katie (left photo center) is a huge fan of spaghetti squash and uses it in many ways to feed her family of six. “Sometimes, I put veggies and meat right into the shell on top of the cooked squash, and that’s my meal,” she said. Also, a big gardener, she nursed along her spaghetti squash one summer, only to have it eaten by the dog! Luckily, you can find spaghetti squash year-round in grocery stores, and at the local farmer’s markets in late summer and fall. From The Biker Chef

In a large, deep dish pan (we like cast iron), saute one medium onion, a small bag of grated carrots, and a few celery stalks, chopped. Add the cooked squash. Next, add a medium bag of tri-colored cabbage (or chop your own), and kale, if you like (Katie loves kale, and the little ones love it, too!). Add the following to wet the cabbage and cook it down: 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 tablespoon rice vinegar 1 tablespoon squeeze ginger (found in the produce section, with the jarred garlic, or grate your own) 1-2 tablespoons sesame oil 1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt 7-9 grates of black pepper Add more vinegar and soy sauce if you need more liquid, and adjust the spices to taste. You can add more vegetables if you like. Katie added leftover peas from baby Luke’s lunch and he thought it was yummy. Cover and cook over low-medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until everything is hot. Serve with crunchy chow mein noodles. You can add chicken or pork if you want more protein, but the vegetables are filling on their own. Don’t forget the fortune cookie.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the following ingredients: 1 large spaghetti squash, roasted and scraped out of the shell 2 tablespoons butter 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg 1/4 tsp. black pepper 1/2 cup fresh, shredded parmesan cheese 1/2 cup roasted red pepper cheese, shredded 1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 cups milk Mix together and place in a sprayed 8x8 baking dish, cover and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes to brown and firm up the dish.

Photo for illustration purposes

Mary Aalgaard is a playwright and piano/theater teacher who writes theater reviews. She teaches youth theater workshops in the Brainerd lakes area, writes articles for regional magazines, and works with both seniors and youth in multi-generational programs to enhance quality of life and build community. You can follow her on her Play off the Page Facebook page, @MaryAalgaard on Twitter and email her at

46 her voice | Fall 2017 • Share your voice with us on Facebook

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Her Voice Magazine - Fall 2017  

Cover Story: Julie Benson, Minnesota Family Practitioner of the Year - Dr. Benson, a practitioner at Lakewood Health System, was awarded for...

Her Voice Magazine - Fall 2017  

Cover Story: Julie Benson, Minnesota Family Practitioner of the Year - Dr. Benson, a practitioner at Lakewood Health System, was awarded for...