Hey there! It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. Life has been busy. What else is new? I find myself running none stop, which those of you that know me... that’s pretty normal. I’ve also found myself taking time to figure this thing out called Life. I haven’t figured it out yet... 🤷♀️
In all reality I’ve been figuring out who I am and what my five year and ten year plan is. Yep, real exciting adulting over here. However it’s needed. I had a five and 10 year plan, than one day that planned completely changed. After I lost Kyle I found myself floundering for a while. I tried to keep myself as busy as possible so I didn’t have to face reality. I was getting maybe 4-6 hours of sleep a night mostly because my brain wouldn’t shut off, I was eating like crap, partying and basically losing site of who I was. I was like a giant tornado spinning my way out of control. I was lost. Confused. Scared. Mad. Sad. About every emotion I could list I was. I didn’t want help, I didn’t want sympathy I just needed to work through and learn to accept that I was a grieving widow. It takes time and there is no book that tells you what and how to survive everyday. I rolled with the punches - some days were better than others!
One day at work I was asked a question that broke me. What’s your five year plan? What’s your ten year plan? I stared at them blankly. I had all that figured out and now I had no clue. I had started a nonprofit that was flourishing, worked part time at the local bar and full time at a Granite Company. Then you add in keeping up the house. Laundry. It was a lot. Especially while dealing with the rollercoaster of emotions. That was my plan at the time, just get through this first year of “widowhood”. When I was asked that question, it’s like someone hit me in the forehead... I used to be such a planner. I could do spontaneous things but I liked to have a plan. That has changed. I’ve learned quickly that plans change in a blink of an eye. And that’s okay. It’s part of life. However I had to tell myself that not knowing my 5 and 10 year plan that day was ok. My thinking had changed, I’ve become much more spontaneous. I’m not worried about being done with having kids at the age of 30. Or paying off my mortgage by 40. Or hitting all 50 states before (ok... I totally lied on that one, I will do that 😀). Instead I’ve learned to just enjoy what each day brings. Embrace the journey and know that plans change. Don’t plan your life out and be okay with curveballs that are thrown your way. Instead of planning, focus on short term goals that help you achieve the dreams you’ve longed for. A dream without a plan is just a wish... something I take to heart.
In 2018, I vowed to focus on myself. I had just lost my best friend of 12 years, 4 of which he was sick and in pain. Moving on and I’m not talking relationship wise, that’s a whole new post, moving on is confusing. Just when you think you can do it, something triggers within you that day and you lose it. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have all my shit together. Some days are better than others. I’m pretty good at hiding my feelings. In fact when people ask how I’m doing, I say I’m living because that’s what I’m doing. I’ve spent the last year doing things I’ve longed to do.. mostly traveling but also spending time with family and friends. Something as simple as family dinners with your best friends and their kids every Sunday. Shopping and pedicures with my mom catching up on each others chaotic lives. However my favorite has to be traveling. It gives me a sense of peace. It’s refreshing, revitalizing and has turned me into a more spontaneous person. I’ve been around this year... it started with a spontaneous trip to Europe with one of my best friends. While I was there I was asked to go to Hawaii with my second fam over Christmas (mine and Kyles favorite vacation destination), so I booked a ticket while in Europe. Before Hawaii I went to Boston and Texas for work... literally lived out of a suitcase for a solid month. In January, I was in NYC and Philly in February for work (week after the Super Bowl - what a mess). March was a random weekend trip with friends to LA. (Have I mentioned how nice it is to have Skymiles - 3 free flights this year). April I stayed home, it was nice. 😀 May was a weekend trip to Kentucky to watch the Foley Archery team. June I was in DC, MD, DE and VA in a matter of 4 days for work and July brings a bucket list check, Alaska. It’s bittersweet because this was Kyle and I’s next vacation. I got to pick the honeymoon spot of Hawaii but he wanted nothing more than to visit Alaska! So I’m currently on way with 20 others to enjoy all Alaska has to offer! Although he’s not with me, he really is. He was always the one telling me to go, do it... what are you waiting for? So that’s what I’ve been up to... I’m doing the things I’ve wanted to do forever because who knows what tomorrow brings. I’m seeing all the US has to offer. I will hit all 50 states before I’m 50. I think iI am at 38... so I’m well ahead of the game.
So to update where I’m at... I’m Alive. I’m Blessed. And Grateful. Thank you to all my friends and family that have helped me get through and survive my first year as a widow. A title that no one should bear but something that many face. I posted something similar the other day but I want to remind each of you reading this. Don’t wait...
✨ Life is to short to wait to do the things you’ve longed to do. Tomorrow is never promised.
👉 Buy the shoes.
👉 Eat the cake. (Within reason 😀)
👉 Take the trip.
Because why not live the life you want to live? 💋✌️
Wishing you all a blessed day! ❤️
~ Kayla Strand
My name is Sue Strand. I’m not unique or more special than anyone else but I wear many hats. I’m a child of God, a daughter, a wife, a grandmother, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a lover of animals, music and dance. I’m an overcomer not a quitter, an encourager and a grieving mom whom lost her beloved son Kyle, the original INDY warrior. I’m also a breast cancer survivor.
When Kayla asked me if I would be willing to share my cancer story, I was hesitant. I needed to do some praying about the idea of sharing something that I don’t often talk about. My prayers left three things on my heart: I could feel Kyle making it very clear that I was to do this, so in honor of his memory I said yes. Secondly to give thanks to my lord and savior for without his grace and mercy, allowing me to live, I wouldn’t have a story. Lastly there may be someone who will find my words as hope and encouragement for their future.
In November of 2013 I discovered a lump in my right breast. I didn’t think much of it, certainly not cancer. At the time Kyle had already had surgery and had been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Soon to begin treatment. Honestly I was more concerned about Kyle, who was very ill, not myself. So I continued to pray that the lump would go away. Clearly it did not. I scheduled a mammogram which led to an ultra sound, a biopsy and on February 15th, 2014 I received the diagnosis stage 2 Invasive Ductal Adenocarcinoma. I had two dime size tumors. The diagnosis came one week before Kyle and Kayla were to be married. Again no time to be sick, this was a time for rejoicing, my son was about to marry the woman he loved. My heart was very happy for him, he worked on recovery very hard to be able to see his bride walk down the aisle.
This is where the journey becomes my own. Original to me, a decision to do it my way, which isn’t for everyone. Each person that faces a life changing disease has to do what’s best for them. I wanted to target my cancer cells the natural way. I began to research and studied cancer fighting foods, herbs, supplements, homeopathic remedies and essential oils. I met with a natural healing doctor and put a plan together and immediately put my plant into action. I underwent surgery and removed my right breast and opted not to do chemotherapy or radiation treatment. It wasn’t for me. I’m in no way stating that I’m an expert or that my way of doing things should be your way but I do encourage you to become your own advocate. Start researching foods, what’s good and what’s not good. Are we eating foods that repair and renew? Are we giving it supplements to help our immune system combat illness? Educate yourself so you know what works to keep you and your family healthy.
Fast Forward 4.5 years
I’m here. I’m alive and well. I woke up this morning so I believe God isn’t done with me yet. I’ve often asked God why Kyle and not me. And I know I will never know the answer. Each day I have to make the decision to be happy and live, I owe it to Kyle and all the others who didn’t have the privilege of waking up this morning. I continue to eat as well as I can, taking my supplements and exercising. But most of all I continue to be thankful for the many blessings in my life. The countless prayers and acts of kindness. The unconditional love shown to me by my husband, children, grandkids, in-laws, nieces, nephews, friends and acquaintances. My journey is not over yet so I’m working on being more present in the moment, deciding what matters most, enlarging my soul to love more deeply and to be a more kind person for those around me. Cancer has definitely changed me physically, emotionally and spiritually. However the biggest challenge that cancer caused occurred when a piece of my heart went to heaven when Kyle left this earth. It’s very difficult to share everything I’ve experienced, to put it in a short form. I hope I’ve left you with something to think about. ❤️
My prayer for each of you is to be patient with yourself or others that may be going through a life changing event. Be thankful for your life even if you face many difficulties and challenges. Love like its your last chance and remember to believe there is a heavenly place that awaits us, where there’s no pain, suffering or heartache, just happiness.
Much love and God Bless ~
There is something about driving the same road, same car, going to the same bars, same stores and even hanging out with the same people. It’s not a bad thing... simply it’s what we are comfortable doing. We are familiar with these faces and places. But what if we got outside of our comfort zone? What if we hung out with complete strangers? What if we rode a bike to work? Went to a new bar or new store? Are some of you already getting uneasy?
I work at a local restaurant sometimes and I laugh because I don’t know what it is about Sunday’s but regardless of the sign up front that says please wait to be seated, everyone rushes in to their “normal” table and orders the same thing they had last week. When a new waitress comes to their table and doesn’t know their order, they get pissy... it’s comical, really but I don’t want to be like that. Now don’t take that the wrong way, I’m not making fun or saying it’s bad, I just think we live in a world where we get too comfortable and familiar with things. When our cheese gets moved, it can make or break the day. I’m guilty... My Starbucks order - Grande White Chocolate mocha - non fat, no whip. (A way to my heart btw... 😂) I Tried to be healthy and order almond milk the other day... Gross. I’ll stick to what I like and know. 😜
You never change your life until you step outside your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone. What if you dared to be different? Have you ever thought about where you see yourself in 5 years or 10 years? Have you ever looked back and thought - holy shit didn’t see that coming or didn’t picture myself here? So if change happens at the end of your comfort zone... how do you overcome the fear and take the leap?
Haha... idk? Your asking a person who is wondering the same thing? Do I have some monumental advice? Not really, but I have some ideas...
Change is a good thing. We should all be working and changing ourselves daily. And even if you are not working on yourself we unintentionally change throughout life. We are not the same people we were when we were 18. Embrace the change. Step outside your comfort zone. And put fear aside.
I’m gonna leave you with this powerful question because I stumbled upon it the other day and it got me thinking about change, comfort zone, fear, familiarity...If God called you out of your success to do something sacrificial... would you go?
Much love - Kayla ❤️
Happy Monday y’all! Today I am mid flight off to NYC for work. We are doing some additional work on the World Trade Center Memorial for people who have passed from cancer and the different illnesses caused by the 9/11 attacks. This will be my second time at the memorial - it’s always so moving and emotional. I’m pretty excited because tomorrow the director of the memorial will be giving us a private tour of places underground that the general public does not get to see. I see a blog post in my future... Anyways, the reason I’m writing today is there is something that has been heavy on my heart and mind that I thought I should share will all of you.
This past week and a half was tough. My first valentines, birthday and wedding anniversary alone, all within one week. After surviving Christmas and Kyle’s birthday I thought I would be good. And most days I am. Then it’s that one memory or moment that hits you and takes you out at the knees. Valentine’s Day to me is over rated (no offense)- so that day was no big deal. My birthday was amazing because of all the friends and family I have. Then came the wedding anniversary, which would of been number 4 but instead was number 1 without him. It hit me... the one person I wanted to celebrate the day with, wasn’t there. It was rough. I didn’t want to get out of bed. For some reason I was wide awake at 4:30 am in anticipation of the day. First thing I did was watched our wedding video - just to hear his voice was absolutely priceless. To see the love he had for me was a reminder of how lucky I am and was when he was around.
I headed to the gym and worked out with my favorite workout buddies. Got myself ready and off I was to work. I listened to our wedding song on repeat - sort of cliche now “I won’t give up” by Jason Mraz. It brought continuous tears to my eyes. I got to work and I couldn’t find the strength to go in, I sat in my car for a good 10 minutes until someone pulled in next to me. In my head I could hear Kyle saying - “Quit that crying”. I get to my desk and there are (4) roses with a card that says “Happy Anniversary Momma Bear” thanks to one of my thoughtful friends, Cari. The tears flowed, and I’m pretty sure the guys I sit next to had no idea what to say or do... I’m usually the jokester, loud mouth at work (surprise, surprise) but today was different.
The messages and love continued all day - which was amazing and overwhelming at the same time. Roses at noon - 5 of them (not sure what that symbolizes) lol... it made for a good laugh after I found out who the sender was, I won’t mention any names, Mom. 😜 That night I had dinner with a friend and 4 dozen roses waiting at home from another friend. I’m completely spoiled to say the least...
All of that was absolutely wonderful but there was something that stood out and stayed with me all day. I got this message with a picture...
“Kayla I didn't know what to say this morning after I read your post. I was looking at pictures and came across ones from Rollies when we were there at the same time and then I saw this post last night and thought that it was very fitting for you and Kyle. I hope you have an amazing day remembering all of the happy memories from the day. Hugs too you! Your an amazing woman❤ Happy Anniversary”
I found myself sitting at my desk, sobbing with goosebumps. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, how can you not see this as a sign from above? For Shanna to find this photo and share it with me was a complete gift and day maker for me. I was in absolute aw when I got this and had to share with others who would understand the power of this picture and message... Just when I was starting to question if I was on the right path and doing the right thing I was reassured by someone! 😇
This gets me back to my first point - if it’s on your heart and on your mind act on it. Shanna could of totally ran across this and thought hey that’s cool but not pass it along to me. However I was on her heart and mind obviously for a reason. I believe this happens everyday - multiple times a day to all of us. Some of the best text messages are “Hey, you were on my mind this morning. Hope all is well.” For me, typically those messages were on days where I needed a little extra love. Could it be a coincidence? Sure, call it what you want... but seriously act on it. We can all use a little extra love in our life at times. I had a similar situation where someone who knew Kyle had a very vivid dream where Kyle wanted to tell me he was okay. That message came the day after, I was saying a prayer wondering if he was okay and wondering what he does up there all day... coincidence? I don’t think so...
“Your heart determines your direction and your direction determines your destiny.”
I’ve learned that by opening up and sharing my passions, it has opened doors that I could of never imagined. Its welcomed new friendships. Its strengthened old friendships and helped me to appreciate the little things. My hope for all of you is that you can open your hearts and minds to the daily signs in your life. Be mindful. Be present. Open your heart and mind. Share it with the world.
Have a good week!
XOXO - 😘
Kayla Strand ❤️
#INDYMN #INDYtribe #ImNotDoneYetMN #INDYfoundation
Happy Sunday! I’m currently in air somewhere above Chicago, I’m guessing on my way to Philly for work. (Yes wish me luck as I enter the city of “brotherly love”). You will be happy to know I’m representing MN with my Diggs Jersey... hopefully I don’t get shot! 😜 JK.
I wanted to reflect on the last month of INDY happenings and I’ve been meaning to do it for a while but didn’t always have the words until yesterday... I’m completely humbled, grateful and blessed for all that has occurred during this last month. I apologize now for the long post but to say my heart is full would be an understatement and here’s why....
In January we kicked off INDY Foundation warrior selections. For those of you that are new to us, our mission is to spread love and faith by providing financial support to cancer warriors and their families verse the battle at hand. So what does that really mean? Anybody can be nominated to be a “warrior” - only requirement is that they must currently be battling the “c” word. Any age. Any type of cancer it doesn’t matter, we support all. The INDY selection committee reviews the nominations each quarter and picks an INDY warrior for each month. At our first meeting we decided that it would be fun to select two warriors as a kick off to our mission. Joe Scheffler and Melissa DeYaeger were our first selections. As a Foundation we give a monetary gift (which comes from donations and a portion of profits from our clothing sales), INDY shirts and on going support as we welcome the warriors into our INDY tribe. We also are trying to video each warrior, if they are up for it, if not we let them write their story as a way for them to share their journey with the world.
Our first warrior Joe, unfortunately we weren’t able to video our meeting but myself and another board member Cari had the opportunity to share an afternoon with him and his wife Shannon. What an awesome opportunity to meet and share our journeys. Joe and Shannon happen to be around the same age as me, which is something I wish I would of had when going through our journey. Not that I want young people to endure cancer but being able to relate with people your age is so helpful. Joe is battling brain cancer. Him and his wife Shannon have two kids - Shannon continues to work full time and also juggles bringing Joe to all of his appointments. Being a caregiver is a full time job in itself. It’s emotionally and physically exhausting and I can relate when I say Shannon deserves all the credit in the world. It’s not easy and I couldn’t imagine throwing kids in the mix. However, this young family has such a positive outlook on a crappy situation. Joe, (who I nicknamed “the jokester”) because in our two hour meeting he always had me laughing. From him telling me that he eats nearly a bag of apples a day (no joke) to him saying don’t judge me as he pulls out his own “sugar free” coffee creamer at Caribou. 😂 I loved his fun spirit and openness . As our conversation went on, he said something that really resonated with me, “I believe the things that heal us are here on this earth.” In fact I got goosebumps when he said it because Kyle has said those exact same words before. Regardless of your beliefs or feelings towards that statement my point is moments like that are a simple reminder of why I started the INDY Foundation, to carry on Kyle’s legacy and help others through this terrible disease. We all know someone with cancer, in fact I bet every single one of us could name 5 people. It sucks. Reality is, it’s the world we live in. So how can we make a difference and help those people going through such a terrible thing? Cancer research is amazing and needed but the reality is the people battling need our immediate help and support. Together we can all make a difference in the lives of those battling cancer. Thank you Joe and Shannon for inviting us into your lives - we will continue to keep you in our prayers and provide support anyway we can. You are now a member of the INDY tribe! ❤️
Our second warrior and first video was with Melissa, her husband Royce and kids. I really didn’t know what to expect going into it. I was nervous and excited all at the same time. When I walked through the front door at the DeYaeger House, I felt a huge sense of relief (probably my angel from above). This was my first time meeting Melissa but it felt like I had known her for a long time. We laughed, we cried, we shared similarities in our journey. We learned what a small world it was - like finding out Mel and Royce lived 1 block from where my parents built their new house in Breezy Point. It was such a humbling night. And then the video camera turned on and Mel was simply amazing. I can’t describe the energy, the confidence and heartfelt message she left for the world. What was a very emotional video was also a gift. As many of you reading this know, Melissa died less than two weeks after we video taped. Ultimately that night I believe she knew the reality of her battle but she wasn’t done yet in many ways. She had a few things to accomplish and she wanted to leave this world her way and on her terms, much like Kyle did.
I remember the car ride home that night, I turned to the videographer Kyle and said “do you realize the gift you just gave that family? She left that message for her friends and family.” As I drove home I just reflected and felt so grateful and fulfilled that I I as able to meet Melissa. Little did I know it would be the first and last time I met her.
I got a text the Friday morning after she had died. My heart was broke. As I drove to work I wondered why. I felt like I was reliving my own “nightmare” all over again. I went into work in tears but was soon greeted at the front doors by someone who knew I needed a hug that morning. At times I wonder if I am doing the right thing... I mean do I really think I can start and maintain a non-profit? Can I handle reliving and reminiscing my own cancer journey time and time again? The answer is yes. I’m a determined 28 year old widow who wants to give back what was given to me on behalf of my best friend and husband, Kyle. It’s his legacy, his spirit and his words - I’m Not Done Yet.
In the first month of launching INDY, we had to not only figure out the best way to show case each journey but also honor the lives of one our fallen warriors. I wasn’t prepared for that... I’ve attended a few wakes and funerals since Kyle’s but really none in relation to cancer. How do you prepare yourself for this? You don’t. You just take it “one day at a time.” (Right Royce?) Side note: Melissa left Royce a little sign... she had emptied out her chemo bag prior to them going to Florida. After she had passed Royce was going through her bag and at the bottom was a coin that Melissa carried with her that had the saying - “one day at a time” on it. And really it’s something I think we all need to tell ourselves daily because we do live in a fast paced world and it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to be a part of Melissa’s benefit. Mel absolutely loved INDY and what it stood for, so she had asked that we come and sell our merchandise at her benefit. If you’ve never been a part of a benefit for someone - they are so amazing. Seeing a community of people come together for a few hours, socializing and spending money that they know is supporting a family is simply amazing. It brought back memories from Kyle’s benefit that put a smile on my face. It’s just so heart warming.
On behalf of the INDY Foundation I can’t thank everyone enough for the overwhelming love and support we received. It is absolutely heart warming and humbling. I can’t thank you all enough. When I start to question if I’m doing the right thing, it’s all of you that remind me together we can make a difference in the lives of those battling cancer. Yesterday I was able to meet many of you who have seen and heard what we are doing. Thank you for the support. It means the world. And to all the nurses that worked along side of Mel and also had the pleasure of taking care of Kyle - it takes a special person to do what you do. ❤️ Please keep the DeYaeger and Koepp families in your prayers. What a week of emotions they have endured as they buried their loved one early in the week and honored her at the latter part of the week.
Going into this I didn’t really know what to expect but I knew I had a passion and a dream to chase, not to mention the promise to Kyle. He knew about INDY and was excited to watch it grow in fact in his final days he told me, “And get your butt working on INDY or I will haunt you.” (He had a bit of a sense of humor). So when people ask me if this is hard to relive as I meet the new warriors, the answer is yes and no. Yes it will always bring back raw moments but reality is it allows me to channel my energy into helping others through it. I made two promises to Kyle, one that he will never be forgotten and two that I will work on INDY every single day. I’m on a mission to make him proud!
Yesterday I could feel the presence of Kyle and even though he’s not around he always manages to find a funny way to remind me that he is truly around. As we were packing up, I realized the song playing across the juke box, (which hadn’t been on all night) “Dixieland Delight” by Alabama - a favorite amongst him and his friends. Truly a sign from above that brought me to tears.
Again I can’t thank you all enough for the love and support you have shown towards INDY. It’s only the beginning of something greater. Thank you to the DeYaeger and Scheffler families for welcoming us in with open arms. You are and always will be a part of the INDY tribe. I know Melissa and Kyle are up there smiling as we carry their legacies on. ❤️
If you know someone battling cancer - nominate them on our website here https://www.im-not-done-yet.com/nominate-a-warrior.html
You can also donate or purchase gear on our website. We do have our first fundraiser coming up on March 21st - private screening of “I Can Only Imagine” we would love to have you join us. Ticket info is on our Facebook (I’m Not Done Yet) or the home page of the website.
Together we can make a difference in the lives of those battling cancer.
Xoxo - Kayla Strand
This past month has been crazy. Busy. Challenging. Chaotic. Rewarding. Emotional. Humbling and let's just say one hell of a start to 2018. I challenged myself to being more focused in 2018 and let's just say it is a work in progress. When I started on this wild ride of INDY 5 months ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I've never ran a business. I knew what a non-profit was but didn't have the slightest clue as to how to start or create a foundation. I had a dream and a vision with a little bit of passion backing me. We all have this within us. The difference is, I finally got the courage to act upon what I have always dreamed about. If I have learned anything in the past six months it is that life is short. We all know this. We all tell people this but do we live it? When I say live it, do we truly live like tomorrow may never come? This was me, six short months ago. Even having lived for four years through a major illness which impacted mine and Kyle's life on a daily basis, I didn't live for today. After Kyle died and I realized that I was basically starting my life over - I had two paths that I could take. Path 1 - let it propel me to bigger and better things than I had ever imagined or Path 2 - Dwell on the past. Sulk and let it consume my life. I think you all know the path I chose. Here's the deal, bad things happen to good people daily. Good things happen to bad people daily. It's life. Its not fair and sometimes we don't exactly comprehend but have you ever thought that maybe there is a greater purpose to the pain and heartache you are being put through?
We all face storms. Having the strength and faith to weather the storm is not easy - trust me. There were days I didn't want to follow God. I didn't want to have faith but I realized that without it, what did I have? Sometimes things around us change because God wants to change us. Sometimes people think that just because you have Faith and a belief in a higher power means you will be saved from bad things happening. This couldn't be further from the truth. Faith is about making the impossible things in our life possible. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
COINCIDENCES OR MESSAGES FROM ABOVE? I'LL LET YOU DECIDE...
I kicked off January talking about goals and choosing one word. Since my last blog post a lot of really cool things have happened. The INDY Foundation selected and met our first INDY warriors of 2018. This was absolutely amazing, humbling, and an emotional experience. Both Joe and Melissa were welcoming and more than willing to share their cancer journey with me. This is not something that is easy, especially when it is something you are living, battling and trying to wrap your head around every single day. For me sometimes the hardest part was the fact that everyone else's lives were continuing on when mine felt like it was on hold. I've said it before - there were many times when I questioned why my friends were planning for marriage and babies, while I was planning a funeral. Fair? No, not at all. Reality is we don't get to chose the paths our lives take and sometimes coming to terms with that is by far the hardest part. You can make many plans but the lord's purpose will prevail. Proverbs 19:21
Meeting the DeYaeger and Scheffler families was healing in a lot of ways. Sharing our journeys with one another, allowed both of us to talk and relate to one another. Kyle and I didn't necessarily have that support group that we could lean on. At the age of 25 and 30, we didn't have a lot of people or friends that had gone through cancer. (Thank goodness). What I realized after my meetings with Joe/Shannon and Melissa/Royce is the level of comfort and relief that you can bring to people just by sharing your experiences. I could relate to the stresses, emotions and hardships that cancer brings to these families. Ultimately I don't have control over cancer and the journey that it takes within but if I can help those going through it, that is fulfilling in its self.
I have also received some amazing messages from y'all this month. You sure know how to make a girl feel loved. :) I have to share one of the messages I received a couple of weeks ago - "This is going to sound crazy, I have not seen Kyle since high school... I prayed for him, you and the families but the other night I had the most real dream about him. He was talking to me and asking me to call you and to let you know he is okay. I was wondering if I should message you or not but decided telling you was the right thing to do." The day I received this message was two days after I was praying, talking and wondering if Kyle was okay. That day I was also battling a nasty case of pink eye. It takes a lot for me to slow down and be sick. The days that I didn't get out of bed were the days that Kyle would take care of me because he knew I really wasn't well. That message was a message from my angel above continuing to take care of me when I wasn't feeling well. So thank you to the person that sent me that message. You made my day, week and month. There have been many other very heart felt messages and honestly I am speechless. INDY's mission is to provide love, faith and financial support by directly supporting the cancer warrior and their family verse the battle at hand. Honestly this is being made possible because of all of you ~ so thank you for making a difference.
HOT OFF THE PRESS!
This past month some other really cool things have happened. INDY Foundation was awarded a free radio package from Leighton Broadcasting - thanks to all the votes we received. I had the opportunity to meet with them last week to work out the details. Having gone into the meeting with really no idea what I had won, I left feeling extremely grateful and thankful. What an amazing gift we were given. The Leighton representative that I met with mentioned how impressed they were with our mission, website and what we were doing. She also shared with me that she lost her mother to cancer - as her eyes filled with tears. Coincidence? I truly believe people are put into our lives for a reason. Stay tuned for more details but tune into 98.9 starting March 1st to hear about INDY!
We also have a really exciting fundraiser coming up in March. As some of you know, one of Kyle's favorite songs was "I Can Only Imagine". There is a movie coming out in March, highlighting the story behind the song. If you haven't seen the trailer - watch it here.
INDY Foundation will be holding a private screening on Wednesday, March 21st at Parkwood 18 in Waite Park. More details and ticket information to follow but SAVE THE DATE for an epic event.
Today marks six months. The day that changed my life forever in both good ways and in bad. I miss Kyle, more everyday but I am also constantly reminded that even though he isn't physically here, his spirit lives on. This past month he sent me a lot of little reminders and messages, it was almost as if he never missed a beat just like you promised. "You think I annoyed you before, you just wait." his exact words. Even though I miss you like crazy ~ I know you are in a much better place and are helping to guide me into a future that I never could of imagined. Kyle's not done yet, it's only the beginning!
January has been a very exciting and rewarding start to 2018. I don't want to fool you in thinking that there haven't been challenges because there sure have. Everyday is a challenge. Everyday is an opportunity. Everyday is a new day. I have chosen to focus on the things that make me happy. The people that will encourage and inspire me. And believing in myself to find out what is beyond the fear. You never know unless you try - you never grow unless you fail - you learn from failures and become STRONGER. Be bold. Be relentless. Be unapologetic in the game of life. And if you are already there - then help someone who needs your courage, inspiration and positive energy to guide them in the right direction. Because you are NOT DONE YET.
XOXO ~ Kayla Strand
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a blessed Christmas. The hustle and bustle of the holidays is over and now it's time to make the dreaded New Year's resolution... who came up with that anyway? 2017 was a rough chapter in my life, so as I prepare for what's ahead in 2018, I decided I needed to focus on what's important. What does the person that I want to be in 2018 look like?
Hopefully most of you already have your goals for 2018 written down. If your a procrastinator like me - don't worry there's still time. ;) As I sat down to write out my goals I took a look back at my 2017 goals. Mind you, last year was the first time I have ever put my goals on paper and let me tell you - I CRUSHED THEM. The saying goes - a dream without a plan is just a wish - AMEN to that because I can guarantee you that I wouldn't have achieved my dreams without writing them down. So last year I wrote down 7 goals that follow the OOLA guideline - the 7 F's to living an OO-LA-LA life. Here was what 2017 looked like for me: (photo attached in case you don't believe me ;))
Faith -Continue to live in God's word everyday. Truly live in the moment and remember to be grateful and have faith. - I may not have fulfilled this everyday but I gave it my all!
Fitness -Run my first half marathon - completed the Earth Day 1/2 Marathon in April CHECK.
Family - Spend more time with them - considering the circumstances, I did my best. I spent a lot of time at home with Kyle, which was my first priority. I spent some time at the lake with the family and had an opportunity to go visit my brother while he was studying in Europe! CHECK.
Friends - Continue to spend time with those who positively impact my life - I was apart of 2 weddings, celebrated my bestie having her first baby, backpacked Europe with my other bestie, had a few gatherings, Sunday "Family" dinners with friends and surrounded myself with those that I needed the most. CHECK.
Finance - Find my purpose which provides the finances needed so Kyle doesn't have to work - My purpose was found. Kyle was always going to retire by the age of 40 and live off of me. (His words exactly). CHECK... sort of.
Field - Truly find my passion and purpose - HELLO INDY!! CHECK.
Fun - Travel to places I've never been before - I was fortunate enough to back-pack Europe (Austria, Italy & Germany) CHECK.
See how I wrote the note, look what writing down your goals can do? You guys seriously I can't stress it enough, it's amazing what you achieve. We are all capable of so much. Get out there and conquer the world - I know you can!
The other day I had a realization that it will be six months since Kyle has passed. Where has the time gone? It seems that the last six months have absolutely flown by. What has felt like a bad dream at times, has now become harsh reality. He's not coming back. It sucks. However just as all of your lives go on, mine must as well. In 2018 it is my time to focus. Life has been a little chaotic. A little blurry. And let's be honest, I have been a bit lost. It's time to pick up the pieces and focus on myself and my new life. Just when you think you have it all - just like that in the blink of an eye it can change. Such is life, but now it's time to climb out of the fog and focus on new beginnings...
I am not going to lie, I have not taken the time to complete my 2018 goals. Have I had the time, probably but I have been a bit sidetracked. However maybe there is a reason I haven't completed my plan yet. This past Sunday I attended church and the sermon was titled One Word. #2018oneword was listed on the screen. As I listened to Pastor Tina, I had an ah-ha moment! Many of us set goals or make New Years resolutions only to give up on them by the end of January. Maybe they weren't realistic, too complicated or simply there were too many. Regardless of the reason, we lose focus, sometimes faster than we had hoped. How about selecting one word to describe your 2018 goals? Seems impossible right? Maybe your word is Love. Creativity. Trust. Peace. Faith. Simplify. The list goes on... So what is your one word? Think about it for a minute....
If your stumped try this:
1. Spend some time imagining what your want your life in 2018 to look like? What kind of person do you want to be by the end of 2018? Write out the mental picture you imagine.
2. Write down the characteristics of that person you want to become. Be descriptive. What's his/her heart like? What drives him/her? What are his/her best qualities?
3. Make a list of words that sum up that description - peace, love, joy, loyalty etc.
4. Whittle your list down to a few words that resonate most with you. Look them up in the dictionary, inspirational quotes, bible etc. if you search the bible for your "word" it's amazing the bible verses you will find. (On your phone of course)
5. Once you pick - commit to it. Apply this to all facets in your life. Use the 7 F's of OOLA (Faith, Family, Fun, Field, Fitness, Finance, Friends)
As I thought about my one word for 2018, for some reason the word focus kept coming to my mind. So for 2018, I need to learn to focus. I will use this word to apply it to my OOLA goals for 2018. How will I focus differently? What will I focus on? Who will I focus on? What will be my top priorities that I focus on? It fits where I am at in my life and what I need to do. This past six months was a bit blurred but, let's be honest - the past four years have been but now it is my time to FOCUS on me. What gets your attention keeps your focus, what keeps your focus gets done.
If you are not a goal setter or get stressed out by New Years Resolutions - #2018oneword is for you. I selected my word on Sunday and it is amazing how I not only find myself saying my word to myself throughout the day but I have also applied it decisions or goals I have for that day. Goal setting doesn't have to be scary or complicated. We are all capable and have the ability to achieve what we believe. Focus. (See what I did there?) :) You got this. I believe in you. 2018 is YOUR year. Go out and get it tiger!! (I'm full of one liners tonight...) JK! But seriously.
A friend of mine posted this on her blog yesterday and I felt it was worth sharing. (Thanks Cari):
2016: The Caterpillar
2017: The Cocoon
2018: The Butterfly
We all have seasons. Life is a journey full of transformations. Embrace and enjoy the journey. 2018 is a year of beautiful transformation and focus! What's your one word?
WIshing you all a happy and healthy 2018!
XOXO ~ Kayla
It's the most wonderful time of the year ~ Christmas lights are shining bright, the smell of that freshly cut Christmas tree in your home, something about sitting by the fireplace watching hallmark movies, shopping for that perfect gift and perfectly placing them under the tree. A season of giving. A season of love. But this year is different...
This past week I had the opportunity to travel to Texas for work. On my way home I was observing the airport hustle and bustle. (I love to people watch). Lots of families traveling, in fact I was one seat behind a family with 2 little ones, I'm guessing under 3. The kids were crying, upset that they couldn't get out of there seats. I really felt bad for the parents - what a hassle travel can be. As frustrated as these parents were, you could see the excitement on their face that they were going home to be with family for the holidays. I've never really had to travel much further than an hour or two to spend time family for the holidays. It had me feeling grateful that my family is so close to one another. It definitely doesn't eliminate the stresses of all that goes into a holiday but it makes it much easier. There is something about sharing laughter. Sharing Food. Sharing Presents. Spending quality time with one another. Continuing on those silly traditions that Mom has made you do since you were little. It's that time of year where it's acceptable to wear fat pants, drink and watch football. :) (GO VIKES) But this year is different... It's a different kind of Christmas.
Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday. Those that know me, know that I have a slight Christmas decoration addiction. I haven't exactly kept track but last time I counted I have around 25 totes of Christmas items. (Kyle can be quoted as telling one of our friends that he couldn't even take a shit in our house because there was Christmas on the toilet. He was right.) Terrible I know but I love the feel of Christmas. I also love the smell, the feel, the family time. It's just so special. It also was Kyle's birthday - December 24th. His mom said she was the only one in the hospital that day, because who wants to spend Christmas in the hospital? Kyle would tell just about everyone he met that he was a gift from god because he was born on Christmas Eve. It was a good laugh then but now it is confirmed - he most definitely was a special gift from god. As Christmas approaches, I find myself anxious. I know that this Christmas is going to feel different, empty, lonely and maybe not as exciting as it has in the past. Can I avoid this day all together? Unfortunately not, and Kyle wouldn't have wanted that. In fact, he would be so mad because we all promised that we would continue on with our lives. While it isn't easy to do that day to day, I will not break my promise to Kyle. I know that I am not the only one who will be struggling this holiday season. Many of us have lost a loved one this year or maybe even five years ago. The emptiness doesn't go away. You can't help but wonder what Christmas in heaven is like...
There are a lot of people out there fighting hard battles, some that we know about and some that we don't. There are also people out there spending Christmas without their loved one. Others who have nowhere to go for Christmas. Regardless of the situation, be mindful, be present and share the love. One of my favorite things about this time of year is the Joy that is spread. Although Joy should be spread all through out the year, many of us feel extra generous and joyful during this season. That is my Christmas wish to all of you this year -spread the love, faith and joy with a loved one or a complete stranger. It doesn't always have to cost money - sometimes a simple Good Morning or a smile to a stranger is enough. Or maybe if you know someone that is struggling you send them a random text you are thinking of them. I know on multiple occasions - those text messages helped me through the day. It's sometimes the little things that make a big difference in someone's life. While it's a cheerful time for most, other's need to be reminded.
As we head into the next few days of hustle and bustle. Be Present. Be Grateful. Be Mindful. Spread the love and joy. And remember the reason for the season! :)
Kyle - Just because your up in heaven doesn't mean you won't be near, it's just a different kind of Christmas this year... Love and miss you my sweet angel not a day goes by that I don't think of you. Happy 35th Birthday in heaven - hope you are dancing and showing everyone how to really "get low". :)
Merry Christmas to you all near and far.
Wishing you lots of love, joy and a healthy 2018.
XOXO ~ Kayla Strand
Before Kyle died, we had a lot of tough conversations. I mean the type of conversations that you never want to have. The fact that I was having these conversations at the raw age of 28 was so unfair. Reality is, these are conversations you don't want to have no matter what age you are. Nobody wants to plan a future without the person you love but sometimes our plan isn't exactly what we imagined. Sometimes our plan takes a totally different path than we envisioned.
Kyle's last few days in the hospital before he went to hospice were hell but also very humbling. The lack of sleep, showers and food were minor compared to the love that was felt in those days. I can remember every single person that came to visit. Close family, close friends, co-workers, gym buddies, strangers, Our Pastor and even our dog Maxx. The days were long and exhausting at times. I somehow was still managing to get some work hours in - I can remember times where I would be crying and would somehow answer the phone, "This is Kayla." like nothing was wrong. People constantly ask how I did it. How I managed four years of emotional ups and downs. And I guess I really never thought it about until now. A friend had messaged me that her Dad was diagnosed with cancer and she said, "I don't know how you did it. I'm a mess." I remember those feelings. I remember feeling lost, angry, tired, mad at the world, questioning God and avoiding people in the grocery store. It's all part of the process. There are good days, bad days and everything in between. However when I really sat down and thought about how I got through, it clicked. The answer was Kyle. He gave me the strength. It's hard to explain but at times you would think that I was the one that was sick because I was a mess. I would shed tears at the doctor's office while Kyle was comforting me. When I think back at the many surgeries, appointments, ER visits and miracles that we faced, I am absolutely amazed. I am amazed that we remained hopeful. I am amazed at times that we remained married. (We had our days where neither of us could comprehend and we would take our frustrations out on each other). I am amazed that our faith remained strong - there were days, trust me. But what amazed me the most was the impact that Kyle made on my life and so many others.
In his final days at the hospital before going to hospice we had to make some really tough choices. One of which was whether or not to continue dialysis. The doctor made us aware that once you quit dialysis you typically die within a week. The kidney doctor said take some time and think about your decision I will be back tomorrow. Tomorrow came, we didn't really talk about it, the doctor came in and Kyle said why don't you come back tomorrow. This happened 3 days in a row. In true Kyle fashion it was on his terms and his time, which as okay. Finally after him turning the doctor away several times, I asked him what his thoughts were. I really hated bringing this stuff up because I felt like the elephant in the room, but I felt that it was my job. Kyle's famous words, "Kayla I don't know what to do anymore." He would tell me this often and I would typically say, it'll be okay, look to God for the answer. Then it got really hard. (Brings back a lot of tough memories). I asked, "Kyle what are you afraid of?" (Thinking he would say to die). "I'm not afraid to die. I'm afraid that if I quit dialysis people will think I am giving up." My heart sank and the tears flowed. I composed myself enough to say, "Kyle no one will EVER think that you have given up. In fact you gave it a harder fight than most will in their entire life. You are amazing and fought a battle like no other. God has a different plan." I don't know if those were the right words to say - I don't know what I would say if I was in that situation again, but that's what came to mind at the time. It must of been enough because next time the doctor came in, Kyle said I am done with dialysis and made the decision to move Quiet Oaks for his final days on this earth. A humble, kind, loving man. I am so lucky to have called him my husband.
A Real Life Hero
I think we have all written an essay at some point in our lives about our hero. Some of us may chose a celebrity, a parent, sibling, aunt, friend, teacher etc. Regardless of who they are there is a reason we call them a hero. They impacted us in a way that inspired us to never forget them. This is Kyle. I knew Kyle was special in a lot of ways (no pun intended) - but I mean that. He had the biggest heart, putting other's before himself. Kyle and I are both givers. We love to give gifts to others. For me it goes well with my shopping habits! :) For Kyle it was just natural to him. One day he came home from work and started cleaning out our pantry. I asked him what he was doing and he responded, "Don's kids need food." I replied, "Okay. Whose Don and what do you mean they need food?" He went on to explain the situation of one of his employees at work. He knew his family was struggling and I refuse to let those kids live on macaroni and cheese. My heart sank and my face grew a big smile. Not only did Kyle clean out our pantry and freezer, he went around the office and collected money for this employee as well. Kyle made Don's day. I had forgotten about Don and his struggles until he came through the line at Kyle's wake. A man stood in front of me and just sobbed and I had only seen him in person once before so I wasn't exactly sure who he was. He looked at me and said, "I will never ever forget Kyle. He changed my life for good." I cried, hugged him and thought to myself, wow. Kyle also had a way with kids. He seriously would of been the best Dad and I am not just saying that. Kids were instantly drawn and infatuated with him. Some friends of ours, have twins - Harper and Grayson. Harper was the flower girl in our wedding. Grayson or G-Man as Kyle would call him was not in the wedding but he was a part of the day. The bond that Kyle and G had is indescribable. It was like they had their own language it was the cutest thing ever. G-man came up to the hospital a few times. The first time, he wouldn't really talk or look at Kyle. He stood by the door quiet - not the normal G. When he came back for the final visit, his mom Lindsay explained that he needed to say goodbye and give Kyle the card he had made for him. So in true G-Man fashion, he showed up in his superman cape and mask. He was so proud to show Kyle, it was his special way of saying goodbye to his real life hero.
And even now that Kyle is in heaven, the impact he is making is still so strong. I have a little girl, Jada who barely knew Kyle but was drawn to him. She visited him in the hospital and took care of our dog Maxx while I wasn't at home. The impact Kyle left on her, had her spending earned report card money on "Kyle gear" (INDY Gear). Everyday she sends me snapchats of how proud she is to be wearing it. I also had a teacher reach out to me and tell me that we were a topic of her classroom. She said, they were discussing developing a mindset of Live to Give and the final lesson for the week was about Leaving a Legacy. She shared stories of how Kyle's legacy lives on and how little pieces of who he was touched everyone throughout their day because of the legacy he created. This lesson was taught to a fourth grade class, the same class of little Miss Jada who was proudly sporting her INDY gear.
Leaving a legacy.
What that teacher shared with her class really got me thinking and provoked me to share share with all of you. Kyle had told me at one point that he didn't want people to forget him. At the time I laughed, not in spite because how could anybody ever forget him? Today I'm humbled as I get to experience what he left behind. The legacy Kyle has left is incredible and just the beginning of something bigger than he ever imagined. I constantly have people sharing their memories of Kyle, which usually leave us laughing because there was never a dull moment when he was around. My point in sharing all of this is to challenge all of you reading this. I challenge you to think the of the legacy that you want to leave behind? What do you want to be known for? Did you make a difference? We all have the ability to leave a legacy that will make a difference even in just one person's life.
As the holiday's approach, hug your loved ones. Be present. Put the phone down (I'm guilty) and just enjoy one another because when that person is no longer around you will really miss those moments. I'm Not Done Yet...
XOXO - Kayla Strand
Well I am back! The small town MN, INDY Gal blogger. I have been patiently waiting for the website to be complete so I could share my passion and love with all of you. This has been a dream of mine for a while that only my late husband, Kyle knew about. What had started as a blog, turned into something more than I could ever imagine and it's only the beginning. However, it's time to start getting back into blogging - something that helped me mentally get through a tough time in my life. I wasn't really sure what my first blog post should be but the more I thought about it, I realized that it was pretty obvious. Widowhood - yes, I googled it and it is a word.
Life has changed drastically in the last two months. Today marks two months since my husband Kyle has passed and two months, since I became a widow. At the age of 28, I joined a club that no one really wants to be a part of, widowhood. It's something that I never dreamt for myself, but then again who does? To say that the last few months have been sunshine and rainbows, would be a lie. To say that it has been terrible, would be a lie. It really has just been days filled with a lot of uncertainty and firsts. Coming home to an empty house. Cooking dinner for one (which is totally lame). Driving home from work with no one to call and share your day with. Going to bed alone. Missing the hugs, the laughs, the tears and their physical presence. Really the things that we take for granted everyday are the exact things you miss when someone is gone.
Even though I had months to prepare myself for what we inevitably knew was coming, how do you ever really prepare yourself to say goodbye to your best friend? The answer is simple - you don't. The last two weeks of Kyle's life were filled with tears, love, anger, joy, peace and just about every other emotion you can think of. In a two week time period, over 100 people got an opportunity to say goodbye to Kyle. The days were long and an exhausting at times but as I look back they were beautiful. Having the opportunity to say goodbye or as I like to say - until I see you again, was so amazing. Even though it was emotionally exhausting, I often felt wondered what it would be like, to be a widow who didn't get the opportunity to say goodbye. In fact I know of a few people who recently became widows and didn't get to tell their significant other, "I love you" one last time. I did. I got to say I love you, everyday for 4380 days (12 years) until Kyle's very last breath here on earth and for that I am forever grateful.
Grief by definition is deep sorrow, especially by someone's death. Pretty simple. Pretty basic. Yet for some reason when you are going through it, it doesn't seem that simple. When somebody we love and know leaves us, we all process it differently, that's the beauty of it. There's no book. There's no rules. It's a process that we all must go through. There are five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In the past four years, I have experienced all of this but what was even harder was watching Kyle experience it as well. Cancer F*in sucks. (Excuse my french) The five stages of grief are exactly what you go through when you hear that you have the "c" word. But in many cases you don't just go through the stages once, you may go through it multiple times, as Kyle and I did. Every time it felt like we were making progress, there would be a setback. So, when the time came for Kyle to leave this earth, I felt as if I had already experienced most of the grief and heartache already because it had been our life for so long. However many of our close family members and friends were just experiencing the heartache for the first time as death became reality.
What I learned is that grief, looks, feels and acts differently on everyone but that's the beauty of it. We are all human. We all have our own story. And we all have our own way of dealing with the things life throws at us. That's the beauty of life. You don't know what things may look like in 10 years or where you will be in 20 years. And if you did know what your life entailed, would you live your life differently?
The picture on the left was taken a few weeks ago. The Strand family, so graciously asked me to be a part of family photos. I was hesitant at first, because I knew that it would be extremely emotional for me. Another first -- photos with the in-laws without Kyle. What you can't see in this photo is Kyle's grave to the right. It wasn't planned for this photo to be right next to his grave, it happened by chance. As we gathered as a family to take the photo with the empty chair, my eyes filled with tears. My mind was telling me that I couldn't do this. And then I could hear Kyle's voice in the back of my head - "Stop that crying." We went on with photos and I decided I wanted to take one by myself, not really sure why or what I would do with it but I needed to take the photo. I had all sorts of anxiety that day but at the end I am glad that I did it. Grief looks and feels different for everyone - embrace and own it...
The last few months have been far from perfect. I get asked a lot, "How are you doing?" and if you know me, "I say good." because honestly I don't really know how to answer that question. There are days where I wake up thinking I got this - life is good. And then there are days I wake up thinking how am I going to get myself out of bed today? It's a struggle and a day by day kind of thing. All in all I am living my life and trying to make the best of the cards I was dealt. Everything happens for a reason, we may not always understand but we have to trust. By embracing the challenges that come our way, we are answering Gods check list for our lives.