Cherie Woodcock: Animal Grandma
Cherie and Snoopy by Paula Redmann | Photos by Tom Redmann Every now and then, Cherie Woodcock has a bad day, which can happen when you give out parking tickets for a living. She says she gets yelled at. A lot. Cherie has a remedy for bad days. She leaves her job in Bismarck and drives north to Baldwin, turns past the post office, and then into Cher Wood, to her animals. It’s her sanctuary; the place where she and Ed have lived for 20 years and the place and life she loves. “I can just lie down in the middle of the barnyard, in the sun and in the dirt, and the animals come out and surround me. My bad day goes away,” says Cherie. Oh, and not just a few animals. Let’s just say there are many. Quite a few. One could say, several. There are sheep, cattle, horses, chickens, alpacas, dogs, donkeys, cats, and birds. Some are purchased. Some wander in. Many are rescued. Most are named. All are known, cared for, appreciated, loved. The animals know Cherie, and she knows them. “Of course they know me. I’m their mama,” says Cherie. The two two-week old lambs gallop across the barnyard. “That’s because I have their bottles,” says Cherie. One lamb’s mother died despite the Woodcocks’ gallant efforts. The other lamb’s mother rejected her baby. Cherie bottle feeds them three times a day. The barn is filled with fur, fleece, hide, and happiness. While Cherie feeds the two lambs, Sven the cat stretches waaaaay up just to touch Cherie. Siam, the Siamese cat, pleads for attention while perched on a post. There are 16 cats in all; 12 in the barn and four with health issues indoors. All are neutered or spayed, minus the orange tabby, who wandered into Cher Wood with head wounds and some roughed up teeth. “He’ll get neutered as soon as he’s well enough. He’s got enough to deal with right now.” A mama knows these things. There are 72 sheep, all told, and 11 alpacas. The alpacas, with their soulful eyes and perked up ears, want to get close to Cherie. There’s Homer, Cinnamon, Midas, and Patches to name a few; all part of the barn family. The alpacas earn their keep by supplying fleece, which is shipped to Cherie’s friend in Kindred, North Dakota, to be made into yarn. Cherie knits and crochets scarves, mittens, and hats with the yarn and sells them. She can pick up the yarn and tell you which alpaca it came from, like a mother knows which child’s artwork is on the fridge. Taking up a great deal of real estate in the barn is Snoopy, a large, gentle Scottish Highland bull. Snoopy retired from Dakota Zoo and is on assisted living at Cher Wood. The donkeys, three-legged Rudy and four-legged Hershey, are instinctive guardians. Cherie has seen them protect the sheep from coyotes that pass by their 80 acres. Several of the barn animals have experienced stardom, providing very important supporting roles in Christmas manger scenes. Cherie’s love for the animals is real, and so is her practical view of them as a source of food and livelihood. Chickens provide eggs. Cattle provide beef, and some sheep go to the sale barn. And then there’s Cherie’s 15-year-old business, Farmer Tillie’s Homemade Dog Treats. She’s got treats to bake and orders to fill. She sells the treats through Pride of Dakota and at area street fairs. Doesn’t she ever relax? “Well, if I watch a movie, I’m on the exercise bike or crocheting. That’s kind of relaxing.” Hobie and Daisy, both Newfoundland dogs, greet visitors. Hobie is blind, and feels better when he hears Ed’s voice. Dexter, the Scottish terrier, wants Cherie’s attention. Baby, the cockatiel, is quite vocal about being put back into her cage. “Our days start early, just after 5 a.m., and they can go late. We get home from work and do inside animal chores and outside animal chores, and we eat supper around 8 p.m.,” says Cherie, with a smile. One gets the distinct impression the chores, although real and time consuming, don’t really faze Cherie. She and Ed share six children and seven grandchildren. “I’m known as ‘Animal Grandma,’ and I like that.” Life at Cher Wood is good for Cherie, and it’s good for the animals, too. Paula Redmann is the Community Relations Manager for Bismarck Parks and Recreation District. She married her high school sweetheart, Tom. They have two grown sons, Alex and Max.
Always Your Farm Girl
Marci and her mom, Mary Ann By Marci Narum “You can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.” I grew up on a farm 16 miles away from town where my friends lived. In the summer months, I envied their carefree existence: days spent at the pool or the lake. Granted, I got to enjoy time at the lake occasionally, but most summer days I was a typical farm kid—feeding calves and helping with other chores. Mom raised chickens and turkeys, so a few times each summer, we were always up before the sun—and the flies—for a day of butchering. I helped Mom with gardening, canning, and baking. And just when I thought chores were done, the milk house or a grain bin needed a new coat of paint. (I would wonder, “Didn’t I paint that one last summer?”) I couldn’t wait to be “off the farm” and free from all those chores. Then I could go to the lake and have fun anytime! My interpretation of “you can’t take the farm out of the girl” was that no matter what I became or where I lived, I would still have a fondness for the country way of life—the animals, delicious homegrown food, and the smell of a freshly-mowed hayfield. And boy, do I. In fact—now I miss it. But “the farm” is still part of this girl for much deeper reasons. My mom showed me the value of hard work and seeing a job through—even when it’s something I don’t like. (I hated butchering chickens and cleaning out the chicken coop. Yuck.) I also learned we all have a responsibility to show up and do our part. And if you’re late, expect to deal with flies. Mom trained me to be efficient and wise with my time. She got me up early every morning to do chores in the summer. I learned the sooner I get started on something, the sooner I can have the fun I’m looking forward to. She taught me to give people more than they expect. My mom raised an incredible garden, and she still does. My garden “specialty” on the farm was corn, and I sold it to neighbors and friends from church; a dozen ears for $1. Mom said I should always add a couple extra ears with each dozen in case there might be a bad one in the bunch. I still find ways to practice this in my life. I also value what Mom taught me about hospitality and caring for people. I learned my kitchen skills from her, and my favorite is baking. She taught me to bake or cook for others in times of grief or celebration. It’s how she tells people she loves them. A meal at the farm—whether it’s my husband, Jim, and me or the entire Narum family—is a huge testimony of love. If you stop at the farm, you can always count on a cup of coffee and her cookies (or pie, cake, homemade bread, or lefse). Yes, you can take the girl off the farm—but her Mom can make sure the farm is part of the girl forever. I never imagined saying this, but thanks, Mom, for waking me up to butcher chickens.
Trending: Thinking Outside the Mother’s Day Gifting Box
Article and Photos by Michelle Farnsworth Ya wanna know what’s trending? To avoid the trend! Buck the system, and literally color outside the lines. Let me tell you a little story: in the early days of my marriage and motherhood, my husband, honey-pie, sweetie Richard, would consistently order me flowers. I love flowers. I always want fresh flowers around my home. To this day I purchase flowers for myself. But I made the mistake of remarking to him, ”Maybe get me something different next time?” Done. Finished. Richard became the Seinfeld Soup Guy: ”NO MORE FLOWERS FOR YOU.” Oopsie. But even then, I was trying to get loved ones to be more creative in their gift giving endeavors. Not to follow the masses; I guess it’s the Gemini in me. Well then, you’re thinking, what’s the perfect Mother’s Day gift idea, Ms. Smartie Pants? Hold onto your noggins, cuz you’re going to love what I have in mind. My top ideas involve combining activities with supporting local, small businesses. Your recipients will be surprised, small businesses will get a boost, and YOU are crowned, “BEST GIFT GIVER!” Here are my top three picks: Bismarck Downtown Artist Cooperative (BDAC) Adult Classes. I have personally attended many of these classes, and they are just a great way to spend an evening. Classes are taught by professional artists. New classes have been scheduled, from clay to painting to metal sculpting, and watercolor—there’s sure to be something you and your mamma, auntie, cousin, or sister would enjoy. Classes can be found at www.bismarckdac.com. Paint Your Pet Class at Blue Sky Bismarck. If you know me, you know my Boston Terrier, Frankie, is my best pal. (He was lovingly adopted from Furry Friends Rockin’ Rescue, which is another gift idea—adopt a pet!) I recently took a class from Nicole Gagner, a local artist. Nicole sketches out a rough draft of your pet from your provided photograph, and when you attend the class, your canvas is ready for you to paint. It’s like paint-by-numbers for adults! In addition to that class, Blue Sky Bismarck hosts an entirely different set of classes than its upstairs neighbor, BDAC. Visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/blueskybismarck to see a list of classes. Stella’s on Main in Bismarck. I took a pillow making class that was relaxing, fun, and super easy to do. Basically, owner D’arcie Weekes-Malsam does all the work for you. You show up, choose your stencil, and dab on some paint! Ta-dah! There are also paint-your-own wall clocks, wooden trays, and succulent bar classes to attend. Go to stellasnd.com or their Facebook page: facebook.com/stellasnorthdakota for all the information you need to register. So get creative, explore your community, learn a new hobby, and grab your loved one for an adventure they’ll always treasure and never forget. 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.
What I Should Have Asked Mother
Betty’s mother, Crystal (Sletmoen) LIndstrom by Betty Mills | Submitted Photo My mother was orphaned at the age of 12 when both of her parents died within two months of each other of tuberculosis—the killer disease of two generations ago. She didn’t talk about it much, but I remember her description of her mother’s funeral when the minister proclaimed that the devil lurked for orphan children, so it was up to the parishioners to protect these children from the evil one. As a result, people frequently hauled out garish and frightening pictures of hell to show my mother her potential fate if she was not a good girl. Perhaps that is why she altered the childhood prayer I said each night at bedtime—that old familiar, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep…” But instead of saying next, “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take,” we prayed, “His love stay with me all the night and wake me in the morning bright.” She also believed that nobody, especially school children, should start their day without a hot breakfast. I thought of her when a friend who taught kindergarten in one of Bismarck’s poorer neighborhoods kept meal tickets in her desk for the children who arrived without breakfast or the possibility of lunch. There were rules at our house—many of which I think originated in mother’s sudden descent into a poverty stricken, homeless life until she became a school teacher and eventually married my father. We arrived at meals on time, made our beds before we launched into any other activities, hung up all clothes, took off overshoes in the back hall, and did our chores without complaint. We took for granted the always-filled cookie jar, the frosted cinnamon rolls every Thursday, the special food for Sundays and holidays; a clean house, clean clothes, clean language, and a bedtime story every night until we got old enough to read our own. She made my clothes, patched my overalls, taught me to weed and love the flowers she planted everywhere, to identify the birds, which nested in our trees, and sent me off to college with a wardrobe which did not betray my farm girl origins. Only late in her life did she tell me that she had one dress when she was in high school, which she washed every night and ironed in the morning to wear to school. There is of course, a long list of questions I should have asked my mother, and it’s too late now. Over the years I met most of the aunts and uncles on whose davenports I think she slept during her homeless years, but she never talked about her father, an immigrant from Norway and a rural mail carrier at the time of his death. What was he like? Who paid for her to take the normal school course in East Grand Forks her senior year in high school, which qualified her to teach in rural grade schools? Where did she stay, and how did she get there? I have occasionally complained that growing up on a ranch near a small western North Dakota town in the Dirty Thirties meant there was a lot missing in my life—a library, cultural events, trips to a big city, and exposure to a world I might someday wish to join. But I would not trade it for my lucky childhood with a loving, thoughtful, interesting mother who wrote poetry when she could spare a moment. And I think of her when I read of the homeless children in Bismarck. On whose davenport can they sleep? How do they get the education they need? If they wanted to iron their one outfit, where would they plug in the iron? Where is their hot breakfast? Betty Mills graduated with honors from Mary College in 1967 with a degree in social work. Her career has included motherhood and leadership; Betty served on many local boards and councils.
A Suite of Support for Breastfeeding Moms
Alicia Gourd with daughters Wažupiwi and Tinspila by Tracie Bettenhausen | Photography: Photos by Jacy Alicia Gourd says we could all do more to support moms. “There is a lot of pressure on women today,” Alicia says. “Women are busy. We work, raise our children, doing what we can to be our best in all areas.” As a mother of two—three-year-old Wažupiwi and 20-month-old Tinpsila—Alicia has a support system of her husband, family, and friends. But she found personal experiences helped her build her confidence around advocating for moms—experiences like natural birth with both daughters, the journey of breastfeeding—including its struggles—becoming a doula, and learning the midwifery model of care, which includes monitoring the physical, psychological, and social well-being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle. The North Dakota Breastfeeding Coalition has been around for 15 years, but officially became a non-profit in 2016. It includes those working on breastfeeding promotion and support efforts across the state. Members represent organizations such as health care systems, WIC, local public health agencies, universities, doulas, and mothers across the state. BriAnna Wanner, North Dakota Breastfeeding Coalition executive director, says there are many challenges for breastfeeding mothers to be successful. “In public spaces, it’s hard to find a clean space outside of a bathroom to use if the mother would like some privacy,” BriAnna says. “And frankly, many times bathrooms are not clean and cozy places to breastfeed. Many women go to the bathroom out of having no other options.” The coalition’s most recent initiative to support moms who are breastfeeding is the installation of breastfeeding suites across the state. “Through a grant from the North Dakota Department of Health, we were able to purchase a suite for airports across the state and to place in the Fargodome,” she says. The suites are roomy, with two benches inside and graphics on the walls displaying educational material for moms. They are well ventilated and have electrical plugs for pumping machines and to charge cell phones. “The doors lock and also are able to track how many moms are using the suites,” BriAnna says. “We haven’t dug into the data yet, but airport staff tell us they are seeing mothers going into the suites frequently.” Airports were a first focus for the breastfeeding suites because of the way flights are often scheduled in North Dakota’s airports. “When people leave North Dakota and get to another state, layovers are often short enough that it’s impossible to pump at their next location,” BriAnna says. “We want to make life easier for moms, and this was a good place to start.” In addition to providing a clean, quiet place for mothers to pump and breastfeed, the suites offer another benefit. “A lot of people don’t think about the mother who may be traveling by herself with an infant and one or two other children,” BriAnna says. “If the infant needs to breastfeed, it’s tough to keep the other children near. They love to run and play. So, if the mom can get into the suite with all her children, she doesn’t have to worry about them running off.” Alicia Gourd has used breastfeeding suites. “I had traveled to the East coast with the my family, and on the way back, I had to take a flight separate from my husband and kids,” she says. “When I got back to Bismarck ahead of the rest of my family by a couple of hours, I needed to pump and was so thankful for the breastfeeding suite. I pumped, and by the time my family landed, I was able to feed my child, and we stayed on our schedule.” The North Dakota Breastfeeding Coalition was also instrumental in helping get breastfeeding rooms set up in the zoos in Bismarck, Minot, Wahpeton, and Fargo, and BriAnna says on average, those rooms are used a dozen times a day during summer hours. BriAnna has always been passionate about nutrition—the significance and the impact on the life cycle. “Making sure babies have the best nutrition available is so important to our future,” she says. “Children who are breastfed tend to become healthy adults. Our society has not done a good job in supporting women to make it possible for them to breastfeed as long as they’d like. I think the steps we’re taking will help alleviate some of the pressure women are facing.” Alicia says the confidence she built through the birth of her daughters and the education she received through the midwifery model of care means she has been a strong advocate for her own breastfeeding needs at work and in public. “I want other women to feel supported and empowered like I feel, and so I make it a point to encourage women when I see them breastfeeding in public,” Alicia says. “When you see a mom out with her kids, offer support. Tell her she’s doing a good job, offer to sit and hold her baby while she’s eating, support mothers who are co-workers by advocating for them. What’s next for the North Dakota Breastfeeding Coalition? The coalition is working to bring a milk depot to North Dakota. “The hospitals are engaged in this, and it’s an exciting venture,” BriAnna says. “Women who produce extra milk will be able to donate their milk to the milk depot—located at a hospital. The hospital will ship the milk out to be pasteurized, and then be sent to neonatal intensive care units for premature babies who couldn’t get breast milk otherwise.” The coalition has raised money through Giving Hearts Day to make the milk depot a reality. The money would help pay for hospital grade freezers to store the milk. BriAnna Wanner, North Dakota Breastfeeding Coalition executive director, stands outside the breastfeeding suite at the Bismarck airport Breastfeeding suite at the Bismarck airport Click here to see more photos of Alicia and her daughters by Photos by Jacy. Tracie Bettenhausen is a senior staff writer/editor at Basin Electric. She has generously opened her home to two once-foster, now-adopted kitties, Basil and Sweet Pea.
Little Links: A Big Idea
by Stephanie Fong | Submitted Photos When some people recognize a need in their community, they talk about it. Kathy Olin saw a need in Dickinson and took action. During the peak of the most recent oil boom in western North Dakota, Kathy’s husband, Scott, was hiring drivers from across the country to fill numerous job openings at his company, Dickinson Ready Mix. The drivers were often men who brought their families with them to North Dakota as they pursued employment. “They loved it here, but the families were isolated,” Kathy explains. “At that time, seven or eight years ago, if you wanted to meet someone, where did you go?” Families from out of state often found themselves with no support system nearby. There was a pressing need for the community to connect new families with resources, local information, and social interaction. Kathy heard about a community-funded, school-facilitated preschool and playgroup in North Carolina. It offered play and learning for kids, as well as social connections for parents. “I thought, ‘We need something like this!'” A staff member of Dickinson KIDS program and a preschool teacher herself, Kathy bounced the idea off her co-workers and other early childhood development organizations in town. Eventually a group of volunteers came together, and they began to tackle the logistics: find a place to meet, find furniture and materials, and figure out a way to fund the program long-term to pay for rent and other expenses. Their original meeting space was donated by Dickinson Ready Mix, furnishings were offered by the school district and the hospital, and other items were loaned by the KIDS Program. Local donations helped buy rugs to cover the concrete floor and purchase other supplies. The group of organizers coined the name “Little Links,” a reference to the connections being made, as well as the desire to strengthen any weak links in community services or family support. Staffed by volunteers and funded by donations, Little Links free community playgroup formed nearly five years ago and now serves up to 200 families annually. Megan Farnsworth and her family quickly experienced the benefits of the Little Links program. The family moved to Dickinson from a small town in Utah. “Little Links has been a huge blessing to me and my littles for making new friends and getting to be part of the community. We have made lots of friends that we may not have met if not for Little Links.” Now, Megan serves as president of the Little Links board to help ensure it continues to grow and flourish. Little Links board members and other volunteers open the Little Links space to families three mornings per week, bringing in community members to present information or speak on topics of interest once a month. Extra activities are added in the summer months, such as “Park Walk Wednesdays,” where kids and families get to explore a different Dickinson park each week. Low-cost field trips are also offered to places such as the Bismarck Zoo, Medora, and Papa’s Pumpkin Patch. “Some weeks we have two or three families, and other weeks we have 40 people here at one time,” says Kathy. Parents sign a membership contract acknowledging the rules and expectations, including the need to help keep the space clean. “Little Links is a one-of-a-kind thing: we’re not governed by any other agency,” Kathy explains. “Dickinson is a unique community, with unique problems, but also unique possibilities.” Board members and other volunteers have faithfully raised money for Little Links throughout its five year history, holding rummage sales, car washes, and serving concessions at various community events. Little Links is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, better positioning itself to grow and expand in the future. Little Links has been a labor of love, for the sake of the kids and families who participate, as well as for the community—happy and connected families are more likely to stay and make Dickinson their home, something everyone involved can be proud of. Little Links 2810 I-94 Business Loop East Suite B, Dickinson, ND Monday, Thursday, and Friday Mornings Free to anyone! Geared to families with children ages 0-5 Check for schedule notes on Facebook. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Stephanie Fong lives and works in Dickinson and is the proud mom to two wonderful “littles” of her own. She enjoys playing with her kids outside, going to concerts with her husband, and taking in local events with family and friends.
Community Contributor: Kristi’s Heart Hugs
Submitted Photos Kristi Lafrenz was born with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia. She had her first open heart surgery when she was just one week old. She had two more while in school and her last surgery in 2008. Now, this 43-year-old wife and mother is doing what she can to help others affected by congenital heart defects through Kristi’s Heart Hugs. Kristi says living with a broken heart has been challenging, but it has also given her permission to test her limits rather than fear them, something she’s working hard to help others with congenital heart defects do too. She shares more about her work and about Kristi’s Heart Hugs. Tell us a little history of Kristi’s Heart Hugs. After my last valve replacement surgery in 2008, I realized there was very little support for children and their families who are affected by congenital heart defects in the Bismarck-Mandan area. As an adult, I experienced firsthand what emotional and financial hardships these defects have on these children and their families. When I was in kindergarten, my teacher and my classmates sent me a life-size stuffed white bear. More than 30 years later, I still have that bear. When looking at that bear one night, I decided I needed to find a way to make sure every child could receive their own bear to hug at night when they were scared, just like I had so many nights before. After some thought, I created a Facebook support group called Kristi’s Heart Hugs. I linked it to the tagline, “congenital heart defects.” Within days, three families had requested to be members of my support group. While looking for a stuffed animal to send to these children, I found a small stuffed giraffe. Not only was this giraffe soft and adorable, it had a long neck; which allowed two things: first, it was small enough for their little hands to wrap their fingers around it to hold onto, and second, it had a long chest area which allowed me the space to handstitch their badge of courage, much like the one I wear on my chest. With each giraffe that I send, the parents receive a small heart journal so they can keep track of their child’s meds, surgeries, procedures, and every day experiences. I started a support group which meets the second Tuesday of each month at the Sanford Children’s Castle Clinic in Bismarck. By having this support group, not only do I want to provide some comfort to these children, I want to let the families know that we (CHD kids) will be okay and there is someone there for them. I want parents to know that a heart defect shouldn’t stop their child from having a normal life. How are you different from other organizations like yours? The mission and purpose of Kristi’s Heart Hugs is: to provide personal communication, encouragement, and assistance for children with congenital heart defects and their families. A common misconception for people with a heart defect is that once you have had a repair done, your illness is over and you go back to your normal life. However, that is not the case. I often hear people say, “Oh, you had surgery? I thought you were fixed.” Having a heart defect is a lifelong condition, and we have to follow up with a pediatric cardiologist for the rest of our lives. My desire is to help every child I come in contact with, knowing that their heart defect cannot stop them from dreaming and reaching for every goal they have. How can people donate or get involved? Kristi’s Heart Hugs is now a 501(c)(3), and as an official nonprofit organization, I am able to accept donations, and I am able to assist families financially to help them with travel, hotel, and meals when they go to Minneapolis or Rochester for surgeries and appointments. If people would like to donate, they can do so by sending the donation to Kristi’s Heart Hugs, PO Box 7322, Bismarck, ND 58507-7322. You can donate via our website, kristishearthugs.org. If people would like to volunteer at our support group meetings, they can contact me via email: email@example.com. Kristi with support group members Trena Zuther, Isabella Westman, Mason Stotz, Jaymeson Dutchuk, and Gray Petersen. Kristi Lafrenz Emmeric Elmer with his giraffe
Margaret Ingerslew: Balancing a Military Career and Motherhood
by Nicole Thom-Arens | Submitted Photos When Margaret Ingerslew started her B-52 career in 2011, she was a new mom to Andersen, and that made her an anomaly in the bomber community. The advice she had received as a young married female officer was to delay having children until she was out of the Air Force or in a nonflying position, so she and husband Seth agreed to wait a few years before starting their family. But life didn’t go according to plan. “We moved when Andersen was about two weeks old, and I started the formal training unit for the B-52, and I showed up, and I was the girl who had a kid. They didn’t know my name. They didn’t know anything except I was the girl who had a kid,” Margaret recalls. She had done the one thing she had been advised not to do, but Margaret knew herself and her abilities and excelled in the program just as she had in flight school. In 2012, the young family moved to Minot Air Force Base, where Margaret continued her career as a Weapon Systems Officer (WSO pronounced “wizzo”). Four months after arriving, Margaret was deployed to Guam. Four weeks later, she found out she was pregnant with her second child, Madeline. “After we got moved to Minot, and I was going to deploy, I had said, ‘I just want to get my name in the squadron, I want to get a deployment under my belt, I want to kind of get established before I’m taken out of the jet,’ and that was our plan. We joke that we just can’t say things out loud,” Margaret remembers. For decades women weren’t allowed to fly in bombers because they simply weren’t allowed in combat situations, so when Margaret became pregnant, the Air Force didn’t have a plan to keep her from falling behind her peers. “I honestly thought about getting out of the military, because of my experience with Madeline. I could tell my career definitely took a hit for it. When your primary job is to drop weapons from an airplane, and you can’t physically fly due to pregnancy being a medical condition, you’re out of the jet for ultimately a year,” Margaret explains. “You’re out of your job—your profession—for a year. The way you are promoted and do well as a flyer in the Air Force is by flying. It’s like I went to work for a year, but it didn’t look like I was working. I basically did two years of flying in one deployment to bring me back up to where my peer group was.” She stresses that she asked for this arrangement. Once she decided to stay in the Air Force, she was determined to compete with her peers, a reality with which many mothers in professional fields can relate. “I love my children, and I love my job, so I never want to say no when there’s a fun flight or a fun mission or an experience that I can go on. You don’t want to say no, but you have other commitments,” Margaret explains while discussing the balance of being a mom and a professional. “You’re always getting pulled in one way, and you don’t know always when to give more here or take more there, and so it’s just a constant internal battle.” The Air Force, though, is beginning to develop a better plan for women who, like Margaret, don’t want to wait to become mothers. “They have a sabbatical that you can apply for. You could take up to three years off and be a stay-at-home mom if that’s what you want to do, and then you come back to active duty after those three years are up and it simply pauses wherever you left off,” Margaret explains. This would have been an option for Margaret when she and Seth welcomed their third child, Scarlet, in 2016—something Margaret said Andersen and Madeline foresaw. “It was like their lives were not complete. They just needed a little sister named ‘Sugar Plum’ forever. Andersen loves to tell that story. He’s like, ‘Well, I knew what our family needed,’” Margaret recalls. “We might not have planned it exactly this way, but this is exactly what it’s supposed to be.” Margaret decided not to pause her career. She enjoyed a traditional maternity leave and went back to work. In 2017, she was promoted to major and was one of two WSOs selected for Striker Vista, a program designed to increase the breadth of knowledge within the bomber community. The family recently settled in Rapid City, South Dakota, where Margaret is currently a B-1 WSO. Nicole Thom-Arens is a writer and an assistant professor of communication arts at Minot State University where she teaches journalism and communication theory courses and advises the student newspaper the Red & Green.
Oh Man: Chris Klieman & The Golden Rule
The Klieman family at Game Day in Fargo by Marci Narum | Submitted Photos While the Friday night lights stay off for a few more months, college football coaches have been ardently recruiting players for the 2018 season. NDSU Bison head coach Chris Klieman leads a defending NCAA Division I championship team. But that’s not his focus, nor will it be when the season begins. He concentrates solely on the players he’s considering for the Bison team—their performance, statistics, and attitudes. And even when Chris sees what he’s looking for in a player, he might ask the young man to do something unexpected: call Mom. “When I go to a school, I visit with the head coach, the guidance counselor, the principal, all that leg work. But without question, if somebody doesn’t respect their parents, they aren’t going to be a fit here. If they aren’t respectful to their mom, it isn’t going to work. I couldn’t put up with it; all of our coaches couldn’t handle it. It would be a deal-breaker, without question.” The answer to why Chris is uncompromising on this: 78-year-old Mary Kay Klieman. “I have a special relationship with my mom. I always laugh because I’m 50 years old, but I’m still her baby,” Chris says proudly. Chris is the youngest of three children. He has a sister, Sarah, and a brother, Scott. His parents, Mary Kay and Bob—married 57 years—still live in Waterloo, Iowa, where they raised their family. His mom was a preschool teacher for 28 years. “It was wonderful. I loved every minute of it,” Mary Kay says, remembering her time as a teacher. “My hours were the same as my kids, and my vacations were the same as my kids’. It just worked out very nicely. “Bob was a high school football coach and biology teacher, so Chris just grew up in a teacher-oriented family,” Mary Kay shares. “Both Scott and Chris played football. They grew up with their dad teaching and coaching.” When Bob left teaching, he took a job selling sporting goods. “He got to all my events, but he was on the road a lot, Monday through Friday. Between my mother and my grandma—her mom—boy, we spent a ton of time together. I’ve had phenomenal relationships with my grandma and my mother because I was around those two.” “In fact,” Mary Kay adds, “when Chris was in college, Mother owned a duplex and he lived in the other half for a while and helped her, doing all the errands. He mowed the lawn when he wasn’t involved in football.” Chris says his parents attend most Bison football games. And since Chris joined the Bison coaching team, Mary Kay and Bob have been to every national championship game the Bison have played in Frisco, Texas. “I’ll tell you, I remember the very first game in the national championship, and it was his first endeavor. I was a nervous wreck,” Mary Kay recalls. “Half the time, I had to walk behind the stands, I was so nervous. But I’ve gotten calmer. I know he’ll be fine whichever way it goes.” Mary Kay says she is proud to see her son at the top of his career. “To have him called up and stand with that trophy, all his boys around him, and we’re taking pictures; we’ve cried many tears of complete happiness and joy. “And he can feel good about himself because of the way he accomplished it, never being mean or hurtful to anybody.” A consistent rule in the Klieman family was the golden rule; it has been a lifelong guiding principle for Chris. “Treat people right. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Treat people with respect,” Chris says. “I always taught them, ‘You have to remember everybody’s a human being and has feelings, and you treat people the way you want to be treated,’’ Mary Kay recalls. That golden rule will be in mind as Chris begins training each Bison recruit before the lights are turned on again for the season. “He’s leaving his home, and mom and dad have to feel comfortable—especially mom has to feel comfortable that I’m going to take care of their son as I would my own,” Chris shares. “It’s been so gratifying to me that he’s done so very well, and I’m just so proud of the way he’s done it,” Mary Kay adds. “He does it with humility and wanting to be a part of those boys’ lives; giving them something they can always remember—and doing it with goodness.”
Jody with mom, JoAnn, and older sister, Jenn By Jody Kerzman I’ve been writing since I was seven years old—my first “project” was cleverly titled “Jody’s Journal.” The weekly newsletter, typed very slowly on my mom’s super-cool typewriter, included all the highlights of my family’s life. I sold copies of the Journal for 25-cents apiece, and while I never could talk my older sister into forking over a quarter for her very own copy, my grandmothers were faithful subscribers and probably even bought more than one copy. More than 30 years later, I realize I never thanked them for reading my literary masterpieces and for making me believe I was a brilliant writer. I never thanked my mom either, who never once complained about all the paper I wasted or all the correction fluid I used (I think I made mistakes on purpose because correcting them on the typewriter was so much fun!) I think of my mom’s patience every day when I clean up scraps of paper my children leave throughout the house. That keeps me from freaking out on them, despite the fact that I am constantly cleaning up their messes. As a mother of four creative kids, I spend a lot of time cleaning up the messes brought on by a burst of creativity. I find myself thinking about my own childhood, and my own mother, as I clean. How did she not lose her mind cleaning up our messes? My little brother used to raid the kitchen cupboards for things to use on his farm: mini marshmallows became hay bales, cans of soup/peaches/vegetables were grain bins (once the labels were peeled off). Mom never yelled. When the marshmallow hay bales dried up, she quietly cleaned them up and threw them away. One by one, she took back the grain bins, and upon discovering what was inside the cans, made us something delicious to eat. My youngest daughter rarely goes anywhere without a pen and paper. She leaves papers scattered throughout the house and even asked for a typewriter for Christmas. I get annoyed by the constant paper mess, and sometimes I yell at her. And then I realize, it is just paper. My mom never yelled at me for my paper messes. Her patience with my habit of using up all the paper and typewriter ink was nothing short of amazing. In fact, I think her patience and encouragement likely shaped my career: I’ve been able to make a living as a writer in multiple fields of work my entire adult life. So, thanks Mom. Thanks for being patient, supportive, for believing in me, and for always picking up my scraps of paper.
Comfort Foods from Mom’s Kitchen
Article and Photos by Pam Vukelic What is your comfort food? What did you want your mom to make for you when you came home from college for a weekend? These are great questions to use as conversation starters! Since I’ve been away from home this past month, I’ve had the opportunity to query lots of folks from many different states. There are a few things comfort foods have in common. Inexpensive foods are the norm—think dough and creamed anything on toast. Many comfort foods are regional. Some are ethnic. Easy preparation is typical. Hands down, the most popular dish is mac and cheese. This is not regional. I went to my friend, Katie, a wonderful cook who wouldn’t resort to the box version, for her recipe. She said mac and cheese brings back memories of her mama and her grandma. She shared her recipe with us and also suggested the leftovers—not that there are likely to be any—make a great breakfast when warmed up and topped with salsa. Regional foods include some interesting items—like brown bread in a can—something totally new to me. Friends from Maine and Missouri both mentioned it. In Maine, a typical Saturday evening supper consists of B & M Brown Bread, sliced, heated, then topped with hotdogs and beans. Piccalilli, a vegetable relish, is the standard condiment. Another regional item is Frito pie. Texans eat it with cornbread. Lots of people eat cornbread, including daughter-in-law Mollie from Kentucky, whose dad made it for them. The leftovers were crumbled up and eaten with milk for breakfast, like cereal. An Illinois friend told about measuring flour for cornbread from her grandma’s bin using a tea cup, handle missing, of course. Because the cup was a bit large, you had to be sure your thumb was inserted into the cup to get the proper measurement. Our kids mentioned tater tot hotdish, I think because their Grandma Irene often served it when we were at her house for supper. Of all the people I interviewed for this article no one outside of North Dakota had heard of tater tot hotdish. Midwesterners are the people most likely to name ethnic dishes. It will not surprise you that knoephla soup, fleischkuechle, and cheese buttons came up. Schnitta might be a bit more of a surprise; lefse would not. Nor would ravioli in marinara sauce if you’re an Italian from Boston or tamales if you’re a Mexican from Texas. Many of these items are family projects and consequently evoke fond memories. My friend Frances says the best tamales are made with meat from pigs’ heads. Prior to all the TSA regulations we now have, she boarded a plane in California with three pigs’ heads in a garbage bag—no problem—to take home to her mom. Potato dishes are also popular. My cousin Jeanne talked about potato soup with Polish potato dumplings our Aunt Proxie made. Mashed potatoes and potato cakes came up; some people said “anything potato.” Chicken and dumplings are popular, too, as is chicken and rice, according to son-in-law Shaun. Friend Karen says her kids ask for “Good Goop,” which is essentially lasagna in a bowl, using small pasta instead. You know how popular “bowls” are these days. Some restaurants specialize in them. I think Karen and her kids were ahead of their time! It was uncommon for someone to mention dessert, but there was an occasional comment about apple pie, red velvet cake, and ice cream. My husband, Jim, would say his go-to comfort food is baked rice, a dish his mother continued to make for him decades after we were married. I wonder what our grandchildren will say when they are able to respond to the question, “What is your comfort food?” We are likely to have an impact on that! Katie’s Mac and Cheese 2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked to al dente stage 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons flour salt & pepper to taste 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon cayenne 1 ½ cup milk 1-8 ounce block sharp cheddar, shredded 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs 1 tablespoon melted butter Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large pan, melt butter then stir in flour to make roux. Add seasonings. When bubbly, add milk, stir until thickened then add cheese. Place macaroni into pot and stir well to coat with sauce. Pour into lightly greased baking dish, top with buttered crumbs, and bake about 45 minutes, until heated through. Click here for more comfort food recipes from Pam and her friends. Pam Vukelic is an online FACS (Family and Consumer Science) instructor for the Missouri River Educational Cooperative. For Pam, any kind of soup is comfort food, especially if it is a creamy type.
Randi Heisler: A Mother’s Intuition
by Jody Kerzman | Photography: Photos by Jacy As a young mom in nursing school, Randi Heisler suddenly realized she didn’t want to be a nurse. “I hated nursing school, but it was important for me to finish school.” And so she did, never expecting she would actually use the things she learned in nursing school. But when her son Aspen was born, Randi’s nursing skills kicked in. So did her mother’s intuition. Randi had a feeling something wasn’t right with Aspen. She knew it in her gut. “I knew something was off, but I wasn’t sure what it was,” recalls Randi. The Rugby, North Dakota mom sought medical advice and took her son to regular physical therapy appointments, but one doctor’s visit after another left her with more questions than answers. Aspen’s trips to the doctor also left her with mom guilt and a prescription to treat postpartum depression. “I never filled that prescription. I knew I didn’t have postpartum depression. I knew there was something wrong with my son,” Randi says. “I remember after one visit, my husband, Levi, said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with him. You need to be happy with this. He’s fine.’ But I still wasn’t convinced. I wanted a second opinion. The next day I made an appointment with a new doctor in Minot.” The Right Call On the day of the appointment, the doctor’s office called to cancel. A short time later, they called again, this time to see if she’d like to take an appointment with another doctor. “I said, ‘Sure.’ What did I have to lose? We were already in town, so we might as well see this doctor,” says Randi. Randi immediately connected with the new physician, Dr. Melissa Messerly. “She asked me what was going on, and I explained how Aspen wasn’t walking, but he was just one. I told her he had constant diarrhea and was sweating a lot. I remember telling her I thought something was off, but at the same time saying, ‘I’m probably just overreacting.’” But Dr. Messerly didn’t think so. She had some colleagues come in and examine Aspen, and they all came to the conclusion that something was indeed very wrong with the little boy. “She told me he probably either had heart failure or liver failure, which was probably due to cancer or some other type of tumor. She wanted us to take an ambulance to Fargo immediately.” Randi convinced the doctors to let her drive Aspen to Fargo, stopping in Rugby to pack a bag and pick up her husband. Frightening Answers Doctors in Fargo had some answers, but Randi still had questions. Doctors believed Aspen had some sort of a storage disorder, like diabetes or Huntington’s disease. A scan also revealed a tumor on his spine. They believed it was neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that forms in certain types of nerve tissue, often from one of the adrenal glands. It can also develop in the neck, chest, abdomen, or, in Aspen’s case, the spine. Aspen was referred to the University of Minnesota. Doctors said Aspen’s blood pressure was so high that, had he not been diagnosed that day in Minot, he wouldn’t have lived another 24 hours. “His blood pressure was off-the-charts high. Once he was stabilized, we went to Minnesota. He had surgery immediately.” It was the first of numerous surgeries Aspen would have. “The tumor just kept growing back,” recalls Randi. “It was in his spine, behind his heart. I remember before one of the surgeries, they made us tell him goodbye. I panicked and thought we shouldn’t have done that surgery.” Randi relied on her intuition through it all. When doctors in Minnesota said Aspen’s tumor was inoperable, Randi knew in her gut they were wrong. So she took Aspen, who was two at the time, to New York for a second opinion. That trip led her back to Minnesota, and a surgeon who operated on the tumor. In addition to the surgeries, Aspen also underwent chemotherapy. He also tested positive for the genetic disorder, mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS). Years later, they would discover he didn’t have MPS afterall; the tests were false positives. Mom Knows Best Today, Aspen is a healthy nine year old. But he still wears a back brace, and his spine has significant damage. He goes to Minnesota every three to six months for check ups and moved into the “survivorship clinic” last June. “He still has a tumor in his spine,” says Randi. “But it hasn’t done anything for five years, so we’re just keeping an eye on it. To operate on it now would be scary. Originally, we thought he would need surgery by age six, but it is not progressing, so we’re waiting. We hope to wait until his spine is full-grown before he has another surgery.” Randi has a feeling the next surgery is still years away. Afterall, Aspen has defied the odds since the very beginning. Doctors never expected him to walk after all his surgeries. “He walked just before he turned four years old,” she says proudly. “He used a walker before that. I took him to physical therapy, even though his surgeons didn’t think it would work. But it did work. Aspen now not only walks, he runs.” Still, he can’t play contact sports, which is hard for a boy growing up in a house with two hockey-playing brothers. Determined to be on the ice like his brothers, Aspen learned how to skate so he could join the Bismarck Bobcats mascot, Scratch, during the Brave the Shave Bobcats night in March. Brave & Supportive That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Heisler family’s involvement with Brave the Shave. Their journey began in September 2010, just months after Aspen’s diagnosis. Randi was asked to shave her head. “It was right after Aspen’s diagnosis, and people told me I couldn’t do it so soon. But I did it. I was part of the 46 Mommas for St. Baldricks. It was important to have 46 moms shave their heads, because everyday, 46 kids are diagnosed with cancer,” says Randi. “I was on the ‘Stand up to Cancer’ TV show. We taped it in Los Angeles. Being there was the best opportunity I was ever given, because it connected me with so many people I wouldn’t have known otherwise, including a surgeon who eventually operated on Aspen.” In September 2016, Randi once again shaved her head. This time, it was part of a Criss Angel performance to raise money for St. Baldrick’s and for childhood cancer research. That fundraiser raised over $1 million to fund research and to help families fighting cancer. Now, Randi is the development director for Brave the Shave, a move that she says just felt right. “It is natural, because I’ve been a part of the efforts. I’ve shaved my head, I’ve lobbied in DC for cancer research funding,” Randi says. “But at the end of the day, it’s about the kids. I want to help the kids.” Aspen wants to help too. Earlier this year, he designed his own bath bombs and worked with a woman to make and sell 5,000 bath bombs to raise money for Brave the Shave. “I wanted to do something fun to raise money for Brave the Shave, and who doesn’t love a bath bomb?” explains Aspen. “I made three different scents. One is for my fellow friends from Brave the Shave and called ‘Brave Warrior.’ The second is called ‘Aspen’ and smells outdoorsy and like an Aspen tree. And the third is ‘Johnny Angel,’ which to me smells like the Luxor theatre where I watched my mom shave her head on stage at the Criss Angel show. It is named Johnny for his son who is still fighting.” Brave Beyond an Event Randi’s passion for Brave the Shave stems back to those first days and years of Aspen’s battle. “When Aspen was diagnosed, we didn’t know anyone in North Dakota who had a child with cancer. We met people in Minnesota, but there was no one local to connect with. I remember telling a doctor in Minnesota that if a family came in he should give them my contact information. Throw HIPAA rules out the window. I wanted to help these families. I remember getting messages on Facebook from moms who were in the same boat I was in. We connected.” Now, it is Brave the Shave’s vision to connect even more families. The first step, was making Brave the Shave a 501(c)(3) organization. Brave the Shave began as Basin Electric Power Cooperative event. It was an annual fundraiser to support childhood cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. The event grew so much, the Brave the Shave board saw the need to create Brave the Shave as its own organization, to not only fund research, but also help local families who were struggling financially, because of a child’s cancer diagnosis. “Brave the Shave is now more than just an event where people shave their heads for cancer research. It’s about support for families. We’ve paid mortgages, saved people’s homes. At Christmas, families can receive $1,000 for bills. We provide money for funeral expenses, no questions asked,” she explains. “But it’s about more than just the money. The main thing is connecting families. That’s so important.” They’re connecting them by building a community, and holding events across the state and beyond. “Our goal is to make Brave the Shave statewide. A lot of the events have been in Bismarck, but now Minot and Dickinson have their own events. There is a motorcycle ride planned for Benedict, and UND and NDSU are getting involved. There are 11 other events scheduled right now,” says Randi. “It’s going to grow beyond just shaving heads.” The Brave the Shave board has submitted a grant for funding to start a bereavement group, because Randi says the support needed for those parents is totally different than what parents need when their child is battling cancer. Always aiming for the sky, she says that group may not even be specific to cancer. She’d like to reach as many parents in need as possible. Because, in her gut, she knows there’s a need. And if there’s one thing Randi knows, it’s to trust her gut. A mother’s intuition is almost never wrong. The Brave the Shave event held in Bismarck on April 14 raised more than $450,000. Learn more about Brave the Shave at bravetheshave.net. And to see more photos of Randi and Aspen taken by Photos by Jacy, click here.