Page 1

by women… for women… about women…

Not Just By The Numb3rs PAGE 6

Light and

Lampshades PAGE 26

Inside: • Posthumous Prose and Poetry • A Queen of H.A.R.T. • Knitting for Baby


by women… for women… about women…

Trades PAGE 40

Signe’s Garden PAGE 43







Not Just By The Numbers


With more than a numbers background, Val Knudsen is the CFO for the Cote Family Companies; including Grand View Lodge and Camps Lincoln and Lake Hubert in Nisswa. by Jenny Holmes


Read the story of a woman who lived through the 2010 earthquake and tells her Haiti story about the children. by Mary Aalgaard


Children Of Haiti


Foreign Fotos


Light and Lampshades


Jill Of All Trades


Signe’s Garden







A writer for Her Voice, this time Jan Kurtz shares her photos from far-away adventures. by Jan Kurtz

Here’s an artist who creates and restores lush and luxurious Victorian lampshades. by Judy Kuusisto

Lost Lake Lodge — it’s a hidden gem of a resort property run by general manager Lori Needham. She can do it all. by Beth Luwandi Lofstrom

This Baxter woman has a passion for posies — and continues to tend the garden into her 90s. by Carolyn Corbett

In This Issue editorial


A n Aw a r d W i n n i n g M a g a z i n e by Meg Douglas

good reads

F a i t h I n O n e Po c k e t a n d H o p e In The Other by Stacy Eber t


Wo m e n W h o Tr i by Denise Sundquist






Fear lessly Facing Her Future by Karen Ogdahl

28 30

clubs and clusters


Quilt Auction Ahead by Kay Antos and Katie Antos-Ketcham

her say

Guilt Sandwich by Jill Ander son


Cowgir ls Round Up by Stephanie Br istow

16 Clocks by Sandra Opheim

W o o d t i c k Po e t s by Char maine Donovan


Ca ptivating Beauty by Kathleen Kr ueger Ta e K w o n D o By Rebecca Flansburg

interior design






entrepreneurs 16 21


Scents That Linger by Mar lene Cha bot


Cragun’s Camarader ie by Diane Peter son


On The Cover


Photo by Joey Halvorson. CFO of the Cote Family Companies, Val Knudsen, loves living in the land of woods and water.



Read Online:

SUMMER 2013 | her voice


from t h e e d i t o r

Photo by Erin Chisholm

Staff Publisher Tim Bogenschutz Editor Meg Douglas Art Director Lisa Henry photographer Joey Halvorson



Award Winning Magazine Photographer Joey Halvorson (left) and editor Meg Douglas, collect an award from the Minnesota Newspaper Association at the Her Voice 10-year Anniversary.

For the past 10 years, the Her Voice staff diligently produced a quarterly magazine because we believed that in the Brainerd lakes area, ordinary women are accomplishing extraordinary things. But this year, the Minnesota Newspaper Association snapped us out of routine with an award. In the Better Newspaper Contest 2011-2012, under the “Best Magazine” category for all daily newspapers, Her Voice took a second. As Joey Halvorson, HV photographer, and I sat stunned, hearing the news, our competitive juices took over. “So who took first?” we asked in unison. First went to a Rochester Post-Bulletin magazine, third to the St. Cloud Times. Given our size and circulation numbers, we were thrilled! For each of the winners, the judge writes comments. Reviewing our Summer Her Voice 2012 with a smiling Sandy Museus, Country Roots nursery on the cover, the judge wrote: “Lovely article for new moms (Jan Kurtz). Brief articles good for busy readers. Review of Stephen King book made me want to read it. (Sheila DeChantal) Ads neatly packaged. (Lisa Henry) Nice photos (Joey Halvorson) and articles on estrogen (bowling) alley (Jill Anderson), gardening (Jackie Burkey and Pam Landers), dance (Becky Flansburg) and other subjects. Pleased to see use of a master gardener expert as an author. I found it interesting to read Her Voice even though I am a male reader.” Our own readers often tell us they appreciate our writers, our photos and our diversity of content but there’s nothing like getting that seal of approval from an “outside expert!” As with any magazine, the layout design draws readers in or turns them off. Lisa Henry, just back from maternity leave, claims she experienced a burst of creative energy taking on the design of the winning HV edition. Lisa also earned her share of kudos in the MNA Better Newspaper Contest, taking first and second places in several ad categories. Nationally, the digital explosion has rendered many print publications extinct, but thanks to management and sales at the Dispatch, our little niche magazine has stayed afloat and continues to flourish, finding area women to profile, and a multitude of subjects to explore. Thanks to all who contribute to Her Voice in a multitude of ways. In this our 10th year, we share this award with you.

HV 4

Copy Editor DeLynn Howard

Meg Douglas, Editor

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Is A Quarterly Publication Of The Brainerd Dispatch • For advertising opportunities call Carla Staffon 218.855.5834 or 1.800.432.3703 find our publication on the web at

E-mail your comments, suggestions or topics to or mail them to Her Voice at Brainerd Dispatch, P.O. Box 974, Brainerd, MN 56401 copyright© 2003 volume TEN, edition Two summer 2013

By Jenny Holmes Photos by Joey Halvorson

cutlines here

Not just by the Numb3rs


Let’s be completely honest here. Val Knudsen does not like numbers. It’s ironic — especially when you consider this woman is not only a certified public accountant, but also the chief financial officer of a nationally renowned hospitality giant. For the past five years, Val has served as CFO for the Cote Family Companies which encompasses Grand View Lodge, Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, Camp Lincoln and Camp Lake Hubert in Nisswa, Grand View Real Estate and ETOC Development. Val Knudsen is the Chief But what she lacks in desire for digits, she more Financial Officer for the Cote than makes up for in passion for people. Family Companies, including Having grown up in Hill City, Val attended Grand View Lodge, Grand View Bemidji State University with the intent of becomReal Estate and Camps Lincoln ing a biology major. “I like organization and I’m and Hubert in Nisswa. fairly logical,” she laughed. “I did some computer programming in school, but I really loved the outdoors so much. So when I went to school, I started with a biology major and wanted to do research. But it quickly became apparent that, in order to do research, you needed a lot of grant money. Accounting came easy to me in high school. I saw a demand and a chance to make a living off it, and I had the aptitude to do it.” While in high school, Val recalls, she worked as a waitress and bartender at Quadna Mountain in Hill City. She remembered a conversation she had with a controller for the ski resort and questioned how he could stand being locked up in an office, crunching numbers 6

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all day long, day after day. “He told me, ‘You just appreciate it a lot more when you have an opportunity to be outside.’ And I think that’s true. There are so many job opportunities in the accounting field, even still today. I found it was something I was good at. Do I like it? Some days,” she says with a grin. “It’s nothing I’d be passionate about. But, to me, it’s not so much about the job, but the product or service you’re offering. Can you relate to it? Here, I can relate that I’m helping people with their vacation experience. We are making people happy and helping create memories they can treasure.” Following graduation from BSU with an accounting degree, Val moved to the Twin Cities area to pursue employment. For over 25-plus years, she worked in financial management positions for powerhouse organizations, including Carlson Companies and The Opus Group. It was amidst this journey that Val also worked for NRG Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Northern States Power specializing in independent power generation and alternative energy, for nine years. “I got involved in operations, researching and lobbying for energy initiatives. It was just something I felt knowledgeable and passionate about. If you feel you can connect, that’s what makes it fun.” The opportunity to join Cote Family Companies came about five years ago. It also allowed Val and husband Craig to return to her roots and be closer to her aging parents. “And what a nicer place to live,” she noted. “People come up here on vacation and we get to live here!” As Chief Financial Officer, Val is responsible for overseeing a staff of around eight individuals throughout the company. She

also travels to the Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Ariz., three to four times a year to visit with the organization’s controller and general manager to review procedures and analyze reports and finances. While there, Val also takes advantage of the opportunity to partake in one of her personal passions — hiking. Just steps outside the ranch’s gates is the Saguaro National Park, over 150 miles of scenic trails for novice and experienced hikers alike. Val said she also enjoys hiking the Superior Hiking Trail on long weekends with friends, has hiked at Banff, Jasper and Glacier national parks, and in September 2011 went with an international hiking group to Switzerland. Back at home, the climb up the ladder of success is one that Val takes seriously; and has learned, in a male dominated field, respect is something that is not deserved but, rather, earned. “In the management ranks, certain industries just are much more male dominated. You can find yourself in a good ol’ boy’s world. I try not to think about it. I do believe women do have to work harder, but what I’ve found, whether it’s the staff you direct or your management peers or your organization’s Board of Directors — you have to earn their respect. I think anyone has to do that. I just try to maintain a level of professionalism.” And working in the heart of the lakes area also has its benefits. “What’s really cool is the ability to walk out the door and walk down to the beach in the summer and maybe to the Chocolate Ox for ice cream. It’s just so beautiful. When you’re in the Twin Cities, you may walk out of the office building and down the

sidewalk to lunch. But, this is really beautiful. It’s just so relaxing. Grand View has beautiful gardens and landscaping. Some day, when I retire, I’d love to stay on with Grand View as a gardener,” she says with a smile. Val is also interested in sharing her financial expertise with opportunities in the Brainerd lakes area, including involvement as Board Treasurer for Bridges of Hope, as well as recently joining the Board for Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Foundation. “This is something I have been interested in since coming to Brainerd,” she said. “And it gives me a chance to build a network in the area.” While the numbers game may not be what motivates her, Val says she enjoys the variety the Cote Family Companies affords her. From risk management and insurance plans to contract review and working closely with the Cote family and its Board of Directors, Val has an overarching position that exposes her to a variety of ways she can benefit the lives of others who look to Grand View and its partners for everlasting memories. “You can always learn the industry,” Val said. “It’s having the passion behind it that’s most important.”


Jenny Holmes

Jenny Holmes is a former reporter with the Brainerd Dispatch and operates her own public relations and communications business. She lives in Nisswa with husband, Tim, and their two school-aged children.

SUMMER 2013 | her voice


goo d r e a d s

By Stacy Ebert

Faith In One Pocket,

Hope In The Other


For everything there is a season; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to rend and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak; a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted. The summer of 2010 was my time to rend, weep and be plucked from where I had planted myself — in the heart of homemaking as a new mother and wife. My cousin Sean, a 2009 number onenovice-plate winning road racer, would suddenly fall ill with a sickness that would rob life from him, as he knew it. Sean’s medical diagnosis tugged on the strings of my heart, but reaching out to him would prove more complex than I had ever imagined. My apron came off, the rolling pin slept and weeds crowded the ruby red beets in my garden. It was my season to keep. My kitchen became simple and my creative energy poured into a journal I kept of my experience, handwritten letters to my cousin, and then eventually time spent with him in the hospital. He passed away on Thanksgiving morning, 2010. Shortly after his death, I was deeply inspired to write a book about everything I had just experienced. Late summer 2012, my book was released. The book I wrote is titled: “It’s You, The Poignant Story of Two Cousins Reunited After a Shocking Diagnosis.” My cousin Sean and I are the two main characters in the story. From quite a large family, we were both born in July 1978. Despite growing up several hours apart, Sean and I developed a strong bond that no separation of time could take away. We bonded as most cousins do in their childhood, rollicking through the woods, rolling down hills on our sides and silly made up knock-knock jokes. We stayed close through our teenage years, but soon after, our lives diverged and we were no longer in touch. The ultimate


SUMMER 2013 | her voice

test of our former bond would happen in 2010. Our human nature longs to know we are not alone in our trials and journeys as wayfarers of an inconsistent world. That belief led to the season for me to speak, to share my story. In the witty magic of the film and classic storybook, “Matilda,” Matilda’s character reinforces my belief and reiterates a C.S. Lewis quote: “We read to know we are not alone.” Reading the stories of others keeps our hearts renewed. An Amazon reviewer said about my book: “This is one of those books you finish with a trembling sigh and the feeling that you need to go call your mom because it’s been a while.” Summer is integral to my spirit. For me it evokes striped, blush-colored paper straws in lemon sun-ripened tea, a bowl of plump raspberries, bicycles with baskets and rainbow beach balls. Whether a meandering stream, a playful puddle, or warm rain, water rejuvenates and brings life to summer. I wonder: when does one forget how good it is to dance in the rain instead of curse it to go away and come back another day? Gene Kelly kept a smile on his face. Then, the summer rays dim out seemingly as fast as they first shone. From springcleaning with orange rinds and vinegar, to finally greeting good morning to cosmos flower heads at eye level, a new season is already around the corner. Subsequent to my season of weeping, autumn was my time to mourn and my time for loss. Now, it is my time to dance, it is my time to plant. I hope it is the same with you. Whichever season this finds you in — remember you are not alone and you are still growing — even when your blooms have temporarily wilted. To all of you gardeners of love, keep caring for the wilted blooms, they will come around. Blessings to you of growth and cosmos as tall as you are! H

Stacy Ebert’s book, “It’s You, The Poignant Story of Two Cousins Reunited After a Shocking Diagnosis,” was released last year. Her cousin, Sean, died in 2010.

Stacy’s cousin Sean.

Visit Stacy’s website at: Email:

Stacy Ebert

Stacy Ebert is a wife of 10 years, a homeschooling mom of two young sons, a homemaker, and an artist. Stacy enjoys decorating, making the old new, baking, cooking, anything DIY and travel. But whatever she does, faith is in one pocket… and hope in the other.


SPRING 2013 | her voice


athl e t e s

By Denise Sundquist Photos by Joey Halvorson

Left to right, Sheila Miller, Sherry Wright and Amanda Dickson weren’t athletic as youngsters but the lure of triathlons has changed all that.

Wo m e n w h o


Were you the last one picked in gym class in elementary school? Was your position “bench” on your high school sports’ team? Good news, there is finally an athletic activity you can excel in as an adult: triathlons. Many women in the lakes area have discovered the fun and challenge of participating in triathlons, especially sprint triathlons which are shorter distances in the swim, bike and run events. You would be surprised to know some of us have little or no athletic prowess. Many of us were challenged by a “friend” to try just one but soon became addicted to the social, physical and technical aspects of the sport. Amanda Dickinson was never involved in sports during her youth. As an adult, she minimally worked out. Her husband, Matt,

started doing triathlons in 2011 to get in shape. As Amanda cheered her husband on, she caught the tri-bug. “I thought he was crazy but I was intrigued.” She participated in her first triathlon in July 2011 after six weeks of training. Her biggest obstacle to participating in a triathlon was the swim; she couldn’t even put her face in the water. She attended group swim workouts twice a week to learn the “freestyle” technique. Amanda’s first tri-season was not an easy one. Like many new swimmers, she panicked in the lake and had to do the backstroke to finish the swim event. Both the bike and run were hard too. During the winter of 2011-12 she trained with the Lakes Area Multisport group and worked on her speed, endurance

Several classes gea r e d t o w a r d triathlon training, including adult swi m c l a s s e s . 10

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and technique. She finished her 2012 triathlon season with dramatically faster race times as she competed in several triathlons, ran races, a duathlon (run-bike-run), and the Point-to-LaPointe 2.1 mile swim in Lake Superior (with no backstroke!) Her goal this year is to run a half marathon (13.1 miles) in the Run for the Lakes. As Amanda sets new goals for herself, she also wants to be a positive role model for her daughters, ages 3 and 7. “I want them to know that even as little girls, they can be strong and they can achieve big things.” Sherry Wright was not an athlete in high school, but has always been recreationally active in biking and jogging. She competed in her first triathlon in 2008 following a friend’s dare. It was perfect timing since her two sons

Learn more about Lakes Area Multisport groupsSwimBikeRu n Brainerd

were teenagers and becoming more selfsufficient. Her biggest obstacle was overcoming her fear of swimming after nearly drowning in Mexico in 2005. Sherry is looking forward to competing in her sixteenth triathlon this summer, especially after being sidelined last year due to an injury. She was not able to train for much of the summer which was especially disappointing because much of Sherry’s social life is tied to the people she trains with. “I love the camaraderie. I want to do my best. I want everyone to do their best.” If you are intimidated by the thought of training with a group of athletes, position yourself next to Sherry. She is known for her unyielding support and encouragement to tri-athletes that are just starting their journey. “They can be filled with selfdoubt. I like to think a few words of encouragement will give them that little extra push.” This year Sherry will push herself to complete her first half ironman in Chisago Lakes. Sheila Miller read about the Lakes Country Triathlon but didn’t have the courage to sign up for it until her son, Matt Radniecki, a Marine, returned home from Iraq the summer of 2010. They trained

together, or what they thought was training, for eight weeks. Sheila stood out in her first triathlon for all the wrong reasons. She didn’t have goggles or a wetsuit for the 800-meter swim and ended up doing the entire event on her back. The chain on her mountain bike fell off from her erratic shifting leaving, her stranded on the side of the road. When she finished the run event she told her family, “I am never going to do this again!” But she did. She joined the Lakes Area Multisport group and trains with them regularly. “They support each other and cheer each other on. They bring new people along.They never leave anyone behind.” Sheila is now standing out for all of the right reasons. She has competed in numerous triathlons, ran races and the Point-toLaPointe swim. Her most proud moment was finishing Grandma’s Marathon last summer. “It was so, so hard, so much harder than I expected.” Sheila would love to run the New York City Marathon someday. For Sheila, training has become a lifestyle. “I love participating in these races, but I am mostly grateful for the amazing friends I have made along the way.”


Area Triathalons Tri For A Cause Crosby, MN July 20, 2013 (Voted third best tri in Minnesota!)

Lakes Country Triathlon Baxter, M N Aug. 25, 2013

Denise Sundquist

Denise Sundquist is the Health and Safety Coordinator at the Brainerd School District. She finished four triathlons last summer.

SUMMER 2013 | her voice


wed d i n g s

By Kathleen M. Krueger Photos by Madisen Eades

Capti vating Beauty


It all began in 2011 when Jennifer Morris, a master cosmetologist at Salon El Rio in Baxter, Minn., was asked to do the hairstyling for a wedding party outside of the salon. Jennifer packed up her curling irons and hair products and joined the bride and her attendants in a home setting. “It was so much fun,” Jennifer shares. “The environment was so relaxed and comfortable, much different than if we were in a salon.” Jennifer found herself wishing she could do more bridal parties on location. That wishful little thought didn’t vaporize and float away. It stayed with her. The more she thought about it, the more excited she became. “I could do this,” she thought. “I could make a business out of providing onsite hairstyling for wedding parties.” Meanwhile, Tracy Watson, a housewife and homeschooler had turned her passion for makeup and skincare into a home-based business called Nature’s Genesis where she sold her own line of natural skincare and beauty products online and to local customers. She loved what she was doing, but really wanted to expand her business in a way that would give her more personal contact with women. “I love making women feel and look beautiful,” says Tracy. In order to move further toward her goal, Tracy became a licensed esthetician. She is also a certified Novalash extensionist and is experienced in airbrush makeup application. Two women in the same town with a passion for primping and preening, making everyday women feel like royalty. It’s not surprising that their paths would eventually cross. “It was a divine appointment,” Jennifer says of the day that Tracy sat in her stylist chair at Salon El Rio. As the two ladies chatted during Tracy’s hair appointment, their dreams and passions seemed to spill out into the conversation and wrap themselves around each other. With the two of them working together as a team, they could easily handle an entire bridal party’s hair and makeup. Salon El Rio, which has been the


SUMMER 2013 | her voice

Tracy Watson (left) and Jennifer Morris have their own business, Captivating Beauty, providing on-site hair and makeup for wedding parties, and other group events for women.

training ground for many of our local salon owners, birthed something entirely new — Captivating Beauty, an on location salon service for wedding parties, bachelorette parties, sweet 16 parties and any other event or photo shoot scheduled for a group of ladies who want to be transformed into “captivating beauties.”

Wedding parties at Madden’s Resort and Convention center were some of the first to engage the dynamic duo. Being able to fully prepare for your big day at the wedding venue itself, especially one as relaxing and beautiful as the setting provided at Madden’s, made a huge difference for bride Melissa and her bridal

party in June of 2012. The Pine Peaks Retreat and Event Center also lists Captivating Beauty as one its Preferred Vendors for their wedding parties. Their onsite lodging for bridal parties in the expansive Retreat House is ideal for pre-ceremony prepping with Tracy and Jennifer. Captivating Beauty is all about relieving some of the stress that can too often accumulate on the wedding day. Once the bridal party is ready, Tracy and Jennifer remain on hand for touchups before or after photo sessions. Their day is committed to the bride and making her day as perfect as it can be. “I encourage brides to begin their skin regimen with me several months before the wedding,” Tracy says. Using her all natural, professional skin care line that specializes in corrective skin care and special light therapy, Tracy can turn your skin into the perfect canvas. Her airbrush makeup application is then applied to achieve an exceptionally natural look that stays fresh even in Minnesota’s humid heat. As local photographers are becoming aware of the services offered by Captivating Beauty, Tracy and Jennifer are finding themselves frequently on call for a wider variety of photo shoots, besides those of weddings. Engagement photos, professional headshots, glamour shots and graduation pictures are all examples of times when girls (and guys) are taking advantage of the onsite services of Captivating Beauty. If you browse through their website at, you’ll find that Jennifer and Tracy offer a wide range of services including professional makeup classes, little girl glamour parties, as well as ala carte services. In keeping with state regulations, only their hair and makeup services are available outside of a salon setting and only in conjunction with professional photo or media sessions and events. All of their other services, pre-wedding skincare, waxing and nail finishes can be scheduled with them at Salon El Rio in Baxter. Why should only the rich and famous enjoy on location services from their hair stylist and makeup artist? You can relax and enjoy that luxury right here in the Brainerd lakes area.


Tracy applies makeup before the bridal photo shoot, relieving some of the stress for the bride, Madi Watson.

Tracy encourages brides to begin skincare several months before the event, then uses airbrush makeup applications for a natural look.

Kathleen Krueger

Kathleen Krueger is a full time freelance writer and published poet from Brainerd, Minn. She is a regular contributor to several print and online publications. She also provides copywriting services for businesses such as website content, blog posts and other online marketing content. You can find her on the web at SUMMER 2013 | her voice


rec r e a t i o n

By Rebecca Flansburg Photos by Joey Halvorson

Tae Kwon Do Karmon Keppers (left) and Renee Taylor are instructors at DeWitt Martial Arts school in Brainerd. Karmon is a Fifth Dahn Black Belt Master and Renee is a Third Dahn Black Belt Master.


Strength, grace and dignity. Those are the three words that stick in my mind as I sit on the sidelines watching our 10-year old at his weekly martial arts training. The room is full of students of varying ages, sizes and expertise. A row of colored belts hang on the wall displaying the rank that students train to achieve. The row of folding chairs that sit along one edge of the workout area is filled with parents and significant others, all patiently waiting and watching the class unfold. I am fascinated. DeWitt Martial Arts is owned and operated by

ChiefMaster Garrett DeWitt and this Korean martial arts dojang opened its doors in Brainerd in 1993. DeWitt Martial Arts is known for its “old school” style of training, and it’s also known as the most thorough Korean martial arts dojang in Central Minnesota, due to their intense Tae Kwon Do, Hap Ki Do and weapons training. All students are taught to 14

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observe the tenants of Tae Kwon Do — courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit because all of these tenants carry over into everyday life. As I watch week after week, I have to say the level of commitment and skill of the instructors is what impresses me the most. Second only to the growth in confidence and fitness we have seen in our typically shy son. Master DeWitt has a great core team of instructors, but two instructors in particular have caught my eye since day one. Those instructors are Fifth Dahn Black Belt Master Karmon Keppers and Third Dahn Black Belt Dr. Renee Taylor. “I don’t know if I can even describe the impact that Tae Kwon Do has had on my life,” says Karmon. “I have been practicing Tae Kwon Do, weapons and Hap Ki Do for 19 years this July and it is just what I do.” Karmon explains that her venture into Korean martial arts started back in 1994 and was initiated by her oldest son, Kodi. As she watched from the sidelines (and with gentle encouragement from Master DeWitt) she opted to join with her second son Joe in July of 1994. Shortly after, their youngest son Luke joined and, well, the rest is history. “I have seen young children, teens and many women come in and train and have loved helping them learn and grow more confident in themselves,”

adds Karmon. “It is so empowering for them when they have trained hard and struggled to learn the curriculum, whether it is patterns, martial arts, Hap Ki Do, weapons or selfdefense and it finally clicks and they get it right; they almost grow right in front of you.” Renee Taylor has a similar story with her beginning and current involvement in Korean martial arts. “I began when my son and oldest child, Colin, expressed some interest in the martial arts,” says Renee. “DeWitt Martial Arts School was recommended to us for being very honest and old school martial arts.” Once young Colin was enrolled, it didn’t take long for the rest of the family to get involved. After watching a few sessions Renee asked her then

6-year-old daughter, Natalie, if she’d like to join also. Her response, “If you do it with me.” “I was excited to get involved,” says Renee. “The workouts were tough but rewarding and I even recall telling people that for months, I felt muscles I didn’t know I had!” How has her Tae Kwon Do training enhanced her life? “The tenants of Tae Kwon Do have carried through to my personal life, as well as my professional life,” says Renee. “Instructing has made me comfortable in front of groups. I am very comfortable in front of our classes as the students are my friends and classmates.” Both Renee and Karmon agree that, as important as the program is, schoolwork must come first. The school-aged students are urged

Strength ity n grace


d n

g i d

to bring in their report cards to show they are obtaining good grades in the classroom in order to continue their training. “This is what will impact a child’s future the most.” Renee adds. “I am so impressed with some of the young students at DeWitt Martial Arts. They are truly my heroes with their hard work and dedication.” Strength can come in many forms. It can be obvious in buff muscles or displays of powerlifting, or it can be cloaked in the firm dignity and hard training of Korean martial arts. Maybe someday I will get off the sidelines and begin work on my own Korean martial arts journey. Until then, I feel the pride and honor affiliated with this school, and I am proud to be part of the process.


Rebecca Flansburg

Rebecca Flansburg is a blogger, writer, virtual assistant and Pinterest junkie who lives in Brainerd. Rebecca blogs on her own blog Franticmommy and is a consistent contributor to Her Voice Magazine. Rebecca is wife to hubby Paul, and their two kids, Sara (7) and Jake (10).

SUMMER 2013 | her voice


outd o o r s

By Steffanie Bristow Photos by Joey Halvorson


Round up


A rope sails through the air catching a calf by the heels. Before realizing what has happened he’s dogged (flipped on his side), branded, vaccinated and trotting back to the herd. This scene often conjures up images of cowboys hard at work, but at the Rocking K Ranch, 33 Ranch & Saddlery, Cross Four River Ranch, Swamp Creek Cattle Company and Diamond K, among others, you’ll find cowgirls working the front line with those cowboys. Sarah Kuschel. Linda Kuschel, Deana Skov, Heather Gilreath, Val Kuschel, Rosie Kuschel, Kelly Dudley, Paula Kuschel, Beth Stoderl and Sarah Nielson can be found amidst the action at any of these ranches. What started as a dairy farm with Stella and Morris Kuschel in 1946 evolved into a multi-family beef ranch more than six decades later. Some were born into the business, while others

Deana Skov of the Cross Four River Ranch, takes a head count of the calves, making sure all are gathered in.

have learned the hard way. Although each of these women has a hand in running her own herd, they also consider themselves part of a larger ranch family. All agree that it’s this greater team effort that makes what they do possible. Ranch life isn’t for the faint of heart, mind, nor body. Whether branding, pulling calves, or doing routine chores, the physical and psychological demands are plentiful. Ranching is a 24/7 job, which becomes most apparent from February to May during calving season. Cows need to be checked multiple times day and night to determine when they will calve. More often than not they are able to deliver without problems, but there are the occasions where calves need to be pulled or other interventions taken. The oversight needed fluctuates with the size of the herd. Heather recalled one calving season that brought 28 calves over a

Round up is a team effort Kelly Dudley looks on to make sure the ally is clear and the gate operators are ready.

Deana gives the cows their annual vaccinations. 16

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28-day period — a pretty leisurely schedule by most standards. In contrast, Linda recalled reaching a peak of 18 calves born in a single day at the Rocking K! After calving season, branding becomes a priority and the ranch family congregates for an old-fashioned roundup. Cowboys and cowgirls alike fulfill designated roles, from sorting cows and calves by horseback to running the branding iron. Cows are run through the chute, tagged and vaccinated. Calves are roped, dogged, branded and vaccinated within mere seconds, making for short work at Kelly’s ranch — she’s got a small herd — and a possible feat at the larger ranches where there may be as many as 200 head to work. Granted, things don’t always go according to plan. It’s not a matter of if, but when, someone gets hurt. Although able to smile about it now, Heather grimaced as she talked about getting run over by a horse during a roundup. Bruised ribs, joint sprains, broken bones, and wounded pride are all part of the job. It’s hard, dirty, and sometimes dangerous work, but there are plenty of smiles and laughs shared throughout the day. “It’s all about getting the work done but still having a good time and keeping it light,” said Deana. Those not familiar with ranch life may deem it harsh and unrewarding, but those who live it revel in the work, despite the risks. Val said, “I love being with my family every day and getting to teach my nieces and nephew the true meaning of hard work and dedication.” Roping, dogging, and branding calves also raise concern for the wellbeing of the animals. Any one of these women will assure you that their cattle, although not family, are an integral part of their families. “We take care of them just like we do our children by providing food, water, shelter, vaccinations and constant oversight” said Sarah K. The cattle are their livelihood and as such personal comfort is Kelly rides up on the herd during the cattle round up.

often secondary to that of the cattle. Cattle need to be fed, watered and bedded even in freezing rain and bone chilling cold. Ultimately, this dedication leads to a quality end product — one that the ranchers are proud to say they raised, and buyers can have confidence consuming. Although everyone has a role on the ranch, they don’t all involve working directly with the cattle. The physical nature of ranching makes for a hungry crew. Linda, who readily admits she has a tendency to get injured around the cattle, more often than not occupies the role of ranch chef and wrangles the youngest children. “Watching the fourth generation grow up here makes it all worthwhile,” she said. Despite the dirt, sweat, blood and tears, there is no doubt these women love what they do and all that comes with it. It’s about fulfilling the childhood dream of becoming a cowboy, the pride and satisfaction that accompany a hard day’s work, being part of something bigger than oneself, and spending time with family and friends who love what they do that leads one to believe none of these women will be hanging up their hats anytime soon.


Steffanie Bristow

Steffanie Bristow recently completed her degree in elementary education and is a teacher at Pine River-Backus Elementary. She lives with her husband and two children on a hobby farm in rural Pine River. In her spare time Steffanie enjoys training and riding her horses, gardening, reading and chasing new adventures.

Heather Gilreath settles in on the heels of the calf during spring branding.

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Children of

By Mary Aalgaard


On a mission trip to Haiti, Jean Kruger with two of her sponsored children: Woosnel (left) and Naomie. Housing (left) in Port Au Prince.


Jean Kruger met the love of her life on her first trip to Haiti, January 2008. Naomie was about three-years-old when she was found hiding in the streets of Leogane, abandoned by her family. In Haiti, it is survival of the fittest. Parents have almost nothing to provide for their children. When they do have food, they don’t give it to the one who needs it the most, they give it to the one that is most likely to survive. They didn’t think Naomie would survive. Pastor and Madame Bazile, who run The Good Samaritan Orphanage for girls in Leogane, see the value of every child and took her in. When Jean came to work for the orphanage on a mission trip, she looked into Naomie’s sweet, beautiful


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eyes and fell in love. Jean sponsors Naomie and two other children who attend the Leogane School — Loudiana, about the same age as Naomie, and Woosnel, a boy who is in the third grade. The exact ages of the children are unknown. Woosnel’s mother allows him to attend school, but his older brother needs to stay home and help his mother with the work and taking care of the younger children. Public education isn’t free, required or even expected of children in Haiti. Only those who have the means or sponsors are given an education. From a sponsor’s $32 a month, a child receives an education, a fresh meal Monday through Friday all year,

In Haiti, it is survival of the fittest. Parents don’t feed a child that needs food most, but the child most likely to survive.

school books, a school uniform and medical care. Some of the money is also used to build new schools or make improvements that benefit all the children at the school. Every six months, Jean returns to Haiti to visit her sponsored children. On January 12, 2010, Jean and the work crew she was with sat in their bus as the earth began to quake and shake. They somehow survived the biggest earthquake to hit the Haitian islands. Jean said, “People were being crushed and dying to the left of me and to the right of me. On one side there was a wall and a school beyond that. I saw the school come crashing down and kids running out bloody and screaming. One girl’s hand had been severed. To our right were houses that just crumbled. It really looked like a war zone. It was only through the grace of God that we were saved.” Jean believes that she was saved to give a voice to the voiceless and to help the people of Haiti. When they finally reached the

Amputation Baby asprin was all they had to kill the pain.

orphanage in Leogone, the epicenter of the quake, Jean was so afraid of what she might find. Was the orphanage still standing? Were the kids alive? Where was Naomie? The bus rolled to a stop and her heart leapt with joy as Naomie ran into her arms crying tears of gratitude. They hugged and hugged and wouldn’t let each other go. The team of Americans did what they could to help the people. They had

no medical supplies, or any training, so they bandaged people up with duct tape, cleaning the wounds as best they could. They made splints out of whatever materials they could scrounge up and duct taped them onto people’s limbs. Then, Dr. Christine arrived and started assisting people. She hiked down to the village from Northern Haiti through barriers, an added risk for her, a white woman. She did what she could, even performing amputations with just baby aspirin as painkillers. Some people were too far gone. One boy in particular looked at Jean as he was dying. They found a stuffed animal for him to hold as he slipped away. His eyes haunted her dreams long afterwards. The one trip where Jean’s mother accompanied her was during the earthquake. Judy Kruger is an LPN, so she was brought to the compound of the U.N. where she was asked to do triage on the wounded people who were

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“You are the daughter of my heart.” ~ One of the phrases Jean has learned to say in Haitian Jean visits with school children at the ME4 school in Leogane, Haiti.

brought there. It was a haunting experience. She hasn’t been back, but says she might go again someday. Both mother and daughter experienced nightmares from the trauma that they witnessed. Jean said, “Their eyes burn into you.” You see them when you close your eyes. You remember the screams and the pain. You also remember the thanks and praise of the ones who did survive. Jean believes that many people turned to God and Christianity after the earthquake instead of the common practice of voodoo. They told the Americans, “We’ll pray for you.” Jean can’t stay away from Haiti. Her girl is there. She returns every six months on another mission trip through a Massachusetts based organization called Mission E4, www.missionE4. com. Jean goes on her own dime, using the tip money she gets from her job as a massage therapist. It’s the only way she can connect with her kids there. Adoption is not an option for the kids she sponsors. Two of them live with their families. Pastor Bazine and his wife want their girls to be educated there and have them stay in their communities to make life better for all Haitians. Jean says, “My vision is to have an entire cosmetology and massage therapy program at the trade school, as well as English classes, and to be a teacher there. I also want to start a


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salon and teach the older girls how to run it. So they can have futures and earn money, and not be dependant on the outside world. Self-sufficient! That is why I went back to school for esthetics, and nail technician, and am taking an ethnic hair braiding class and ESL classes. I have been looking into how to start a business in Haiti, and also grant writing to help raise funds for these projects. If the girls can learn a trade, they are less likely to have to turn to prostitution or slavery which is common in Haiti.” Before the earthquake, the children at the Leogane orphanage slept in one big room on the hard floor with just a sheet. After the quake, the orphanage received funding to help rebuild which included bunk beds. The Brainerd Rotary helped to raise money for Woosnel’s family so they could have a house, four walls and a tin roof. They sent the money through Samaritan’s Purse, a global organization that sends aid to impoverished countries. The only way that Jean can communicate with Naomie, Loudiana and Woosnell is to visit them. There is no regular mail service from Brainerd to Leogone. Also, they have a language barrier, but Jean is working on her Haitian Creole. She can say the important things like, “I love you. Do well. I will see you tomorrow. I missed you.

You are the daughter of my heart. God loves you. I will pray for you.” Haiti looks like a broken and war torn country, the war of poverty and natural disaster. Rubble still stands where the earthquake left it. They are in dire need of sources of fresh water and sanitation. And, yet, the people sing praises and offer hope to those who come from other lands to help them — one to lend a helping hand, the other to show what is most important in life.


Mary Aalgaard

Mary Aalgaard is a freelance writer in the Brainerd lakes area. She writes for area publications, an inspirational blog,, and entertainment reviews on her blog and on the Brainerd Dispatch website. Mary is also a playwright whose first original full-length play was performed last spring. She lives with her four sons and cat named Leo.


hom e g r o w n

By Karen Ogdahl

Following her wanderlust, Karla Theilen hiked in the Beartooth Mountains of Montana and Wyoming in 2012. A remote region of the West, the area is the most biologically unique in North America.



Reared in Brainerd, Karla Theilen has been a fire lookout, a trail crew worker, a boatman, a farm hand, a nurse, and a published author — and those are just her more interesting jobs. How does a Minnesota girl find that kind of adventure? According to Karla it’s quite simple: “The doors just opened and I walked through.”

Fearlessly Facing Her Future

One of those first open doors led to the Perpich Center for Arts Education. As a teenager, she was accepted into the literary arts program where she flourished. “The school provided me with a window on the larger world. I wanted to see that world and be a part of it,” she said. After high school the expansive west

held more appeal than college. Six days after graduation, she took off for Yellowstone National Park and found a restaurant job. “We’d get off work and go hiking, and I’d think, this is where the world opens up,” she said. Following her wanderlust, she moved south to the Grand Canyon. “I loved the

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Not afraid to hike alone, Karla rests on rock in the Arches National Park, Moab, Utah.

Grand Canyon,” she remembered. “I could turn one way and see people going about their business and then look the other way and see this vast expanse of mind-blowing wonder.” While working as a waitress there, she met a trail maintenance crew and asked how she could work with them. They advised her to find a physical job to prove that she was strong enough. Other people might just lift weights, but Karla discovered a farm worker program in France. “When you’re 23, you think anything’s possible,” she laughed. After five months working on a goat farm, Karla felt she was strong enough to return to the Grand Canyon and find that trail crew and for four years she hiked and repaired the canyon trails. Then she heard that a research group was rafting down the Colorado River and needed a cook. She noted, “There is a lot of fakeit-till-you-make-it to these jobs, so I said, ‘Yes, I can do that.’” During her time on the river, she occasionally tried out the oars. One day a boatman broke his hand, and Karla volunteered to take his place, eventually rowing several trips in the Grand Canyon. Always open to new adventures, Karla had a casual conversation at a potluck dinner, which led to a job as a fire lookout in the Bitterroot National Forest. It was an eightmile hike to the tower, but that didn’t deter Karla. She and her beloved dog, Bandit, whom she’d rescued from a beach in Mexico, took off for Montana. Karla remembered it as a time of personal growth, “I learned to fix just about anything with almost nothing. I learned to rely on myself. I learned about 22

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loneliness. Loneliness doesn’t exist if you like who you are and if you have interests. Occasionally, I would miss someone or something, but I learned how to call on a part of myself that was there all along.” She spent six summers in the tower. With plenty of time to think about her future, Karla felt a nursing career calling and filled out an application to nursing school. A helicopter was coming to haul away the

Karla’s adventures in 2008 included sandbagging a flooding river in Iowa.

empty propane tank at the tower, so she put the application in an envelope and taped it to the side of the tank. It found its destination, and Karla got her BSN degree. Her first job was as an RN on a Navajo Indian reservation. “It was the hardest place I’ve ever been,” she said. “But I learned so much about nursing.” She currently is a nurse in a county jail in Montana. Through all these adventures, Karla was writing about the places and the people she met. “I’ve always felt I was a writer. People

attach being published and making money with that title, but I’ve always known that’s who I am.” Her experiences have provided fertile material for her writing. An incident at the fire tower inspired a suspenseful true story of a hunter lost in a snowstorm. The story was published in “A Mile in Her Boots: Women Who Work in the Wild,” an anthology of writings by professional outdoorswomen. Her memoir about nursing landed in another book, “I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started Out: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse.” Other essays have been featured on Montana Public Radio and National Public Radio. Karla is currently working on a collection of essays about nursing. She explained, “I really do think nursing is sacred. I’m with people at critical times in their lives. I feel blessed to be in that space, to help them feel they’re not alone.” How has Karla found the courage to walk through these open doors of opportunity? “I don’t have that fear so many people have about ‘what if it doesn’t work out’. Part of it is I don’t think ahead much,” she said. “I go with my gut, and that’s enough.”


Karen Ogdahl

Karen Ogdahl of Baxter is a retired English teacher and community volunteer.


Foreign Fotos

Photos and story by Jan Kurtz


Forty-four of them. Forty-four photograph albums. How did this collection grow from one or two, tastefully displayed on a coffee table, to filling up two shelves of this closet? Who is ever going to look at these? I had come here today in search of past trip photos that resonated with me as keepers. I was preparing for my next trip and hoped my new photos would go beyond the cathedral facade and the marble general clinging to his eternally rearing steed. Closing my eyes, I passed my hand over the assortment of hibernating tomes and randomly pulled out: Ireland! Joe Clancy, (yes, really), our Irish bus driver/ guide, had wound us through the backroads of his country spinning his tales and dropping us off at photo ops. On one particularly long stretch through Connemara marshes, he built our anticipation with a yarn about magnificent swans that were just ahead, around that corner, up a stretch and finally, he shouted: “Look, over in that field!” The entire bus listed to the left as all the photographers, who had been gripping their cameras for 20 minutes, leapt to his latest “Kodak moment.” Joe let out a laugh and taught all of us red-faced “touri” the meaning of Blarney. I no longer wanted to be a tourist with an appendage attached to my face, but an individual observer, ready to capture my personal views. Dick Bancroft, a professional travel photographer and friend, gave me the tip that helped me find that view. “Kurtz,” he said, “When you see


Jan Kurt z begins her colle of the B rainerd water to ction of foreign Street C wer refle “ afé. She cted in th fotos” with this s s e windo trip abro ays local scene w of the hot ry ad, or w takes on Front hile toura fr esh look guiding after a foreign friends.

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“ individual observer...

r Jan. hobby fo a is s to y pho g balcon Collectin

...ready to capture...

something that makes you stop, take your first shot. Then, step back and get the bigger picture, for location. Finally, turn around and see what is happening behind you. And, if there are people, especially in other cultures, ask permission or use an excellent zoom!” During my last day in Madrid, his words returned. My camera and I were taking a sentimental meander through my favorite haunts. In the Plaza Mayor, I stopped to compose a shot of an artist brushing bright red paint on his portrait of a flamenco dancer, as he worked by a lamppost, under a sweeping gray arch. Composition! Click? No, wait! Step back and… whoa! Spiderman!? Now…Click! Holland. Macro-shoot a tulip before panning out over the fields with windmills or the green wooden rowboat moored in the channel. Take it. But find a window, framed with laced curtains, a cat peering out unto a round, mildewed table, teetering


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Dia de Muertos: Mexican’s beli eve that “death is always just over you r shoulder.” This unexpected look of fear was captured by Jan during the Cat rina/ grim reaper in Cuernavaca.

on a stone paved patio and you have your personal gem. I became an aficionada of lace, crazy garden pots and bakery windows along with wooden shoes and daffodils. Balconies. I collect balconies! They come in amazing colors, filled with hanging gardens, draped with drying laundry or serving as lookouts from which neighbors watch each other! And, there she was, in her shapeless housedress flowing in the breeze, the only person leaning over the railing in a set of eight balconies across and 10 stories high. I snapped the big picture for its geometry. I zoomed in to the lone woman. Oh, how she scowled, engraving the wrinkles deep into her face. A face that stays memorized, as happens when I intentionally concentrate on the angles of a potential photo. Italy. During an afternoon stroll in Assisi, I saw a woman living my life — at least one moment as I had imagined it. Behind a wrought iron rail boasting double rows of red geraniums in planters, she sat in her


black dress and broad-rimmed black hat at a table, reading the menu as if it were a good novel. I panned out a few feet to include the plush greenery climbing the brick wall, the ad for gelato and the Pizzeria sign above. Life unfolded, aided by my imagination, in front of my lens. Spontaneity is a gift from the gods. During Mexico’s Day of the Dead, I was photographing Catrinas, their culture’s equivalent to the Grim Reaper. Just as I positioned my camera toward a store mannequin Catrina, the shopkeeper, called out for a customer to move out of my way. The man turned as I clicked, producing a look of fright impossible to stage. Ah, back to the albums. I vacillate between downsizing and a future filling with fun “fotos.” This new eye has also augmented my homegrown collection. I notice an American flag in the pawnshop, a crèche overshadowed by a Casino — our daily lives as seen from the outside or by others?


Jan took this photo during an afternoon stroll in Assissi, Italy. She says this scene captures one of her personal wishes.

On the L a Plaza Mayo the artis r in Madrid, Jan t, the in zoomed tended out from and cap tured Sp subject,… iderman . personal views.”

~Jan Kurtz

When walking past the Front Street Cafe, I caught the reflection of the Brainerd water tower in the window. I stepped back and … Click. But, it wasn’t me! I turned around and saw Fabienne, French exchange teacher, photographing moi … “a local” from the Midwest, for her collection of “foreign fotos.”


Jan Kurtz

Jan is a Central Lakes College Spanish Instructor and has taken most of her photos for classes and community presentations. She is changing her focus to a personal view just for fun!

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By Judy Kuusisto Photos by Joey Halvorson

Light&Lampshades Margaret Rosenberg creates and restores Victorian lampshades at home and in the Shining Light Studio at the Franklin Art Center.


It is a short walk from the house to a brightly painted frame building aptly named Grandma’s Playhouse. A few steps can make a world of difference as one follows a walkway through a garden filled with every shade of iris and brilliant poppies about to burst into bloom. For Margaret Rosenberg, her studio is a calm inviting space, even a retreat, where her art flourishes. Although she also maintains studio space at the Shining Light Studio at Franklin Art Center with her husband Greg, Margaret’s home studio is where she does most of the construction associated with the lush and luxurious Victorian lampshades she creates and restores. When Greg moved his stained glass work to its new location a few blocks from their house, repurposing the building seemed like a natural extension for her work. As Margaret describes, she had been working in the living room which often looked like an explosion of fabric, beads, needles and pins. The studio is filled with light, decorated in warm yellows and reds that complement the fabrics lining the walls and there is even a “working couch” where the thread, pins and needles can be kept within reach. Examples of Margaret’s art as 26

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well as works in progress allow visitors to see and touch, because the tactile nature of the lampshades simply begs those who see them to do so. Margaret began to learn about lampshade construction on a quiet New Year’s Day after a friend suggested getting a kit including a video from By 10 p.m. that evening not only had she completed the shade, but a new career was born. “I love it, I absolutely love it,” she says. By the next summer 17 lampshades had been completed and complementary bases were found to make a display at Brainerd’s annual Arts in the Park. She still shows her work there each Fourth of July weekend as well as annual participation in the Crossings Salute to the Arts, usually held in early summer. A love of Victoriana is part of her personality; she is drawn to old time pictures of Victorian ladies and little girls in frilly white dresses. “I decorate with wallpaper and lace. I love dinnerware that has a floral design and crystal glassware. The lampshades were a natural result of not being able to find lighting for our bedrooms,” she says. “You can’t have stained glass everywhere.” Margaret makes a distinction between what she calls real Victorian and Country Victorian themes in her work. During the Age of Victoria, Queen of England, whose reign lasted from 1837 to 1901, homes were filled with lace, rosettes, pleats, heavy furniture and lush, ornate fabrics. Country Victorian has more emphasis on floral fabrics in silk and damask with heavy embroidery and beading. While Margaret is fond of both variants, she says, “Country Victorian is more me.” The lampshades begin with a metal frame. When seeking inspiration for a project Margaret is inspired first by the fabric. “I am drawn more to the lamp frames that have multiple panels that need more than one kind of fabric. It’s not unusual for me to use four layers of fabric of different shades to get the exact shade I want. I’ll even sew on a layer of lace just to see if it works.” New lining choices are more heat resistant and she often uses two layers for extra

protection of costly outer silks and damasks. Fabrics, trims and linings come from sources large and small. Most come from places on the west coast, especially Washington and California. Some prized pieces have been found on trips and saved until the right project comes along. One fascinating technique called “sugaring” involves adhering tiny glass beads to the outside of the lampshade panels. The effect is a subtle softening of the fabric colors while giving a magical light catching sheen to the entire shade. Every detail is important. Greg has become an expert on light bulbs, from wattage to color. Customers can expect to receive detailed suggestions for replacements and maintenance. While shades are the bulk of her work, she also finds and repurposes lamp bases from antique stores and even yard sales. A single lamp base may find new life as its parts make their way into other lamp bases. “Some of them I take apart and use the pieces to create something taller or more ornate.” Margaret and Greg have collaborated in the creation of lamps and bases that show their unique artistic vision. The first time she suggested an idea for a lamp base in copper, made to look very much like cast bronze to go with a specific shade, she explained exactly what she wanted. Greg wasn’t sure it was feasible and told her that if she was a customer at his studio he would suggest she look elsewhere. However, he was persuaded. “He did it my way and it turned out beautifully. The second one he did just for me. I really had no input at all. We both bounce things off each other. We work best that way.” Sharing studio space is an intimidating idea for many artists, maybe and especially spouses but Margaret does much of the beading for her lampshades at the Crossings Art Center studio. “Greg is a very easy person to hang out with. He’s my best friend, he taught me how to laugh at myself and he taught me how to breathe. We love sharing the space at the art center because we love being together. Being with him is what really encouraged me to do lampshades in the

beginning. He has one end of the studio and I have the other end.” The beadwork Margaret produces is an exquisite addition to her lampshades. She uses thousands of beads each year. They range from pearls and crystals to semiprecious stones. A single shade may have more than 1,200 strands of individual beads and crystals all strung by hand. They shift and catch the light making never ending patterns in the slightest air current. Although Margaret loves to create individual lamps and shades for sale, most of her work at present comes in the form of restoration. Her reputation has grown through word of mouth and social media. She notes the excitement of seeing her work on Pinterest and receiving inquiries from companies as far away as Denmark about selling her work. A customer sends her the frame and often the base for a treasured lamp. The customer is involved in every step of the project as she works to replicate the original. After fabrics and trims are chosen, mockups of bead combinations are provided. Depending on the complexities of the project, completion times can vary greatly, how-

ever, anyone who commissions work will have the exact lampshade to compliment a treasured lamp. Finding such a shade is almost impossible in any other way. “The best thing about doing lampshade restoration is when someone brings me a lampshade that was a wedding present to their parents. That is a feeling of real accomplishment. It proves I’m not the only sentimental sap out there,” Margaret says. When it’s finished and my client has tears in their eyes… I got it right.”


Judy Kuusisto

Judy Kuusisto is an artist, illustrator and writer in the Brainerd lakes area.

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inte r i o r d e s i g n

Clocks 16 W

By Sandra Opheim Photos by Joey Halvorson

Why would any person want 16 clocks in one room and on one wall? Wendy Opheim does and for very timely reasons. Each clock in fanciful green, red and burnt orange from the 70s represents an anniversary or birth date for family members. The clock hands point to the digits of the date. These clocks could easily be tossed away as their crazy designs are not demur enough for 2013, but these items are one of numerous things that Wendy has given new meaning to in her home decor. “When my dad died, I put the first clock on my wall. It represents the time in which


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he died. My wedding date is represented on another clock. Birth times for my future grandchildren can later be shown,” she laughs. As an interior designer for 24 years, her career mostly consists of color consulting and painting homes in the Brainerd area. She can capture your style and select colors that meet your design style. Although she has no formal college training she has a natural talent for creating a comfortable room for other people’s home. Beyond painting, her greatest talent is transforming objects from the past and

As an interior designer, Wendy Opheim often chooses to repurpose collectibles, creating a comfortable environment in other people’s homes.

incorporating them into a design that tells a history of its own. As I tour her home she stops in the main entry and points at the shelf above the closet. There is that old plastic Fischer-Price barn, Cootie game, and Barbie doll that I remember from childhood. In her kitchen there is a collection of cake savers, pitchers and glasses sets, an old farm style table, a roaster that looks like a piece of furniture on its own, a porcelain topped cupboard, and milk glass vases and candy dishes. “Nothing is original from my childhood, but it reminds me of my childhood,” Wendy says. “I remember making my mom’s birthday

cake in an Easy Bake oven.” She also collects canisters and comments, “They make me think of women who used to store their pin change inside the canisters.” Pin money was an allowance husbands gave their wives for personal purchases, clothes and perfume. When you step into her main level restroom you are taken back to the late 1960s. The fingertip towels, shelving, blue-green toned walls, porcelain fish, relic hair dryer

She has a natural talent for creating a comfortable room with style. and lovely soap dish are all survivors of time. Wendy did a terrific job of bringing back a sense of nostalgia. “I make it a quest to find something and usually find too many of one thing,” Wendy replies. Her living room coffee table had hundreds of vintage Valentine cards beneath a piece of glass. It was neat to see the “To the Teacher” cards of the ‘50s and ‘60s. “I just

loved reading the messages on the backs of color, something to match that new coat, or the cards. Sweet little kids would write a neat a crazy stylish color scheme you just haven’t message to their teachers and sign it ‘With thought of for yourself. She can make the colors and designs pop. “It is a creative outlet Love’ and it just touches me,” she says. Her garden is not just a garden; it is a food for me. I couldn’t wait to make the next pair shelf. She grows and gives, and weeds and to see what fun design I could make up on gives, and cans and gives and I am not sure if my mittens.” Wendy ends our conversation by saying she eats much on her own. Her husband, Ron of more than 13 years, put his foot down that her collections of cookbooks, linens and and asked that she plant a smaller garden. crocheted pillow cases are a way to preserve That will allow a little more fishing time for history. “Somebody out there, a long time the two. The garden is decorated too with ago, took a long time to create a gift. I just old shovels, tine rakes and a sign that says can’t see that gift being tossed aside. Keeping “No, Deer” and another one below that says these items keeps them alive.” “Yes, Dear.” Wendy laments, “I am gardenHV ing because Grandma did it. I didn’t know her very well. I was the city family that didn’t get to see her very often. Growing a garden Sandra was a way for me to reconnect with my Opheim grandma. For the few times that I got to visit Sandra Opheim is the her, the food on the table was so welcomauthor of the picture book, ing.” “Whose Hat is That?,” an In her spare time she makes wool mittens educator and coach in the out of sweaters. This hobby has been good in Staples-Motley Schools and a an economy where less people are redecomother and wife who loves rating, but still need warmth for our anything outdoors. Minnesota winters. If you ask, Wendy will design a mitten just for you. Maybe a school

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writ e r s

Story and photos by Charmaine Donovan

Woodtick Poets


Poetry Retreat They gather at the cabin all sizes all shapes young ones old ones a flock of unlikely birds (some might call fowl)

They leave their houses branches nests cages their aeries their coops come here search for seeds pecking food for thought ~ C. Donovan

Woodtick Poets 25th Anniversary celebration Reading Sunshine Kitchen/Moonshine Lounge on Mill Avenue in northeast Brainerd Friday, July 19, 7:30 - 9 p.m. Open to the public.


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A world of poetry inhabits the Stevens’ cabin in Merrifield for an extended weekend each July. This gathering, known as Woodtick Poets, is a meeting of the minds for members and friends of the League of Minnesota Poets (LOMP). Those bitten by the poetry bug flock to the Stevens’ family cabin nestled in the pines on Horseshoe Lake. The relaxed, rural atmosphere of lakeside living is conducive to creativity. Poets from as far away as Utah have attended Woodtick Poets. Members of the Minnesota poetry league from Virginia and Ohio regularly attend. The name Woodtick Poets, dubbed by past LOMP member Wilfred Johnson before tickborne diseases became prevalent, stuck. The retreat is the brainchild of Barbara Stevens, an Englishwoman who met a Brainerd local, Murry Stevens, in England during World War II. After the war, he brought his betrothed to Brainerd where they were married at an area Baptist church. Soon they moved to Sioux Falls, S.D., where Murry became a busy businessman. They raised five children who spent part of each summer in the Brainerd lakes area on Horseshoe Lake. Murry’s siblings own property on the lake, so the cousins would line up once a year on the dock for a photo. Many of these pictures hang on the walls of the cabin, which Murry fondly called “The Compound.” Displayed on one cabin wall is a blue print describing the various additions to the cabin, which are labeled with the year of its completion. The cabin/compound has three bathrooms and sleeps 20 without pulling out a cot.

The Stevens’ cabin in Merrifield traditionally hosts a gathering of the Woodtick Poets. Writers from the League of Minnesota Poets, and from far away states, regularly attend this rural retreat.

Started as an informal get-away by poet Barbara Stevens for her South Dakota State Poetry Society friends, Woodtick Poets began to include poet-daughter, Susan Stevens Chambers, her children and Sue’s LOMP friends. After Barbara and Murry passed on, Susan and her sisters decided to keep the cabin in the family. Sue continues to host Woodtick Poets, and by so doing, honors the memory of her mother and perpetuates her mother’s generosity to poets and enthusiasm for poetry. For the rural poet, attending workshops, retreats and residencies is usually costly because attendance often involves registration fees, room and board, plus travel to a more metropolitan location. Attending a free poetry retreat on a lake in the northwoods of Minnesota is appealing to writers who may have limited resources, or who want a writing getaway. Sue asks only that poets inform her of their plans to attend and tell her which foods they intend to bring, so she can coordinate meals and room assignments. All participant/ poets are obliged to present a half-hour poetry program. Each year in early July I make my plans to attend Woodtick Poets. The retreat starts Thursday and runs through Sunday afternoon, I prepare my presentation which may include sharing one of my favorite poet’s poems, or I may discuss a poetic device such as metaphor or meter. Often poetry programs include a writing challenge, calling for silence as computer keys click and pencils scratch creative thoughts onto paper. I go to this poetry retreat because I can’t

stay away. These folks, like me, wallow in poetry the way pigs love to roll in mud. This casual approach is a breath of fresh air when compared to our busy twice-a-year spring and fall League meetings. These official meetings are a whirlwind of activity. They usually include a poet-speaker and a poetry critique/seminar, plus our muchneeded board and general meetings. Woodtick Poets offers the opportunity of fellowship with poets without the more formal organizational structure necessary to run a voluntary, nonprofit organization. Total immersion in poetry is a fantastic experience. We have read-a-rounds, where poets share their poemsin-progress as well as their published, more polished poems. The cabin crawls with creative energy. When not fooling with words — writing poems, listening to programs, sharing poetry or gathering for meals, poets enjoy

listening to the loons, swimming, boating, napping and walking around the lake. Observers of life, poets use one another for the subjects of their poems. A spin-off from the Woodtick Retreat includes Blizzard Poets, a winter retreat, also hosted by Sue Chambers at her home in Good Thunder during the last weekend in January. Pine Nut Poets, a Utah poetry retreat, is also patterned after Woodtick Poets. The League is grateful for the Stevens’ legacy of Woodtick Poets. Currently Christina Flaugher, granddaughter of Barbara Stevens and daughter of Susan Chambers, is our LOMP President. Regulars at the retreat look forward to years of future meetings on the shores of Horseshoe Lake, where many prize-winning poems have been generated.


The Stevens’ poetry legacy (l to r): mom Susan Stevens Chambers, daughter Christina and grandmother Barbara Stevens.

Charmaine Donovan

Charmaine Donovan is past-president of the League of Minnesota Poets and author of “Tumbled Dry,” winner of the Northeastern Minnesota Book Award for Poetry.

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clu b s a nd c l u s t e r s

By Kay Antos and Katie Antos-Ketcham Photos by Joey Halvorson

As a volunteer, Kay Antos works with Camp Director Rob Larson at the Camp Knutson Quilt Auction.


Quilt Auction Ahead

I enjoy admiring and making quilts, but even more than the colors, patterns and stitches, I love the stories they tell. That’s why I volunteer for the Camp Knutson Quilt Auction. Each of the previous 26 auctions has its own story, just like every one of the hundreds of quilts that are donated and sold each year, all to benefit a very special kind of camp. Camp Knutson partners with organizations to provide summer camp experiences for children with disabilities and/or special needs giving campers a time to immerse themselves in nature in order to experience the freedom and fantasy of childhood. Campers with autism, heart disease, skin disease, Down syndrome and children with HIV/AIDS come to Knutson. The camp is run by

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. The story of every year’s auction day starts with wondering about the weather. We can’t help but watch the forecast closely and look to the sky to determine how the day may go. However, before we get to the day of the auction it has taken hours of preparation. A hardy group of volunteers gathered four times earlier in the summer to catalog the quilts that kept arriving by mail and hand delivery. For us it is like Christmas morning, opening boxes and discovering quilts that have been so lovingly made and given. All the quilts in the auction are donated by individuals, quilting groups or church groups who support Camp Knutson’s mission. Finally, the afternoon before the auction, the quilts are delivered to the Camp K dining hall. The hall, which hours

27th Annual

Fire grilled brats

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before was a buzz with voices of campers preparing to say goodbye after a week of camp, is now humming with volunteers displaying the quilts to be featured in the live auction. The behind-the-scenes work the day itself always begins at dawn. Camp staff rises early to place signs along the route that say “Quilt Auction Ahead” so visitors can find this piece of paradise bordering Big Trout and Lower Whitefish Lakes just north of Crosslake. Another crew arrives early to hang even more quilts and place small-quilted items on tables outside the dining hall for the silent auction. Before we know it, people start arriving. In the dining room, a queue forms as people wait to receive their bidding numbers and a quilt catalog. Meanwhile, others tour the quilt displays.

Camp Knutson Quilt Auction

Saturday, Aug. 10


Camp Knutson

at Camp Knutson: 11169 Whitefish Ave., Crosslake Silent auction and quilt viewing begins at 10 a.m. Live auction begins at noon! More info:

Many will wander to the concession stand to try one of the hot dogs and brats grilling outside. As the day warms, sales of lemonade in “Camp K” tumblers start heating up as well. Many quilters attend the event along with the hundreds of others who come, some because they love quilts and others simply because they love Camp Knutson, many because attending the auction has become an annual tradition. The silent auction finishes in a frenzy of last-minute bidding as people return to their favorites to make sure they are in the lead. Then people begin moving toward the live auction chairs, trying to find the perfect spot in the shade that’s still in view of the quilts. The camp staff parades around in costumes from the camp’s wardrobe closet, ready to add their endless energy and humor to the afternoon. Glen Fladeboe and Kelly Conger, the auctioneers, fire up the crowd with their timely wit and the auction begins. The afternoon is a parade of quilts, beaming quilters, happy bidders and more trips for refreshments. Rob Larson, Camp Director, and one of the campers always announce the camp’s wish during “Fund-aNeed.” Last year, bidding cards flew up and soon enough money was collected to purchase a new swimming raft for the camp’s waterfront. As the afternoon draws to a close and the last quilt has been sold, I’m always amazed at how generous people are, with their quilts, with their time and with their purchases. For all of us who attend, volunteer and support The Camp Knutson Quilt Auction we know we have helped keep this special camp a place where children can come to be kids and to build memories that will become their own stories in years to come. One of last year’s campers summed it up: “At Camp Knutson no one stares at me. I can feel like everyone else and no worries, just have fun with my new friends.” And that is a story worth sharing.

For many women, attending the Camp Knutson Quilt Auction is an annual tradition.

Kay Antos & Katie Antos-Ketcham

Kay Antos and her husband John spend summers in Crosslake and winters in Vermont. This year grandtwins Bailey and Carter, age 4 ½, made their first quilt with Grandma. Kay is a member of the Paul Bunyan Auxiliary, which co-sponsors the auction with LSS. She wrote this story along with her daughter, Katie, who is a high school English Teacher and a quilter.


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her s a y

Story and photos by Jill Anderson


Sandwhich T

Denise Hanson (center), Emily, is trying to cut the apron strings to adult daughters Chelsea (right) and Trista. She has enough on her plate caring for teenager Easton, (left) and mother Lorraine.

There’s no denying caring for an elderly parent and children or grandchildren, while holding down a full-time job can bring on feelings of overwhelming stress and guilt. This is especially stressful at a time when women of “the sandwich generation” expected some freedom in their lives. Roughly one of every eight Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent. And, like sandwiches at a deli, there are names for every “sandwich situation.” I have some friends who fall into one of these categories and I could be next. As the only daughter and only child living in the same state as my parents, ages 77 and 79, I worry about them living two hours away. It doesn’t concern them; they think they’re invincible. There are many options for our expanding senior population. Home health care or assisted living centers are becoming common, yet many adult children live close enough to their parents, and care for them themselves. Sandy Bodle, of Emily, and her husband,


SUMMER 2013 | her voice

Marlen, built an apartment on their property a decade ago for her mother, Lois Fletcher, now 90. “Mom’s health wouldn’t allow her to continue living alone; we knew it was time for her to move back to Minnesota.” Her mother’s health is a constant concern, and Sandy is leery of ever leaving town. With five children and 14 grandchildren, Sandy has had to cancel events with her friends, children and grandkids. “You can’t get those times back, yet I’d feel awful if anything happened to Mom while I was gone.” Sandy looks at her relationship with her mom this way. “I feel stressed and frustrated at times, but there’s also a lot of joy because I really do feel privileged to have this time with Mom, getting to know her again. And, I hope when the time comes for me, one of my children will care for me too.” Denise Hanson, of Emily finds herself in that situation. Denise’s mother, Lorraine Sturdevant, is almost 89, and lives next door to Denise, and Denise’s youngest of three daughters, Easton. Easton is 13, born just a few days before Denise’s 40th birthday.

“My daughters have been able to really get to know my mom,” says Denise who is hoping things will improve when they sell her home and her mother’s and build a home large enough so Lorraine can live with them, yet have her own living quarters. “It will really be nice to have her in the same house so Mom isn’t left out of so many family activities, yet we’ll still have our privacy.” Lois and Lorraine have had to give up their freedom and independence, just like their daughters have. They no longer drive, which means errands as simple as picking up milk now fall on their daughter’s shoulders. “If I’m running late, Mom calls to see where I am,” Denise confesses. Sandy agrees.

“I really do feel

privileged to have this time with Mom, getting to know her again.” ~Sandy Bodle

“With Mom living next door, she wants to know where I’m going all the time and when I’ll be home.” This is common — the elderly parent reverting to worrying about their adult child like they’re still a teenager. “I miss my privacy,” says Sandy. “But having Mom within 30 feet of our house has been a convenience in being able to quickly assist her with any need, from something as simple as reaching for her slipper under her bed to thawing out frozen pipes.” Denise finds scheduling difficult. “It’s hard to work around Easton’s activities yet try to spend time with my mom and bring her to her appointments.” Scheduling everything around work is the biggest challenge. Women in generations past have dealt with caring for multiple generations, but now women are faced with balancing demands of a career along with demands of family. Both Sandy and Denise are typical of the Sandwich Generation, mentioning the same things you’ll hear from others — stress, frustration, guilt, endless juggling of time, and feeling sorry for their partner, not to mention themselves, because with caregivers, the one who usually suffers from neglect most is themselves. Their partner is a close second.

Denise (center) feels the tug of time between her 13-year-old daughter Easton (left) and her 89-year-old mother, Lorraine.

“I don’t know what I’d do without rela- and keep your sense of humor; you’ll need it tives and friends who have helped take to get through the stressful days. Not only Mom to her doctor appointments,” Sandy will you be better off, so will the people you says. She knows it would be very difficult to care for. HV take that much time off of work for all her mother’s needs and is appreciative of the Jill Anderson helping hands. Jill Anderson is a frequent That is one of the many things professioncontributor to Her Voice. In her spare time she tries als stress; take any help that’s offered. And to organize the “voices in forgive yourself for feeling angry or frusher head” into women’s trated. They also recommend cutting any unnecessary activities that are draining you fiction novels. and take care of yourself. Try to recharge,

SUMMER 2013 | her voice


entr e p r e n e u e r s

Story and photos by Marlene Chabot

Scents That Linger


Juniper Breeze. Golden Magnolia. Sweet Chocolate. “It all began with a simple response from a young child,” Christine Kennedy, owner of All Things Herbal, explained. One day while collecting herbs from the garden with eldest daughter Caitlin, now 26, Christine wondered how else she could make use of her herbs. Her daughter said, “Make soap.” The former Brainerd teacher admits she had been looking for something else to do that would allow her to work from home, but she never realized soap making could lead to a 14-year journey. “It’s pretty amazing,” the soap maker said. Originally when Caitlin suggested soap making, Christine thought her daughter meant she wanted to try it, so she purchased a soap making book for her upcoming birthday. Little did Mom realize once she poured through the book with her daughter, she’d become so intrigued by the process she’d be hooked. “Since that first purchase, I’ve bought collector soap bars, soap cards and many more books.” “Working with my family is a real blessing,” says Christine. Her children, Caitlin, Brian and Colleen, husband David and mom, Colleen Jentsch, were involved in the business from the beginning. Today, David and Colleen are Christine’s main support


SUMMER 2013 | her voice

system. Even though the grown children aren’t involved with the daily routine of Mom’s business and live a great distance from Pequot Lakes, the soap making business is still on their minds. “Colleen, my youngest, is studying abroad and e-mails me whenever she comes across new soap making ideas.” A State Fair 4-H Grand Champion in bread making, Christine also looks for more creative ways to enhance her soaps. “It’s about chemistry,” she says. The Brainerd native’s passion for the two bubbled forth as she explained the connection. “You add a pinch of this and a hint of that to the main ingredients and end up with a unique product every time.” Her first creations were made with items like cinnamon and oatmeal. The newest — pink grapefruit and bamboo charcoal. Like baking, soap making starts with the right equipment, a stainless steel work table and kettles. Only stainless steel can withstand one of the main ingredients — lye. We left Christine’s kitchen behind and entered her workshop so she could explain the soap making process and then show her endless supplies. One kettle heats the lye and distilled water, the other an oil like coconut. “Each vegetable and essential oil reacts differently

to lye and must be weighed before coming into contact with it,” Christine said. When the kettles reach their required temperatures, the lye mixture is poured into the oil. Now the main ingredients need to reach the right consistency before herbs, clay and essential oils are added. The soap is then poured into rectangular cake-size molds to set. The final steps involve cutting the slabs into bar sizes, curing the product for several weeks on bakery sheets, and then attaching labels. With 75 different types of soaps, including special purpose, a men’s line and her three main categories: classic, herbal infusion and limited edition, Christine’s still scouring books, magazines and other sources for the latest ideas in soap making. Her shelves reflect that. They hold numerous bags of clay, bottles of botanical oils, containers of herbs, and rack upon rack of bar soaps. But I also discovered something else: lotions and lip balms. “People are always asking me if I offer other items, so I decided to do so.” The lotions compliment the soaps. “Christine has learned by doing,” David says. Other ideas she has experimented with include replacing water with liquids like beer, coconut milk, goat milk or tea, layering colors and forming lakeshore waves at one end of the soap.

e Magnolia Lady Slipper Juniper Breez Golden In 2008, Christine closed another Christine replied when asked if there business, Hidden Cottage, so she could devout full time to soap making which frequently demands her attention seven days a week. “Running my own business requires many hats.” If she’s not in the workshop, a converted garage, she’s probably designing marketing tools, communicating with clients via phone, Facebook, Twitter and a blog or on the road with David, who also handles accounting and helps mix the oils. She and David display their products from spring through Christmas at about 35 arts and craft festivals, the majority of which are in Minnesota. The couple travels to wholesale events too. “I enjoy staying the size I am,”

were plans for expansion. But she is getting requests for her soap from other countries, most recently Australia. For those thinking about starting their own business Christine highly recommends you pick something you’re really passionate about. “Don’t be afraid. If you love it, it’s worth going for. And, if it doesn’t turn out right the first time, practice makes it better.” To find Christine’s springtime collection and others visit


Marlene Chabot

Christine and David Kennedy handcraft and sell over 70 variety of soaps.

Marlene Chabot, a resident of Fort Ripley, is a member of Sisters in Crime and Great River Writers. She’s currently working on her fourth Minnesota-based mystery novel. When not writing, she enjoys reading, spending time with family and friends, gardening and traveling.

SUMMER 2013 | her voice



bus i n e s s

By Diane Peterson Photos by Joey Halvorson


Cragun’s Camaraderie

ALL of Cragun’s female employees definitely

relate to camaraderie — a spirit of friendly, generosity, goodwill and familiarity.

Irma Cragun (center) employs a cadre of strong managers including: MJ Minkel, (left) Spa Director; Diane Heinlen, Catering/wedding Planner.


(left to right) pine by the pool lk rfo No san a nd ent Manager; Su Arranged arou and IT Departm g tin un co Ac , Ann Horn Beth McGarry, Desk Manager; Hamilton, Front anager. Housekeeping M

Posing behind the pool potted plants, (left to right) Kathryn Stotka, Director of Sales; Carrie Hofman, Food and Beverage Manager at Legacy Grill; and Nan cy Krasean, Marketing Manager.


SUMMER 2013 | her voice

There is a huge percentage of female employees, directors and managers at Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake. “Women are great organizers with a very caring nature from motherhood,” smiles owner Irma Cragun. “All the ladies are top notch and women of power,” added owner Dutch Cragun and “every visitor immediately realizes that they are our family.” Get ready to grin as we learn about the decades of dedication, kinship and ongoing support of each other as each employee becomes part of the family. Nancy Krasean, working for eight years as the marketing manager, believes she is a “Jill” of all trades. She enjoys her position working with sales staff, conference sales, photographers, websites and so much more. “No days are the same and everyone helps each other, all helping with housekeeping and at the front desk too,” says Nancy. “Everyone has a different level and works to the best of their ability,” says Kathryn Stotka, Director of Sales. Every single week she looks through the sales and always moves things forward. “My favorite is being able to empower staff. I work for everyone because it comes from my heart,” says Kathryn. Working for Cragun’s for over 25 years, Spa Director MJ Minkel says she is still gung ho! Scheduling massages for nine massage therapists and a manicurist/ massage therapist and trying to balance everyone’s day out, MJ helps in many more ways. “Dutch and Irma allow us to grow. It is never, ever boring and it is great fun to be part of a changing industry. We move with the times.” Ann Horn began working at Cragun’s in 1988 for vacation sales and then as the accounting and IT department manager, responsible for computers, printers, keeping the software and hardware updated, the phone system and the guest wireless network. The list goes on. Ann’s favorite experiences are definitely both the employees and guests and the new challenges that happen with all of the advancements in technology. “It’s

a lot of variety and never the same day twice,” she smiles. Making people happy when they check in and out is Susan Hamilton’s favorite experience. As the front desk manager (off and on for almost 13 years) with 15-18 women employees, Susan knows that everyone enjoys taking care of their guests. “When they check out the guests say they ‘love being here!’ We always ask everyone for their responses and I always go home being happy.” As the catering/wedding planner for 20 years, Diane Heinlen says, “Working in the hospitality business you have many fun happenings each week and with each event. These are the things that make your job fun. When I started at Cragun’s, Irma taught and probably re-taught me many valuable lessons. She is a very special lady and I am so happy I have had this opportunity,” says Diane. Working for many years as a housekeeping manager at nursing homes, Beth McGarry has enjoyed working at Cragun’s for almost two years. “There are lots of similarities from nursing homes to resorts.”

(Yes, there are some great men housekeepers, too.) “Most of our housekeepers take lunches with them and don’t come back until the end of the day because of the big resort. When I first arrived at Cragun’s, Rick, my boss and the general manager, called my cell and asked me where I was.” Beth laughed out loud. “I have no idea,” she said. Now she knows that everyone needs to walk around to learn the property! Beth added, “I love working with people and cannot be ‘stuck’ at a desk.” Golfing, weddings and delicious meals at the Legacy Golf Course is only part of Carrie Hofmann’s experience as the food and beverage manager at Legacy Grill. “I love my 40 staff who are very much a family and have continued to grow over the years,” says Carrie. “I also love the opportunity to facilitate someone’s idea and turn (them) into a massive event with all the bells and whistles that they will remember for years to come. I have also formed relationships with newlyweds who have sent me pictures of their new baby a year or two later which makes my heart melt. We have customers that return year after year,” she smiled. “I

have learned so much from Dutch and Irma. They are the reason to come to work every day!” Irma believes “Women are successful, outgoing and friendly with a sense of responsibility. These people are our key!’” Congratulations and let’s enjoy vacationing at Cragun’s!


Diane Peterson

Diane Peterson from Battle Lake lived in the Brainerd area for 32 years. She loves coming back home, interviewing friends, writing for Her Voice and laughing out loud all the time. She brought her family to Cragun’s last October and immediately knew that it was a unique and fun, family experience. Yes, they are coming back this summer.

SUMMER 2013 | her voice


Story and photos by Beth Luwandi Lofstrom


As General Manager of Lost Lake Lodge, Lori Needham is called on to perform a variety of tasks from selecting wines to pulling weeds.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you I grew up with Lori (Kleinschmidt) Needham as farm neighbor-friend. When I returned to the area almost six years ago, I met her daughters while teaching and got reacquainted with her at parent-teacher conferencing. Discovering each other again, we squealed like schoolgirls. I even helped out at the resort last summer, so you might say I have the inside scoop. At the very least, I can’t claim to be entirely objective. But I’m sure of this: her story is worth telling and full of delicious and lovely details.

Call her a paradox if you will. She’s dressed in five-inch heels and pencil skirt yet ready to hand-pull weeds from a boat’s propeller if she can’t get them loose by jamming the gear in reverse. That’s just life as a general manager in the Brainerd lakes resort industry for Lori (Kleinschmidt) Needham, GM of Lost Lake Lodge in Lake Shore. Of course, digging around in weed sludge is not top of her list. She’d rather pound nails to hang a display of antique signs, or haul crates of wine she hand-selected for a groom’s dinner but there’s no guarantee she’ll kick off her heels for any of the tasks. I don’t make this stuff up; I’ve seen her do all three. And more. Lots more. Many call Lost Lake Lodge iconic but don’t feel badly if you don’t know the place. Even though it’s open to the public and not just lodgers, many locals have only heard a whispered mention of this hidden gem, established in 1946 and tucked away on the Gull Lake Narrows


Summer 2013 | her voice

and 80 lushly forested acres including miles of hiking, 13 comfortable cabins, a private beach on the spring-fed Lost Lake, and the most surprising fine food establishment in the area. The restaurant, what Lori calls “the golf course of the resort” truly holds her heart and gets her tender, controlled attention. Other projects keep her in the back office until the wee hours once the restaurant closes, but any given summer night, you’ll see her checking the dining rooms and kitchen, attending to guests, recommending wine, giving the service staff a pep talk or measured suggestion. Consulting Open Table and the call-in reservations? Rearranging the seating chart? Still her first order of daily business. Checking the restaurant audit at close of business? Not her last. You might catch her referring to herself as “a glorified waitress,” but that’s just “Minnesota modesty.” Everyone who observes her lon-

ger than a few minutes knows Lori’s not just the hostess with the mostest but a shrewd businesswoman, a flexible problem solver, and a creative powerhouse. “Emergencies” happen daily. Power shuts off after a thunderstorm. Two equally faithful, long-time patrons want the same table reserved the same night. The septic system needs flushing. All on the same day “Midwest Living” arrives for the photo shoot and the sous chef can’t make it in. It’s all in a day’s work and no day is like the one before. Even if it seems she’s not dressed for the occasion, believe me, she’s ready for whatever the day brings. She started serving tables 10 years ago in the fine dining portion of Lost Lake Lodge, when then-owners Doug and Pat Lewis expanded the menu, added the Bistro Dining Room, and refined the outdoor patio extending over the view of the Narrows. It was Lori’s penchant to please the customer, her driven work ethic, and a sweltering passion for fine food and carefully-chosen wine that soon earned her the role as dining room manager, more recently the resort manager as she took on added business responsibilities when

Sisters on a special little getaway with their auntie.

Rebound Hospitality bought the resort from the Lewises. The same passion earned her the top title of general manager just over a year ago. As one of a handful of women in the area bearing such a title, she now touches every aspect of this similarly paradoxical resort. After all, who expects to take a winding road through the woods, past pristine naturalized forest and climb rustic steps to discover a gorgeous sunset over the Narrows? The sunset comes standard with the finest panfried walleye, Colorado lamb loin chops, or an applewood-smoked duck breast as an entree

choice with your prix fixe meal. Again, I’m not just making this stuff up; the food is truly remarkable! And the attention to each dish, its meticulous presentation, and emphasis on individual customer satisfaction is the standard of excellence you might expect to find in Europe or New York City. It’s this juxtaposed mix of refined and rustic, cultured and raw, nostalgic and cutting-edge you’ll find embodied in the place and its manager, making them each so unique and so endearing. And perfectly fit for one another. Working in the hospitality industry takes a

Beth LuwandiKaren Ogdahl of Baxter is a retired teacher, community volunteer and arts enthusiast.

Summer 2013 | her voice


special balance, especially if you’re “in charge of everything.” That’s why Lori is particularly gratified to have the help of her husband, Bob, on some grounds work and maintenance. “He’s a great front-of-the-house guy too. He loves visiting with the guests.” She doesn’t need to point out the deck and railing; everyone has seen and talked to Bob while he’s been working on the handsome fresh finish. Their daughters, Sydney and Haley, now both out of high school, have been helping in the restaurant for years as servers. Sydney steps in as assistant dining manager on the rare occasion Lori can’t oversee a dinner service. Haley especially likes helping out at the new dock-side service, Lori’s successful brainchild for getting the word out locally that the restaurant is indeed open to the boating and general public. “If my family couldn’t be here helping me out,” Lori offers, “our together-time during the summer months would be next to nothing.” Since the resort is open seasonally, from Mid-May (fishing opener) through September (weekends only), for years Lori had time in the off-season to “relax and feed [her] family.” That relaxation meant time in the kitchen trying new recipes and mastering the most complex cooking techniques. She also took time to pursue her passion to study wine notes and sample the wine that distributers shipped directly to her house. The offseason investment always got reflected in the following year’s menus and wine selections and paid off when, encouraged by Rebound, she finally applied for the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2011. Of course she earned it. This lady knows her stuff. It’s evident as she rolls off descriptions of the pairing she’s selected for a Minnesota Wine and Cheese Tasting. Couples staying as part of the Wine Lovers’ Weekend seem utterly delighted to be sitting in the north woods, on the verge of commencing a scavenger hunt that will have them scrambling all over the property for their chance at finding the $200 bottle of prize wine. They sip wine from Minnesota St. Croix Vineyard fare and nosh on cheese from Shepherd’s Way Farms in Carver County. No one lounging in their Marrell’s and Crocs, togged out in sporty weekend wear thinks twice seeing Lori dressed and done to the nines in five-inch heels. It’s wine after all! Besides, they know Lori. And Lost Lake Lodge.

HV 42

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In the off season, Lori studies wine and new recipes, to create menus. For her effort, Lori was awarded the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2011.

Beth Luwandi Lofstrom

Brainerd native Beth Luwandi Lofstrom is a freelance writer and photographer. She grew up on a farm where she learned to pick weeds, plant potatoes and harvest beans as quickly as possible. View her sports photography galleries at and read her blog at


By Carolyn Corbett Photos by Joey Halvorson

Signe and Orville Aho, age 92 and 86, respectively, love their gardens and continue to find ways to do the garden chores all summer.


“My garden is my passion,” says Signe Aho, Baxter. “First thing in the morning I get up and go walk all my flowerbeds. All of them, every day.” Then she and Orville, her husband of 66 years, have coffee out on their front deck, surrounded by hanging baskets and planters overflowing with brightly colored blossoms. After that, it is back outside to work among the flowers, weeding and deadheading and talking to the plants all the time. “If you love the work, it isn’t work,” 92-year-old Signe says of the several hours a day spent tending her flowers. Orville works alongside her, preparing pots with new soil, carrying away the weeds, fertilizing, watering the hanging baskets and adjusting the sprinkler heads as necessary. The four Aho offspring are all flower lovers as well, having helped with gardening as

Signe’s Garden

they grew up. Son Brian sees to it that his mother always has a bouquet of live flowers on her table, even in the deep of winter. Daughter Mary Jane, a great gardener herself, flies in from Harrisonburg, Va., each year at the end of May to spend a week putting the annual plants in the ground for her mother. She returns in July, “to see how I’ve done,” says Signe. Gardening skills came early to Signe, who grew up a dairy farmer’s daughter in the Sebeka/Wadena area, where she picked more rocks than flowers. There were 10 children in her family, all born there in the farm house. During the war, Signe and her sister did a lot of farm work. The family had a big vegetable garden they plowed with horses, then later a hand plow. A big part of Signe’s social life for 10 years

was 4-H, and she excelled at bread baking. She had graduated from Duluth State College and was teaching at a one-room school in Ottertail County when her bread won first prize at the Minnesota State Fair. The school was closed to allow her to travel to the 4-H Club Congress in Chicago where she stayed in a big hotel and went to banquets. Orville, 88, grew up only four miles away from Signe. They went to different schools, but attended the same church, where the teenagers were always together as a group, ice skating or doing other activities. Wedded in June of 1947, the couple has been a wonderful team, not only in gardening, but in marriage and ministry. Orville’s pastoral work took them to Thunder Bay, Ontario; Virginia, Minn.; Toronto, Ontario; Buffalo, N.Y.; then finally back to Minnesota to Ah-Gwah-Ching, SUMMER 2013 | her voice


Visitors are drawn to the front porch by hanging baskets of begonias and shade loving multi-hued coleus.

where Orville was the chaplain. In each parsonage along the way, Signe brought beauty through the flower gardens that were her joy. Fifteen years ago, the Ahos settled in Baxter, where their neighbor across the street says she doesn’t have to have any flowers of her own because the Ahos have them for her! “I like to bring beauty to the street,” Signe says, “and I bring flowers to the older people.” What are Signe’s favorite flowers to grow? “Anything that blooms,” she smiles. “I just love them all.” She mentions lilies, marigolds and Magellan zinnias. Last summer she grew enormous “King Kong” coleus that looked like good-sized shrubs! And she loves perennials, loves to have as many of them as possible. “You name it, we have it.” “We also have a lot of whatchamacallit flowers,” Orville says of the flowers whose names they don’t recall. Signe has a list, though, and one thing on her list is lavatera, an easy-growing plant that does well in the large planters scattered outside the Aho home. It is the one plant that she grows from seed each year. Last year she just dumped a bunch of seeds in a barrel and the abundance

of blooms was a sight to behold. Lavatera grow to be three to five feet in height, with flowers three to four inches in diameter. This annual flower is related to both hibiscus and hollyhock. There wasn’t a single flower when the Ahos moved to their home in Baxter. In fact, there was only a little grass in the front. Renters had lived there before, and they were the first owners of the house. Orville built the shed and the deck and the garden out front.That first year, Landsburg brought in a whole load of dirt to create a mound for the main flowerbed. Each year they add something new to the yard. Last year it was an old wheelbarrow that Orville repainted and Signe filled with moss roses and a white plant called Diamond Frost. She doesn’t grow houseplants, though; she doesn’t have time. Does she grow any vegetables these days? “We don’t have room,” she laughs. Signe’s favorite gardening magazine is

Last year’s addition to the garden: A repainted wheelbarrow filled with moss roses and Diamond Frost.

called “Garden Gate: The Illustrated G u i d e to Home Gardening.” It covers everything — annuals, perennials, bulbs, garden designs and projects, dividing, pruning and fertilizing. (“Garden Gate” also offers a free preview edition that can be requested online.) Closer to home, Signe and Orville love the people at Landsburg Nursery who are so

helpful to them and at each visit exclaim, “Oh, you’re back again!” If Signe’s children wonder what she wants for a gift, she asks them to please get her a gift certificate for Landsburg’s. Deer repellent is something the Ahos don’t buy. Last year the deer ate only Signe’s tulips, but they can be more of a problem. Orville has outwitted them, though, with his homemade spray that he says works as well as ”the stuff you pay $10 a gallon for.” He mixes a tablespoon of dish detergent with a tablespoon of cooking oil and one egg. He adds a gallon of water and a couple of tablespoons of garlic powder and he’s in business! The two have perennially positive attitudes. They say their faith keeps them going. Signe has glaucoma in one eye and has had cataract surgery twice in the other eye, and she experiences some dizziness. She walks outdoors with her cane, being extra careful not to take a fall. “I am so determined,” she says of working with her flowers. “When I get outside, you’d be surprised.” She has good equipment, a sturdy stool to sit on and a good wagon to pull her gardening “stuff’ around. Plus, she has Orville, who has persevered through surgery on his larynx as well as a triple bypass. If Signe ever finds herself disheartened, she goes for a walk in the garden or props a lawn chair under the huge flowering crab tree in the yard and is back to herself in no time. “She has ‘sisu,’” says Orville, “Finnish for determination, tenacity of purpose.”



SUMMER 2013 | her voice

Carolyn Corbett

Prior to her passion for playing with words, Carolyn Corbett taught elementary school for 14 years. At 35, she resigned and sailed off into the sunset. Literally. Along the way she became a contributing writer for a number of sailing magazines. Today, as a freelance writer/editor, she has over 200 articles published in cruising, parenting and general interest magazines.

SUMMER 2013 | her voice


Her Voice Service Directory • Summer 2013 Appliances Schroeder’s Appliance

16603 Minnesota 371 Brainerd, MN (218) 829-3624 baxter

320 South 6th St. Brainerd, MN

Good Neighbor Home Health Care


(218) 829-9238 (888) 221-5785

Gull Lake Glass

18441 State Hwy 371 Brainerd, MN (218) 829-2881 1-800-726-8445


Preferred Hearing

17274 State Hwy 371 Brainerd, MN 56401 1-800-458-0895

Auto Import

320 East Main Street Crosby, MN 56441 (218) 546-7000 (888) 487-6437

Essentia Health

Automotives 22 Washington Street Brainerd, MN (218) 829-3307

Northern Family Chiropractic

13968 Cypress Dr. Suite 1B Baxter, MN 218-822-3855

416 South 7th Street Brainerd, MN (218) 829-0076

Northern Eye Center Great Northern Opticians

Brainerd, Little Falls, Staples 218-829-2020 1-800-872-0005

Just For Kix

Summer 2013 | her voice

Baxter, MN (218) 828-9545 201 1st St NE Staples, MN (218) 894-5480

Staples Motley Pillager Eagle Bend Browerville (218) 894-1515 (800) 525-1033

Music General

Midwest Family Eye 7870 Excelsior Rd

Lakewood Health System


6948 Lake Forest Rd Brainerd, MN 56401 (218) 829-7107

7734 Excelsior Rd N Baxter, MN 56425 218-829-2929 888-540-0202



Lakes Area Eyecare

St. Joseph’s Hospital 218-829-2861 Brainerd Clinic (218) 828-2880 Baxter Clinic (218) 828-2880


Baxter (218) 825-1976 Crosby (218) 546-5108 Remer (218) 566-2020 (800) 952-3766


Rohlfing Inc. 923 Wright Street

Crosby Eye Clinic

Cuyuna Regional Medical Center


Lakes Imaging Center



2014 South 6th St. Brainerd, MN (888) 829-7812

7447 Clearwater Rd Baxter, Minnesota (218) 824-0642

2019 S. 6th Street Brainerd, MN 218-822-OPEN (6736) 877-522-7222

(218) 828-5406

Northern Orthopedics

15860 Audubon Way Baxter, MN (218) 8244228


US Bank




Showplace Kitchens

14715 Edgewood Drive Baxter, MN (218) 270-2700

14211 Firewood Drive Baxter, MN (218) 828-4770

Northridge Agency

Thrivent Financial

Excelsior Place


123 N 1st St. Brainerd, MN 56401 (218) 829-1166

Assisted Living


Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union

13283 Isle Drive, Baxter MN 56425 218-822-2444



Brainerd, MN (218) 829-0303

The Spa At Madden’s

11266 Pine Beach Peninsula Brainerd, MN (218) 855-5917

Coming May 2013! All-Access Membership

New Rates, New Package Options and New Membership Rewards!

Subscribe now to lock-in your low rate.

After May 20th, the specials we are currently running will NEVER be offered

again. Contact us for more information or request an All-Access brochure for more details. Brainerd Dispatch, 506 James Street, Brainerd, MN 56401 • 218-829-4705.

Summer 2013 | her voice


Her Voice Magazine - Summer 2013  

• Not Just By The Numbers - With more than a numbers background, Val Knudsen is the CFO for the Cote Family Companies; including Grand View...

Her Voice Magazine - Summer 2013  

• Not Just By The Numbers - With more than a numbers background, Val Knudsen is the CFO for the Cote Family Companies; including Grand View...