Cara Mund: Dreams Do Come True: What Happens After the Crowning Moment
The Miss America Organization/Bruce V. Boyajian By Jody Kerzman | Submitted Photos Cara Mund is living her dream. “I still can’t believe it. It’s a dream come true,” says 23-year-old Cara Mund of Bismarck, who was crowned Miss America 2018 in September. She is the first Miss North Dakota to ever win the crown. Those who know her best say they’re not surprised; they say this is something Cara has been training for her whole life. READY FOR THE RUNWAY It all started nearly 20 years ago, when Cara was first introduced to pageants. At age four, she was a pageant page for the Miss Snow Princess Pageant at Mandan’s Winter Days. Her cousin, Erika, was a contestant, but Cara stole the show when she carried the crown onto the stage. “Watching her on stage I remember noticing she was doing the t-stand like the rest of the girls and waving like a princess,” recalls her mom, DeLora Kautzmann Mund. “She was bitten by the pageant bug.” She won her first title at age five. “My mom signed me up about two weeks before the pageant,” Cara remembers. “I choreographed my own talent, a dance to the song ‘It’s Raining Men.’ I wore a costume from my costume box and ended up winning!” It was the first of many titles Cara would win. She continued competing in pageants throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Her final pageant goal was to win the Miss North Dakota title and make the top ten at the Miss America Competition. “I had dreamed of becoming Miss North Dakota since I was six years old but I never thought Miss North Dakota would become Miss America,” admits Cara. “It had never happened before. But I went into the competition thinking I could make history by making the top 10. I didn’t think I’d win by any means. That whole night I was just in shock. I made it into the top 10 and then I made it into the top five. It goes so quickly that you don’t have time to be nervous. And I still don’t think it’s fully hit yet. But I can tell you that nothing will ever compare to the feeling I got when I heard my name called that night, even though the moments after hearing my name are a blur. They bring your parents to the end of the runway when you get crowned, so they’re there for your walk. I don’t remember anything between hearing my name called and getting to the end of the runway where I saw my parents.” “Cara told us she doesn’t remember getting the crown or the sash, and I thought when she started her walk it was sort of robotic,” says DeLora. “I don’t think it really hit her until she got to the end of the runway and saw us. She bent down then, touched her crown and said, ‘is this real?’ Then I teared up. It is the most amazing thing to be there and to see your daughter’s dream come true right before your eyes. It’s such a blessing. Her life changed in a matter of seconds, live on national television.” Once the cameras were turned off, Cara got right to work. Security guards escorted her backstage, where a team was waiting to touch up her hair and makeup before her press conference, her first official event as Miss America. “The celebrity judges were all there and they commented about why they thought I was the best pick. They really boosted my confidence,” says Cara. “We did the press conference, then went to the after party where I gave a little speech. I didn’t stay long because I had to get packed. I had to get all my things into two suitcases. Then my parents and some of my family and friends were able to come up to my room and spend some time with me.” Among those on the list to see Cara after her win were former Miss North Dakotas Stacey Thomas and Ariana (Walker) Kinnischtzke. “It was great to be able to give Cara a big hug,” says Stacey. “I told her I was so proud of her. She was still the same Cara—humble and kind. She cared about everyone in that room and was so excited to see us.” “There was a point during the finals when I just knew she had won,” says Ariana. “She had something extra and we were seeing her shine. She just looked like Miss America every time she came onto the stage. When she got into the top seven and answered her first question I knew. When she did win, I cried. I cried a lot, lots of happy tears. Everyone around us was crying.” “I think I got to bed at 6:30 a.m. and I was up by 8:00 a.m. getting ready for the day,” remembers Cara. “I was running on adrenaline. I don’t think I even had coffee that first morning. I was so excited I couldn’t believe it!” DISAPPOINTMENT & DETERMINATION The road to Miss America wasn’t easy. It took Cara four tries to win the Miss North Dakota title. “Last year was a little heartbreaking when she won first runner up,” recalls DeLora. “I told her everything happens for a reason, and we didn’t know then the reason. Now Cara is happy she didn’t win last year. She knows she wouldn’t have been half the contestant then that she was this year.” This was her year. Cara won every category in the Miss North Dakota pageant—swimsuit, evening wear, talent, and interview. “My mom was my biggest supporter. It took me four tries to win Miss North Dakota but she knew all along I could do it. I don’t think she expected me to win Miss America, though. But she always told me, ‘I know you can do it. This is a dream of yours and if you give up you’ll never know if you could have achieved it,’” says Cara. “I also had quite a few former Miss North Dakotas reach out and encourage me to do it one more time. Stacey Thomas was the first Miss North Dakota I ever met. She was my dance instructor. I looked up to her and wanted to be just like Stacey.” “I think that on the road to achieving a dream there is always a lot of disappointment and heartache along the way,” says Stacey. “Cara had those moments. I remember sharing a Bible verse with her. Romans 8:18 says, ‘The pain that you’re feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.’ I think that’s so perfect for this moment and for Cara. All those years of disappointments she had don’t compare to the joy she’s feeling today.” The joy is something Cara says she can’t put into words. “I can’t even describe it. I worked so hard and made history!” DREAM JOB Cara’s history-making win has taken her all over the country—in her first two weeks as Miss America Cara made stops in Atlantic City, New York City, Los Angeles, Fargo, Washington, D.C., Georgia, and more. “I like traveling from east to west, because you get additional hours,” laughs Cara when asked about her hectic travel schedule. “One of my goals is to make it to all 50 states this year. I have 39 scheduled so far.” Cara will be back in North Dakota in November; she’ll have homecoming ceremonies in Williston on November 3 and in her hometown of Bismarck on November 4. The 2012 Century High School graduate is excited to be in Bismarck, even though the visit will be brief. “The organizers are keeping much of it a surprise, so I don’t really know what to expect, but that’s okay because I don’t feel overwhelmed. I have such great supporters in North Dakota and I’m excited to be able to see everyone.” Meantime, her fans in North Dakota, and across the world, can follow along with Cara’s reign on social media. She happily shares her experiences on the official Miss America Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages. “Those pages are partly announcements from the Miss America Organization and partly from me,” explains Cara. “Social media is great for me. I try to post two or three photos a day on Instagram. Social media is a great way to look back and track my year as Miss America. I am keeping a journal too, to keep track of each day and each funny story that has happened. I want to write it all down because I know it will be hard to remember by the end of the year.” So far, her top memories include a trip to an Atlantic City clothing store where the salesclerk told Cara she looked like she could be in the Miss America Competition. She went onto tell Cara she looked like Miss Nebraska. Cara thanked her, but never told her who she really was. Another favorite story happened when Cara’s travel manager took her to see a famous monument in Atlantic City. “We drove up and my manager told the lady working at the gate that I was from out of town and she wanted to show me the statue. The lady working asked where I was from, we told her North Dakota, to which she responded, ‘Did you know the new Miss America is from North Dakota?’ We laughed and told her yes, we knew that and that it was me. We had to get out of the car and take a photo with her,” laughs Cara. “We’ve had other people know right away who I am and ask to take a picture with me. It’s so fun!” Cara says being Miss America is a job—one that started the second she was crowned. “It’s a dream job and it’s so much more than what you see on television. Before that telecast we have three nights of preliminary competition, including the interview. That interview really was a job interview. They asked what I could bring to the crown, why North Dakota should finally win, did I think I was ready for it,” says Cara. “Miss America is a job, and although you don’t turn in a resume, Cara’s resume is exactly what they were looking for,” says Ariana. “Ivy league education, community service that far surpasses expectations, being president of all the clubs she was in, being a mentor and a leader—this girl has been walking in the shoes of Miss America her whole life. Now she finally got to put the crown on.” While Cara is excited to wear that crown, she’s also excited to share her platform, “Make-A-Wish Passion with Fashion,” with so many people for an entire year. Cara has been organizing an annual fashion show to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation since she was 14 years old. She’s raised $78,500 for the organization over the past 10 years. “Her dedication to Make-A-Wish is remarkable,” says Stacey. “I always tell people, Cara went to college at Brown University, on the east coast, but she would plan that fashion show for her spring break. You show me another college kid who would come home and spend their spring break doing a charity fashion show. That’s just the kind of person Cara is.” She graduated with honors from Brown University in 2016 with a degree in business, entrepreneurship, and organizations. She spent five months in Washington, D.C. interning for North Dakota Senator John Hoeven. She briefly thought about competing for titles in those states, but knew her heart was in North Dakota. “I am the person I am today because of my North Dakota roots,” says Cara. “I’d say prior to winning Miss America, the best day of my life was the day I was accepted into Brown University. So many people said I wouldn’t be able to do it. So when I did that it was a good day for me personally. But winning Miss America is a good day for the entire state of North Dakota.” THE NEXT DREAM Always a planner, Cara can’t help but think about her future. She had planned to attend law school at Notre Dame, but deferred that when she won Miss North Dakota. “Now I have some other schools calling me and offering scholarships so I still plan to do law school. If I can go for free, that would be ideal.” Cara has already earned more than $95,000 in scholarships through pageants. Some of that was for her undergrad at Brown University and some will go toward law school. She says the scholarship money is the best thing about competing. “Cara is such a great ambassador for North Dakota and for the Miss America Organization,” says Ariana. “I love that every time she talks about the organization she always talks about it as a scholarship organization. The fact that she could pay for her schooling is amazing and helps people realize it’s more than just a beauty pageant. It is about the scholarship and service aspect. Cara is a great spokesperson and role model for the Miss America Organization, and for us former Miss North Dakotas, I can’t think of anyone else I’d want representing us.” And someday, Cara dreams of representing all of North Dakota, as the state’s first female governor. “We need more women in leadership roles. Women are just as capable as men,” says Cara. But for now, her focus is on her job as Miss America. She is determined to enjoy every second of this year. “I never want to look back and wish I could have done more. And I don’t want to waste time resting—I can rest next year! I only get this for a year and I am so grateful for each day,” Cara says. “I’m excited to see how much I’ve changed when I give up the crown next September. They talk about how much Miss America changes in a year, how the girl that is crowned is so different from the girl that gives up her crown,” says Cara. “I have pretty set goals, which include going to law school and running for office. But I know everything happens in good time. The journey will unravel as I go.” “She’s always going to have a next dream. This is just one of many major events in her life,” says DeLora. Click here for more of our interview with DeLora. She shares her memories of Cara’s crowning moment and also what happened after the cameras were turned off. The Miss America Organization/Bruce V. Boyajian
A Simple Dream, Powerful Message
Rita Keegan and granddaughter Emma By Jamie Christensen | Submitted Photos From the Kardashians to The Real Housewives, there is no shortage of “reality TV” to choose from. For some local families, an Emmy-winning reality show has captured their hearts, minds, and dreams for the future. “Born this Way,” from the A&E Network, offers insight into the world of individuals with Down syndrome and their families as they explore options and work their way to independence. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. The reality show is in its third season and some North Dakota families are huge fans; even calling themselves “Born This Way” junkies. For a junkie, meeting one of the show’s stars might seem like only a dream. But it’s real. Rita Keegan is one fan getting to meet Rachel Osterbach and Steven Clark, stars of “Born This Way,” along with the actor’s mothers. “I’m just a junkie,” says Rita Keegan, grandmother to seven-month-old Emma. “I am all caught up with the previous seasons. In my generation, there was no inclusion—the awareness was not there. I want to learn everything I can.” To see the real-life questions, challenges, celebrations, and life lessons of people with Down syndrome and their families played out on a global stage is a giant step forward in the world of disabilities. It creates necessary awareness and dialogue, but it is a lot to digest for some as well, especially in the beginning. “I was filled with mixed emotions, tears,” says Jen Schafer, mom to six-year-old Brody. “Like, should I watch this show or not? I had a hard time with the first few episodes, wondering, ‘Is this what life is going to look like for my child?’” The “Born this Way” junkies interviewed for this story love how the show breaks down old stereotypes. For example, episode one of the first season throws the “eternal children” stereotype out the window. Cast member Rachel says that she wants to see the movie “Ted 2.” Someone asks if she can watch that one since it’s rated R and has a lot of vulgarity, and her responses is, “Well, I’m over 30.” This season really highlights just how different each of the individuals is. Although there are some similarities with Down syndrome, having the extra chromosome 21 truly does affect people differently. “The people on the show inspire us to dream big,” says Brenda Amundson, mother of 17-year-old Carly. “I see these young adults thriving, having opportunities I never thought my daughter would have. It reminds me that she has the same dreams and aspirations. With transitioning into adulthood, some of those realities are hard. I am reminded that with modifications, Carly can fit in anywhere.” “It’s getting the word out there that our kids can do a lot more,” says Tricia Volk, mother to four-year-old Ava. “Today with technology, therapy, empowerment, advocates—the time is now to have your voice heard, and it’s really inspiring.” All of the “Born this Way” junkies have questions for the stars—questions about conflict, connecting to opportunities, staying brave as these young adults with special needs take on the world—allowing dignity in a world of inherent risk, and much more. The local junkies say that from season one to today there is genuine growth in all the cast members, the individuals with Down syndrome along with their parents and families. And for them, it doesn’t get more real than that. “Yes, they have a reality show. But their story is exactly our story,” says Jen. “They went through exactly what we’re going through.” Tricia, Rita, Jen, and Brenda agree that there is so much to be learned and gained from each other, both in the local disability community, and beyond. And that is why, at least for these four “Born This Way” junkies, meeting Rachel and Steven, and their moms, is a dream come true. To hear more from these women click here. Rachael Osterbach Rachael Osterbach Rachael Osterbach and her mother, Laurie Osterbach Brody Krein and mother Jen Schafer Carly Amundson Emma Keegen Steven Clark Ava Hudson and her mother Tricia Volk Carly Amundson with her parents, Dustin and Brenda Brody Krein Jamie Christensen Jamie is a full-time Realtor®, wife, and mom of three. She spends most of her time in the car for work and playing taxi to her children, and watches very little TV—although writing this story has inspired her to check out Born This Way!
Community Contributor: Dream Catchers
Photography: Colin Thompson In October 1991, Aaron Bliven was born weighing just two pounds 12 ounces. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy a few months later. It was a diagnosis that his mother, Michelle, admits made her angry. Her anger came from being told her son would not walk or talk. “It’s not the life a new parent expects their child to have,” says Michelle. “I played the victim for a while and had a pity party for myself. As Aaron grew into this beautiful young child whose smile would light up a room, I realized what a blessing I was given. I had made a decision that Aaron would have the best life that I could provide to him as his mom.” That decision changed both Michelle’s and Aaron’s lives, and led her to be a blessing to many others in the community of Minot when she started The Dream Catchers Baseball League in 2003. She shares more about the organization. Tell us a little history of Dream Catchers. When Aaron was old enough, I coached his t-ball team. He loved being with the other kids. I would help him bat and slowly wheel him around the bases. As Aaron grew older the recreation office said that he would have to move up to the next league which required an adult to pitch to him, and that Aaron would not be able to play because it was a safety issue for both Aaron and the other players. I accepted that for a year and we sat on the outside of the fence watching his brother and sister play ball. Aaron enjoyed watching, but baseball is a player’s sport. The more I thought about it the more I realized that I had to do something. We sat down as a family, and talked about starting a baseball team for children like Aaron. The name came quickly: Dream Catchers. We wanted to provide children a chance to play baseball and live out their dream. Who can participate in The Dream Catchers Baseball League? The Dream Catchers Baseball League is for children with moderate to severe physical or intellectual challenges from kindergarten through grade 12. We had 13 players our first season. The league is specifically designed for children who choose not to participate in the summer recreational program due to safety concerns or the child’s physical needs such as braces, walker, or wheelchairs. Each game consists of two innings in which every child bats, runs the bases, and scores. No team score is kept so everyone wins. Each Dream Catchers player has a “buddy” to help them out with playing the game, whether it be fielding, batting, or running the bases. The player’s safety is their first priority. I get buddies from the community. How have things changed since you founded the Dream Catchers in 2003? Our organization became known worldwide in 2006 when we were chosen for the show “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.” Then in 2011, the Dream Catchers got a new home. Harvey Herslip, grandfather to four of our players, raised enough money for the Dream Catchers to build their own field. The field itself is constructed entirely from recycled tires. The field is then painted on, including the bases. Children in walkers and wheelchairs love the ease of being able to “run” the bases on their own. The field was dedicated as “Aaron’s Field—Home of the Dream Catchers.” In the most recent years, we have added a bathroom, snack shed, playground, bleachers, and benches. We honor our country, state, and team with flags on three flag poles. Currently 69 players play every Thursday night in the summer. We have divided them into three games based on age. Players that are signed up are not all from Minot; we have families that will drive almost two hours for their child to participate in a two inning game. After every game we provide players, buddies, and families an opportunity to have snacks and drinks and also make connections with other families facing similar situations. It’s is also a great time for players and buddies to form lasting friendships. How is Dream Catchers different from other organizations like yours? We do not request any fee to register. Snacks and drinks are always provided free of charge and at the end of the year every player receives a trophy for their participation in games throughout the summer. Players also receive a free player’s shirt with the Dream Catchers logo on it. Most importantly, Dream Catchers uses reverse inclusion. Instead of the players being placed in the community, we have the community come to us as buddies. How can people donate or get involved? Dream Catchers is a nonprofit organization. To donate or become involved in our program, contact Michelle Bliven at 701-720-0553 or by mail at 1701 Meadowlark Drive, Minot, ND 58701. The Dream Catchers always needs groups, clubs, or organizations to be buddies. Monetary donations help purchase shirts, snacks, drinks, and trophies.
Bringing Home the Cat
by Patrick Atkinson | Submitted Photo Every day thousands of children and adults in the world hear the soft cry of a stranded kitten. When Matthew heard his, he lay his books to the side and crawled through bushes and mud to come to the rescue. Eventually he pulled from the sticks a scratching, clawing little beast. Placing the trembling kitten gently under his now-stained shirt, Matthew later said he was afraid I might be mad at him. But as his foster dad, how could I be? In doing this good deed, I knew Matthew had cemented forever a newly-born understanding of compassion, charity, and love. It would be great if the story ended there but, of course, it doesn’t. Twenty minutes later, Matthew and several of his friends rushed through the house and into the shower. There they grabbed soap and shampoo, and shouted out a consensus on the kitten’s new name: Catwoman. That night, Matthew and his friends stayed up late so they could watch this tiny kitten sleep. At my desk, I pretended to work but instead watched them. Matthew was an abandoned child who had lived off school meals and whatever food he could beg from his friends. He slept wherever he could; seldom did he sleep two weeks in a row in the same bed. A few of his friends had also grown up in worlds defined by abuse and neglect. They came from meth or opioid homes that were usually empty, cold, and sometimes without electricity. Three, four, and maybe more people slept in a room smaller than the average kitchen. Between them they shared what anyone else had; food, coins, lice, sickness, fear. It’s a crazy world for small children who grow up with drug or alcohol-addicted families. If these boys and girls behave and don’t get into trouble, no one really asks how they spend their days, or where they are at night. The children who survive in this hidden underbelly of life become sexually active way too early, and are tempted into drugs about the same age. They look at other kids who have loving parents and wonder, “Why them and not me?” They wonder if anyone even knows about the violence or drug or alcohol-afflicted family lives they have. Matthew and his friends tell me stories about what they’ve experienced in life. More than anything, they say, they desperately wanted to run and hide, but had no place to go. So they dreamt and imagined 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 for the day they could escape from the stained soil of their torn childhoods. Inside they knew their strengths and powers and desires of what they wanted to be. I could tell right away they were wonderful kids trying desperately hard not to go insane. If those of us who surround them every day knew what they were struggling to survive, would many people care? Even if the kids stayed out of trouble? For Matthew and his friends someone did find out and gave them a chance. Whether it was a teacher or neighbor or the wonderful work of The GOD’S CHILD Project, Big Brother Big Sister, Guardian Ad Litem, or Foster Care programs, these boys and girls were offered the chance for which they had prayed. Years ago, I wrote Matthew a short note, which included this thought about dreams: “Dream of what you want to be, and dream of what you will not. “If your dreams die, Matthew, you will die too. So, keep them alive, son, and grow with them too.” Patrick Atkinson Patrick Atkinson is the founder of The GOD’S CHILD Project international charity (GodsChild.org) and is an award-winning author with six books in worldwide distribution. He lives in Bismarck, Minneapolis, and Guatemala, Central America.
Did Someone Say Pie?
by Pam Vukelic | Submitted Photos My mom, Mary Lois, was famous for her pies. Neighbors relished an invite to evening pie and coffee. And the invites were remarkably frequent. My folks valued time with their wonderful friends. Due to a prolific apple tree in our yard, the pies were usually apple. She also made great rhubarb, peach, and strawberry pies. Now it’s my daughter-in-law, Mollie, who is famous for her pies. She is adventurous with her fillings, creative with her artistic touches, and offers them through her Blue House Bakery. Since we have been to Alaska twice recently to visit Reed, Mollie, Connor, and Eivin, I had the chance to pick Mollie’s brain about all things pie and she was generous in sharing her knowledge. Mollie’s Pie Crust 2 c all purpose flour 1 t salt ¾ c butter flavor Crisco, frozen 8 T ice water Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. With a pastry blender, cut the shortening into small pieces and add to flour and salt mixture. Cut the shortening into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add four tablespoons of water. Toss with fork. Add remaining water, two tablespoons at a time, and toss mixture together with hands. Dough should be moist and hold together. Divide into two equal halves. Flatten into disc shapes, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill at least 30 minutes. (Dough may be frozen at this point for later use. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.) Carrot Pie For a twist on the familiar pumpkin pie, try a carrot pie. Mollie says to use 15 ounces of cooked and pureed carrots (the equivalent weight of a can of pumpkin) and substitute chai spice for pumpkin pie spice. Proceed as you would for a pumpkin pie. Use a small Easter cookie cutter to cut a few small carrot shapes to decorate the top of the pie. A few tried and true tips Mollie shared with me: Although some recipes call for use of a food processor, using hands and a hand-held pastry blender yields the best results. After lots of experimenting, Mollie decided butter flavor Crisco is best. My mom’s recipe was primarily lard with some butter. She maintained the lard produced the flakiness and the butter added flavor. We are not too accustomed to using lard anymore. Some recipes call for adding water one tablespoon at a time, but this increases the amount of handling and thus produces a tougher, less flaky crust. A cloth-covered lefse rolling board is preferred for rolling the dough. Various-sized circles are marked on the board. A cloth-covered lefse rolling pin works best. It is the right weight and the cloth cover—floured—eliminates sticking without the addition of too much flour. Save your scraps to make small decorative shapes. Cut them with small cookie cutters or cut free-hand. Place them directly on top of a filling or on top of the top crust. Brush the top crust with a bit of milk or beaten egg to help the pieces stick. Brush top crust with egg or milk and sprinkle with sanding sugar before baking for a pretty finish. Be creative with your fluting. Pinch the edges, press them with a fork, or use another kitchen tool (e.g., a corkscrew) to create an interesting edge. Mollie is from Kentucky and had no familiarity with lefse until she married into our family. An Alaska friend, who knew she had North Dakota connections, asked if Mollie could make lefse for her. We shipped Grandma Irene’s lefse grill to her and Mollie’s been working on perfecting her own lefse recipe. In the meantime, she discovered that the suction-cup-footed rolling board and lefse rolling pin were just the ticket for the best pastry. Connor, a kindergartener and appreciator of good food, recently led his family in a round of applause to thank Mollie for supper. He and I agree—the pastry is the best part of the pie. He has good taste. We delivered Grandpa Ed’s moped to Reed and family near Palmer, Alaska in August. Having “Pacca Ed” pull up to our front door in Mott and beep the horn for Reed to come for a ride is one of Reed’s few memories of his grandpa.
Trending: Fringe, Fur, & Floral: Fall Fashions
Kim Bortke by Michelle Farnsworth | Submitted Photos A few years ago I purchased a faux fur vest for my husband’s Halloween costume. (He was a bull. I was the matadora.) After that eventful costume debacle, I didn’t give much thought to a furry vest. But that was then, and this is now! Faux fur vests and coats have come a long way. Soft, realistic looking, lightweight, and right on trend. This is just one of the big fall trends that can add life to your wardrobe. Just ask Kim Bortke, owner and creator of Coquette Collection in Bismarck. “Textures. Fringe, faux fur, velvet, and floral are all big,” says Kim. I personally love these trends and think they are actually classic and good investment pieces for your wardrobe. Kim also has other recommendations when looking to build a wardrobe. “A good pair of denim jeans, a silk blouse, and boots. Then add in your trend pieces.” But wait a minute, what exactly is Coquette Collection and where can you find it? Basically it’s a pop-up shop that Kim operates from her home. Occasionally she has events in different locations, or you can join her Facebook group with over 2,200 members. In the social media world, that’s a pretty strong following. The Coquette Community thrives on Kim’s live Facebook events and postings. “I’ve created an elevated shopping experience. Having fun with friends; it’s about a feeling and a community of women,” says Kim. “I wanted to create something unique. I have limited sizes and items you’re not going to see everywhere on everyone.” Speaking from personal experience, shopping Coquette Collection is a laid back, fun, no pressure experience. It’s about more than the clothing. “Coquette is about being a daymaker. Supporting other women.” Join Coquette on Facebook and find all of Bortke’s fashions, including all the super cool items pictured here. I guarantee it will brighten your day and keep you in the loop on all of the trends. And heads up: vinyl and patent leather are in your future. Michelle Farnsworth Michelle Farnsworth is a local writer and owner of her own Younique Makeup and Skincare business. Two humans, one fur baby, and her husband Richard occupy her free time.
Small Town…Big Shows
Elliott and Deb by Kristi Frahm | Submitted Photos Deb Belquist’s dream has come true. Her vision began in 1979 when she wanted a better way to produce live summer shows in her hometown of New Rockford, North Dakota. “I was a member of the organization, Celebrations, Inc., and we staged a show every summer out at the ball diamond. Due to weather complications, the shows were moved to the school gymnasium, but the problem of setting everything up and tearing it all down for only two performances in one weekend still existed,” she explains. After about a dozen years of this drill, Deb became quite discouraged with spending so much time and money and not really having anything permanent to display for it. Then two empty buildings on the southwest side of the main downtown business block were donated, and Dakota Prairie Regional Center for the Arts (DPRCA) was founded in 1992. Several major renovations to the buildings, especially work to the bathrooms and exterior entrances, allowed a Christmas show to be added to the annual 20-show summer theatre in 2006. Often a shorter run of an early summer show permitted a second summer show to be performed. Elliott Schwab, West Fargo native and NDSU masters in vocal performance graduate, joined the DPRCA team shortly after his attendance at an “All Shook Up” show in 2011. Also in that year, shows moved from the Opera House to the Old Church Theater, a larger venue. Loving the small town atmosphere, Elliott has moved to New Rockford, directing his first show “The Rat Pack Lounge” in 2014. With Elliott as director and Deb as producer, along with a set designer, stage manager, youth director, and a force of ready and willing volunteers, the shows are successes in quality and popularity with many loyal audience members. DPRCA celebrates 25 years with packed houses attending the spring show “Country Is…The Music of Main Street,” summer show “The Wizard of Oz,” and the upcoming Christmas show “Christmas My Way.” “‘Christmas My Way’ is a musical revue that consists of [Frank] Sinatra’s standards and classic Christmas music,” says Elliott. The approximately 30 songs feature Sinatra’s jazz-infused style, and the set will be a classic curtain show with a jazz trio band on stage. Deb describes the live productions as, “Good quality shows on a conservative budget. We don’t have the money for all of the ‘bells and whistles,’ and royalties are very expensive.” Deb is extremely grateful for individual and business sponsorships that are critical to the success of each show. Bremer Bank and Weist Associates out of Cathay, North Dakota, are sponsoring “Christmas My Way.” DPRCA’s mission is “to inspire, educate, and entertain audiences and artists.” It is common for Deb and her team to work many sold-out shows. In addition to the live performances, monthly events happen, such as “Live at the Lobby” musical performances by local artists, Manhattan Short Film Festival, and Dakota Spark Youth Arts education classes. Many young area performers have been greatly impacted from their experiences with the theatre. In March, Deb received the North Dakota Governor’s Award for the Arts with her commitment to better the central region of the state. It might just be that she is closer to another dream: making the DPRCA the “Branson of the Prairie.” For an entertaining show, check out “Christmas My Way,” which runs Friday, Saturdays, and Sundays, from November 17 through December 17 at the Old Church Theatre in New Rockford. See for yourself how Belquist’s dream has evolved from two-performance amateur shows on a ball field into an impressive series of musical talent shows in an historical building that have audiences eager to return for more. Kristi Frahm is a retired high school English and speech instructor who loves to write. She is wife to a special man, proud mother of two grown children, grandmother to a precious grandson, and friend to many.
A Dream For Youth: Under One Roof
by Paula Redmann | Submitted Photos Gayla Sherman’s dreams have come to her in waves and pieces over the last 30 years. As she reflects on her path thus far—the bruises as well as the bright spots—she has complete clarity in knowing all her life experiences have provided the lessons and have shaped her passion of making sure children—all children—grow up safe and healthy. As co-executive director of Charles Hall Youth Services (CHYS), a Bismarck-based organization that provides residential foster care to at-risk youth, Gayla and her co-executive director and husband, Gayle Klopp, lead a team that provides a stable, nurturing, and safe environment to the children that arrive into their care, mostly due to difficult life circumstances. Gayla considers herself very fortunate in her path and purpose. “I was raised in an environment of support, one that valued and appreciated education. I was listened to and challenged; taught resilience and empathy, and my upbringing also provided a strong foundation for my faith,” she explains. Armed with degrees in social work, theology, and journalism, with work experiences in Girl Scouts, domestic violence programs, homeless shelters, higher education, residential treatment programs, National Public Radio, nonprofit organizations, along with countless mentors, Gayla has the tools and the training that inspire her to care, nurture, and heal children. “Growing up, I always loved family gatherings. I dreamed of a big family with lots of children. Gayle reminded me that the kids in our care are children first, and they are ours. Knowing that, as of right now, we have 24 kids. “ Gayla challenges herself with a daunting question each day: “What am I doing to make the world a better place?” One way she and the professionals at CHYS answer that is in the form of the ESSENTIAL program, a curriculum for residents and staff that is based on self-respect, self-esteem, learning from mistakes, and other social and life skills. CHYS started the ESSENTIAL curriculum in 2006. “It’s so important for children to know they are persons of worth, purpose and meaning,” says Gayla. “ESSENTIAL teaches us to ask ‘What am I thinking? What am I feeling? How did I respond?’” CHYS worked with a consultant, The Teel Institute, to implement and then study the effectiveness of ESSENTIAL. The outcome was overwhelmingly positive for both the staff and the residents. “The Teel Institute was such a strong partner for CHYS. They helped us identify that what we were doing was right for staff and right for the kids,” says Gayla. “The idea that humans need relationships and need to feel valued will never change. We’ll be using ESSENTIAL for years to come.” Working with The Teel Institute and other organizations with the similar goal of helping high-risk children throughout her career sparked another question for Gayla. What if all these child-centered partners were under one roof, in one location, on one campus, right here in Bismarck? “Think of the energy and outcomes and what our combined resources could do for kids,” says Gayla. “Partnerships are so valuable. We can accomplish so much more by working together.” Those partners include the Teel Institute, ChildTrauma Academy, Harmony Stables, Search Institute, Growing Edge Training Associates, and Dakota Institute of Trauma Therapy. Gayla’s experience is that each partner holds a piece to helping kids learn, discover, heal, and relate. Perhaps the answer to that under one roof, challenge is something like assembling an orchestra. One of Gayla’s talents is that she plays the harp. The sound of a harp is lovely unto itself, but pair the harp with an entire orchestra, and the outcome and sound of all the instruments playing together off of the same sheet of music is so much more impactful. The same concept applies to Gayla’s dream of pulling all the right players together to focus on children. “This just isn’t my dream,” says Gayla. “The children are here and we have to respond. It’s our collective responsibility to care for and nurture and heal them and help them fly. It would be amazing to bring all the players into the same orchestra pit, wouldn’t it? What would happen if we were all working it and living it and breathing it together? Then we would know that when we leave this Earth, we will have left it a better place.” Gayla Sherman dreams in color, with music, and lots of children. Paula Redmann Paula Redmann is the Community Relations Manager for Bismarck Parks and Recreation District. She likes to run, walk, play, sing, putter in her yard, laugh with family and friends, and count her blessings.
Oh Man: Because Guys Inspire Too: Geremy Olson: A Dream Sparked by Tragedy
by Jody Kerzman | Submitted Photos As a teenager, Geremy Olson had two dreams: to play football for North Dakota State University and to get a degree in fisheries biology. Neither came true. “I blew out both of my knees playing football as a high school sophomore,” recalls Geremy. “My football career was over so I came up with a new dream. I decided my dream was to attend a Bible college that had a lake and a wrestling program.” Much to everyone’s surprise, Geremy found a college that met his criteria. But two weeks after being accepted at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota, the college dropped its wrestling program. Geremy found himself once again searching for a new dream. “That’s when I picked up a video camera and I’ve never looked back.” Geremy spent four years in St. Paul and graduated with a double major in Bible and broadcasting. From there he and his wife, Kirsten, moved to Atlanta, Georgia. After a year and a half there, Geremy was once again called to Minnesota, this time to attend seminary. “Everyone told me that’s where I should be,” he says. “They were wrong. Could I be a great pastor? Sure. But that’s not who God made me to be.” After two years in the seminary, Geremy decided to use his gifts and talents in a different way. He and some friends from high school and college decided to start the business they’d been dreaming about for years: 241 Ink. “It’s a philosophy, not just a business name,” explains Geremy. “We are a video production and lighting company but we also bring groups together and help them tell their stories.” In 2003, Geremy and his family moved back to North Dakota. They settled in Wilton and Geremy quickly joined the volunteer fire department. “I ran into the fire chief at the gas station and when he found out who my uncle was, he told me I was exactly the kind of guy they wanted on their volunteer fire department. The next day I met him at the fire station and he handed me my gear,” remembers Geremy. “Getting into fire was natural for me because of my servant heart and the skill set that God gave me.” But he had no idea how being a part of the Wilton Fire Department would change his life. In April 2005, Geremy and another volunteer firefighter, Mark Keller, were the first to respond to a fire west of Wilton. A third firefighter, James Meyer, joined them later. “We knew it was going to be a bad fire,” he recalls. “Five hours into fighting the fire, it blew up on us.” James sustained some burns to his face but had a limited recovery time. Geremy and Mark were both seriously injured. Geremy’s injuries included third degree burns on both wrists, his left foot, and second degree burns on the right side of his body. He also broke his right leg in 13 places. “My equipment kept me alive but basic wildland training would have kept me from getting hurt.” Geremy spent the next three years recovering from his injuries. He had multiple surgeries in that time to fix his broken leg, then developed infections and blood clots. He had to learn to walk again three different times. Twelve years later, Geremy says he’s still in pain every single day. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. But he doesn’t let the fire define who he is. Instead, he uses the fire as an opportunity to teach others, and to share his knowledge as well as his faith. “Two weeks before the accident a good friend of mine had asked me what I thought God was calling me to do. I told him I thought God wanted me to not be the one setting up the microphones for others, but to be the one speaking into the microphone. When he asked me what was stopping me, I told him unless you’re famous or have something tragic and stupid happen to you nobody will listen. A few days after the accident, he walked into my hospital room and said, ‘Well, you have tragic and stupid taken care of. Go share your story.’” Geremy spent five years as the spokesperson for fire in North Dakota. He’s now a consultant for wildfire prevention and is a member of a type two incident management team through the state of Montana. He spent 69 days last summer there, helping with public information about the fires. He and his family still run 241 Ink and Geremy dreams of one day being a full time public speaker. That’s a dream that fits perfectly with the mission of 241 Ink: “To provide people with the tools, vision, and motivation to be servant leaders anchored in Christ.” It’s not the life he dreamed of, but Geremy says it’s exactly what God has put him here to do. To hear Geremy talk about the 2005 fire and lessons learned, visit 241ink.org.
Dream On: Fight Insomnia & Sleep Well
by Dr. CC Sharma Do you fall asleep the second your head hits the pillow at night? Or are you like 30% of Americans who suffer from insomnia? Insomnia results in approximately five million visits to the doctor each year. Although prescribed sleep aids may be necessary for some, it is important to understand there are some simple things you can do to improve your sleep, and the difference between common sleep difficulties and pathologic insomnia. Determining problems with your sleep can be as simple as asking yourself three questions: Do I have difficulty with initiating or falling asleep? Do I have difficulty staying asleep? Do I often feel unrested? Over time, if these problems begin to affect your behavior, mood, and ability to perform tasks at work or in your life, then you may be suffering from insomnia. There are a number of things that you can do yourself to improve the quality of your sleep. In fact, your doctor is likely to recommend many of these lifestyle modifications and sleep hygiene techniques before starting a medication. Find an outlet for your stress through relaxation exercises such as yoga, tai-chi, or aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, elliptical, or running (but not within four hours of bedtime). Avoid large evening meals. Limit caffeine intake and avoid it six hours before bedtime. Avoid electronics in the bedroom, including televisions, cell phones, and tablets. Find an ideal temperature for your bedroom, avoiding extreme temperature variations. If you cannot fall asleep after 30 minutes in bed, get up and do something else. Go back to bed only when you do feel sleepy. Try to maintain a consistent bedtime and set your alarm for the same time each morning. Try melatonin tablets or chamomile tea to help soothe you into sleep. If you are still having sleep difficulties, then it may be time to see your doctor. There are a number of psychiatric and health issues that can affect your sleep such as restless leg syndrome, thyroid disorder, heart issues, and breathing disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea. You owe it to yourself and others around you to be well-rested. And your doctor won’t mind not having to see you so often. Dr. CC Sharma is a third year resident at the UND Center for Family Medicine in Bismarck, North Dakota. Her interests include women’s health and HIV preventative health.
Living the Dream: Thanks, Dad
by Marci Narum | Photography: Photos by Jacy A little girl pulls her father close and whispers, “Daddy, when I grow up, I’m going to…” Oftentimes, those whispered words of wishes and dreams are the same she would use as a grown woman. Fathers play a big part in making little girls’ dreams unfold. Two women with similar dreams share their stories with us. They share something else in common: their fathers were a major influence in why they are living their dream today. They are both deeply grateful—but they say it not with a whisper, but with a shout. BRITTANY LEISCHNER Brittany Leischner’s beautiful, long, blonde hair falls across her shoulders and onto her faux suede jacket. The jacket is one of her favorite fall staples. “It’s icing for the perfect outfit,” Brittany says. Brittany is the owner of Cobalt Moon in Bismarck, a woman’s clothing boutique that focuses on timeless pieces. “It’s basically women’s clothing, but understated basics. Very simple, very neutral. But I feel like they are stylish pieces that maintain the test of time. Building blocks to your wardrobe. Things you’re going to have in your wardrobe for 10-15 years. Things you can wear when you’re 19, 35, or 60. “Neutrals are easier too, because they allow you to bring them into your work wardrobe and everyday wardrobe. It’s just really useful clothing.” At 32, Brittany still has those “I can’t believe it” moments—being the owner of a clothing boutique. She had always dreamed of a career in fashion and retail. Law school was also a dream. Brittany’s plans changed, though, and she has her father to thank. “Dad didn’t think I would be happy in the law profession, that it wouldn’t fulfill me in the career sense. He was really looking out for me.” LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER Brittany grew up in the family business and is now helping run it. She is the president of Leischner Electric, Inc., which owns Cobalt Moon and Unicom. She is also a realtor and a property manager. She admits that she is very happy in her career. Her dad, Mark Leischner, is even happier. “She’s a hardworking kid,” Mark says. “Six days a week for sure. When she puts her mind to something she does not give up until she’s accomplished what she was after. You don’t ever have to tell her twice. It’s going to get done.” Brittany says that’s also thanks to her dad and what he modeled for her as an entrepreneur. Mark Leischner was a businessman in New Leipzig, North Dakota at the age of 14. He was the state’s youngest certified electrician and sold CB radios door-to-door. His father founded Leischner Electric, Inc. in 1974, and Mark joined the business while he was still in high school. Mark had a trenching business and then moved his family to Bismarck where he started BisMan Mobile Phone. Unicom and Unistop Gas Stations followed. “We had the Unistop convenience stores, which is where I began working with him,” Brittany explains. “We had those for about 15 years and I worked as a cashier. Then I became the operations manager. “I have degrees in marketing and business administration. So when he sold the gas stations I had always kind of wanted to spread my wings and fly; I wanted to see other places, live other places. But my dad is very much like a mentor to me so I thought, maybe I don’t want to shut that door and walk away from all the experience I could get working alongside him.” PASSION PROJECT Brittany says she loves working in the family business with her dad, her mom, Sue Leischner, and her younger brother, Michael. But she continued to dream about having her own business. She says her clothing boutique is her passion project. “Dad said, ‘If it means that much to you, I’ve got your back. You’ve had my back for all these years. I’ve got your back.’ “He bought me dolls when I was a girl, but he also raised me in a way to not be afraid to be aggressive or competitive, and to just be an advocate for myself. Too often when a girl is competitive, people look at her like she is bossy, or they react with, ‘who does she think she is?’ It shouldn’t have to be that way. Never once did I think that I couldn’t do something because I’m a girl. It has to be because of how my dad raised me.” “She’s a go-getter,” Mark says. “She runs the place all by herself. She’s committed to it. I’m not into clothes. But that’s always been her dream and now she’s just living her dream.” Brittany might even call it icing on her dream. “This is really like a pipe dream come true,” Brittany smiles. “It’s the best of all spectrums. I get to work with my family, play with my clothes, and meet new people. So it really is like a dream come true.” See more photos of Brittany and her dad by Photos by Jacy, here. CHAPPY WINDSOR Mark Hamilton is a proud father. “There’s only one Chappy. It’s what everyone says,” Mark says, reaching for his daughter’s hand. Chappy Windsor tips her head and smiles, gives her father’s hand a squeeze, and wipes tears from her eyes. The 39-year-old mother, designer, and entrepreneur has been reminiscing with Mark about how she discovered the calling on her life. Her parents, especially her father, played a significant role in that. Chappy is the owner of Dakota Chappy, a plains-inspired women’s clothing store which carries fashions designed by Chappy. “The fashion inventions and fashion solutions were borne out of the frustration of wardrobe fatigue and wardrobe failure, and just feeling like I had a potential that I wasn’t living up to,” Chappy explains. “My clothes weren’t serving my needs. You shouldn’t work for your clothes, your clothes should work for you. It’s always about fit, never about size.” Growing up in Minot, North Dakota, Chappy wondered where she fit. She was a creative young girl, but not a star student. Some of her teachers said she was lazy and called her a daydreamer. And Chappy didn’t know what she wanted after high school. “I didn’t have those key points that most people would bet on me becoming a success someday,” Chappy says. WHAT THEY DIDN’T KNOW Her dad saw something, though. Mark was a business owner. He operated Wild Things Gallery in Minot for 12 years. From the time it opened, Chappy helped out, sweeping the shop floor. But she also spent enough time with her father at the store to learn valuable business practices. “I remember being in the second grade and unpacking decoys and Dad saying, ‘Okay, we pay $100 for this decoy, we’re going to sell it for $200 and here’s why: our rent is this amount, our employees cost this much, our insurance costs this much. So at the end of that we’re going to have about $20 profit. And that’s how it works.’ “The one really good grade I did get in school was in general business. Because all the principles of general business he had already taught me. I had a really clear understanding from the very beginning.” It made sense, then, that after his daughter finished high school, Mark asked her to open and manage a Wild Things Gallery in Grand Forks. Chappy began to see possibilities; a place where she might fit. “He wouldn’t hand over his life’s work to me if he didn’t think I could do it! And it turned out, I had the most successful store of his three locations; I just found my calling there. I was determined to make it work. It’s where my love for retail began.” BUSINESS BLUEPRINT It was just the beginning. Chappy managed the Wild Things Gallery in Grand Forks, followed by one in Medora, then Dickinson. She took college classes on the side and eventually started her business as a fashion designer. “I think I knew I could do it because I saw my dad do so many things. He made his own frames and cut his own mats. He commissioned his own artists to do paintings of things he wanted to see. He built out the stores. He was really so resourceful at using things for their unintended purpose. “I know for sure there is no way in the world that I would be on the path I am on right now and be giving the products and services to people I am if he hadn’t given me that blueprint.” An ever deeply proud father, Mark is also quick to give his daughter the credit for her success and flourishing business. “She’s amazing,” Mark says. “It constantly amazes us, the amount of business she does. I don’t think anyone else could do what Chappy does.” It’s enough to make any girl cry. To see more photos of Chappy and her dad by Photos by Jacy, click here. To read more from Chappy about goals and dreams click here.
“Bismarck Rocks” Trend Keeps Rolling
by Amber (Schatz) Danks | Submitted Photos Jessica Humble can’t help but smile at how much the Bismarck Rocks Facebook page has taken off since it was featured in Inspired Woman back in June. “The community seems to love it, because I have more and more people joining all the time and everybody’s so positive on the page, it just makes me so happy,” she says. The Bismarck Rocks Facebook page now has more than 2,650 members, and counting. People can post photos of rocks they paint and hide around town, or the happy moment when they find a painted rock someone else left behind. Jessica checks the Facebook page first thing in the morning and says she enjoys every time someone shares their experience to the page. “Everybody wants to see what people are creating then they get ideas from people who’ve posted and it just keeps going.” It’s been a joyful cycle for participants this summer and now fall. “I think everybody was looking for something happy and inexpensive, something fun to do, and you don’t have to have any special talent to do it, you’re just trying to make other people happy,” says Jessica. “That’s the whole point of it, so that’s why it got to be so big. You don’t have to do too much.” She started the trend in Bismarck after reading about “kindness rocks” in Tennessee. She couldn’t find anyone doing anything like it in North Dakota, and started painting rocks and hiding them right away. “I love the owls I painted in the beginning. I would post it on the page and 10 minutes later someone would find them. It was so exciting.” She wanted to help spread positivity, and says that same goal is needed now more than ever. “Everyday we are bombarded with negativity. I think it’s very important for everyone to try to find a bright spot in their day. It helps remind us that the world can be a great place and that people do care about one another. “ The artist has been painting for the past 15 years and sold her first painting in 2009. She considers getting the rock painting trend rolling a highlight of her career. “I absolutely love it and tell everybody about it.” She also teaches painting on canvas through her Traveling Art studio, and says the art form itself is therapeutic. “Painting is very relaxing, it also gives you an outlet for anger, pain, hurt, a way to express yourself when words won’t do. I think art is very important to everybody.” Jessica says if you want to start small, painting rocks might be for you. She recommends using acrylic paint, paint pens, and sealant so the paint lasts. If you want to know where to find a rock creation, check out the Bismarck Rocks Facebook page. “People post hints a lot of times, they’re just casual, a corner of a park, where that swing might be in the picture, or a side of a building downtown so maybe you’ll recognize it. If you don’t find the rock, the whole point is somebody did, so you’re just making a stranger’s day, trying to make somebody happy.” So, with winter looming and snowfall likely to blanket the region soon, what should we do about our painted rock fix? Jessica says she’s been thinking about that a lot, and is still exploring solutions. “The only advice is definitely ask people before you place rocks anywhere. Inside businesses especially, or just keep looking up ideas to paint, just have a whole collection to hide in the spring!” Amber (Schatz) Danks spent nearly 12 years as a news reporter, producer, and anchor. She is currently tackling her toughest and most rewarding assignment yet: being a stay-home mom to her baby girl.