By Jody Kerzman It’s been two weeks since my last family vacation. Before that, it had been about six years. I think I might finally be recovered from this last vacation. I’d forgotten how exhausting it is spending time with the ones you love, enjoying the great outdoors. It was a vacation that was pretty much doomed from the very first time we thought about taking a vacation, so I should have known recovery would take awhile. My husband and I decided to take the kids to the Black Hills this summer for a few reasons: it’s been awhile since we all vacationed together (our now six-year-old was a baby), the oldest is leaving for college next year, so we figured this was probably our last chance, and it’s pretty rare that all six of us are together—we kind of missed each other. So I booked a fancy cabin (Big step up for us—usually we sleep in a tent. This cabin had air conditioning!) at our favorite campground in the Black Hills. We figured we only go every six years, we’re going to go all out. I even scheduled a college visit for the oldest, sort of an excuse to spend an extra day in the Hills. Enter problem number one: work. I am so proud of my teenagers for having such a great work ethic. They always show up to work on time, work hard, and are happy to pick up someone else’s shift. Their bank accounts show this (I’m a little jealous of their savings account balances). When I told them the dates I booked the cabin for, I was greeted by eye rolls and schedule conflicts. Neither could get off work. Seriously? This trip is for YOU! You guys have to be there. After threats to cancel entirely, we found another week that worked better for everyone, except for my husband. He got summoned to jury duty and his contractor decided to start paving. So, he was out. No big deal. He works road construction; we are used to doing fun summer stuff without him. It’s not ideal, but we’ve been doing it for years. Of course the air conditioned cabin was no longer available, but sometimes you just have to sacrifice. We broke the drive into two parts; we left late Monday evening and spent the night at my parent’s house, which was fun because my sister, her daughters, and their friends were there too. The next morning Lexi and I got up early to head to her college visit in Spearfish and my dad brought the rest down a few hours later. Those two drives were non-eventful and actually kind of fun. While three of the kids zoned out with headphones and iPods, Lexi sat in the passenger seat and visited with me the entire three-hour drive to my parent’s house. Priceless. The next morning, she wasn’t quite as talkative, as she opted for a nap instead of more conversation with her mom. That was ok, because for me, driving from my parent’s to the Hills is literally a trip down memory lane. I remembered all the times I’d made this drive in high school, all the friends I haven’t seen since high school, how I wished I lived in Newell instead of Bison, and how fun it would be to see everyone again. The college visit was amazing. Of course I knew our tour guide’s brother-in-law, which naturally prompted an eye roll from my daughter and a comment that South Dakota is just like North Dakota and a “Mom! Do you seriously know everyone?” Sure seems that way, kid. It’s a small world. After the college visit and lunch with my dad, the vacation officially began. We hit the waterpark, stocked up on groceries, and headed to our cabin near Mt. Rushmore. A wrong turn took us to Wyoming instead (Morgan was happy to cross that state off the “states I’ve visited” list, despite her brother’s argument that you have to actually DO something in the state for it to count). The kids are still making Wyoming jokes. The rest of the trip was filled with tourist-y things: old time photos, shopping, mini-golf, hiking, Crazy Horse, Mt. Rushmore (we drove by at least a dozen times and every time I adapted the line from National Lampoon’s European Vacation: “Look kids. Mt. Rushmore.” I thought it was funny every time. The kids didn’t see the humor. They probably need to watch the movie, or at least the You Tube clip: We swam. We had campfires and s’mores and hotdogs. We made bacon at midnight. We burned popcorn. We laughed ourselves to sleep. We had a great time, even though the wifi signal was weak and the cell signal nonexistent at our campground (that’s a blessing… kept the teenagers and me present!) And you know what? My kids actually enjoyed each other’s company. Miracles do happen. I have so many childhood memories of my own that revolve around camping in the Black Hills with my parents and siblings. Somehow, my parents always found time to take us camping (somewhere between planting and harvesting). It makes me smile when I realize my kids will have similar memories. So, will we do another family vacation? Absolutely. And we won’t wait six years to do it. College visit: BHSU in Spearfish, SD Spearfish waterpark Big slides at the Spearfish waterpark Best part of vacation: hanging out with these four Oops! Accidentally went to the wrong state! Love visiting my home state Pactola Sibling bonding Our cabin Keystone, SD Old time photos in Keystone, SD Representing NoDak at Mt. Rushmore Traditional Mt. Rushmore photo The beautiful Black Hills Mt. Rushmore View from the Presidential Trail View from our hike on the Presidential Trail Campfire cooking Never enough bacon when you have a teenage boy Jumping in at the campground pool Visiting the former Bedrock City in Custer, SD The Purple Pie Place in Custer, SD Crazy Horse Morgan and Lizzy on stage during a skit at the campground Keystone, SD Mini golf Wax museum in Keystone, SD Storybook Island: Rapid City, SD Drove through Sturgis just days before the Rally Final stop: Lemmon, SD
Inspiring Change: Finding Inspiration in the Ordinary
By Noreen Keesey What comes to mind when you think about the word inspired? When I first thought about it, I considered things that made me feel uplifted. I focused on things that moved me emotionally. And the list of examples I came up with was pretty long, covering things both big and little. The young girl on the news who started a non-profit to help other children of service members whose parent had been injured or killed. The best advice listed by the actor interviewed in a magazine I read regularly. I’d be remiss not to mention the main character in the recent Disney movie who ignores the odds and obstacles in order to live her dream. When I looked up the definition of inspire (I look up words infrequently enough that I don’t feel weird about it, but often enough to occasionally annoy people), I found that the definition of inspire is to fill someone with the urge to do or feel something (especially something creative). This changed my perspective a bit; rather than simply evoking feeling, being inspired involves an urge to take action. Inspiration can be used as an impetus to action or as an excuse for inaction. Have you ever found it difficult to get started on a project, report, or event because you weren’t feeling it? The inspiration just hadn’t hit? Willem Dafoe said, “Action breeds inspiration more than inspiration breeds action.” Sometimes, being inspired is hard work. It comes from action, not from waiting. If you’ve waited, and waited (and waited!) for inspiration to strike, then perhaps it’s time to try taking action. It’s ok to make it a small action. Just get some momentum. See what happens. Maybe what would help is to shake things up a bit. Do you have the time and resources to take a vacation? Perhaps now is the time. If a stay-cation fits better into your lifestyle, then plan some changes of scenery while staying at home. Take a drive around an unfamiliar part of town or visit a new shop or two. Try a different coffee shop or lunch stop. While engaged in these new activities and surroundings, watch what’s going on around you. What are people doing? What music is on in the background? What little surprises do you run across? Become an observer and engage all of your senses in your exploration. If time off just won’t work for you right now, here are a few of my favorite sources of inspiration: Movies Books Ted Talks Blogs (find a good one written by someone doing something you’re interested in; limit it so that you are not filling up your e-mail inbox and your time) Small locally-owned shops Nature (the sunset, ocean and mountain variety…not the lawn mowing, weeds with splinters, and creepy crawly bug variety!) Inspiration may need a little space in order to show up. Are you feeling a little overwhelmed or stressed by even the thought of time off, trying something new, or opening your awareness to inspiration? If so, perhaps now is the time to be very kind to yourself and create some space in your life, environment, and calendar. Identify what no longer serves who you are and let it go. Make some room for inspiration. I’m looking forward to enjoying the coming issues of Inspired Woman magazine and learning about the many people in our communities who have been inspired and are inspiring others. For now ask yourself, when was the last time you were inspired? What steps are you going to take to find (or create space for!) more inspiration in your life? Noreen is a leadership coach and trainer who believes deeply in the Army leadership principle: “Know yourself and seek self-improvement.” She enjoys reading, watching movies, and laughing with friends over a good cocktail. She is uncomfortable with small talk and is scared of moths.
Out of the Classroom: Into the Outdoors
by Renae Hoffmann Walker Photography: Photos by Jacy A way to stay busy, time outdoors, and a chance to earn extra income— these are some reasons teachers work outside of the classroom during the summer. Brad Leingang and Brieanne Schmidt have found their summer callings in jobs that involve people and nature. Brad’s job as a Park Ranger at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park in Mandan revolves more around landscape, while Bree works with animals at the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck. BRAD LEINGANG Brad is a social studies teacher and coaches football and track at Bismarck High. He teaches summer school in the morning and works at Fort Lincoln three days a week “to stay young and keep in shape” and because the job is anything but routine. During the week Brad does maintenance, weed whacking, tree pruning, and collects fees at the entrance station. Closer to the weekend, he helps with visitor services and park rule enforcement. “One summer, a brother attacked another with a roofing hammer. A few years ago I caught someone driving through the park with an open container; the guy was pretty hostile,” says Brad. “We also inform visitors that Fort Lincoln is a no fly zone for drones.” As a Mandan native and social studies teacher Brad loves the park’s history. “I uncovered a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) pathway about six years ago. I noticed some sandstone and removed the sod revealing work that was done about 80 years ago. I also found the 1860 Brass Officer Shoulder Scales that officers wore; they are currently on display in the museum.” Brad enjoys seeing current and former students, parents, and co-workers come through Fort Lincoln. He also works alongside some students and school employees and is known as a practical jokester. When he is not working, Brad takes his wife and kids to popular North Dakota destinations. He starts his 16th year with Bismarck Public Schools later this month. He will work at Fort Lincoln through Labor Day and loves to help at the Haunted Fort in October. BRIEANNE SCHMIDT Brieanne is a school psychologist for Bismarck Public Schools. She works at Miller and Murphy Elementary Schools, as well as St. Mary’s Grade School, and Shiloh Christian School. Bree was born and raised in Bismarck; she attended Riverside and Moses Elementary Schools, Wachter Middle School, and St. Mary’s Central High School. When a friend told her about a job at Dakota Zoo, she says, “It put my two passions together—kids and animals—so I couldn’t pass it up!” During her interview, when asked why she wanted to work at the zoo, Bree said everyone from Bismarck knows what a great place it is. She started in the admissions area and gift shop and within two weeks was asked if she was interested in working in the education department. Bree says she loves all three of her roles at the zoo. “In admissions, it’s fun to see how excited people are to come to the zoo. I see other school employees come through, as well as students. In the gift shop, children are excited when they get to pick out a stuffed animal. If we have that animal at the zoo, I tell the child its name,” says Bree. “In the edu- cation department, I supervised a five-day junior zookeeper camp and really got to know the participants, as well as the middle school students who work as Junior Docents and high school students who are part of the Zoo Crew.” Bree says she loves learning new things about the zoo from the experienced zookeepers. She likes the behind the scenes work and handling small animals like domestic rabbits and hedgehogs. Bree says Dakota Zoo is working hard to bring in new exhibits and hopes by 2020 that they can raise enough money for red pandas, penguins, and meerkats. Bree says she will probably stay on at Dakota Zoo through the winter because it’s only open weekends. In the meantime, she is busy with her two dogs, a cat, a fish, and a bird—most of which are rescue animals. Bree will start her 7th year with Bismarck Public Schools this fall and is engaged to be married in September 2017, so she’s hoping to work at the zoo again next summer to help with wedding expenses. To see more photos of Brad and Bree working their summer jobs, click on their names below: Brad at Ft. Lincoln Bree at Dakota Zoo Renae Hoffmann Walker has worked for Bismarck Public Schools since November 1988. As the Community Relations Director her summer job is very similar to her job during the school year! She and her husband Dwayne are river rats, empty nesters, and seasoned travelers.
Community Contributor: North Dakota Reading Corps
What services do you offer? North Dakota Reading Corps is designed to improve reading abilities for students in grades K-3. Third grade is a critical point in a child’s education, as this is the point in which students go from learning how to read to “reading to learn.” Therefore, students with deficient reading skills in third grade will often struggle throughout the rest of their school experience. The goal of the North Dakota Reading Corps is to ensure that students have sufficient reading skills by the time that they leave third grade. North Dakota Reading Corps program combines the people power of AmeriCorps with the science of how children learn to read. Reading Corps tutors are individuals who have committed to a year of national service as AmeriCorps members. A wide variety of individuals serve with North Dakota Reading Corps including college students, retirees, and parents. In exchange for their service, AmeriCorps members receive a $600 a month living allowance and an education award to be used for qualified tuition expenses or student loans when they successfully complete their term of service. Tutors serve 20 hours per week with the students and must commit to a 10-month time commitment. During the school day, students are scheduled to spend 20 minutes one on one time with tutors to take part in a structured reading program. We currently serve 10 schools in Bismarck, one school in Mandan, and one school in Hazen. How long have you been around? The Reading Corps model was developed in Minnesota over 11 years ago and is now replicated in 12 states and Washington, D.C. North Dakota Reading Corps formally begin in 2012 and the program came to the Bismarck and Mandan area through the Missouri River Education Cooperative (MREC) in 2014. Who do you help? We help students in grades K-3 who are just below reading proficiency for their grade level. Students are selected for service based on their reading scores because they fall into a set eligibility range. We also help our AmeriCorps tutors by providing them with experience that they can apply toward future career plans. This is especially helpful for those planning to go into education or community and public service. How are you different than other agencies? North Dakota Reading Corps is unique in that it is a collaborative effort between school districts, regional education associations, federal and state government agencies, and community foundations focused on eliminating the literacy gap in North Dakota. Reading Corps is a data-driven program which uses research-based interventions to work toward this goal. 74% of students that completed the program exceeded the target rate of growth for their grade level to catch up with their peers. How can people contact you for help? To get involved, call 701-751-4041 or email email@example.com. How can people support your organization? Without individuals to commit to serving as AmeriCorps tutors, we will be unable to help all of the students in Bismarck and Mandan who need extra support learning to read. We are currently in need of tutors for the upcoming school year and would encourage anyone interested in making an impact on the lives of children to visit www.ndseec.com/readingcorps to apply to become a Reading Corps tutor.
Read to Your Child Before It’s Too Late
By Pam Vukelic We are all familiar with Dr. Seuss’s comments on reading, with perhaps the most familiar being: “The more that you read, The more things that you’ll know. The more that you learn, The more places you’ll go.” Dr. Seuss These words of wisdom apply to children as well as adults. The value of reading aloud to children has been well-researched and the evidence is compelling. Perhaps less well-known, but equally important, is the value of reading to infants and even to babies before they are born. I’ve read that a great deal of brain development occurs during the first three years of life. What a missed opportunity it is if we don’t make reading a habit during those first few years. Children who are read to become better readers. Waiting for the school years, for the teachers to do it, is waiting too long. Since 2004, pediatricians have made a concerted effort to encourage new parents to read to their children to foster early learning and create connections in the brain that promote language development. In their document titled “Why It Is Never Too Early to Read With Your Baby” they list these tips: Cuddle up and read with emotion. Babies are happiest in your arms and older children appreciate the one-on-one attention. Choose colorful and sturdy books. Our eight-month-old granddaughter ditches her pacifier to chew on the flaps in lift-and-learn books. Her current favorite is Toes, Ears, & Nose! Plan a special reading time. Give your baby something to handle while you read to help lengthen her attention span. Read together every day. Make it a ritual. Let the child choose and be prepared for repetition. Make time to talk about feelings. This provides avenues for children to talk about their own reactions. Ask questions as you read. With older children encourage them to make predictions before you turn the page. Keep reading together, even when your child can read. “A child who reads will be an adult who thinks.” Despite several programs dedicated to promoting reading and much shared research about the value of reading, not all of the children in our country are read to daily. The numbers, however, are increasing. It’s free. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s worth making the time to do. It’s also a wonderful activity for grandparents to engage in with the grandchildren. A neighbor has a cabinet full of children’s books upstairs though the original users have been gone for years! How fun for the grandchildren to find mommy’s or daddy’s favorite childhood book, perhaps with some crayon or teeth markings to make them personal. I was recently sorting books upstairs, going through the books I used to keep in my Child Development classroom at Bismarck High School and our own children’s books. Although some have been slowly drifting to new homes, many remain, all the better to entertain wee ones who come for a visit. The old-time favorites like The Little Engine that Could, Curious George, Madeline, and Hooway for Wodney Wat are still good stories. I remember being enthralled with Pollyanna, The Boxcar Children, and Nancy Drew books when I was young; now we have the American Girl books and The Babysitters Club books on the shelves. I recently mailed one of Giada de Laurentiis’s cooking adventure books to our grand-niece in New Jersey. I hope it arrives before she goes to cooking camp. Jim Trelease, a well-known read-aloud advocate, has written several books devoted to reading aloud and to providing extensive categorized listings of books. Emma Walton Hamilton, in Raising Bookworms, also provides excellent lists and great support for the read-aloud movement. She and her mom, Julie Andrews, have a series of books about Dumpy, the cast-off dump truck who gets another chance. Consider registering your child with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a program supported by our local United Way. Once your little one is registered, she will receive a book in the mail each month. Don’t hesitate to check out the local thrift stores for inexpensive books. I recently found like-new books, even some classics, for $.99 apiece. Garage sales are another great source of inexpensive books that previous owners have outgrown. In our community, there are numerous story times at the Veterans Memorial Public Library, even for babies, with Miss Sparkles. Watch for announcements regarding story time, beginning this fall, in the attic at the Former Governors’ Mansion. Expect to hear older stories (1800s to 1960) and maybe even see some rarely shown cartoons. You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book. Dr. Seuss Pam Vukelic is an online FACS (Family and Consumer Sciences) instructor for the Missouri River Educational Consortium. As Grandma to Connor, Elvin, and Claire, she is familiar with the values and joys of reading to children! Pam splits her time between Bismarck and The Villages in Florida.
Kittens, Catwoman, & Decisive Living
By Patrick Atkinson The educational degree I admire the most in people cannot be earned in a classroom. Nor can it be learned on the streets. Still, you know when you are talking with a graduate. Young or old, their eyes are deeper and their words more thoughtful. Their need to command is softer too, because they already know they are in full control. I met my first of these graduates 34 years ago, when I began to work overseas. His name is Mateo. Like children everywhere, Mateo one day heard the soft cry of a frightened animal. First he stopped to listen, then he lay down his school books and crawled on hands and knees through thick knotted bushes and inches-deep mud. Eventually he pulled a scratching, clawing little beast to safety. Placing the trembling kitten warmly under his coat, Mateo ruined a brand new white shirt. He gained forever, though, the knowledge of what it means to have charity, compassion, and love. It would be great if the story ended there but, of course, it doesn’t. Twenty minutes later, 12 boys and girls rushed loudly through a group home I founded, ran into the shower, grabbed soap and shampoo, and shouted out the kitten’s new name. “Pfeifer,” they said. In honor of actress Michelle Pfeifer’s role as Catwoman in the Batman movie. The children were clearly content to let me sit speechless at my desk. They were watching the kitten. I was watching them. These were a dozen orphaned children who just months ago had lived in garbage dumps and slept wherever they could. They were boys and girls who had known abuse and neglect since the day they were born. Many had already learned to distrust the world. And since they knew first-hand the bitterness of violent, alcoholic homes, only now were some beginning to have a sense of security. They could have kept all of this to themselves. Instead, they decided to make room to accept into it yet another one of God’s suffering creatures. Coming from the shacks and slums that surrounded our small home, these were beautiful kids trying desperately hard not to go insane. I wished they would all make it but knew some who would not. In much of our world today boys and girls grow up to be 18 years old without having ever spent a day in school, simply because no one takes the time to enroll them there. No one asks these children how they spend their days or where they are at night. They are surrounded by friends who become sexually active at 12, and get tempted into drugs and gang life about a year later. Mateo and a few others knew this and even as tiny children didn’t want any part of it. They desperately wanted to run away and hide from this reality, but had nowhere else to go. So they dreamed of a different place where their world was safe and they didn’t have to grow up alone. They erected castles on the fertile grounds of their imagination, and planned to escape from the fetid soils of torn childhoods. Their ship to freedom was going to be school, they knew. I made the children lunch one day and when I served Mateo his lunch he said, “Gracias, Papa.” Thank you, Dad. There was a moment of silence and then the other kids broke into laughter. Over these past 34 years, hundreds of boys and girls have slipped and said those very same words, but seldom when they’re surrounded by 20 of their friends. Mateo started to cry. After lunch, Mateo came up to me and apologized for having called me Papa. He would understand, he said, if I was mad and wanted him to leave. After we talked, I wrote Mateo this short note which he still has to this day: For the love of God, Mateo, keep coming back. Come and be a part of us, and please keep dreaming. “Dream of what you want to be and dream of what you will not. If your dreams die, Mateo, you too will die because your doors will close in front of you. So keep them alive, son, and let yourself grow. Learn. Stay free. P.S. Call me Papa anytime you like. Mateo, like others you may know, is a graduate of a deliberately thoughtful life. He’s also now a very wise man. Bismarck-Native Patrick Atkinson is the founder and CEO of The GOD’S CHILD Project’s international network of award-winning charities, which includes the ‘Institute for Trafficked, Exploited & Missing Persons.’ For more information, visit www.GodsChild.org and www.ITEMP.org.
Oh Man: Rahmi Eikhatib
Eagle Scout’s Star-Spangled Service Project Rahmi Eikhatib By Jody Kerzman When Rahmi Eikhatib was six years old, his mom signed him up for Cub Scouts. He’s been scouting ever since. Now, at age 17, he’s got one last milestone to finish off his scouting career. That milestone is earning his Eagle Scout rank. There are several requirements that must be met to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, including completing a service project. Rahmi found a service project that has quickly become more than just a project. “My old scout master gave me the idea to replace and retire damaged American flags,” explains Rahmi. “People don’t know that flying damaged flags is actually disrespectful. So as I replace flags for people, I try and educated them about proper flag etiquette too. I think most people do have good intentions, but they just don’t know what’s right because no one has ever told them. Maybe I can be that person that teaches them the proper etiquette for flying, storing, and disposing of the flag.” Rahmi and his team have replaced 15 flags and have another five lined up. That will be enough to meet his goal of 20, but Rahmi says there could be more. “I have heard that there are a few more that would like their flags replaced. I’m doing this free of charge, all the flags I’m giving out have been donated,” he says. “The problem is my demand has exceeded my supply. That’s a good problem I guess, because it means my efforts are working.” Rahmi ‘s next step is to organize a ceremony to dispose of the old flags. He has studied up on flag etiquette, and learned the proper way to dispose of the flags he’s collected. “You’re supposed to burn the flags ceremonially.” The flags will be folded in the customary manner, then placed on the fire. Etiquette suggests those disposing of the flag come to attention, salute the flag, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Once the flags are completely consumed, the fire should be safely extinguished and the ashes buried. Rahmi will follow the etiquette to the letter, because he says it’s the right thing to do. Much like replacing damaged flags is the right thing to do. “It’s a small thing that can go a long way,” he explains. “I’m not a veteran, but I think if a veteran sees a damaged flag, they might take offense to that, to see something they fought so hard to defend. It’s a little thing, replacing flags, but it’s like holding the door open for someone, it’s a small thing that can go a long way for someone.” Rahmi’s Eagle Scout ceremony is tentatively scheduled for mid-August. But while his project is coming to a close, Rahmi hopes the work he started will continue. “I hope that my project has educated people about flag etiquette, and they’ll remember this project and when they see flags that need repair, they’ll do something about it.” As for Rahmi, once he earns his Eagle Scout rank, he’ll turn his focus to his senior year of high school, and life after high school. He is considering a career in the Navy.
Sleepy Hollow: A Place to ‘Uniquely’ Fit In
By Jamie Christensen Oh, the angst of preteen, middle school years. Body parts growing at all different rates, chaotic hormonal surges, and the deep-seated need to fit in. Many people do not recall these years of development with fondness. So, now as parents, navigating this period in time is an interesting twist. At this stage, parents are diving into how to let adolescents find their own way for individuality, resiliency, and resourcefulness. While at the same time, they want to provide enough structure and guidance to ensure their children will be respectful, responsible, contributing members of society. And then, there is the part about acceptance. Humans crave acceptance—and that is often painfully true in middle school. “Middle school and beyond is the most difficult time to watch your child grow up and find ‘their place’ in school and society,” said Lisa Vatnsdal, mom to seventh grader Bennett. “You want your child to have good friends who accept them for who they are and are a positive influence on them.” That’s where programs like The Sleepy Hollow Middle School Revue come in. Middle School Revue began in 2015 as a three-and-a-half-week program focused on the basics of acting and improvisation; dancing and singing. It is an educational experience without having the pressure of learning a full-length theater production. This year, 38 middle schoolers took part. Middle School Revue now leads into the “Rising Stars” program Sleepy Hollow has offered for several years to allow students to gain experience on stage, and possibly prep them for joining the cast of a full musical in years to come. Numerous times after rehearsals, first-time Sleepy Hollow participant Kaitlynn Christensen would describe her favorite part of participating. “No one is ‘judgey,’” said Christensen. “In sports, everything is a competition. When you are doing theater and music, no one cares what you do. If you mess up, everyone just goes with it. In theater, they don’t make fun of differences. They embrace it.” Bennett Vatnsdal, a second year Sleepy Hollow program participant, agreed. “You just get to be yourself, step outside of your box and have fun. No one looks at you funny or judges you if you decide to do something crazy or act super silly. We all just laugh together.” This inclusive and supportive environment is a special piece, and focus, of the programs. “It is important to instill the positive, ‘non-judging’ environment for kids to be themselves and express themselves in ways that everyone respects and listens to them,” explained Middle School Revue and Rising Stars Director Connie Stordalen. “The middle school years are so very important as they are really building those ‘confidence’ foundation blocks. It is important for kids to have the chance to try something different and do so in an environment that is not judgmental or competitive.” Stordalen said that the skills and confidence learned when performing enhances everything people do in the future. The art of being able to think quickly on the spot, speak clearly, work together cooperatively, and carry yourself confidently helps in all aspects of life. But the enhanced self-esteem and friendships made in the meantime are priceless. “I only knew two kids when I showed up on the first day, and there were a lot of eighth graders there,” said sixth grader Kaitlynn. “I was scared in the beginning. But in the end, I became friends with all of them and it has just been awesome.” “I love knowing that Bennett is with kids who love the arts as much as he does and they are there to support him and laugh with him, as well as collaborate to allow everyone to be themselves while they explore and develop their talents,” said Lisa Vatnsdal. Both Kaitlynn and Bennett plan to return to the Sleepy Hollow middle school stage. “Yes, for sure! This has been a great experience for me,” said Bennett. “I hope we find more programs for me to be a part of, and I really want to be a part of the Sleepy Hollow musical within the next few years.” The Sleepy Hollow creators and directors involved with programming know that the performing arts will not be the passion of every child, but even with limited participation the basic skills and acquired confidence are universal. “My advice is to just try it!” said Stordalen. “You don’t know what your child might be best at. But in the meantime, they will be building lifelong skills that will make them confident, caring people. I’m guessing there are people who never tried singing, acting, or dancing because they were afraid of being judged or made fun of. How many stars have we missed because of this? If a child is entering sixth, seventh, or eighth grade, this is an excellent chance to try something new.” To learn more about Sleepy Hollow and its programs from kindergarten-aged students and up, visit www.shst.org. Jamie Christensen is a full-time licensed real estate agent, a communications and marketing professional, wife, and mom. She proudly supported her daughter this summer as a performer in the Sleepy Hollow Middle School Revue.
Thrivent Financial Celebrates Women of Generosity: Carol Land: MOPS Mentor
By Marci Narum Back Row: Kacie Thompson, Bethany Boehm, Ann Whiddon. Seated: Nataliya Nychyporuk, Carol Land Carol Land has that sometimes rare gift of really being in tune with people. As a former music teacher who now gives private voice lessons part-time in her home, Carol listens passionately. Her goal is to help her students develop their voices. She does the same thing with young mothers. She listens to them for several hours each week, as they share the joys and challenges of motherhood. And then Carol encourages those young women. The moms are in the Mothers of Pre-Schoolers (MOPS) group that meets at Evangel in Bismarck, and Carol is a MOPS mentor, one of ten in the group. MOPS is an organization that started about 40 years ago. It’s for any mom that has a child, newborn up to kindergarten. MOPS chapters have formed around the world. Three groups meet in Bismarck, at Evangel, Grace Point Church, and Charity Lutheran; and one meets in Mandan, at Messiah Lutheran Church. The moms get together a couple times a month to share their motherhood journeys, have breakfast, and pray together. Carol has been part of her MOPS group since 1990, when she was a young mom, and she has been a MOPS mentor for about 12 years. As a mentor, Carol shares her time and experience with young moms whenever they need it—in a quiet meeting, a phone call, or text message. “Some of these young moms have family in town and have pretty stable marriages and good situations,” Carol says. “Others don’t come from a good parenting model, or they’re struggling, or they’re new in town. Whatever point they’re at, they need encouragement.” Carol says she feels very strongly that mothering is an important job especially when a woman is parenting young children. She says it can be a lonely time. “So it’s rewarding for me to encourage those moms and remind them that what they’re doing is important.” Carol adds, “They might not feel like they’re getting a lot of thanks at that point in their life, but what they’re doing is important and their kids need them.” That perspective comes from experience. Carol and her husband, Tom, have three boys who are all grown and married now, and they have one grandson. Carol is generous with giving time to others, and she says she will keep being a mentor for as long as her schedule allows and as long as moms need her. “When you find something that is a way of being generous or ministering, whether it’s giving time or money, it’s a joy, not a chore. You do it because you want to do it, not because you feel like you should. So I feel like I’ve found my place in a way of ministering that is fulfilling for me and helping others.” To learn more about mops in your community, visit: www.mops.org.
Why Didn’t I?
By Betty Mills My mother was 21 when she voted for the first time after the constitutional amendment granted women the same voting rights as men in this centuries old democracy of ours. The year was 1921! In retrospect I find that startling. Granted I’m no spring chicken, but that was my mother, not my great grandmother. So I add that to my list of “Why Didn’t I?” Why didn’t I ask her how she felt that first momentous occasion? Where did she vote? Printed ballot? Did she discuss voting with anyone first? Ah, yes, the “Why Didn’t I” list. I am reminded of the admonition of Omar Khayyam, “What boots it to repeat that time is slipping underneath our feet?” But how else are we reminded to ask the questions while there is still time? For instance, there was my Uncle Otto, the bachelor Swedish rancher, who came to this country when he was a teenager, homesteaded near Carson, North Dakota, and raised Black Angus cattle. He lived with us one winter when I was a teenager and he was in his seventies. Did I ask him what made him leave Sweden? Who did he leave behind? How was the boat trip over? Was he frightened when he landed in New York? Was he ever sorry he left Sweden? Why? One of my daughters just sent a sample of my spit to one of those genealogy organizations that may eventually tell me whether I’m related to the king of Sweden, or maybe Norway. Personally I’d still like to know the answer to a question I once asked my mother: “How come every one in the family, including a lively roster of aunts and uncles, have blue eyes except for you and me?” She rattled on about the Vikings and those French girls they probably kidnapped on one of their raids. I’ve just been reading a book, The Vikings, by Howard La Fay, and I rather hope my spit doesn’t reveal any such kinship since those bad boy Norwegians terrorized Europe for 250 years—not anyone to invite to a family reunion. Perhaps we should all keep a “Why Didn’t I?” list handy. Not the one about cleaning the storage room, but about collecting the family lore while there are still relatives alive and thinking. For many second generation North Dakotans there are fascinating stories lurking in those hardy early immigrants, many of whom arrived with nothing much but determination to “make a go of it.” I went to a one room rural school in western North Dakota. But even the gateposts are gone, and yellow buses pick up the rural children now and bring them into town. So what do they know of a school with no electric lights and no water? When the school house caught on fire—easily the most exciting day of my eight year sojourn in that building—there was no rural fire department, or a telephone to call for help. And it was in mid-winter, when often the roads were hazardous. We, the pupils, thought it was a lark. Escaping arithmetic and getting to throw snowballs inside the school? And praised for our efforts? What was the state of the teacher’s well-being during all of this? She was my cousin Ruth. I could have asked her. Many of us have in some odd box in the attic one of those old black photograph albums filled with pictures of people in outdated outfits, in various poses, and we don’t have a clue about their identity. Going through one such album one day I recognized my mother and my Aunt Millie, sitting on a picnic bench in a wooded area, entirely surrounded by young men in pants and vests, cigarettes in hand. Aunt Millie was still alive, so I took the picture to the nursing home where she was living. “Tell me about this picture,” I said, and she broke into a big grin, and said gleefully, “Those were the Finn boys.” I knew my mother had taught school in a Minnesota Finnish community, so I said, “And?” She broke out an even grander grin and said, “We had such a good time!” More details I could not elicit from her, but I left her still smiling while I had a previously unknown glimpse into my mother’s life before she met my father. Obviously history is more than a dissertation on events in the public arena. It is also worth pursuing in our private lives. So here’s to keeping an active “Why Didn’t I” list that has to be continually revised. Betty Mills was a Bismarck Tribune political columnist for 25 years. She belongs to three book clubs, and at age 90, can share a story of her own when she isn’t reading. Betty is currently writing her family’s history.
Menopause: Education, not Medication
Rhonda Joliffe and Chris Dockter By Jody Kerzman Hot flashes. Night sweats. Dryness. All symptoms of menopause, and all miserable. But two local women are working to make all of the symptoms of menopause a little more tolerable. And they’re doing it online. Rhonda Joliffe and Chris Dockter are building a business to educate women about menopause, and to help those suffering with this change of life. “We are all women, we’re all going to go through this,” says Chris. “But we can provide women with tools to make it more manageable.” “A few years ago I started looking into doing an online program, but I just never got it done the way I wanted it to be. I put it on the backburner,” says Rhonda, who has been a nurse practitioner for more than 20 years. “In my work with patients over the last two decades I’ve realized that what women need is education, not medication.” When Chris and her husband, Rhonda’s brother, moved to Bismarck a few months ago, Rhonda mentioned her idea to Chris. Chris immediately put her marketing skills to work on Rhonda’s website, RhondaNp.com. “This is a powerful concept. We’re helping women regain control, which is so important because you feel out of control when this starts happening to you,” explains Chris. “Our ideal client is someone who is successful, educated, and really has control over her life and all of a sudden the wheels start to come off. We want to be there when the wheels start to come off, or even a little before that because it’s going to be a little bit of a bumpy ride. If you’re more educated, you know what’s going on, you won’t panic as much.” Rhonda blogs on various menopause-related topics, like exercise, meditation, herbs and supplements, stress management, and more. The next step is adding an online program. “It will be a comprehensive program. I’ll walk students through menopause step by step and make sure they have an action plan. We’ll talk about the most important part of diet, exercise, and sleep. Those things all change when you hit menopause,” explains Rhonda. It is something these sisters-in-law turned business partners know first hand. They say their personal experiences, teamed with Rhonda’s medical knowledge, have helped them design an all natural program that really helps women, something that hasn’t been offered before. “I remember panicking when my hot flashes started. I was super moody, had a foggy brain, and couldn’t sleep,” remembers Chris. “I thought I would go to the doctor she would give me meds and I’d be fine. But when she gave me a prescription for Prozac and said I should put a fan under my desk, I thought ‘This is not good, this is not how I want to live my life.’” But what is good, is the program these women are developing. And because it’s an online program, they’ll be able to reach women around the globe. And Rhonda says there are some positives that come with menopause. “Women become more creative when they reach menopause, and we also gain valuable perspective,” she explains. “By the time we reach menopause, we’ve gone through that period of raising kids and caring for everyone else. Menopause is actually a time we can be a little selfish, and do what makes us happy. Women also become more community-minded and want to give back when we hit this stage of life. “ For Rhonda and Chris, that is exactly the case. They’re building this program because they have a deep desire to help others. “We talk all the time about how us teaming up is the work of a higher power,” says Chris with a smile. “I felt drawn to come back to Bismarck, and this is why. This business is so exciting. We are building something from the ground up and it’s something that is truly going to help others. It is exciting. “We want to turn the idea of menopause being something awful into something that’s not so bad. We want to help women be fierce and take control of this thing that is controlling them.”
Look What She Did: Kari Warberg Block
This month’s Olympic games have one Bismarck woman busier than ever. Kari Warberg Block’s “Stay Away Mosquitoes” patches are being given to athletes competing at the Games in Brazil. “The patch is such a great option for the athletes. They don’t want to spray chemicals on their skin,” explains Kari. The “Stay Away Mosquitoes” patches look like a Band-Aid and stick on your clothes. Kari says you can wear two to six at a time, depending on your size. They’re made from lemon eucalyptus and citronella. Lemon eucalyptus is a CDC approved mosquito repellant and parallels DEET in effectiveness. “The lemon eucalyptus creates a vapor and the mosquitoes can’t smell the body’s CO2, which is what attracts mosquitoes to humans,” she says. “The patches are good for up to six hours and will be the only repellent patch to meet federal EPA standards for public risk mosquitoes and use by children and pregnant women.” Kari has been working on developing this patch for the past two years, but this project was pushed to the top of her to-do list when it caught the attention of Olympic officials. She is also working to provide the patches free to refugees, through a percentage of the sales.