Tag Archives: mother

Home Is Where the Oven Is

July 18, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Nicola Shartrand decides to spend a lazy summer morning with her two young children in their home near Lake Manawa, odds favor the happy trio baking sheets of cookies before noon in their newly renovated kitchen.

When she drives deeper into Council Bluffs to the family’s bakery, often with kids in tow, she makes hand-painted macarons, tortes, breads, cookies, and dozens of cupcakes, which then fill space in the display case, ready for public consumption.

And when John Shartrand takes the family across the Missouri to their restaurant that bears Nicola’s name, they no doubt top off the meal with Nicola’s award-winning Italian lemon cream cake.

The Shartrands’ life revolves around the food created in three different kitchens. The family travels back and forth along the routes that connect the points in their life: Nicola’s Italian Wine and Fare at 13th and Jackson streets in Omaha’s historic Old Market; Stay Sweet, Nicola’s—their bakery at 805 S. Main St. in Council Bluffs; and their gracious home in hues of gray on a quiet cul-de-sac.

The restaurant represents 15 years of ambition, hard work, and faith rewarded; the bakery, which opened in December, symbolizes dreams fulfilled; the new home kitchen has its own story, one with deep meaning for the family.

“John knew I had been putting in all these hours all these years at the restaurant, and he said, ‘You’re going to wake up one day and the kids will have graduated high school, and you will have missed the whole thing,’” Nicola recounts. “He said, ‘You love baking, you’re really good at it, why don’t you practice while you’re at home? Let me run the restaurant at night.’”

And so the original home kitchen became a laboratory for perfecting and tweaking popular dishes served at Nicola’s Italian Wine and Fare, creating new dishes, and developing recipes for baked goods. Nicola experimented for six months on the lemon cake “because Martha Stewart said every restaurant should offer something lemony.” Once perfected, the light, moist, not-too-sweet lemon cake exploded on the scene. As a result, demand for all her baked goods exploded.

So did the family kitchen.

“I pretty much destroyed it from overuse,” Nicola says, laughing as she proceeds to list a litany of problems. “We went through every single major appliance. The cabinet doors fell off from constant opening and closing. The stove went out. We needed a bigger refrigerator. And it was a really cramped working space.”

For Nicola’s birthday two years ago, John announced he would build her a new kitchen. “I wear many belts,” he quips.

The couple used a computer program offered by an assemble-it-yourself home furnishings store to measure, design, and order the materials for the new kitchen. The transaction could have gone better.

“They told us our plans were too ambitious, that we were out of our league,” John says. And when it came time to lug 279 flat boxes out of the store, “they said they wouldn’t help me.”

Undeterred, John loaded a U-Haul truck by himself, drove home, and emptied every little chrome knob and handle, every shelf, drawer, door, and cabinet from the containers. It only took a month to transform the culinary space.

They painted the new cabinetry gray to match the wall coloring. The cabinetry—above and below the long kitchen counter—helps provide 50 percent more storage space than before.

A narrow floor-to-ceiling pantry pulls out shelves and drawers to hold foodstuffs categorized by cans, bottles, and paper, “so nothing gets lost inside it,” Nicola says. Two bottles of industrial-size Worcestershire sauce appear prominently in front, as does a gallon of olive oil, which she affectionately refers to as “the best stuff on earth.”

A backsplash made of off-white, 3-by-6-inch glazed subway tiles provides a simple, clean, classic look.

The couple complemented the backsplash tile by placing an off-white, solid slab of quartz on top of the kitchen island, located in the middle of the open floor plan.

Underneath, a cabinet with 20 drawers of different depths neatly holds everything from dozens of spatulas (Nicola keeps breaking them) and half-used bags of fennel seeds to large pots and pans.

A two-door stainless steel KitchenAid refrigerator shares the kitchen’s color scheme with its gray interior, and the double-oven stove “makes cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the family really easy,” Nicola says.

The doting husband’s wish for his wife, to spend more time with Stavros, 9, and Gigi, 7, has resulted in personal growth for Nicola. Her stay-at-home baking experiments proved so popular she now supplies other restaurants and coffee shops with her sweets. She also takes special orders.

The extra income enabled John and Nicola, who both grew up in Omaha, to purchase a brick-and-mortar commercial space in Council Bluffs last November, which handyman John transformed into a full-service coffee bar and bakery. With its commercial-grade mixers and appliances, Stay Sweet, Nicola’s has taken over as the primary baking site.

John now works 14-hour days. He opens the bakery to start the espresso machine and bake muffins, intersects with Nicola and the kids in the afternoon, then crosses the bridge to oversee the restaurant.

The reward for all this hard work: a happy family.

Visit nicolasintheoldmarket.com and staysweetnicolas.com for more information about Nicola Shartrand’s culinary enterprises.

From left: Stavros, Nicola, and Gigi Shartrand.

This article was printed in the July/August 2017 Edition of Omaha Home.

Kim Darling

December 27, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Omaha-based artist Kim Darling (also known as Kim Reid Kuhn) is relishing a moment of “when one door closes, another opens.”

Darling, a prominent Benson First Friday contributor known for curating provocative exhibitions and performances at Sweatshop Gallery—and arguably one of the reasons why Benson’s aura is what it is today—is now applying her passion for community arts advocacy in new ways.

“Sweatshop Gallery was always a launching point for larger social ideas,” she says.

Since the gallery’s closing in October 2015, Darling has accepted four artist residencies at four different Omaha schools. She has collaborated on two projects, Swale and Wetland, with former Bemis Center artist Mary Mattingly. Those “socially engaged projects” were both featured in The New York Times, Art Forum, and ART 21.

Darling is many things to many people: community activist, curator, mother, teacher, advocate, tastemaker, and artist. It is within their nexus that she has found new momentum—namely, public and socially engaged projects that define and build community through art with artists.

Recent iterations include exhibitions and subsequent public programming at both The Union for Contemporary Art and the Michael Phipps Gallery at the Omaha Public Library. Darling presented her paintings and photographs in a gallery setting that later set the backdrop for public conversations around topics of police brutality, definitions of “public-ness,” and how race, gender, and socio-economic realities frame perceptions of place.

Yet despite a very public persona, her zeal for her own private painting practice is on fire.

Darling’s iconography is distinct. With a distilled color palette of coal black, turquoise, dirty white, and cotton candy pink, her canvases are peppered with oddly familiar shapes and punk references.

Her aptly named “Rat’s Nest Studio” is nearly at capacity with in-progress paintings and sketches of future projects—each influencing the other. It is in her studio where the visible traces of a focused artist are on display. In the duality of social engagement and private studio making, inspiration is constant. For Darling, “these different perspectives feed me, helping keep my marks and ideas raw.”

There is no mistaking Darling’s passion. Navigating a newly trodden path of community building through arts advocacy can be complicated, but for Darling, “there is a simple power in art making and storytelling.” This is where her art and life meet—an intersection of public discourse and art with an emphasis on communal and social concerns.

With Darling’s ongoing efforts, this new chapter will continue to be a revolving door for opportunity, inspiration, and evolution.

Visit kimdarling.net for more information.

kimdarling1

After Cancer and High School

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A small sigh of hopelessness escaped Ema Johanning’s lips as she looked up at the daunting steps of Bellevue West High School. Pain radiated down her left leg. It felt like someone had driven a screwdriver in the socket where it met her pelvic bone, twisting and twisting with each step.

Don’t worry about it, Ema’s doctors said. It’s just growing pains, an overemotional teenager trying to get attention, or just all in her head.

Ema could not escape the savage nightmarish monster that haunted her. Exhausted, dehydrated, and malnourished, Ema soon lost nearly 30 pounds. She threw up almost daily—all because of her agonizing leg.

Nikki Johanning, her mother and a former CNA, knew something was not right. Pills, fluids, and six visits to the ER did nothing to diminish the pain.

“Can you please admit my daughter. I can’t physically take care of her anymore,” Johanning tearfully begged doctors at yet another ER visit at Children’s Hospital. Ema could no longer walk and used a wheelchair just to get from the couch to the bathroom. In addition, Johanning had Ema’s three siblings to take care of at home, an exhausted husband who would sometimes have to stay up at night with Ema only to work the next day, and no family in the area to help out.

Ema-Johanning-1“I never took ‘no’ for an answer,” Johanning recalls. “If we sat back and waited, I don’t know if Ema would be here.”

Ema was admitted for pain control and underwent further tests.

Ema woke up groggy from medication. She heard her mother sobbing as she held Ema’s hand. It was one of the few times Ema had ever seen her cry.

“What’s wrong? Mom, tell me.”

Cancer. Ewing’s scarocoma. Malignant.

Ema felt like she had the wind knocked out of her. She barely heard her mother. The blinds were drawn tight. Even the smallest sliver of sunshine hurt, but there in the darkness of the room, Ema felt a hazy sense of relief rush through her.

“At least it’s not in my head,” she said as she hugged her mom. “We are going to beat this, and I’m going to be fine.”

Ewing’s sarcoma is a type of rare bone cancer that affects children or young adults like Ema and can be difficult to diagnose. It typically begins in the legs and hips, but can develop in other areas.

“It was my 16th birthday present,” Ema says now with a small, sad smile. Ema cancelled her sweet 16 birthday bash scheduled for later that week.

According to St. Jude’s Research Hospital, there is only a 56 percent survival rate for those aged 15 to 19. So while most of her friends were worried about homework, boys, or parties, Ema would have an IV attached to her arm full of chemotherapy.

It was an aggressive plan to attack the cancer hard and fast: three days of the “red devil” through a circular port in the hospital, and then two weeks at home depending on blood counts. If her counts rebounded, she would have another five days of treatment. This lasted a year from February until the end of May.

Ema would need a partial hip replacement and undergo physical therapy as well in June.

Johanning placed throw up buckets around the house. Her vomit was so hazardous that even a single splash burned her mother’s foot. Even Ema’s tough military father became squeamish.

But it really hit home when Ema lost her hair.

“The magic went away,” her mother says.

As Ema watched her locks of dark hair fall, so did her innocence. The reality seemed to weigh heavily on her teenage shoulders. She could no longer blend in with the crowd and lost her identity. All her future aspirations seemed to waver in the harsh light of her newly shaved head.

“The hardest part for me and her dad is you teach them to be the best people they can be, then watch that poison drip down into your child,” Johanning says. Her mother could not throw on a Band-Aid or kiss away the pain.

“I’d be lost without mom. She was my rock…my best friend,” Ema says.

In the oncology wing at Children’s Hospital, Ema gained strength from Nurse Anisa Hoie.

Ema-Johanning-2

“Don’t you feel like you belong here with a bunch of baldies all in one room?” Hoie asked her. Ema started laughing, the first time in her long cancerous journey.

She saw little kids playing games and suddenly realized she shouldn’t be feeling sorry for herself.

“Who am I to say my life isn’t worth fighting for,” Ema vents.

That teenage invulnerability though, that feeling of being untouchable by death, was gone.

“Cancer is like taking the most likable part of yourself and having to say good-bye to it because it’s killing you,” Ema says.

She attended her junior prom with just a smattering of brown hair with a flower tucked behind her ear, smiling in one picture with her two friends.

“I rocked that dress,” Ema says laughing. It was, of course, purple. Ema believes this is her “soul color,” universal for cancer survivors.

Now in remission, she finally feels free. The 20-year-old Ema shows off a tattoo on her shoulder: a heart with an owl and the cancer ribbon inside and “Forever Strong” etched on the outside. Her mother, grandmother, and other family members tatted up with “Believe” in support.

Her black hair has grown back—thicker and curlier than before. A puckered long scar travels up her left thigh. Ema was self-conscious of it at first, but now takes pride in the reminder. She is alive.

“A friend said to me, ‘The only one happier to see it than you and your mom is me,’” Ema says in a voice thick with tears.

Ema missed most of her sophomore and junior years of high school, yet she continued doing her coursework from home, despite short term memory issues and other side effects that still plague her. Ema graduated in May 2015. When she walked down the aisle Ema unzipped her graduate gown to proudly display the tank top underneath emblazoned proudly with “Suck it Cancer.”

“Everyone thought I flashed,” Ema says giggling at the memory. “My friends said, ‘you didn’t do what I think you did, did you?’”

College for Ema meant not only worrying about classes, but how to negotiate the small pharmacy (22 medications) she took with her to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the fall. 

“We didn’t know if she would live or die, and now she is going to college—it’s amazing,” Johanning says.

Ema is hoping to sky-dive with her father at the five-year mark. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate is 70 percent for a tumor that has not spread, but only 15 to 30 percent if it has metastasized.

In the meantime, it is the little things in life Ema appreciates the most.

“I look at me still being here as a second chance at life,” Ema says. FamilyGuide

Let’s Go Antiquing

August 16, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The Old Market has always been the place to find those unique items…things you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Nowhere is that more true than in the variety of antique shops in the area.

Whether you are looking for a specific item, enjoy antiquing, or just like to spend the afternoon reminiscing, each of these shops is a must-see and a great way to spend the day with friends.

While a bit off the beaten path, The Antique Annex, located at 1125 Jackson St., is a small shop that offers a lot. Owner Joe Dempsey opened the shop nearly two years ago but has many years of experience in dealing and selling antiques.

“We’re kind of in a weird location and don’t get as much traffic as a lot of other stores,” he says. This presents a great opportunity to find that treasure before someone else does. He explains the dealers he works with focus in on more decorative household items. “We deal a little bit in the more high-end stuff. You don’t have to search through a ton of [stuff] to find the nice things…they’re already here.”

Dempsey says that the hot items people are searching for now are furnishings and accessories from the 1950s: Lucite chairs and more industrial-type items. “We get a lot of kids finding things for their apartments.” Many are looking to give their downtown loft a unique, retro look. But he also sees everyone from moms to high-end collectors. “We see a little bit of everybody.”

Just across the street at 1116 Jackson St. is Second Chance Antiques, an Omaha staple that carries “pretty much everything from clothes to furniture,” says Elysia Jarvis, acting manager of the shop. “We get new stuff all the time. That’s the fun part. People will come in almost weekly because they know there will be something new to look for.”

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It was Jarvis’ mother, Susan Hoffman Brink, who opened Second Chance in 1971 and loved every minute of the 40-plus years she ran the shop. Brink passed away last April, but it was her dream for the business to continue. Her family and friends are dedicated to making her dream a reality. They are currently in the process of moving to a new location, just west of the Old Market on 14th and Harney streets. Quite the feat, as the two-level warehouse is packed full of fun finds: The basement is full of retro-style clothing and accessories. The main floor holds everything else you can imagine: dishes, décor, furniture, old photographs, and knick-knacks.

Some items have an obvious use, while others…well, the usefulness is in the eye of the buyer. “We find Pinterest has helped us a lot,” says Jarvis. “We can’t keep a door knob in-stock because people use them [to make] coat racks. People come here because they know they can’t get [these things] new. So it makes some really, fun unique things.”

“It’s better than Ikea!” exclaims one family friend who helps out at the store. This eclectic shop, as well as its eccentric team, makes Second Chance a fun place to get lost for the afternoon.

Another fun place to get lost antiquing is Fairmont Antiques & Mercantile. From the outside, it appears to be a retro-candy store, but venture a little further inside, and you soon discover that the shop not only appeals to your sweet tooth but to the sweet memories of your childhood and beyond.

“We specialize in an experience,” says General Manager Mark Kocsis. “When people come in, we like to give them a big ‘Wow!’” Owner Larry Richling opened the shop in the old Fairmont Dairy building at 1209 Jackson St. nearly three years ago, combining his retro-candy business and his antique business into a one-stop wonder-shop.

Along with the candy shop, the store offers many kinds of sodas, “Mostly retros and things you haven’t seen in years.” Deeper into the shop, customers will find treasures that will immediately transport them back to a simpler time.

This store offers more than antiques—it offers nostalgia: record albums, posters, toys, classic metal lunch boxes, clothing, furniture, even classic signage and historical hometown memorabilia. After you’re done shopping, take time to enjoy the authentic soda fountain or catch a classic film in the store’s private movie theater.

“If you just sit here and watch people come in…boom! They get this huge smile on their face,” says Kocsis. “That is so neat to see.” With items from over 25 dealers and new pieces coming in daily, visiting Fairmont will be a new experience each and every time you walk through the door.

Antique Annex
1125 Jackson St.
402-502-9603
omahavintage.com

Second Chance Antiques
1116 Jackson St.
402-346-4930
secondchanceantiquesomaha.com

Fairmont Antiques & Mercantile
1209 Jackson St.
402-346-9746
omahafairmont.com

Single Parent

Photography by Natalie Jensen Photography

“There are only two ways to live your life—one is as though nothing is a miracle; the other is as if everything is.” – Albert Einstein

Single parenting comes in all shapes and sizes. Maybe it was because of a surprising divorce, the death of a spouse, or an unexpected, unwed pregnancy. Most of us don’t grow up dreaming about being a single parent. Usually, our dreams consist of a white picket fence, a harmonious house that smells of bread baking, a loving husband, and perfect children quietly playing in the background. Well, that life isn’t reality for a growing group of single parents in 2013. I’m hoping my column will give you a new perspective on single parenthood, as well as some much-needed relief.

I personally awoke from my fairytale five years ago. Suddenly, I was balancing my lack of income, providing a home, putting food on the table, and creating a consistent routine for three small children—not to mention walking my children through the effects of divorce and the stigma of being from a “divorced family.” My path consisted of living with my parents for three years while I finished my college degree. After those long and sacrificial years, I was able to buy a house and provide for my children on my own again.

Being thrown into the role of a single mom developed a sudden closeness between my kids and me. Not only did we share a room practically piled on top of each other, but we talked about things we’d never talked about before. It became a time of healing, but I also found out more than I would’ve ever known about my children if we had all been tucked away in our separate rooms.

Not having extra money led to playing a lot of cards, long walks, bike rides, and watching old movies together. But most importantly, the lessons about life that they have learned are the most valuable. Pain doesn’t last forever. Prayer gives you strength. They watched me go through the process of starting over with strength and determination. Those lessons have been the unknown benefit of losing all my material things and becoming a single mom because what we do have is each other, and that turned out to be a better dream than I could’ve ever imagined.

Please Open the School Doors

I enjoy my kids a lot. But by the end of summer, I’m exhausted, and the kids are bored. We’re all ready for school to start. I’m the wacky woman with nose pressed to the window of the school (like the crazy lady from the Target Black Friday ads)—ready for school to open.

I’m not beneath suggesting my kids are smarter than me. It’s not a stretch. I’m okay with that. My kids need/demand a few things: attention, intellectual stimulation, and activity. In short, I cannot keep up with them during the summer.

They are smarter, faster, and stronger. I can’t find enough to keep them engaged and entertained. And what’s with their physical recovery time? They could run a marathon, then announce, “Mom, I’m hungry.” Or “Mom I’m bored now.” Or “Mom, now what can we do?” Funny. Cleaning their rooms, mowing the lawn, or doing their laundry never seems to cure their boredom.

Could someone please open the doors for school? Please?

This summer we went on several road trips. We went camping. We let the kids stay up and then sleep in. We took full advantage of their spare time and had them help in the yard and do their own laundry. We had lazy days and even got caught in the rain a few times.

And so, soon after dropping my kids off for school, I want them back. I’ve just had so much fun with them this summer. I want them to hug me and tell me all about their day. Because, in the summer, I know about their days—I’m with them. Now I don’t know what’s going on all day. I try to get them to let me go to school with them, but I guess there are rules against that.

Summer is all about cool, new experiences and adventures. Back-to-school is all about seeing old friends and making new friends. And turning those brilliant minds back into high gear. Projects, essays, concerts, and games await us.

I must admit, I’m dreading the ridiculous morning routine for school. Can’t we start school a little later? Like, say, maybe noonish?

Why on earth (of all schools) would my district have the middle schools starting the earliest? Doesn’t the school board know we’re dealing with amateur teens here? Chemicals are literally brewing in their brains. They can’t function, and you’re going to hit them with a leaving time of 7:20 a.m.?

Let the “KIDS, GET UP, TIME TO GO LEARN!” fights begin.

And so school begins and summer comes to an abrupt end, as does the conflicted, intense, emotional battle of wanting to schlep our kids off to school while fighting the urge to never let them go.

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.

Review: Dry Shampoo

When I had my first baby last year, I quickly realized the luxury of spending 30 minutes blow-drying and styling my hair was a thing of the past, since getting in a daily shower was proving to be a struggle. So I went on the hunt for a dry shampoo that could cut down my morning routine. I tried a few different brands from the drugstore and salon, but many left a visible white powder on my dark hair or had a strange texture.

Finally, I found Big Sexy Hair Volumizing Dry Shampoo and now swear by this. My stylist is actually hooked, too! It soaks up the grease, plus it adds tons of volume and texture. The smell is strong at first, like hairspray, but doesn’t linger.

For best results, I first spray my roots with a bit of water and then a light spray of the product. A fast blow-dry and I’m good to go. I’m able to go two to three days between washes, which has helped keep my hair healthier than when I was washing it daily. It works great on post-gym hair, too. The size of the product may seem small for the price, but it lasts about two months when used three times a week.

Next time you’re in a hurry, give ‘dry’ a try. You just might get hooked as well.

Business-Momming from Home


July 22, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Leah Lukowski taught in the Omaha Public Schools district for five years before she decided to stay home with her son, Caleb, and her daughter, Erica. “I’ve been home for three years now,” she says. “My husband, Lukas, and I weighed the benefits, and it was kind of a no-brainer.”

Last September, however, Lukowski stumbled upon an idea for a small business that she could run from home while watching her kids. Her brother, a local acoustic musician, had mentioned how he wanted to book more shows but was struggling. “Most musicians have day jobs, so it’s hard to get seen,” she explains. “And private events usually have a hard time getting in touch with musicians for hire. That’s when my brain started ticking.”

Leah Lukowski, owner of Omaha Musicians Live.

Leah Lukowski, owner of Omaha Musicians Live.

Lukowski did some research, finding several websites listing musicians for hire around the country, but she never found one specifically for Omaha musicians. That was the impetus for Omaha Musicians Live (OML).

Not only does Lukowski provide listings of local musicians, she also schedules their gigs with bars, restaurants, weddings, and corporate and private events. From home, she is able to handle contracting, work with clients on music selections, and recommend appropriate soloists or groups. “It’s just like event planning, only just the entertainment side,” she adds.

She works about 30 hours a week, not including attending the events, which she often does to help the musicians. But that’s because OML is all about customer service. She even follows up with clients after events to make sure things went smoothly or to see where she can improve her services.

Lukowski handles contracting, work with clients on music selections, and recommends soloists or groups.

Lukowski has been running Omaha Musicians Live (OML) for about a year.

OML has kept her fairly busy. In fact, she’s currently managing Midtown Crossing’s Street Vibes concerts, which run through October. But working for herself has its advantages. “I set my own schedule, coordinate with my husband so that one of us is always with the kids, and am able to be home if one of my kids gets sick and needs to leave school.” Eventually, she’d love to expand OML with a storefront and a staff.

Still, like all moms, she worries about how much time she’s giving her kids, even though she is home with them. “I think there’s always a conflict between business and raising your children. It’s a constant struggle,” she says.

Sometimes, that struggle can even be something as simple as just being able to work with clients without the kids interrupting, says licensed esthetician and mother of three, Joy Sakalosky.

“It would be easier if I had an office to go to [because] working from home has its distractions,” she adds. “But you really can’t beat the commute of just walking downstairs and not having to pay rent!”

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Joy Sakalosky, owner of Via Mia Spa.

Sakalosky has been running Via Mia Spa, a state-licensed, in-home spa since 2011, providing waxing, skin-care services, and makeup artistry to a clientele mostly consisting of other moms “because they know they can bring their kids along, if needed.”

She always knew she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. “I did try part-time when my oldest was born, and even that was too much time away from him for me. My husband, Todd, and I eventually worked it out so one of us was always home with him.” By the time she had her second child, she was a full-time mom, doing freelance work for a cosmetic company.

When her oldest started kindergarten, however, it got Sakalosky thinking about what she would do while her kids were in school. “I wanted to have the flexibility to go on field trips and volunteer in their class activities, but I wanted to do what I had been licensed to do. We were outgrowing our starter home anyway, so we decided to look for a house that would accommodate an in-home spa.”

Via Mia Spa is a state-licensed, in-home spa that provides waxing, skin-care services, and makeup artistry.

Via Mia Spa is a state-licensed spa in Sakalosky’s home.

Like Lukowski, Sakalosky is glad to run a business she loves and still have the opportunity to raise her kids from home.

“That’s why [working from home] is great,” says Megan Filipi, who makes personalized albums for her business, Quote Ya! “It’s flexible and convenient. I can work when I need to and still pick the kids up from school or go to their activities.”

Filipi worked as an RN for a while before deciding to stay home with her kids, Aidan, Lucy, Jack, and Maeve. “I couldn’t imagine caring for someone else as an RN while someone else was caring for my child. So after the first two kids, my husband, Aaron, and I chose the stay-at-home plan.”

Megan Filipi, owner of Quote Ya!

Megan Filipi, owner of Quote Ya!

Quote Ya! actually came about after Filipi received requests for personalized mementos. “We did our own personalized guest cards at our wedding, and it was such a hit. Guests loved writing to us, and we loved reading their sentiments. It is so much more personal than a guestbook filled with signatures. And then we kept hearing from people about those cards, so we created a business based on that experience.”

The albums Filipi makes are for (but aren’t limited to) weddings, funerals, showers, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, new babies, and retirements. “Customers purchase albums, which come with cards specific to the occasion. Then, guests can write quotes, thoughts, feelings, or draw pictures on the cards so the moment is captured forever.”

The best part for Filipi is that her business allows her to be creative and relaxed. “I’m able to laugh, have fun, [and] spend time talking and reminiscing about favorite quotes and experiences with my customers. No one is watching over my shoulder, telling me what to do…[I’m] on my time.”

Filipi had personalized guest cards at her own wedding, which gave her the business idea.

Filipi had personalized cards at her own wedding, which gave her the idea.

Both Filipi and Julie Sudbeck, owner of vintage store Hunt and Found, have it easier than most stay-at-home moms turned business owners because they have online stores that reach more customers across the globe.

“The benefit of having the online shop is I may not be working, but the shop is always open, and shoppers are always shopping it,” says Sudbeck, who has been a stay-at-home mom for 21 years now.

“It was my decision to give up my career to stay at home with my kids,” she says. “We were fortunate that we could afford it financially.” Sudbeck and husband Chad have four children: Madison, Alexa, Sydney, and Blake.

Julie Sudbeck, owner of Hunt and Found.

Julie Sudbeck, owner of Hunt and Found.

Sudbeck describes the beginning of her business as more of a journey into her passion for decorating rather than a “Hey, let’s start a business!” kind of thing. “I always had my nose in decorating magazines, trying to see what was new in the decorating world…I would often admire the fantastic, old, vintage, one-of-a-kind furniture or décor, wondering where in the world they are getting these items.”

She got her answer one weekend while at her lake house in Okoboji. The weather was cold, so she decided to venture to her first flea market. “There I stood in a vastness of old suitcases, wood crates, chipping painted furniture, rusty metal—exactly what the magazines had in their designer rooms.”

Besides her love of decorating, one of the main reasons why Sudbeck started her business was because her mom had just passed away from a brain tumor. “I was facing an enormous void in my life, and I knew a distraction was needed.” A month after her mom’s passing, Sudbeck sat down and created her shop on Etsy, as she had collected a rather large inventory of vintage items.

Sudbeck's most avid vintage customers are from Australia.

Sudbeck’s most avid vintage customers are from Australia.

Hunt and Found has done well, too. “I sell to decorators, wedding planners, restaurants, wineries, magazines, photographers, movie sets, productions companies…I can offer vintage at what is considered high-priced for the Midwest at an affordable price to someone living in New York City.” Sudbeck says her most avid customers are from Australia. “They love American vintage!”

Mostly, she loves working from home because she can work as little as a couple hours a week to as many as 40. “Thanks to technology and my iPhone, I can answer e-mails or quote shipping while sitting at my son’s orthodontist appointment…daughter’s tennis lessons…while the kids are swimming…I really like the option of running a home business.”

Feeling Young on the Run

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Tori Young, 40, was on the drill team in high school. She never considered herself an athlete, and she spent most of her time eating whatever she wanted. But, as it always does, metabolism caught up with her. “I heard from my friends that things get more challenging when you hit 40,” she says. “They weren’t kidding!”

Although she doesn’t feel older, Young realized her body required more attention than it did back in her carefree high school days. She tried lots of things to get back on track—Jazzercise, tracking meals on the MyFitnessPal app, Kosama, running on the treadmill, P90X, yoga, dancing videos, Kettlebell workouts—but she always found it hard to stick to those programs.

She admits most of the problem was her hectic lifestyle. “I started each week with the best intentions…but like everyone, when we’re busy and on-the-go, it’s easy to make poor choices.”

As a technical recruiting lead with Client Resources, Inc., she’s constantly running around town and treating candidates and consultants to lunch, which makes eating well difficult. And then, of course, she didn’t want to cut into her family time with husband Chad, a teacher and football coach at Millard West High School, and their four kids—Elli, 12, Beau, 9, Leah, 6, and Reid, 2. “Having four kids is absolutely crazy, but it keeps us on our toes,” she adds.20130420_bs_8210 Medium Copy

But an opportunity appeared a few years ago when Young’s oldest daughter, Elli, told her about a school program for third through fifth graders called Girls on the Run. “It’s so cool,” Young says. “It’s all about girl power, being a good friend, and being encouraging and supportive of others while training to run a 5K.” She adds that the girls often included their moms in this program.

Elli, who was in third grade then, didn’t want to do it. “She said, ‘That would be like having gym class even more often!’” Young laughs, explaining that it was probably for the best anyway because she was pregnant with her youngest son, Reid, at the time and wouldn’t have been able to run.

“We did feel like we missed out though, so we signed up the next year. I printed off a Couch to 5K training program online and was able to get to the point where I could run four miles without stopping.”

During Elli’s fourth grade year, they both ran the program’s 5K. “I had to walk twice during that run since it was mapped out on their grade school playground, and it was 30-some laps around the blacktop, down a hill, around the playground equipment, and back up the hill,” Young says. “The hills kicked my butt!”

Although Young stopped running regularly after that 5K, she ran again with Elli in the fifth graders’ 5K. Later, they signed up for a Siena-Francis benefit run. “It was nice to do something that we could do together that was good for us but also benefited [Siena-Francis House],” says Elli, who’s now in middle school.

“I know I have to be aware of how I talk about my own body and my feelings about how I look. We’ve had conversations about not focusing on how many pounds we weigh and comparing that to others, but instead on how we’re treating our bodies and what we’re putting in them.” – Tori Young

Since then, Young and Elli have been participating in all the runs they can. They even participated in Papillion’s Half Marathon events this May; Young ran the 10K while Elli ran the 5K. Both agree that they really want to run The Color Run and Color Me Rad 5Ks, which they look forward to trying in the future.

Young finds running with her daughter to be an inspiring way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. “I love when we practice and go to Zorinsky [Lake] together…We set some goals, like being able to run farther, and it’s fun to meet one and then set the next one.”

But it’s not just all about the run; it’s also about the time she gets to spend with Elli that keeps her going. “With four kids, I wish I could give them each more one-on-one time, so I really love just talking with her [during our runs].”

“We get to have an uninterrupted conversation and talk about my school, her work, our friends, and random stories,” Elli adds. “We also talk about our goals for the future, like other runs we’d like to do [and] ways to eat healthier.”

“I dislike the body issues that come for most females,” Young says. “I know I have to be aware of how I talk about my own body and my feelings about how I look. We’ve had conversations about not focusing on how many pounds we weigh and comparing that to others, but instead on how we’re treating our bodies and what we’re putting in them.”20130420_bs_8226 Medium Copy

Seeing Elli improve makes Young think they’re headed in the right direction, too. “She was born with a cyst in her lung, which resulted in a 12-day stay in the NICU and a surgery for her right after birth…they removed the top lobe of her right lung. Her scars are faint, her lung regenerated, and the only real lasting effect is some asthma.” Young adds that Elli has gone from feeling like she “can’t do it” and using asthma as an out to pushing herself harder.

Young believes it’s important for parents and their kids to be physically active together. “It’s so easy to get caught up in television…We have so many devices that capture our attention, and it’s hard to break away from e-mail, Facebook, and Instagram…Making time to be physically active together provides the opportunity for quality time and setting goals that we can work toward together.”

Because Young and Elli have been running so much in the last few years, it’s really started to rub off on the other family members. “My husband has been running more lately, and even recently admitted that he pushed himself faster on the treadmill than [me] because he didn’t like the thought of me outrunning him!”

Most importantly, Young feels healthy and happy right now. All she cares about is feeling good about herself, being a positive body image role model for her daughters, and having the energy to keep up with her job and her kids.