Dirty Laundry

me and nalaDirty Laundry?  Well, consider this the “about me” section.

I’ve decided to launch this page so you can learn all about me – the good, the bad and the ugly.  I want you all to have a chance to learn about who I am, truly who I am, so you can understand the experiences that have shaped who I am today.  I hope this gives you a way to connect with me on a personal level.   I hope this gives you insight into why I am passionate about education, social services, affordable healthcare, and very pro-union and of course,  West Fargo as a whole!  I love this community and all the superheros in it!

  • I was born and  raised in West Fargo!
  • My parents worked for the phone company.  My dad was a union steward and I grew up with picket signs in our garage.  My dad always told me to stand up for what’s right.
  • I received my first F in 5th grade social studies.  Mr. Sutcliff’s class.  I begged my mom not to tell my dad.  To this day, I don’t know if she ever did.
  • I went to summer school I think pretty much every year for language arts.  I didn’t enjoy reading (interestingly I read all the time now).
  • I graduated as a Packer in 1992.  However, not in May with my class.  No, that darn language arts class.  And gym class.  Not my fav.  But I did graduate in October of that year after retaking those classes.
  • I got pregnant at 18 and my son was born a month after my 19th birthday. I was pretty sure I knew everything.  After all, I was working at Subway and receiving benefits from the state.
  • I decided I had to do more with my life.  I had to do better for my son.
  • I enrolled in the EMT program through FM Ambulance.  I loved it!
  • I tried to reconcile with my sons bio father but he was abusive.  These details are for another time, but I want you to know it took me a year after my son was born to leave that situation.  It’s really hard to leave when you’re told you’re the problem, you’re worthless or that no one will ever love you or take care of you if you leave.  I was fortunate my situation didn’t  last longer than many other women.
  • I enrolled in IBC (Interstate Business College) for a medical administrative assistant degree.  I graduated in 1995 and had a difficult time finding a job and had incurred a large student loan debt.
  • I finally landed a job at FM Ambulance driving Ready Wheels and assisting some with other ambulance calls.
  • Eventually I met husband Derek.  (He IS the one I’m kissing in the above picture).
  • We were married and had a beautiful daughter, Amy and he was able to adopt my son Nich as his own.
  • Derek landed a union job (which he had for 20 years, yeah go union!)
  • Derek told me I needed to go to college.  (hmm what an interesting concept I thought)
  • So, I enrolled at NDSU for a year, and then transferred to MSUM.
  • I graduated with honors (the girl who got an F in 5th grade) with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology!!  (I am a total science nerd!)
  • I decided to continue my education back at NDSU where I enrolled in a cellular and  molecular biology PhD program.  I spent two years doing genetic research with fruit flies (who’s DNA is almost identical to people).
  • The lab I was working in closed and after floating around a bit I decided to leave.  This is also when my third child, Isaac (which means laughter) came into our lives! We were very blessed!
  •  During this same time I had began having some health problems.  I was diagnosed with Crohns Disease and began treatments.  I felt pretty good for a couple of years!
  • Well, life is about roller coasters – ups and downs!  I found out I would be blessed with another child!!  I couldn’t believe it!
  • However, the time leading up to that pregnancy and during that time my body wasn’t cooperating.  My crohns had gotten out of control and was in the hospital six times in one year!  I now had countless medical bills, a new baby and was sick.  All. The. Time.
  • In 2007, I was taken by ambulance to Minneapolis where my entire colon had to be removed.  I wondered how this could be.  Why me?  Like so many people ask – why me?
  • But, then I began to ask, why NOT me? I’ve had this experience for some reason and what could I learn from it?  How could I help others or relate to others who have medical problems?  And- I had a beautiful baby at home!
  • In 2007, I took at job at NDSCS teaching Anatomy and Physiology and eventually moved into a position of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) outreach coordinator.
  • I graduated from the University of Mary in Bismarck in 2011 with a Masters in Education.
  • I began a PhD program at UND shortly after studying Educational Research with a focus on girls in STEM.  This is a way to marry my passion for education and hands-on learning and research.
  • I am currently an ABD, meaning all but dissertation.  I have not graduated yet, but I do believe it will be in the foreseeable future.  Remember – this coming from the girl who almost didn’t graduate.
  • In 2014, I left my position at NDSCS and opened a nonprofit education center, the Inspire Innovation Lab.  I had an amazing experience at NDSCS but wanted to branch our further.  So, with no money I bartered my way into some space over in Moorhead (because it was super cheap) and cleaned out my garage of all the learning materials I had collected over the years and opened up the Inspire Lab!  I figured if I could build it off of no money, it should always sustain itself.  Now, four years later we’ve moved into a much larger space, hired 9 staff, and have booming programming for teachers, students and the community!
  • Also, in 2014 I launched the Nerd Nook – a small brainiac store selling educational games and toys.  The purpose of this store was to provide gender neutral hands on toys, games, fossils and other brainiac necessities while giving part of the proceeds to the Inspire Lab to help support low income students and families who participate in programming.  I’ve made it a mission to never turn anyone away for financial reasons.
  • In 2015, we became foster parents to a beautiful young lady who is almost 14 years old.  Our foster daughter has come from trauma and we’ve had to learn how to maneuver the foster care system and social services.
  • We’ve also had several other children in respite care but continue to care for our first foster child.
  • We’ve had to learn about trauma and how it affects the brain, PTSD in children, Reactive Attachment Disorder as well as a host of other mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar and unfortunately suicide.
  • We’ve learned how social workers have a huge case load and not enough resources to support the children.
  • We’ve learned that early intervention is key to keeping families together and preventing further abuse
  • We’ve learned that there are more than 60 teenagers alone in ND waiting in group homes for someone to take them in but there aren’t any foster homes available.
  • But most of all, we’ve been opened up to an entire system that is broken.  Where parents need intervention and services.   Where having “something” is better than “nothing”.  A system where homeless thrives because of a “you made your bed” mentality.  A system where mental health is seldom even talked about.  A system where opiod addiction is running rapid.  A system where people can’t pay for their needed medication.  A system where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  A system where children are failed.

My life isn’t a bed of roses.  It isn’t perfect.  Maybe I’m not the smartest person who has walked on this Earth.  But I know how people feel.  I know what it’s like to live poor and sick and I know what it’s like to thrive.  I’ve been blessed in so many ways.  Now it’s time to take all of my life experiences and put them to use.  For the community of West Fargo.  For the citizens of North Dakota.

If I do nothing else, I want every citizen to understand that YOU are a super hero.  No matter what you’ve been through or going through, YOU can survive.  YOU can thrive.  YOU can fly!!