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by women… for women… about women…

Inside: • The Gifts of the Library • Wild Ricing for the Holidays • When Memory Fades A BRAINERD DISPATCH PUBLICATION

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Coming soon...

GENERATIONS IN BUSINESS Many family businesses have a rich history. Names like Mills, Maddens and Schaefers are synonymous with the area. Read the stories of these founding families, and others in the upcoming Generations In Business magazine.

A publication of the Brainerd Dispatch

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Contents Features



Empowering the Woman Within . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Mentors, we know they’re key to advancement in the workplace. The Brainerd Lakes Area Women’s Fund aims to have an impact.

7 23

by Jenny Holmes

From Someone Else’s Tummy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Why does it matter, the words we use to talk about adoption? This mother explains. by Becky Flansburg

When Memory Fades. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 What’s it like to love someone whose memory fades? Here’s one woman’s story. by Mary Aalgaard

Running the Dog Sled . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

A veteran of the Iditarod, a sled dog race across Alaska, this woman now raises Alaskan Huskies, giving sled dog rides to the community. by Theresa Jarvela

The Gifts of the Library . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Now managed by Jolene Bradley, the Brainerd Public Library is hopping with new materials and activities for all ages. by Carolyn Corbett

Through the Long, Dark Night . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 This is a story of a woman’s long and arduous healing journey from childhood sexual abuse. by Bev Abear

In This Issue 28

editorial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

pioneer profile. . . . . . . . . . . . 34

senior living . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

witty woman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36

nostalgia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

her say . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40

entrepreneurs . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16


handicrafts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

pets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

Making Merry! by Meg Douglas

Being the Daughter by Deb Cranny

W i l d R i c i n g fo r t h e H o l i d a y s by Char maine Donovan Down Home Goodness by Mar lene Cha bot

36 44

Purls of Wisdom by Sara Ann Swenson

education. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 She’s More Than Pink by Joan Hasskamp

spirituality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 When One Family’s Tragedy is Another’s Answer to Prayer by Sheila DeChantal



Natural Family Planning by Marcy Malsed


A Long Road Traveled by Jill Ander son An Indoor Girl by Julie Koehler

An Alter native Chr istmas Letter by Jan Kur tz

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42

Be A DJ! by Ann Schwar tz

Love Stor y by Audrae Gr uber

Co v e r p h o t o by J oey Halvorson On the cover: Jill Carlson-Ferrie models the plethora of pleats in just one of many Ruth Gmeinder costumes at The Brainerd Lakes Area Women’s Fund, “An Afternoon in Venice.”


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from the editor Ruth Gmeinder making merry at “An Afternoon in Venice.”

photos by Joey Halvorson


Merry I

I kicked off holiday celebrations early this fall at “An Afternoon in Venice,” viewing a dazzling collection of costumes designed and sewed by Ruth Gmeinder for a fundraiser sponsored by the Brainerd Lakes Area Women’s Fund. Lavish ladies swathed in silk and sequins, feathers and furbelows, masks and mystery enchanted and entertained, brightening moods and lightening spirits. Resort owner, former WIC director and school board member, Ruthie continues to amaze us with her talents as displayed in the cover photo of Her Voice. Kudos, also, to those who designed this lively feast for the senses, creating a fundraiser extraordinaire. Yes, the economy flounders, wars rage and jobs are scarce, but we all need opportunities to celebrate. This year, I’m cancer free and in a mood to celebrate. Just before Thanksgiving three years ago, a breast cancer diagnosis followed by surgery on New Year’s Eve day, made for a less than festive holiday season. After the holidays chemo loomed large and following that ... who knew what? I put holiday celebrating on hold, cutting back on cards and cookies. What was I to dash off in my holiday greetings, “Merry Christmas, I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, Happy New Year, looking forward to surgery soon?” This year my prognosis is better than “50/50” and routine check-ups have been two thumbs up. Yes, there are days when “chemo-brain” muddles my memory and the reality of recurrence never goes away. But my energy is back and life is good!


While cancer is my cross to bear, we all have something. This edition of Her Voice will remind you of the struggles many women face, even during this festive time. Mary Aalgaard writes of caring for parents when memory fades. From Deb Cranny we hear the daughter’s perspective on this crippling ailment. Beverly Abear tells the story of supporting a friend through her long and arduous healing from sexual abuse. Jenny Holmes addresses the sexual trafficking of young girls and supporting women who struggle to find work in hard times. Jenny writes that The Women’s Fund empowers women, giving them the skills and self-esteem to take control of their lives. At the end of “An Afternoon in Venice,” costumed women took off their masks, symbolizing that self-esteem. Besides a mentoring program, The Women’s Fund is creating an endowment to grant dollars to organizations sharing a passion for assisting women and girls, including organization such as Bridges of Hope and the Women’s Center of Minnesota. During the holidays The Women’s Fund provide baskets to families in need. So make merry this holiday season; tour Christmas homes, hear concerts, see plays, worship with friends and family and share with those in need.

(Left to right) Meg Douglas, Sue Beck, Jane Johnson celebrate survivorship at “Bella Notte.” HV

Meg Douglas, Editor 6

Staff PUBLISHER Tim Bogenschutz EDITOR Meg Douglas ART DIRECTOR Nikki Lyter PHOTOGRAPHER Joey Halvorson





• 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 EIGHT, EDITION FOUR WINTER 2011

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byJenny Holmes

photos by Joey Halvorson


Faith Palmer, a Central Lakes College student, participated in a series of mentoring workshops for women sponsored by BLAWF.

For one group of Brainerd area women, giving isn’t just for the holidays. It’s something they do year-round with a passion. Faith Palmer, a recipient of that generosity, knows firsthand the difference a giving spirit can make in one person’s life. Faith, 37 and a non-traditional student at the Brainerd campus of Central Lakes College, participated last year in the Presenting Yourself workshop series designed and sponsored by the Brainerd Lakes Area Women’s Fund, a subcommittee of the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation. Presenting Yourself was initiated in 2010 and created for women enrolled at CLC in need of mentoring and a little lift to propel them to success. Palmer had recently relocated to the lakes area after living in Alaska and working in a dead end job. “I had worked in the automotive industry for 17 years,” Faith said. “Every place I worked I always ended up in a situation where there was no further growth for me. It was evident I needed a degree to go further and I just didn’t like my job. I had looked for work in other areas, but without a degree it wasn’t going to work out for me.” Palmer, who was born in the Brainerd area, quit her job and moved back home to live with her parents so she could enroll full-time at CLC, seeking retraining and a second chance. While participating in the TRIO program at CLC, Palmer heard about the Presenting Yourself opportunity and thought she’d give it a shot. WINTER 2011 | her voice

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“The first night I was pretty surprised at their ambitions,” Palmer said of the ladies who make up the Women’s Fund Board. “Linda Hanson (chair of the Women’s Fund) made a really good point: there aren’t a lot of good women mentors out there. Sometimes we end up in a guy’s world and you need a bit of that experience passed on to you so you know how to make it.” Linda Hanson, chair of the Women’s Fund, said the Presenting Yourself series was designed to empower low-income college women with the necRuth Gmeinder welcomes visitors essary skills to present to The Brainerd Area Women’s themselves for success Fund, “An Afternoon in Venice.” both through education While filled with frivolity, the event and career enhancement. raised funds for a variety of good The series includes three causes empowering women. workshops facilitated by professional women in the Brainerd lakes area in partnership with members of the Women’s Fund board. These workshops focus on topics ranging from an effective introduction and networking skills, the how-tos of applying for jobs and the interview process, to appropriate business attire and etiquette. “There was a lot of good advice,” Palmer said. “I look back 20 years ago when I started in a male dominated industry. If I’d had this information years ago, I wonder how much further I could’ve gone. It really gives a woman confidence and skills to get out there. Sell herself, but not sell herself short.” The Presenting Yourself series kicked off its second session in October with the participation of over a dozen CLC female students. But the series is only one tool the Women’s Fund hopes to utilize in

changing society’s perspective on women and giving those women strength and a sense of empowerment in their everyday lives. In June 2010, the Women’s Fund hosted an educational seminar featuring speakers from the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. The workshop, entitled “Our Future: Minnesota Girls are Not for Sale,” discussed the growing trend of female trafficking in the state of Minnesota and attracted more than 45 attendees, ranging from health care providers to social services employees to others who shared in the concern over the startling statistics. Karen Leonard, workshop presenter, said 33 percent of women in

A BLAWF workshop discussed the trafficking of girls for sex in Minnesota.

Minnesota will experience sexual violence by mid-life. This percentage only takes into account reported cases, as many women choose to remain silent, Leonard noted. One research study found that during a 10-month period in 2010, the number of adolescent girls sold for sex in Minnesota through Internet classified advertising and escort services increased 166 percent. By very conservative measures, the same research determined that approximately 213 girls are sold each month in Minnesota — an average of four to six times per day — through the Internet and escort services. This number does not include hotel, street or gang activity.

Participants, planners and presenters of the Presenting Yourself Workshop series. 8

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“We’re white, Scandinavian Minnesotans and we don’t think these things happen here,” Linda Hanson told workshop attendees. “But you sitting here are the only hope our daughters have to fight back.” Linda said a great deal of the idea behind Presenting Yourself is to help provide experience and expertise to help build other women and girls,’ self-esteem, self-worth and, potentially, eliminate instances of female trafficking when they feel they have no where else to turn. “We hope we can empower women and girls to feel better about themselves,” Linda said. “As part of the Women’s Fund mission, we felt it was important to share this key piece of education with as many individuals as we possibly can. The lives of our young girls, our future, are far too important to overlook something so disturbing and detrimental.” Women’s Fund board member and Crow Wing County Social Services Supervisor Tami Lueck said since the June 2011 educational event, a group of concerned individuals have met and formed an advisory group to discuss and potentially address, the impact of female trafficking in Crow Wing and surrounding counties. “We want to research and learn more about trafficking, its local impact and what we may be able to do locally to keep girls safe in our community,” Lueck said. Also part of the Women’s Fund mission is to create an endowment to grant dollars to organizations sharing a passion for assisting women and girls. Since its creation in 2009, the Women’s Fund has made grants to Bridges of Hope, the Women’s Center of Minnesota, as well as provided Christmas baskets to families in need. In three short years, the Women’s Fund has given out over $10,000. In addition to donations from the public, the Women’s Fund also raises money through events, including the Oct. 8 “An Afternoon in Venice” held at Madden’s Resort on Gull Lake. This over-the-top event featured elaborate costumes and scenery from 18th Century Venice, complete with Italian music, desserts, beverages and a program depicting the life and times of those who lived during this intriguing period. Jill Carlson-Ferrie, a lifelong member of the Brainerd community and busy volunteer with a variety of organizations, has been involved with the Women’s Fund for the last three years and said she has been most impressed with the organization’s dedication to doing whatever it takes to make the area better for the lives of women and girls whether it be through education, events or empowerment. “The collaboration that happens here is amazing,” said Jill. “We’ve partnered with other service organizations, other women’s groups and funds, Central Lakes College, and area companies; all with the ultimate goal of supporting women and girls in the Brainerd lakes Area. It’s inspiring how a community comes together to share ideas and resources. I can’t wait to see the impact that is made from these partnerships. Anything women can do to educate, support and mentor other women can only help a community.” For more information on the Brainerd Lakes Area Women’s Foundation, visit

BLAWF president, (left) Linda Hanson, and presenter at the “Minnesota Girls Are Not for Sale,” workshop, Karen Leonard.

Jenny Holmes

Once a Brainerd Dispatch reporter, Jenny Holmes now owns a public relations and communication company. She lives in Nisswa with her husband, two children, two dogs and a cat.

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s en io r l i v i n g

by Deb Cranny

Three generations of mothers and daughters: (left to right) Keli Books, Marlene Van Maanen, Deb Cranny. As parents age, a new set of dynamics can emerge in the relationships.


So I read over the booklet again. “This guide is designed to help adult children and their aging parents deal with those sensitive life topics that often make conversations difficult.” All the information I need to have a conversation with Mom and Dad about what they want for the rest of their lives — where they want to live, what their healthcare wishes are, what will they need or want help with? How are we going to accomplish that? It’s all there. It should be simple. It’s not simple. I’m their daughter. I’m their only daughter. They sometimes still think of me as “Debbie” and being 16 years old. When I’m at their home, I find myself sitting at the table, drinking coffee and having no problem letting Mom wait on me. I want to be 16 again! How am I supposed to talk to them about “when you can’t drive the car anymore”? How am I supposed to say “I’m sorry I live five hours away. I’m sorry I’m not always available because I’m busy with my own life. I’m sorry that seems more important than helping you — because it’s not!” How does a daughter do that? How do you get past the guilt of being everything 10

you should be for your parents…and being everything you need to be for your own family and your own life? My thoughts race to my own daughters. Will they someday have these same struggles? Will they have things they want to talk to me about because they see me aging, but just start the conversation? Funny, isn’t it? That’s supposed to happen when they were teenagers and didn’t want to tell me they were out with their boyfriend instead of at their girlfriend’s house. I understand why it will be hard for them. But I don’t want it to be hard! I give advice to “daughters” every day at work. Just have the conversation. Have it early. Make sure the timing is right. Make sure you have their best interest at heart. Make sure you’re in the right place — a comfortable place for all of you. Set aside all other conflicts and just keep in mind you want to do everything to maximize their independence, honor their wishes and keep them safe. Try to make sure you have support from your siblings and get them involved. The best advice out there is from those

who have actually experienced these conversations. One friend told me she was scared to death to bring up the “driving” topic to her VERY independent 86-year-old mom (a retired nurse). Even though the conversation was hard, she knew what was best for her mom was to make sure she could get to all the activities she still enjoyed. The solution: her mom was ‘just fine’ with volunteer drivers, as long as they could use HER car. My friend overheard her mom telling people “this is my car; she’s just driving it for me.” Another friend told me that her mom said she very much wanted to stay in her home. Even though they had a large family, they were finding it difficult covering everything Mom needed to assure she was safe. They hired professional help to fill the gaps, but her mom wasn’t comfortable with someone always in her home. She was getting angry and upset having people around all the time, even if it was family. A better solution for her mom was a senior living community. She could have her privacy, but still go out to see others when she chose to.

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I found it easier to ask my Mom some questions when she was talking about decisions that her friends were making. It was a great time to ask how she felt about those decisions and what she and Dad would do differently. We were able to talk about changes that might need to be made-moving the laundry upstairs, adjustments to the stairway, changes in the bathroom and possibly some professional help when needed. I made some progress. To my daughters: Yes, I want to stay at home. I’ll always remember where the coffee pot is here and it’ll be easier here to talk about the memories we’ve created. I want you to come home to visit when you can and to be very comfortable here. I don’t want to make that hard for you though. You DO need to have your own life, your own job, your own family and please know that I’ll always be very, very proud of that. If my decisions aren’t what are best for me, please help me make better decisions. Most of all, please know you can always talk to me, even if the topic is difficult. (By the way, I knew you were with your boyfriend instead of your girlfriends.) Being the daughter… it’s not simple. But it’s worth every minute.


photos by Jael Thorpe

Deb Cranny

Deb Cranny has been the executive director of Home Instead Senior Care since it opened in January 2005. Married to Mike Cranny for 33 years, she has two grown daughters, Keli and Katelin. Deb loves being with friends, eating out, golf, running outdoors, yoga and living on the lake.

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by Becky


The Northenscold Family: (left to right) Heather, foster child, Katie, Kim, Ken, foster child, Zach, Dustin, Lindsi, foster child.


“Your son looks just like you,” the cashier step beyond that would be implying all them with all your heart, and making a comcomments to me as I pay for my groceries. I adoptions are “battles” as well. mitment to them for the rest of their lives. smile and nod gratefully. “Yes, we like to Maybe that’s why I have become adaOne of my besties is an adoptive mom think so too,” I think to myself. In fact, he mant about something known as Positive and she added this very well-expressed does look like us. He is tall like me and has Adoption Language (PAL). In simple thought; “My No. 1 pet peeve is the whole the exact same hair color as Daddy. A pretty English, it is about choosing words and “real” mom thing. I am as real as they get. A cool bonus since the reality is “he grew in speech that reflects maximum respect, dig- friend of mine taught me something. If someone else’s tummy.” He is 100 percent nity, responsibility and objectivity about the someone says “Do you know anything about our son, he just came to us in a different way decisions made by birth parents and adop- her real mom?” I just say “Actually, I do. than his little sister. tive parents. Adoptive parents don’t label or She’s 5’2”, has blonde hair, green eyes and The other day I came across an on-line “brand” their kids. We don’t introduce our eats too much chocolate. If they still look at discussion that caught my eye. A reader, child as “our adopted daughter” or “our me with glazed over eyes, I tell them that I’m someone unfamiliar with adoption, was biological son.” It’s not like people walk the real mom and have been for many years. commenting how they didn’t understand the around saying “this is my C-section daugh- We do know some things about both our “long list” of terms that birth families and ter,” right? kids’ birth parents, but that’s private family adoptive parents use. It seemed “picky” to They are our kids and we love ‘em. information.” them that these families would take offense Period. In fact, love is not based on biology. The original version of P.A.L was actually to what seemed like simple sentence chang- Love comes from acting like a parent. It called “R.A.L” (Respectful Adoption es. This person couldn’t comprehend why it comes from taking care of your child, loving Language) and was first introduced by mattered that the term “gave Minneapolis social workup for adoption” was seeminger Marietta Spencer over ly incorrect as opposed to 20 years ago. Spencer cre“placed for adoption.” ated R.A.L as a way to Without going into a wildly help eliminate the emolong dissertation on language tional and socially held fundamentals and sentence myth that adoption is a structures. I can tell you this; as second-best or lesseran adoptive mom I can promthan normal alternative ise you it does matter. It matfor parenthood. “Back in ters for the little humans we the day” there was a seriare raising. It matters for the ous misconception that parents on either end who adoption was only for made sacrifices so this “raisthose who had somehow ing” could happen. It may missed out on a “real” seem “picky to some,” but family experience. Her words not only convey facts, hope was that, by elimithey also evoke feelings. When nating the emotionallya TV movie talks about a “cuscharged (and often lesstody battle” between “real parthan-kind) words that ents” and “other parents,” socipeople used in conversaety gets the wrong impression tion it would also help to that only birth parents are real The Stroot Family: (left to right) Teresa, Malachi, Rose Carline, Mark, promote understanding parents and that adoptive par- Tiernan, ShaLane, Bee Chestore (James.) among members of the ents aren’t real parents. One adoption circle and help 12

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photos by Joey Halvorson found herself asking God if she was “the right mom for the job.” Stroot shares with a smile, “A friend of mine gave me the prefect answer. God does not call the equipped, he equips the called!” She adds that many thousands of children are needing a home with love and support, and adoption is a wonderful thing. “My advice for those who want to adopt? Go into it with your eyes wide open. While it is amazing, it is just as challenging.” Stroot adds, “The bottom line is, I love my children. All of them. The ones born from my womb and the ones that God laid on my heart.” The culture of adoption is changing. Today, parents can be married, single, young, or old. Children can be adopted as babies, school age, American, or international. Adoption has become one of many ways to create a family (birth, adoption, foster, blended), not a lesser alternative. I’ve also noticed the language of adoption seems to be changing a bit as well. Over time, it’s my hope that what is now called “Positive Adoption Language” will become Everyday Language. For more information on P.A.L:


Becky Flansburg

The Northenscold Family Foster children in front. (Back from left to right) Lindsi, Heather, Katie, Zach, Dustin, (middle row) Ken and Kim.

Becky Flansburg is a freelance writer, blogger, business-owner and social media fiend. She is also mom to Jake (8) and Sara (5), wife to Paul and “dog mom” to a fuzzy Cocker Spaniel puppy named Freddy. You can read the quirkiness that is Becky at

with misconceptions from friends and families. Misconceptions about adopted kids or adoptive family life are another “elephant in the room.” Much of people’s misconceptions of what adoption is, or can be, is taken from what they see on TV. Sometimes it’s overly “rainbows and butterflies” and sometimes it’s dramatic and heart-wrenching. Though it can certainly be a little of both, the constant throughout adoption is this: as with any parenting, it’s hard work. Though adoption is a beautiful and amazing journey it can also be a tough road. Author and blogger Jen Hatmaker has a spot-on observation: “You cannot just be into adoption to adopt; you have to be into parenting.” Again, I turned to my circle of adoptive parents for thoughts. First to respond was Kim Northenscold. Kim is mom to 10 kids ranging in age from 3-25. All 10 of her and hubby Ken’s kids are adopted through the foster care system. Kim is an amazingly strong woman and parent so when I posed the question of misconceptions to her, I knew I’d get a heartfelt answer; “I think when people think of adoption, they automatically think of overseas,” Kim offers. “Please keep in mind, I have absolutely nothing against international adoption and know quite a few beautiful families that came to be this way. But I also wish people would realize there are many, many kids in the U.S. foster care system that would love a chance to be a part of a family.” Another adoptive mom chimes in, “I think the hardest thing about adoption is that people seem to think it’s all sunshine and roses after your child arrives home. It’s not. It’s hard work — especially if the child is not an infant. Our youngest has reactive attachment disorder. I call it an invisible disability. They warn you that it could happen, but I don’t think anyone can truly be prepared for it until you experience it first hand.” Teresa Stroot, mom to two adopted teens (there are six Stroot kids total) recalls a particularly hard day of parenting where she WINTER 2011 | her voice

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no s t alg i a

by Charmaine Donovan

olidays H

Wild Ricing for the Christmas Memory I remember when Santa Claus was real — smiled toothily from our Sears Roebuck catalog. We three farm kids walked miles to bring home the plump tome, never too heavy, this wish-book treasure. That year when I was six, sister Betty eight, we ached for the dolls: ringlet Shirley Temple hair blinking lashed eyes teeth, moving arms and legs buckle shoes and white lace socks. We were so good. Always filled the wood box, wiped the dishes, tried mightily not to fight. Parents gave no encouragement. We talked dolls for weeks, hoped Santa would hear, exemplified obedience, kindness, goodness. Our ceiling-high tree held white wax candlesfire glowed dimly, shadows darted. My favorite American Beauty baubles cracked inward to sparkling facets. Christmas was pure magic that year when Santa gifted us with the dolls. We positively knew it paid to be good. Helen Mannila Pappas 14

A painting by Joan Hallada illustrating her wild ricing escapade with Helen Pappas “back in the day.”


For Mom and her friend, Joan, a novel way to earn extra Christmas money turned into a would-be episode from “I Love Lucy.” Both women and their husbands had become fast-friends after their families moved to Crosby-Ironton in 1962. Their husbands were teachers at the local high school and their wives had to be creative, stretching a teacher’s salary to feed and clothe their largish families. One year, shortly before school started, my older brother used our flat-bottomed bass boat to go ricing, then returned home to brag about how he and his ricing partner got big bucks for their rice. “How much?” Mom asked. Her mind schemed and eyes rolled, Lucy-like. I could buy lots of groceries and Christmas gifts with that money. Immediately she called Joan. Joan was from Missouri and curious about this Minnesota madness. Both knew they couldn’t lift a bass boat, but Joan’s family had an aluminum canoe in their backyard. A neighbor lent them a duckbill pole and sticks for harvesting rice. They found a sitter for their preschool children. Their ricing plan was hatched. But no one would give them more than vague directions to a good ricing spot. So the next morning they parked Joan’s station wagon on Main Street. Both women huddled in their husbands’ castoff shirts and jackets. I picture Mom, a chiffon scarf tied under her chin, Joan at the wheel; their eyes darting up and down the street. They spied a truck with a boat behind and followed it up Highway 6. It turned off the main road, ending up at Lower Mission Lake. A few boats were already in the water. The women wrestled the canoe into the lake, jumped in and followed closely behind the truck-man and his partner to observe their ricing technique. When the women believed they had the hang of it, Joan poled over to a marshy area and Mom bent the rice stalks, knocking grain into the boat. It was hard work, but nothing they weren’t used to. Mom took a breather, pushing strands of hair from her sweaty brow. “We’re getting there,” she said. Both looked down at the mound of rice, imagining the wrapped gifts under the tree. Then they traded places. As Mom poled through the slough, she got the pole stuck in the muck. Joan rose to help pull it out. The pole wouldn’t budge, so Joan said she’d step into the water to give the pole a tug.

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Joan’s first painting project: a hand painted chest depicting children playing during the winter holidays.

One of her feet sank about a foot deep in mud. She couldn’t lift it out, so she grabbed the side of the boat, struggling to get loose. Joan recalled Mom’s decision to jump in too, but I know canoes can be tippy, especially when balance is disrupted by too much weight on one side. Anyway, Mom ended up in the marsh. I don’t think she stepped in willingly since she later shuddered as she described the rice worms and other bugs — this, from a woman willing to perform minor surgery on her children or herself when necessary. Like Lucy and Ethel, their best-laid plans had gone awry. Both women soon noticed that boats were moving back toward shore. Perhaps the men were ready for a lunch break. Though Mom and Joan were not far from shore and the water was not deep, neither wanted to spend the day in the lake. “Help!” they called feebly, laughing at first. They kept this up, but there was no response from the men. They decided they better yell a little louder. Nothing from the guys clad in plaid. Soon they were yelling “Help!” at the top of their lungs. Finally a man hopped in his canoe and oared over. Soon others came and helped pry the women out of their muddy mess. It was a chore that took several minutes. In the course of getting pulled into the canoe, their rice trickled from the boat and into the lake. Both women, caked in mud, worms, and bugs, finally reached the shore. To top it off, the car keys were gone too. Luckily they found a spare in a box hidden under the car’s bumper. Chagrined, they drove as far away from their ricing experience as possible. Although both women’s bodies and spirits may have been dampened by their blunder in the bog, this setback was only temporary. Mom never did rice again. Years later Joan went once more with another female townie, a veteran ricer. Our Christmas seemed just as bountiful that year; we never missed those imagined ricegifts. Author’s note: Mom and Joan, with their husbands who both taught and coached, raised five children and six children respectively during the turbulent ‘60s and ‘70s. Later they discovered creative outlets besides sewing and homemaking. Mom took classes with Jon Hassler, she joined poetry groups, writing pithy prose and publishing poetry. Joan became an artist, starting with a chest to commemorate her children, pets and neighbors. The gift of their friendship and their sacrifices for family is a wonderful reminder of love’s meaning as Christmas nears.


Charmaine Donovan

Charmaine Pappas Donovan is an author whose first poetry collection, “Tumbled Dry,” was published this year. She is a member of Brainerd Writers’ Alliance, Heartland Poets, a chapter of the League of Minnesota Poets; and The Loft Literary Center. Her recent prose and poetry is published in “The Talking Stick” and “Lake Region Review 2011.”

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en t r epr e n e u r s


In the busy world we live in, it’s nice to know there are still restaurants around town with a down-home feel where one can sit a spell, savor the atmosphere and recall fond memories of a grandmother’s warm smile as she dished up her favorite recipes for her family. One such place, Heartland Kitchen, resides on West Main St. in downtown Crosby. The eatery, which has been in existence for 16 years and offers a wide variety of breakfasts and lunches seven days a week, is owned and operated by Maureen Christopher and hubby Jim. It is the same Heartland Kitchen that was in Deerwood 15 years ago. “A fire at that location prompted us to relocate,” Maureen explained. Even though the couple shares owneroperator duties equally, bookkeeping, cooking, baking and waiting on tables, you can’t miss Maureen upon entering the premises. The middle-aged woman’s infectious smile and one of her many colorful custom-made aprons she’s donned for the day, gives her away. If you’re feeling out of sorts when you arrive, don’t worry, Maureen has such an awesome outlook on life she’ll perk you right up. Her mantra, “Be thankful for every


story and photos by Marlene Chabot

day. Make it a good day.” She’s ready to help you anyway she can. Show you to a table, offer menu suggestions and of course take your order. When Jim tells her your order is up, she gives it one final inspection to make sure the presentation looks just right before she brings it to your table. Maureen said the most challenging part of her job is being creative with food. “Making it look like a specialty. When a customer compliments me on their meal, it makes my day.” If Maureen’s not waiting on tables, she’s probably busy in the kitchen baking cookies or pies. “All the recipes for the cookies and pies are my own creations.” The restaurant’s No. 1 sellers are White Chocolate Cherry cookies and Carmel Apple Nut pie. Always thinking of the customers’ needs, freshly baked pies and cookies along with Maureen and Jim’s new private label dressings, jellies and jams are not only offered as samples, but are enticingly displayed for sale in the center of the restaurant as well. “The assortment of old fashioned bakery breads our customers enjoy with their meals is available for take-out too,” Maureen shared. Once I found a comfy spot and Maureen

had time to rest a spell, I asked her to fill me in concerning her strong business sense and what led her down the restaurateur path. “My work ethic came from my parents who were very hard workers.” While living in Farmington, where she was born, Clarence and Dorothy Fischer raised four boys and four girls, ran a farm, owned a farm implement business and a car dealership. In 1970, the family moved to Garrison and ran two eateries: the Y Club and Beacon Supper Club. “I worked alongside my parents and gained a lot of background knowledge concerning restaurants.” After high school graduation, Maureen decided to pursue a career as an x-ray technician and did so for one year. The Christophers, who are parents of two grown sons and six grandsons, met and married in 1978. Shortly after they were married

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Maureen and Jim Christopher (right) own and operate Heartland Kitchen, now located in Crosby after a fire destroyed their Deerwood restaurant. Maureen still cooks up many family-style recipes in their new location.

they were drawn to the cities to pursue careers in the food industry. Today the major challenge facing restaurant owners everywhere is the escalating food costs. A case of coffee alone has gone from $80 to a $104. Even though the cost of supplies continues to rise sharply Maureen said, “Heartland Kitchen continues to give our customers a great product at a reasonable price.” The driving force behind what Maureen does every day is her love of the food business and contact with the people.“Customers like to see the owners. That’s why Jim and I are here with our employees every day of the year except Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. “It takes a strong commitment for those contemplating opening their own res-

Local residents are also given the opportunity to sell barbecue sauce, books and other items. A woman who calls herself “DEW,” also originally from Farmington, has displayed her talented sewing at the restaurant for more than two years. She sells various patterned long-style aprons, bags, totes and catnip. Yes, you’re in for a real treat when you hit the road to Crosby. Down-home goodness that can’t be beat.

HV taurant. Be prepared to dedicate your life to the business.” The Christophers down home goodness is spread many ways. Besides serving food to their regular customers, the couple collects annually for breast cancer research and Haiti. Every July 4, a free breakfast is provided for the police and firefighters. “It’s a very busy day for them,” Maureen explained.

Marlene Chabot

Marlene Chabot and her husband reside in Fort Ripley. A frequent contributor to area publications, she is a member of Sisters in Crime and Great River Writers and is presently working on her fourth Minnesota based mystery novel. When she’s not writing, she enjoys time with friends and family.

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ha ndi-c r a f t s

by Sara Ann Swenson photos by Joey Halvorson

Purls of Wisdom


“The best way to break up with your boyfriend is to knit them a scarf or sweater. You put all this work into it and you never see it again.” Ellie Knold’s fingers weave through the yarn before her, a prayer shawl growing over her knees. She speaks with a joking smile on her face, looking out at the women across the circle. “I knit my first scarf to try and impress my boyfriend in college,” I say, fumbling with my own thick yarn and unwieldy fingers. “Did you give it to him?” asks Sarah Buckingham, the resident crochet coach, who has being doing needlework for over 63 years. “Yes, but I got it back again a few weeks later!” Everyone chuckles. Connie Murray stops the conversation by standing up. “We should dig out the prayer shawl bin... all right gang, we need to pick one out for Sandy and Randy...” Outside the world may be frozen, but inside Park United Methodist Church the prayer shawls are always in bloom. Park United Methodist’s Needlework Ministry group encourages people of all types and experience levels to join in their camaraderie. “We welcome any riff raff,” loyal group member Kathi Hefti teases. “We meet the first and third Mondays of the month from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Wesley room at Park United Methodist Church by Gregory Park in Brainerd.” 18

Like thread twined into yarn, each individual member of this group adds strength to its overall community, adding to its joy, beauty, complexity and camaraderie. As

tight-knit and newly woven friendships come together, people here share their lives, their laughter and their stories along with their ideas and patterns.

In service to the world, the Park United Methodist’s Needlework Ministry group includes: (left to right) Linda Allen, Eileen Washburn, Delores Nelson, Thalia Duffield, Kathi Hefti, Marilyn Morrison and Leslie Hobson. Inset: Ellie Knold and Sarah Buckingham.

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Today, I happily join in among the 11 women gathered. Several homebound members are also present in spirit through their donated work. As we chat from our comfortably encircled couches and armchairs around a coffee table in the church’s common room, we add up our collective years of needlework experience. Altogether, we have been doing needlework for at least 538 years — and that’s not counting the years of experience passed down through the lines of our parents and great grandparents. The group works collectively on different projects throughout the year. In the past, with special instruction from group leader Diane Nordstrom, they have made hats and gloves for children in need. Hats and scarves have also been donated to graduating high school and college students as gifts from the church. Baptized babies receive blankets to symbolize the warmth and love of their new church community. Confirmands and new members also receive gifts from the needlework group, as do church members who have been struggling with health concerns. Each prayer shawl is designed with a unique pattern, and comes with a prayer card. When people in need come to the group’s attention, they are carefully matched with just the right color, pattern and prayer to help them through a rough time.

The group has also taken on larger projects, like campaigns to collect homemade blanket squares and hats for newborns around the world, sponsored by “Warm up America!” They have also gotten involved in baby sweater drives for the international “United Methodist Committee on Relief.” The church youths have participated in several of these projects, strengthening the church’s intergenerational sense of family. When the youth group sent a mission team to work in the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota (the poorest county in the United States), the Needlework Ministry sent afghan blankets along for them to give away. The group accepts donations of any needlework materials, with the pledge that it will all go to good use. The Park United Methodist Needlework Ministry is as active in the community as they are in one another’s lives. As we joke and talk, I collect playful advice on every subject from baseball to knitting to romance to prayer. By the time 3 o’clock rolls around, I am several inches into my first prayer shawl, and miles deep into the love of this community. They send me out the door with a prayer shawl to deliver to a church member who has just gotten out of the hospital. Connie pats the shawl in my hands endear-

ingly. “That’s a gift from the heart,” she says. I hug them each good bye. While Christians of old cast out their nets to be fishers of men, the women of the Park United Methodist Church Needlework Ministry cast on their stitches to be active witnesses in service to the world. I am honored to call each member a friend and teacher. I know I wouldn’t be the same without them.


Sara Ann Swenson

Sara Ann Swenson, 22, is working on her master’s degree at Iliff School of Theology. Her passions are people, plants, writing and faith. While her essays, short stories and poetry have been published in numerous journals and magazines throughout Minnesota and the United States, she still has a lot to learn about knitting. She spent her formative years in Brainerd and is a proud graduate of Brainerd High School.

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by Mary Aalgaard photos by Joey Halvorson

when memory


Wadeen Baribeau (left) helps her mother, Beverly Youngdahl, down a steep set of steps. Wadeen was the first in the family to recognize that her mother’s memory was fading and that she needed help.


We are a culmination of all our memories, the good, the bad, the ugly, the painful, and the joyous. Who are we when memory fades? Who will remember for us? I ponder my own questions as I talk with people who love someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Their eyes tear up as they talk about them slowly slipping away, little by little, like a boat drifting off to sea. Sometimes, they’ll drift back in, closer, offering glimpses of their old personality, only to drift further by the end of the day, leaving us on the shore. As the mind is slowly eaten away by Alzheimer’s disease, or fogged over by memory loss, the lively conversations become shorter and eventually disappear. A wife who had spent much of her leisure time reading, no longer picks up a book, nor has the concentration to read even an article of this length. A husband who once drove around the state for a living and knew every back road and bypass now gets lost on his way home from the storethe same store, the same route, the same list of groceries that he’s had for years. When do his kids need to step in and say, “It’s time to take away the keys.” Changes in a person’s mental health can happen very slowly. The people living in the same house or seeing them regularly might not be the first to notice that their health and behavior are more than just normal signs of aging. Often, it takes a person from the outside to point out areas of concern. And, naturally, we don’t want to believe that someone we love is developing dementia so we go along with the coping. We live in denial. Until, another relative comes to visit and points out the problems, or maybe it’s the pharmacist who becomes alarmed that the patient is calling every day to

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inquire about her meds, to reorder way ahead of schedule and ask again and again, “Now, what are these for? How often do I need to take them?” Wadeen Baribeau was the first person in her family to raise concerns for her mother’s mental health. She noticed that she’d get lost on her way up north to visit her. She stopped making coffee, telling her husband that he made such a good cup of coffee, “So, why don’t you just go ahead and do it.” She also passed off cooking on him. After all, he was a great cook. She deferred to him when she didn’t recognize someone. She used all sorts of tricks to cover up her memory loss, but Wadeen wasn’t buying it. She said that her mom became unusually obsessed about things, like her porch furniture. She kept trying to haul the couch into the house, worrying that it would get wet. Her husband and son would tell her to leave it. It was fine out there. It was made for outdoor weather. Soon, she’d be up again, trying to drag that couch into the house. Finally, Wadeen said, “Put it away.” Another clear sign to Wadeen that her mom needed help was that she wasn’t taking care of herself the way she used to. She had always been well-groomed, went to the beauty shop regularly, and dressed nicely. Then, she started wearing the same clothes over and over, often not matching. Her bangs would grow down past her nose, and she didn’t even seem to notice. Bathing was no longer important to her. And, then, Beverly Youngdahl, at age 73, started calling her daughter, Mommy. Beverly’s husband and son lived with her and were her caregivers through the early stages of dementia. They were able to keep track of her, do things for her, make sure she was safe, but the demands got harder and harder. Wadeen would visit and notice that their frustration levels were heightened. They couldn’t really leave Beverly home alone, but she was difficult to bring with them. She was slow and distracted at stores. She picked at her clothes saying, “What’s this?” “It’s your underwear, Mom.” It’s important to keep a sense of humor. Naturally, you want your elderly parent, spouse, or friend home with you as long as possible. At first, Alzheimer’s and dementia patients do well living at home. They need some supervision and care, but as that need increases, the caregiver needs respite. The caregiver needs time away, help, and reprieve. Wadeen suggests that you ask for help before you reach a high frustration level. There are services out there as well as funds that can connect you with a personal care attendant (PCA), adult daycare and start looking into long term care facilities. It’s best to accompany your loved one to appointments so that you can hear the diagnosis and ask questions. Write things down and ask the medical staff to write down the medications and what they’re for. Keep close track of them and ask about drug interactions. Doctors and pharmacists can miss something, or not be fully informed, which can have disastrous results. Don’t be afraid or ashamed of needing medical or psychological attention for the patient or the caregiver. This is a stressful diagnosis, but the anxiety is relieved through education and medical attention. Knowledge is power, and comfort. A newly formed group in this area is called Lakes Area Memory Awareness Advocates (LAMAA), a group that has a desire to help people with the aging process, particularly those with dementia. Many of the members work for health care facilities or have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia. They are available for presentations and to help network the community. They held a public forum in May at Central Lakes College on this topic and plan to do anoth-

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er one May 15 and 16, 2012. You can find them on the web at, or email, Wadeen maintains a relationship with her mother. She found a facility in the Brainerd lakes area where her mom feels safe and comfortable and she can visit her often. She prefers a smaller place where her mom can get one on one attention and have some outside stimulation, like art and music therapy, and interaction with other people. The staff has shorter shifts which reduces the stress for the patients. Beverly feels a full range of emotions. She senses when people are tense or frustrated, or happy and excited. She enjoys music and art and time on the lake. Watching someone you love get sick and slip away from you, physically and mentally, is very difficult, but you are not alone. There are support groups forming, people to talk to, and facilities set up for people when memory fades. What hasn’t faded, though, is your memory of that person. You have built a life together, a relationship. You are now the keeper of the memories. You can tell them their story, live in the moment with them, and bring back the music of their lives. People in a memory care unit need you to talk to them, to offer a gentle touch, to show them art and beauty, and to play their music. When I play piano at a local memory care unit, I see the residents come alive. Their eyes connect with mine and with each other. A woman pulls an afghan onto her legs and shares it with the woman next to her. I play songs that they might know from their past, and not only are they tapping their toes to the rhythm, but many of them hum and sing all the verses from memory. As the Gershwin brothers said, “They can’t take that away from me.”


Mary Aalgaard

Beverly still enjoys fishing; last summer at a senior fishing outing on the Mississippi River.


Mary is a freelance writer in the Brainerd area, where she lives with her four sons and cat Leo. She teaches piano lessons, works with kids and dramas, and writes plays. She manages two blogs. Her personal blog is, and the one for the LAMAA group,

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by Theresa Jarvela photos by Joey Halvorson


Hike, gee, haw, on by, easy, whoa, come gee, come haw. In case you’re wondering, that’s dog language, sled dog, that is. And who better to translate it than Charlotte Wolf, musher extraordinaire. Charlotte (Baversjo) Wolf, born in St. Paul to Swedish parents, won’t hesitate to tell you that she’s proud of her heritage and has lived in this land of 10,000 lakes most of her life. Besides mushing she keeps busy with in-house pet sitting, occasional grooming and animal behavior training. Add that to her full-time employment as supervisor for ServiceMaster Clean in Baxter, part-time work at Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge and it’s hard to imagine she’d have time to take care of 62 animals (dogs, rabbits, chickens and cats). Her life’s trail definitely has many twists and turns so let’s follow it and see where it takes us.

Charlotte Wolf, co-owner of Wolf Moon Kennel Dog Sled Rides, provides dog sled rides in the winter to guests at Grand View Resort.

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At the age of 13 Charlotte owned her first dog, a German Shepherd named Flicka. Three years later she was employed as a kennel worker and then went on to earn a bachelor of science degree in animal science from the University of Minnesota. She has worked as a veterinary technician in clinics

Charlotte occupied her time by reading a magazine article written by Darlene Leafgren who just happened to be racing and was expected to come in second. Not

“Together they traveled back to the land of 10,000 lakes via the trail she’d made eight years earlier.” from the Twin Cities to Nome, Alaska, and today she is co-owner of Wolf Moon Kennel Dog Sled Rides in the Brainerd lakes area. An early trail skirts the north shore of Lake Superior, home of the annual John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon race where Charlotte in her early 20s and a cousin who lived in the area, spent a good deal of time. They followed race reports on the radio and traveled to the latest checkpoints up and down the shore. “We even did this in the wee hours of the morning. It was, for us, like the Super Bowl, NBA Finals and the World Series wrapped up in one event,” she recalls. On one such day fate went along for the ride. It was while traveling between checkpoints for the shorter Beargrease that

wanting to miss out, Charlotte was at the finish line when she arrived and after the media left approached Darlene to offer congratulations. Then she hesitantly asked, “Do you ever need any help?” “Do you know how to use a Coleman stove?” Darlene inquired. Sadly, Charlotte told her she didn’t. “That’s ok,” Darlene said, “I’ll teach you.” Then she asked Charlotte if she knew how to drive a stick shift. Once again Charlotte answered no and once again Darlene offered to teach her. Two weeks later she found herself handling for Darlene in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and

driving a one-ton dog truck through the mountains in 18 inches of fresh snow. But after a couple of seasons her trail changed course when she was lured away from Minnesota and into Alaska by missionary broadcasting. The Iditarod has been called the “Last Great Race on Earth” and reporting on it was one of Charlotte’s duties at the radio station. In this exciting race a musher and his team of up to 16 dogs cover over 1,150 miles in as few as eight days from Anchorage, located in south central Alaska, to Nome, on the western Bering Sea coast. (Charlotte would one day find herself handling the dog lot at the finish of this race.) After leaving the radio station, a local vet urged Charlotte to apply for the city animal control position. “I held the animal control contract for the city of Nome for three years,” Charlotte says, “and later I was self-employed doing boarding, grooming and training of animals for A-B-C’s for Pets.” When the day finally came to bid goodby to the “Last Frontier” Charlotte began her journey home, but she wasn’t alone. Beside her was Glenn, her husband, whom she met in Nome. Together they traveled back to the land of 10,000 lakes via the trail she’d made eight years earlier. Gerda von Maur (left) and her husband, Reed, love the winter sports opportunities in Minnesota. Residents of Germany, they own a vacation home in Cinosam.


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Charlotte’s sled dogs are Alaskan Huskies, a Shepherd Husky and a mix.

Even though Charlotte’s trail has come to an end in the Brainerd lakes area (at least for the time being), her love of dogs hasn’t, and the dream she held for so long was realized when at a musher’s potluck in Britt, Minnesota, she acquired her first sled dog team. At this same time she was enrolled in a financial management class and each week before it began students were encouraged to share any financial high points of the previous week. So with fate sitting near the back of the classroom, Charlotte announced the acquisition of her sled dog team at no cost. A student on the other side of the classroom stood up and said, “We’ve got to talk.” And talk they did. The operations manager of Grand View Resort made her a deal she couldn’t refuse, and in January of 2010 sled dog rides were offered at the Garden Golf Course. Charlotte realized that four dogs were not going to be enough for the rides demand so she increased her dog count and by the fall of 2010 owned eight and then was given two more before the next season began. Charlotte’s sled dogs are made up of Alaskan Huskies, a Shepherd/Husky and one questionable mix. “He heard about the kennel and showed up at my door,” Charlotte laughs. Alaskans are a mixed breed dog based on one or more of the northern breeds such as Siberians, Malamutes or Samoyeds. A fast

breed such as Greyhound or Harrier is in the mix to increase speed for racing. Some dogs even boast wolf in their pedigree and since they are raised around people feel comfortable with all the attention they receive at events. Most mushers run the pups free with the team when they are about three-months-old and by the time they reach approximately six months of age they’re harnessed and paired with an adult dog who trains them, usually an older female since generally they’re less aggressive than males. The pups advance when they show ability and may eventually be trained in lead dog commands if they are capable. Besides feeding, housing and loving them, Charlotte also keeps her dogs in shape. The cart comes out in the fall after the weather cools down and training begins. How the cart is utilized depends on what will be expected of the dog. For example, cart distance is increased gradually for dogs that will run long distances, its speed is increased for sprinters and more load is added for dogs competing in weight pull competitions.

“In addition to offering rides at Grand View every weekend, we also provide private rides ranging from a short loop to ten miles with rates depending on the length of ride. We can run right out of our dog lot or meet at any convenient trail in the area.” And so at this point in time, life is good for Charlotte. Her dreams have been realized and hardships overcome. Early on she told me, “I’m a breast cancer survivor since February of 2000. I was declared cured in June of 2009.” Knowing Charlotte, she couldn’t be anything but. For more information see her website,


Theresa Jarvela

Theresa Jarvela lives in Brainerd, and is a member of Great River Writers, Brainerd Writers Alliance and Sisters in Crime Organization.

Besides offering dog sled rides at Grand View, Charlotte can run rides from their lot, or any convenient trail in the area. WINTER 2011 | her voice

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ed u c ati o n

by Joan Hasskamp


Once a BHS and CLC girls’ basketball star, Tiffany Nelson uses team-learned skills as director of Waconia Community Education.

She’s More Than


Basketball has been very good to Tiffany Nelson. In 1992 and 1993 her Brainerd High School basketball teams were consolation champions at the state tournament. “It was a great experience,” she recalls fondly. “It was amazing how the citizens of Brainerd came out to support the team. What I remember most is all the kind words of support from everyone.” Two year later, Tiffany and her college teammates were crowned national champions in New York. “Playing at Central Lakes College was one of the best times I have ever had playing basketball,” Tiffany says. “We had so much fun. We were a bunch of girls that just loved to play basketball.” In honor of that incredible accomplishment, she and her CLC teammates were inducted into the Raider Hall of Fame in 2005. She says that winning the national championship was one of the greatest highlights of her life. “I learned that if you work hard anything is possible.” The Baxter native is currently the community education director at Waconia. During high school she was employed at Brainerd Parks and Recreation and found she loved the work. This led to her securing an undergraduate degree in corporate and community health and a master’s degree in sports management. After a short tenure as 26

“The purpose is to inspire girls to stay true to themselves and live free from societal stereotypes”

the program coordinator in Waconia, Tiffany obtained her licensure in community education from St. Cloud State University and was hired as the director. Her job duties include overseeing all the youth recreation programs for kids from pre-K through sixth grade. In addition, her department is in charge of all adult and youth enrichment classes, Early Childhood Family Education, a preschool program, Kid’s Company, before and after school daycare, behind the wheel driver’s education classes, summer camps, classes and clinics. While her plate is definitely full, Tiffany appreciates the multi-faceted aspect of her job. “I love that there is something different to do every day,” she says. She especially enjoys working with a broad range of age groups from preschoolers to senior citizens and everyone in between. She says she derives satisfaction from watching children grow and develop into young adults while enrolled in the programs. Tiffany has helped initiate innovative programs to serve youth, in particular, the “More than Pink” campaign. She and two co-workers, Jenny Merritt and Julie

Loscheider came up with the idea and developed the program for girls in third through sixth grade. “The purpose is to inspire girls to stay true to themselves and live free from societal stereotypes,” explains Tiffany. “The curriculum weaves training for a 5K run with lessons that empower girls to celebrate their bodies, honor their voices and embrace their gifts.” Wildly popular, the group had almost 75 girls attend the eight-week session. Topics included self worth, body image, nutrition, budgeting, puberty, divorce, feelings, personal safety, gossip, peer pressure, fashion and healthy relationships. Tiffany says one of the most appreciated parts of each session was the “let it go” exercise. Girls wrote down something that was bothering them, they placed the notes in a “let it go” box and then were asked to forget it. After the class, all the papers were shredded. “The girls really seemed to like this,” Tiffany says. The other component of the “More than Pink” campaign is the 5K run. Tiffany said

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more than 150 girls and their family members ran the race. While some of the participants were athletic, many were not. “It was great to see some of these girls that didn’t think it was possible to run a 5K do it,” Tiffany says. Based on her own experience as a national basketball champion, Tiffany knows that it’s possible to achieve lofty goals as long as you work hard and believe in yourself. Through the “More than Pink” program, she provides the tools for girls to set goals and excel. In addition to her community education duties, Tiffany also coaches seventh grade girls’ basketball. She enjoys coaching at the middle school level for a number of reasons. She says girls at that age level are very excited to learn plus it’s more relaxed than coaching at a higher-grade level. “I like being able to talk to the girls and listen to their stories,” Tiffany says. “I can teach them the game of basketball but also be there to listen to them if they need someone to talk to.” An added bonus is that coaching allows her to run drills and play practice games with her team. She still enjoys playing the game herself and coaching provides an opportunity to keep her own basketball skills sharp. Tiffany grew up in a very sports-minded family. Parents Mike and Judy Nelson, Baxter, attended all of her games and encouraged her development. She is very appreciative of their support. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without them,” she says proudly. Tiffany still sets goals for herself. Currently, she is training to run a half marathon. A longer range goal is to visit every Major League Baseball park. Chances are she’ll be successful. After all, she believes anything is possible!

Jennifer (second from left) and associates coordinate the “More than Pink” Program, empowering young girls to “celebrate their bodies, honor their voices and embrace their gifts.”

Joan Hasskamp

Joan Hasskamp has a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Crosby and is a financial assistance supervisor with Crow Wing County Community Services.


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by Carolyn Corbett photos by Joey Halvorson

“Any time we get in new books we’ve Homebound Outreach programs. Brown requested, it’s just like Christmas!” says bag lunch speakers. A prominent display of Jolene Bradley. “I am so lucky to come to the most recent bestselling books. Legacy work every day.” As the manager of the arts and cultural events: authors, musicians, Brainerd Public Library, Jolene celebrated and artists. Christmas 10,349 times in 2010! Book Club in a Bag is a resource for local Jolene came to the library by way of book clubs where a canvas bag with ten Malawi in southern Africa, where she trav- paperback copies of a book title, plus a diseled with the Peace Corps and a bachelor’s cussion guide, can be checked out for six degree in science. In addition to teaching sci- weeks. Like all library programs, this one is ence classes there, she served as the school’s free of charge. As one patron commented, librarian. After her return to the states, she “It’s the only free place in town!” earned her master’s degree in library and Two new young adult activities are in the information science, though, “I’ve always works for this winter and spring. Breaking lived in the library,” she says. Out of the Book, geared toward teenagers, She’s not alone! Year-todate statistics show that over 2,500 people use the library computers every month and over 30,000 items leave the library in the hands of the community monthly. Patrons come into the library telling stories about how proud they were as youngsters getting their first library cards or when Mom would bring them “into town” to stock up on books for summer reading. A good library, in Jolene’s mind, places the New to her position as manager, community first, meets its Jolene Bradley is infusing the needs, and takes all suggesBrainerd Public Library with new tions to heart. She takes recbooks, materials and programs. ommendations for purchases seriously; if people are looking for items, the library tends to purchase them, spreading that Christmas morning feeling through the community. When buying, in addition to will focus on “not so typical” reading experirequests from patrons, the library has major ences, including graphic art workshops, authors on auto-order and looks to add to downloadable audiobooks and manga items in a series. The library’s collection is (Japanese comic and graphics-filled novels). always changing; it is a living organism. They Also planned is a Battle of the Books where are always updating old titles, adding new teens will read selected books and come authors, looking for good book reviews and together to test their abilities and knowledge more. of the books they have read through a comWhat does Jolene want people to know petition like Family Feud or Knowledge about the library? “Everything!” she says Bowl. The second program, Time Travel with a laugh. “If you haven’t stopped in, you Minnesota Style, will feature interactive and should. You’ll be surprised when you walk educational programming designed to bring through the door at what you’ll find. To keep Minnesota history to life for middle school yourself learning new things, this is the place students. to come.” The library has collaborated with the Library programming reaches to every- Brainerd History Group, the Crow Wing one in the community. There are weekly County Historical Society and a tremendous children’s and babies’ story times and group of volunteers to put together the hisWednesday family movies. Spring time tax tory of Downtown Brainerd in a variety of help. Summer reading programs for kids. formats. Did you know that you have been Winter adult book club. Senior and walking the same streets as railroad tycoons,

blacksmiths, bank robbers and more? Downtown Brainerd has a wealth of fascinating history and it is now available as a guidebook, an audio and through two short videos, “Brainerd Begins” and “The Historical Brainerd Water Tower”. All are available free for download at the City of Brainerd’s website or for checkout at the library. With the guidebook you can see the early images of Brainerd help to bring the past to life. You will be able to compare Brainerd’s first buildings with today’s cityscape. December brings special holiday events to the library. On Dec. 3, the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library will conduct its annual open house with beautiful holiday decorations, and on Dec. 19, Santa will visit the library, where families will be reading Christmas stories, making crafts and enjoying treats. Friends of the Library is a nonprofit organization which provides support to the library in the form of financial contributions, volunteer hours, donations of books, videos, audios and other library materials, as well as library furnishings, equipment and improvements. The Brainerd Public Library is accessible online at With their library card, patrons can search the entire Kitchigami Regional Library catalog, place requests, renew items, and check return dates. They also have access to more than 18 professional databases where patrons can search for information about health, homework help, auto and small engine repair and genealogy. The e-resources include ArchiveGrid ( historical documents), NoveList (reviews and new authors), Value Line (financial information) and Britannica Encyclopedia Online. MNLink provides access to materials from other libraries in Minnesota. The Ancestry Library can be accessed on inlibrary computers. And, of course, the library is on Facebook. Jolene is especially excited about the library’s new microfilm scanner. It can take




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Brainerd Public Library Statistics (from 2010) • 184,000 visitors • 10,350 active card members/patrons • 14,000 adult fiction and 18,000 adult non-fiction books • 3,000 adult and 3,000 youth audiobooks • 4,100 adult and 1,200 youth DVD & VHS titles • 6,000 easy children’s books • 5,000 young adult books • 1,500 adult music CDs • 172 magazine subscriptions

the film and scan it to a digital image. Then patrons can digitally save that piece of history and email it to themselves or relatives. It will fill a huge need with genealogy research. The library has the Brainerd Dispatch on microfilm starting from 1883. The machine is fast, easy to use and has superior image quality. The library is currently developing a new database for e-audiobooks. eAudiobooks are books that have been read aloud and recorded. eAudiobooks can be downloaded and played on any desktop or laptop computer. From there, they may also be transferred to many listening devices such as MP3 players, Smart Phones and iPods and will last for three weeks. Over 3000 audiobooks can be checked out by more than one person at a time, making them great for book clubs. What does the future hold? “Print is never going away,” Jolene assures readers. Despite Kindle and Internet streaming, audios and videos, people still like holding books, turning pages, underlining and highlighting and writing in the margins. Jolene displays some of “Because we serve the entire spec- the holiday offerings for trum, we wait until things are tried children at the Brainerd and true, then move forward when Public Library. the demand is there. We will grow with society. We’re here as a central part of the community, to provide information in whatever form it comes. We’ll still be doing that in 100 years.”


Carolyn Corbett

Prior to playing with words for a living, 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. Her web site is at

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s p ir it u a l i t y

by Sheila DeChantal photo by Joey Halvorson

When One

Family’s Tragedy is Another’s

Answer to Prayer


Sheila DeChantal with her books


With Thanksgiving approaching, Christmas is not far behind. Families are making plans, buying gifts, decorating trees and filling the kitchen with sweet and spicy smells. The anticipation hangs in the air and it seems the world has taken a united breath and held it… wondering, excitedly, what is next. In Lauraine Snelling’s book, “One Perfect Day,” Nora Peterson feels like she is standing on her last nerve. She digs the Christmas decorations out of storage wondering when her husband will be home from his latest business trip to participate in what should be a family event. It looks like once again it will be her and her 17-yearold twin children, Christi and Charlie, who understand the importance of this tradition. After all, it is almost Christmas and soon both Christie and Charlie will be off making their own lives. During this same time, a stranger to the Peterson’s, Jenna Montgomery, is trying to stay upbeat as she makes homemade waffles and plasters a smile on her face for her daughter Heather. Heather is 20 years old and has suffered almost all her life from a heart defect. She has been on the donor waiting list for what feels like forever, and time is running out. As Jenna looks across the room at her daughter, she wonders if this will be their last Christmas together. At Nora’s home a doorbell rings that will change the dynamics of her life forever. At Jenna’s home, the long-anticipated phone call comes. Will one family’s tragedy become another families answer to prayer? In parallel, alternating chapters, “One Perfect Day” follows the lives of these two women as their story unfolds. When tragedy strikes the Peterson’s home, the family is left to make a hard decision about organ donation. The story centers much around this decision being made in the core of intense grief, a decision that can very well save others’ lives. Nora’s story is one of battling grief and loss, as well as struggling with the depression that can follow such tragic events. As she ques-

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tions everything, her family and her best friend try hard to wrap her in love. How does one go on after something like this happens? How does one get up in the morning? Breathe? Forgive? Heal? Jenna’s story follows the miracle side of her daughter’s new heart. Sure there are opportunities for heart rejection, but now that this big weight is lifted from their lives and the impending thoughts of “their last Christmas together” seems to disappear and as each day shows improvement and healing, it makes room for something else in Jenna’s life. Something there was no room for in the fear of losing her daughter. There is hope. The two families never meet and I think that is a brilliant choice by author Lauraine Snelling. It would have been easy to pull them together in the end and let them see what they have done for each other-both healing in their own sense of the word. The fact that this is not the case, adds a sense of imbalance as you wonder whether their paths will cross. The result is a good read, without the all too neat ribbon and bow packaging in the end. I have to admit, I do not read many Christmas-related stories due to the overall neatness that seems to be within the pages. The overall sugary perfect effect leaves me with nothing to ponder over. This was not the case in “One Perfect Day.” This book left me not only with thoughts on families coping with tragedies, but also on the importance of organ donation. I recommend this book as you curl up in a comfy chair with a hot cup of cocoa. It’s a small, quick read that packs a lot of punch. Lauraine Snelling is a Christian fiction author, I have read for the first time. Her story weaves and twists between the two families as smoothly as though she were figure skating and she has a wonderful way with character development.


Sheila DeChantal

Sheila DeChantal reviews books on the website, Book Journey.

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he alt h

By Marcy Malsed photo by Joey Halvorson

atural N

Family Planning


In preparation for marriage, my husband and I decided to plan our family using a chemical free, natural system. The Creighton Model (CrMS) of Natural Family Planning (NFP) promised to be 99.5 percent effective in avoiding pregnancy as well as effective in achieving pregnancy. Research also showed couples who use a natural system have a significantly lower divorce rate and are free from the side effects of chemical contraception. To learn this system we met with a FertilityCare Practitioner (FCP) on a regular basis to learn how the natural biomarkers in my body could help us monitor our fertility. We would be able to simply choose a day 32

of fertility to achieve a pregnancy or a day of infertility to avoid one. Having been married only a month we achieved a pregnancy by selecting to use days of fertility. After conceiving we were a little nervous about it happening so quickly. We were looking to begin careers, buy a home, and create a stable environment for our future children. Little did we know we had been truly blessed with this healthy pregnancy. Several times in the next four years we would reflect on the events of that first pregnancy and realize we could never fully appreciate the miracle of life. A year and a half after our son was born we decided it was time to add to our family.

By choosing days of fertility, we quickly achieved our second pregnancy, only to find out three months later we had lost our child to miscarriage. We were very saddened at our loss. Yet, with so many stories of others who had experienced the same loss, we were encouraged to try again. A few months later we were elated to achieve, discovering again, after a short time we had lost our third child. The explanation of “it happens� after our second loss was no longer comforting, convincing, or accurate, as we later discovered. This miscarriage inspired me to search for answers which lead me to train in a 13-month immersion course to become a FertilityCare

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The Malsed Family at the Crosby Park (left to right): Dylan, Pete, Marcy and baby Hugo.

Practitioner (FCP) for the Creighton Model FertilityCare System (CrMS). A FCP is trained to instruct couples and single women how to read their body’s natural biomarkers in order to monitor fertility. They are also trained in identifying abnormalities that may indicate infertility. PMS, low progesterone, stress, infections, ovarian cysts, hormonal imbalances, and cancer are just a few abnormalities that can be identified. Our charting identified the days we were fertile and infertile, but abnormal patterns showed signs of an underlying cause for our miscarriages. These patterns indicated Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and hormonal imbalance. This began to explain the emotional roller coaster I was experiencing was not only from the loss of our miscarriages, but also because there was an underlying medical condition. We bounced between doctors before deciding to see a NaPro Medical Consultant. NaPro stands for Natural Procreative Technology. A NaPro doctor specializes in the CrMS from a medical point of view. They are trained to focus tests and treatment on abnormal charting patterns and correct the underlying cause. True to our charting,

through lab tests and an exam, I was diagnosed with PCOS and low progesterone. Both put me at higher risk for miscarriage. Through NaPro Technology and the CrMS, the issues that had caused our miscarriages were identified and corrected. Our baby boy is now just a few days old and has filled our home and hearts with joy. We attribute this healthy pregnancy to the CrMS and NaPro Technology. The CrMS is quite amazing on all levels. It’s simple, effective, life-long, and truly supports and encourages marital bonding. It has empowered us to understand and respect our fertility. Had it not been for the diagnosis and treatment to correct the underlying problems, it is likely we would have again miscarried and continued to struggle to find answers as many couples do. The CrMS is used to achieve and avoid pregnancy effectively and aided by a FCP can be used to monitor for optimum fertility and gynecologic health. There are no restrictions for when to begin using NFP; it can be used any time in a woman’s reproductive years to monitor regular or irregular cycles, while breastfeeding, post-pill, or menopause. It’s designed to be a life-long system used by

single women and couples. Those who use the CrMS to identify reasons for infertility are empowered to learn the underlying cause of why they are infertile and subsequently obtain effective medical treatment. For more information contact NFP of the Brainerd Lakes Area at (218)829-2861 Ext. 6217. Free Introductory Sessions with a FCP are offered at offices located in Brainerd, Crosby and Aitkin. Long distance instruction is also available. Check the web at www. and www.creightonmodel. com .


Marcy Malsed, B.S, FCP

Marcy Malsed is a proud mother of two who lives with her family in Aitkin, Minn. She has been using the Creighton Model FertilityCare System in her marriage for six years and instructing as a fertility care practitioner for the past two and a half. She has a bachelor’s degree from UND and works part-time as a certified nursing assistant.

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pio ne e r p r o f i l e

photos and story by Jill Anderson

Surviving imprisonment and Communist oppression during World War II, Maria Strukelj now lives in Emily. At age 90 she still dresses in Slovenian costumes for special occasions.


If you spent any time in the small town of Emily, Minnesota between 1958-1989, you likely met Maria Strukelj, who owned Emily Super Market during those years. Lively and talkative in her Slovenian accent, she’d have made an impression on you. Born in 1921 in Novo Mesto, Yugloslavia, M World War II changed everything. Hitler closed the borders so instead she traveled to Ljubljana, Slovenia, going to school for typing, bookkeeping and shorthand. While working for a lawyer, during that period Maria started doing work for the anti-communist government. The following year she was home visiting when a Slovenian Communist came to her family’s home, insisting Maria appear at the courthouse to be interviewed. She had no choice but to go. When Maria arrived, she was marched directly into jail, spending a month there. Fortunately, her mother’s cousin, a Communist lawyer, was able to get Maria out of jail. Maria was the only person released. Afterwards, the lawyer strongly suggested she work for the Communists. Maria refused. He informed Maria she was being watched. “The Communists even tried to force me into a job of picking up unexploded bombs!” Maria exclaimed in her accent. Fearing for her safety, especially after she was informed her name appeared on a Communist “hit list,” the captain of the anti-Communist 34

army (who confirmed she was indeed supposed to be shot) organized an escape for Maria. Because the Communists had pulled most of the railroad ties, people couldn’t travel out of town by train. The captain arranged a ride for Maria in the back of a truck, sneaking her back to Ljubljana. Upon her arrival, Maria obtained a job. One day in early May, 1945, the boss informed everyone they had to leave; the Communists were taking over. Hitler had died on April 30, and on May 3, Maria, along with thousands of other evacuees, packed what they could and walked 50-plus miles from Ljubljana to Klagenfurt, Austria. Maria spent three weeks helping set up camp at a school in Klagenfurt. “One day they called me to the office. I was nervous as to why they were seeking me out,” she said. They put her at ease when she walked in; there sat her two younger sisters who had walked from their home to Klagenfurt. After that the three sisters vowed to stay together. Years later, a friend of Maria’s told her about spotting Maria’s sisters on their long walk to Klagenfurt. The friend had begged the truck driver to pick them up but there had been no room. That truck, along with many others, was taken over by the Communists and brought to their camps where the people were tortured. Maria’s

friend became blind and deaf from the torture, and was thankful Maria’s sisters weren’t picked up after all. Over the next three years Maria was in three different camps in Italy. She chose Italy camps over German camps because she was told they would be treated much better, and they were. In those camps she worked registering people and during that period, met Father John Dalsina. After leaving the camps in 1951, Maria went to Rome with Father John and worked for the Slovenian center for three years. Once immigration was over, Maria and her sisters came to America, moving in with their uncle who sponsored their arrival to the states, before heading to Chicago where Maria was able to get a job. During those years, she worked at Imperial Brass and travelled each weekend to Lemont, Ill., a 45-minute drive, to work for a group of priests. Father John was one of those priests and one of his friends was Tony Strukelj, her future husband. “Father John and his brother, Father Stanley, were starting churches in Deerwood and Crosslake. Tony was fluent in Latin and Father John wanted him to sing at his new churches.” Maria shakes her head and smiles. “Father was very convincing. He also suggested Tony and I marry and even found a business we should buy in Emily!” Father John knew that the Emily Super

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Maria and her husband, Tony, purchased the Emily Super Market in the late 1950s.

In the 1980s, Maria worked in the meat department.

Market was for sale. “Tony was sent to school to be a butcher and I knew bookkeeping, Father had it all figured out for us.” A week after they were married in 1958, Tony and Maria moved to Emily and purchased the store. For the next 35 years, Maria became the life of the store, sinking all her energy into it so that it became known as simply “Maria’s.” A real people person, Maria loved getting to know her customers. Tony was content to stick with the butchering. They they lived in a small apartment above the store. What extra time Maria had was spent gardening and making her famous mouth-watering pastries. In 1982 Tony passed away but Maria continued on with the store for seven more years. After 53 years in America, Maria still misses the mountains where she grew up but is happy to call the town of Emily home ... almost as happy as the town has been to have experienced Maria!


Jill Anderson

Nearly 30 years ago when Jill moved to the town of Emily, it was to run a grocery store that competed with Maria’s. Since then, Jill has always been curious about Maria’s active and interesting life. Now she knows!

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w it t y w o m a n

By Julie Koehler

An Indoor Girl I

I think it started—my being an indoor girl—as a kid. My mom and dad worked all the time. I started working in the store when I was close to 10, dusting at first, then helping to check in new merchandise, ordering merchandise from dad’s list, then wrapping gifts; weddings, showers, birthdays, and Father’s Day. Finally, I reached the big time, ringing up the customers’ purchases. I remember when we had a tax chart for sales tax. No scanners then, we had to add the purchases on a ten key adding machine and ring them up manually. Imagine that! When I wasn’t in school or working in the store, I was mostly reading. Do any of you remember ‘The Bobbsey Twins?” Well, they were my favorite. Yeah, I know, I’m old. Mom said I was always reading. I loved school—crazy, right? I really did. If I was sick, I’d still rather go to school than stay at home. That was before video games, computers, iPods and all the new techie gadgets the kids have now. I actually remember our first TV set. We were probably one of the first families in town to have one because, lucky us, dad sold them in the store. All those channels to pick from, I think there

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While her husband may love the outdoors, Julie Koehler plays the piano, creates family photo books and loves being an “indoor girl.”

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were four. What more could a girl want? Books, TV, piano lessons, that was plenty of fun. Camping? Heck no, not interested. Bike riding, maybe, when the weather was good and my friends (we were the “town kids” after all) were all within one mile, some across the tracks but we still got together. If the kids weren’t lucky enough to have a bike, well, my dad took them on trade for the new ones, painted them up and sold them nicely used, so there were always plenty for all the kids to ride. Once in a while, a bunch of us kids would walk about a mile out of town on the train tracks to pick up rocks. I got into the rock collecting thing because my uncle Henry was a “rock hound” and he collected them, polished them, and made lovely jewelry from them, much of it for me. But that was about the extent of my outdoor activity. Even as a teen, I only went to the football games to meet cute guys from the neighboring towns, the grass is always greener, and maybe work in the concession stand when I was old enough. (Cute boys there, too!) When I got my license, the girlfriends would get together on the weekends and drive to the neighboring towns, cruise main, and see the (no surprise here) cute guys! When I was a junior, we had a summer project for Home Ec, and since I had some cracks in my bedroom walls, I decided that my project would be re-decorating my room. So, I learned to patch plaster, paint and yes, even decorate. That became a huge interest in my life and as an adult, after a few years of factory work and college, I decided to be a decorator. I got into a direct sales company and helped people decorate their homes and made money doing it. After 16 years of that I relocated with my family to the big city of Brainerd (my home town was population 500). Relocating pretty much cost me my home interiors business since 120 miles is a long way to drive to work one way, so I discovered office work. I had five indoor jobs at one time, all part-time, finding my niche. I finally landed a full-time job after about three years, doing everything I loved. Working in an office, typing, customer service, decorating homes ... it was perfect. One of the reasons we moved to Brainerd is because my hubby, an avid outdoors man (yes opposites really do attract) wanted to be closer to fishing country so here we are. I hate summer, I hate mosquitoes, I hate sports, but I still have my TV, my reading, and now I love to do jigsaw puzzles, play computer games, board games, play music and spend time indoors with my friends, who are pretty much also avid indoors women. Go figure.


Julie Koehler

Julie Koehler lives in Brainerd and works part-time as a listing coordinator at Edina Realty and selling Mary Kay Cosmetics. She is married, has three grown children and three grandchildren. Julie enjoys music, playing piano and singing in church and computer activities, especially word games. Find her on the web at:

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By Beverly Abear

Through the





Late one afternoon, I sat on a desk in Jean’s kindergarten room — a colorful room filled with fun. As fellow teachers, we often met after school to unwind. Jean not only taught kindergarten but also physical education, science and business math and coached girls’ sports. She was tall, strong and athletic. Having grown up on a farm, she was used to hard work. Jean leaned back in her chair, hands locked behind her head. “Bev, do you think God would ever allow you to be raped?” “No.” I answered quickly; I’d pondered that question before. “I believe God will protect me from that.” “But what if it did happen? What about getting mugged, robbed, even murdered? Or contracting a debilitating disease? Christians suffer everywhere, especially in other countries.” She seemed almost angry as she leveled a no-nonsense gaze. “Why wouldn’t God allow you to be raped as well?” I never thought of rape in conjunction with all those other bad things — things I


thought I’d be able to face. Rape seemed to be the ultimate violation. “If He did allow it,” I said slowly, “I guess He’d give me the strength to get through it.” Like pieces of a puzzle settling into place, a thought pushed itself into words. “Jean, were you…molested or raped?” Jean’s dark brown eyes grew round with suspicion and alarm. She brought her arms down to rest on the large desk in front of her. “Why do you say that?” “Some things you’ve said before and now this…” Jean turned slightly. For a moment, she stared out the window. “Y-yes.” Her head bowed low as if she were ashamed. “It happened on my parent’s farm starting when I was 7.” I gasped. “Seven?” I mumbled something about feeling awful for her, but I really had no idea how to respond, to offer comfort. “I’ve wanted to talk to you about it…” She raised her head. “And to ask you something. A favor.” When I nodded, she said, a note of pleading in her tone, “Would you go with me to an abuse semi-

Local support groups Sexual Assault Services, Inc. 218-828-0494 free and confidential Celebrate Recovery Groups Journey North Church, Franklin Art Center 218-824-5617 Riverview Church, Pine River 218-587-2021 Family Sexual Abuse Treatment Program Northern Pines Mental Health Center 218-829-3235

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nar at the teachers’ convention next week?” I said I would. In the same moment, I wondered what this probing the dark secrets of childhood sexual abuse would mean. I prayed for God to show me how to help Jean. It was — it had to be — His work. The following week, the session on childhood abuse was crowded with attentive teachers. A soft-spoken woman explained signs to watch for in children and suggested books to help victims. “One in four women are abused sexually and one in eight men are as well.” “Wow,” I whispered, “that’s a lot more than I thought.” “And those are just the people who have told someone,” the speaker added. I was surprised by my friend’s reaction. As if ready to bolt from the stuffy room, her face red and expression grim, Jean sat hunched over, not meeting the speaker’s eye. Through clenched teeth she said, “I don’t know how much more of this I can stand.” A few minutes after the session, Jean and I talked over coffee. “You’re only the second person I’ve told.” “Why?” I said softly. “It’s really hard. I can’t bring myself to tell people.” She stared into the steaming cup. “I think they’d act differently toward me after that.” I imagined people’s sympathy for Jean, her reputation that of a strong, even-tempered woman. Nothing shook her; she was good in any crisis. If her friends and colleagues knew her secrets, perhaps they’d shrink from her in confusion and embarrassment. Or their knowledge may make her vulnerable in other ways…again. A few weeks later, she showed me one of the books the conference speaker had mentioned and asked if I’d be willing to go through it with her: “Helping Victims of Sexual Abuse” by psychologist Jeanette Vought and registered nurse Lynn Heitritter. Jeanette later became instrumental in Jean’s healing process. But for now, it was just me. And the Lord. Though I could not calculate the sacrifices of time, energy and emotion awaiting me, I exhaled the air I’d been holding and smiled. “Of course.” So began months of reading and discussing the book. For hours, I’d wait for Jean to answer a difficult question. Finally she’d open up a little more. Many times, I was overwhelmed with the sordid facts of her abuse. I prayed continually, Lord, I can’t do this. But this is Your work and she is Your child. Lift her heavy burden of shame. With every awful secret shared, God showed Jean His love. Through Him, I could say, “Jean, my love and God’s love won’t change by what you’ve endured or done.” We wrote Scripture on cards and put them everywhere to get the truth into her mind and heart. Evil lying voices had convinced her that the abuse was partly her fault; she could never be good enough; she was damaged goods. A black cloud of self-loathing, anger and fear hovered over her. She’d come to faith in Christ in her early 20s but still struggled at age 40 with the concepts of full forgiveness and freedom in Christ. Sometimes in the middle of the night, she’d call me, haunted by graphic, violent nightmares. Barely awake, I’d reiterate the truths of God’s love and acceptance, pray with her and sing her favorite hymns. Then she began cutting her upper arms and inner thighs with razor blades. She said the physical pain and flowing blood relieved the pressure of her deep emotional pain. Sometimes, as I drove to her house, an image of her body lying in a pool of blood would flash through my mind. I’d step on the accelerator, then arrive, pulse racing, and run to the door, only to be met by Jean’s calm greeting: “Come on in.” Many times, she’d cut and already cleaned and dressed the wounds. I begged her to stop. One time I got angry with her, so disheartened because she had cut yet again. Finally, she admitted herself into a Christian clinic and counseling center. We’d come a long way using Helping Victims, the Bibleand

prayer. Now the professionals and support groups became part of our team. It was a tremendous relief for me because I wasn’t alone with Jean’s secrets anymore. Later, we traveled to Minnesota to attend counseling workshops with Jeanette Vought and others. Jean read voraciously, took other classes and workshops, and soon acquired the knowledge, skills and emotional fortitude to turn her torture into something God could use for good. As Jean’s healing continued, she facilitated support groups for Christian women, victims of sexual abuse. Over the next 20 years, though still in counseling herself, Jean has helped hundreds of women deal with all kinds of emotional pain. She now owns the family farm in Lancaster, Pa., and continues ministering to women and youth. With God’s love and truth, she sees them through their long, dark night and into the sunshine of hope.


Beverly Abear

Beverly Abear is a retired teacher, who enjoys writing, painting and teaching a Bible study to incarcerated women.

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he r s ay

By Jan Kurtz


An Alternative

hristmas etter L

The moment has arrived again ... already! Christmas letter time! I look outside and truly, it is a postcard of newly fallen snow twinkling over the front yard as the sun retreats to the west, casting ever longer shadows. The big winter storm went south of here, reconfirming my suspicion that climate change will render northern Minnesota into a new winter destination. I have just shoveled the sidewalks, followed by a steaming lavender bath. I now sit on the sofa, curled under my grandmother’s tattered, faded quilt, hoping for inspiration. I wait. There is quiet, except for the hum of my laptop. Snow is blowing off of the bent cedar branches. A blue jay lands at the suet. I try to remember last January, reasoning that chronological order will spark memories. But, I can’t even recall last week! In fact, the last 10 years are a blur! I glance at the calendar. 1999! Oh, yes. One needs to know that my husband is a collector of calendars, among other things. Seems this year and 1999 have exactly the same day configura-


tion, so we can re-use it, if you don’t mind the phases of the moon being off! But, alas, that is not all that is “off.” I still refer to the house remodeling of 2000 as the “new addition.” How is it possible that 15 years have passed since we planted those six-inch cedar twigs that now tower over us in a windrow? I squint at this paragraph, peering over the rims of the “cheaters” I picked up to better decipher the fine print of FDA cholesterol percentages and salt content in my groceries. So, when did I start caring about that? I remember wanting to grow up, but now ... I am shrinking! This has had a profound effect on rearranging everything below my neck. Oh, and on the topics of necks. My son informs me that you can really tell a women’s age by ... her neck. I went straight to the mirror to verify. He’s right. And I thought I was wearing turtlenecks to keep warm. This year, our Internet access sped up and I slowed down. I looked at my life and realized I had a lot of unfinished dreams. Funny thing

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about dreams ... they change, too. It’s OK. The garden will never produce more vegetables than quack grass. The door out of the basement will never lead to a patio. My wooden cross-country skis are in a vintage ski collection and I now snowshoe. Thanks to a new granddaughter, I am again coloring and playing “tea party.” I still swim at the lake and pull my mother around on an inner tube. (She who goes to Curves three times a week!) My son and his wife do sports with the Wii! Dad and I turn photo album pages filled with his past feats of hunting, his dad’s bridge building crews and various one room school houses. I savor the sentimentality, take a nap and then get on with it. Groggy and grateful, I get off the couch and check the cupboard to see what can be created for supper. Midwinter’s early darkness retreats into the kitchen corner when I light the woodstove fire. The world turns, taking us into a starry night. The clock chimes the hour approaching a new year. Ah, what an honor and miracle to be riding around on this lovely planet. How humbling and joyful to be journeying with you! Here we go! Into another year ...


Jan Kurtz

Jan’s travels, professional and personal time, are a blend of her northern roots sprinkled with a dash of Spanish. She is equally inspired by the family cabin and downtown Madrid. Her business card reads: “Bilingual optimist.”

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m e dia


By Ann Schwartz

Be a

What can a girl do who loves to stay up late, entertain and loves music but can’t sing? Be a DJ! Hard work, customer service and being creative are skills that Tami Lu Smith, Brainerd, has always had in her toolbox. About eight years ago she took the plunge and started Stage One, a disc jockey service. Her 70 engagements per year include weddings, parties, corporate events, dances, proms, events for disabled citizens, karaoke contests and more. Finding herself single and a hard worker, working two jobs for most of her adult life, Tami Lu got the idea to start her own DJ business where she has fun entertaining people all around the Brainerd lakes area. She also teaches community education exercise classes and is the Brainerd Community Education coordinator for adults with disabilities. “I’ve always worked two jobs and always had the entrepreneurial spirit,” notes Tami Lu. “I have a passion for what I do. I am happy to have found a fun way to make a living. I am glad that my family encouraged me to have the courage to make the jump from working for someone to working for myself. It wasn’t that I always wanted to be a DJ. It was more of all the elements I like ended up landing me here. For example: I like working for myself; I like music, but don’t sing or play an instrument; I like entertaining people; I like weddings; I am service oriented; I think fast on my feet and don’t get frazzled in a stressful situation; I don’t mind hard work and I am a late night person.” She’s willing to roll up her sleeves and dig in and supplemented her DJ business by cleaning houses for the first few years. 42

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Tami Lu Smith says her DJ business is fun, entertaining, long hours and lots of work.

The job is fun, entertaining and exciting, but also a lot of work and long hours. “I’m always working. I’m either meeting with prospective clients or doing paperwork, sending invoices or contracts out or on the job or working one of my other two parttime jobs.” As an example, here’s the work it takes to be a DJ for a wedding: “Most wedding gigs are booked 12 months or more in advance. Once they decide to book me, I send out a contract and a reception planning form. Generally, we meet three to six months before the wedding to review the reception planner. I customize what I do to each couple’s personality. On the day of the wedding I set up my gear in advance of the guests’ arrival, making sure that all the sound and lights are tested before the guests arrive. I play cocktail music and make announcements, as they are required, usually including announcing the bridal party. I change up the dinner music to something that fills in the background but does not overpower conversation. Then, when it is time for the dance, I am ready to play. My goal is to help keep the night flowing with no gaps of down time. Usually, at the end of the night I will tear down the gear and drive home. It is sometimes 4 a.m. before I am finally going to sleep.” Always one to look toward future goals, Tami Lu is upgrading all her lighting equipment and adding wedding decorating and up-

photo by Joey Halvorson lighting to her list of services. She also compiles slide shows for the bride and groom. And word-of-mouth is the best advertisement. Recently, she did a wedding where the guests included nine brides and grooms of previous weddings where she was their DJ. She said she is often booked as much as 20 months in advance. Hard work and long hours also have a little glitz and glamour thrown in. Tami Lu dresses herself in sparkles and bling, she decorates her console and has a few glittering props and disco balls to liven up the dance floor. Yes, it is fun and yes, she loves her job. Quiet and shy in high school, Tami Lu Smith said she lacked confidence. But over the years, working a variety of jobs, meeting people in numerous situations, she’s learned how to assertively market her business and her talents to support herself and add some fun and satisfaction to those hosting special events in the area.


Ann Schwartz

Ann Schwartz is a free-lance writer who lives in Aitkin. She is also the director of Aitkin County Habitat for Humanity. She enjoys hearing and telling peoples’ stories.

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pe t s



By Audrae Gruber


“Don’t mess with me,” is the message from Bitsy as she prances like a dancing horse, head held high, looking straight ahead, holding her favorite bone. She jumps on to the bed and settles in for the night by nestling into her favorite red “blankie.” Our teen-ager Bitsy has a sense of entitlement that far exceeds her human teen-age counterparts. She is a miniature apricot poodle with bowed front legs and one ear that is a little lopsided. She is a HART animal shelter graduate that we rescued 10 years ago. Actually, she rescued us. My husband was depressed over health issues. I was depressed because he was depressed. Our visit to HART was a mixed blessing. Paul became enamored with a miniature shepherd. Had he forgotten that I was allergic to longhaired dogs? I was looking for a poodle. Poodles don’t bother those of us with allergies. As we walked through the rows of appealing caged dogs, we found no poodles. I was told that they seldom

A miniature apricot poodle, Bitsy was a rescue dog from HART 10 years ago and now pretty much rules the roost.


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got poodles but that one had been dropped off the day before we came. They were keeping her in the back until they got to know her better. She seemed to be a little testy. I took her for a walk. She was happy to see me but independent. Not the face-licking type. She had been raised her first three years in a household of three small children and two larger dogs. Her survival techniques were aggression toward other dogs and distrust of children and males. We went home discouraged. Paul was not inclined to accept a small dog. His family of four boys preferred macho dogs that could wrestle and hunt. After some discussion, he agreed to “try” Bitsy. The workers at HART thought she would make an excellent only child. They were right. It didn’t take long for Bitsy to realize that we were her dream home. Peace reigned — or rather Bitsy reigned from then on. She assumes that she is “entitled” to three walks a day, a half hour of play time in the evening and an occasional chew of our bed quilt. She takes her food carefully out of her bowl, a few pieces at a time, and places them on the carpet always leaving a few crumbs for later. She empties her bone basket at least once a day and carries one at a time to various “hiding” places in the house. If we leave her home alone, we can be certain that she will tear any tissue from the wastebasket into shreds, scattering the pieces all over. A retribution tantrum. She has separation anxiety and will sit at a window and howl like a banshee when we leave if we are gone very long. In the winter, we get out her boots and jacket. She hides when she sees me coming with a boot in my hand. Once she has them all on she will limp and act crippled, hardly able to move-until she gets outside, when she runs like a deer. Every time we eat ice cream, or chocolate, or cookies, she will sit at our feet with a soulful look. My husband taught her, by demonstrating, to lick her lips when she wants something. Never has a human or animal looked more ridiculous. While licking her lips she stares very politely with non-blinking eyes begging for just a crumb. Only a belly-rub will console her. When guests come, she greets them at the door with great enthusiasm and a poor response to “stay down.” She loves everyone. Luckily most of our friends are dog lovers. Bitsy is not without special talent. After seeing a poodle dog act at the circus, we taught her to jump through a hoop, to dance on her hind legs and to speak for treats. She loves to put on her show. Yes, we have spoiled her but she has added something to our lives that is a constant source of humor. When she is ready for nightly play she will come to one of us and display her play stance — butt up and front paws extended, with a smile on her face and a ball in her mouth. Bitsy is now 13 but has the energy of a puppy. We are gifted with loyalty and love. Several times a day she checks on our whereabouts in the house like a hunter on a mission, fast-paced walking, nose to the ground, checking every room to find us and making certain we are there and alright. There is not a more rewarding feeling to have an eager and happy dog crying for joy when we return. Her love and enthusiasm for life are endless and contagious. There are studies that tell us that pets can prolong the life of their owners. We are believers.

Audrae Gruber

Audrae Gruber is a retired St. Paul teacher. She studied with author Carol Bly and has written for publications including: The Talking Stick, Lake Country Journal, Her Voice, Mille Lacs Messenger, Pine Island Florida Eagle and Good Samaritan newsletter. She is a member of Brainerd Writers, Kindred Street Writers and Heartland Poets and volunteers with Hospice and the Brainerd Library.


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Her Voice - Winter 2011  

• Empowering the Woman Within - Mentors, we know they’re key to advancement in the workplace. • From Someone Else’s Tummy - Why does it matt...

Her Voice - Winter 2011  

• Empowering the Woman Within - Mentors, we know they’re key to advancement in the workplace. • From Someone Else’s Tummy - Why does it matt...