I have written a version of this a time or two and thought, I can’t post this. It will offend someone. Reality is we all have done this. No one is perfect and really this blog may be a good reminder to myself. Don’t take offense, this is just me being real.
I feel like we all have a tendacy to judge. We look at someone and instantly form an opinion or write their story in our head. Right or wrong, it’s a natural instinct. We live in a world full of people who “think” they know what someone’s life is like. Reality is more times than not, they have no idea.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. You ever heard this saying? You ever lived it? We all have struggles and curveballs to overcome throughout our lifetime. Let’s be real, our parents were constantly telling us to enjoy our childhood because it only gets harder as adults. They weren’t lying. Bills, jobs, school, debt, boyfriends who turn into husbands, kids and the list goes in. Our parents only ever wanted the best for us. However no parent can prepare you for life changing curveballs that change your life but someone else is there every step of the way. Whether you believe in a higher power or some spiritual being, we can’t say that it’s always fate, faith is a huge factor.
If you are dealt a band hand in life, whatever it may be are you suppose to stop everything, sulk, and be miserable? Sure. That’s one approach. Another is to take a look at the doors God is trying to open for you. We may not always know the reason until years later but you have to trust.
When Kyle, my late husband was going on his fourth year of a hard cancer battle we learned to take the good with the bad. We understood better why people sometimes acted out. We didn’t know what they experienced that day. Bad days happen.
Watching a loved suffer on a daily basis was my life for a while. It was one of the hardest and most frustrating positions to be on. I felt helpless. Defeated. At times sorry for myself. It’s such an emotional rollercoaster. Not only dealing and trying to keep my emotions in check but then to keep Kyle’s in check as well. You often question if you are doing the right things. Then you add in the element of everyone else’s opinion. Let’s just say living In a small town has its advantages and disadvantages. On the days you just want to run into the grocery store and not think about what’s going on at home you run into Sally, you try to “hide” but it’s near impossible. (We’ve all been there right?) Sally wants to chat about life and how things are going. How’s he feeling? What’s the doctors say etc? Then Sally wants to give her opinion. Meanwhile I just wanted to get some butter and get back home. It’s tough. Most people are sincere, some are nosey. What I learned is no matter what people will judge. Have an opinion. And talk about you whether you are doing bad or good. I’ve learned to accept that. You can’t worry about it. It’s hard at times but there are two ways to look at it. One it’s their problem, don’t let it consume you. Two, surround yourself with positive, loving people who want to see you succeed. Sometimes you have to let go of friends, family or acquaintances. Doesn’t mean it is permanent, it’s just what is best for your life at the time.
Nobody is perfect but imagine if we all loved before we judged. What if we all had warning signs on our forehead that said got in a car accident this morning, lost a loved one or kids were being shits? Would we act different?
It’s the season of giving.
Xoxo 💋 Kayla
Meet board member, Candi Janssen. She is a leader, entrepreneur and visionary. Candi always believes that anything is possible, it just takes hard work!
Candi grew up in Foley Minnesota and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. After college she moved to St. Cloud and met her husband, Jason. Just a few months after getting married, Candi and Jason purchased a business in Ronneby (Goodfella’s Bar and Grill, Inc.) which they owned and operated for eleven years. This is where Candi first met Kayla. Kayla’s younger brother worked for the Janssen family and when they needed a strong bartender/shift leader, Kayla joined the team. Over the years, Candi and Kayla have worked together on multiple projects, traveled, shopped, celebrated life’s best and hardest milestones. Their relationship has evolved over the years from employer, co-worker, mentor, and best of all she gets to call Kayla her friend.
Candi and Jason have one son, Vince, who is eleven years old. Vince keeps his parents busy with building cars, furniture and anything else he can create. The family has a puppy named Cooper and a cat named Jerry Seinfeld. Together they enjoy hiking, fishing, camping, movies and traveling. The best family vacation they have been on was to Arizona last year where they enjoyed hiking, swimming and of course the Grand Canyon. On a personal level, Candi enjoys cooking, shopping and working out. She will be competing in her first full in-line marathon in September, followed by running a few races at Walt Disney World in February.
Candi likes to give back to her community through volunteerism. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors for The Indy Foundation, Candi has been active within her community. Candi’s prior community engagement includes: Foley Area Community Foundation Board (2014-2018), Falcon Archery Fundraising Committee (2016-2017), Three Rivers Foundation (2013), DECA (2011-2014), Great River Family Promise 2013-2014, and St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce (2008-2010).
Candi is currently working to develop the corporate donor program for the INDY foundation. She is eager to launch the program this fall.
1.What is your professional background?
Candi has worked in sales, marketing, project and people management in higher education, banking and health care. She worked for Globe Education Network for over ten years, during this time she earned her Master’s in Managerial Leadership. Following her tenure in higher education, Candi transitioned to working in for Capital One and now she’s rocking the health care field.
I am hopeful my greatest is yet to come but so far, I would say it would be motherhood. I never realized being a mom could be such an adventure but it has so many great twists and experiences.
3.One word that describes your purpose for how you live life?
Impact! I want people to look back on their connection with me and say, “she made an impact on my life, our community or business.”
4.What is your superpower?
I am a collaborator who is good at seeing the big picture, solving problems, and creating standard operating procedure.
5.Where is the best place you have traveled?
Greece!! Hands down the most amazing place I have been. I love the food, the culture, the history and the typography.
6.One item on your bucket list:
To meet Jack Welch, the man is the most inspiring business leaders of our time. I am a crazy fan and he once retweeted me
7.What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
I can rap! LOL, I swear my husband fell in love with me when saw me throwing down some Eminem and Jay-Z 😊
8.What is your favorite thing to do with your family?
I love to walk our dog, we have some great chats walking through the woods.
9.What is your favorite thing to do for yourself?
Workout, no matter if it’s a great day or bad a day there is NOTHING better than getting in the gym and pushing yourself. I love to do it first thing in the morning and when I don’t…I am usually not my best self.
10.If you had an unlimited checkbook for one day, what would you buy?
First, I’d write a big check to INDY for our warriors, then I would buy myself a convertible, a seasonal at a resort, my husband a new boat and book a heck of a family vacation!
11.Tell us about someone you admire?
So many, I don’t think that I could pick just one.
A friend of mine sent this image to me and it made me stop and think. This couldn’t be truer for my life. Keeping it raw and real to the past few years…
2016 Changed Me.
In 2016, there were a lot of hospital stays, both at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and St. Cloud. For a period of my life the Mayo was my second home. It’s a beautiful city by the way! Has cute shops and restaurants down town. The most amazing Scheel’s! However the restaurants close at 10… seriously one night all I wanted was something quick and everything was closed. LOL. I spent almost every morning/afternoon at Starbucks or Caribou. I needed to get out of those 4 little walls… man one can go crazy. Can’t imagine how Kyle felt having to lay in the same bed for weeks at a time. Spending that much time together – (just the two of us most the time) you have a lot of conversations. Both good and bad. Conversations about the past, the future and current battles. I wish I could remember some of them, but a lot of it seems like a blur. However it really made our love for one another grow. I never realized how many days we spent in the hospital because it was just our life, my calculations tell me we spent more than a third of the year in a hospital in 2016, from Mexico to Rochester to St. Cloud. I am forever grateful for those days together. Towards the end of 2016 the reality of where things were headed started to set in. The fact that I realized I was planning Kyle’s last Christmas and Birthday put a huge lump in my throat however I had to make it special. Planning events I am passionate about and love to do but planning end of life events is something no one can really help or prepare you for.
In 2016 is really when I started to grieve. I became angry, sad and heartbroken to think that I was going to have to live life without my best friend by my side. It changed me for the simple fact that I knew I needed to continue to be strong for Kyle and for friends and family. I needed to work through my grief before everyone else.
2017 Broke me.
You know the song live like you are dying? I feel like that was our life. Our conversations became centered around last wishes. Kyle is such an easy going person he really didn’t have any wishes. He just wanted his pain to go away. If you lived in our house, you would understand. The amount of work it took for him to get off the couch, was incredible. The daily things that we all take for granted, it was devastating to wake up and watch this on a daily basis. The strong guy that I married was literally struggling every day. As Kyle’s days grew shorter, I began to break as well. Although I had grieved a lot before he had passed, the days after were just as hard. I think the hardest thing for me, was going to bed and waking up alone. Those of you that are married, truly treasure every moment with your spouse. After someone passes you are left with their memory everywhere. All of their things are still in your house, pictures, tooth brushes, cologne, clothes etc. The thought of coming in and throwing that all away for me was like throwing away my 12 year relationship. I still get a lump in my throat when I think about things that I have gotten rid of. It doesn’t seem right. It seems as if you are beginning to erase them from your life. Even though they are just “things” and possessions, I will forever keep a piece of Kyle in my home.
I learned that grief may change shape but it never truly goes away. There are still moments that take my breath away and bring me to tears. There are also moments that make me laugh and smile. There will always be a part of my heart that hurts and loves Kyle. Grief doesn’t go away it, it’s not for others to judge and there is no right or wrong way. Grief is your own walk, on your own time. Don’t let anyone tell you differently!
2018 Opened my eyes.
2018 I was focused on getting INDY up and running. Reality is sometimes it was running me. I was so focused on getting a thriving nonprofit out there to the world because it was Kyle’s passion. However, I lost the focus on myself and my health. I don’t regret it. I just recognize that I need to work on balance. I am such an all-in, balls to the walls type of girl that I have to remember to slow down. I often find myself stopping and thinking, “Kyle would so be yelling at me right now to slow down and take care of myself.” (Honestly though he was the one who constantly was like no, you are doing nothing but sitting on the couch today.) I never realized that he really was the one who made me “just relax” once in a while. In 2018, it opened my eyes to relationships – both old and new. Its funny how life changes. People change. Friendships change. However I am a firm believer that God puts people in your life at the exact right time. Whether it is for a short amount of time or a long time, his hand is always working. I have many moments and stories that attest to this throughout 2018. I encourage all of you to be open to these moments because they can be missed.
This year opened my eyes to so many things. New Beginnings. Not where I pictured my life but I am not angry about it either. I accept that our plans are not always what we envision. I have learned that our life is made up of many chapters. Some I would like to forget but I have seen why they occurred later down the road.
2019 I’m Coming Back.
I’m working on myself, building up my confidence to be the person I want the world to know and see. Some of you may think I am crazy but we all have things to work on. I am far from perfect. At times, I feel like I am far from having my life together but that’s okay. I’m excited for the goals I have in 2019 and I am excited to see where life takes me.
Thank you to each and every one of you. I am beyond grateful for all the help from so many friends, family and even strangers. It truly takes an army to help people through life changes like this. I share this with the world in hopes that it can help some of you reading this. No matter what the battle is that you are facing, you have the strength to fight it. I promise you. There are days of doubt and days of defeat. TRUST and BELIEVE in YOURSELF.
LOVE & HUGS ~ Kayla Strand
My husband comes from a large extended family, so it is not unusual for us to be at some kind of celebration: a wedding, a birthday party...just about any occasion that involves shenanigans and laughter. This particular story takes place at a graduation party. I was playing with my daughter, Loretta, in the soft green grass and admiring her chunky 1 year old thighs in bright pink flamingo leggings. It wasn’t long before a beautiful pregnant woman came and joined Loretta and I. Melissa was married to my husband’s cousin and expecting their 3rd child. I love seeing pregnant mamas and their round bellies. I especially love seeing a mama like Mel, because I know it took a lot of courage for her to be growing their family. You see, Mel and her husband, Royce, lost their first born son, Levi, at birth. The story will break your heart. But this little family continued to grow and inspired us all to never give up. Mel was the only one who knew the gender of their 3rd baby who was growing in her tummy that summer. But the way she watched Loretta and made several comments about her Baby Gap pink flamingo attire, I just knew she was having a girl. Sure enough, the next summer, I received this note from Mel:
“Hi Kate! I had to share this pic even though it's terrible cause she doesn't hold still!!! I bought this after Etta was wearing it at Becky’s grad party last summer!! Letty is such a chunk she almost didn't get to wear it!!”
At the time, I didn’t realize what great mountain Mel was climbing when she wrote me that message. Earlier that spring, she had been diagnosed with liver cancer. The prognosis was not good. But life continued and her children were growing and she was dressing her daughter in adorable, happy, pink flamingo outfits.
8 short months after I received this photo of Letty, Mel went to be with Jesus in heaven. When I read the opening line of her obituary, “Melissa Marie DeYaeger, age 37, of Royalton, passed away with dignity and grace...” I remembered the heart + angel wing tattoo she had on her upper back in memory of her son, Levi. As scared as any mother and wife would be to leave her family behind, I couldn’t help but think of how peaceful she also must have felt to be going to see her son up in heaven.
When the INDY Foundation approached me to create a t-shirt design in Melissa's honor, I found my self in my studio painting this heart. I had a photo of Mel’s tattoo in front of me as I created it and could not get the word “grace” out of my mind. Ephesians 2: 8-9 reads “For it is by grace you have been saved.”
So friends, whatever trials you are going through in this life, take a deep breath, envision pink flamingos and remember that grace wins.
XOXO ~ Kate Fischer
Little Fisch Designs
Happy Friday. Well I did it. I survived year number one as a widow. Was it easy? No. Was it rough? At times. Have I learned a lot about myself? Yes. Am I happy? Yes. Do I cry? Yes. Do I laugh? Of course. Do I miss Kyle? Everyday. Am I blessed? Yes. Do I wish I was living a different life? No. Overall, I’m grateful and blessed to be alive and thriving this crazy thing called life.
Guys widowhood is weird. The thing is, there’s no book on how to survive widowhood... I googled it. JK! There are thousand of books as well as people in this this world who have been through this. I’m not the only one. But, it’s so different for everyone. There’s no right way and no wrong way. You just have to do what’s best for you.
How did I do it? Honestly I look back on this last year and there are a few things that stands out the most my faith, my friends and family. The power of prayer. The power of letting go and letting God take charge. Trusting the plan even when I didn’t want to. It would’ve been so easy to get mad and bitter and head down a destructive path. However from the beginning of this year I told myself I would not do that. There were many days I would’ve rather of sat of the couch than face the world. However I was constantly getting nudges from above to keep going. There are countless times when I knew Kyle was right there to help me through the moment or day I was having. Until you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one it’s really hard to comprehend but trust me, if you watch for the the signs they are there.
My support system is and was AMAZING. They were there every step of the way. I could call them at anytime of the night to laugh or cry with them. My best friends spent nights with me and had “family” dinners at my house. I would get random text messages asking how I was from many of you. I had dates with some of you to keep me busy. And honestly, I couldn’t have done without you...
My immediate family has gone above and beyond. My mom is simply amazing and I don’t know what I would do without her. Everyday she checks in on me. She always knew when I was having one of those “bad” days and honestly she’s a lot of the reason I survived them. Kyle made her promise to take care of me and she’s truly gone above and beyond. Even if that means sending me 5 roses on my 4 year wedding anniversary! 😂 I owe a lot of credit to my Mom for making me who I am today and continuing to push me to better. My brother Kolten - he gets the short end of the stick because he lives closest to me so I call him for all my handy man needs. Thanks bud. My Dad and littlest brother are always helping out too. Couldn’t ask for a better support system. And it turns out my Grandma is an amazing cleaning lady- thanks Grams. ❤️
My friend Erin has also been a huge help. We share something nobody should have to share. Widowhood and an anniversary date of people we loved. Erin’s husband died the exact same day as Kyle one year prior. Want to know what’s crazy is Erin lives 3 miles from me. You know the saying God puts people in your life for a reason? There’s a reason we have connected with each other to help get us through those tough days. ❤️
I can’t forget about my new family - my INDY family. Who knew that I needed all of you as much as I did. Each and everyone of you have propelled me to keep going and carry on a legacy. So from the bottom of my heart. Thank you. You helped me to not only survive but truly kick ass.💕
Heaven - Anniversary
As the one year mark approached, I felt more anxiety than I had ever felt before. I’ve been told... wait til year two it’s harder. However those of you that know me, know that I don’t like to follow the rules or what people say. I was determined to get through year one with as much happiness and grace as possible. I think I did alright.
There are so many things that you experience that no one can really prepare you for. Emotions sometimes just come out of nowhere. Weddings - oofta are those hard. I had a lot to attend this summer. I was used to attending weddings alone because Kyle often didn’t feel well however attending as a widow is different. Weddings are such a happy time and while I was always happy for the new couple I couldn’t help but wish I still had that myself. Just one of those emotional moments.
One of the hardest things for me to get used to was going to bed alone. Couples - seriously treasure the time you have with your partner. Being able to hug, kiss and snuggle someone at night is hands down one of the things I miss the most. Night time was/is tough. I went from being the girl who needed 8 hours of sleep a day to getting 4-5 hours a night. I found peace in writing, reading and praying until I fell asleep. Some of my best INDY ideas came after midnight... maybe they were being sent from above?
On Kyle’s heaven anniversary I decided to take the day off and spend it with some of my favorites. We planned on shopping and doing things in honor of Kyle. I hadn’t put a lot of thought into it until a few days prior because I was more concerned with just getting through the day. Then I realized I needed to honor him somehow. I sent a mass text out the day before that to whoever wanted to could come over for pizza, limon sours and Chinese lanterns in honor of Kyle. For it being so last minute we had an awesome turn out.
The day was perfect and again my family went above and beyond. Started the day with my Peak Family at the gym - where they all wore their INDY tanks and gave me flowers. The weather was perfect so we were able to take my friend Ashley’s Jeep out - yes we went topless and doorless... super fun! Bloodies, shopping, limon sours and of course pull-tabs. A few of Kyle’s favorite things. We ended the day with Gary’s pizza (another fav and original Strand Family business), limon sours, ice cream cake and Chinese lanterns. Of course more flowers were delivered and hand written notes from friends and family hidden all over my house. I’m still finding them... found one in my suitcase on my travels this week. A nice surprise and pick me up, usually when I need it most!
I never thought I’d be here writing about this to all of you. Seriously I’m blessed and thankful for each and everyone of you. I couldn’t have done it without my faith and support system. Things happen in life that we sometimes don’t comprehend. Our life is filled with chapters but we get to make the choice how to get through those chapters. A year ago I lost a part of my heart but it will not define me. I’m surviving and will continue to thrive knowing part of my heart is in heaven and watching over me everyday. Love and miss you Kyle!
Love and hugs - Kayla ❤️
PS - If you haven’t read “Girl Wash Your Face”. Do it. The book spoke to me the entire time. A little sample of it in the picture.
Meet board member, Traci Balder. For those of you who don’t know her, she was a no-brainer to add to the team with her over ten years-experience in the non-profit sector which has allowed her to work directly with the community, and different area businesses. She also is the mother of our founder, Kayla Strand, so the passion the two of them share is clear. Carrying on Kyle’s legacy was something they both are very passionate about making a success. Traci has been happily married for 24 years to her husband Maury Balder. They have four wonderful children, Kayla, Kolten, Erik, Luke. We have been blessed with a wonderful son-in-law Kyle, daughter-in-law Jhonna and hopefully a future daughter-in-law Baleigh. As a family we have had many challenges, changes and a journey we didn’t expect. However, we stay strong in faith and love as a family.
Traci has been vital in helping to develop a clear vision and mission statement from the beginning. Her expertise in the non-profit world has connected us with many ideas, people and innovative ways to make INDY a success. She also continues to keep us organized and consistent. A lot goes on behind the scenes to keep things going every day.
We asked Traci what made her want to be a part of INDY: “When my daughter and son-in-law started talking about this idea I couldn’t help but get excited, believe, encourage and motivate this dream. INDY is connecting people, building bridges, opening doors and ultimately creating a community of Warriors. I couldn’t be prouder and more honored to be a part of something bigger than I can wrap my arms around.”
Meet board member Cari May, she is a small town girl from St. Martin, MN. She loves to write, speak, read, drink wine, yoga, anything with essential oils and spending time with family and friends. She recently had a baby boy Jaxon and will be celebrating her 4th wedding anniversary this September with her husband Cory.
She has been a member of the board from the beginning, serving as the co-founder and really the person to push Kayla to get moving. Cari has helped with some of the key decisions from logos to branding to clothing design. Cari is a marketing guru who brings a wealth of knowledge to the INDY tribe. Cari really helped INDY to come life – helping build our mission and brand.
Cari and Kayla first met at their place of employment and grew their relationship through their love for Young Living. Cari helped both Kayla and Kyle to live cleaner, healthier and balanced lives during Kyle’s health journey. Some of Kyle’s final days were spent with Cari by Kayla’s side, She got to experience the wit that Kyle still had left including, “Get your butt working on INDY and don’t pawn your rings.” LOL. Cari has a huge heart and often puts others before herself, when asked to be a part of INDY she never even hesitated. Cari is a huge asset to the INDY board. Thank you Cari for all that you do, we couldn’t do it without you. Find out more about Cari below…
Lindsay grew up in a small town in South Dakota, went to college in Morris at the U of M, and ended up in St Cloud for an internship during college and then just stayed J Lindsay feels this is a good size town for her, not too big, not too small and it’s where she can make a Target run any time she needs to. She and her husband, Ryan, have been married for almost 15 years, and have a 12-year-old daughter, Maya, and 7-year-old twins, Harper and Grayson. They love to get involved in lots of different activities so you’ll find her on the go a lot. Lindsay says “I work hard, and I play hard. I love a good happy hour with good friends and lots of laughs! I’m learning to like exercise since I joined the Y this year. I’m focusing on the sense of accomplishment more than the sense of PAIN J.”
Lindsay and her husband were good friends with Kayla and Kyle. Kyle was a special role model to her son, Grayson, who adored Kyle. Over the years, Kayla and Kyle babysat their kids and her daughter was in their wedding. They visited Kyle a lot in those last few months, and it was hard because she felt helpless. “What could I do to make his days better? So, when Kayla approached me to be part of the INDY board and a part of this group that would help people in similar situations to Kyle, I didn’t hesitate to say YES! I’ve been blessed to meet some truly amazing people on this board as well as some inspiring warriors. I look forward to seeing how far this will go because we’ve come so far in a short time.”
Lindsay is an amazing part of our foundation and we couldn’t do it without her. Here’s a little more information about Lindsay-
1.What is your professional background?
I have been working in the Accounting field for 18 years, since I graduated from the University of MN Morris with a degree in Management. I have worked in all different parts of Accounting from collecting payments to running financial statements to working with managers on budgeting to annual audits. I have also had the opportunity to work with IT in my current role, so I’ve been able to gain some additional perspective on how programming works and how to use it to innovate and create efficiencies and get the results you want. I love to work on new challenges and problem solve. My favorite thing is working on new projects and figuring out how to make it work.
2. Greatest accomplishment:
Being successful in my career while still being able to have a family that I’m proud of and maintain relationships with friends.
3. Greatest Adventure:
Hopefully, my greatest adventure is yet to come! Next year, we plan to take the kids to Glacier National Park in Montana and ride the train all the way there. It will be a lot of miles, but there will be a lot of exciting things to do when we get there.
4. Life motto:
Don’t depend on others to give you what you want. Go out there and take it.
5. What is your superpower?
To get things done. I’m a list maker, so I keep track of what I need to do and find satisfaction in marking things off my list. I usually get myself involved in doing too many things at once, but I pride myself on being able to make decisions and get things accomplished!
6.What is your At-Bat song
Sorry, Not Sorry by Demi Lovato; I like to think I’m tough and can handle anything life throws at me. I’ve learned that you’ll never make every happy, so you might as well make yourself happy J
7. Where is the best place you have traveled?
Jamaica. My husband and I traveled to Jamaica almost 15 years ago for our wedding, and it was the perfect place for it. Very beautiful and relaxed. We had the good fortune of having most of our immediate family with us, and we still talk about the memories we made!
8. One item on your bucket list:
Travel internationally. Currently, I have my heart set on going to Greece It just looks like a beautiful place, and I would love to experience something totally different than what I’ve ever experienced before. Different language, food, culture, people, customs… it’s all exciting to me!
9. What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
I love to crank up the gangster rap and sing along when I’m alone in my minivan.
10. What is your favorite thing to do with your family?
Take a vacation together to a new place where we can go on new adventures and create new memories!
11. What is your favorite thing to do for yourself?
Spend time with friends. I’m a social person and like to try new things with new friends or just kick back and have a good conversation with an old friend, usually while enjoying a cold beverage!
12. If you had an unlimited checkbook for one day, what would you buy?
I would get all my family and friends together in one place for a big party! All those people that I haven’t seen forever because life is busy or you live too far apart…. Fly them all in and remember the good times you’ve had together!
13. Tell us about someone you admire?
The obvious would be Kayla. For all of the obstacles that she’s had put in front of her, she does not even consider giving up. She is focused on what she wants and won’t accept anything less. Her desire to fulfill Kyle’s desire to be remembered is inspiring in itself. Although, like she will tell you, there’s no way anyone that has met Kyle would ever forget him. Kayla has worked her butt off night and day (literally, I will get emails from her at 2am) to push this foundation to be a success, and with every decision she makes, her priority is always the same – to help those who are battling and feel like no one sees their struggle, to give back for what was given to her and Kyle. Her sense of purpose in her mission, her absolute certainty that this dream will become fully realized, her love for others, and her hustle is something that anyone can admire and is what makes it an honor for me to serve on this board and serve alongside some truly wonderful and inspiring women.
This month is INDY's anniversary month. We wanted to highlight and tell you a little bit about all the people who are making things happen behind the scenes. Our INDY Board is made up of five driven, committed and beautiful women who graciously accepted and were honored to carry out the INDY Mission. Over the next month - you will meet them all. I promise you they are all amazing and worthy of reading about.
XOXO ~ Kayla Strand
1. Tell us about you: (Where ya from, married/single, kids, cats, dogs…maybe a fish- who knows. Just give us all the interesting things you want us to know)
I am a small town country girl who loves to travel. A shopping guru. I blame my mom and grandma for my shopping addiction… I’ve become a fitness fanatic. Founder of INDY Foundation, a nonprofit focused on giving back to the cancer warriors of the world. Saleswoman. Bartender. Project Manager. Widow. Blogging and exercise is my stress reliever. I have one fur baby – Maxx, he is my protector. I have my conceal and carry – watch out! JK. I was in beauty pageants when I was just a little tyke… and yes I won! ;) I’ve been told multiple times that I know everyone… I do know a lot of people. Friends and family are important to me, I strive to spend as much time as possible with them. In the summer you will find me at the lake – fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding and probably basking in the sun with a drink!
2. What is your professional background?
I graduated from SCTCC with an Architectural Construction Technology Degree, AAS and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management, Organizational Behavior minor from St. Scholastica. Most of my professional career has been spent in the construction industry. I started my career as a drafter for 3 years and have spent the last 7 years working in sales and project management focused mostly on commercial construction. My sales territory is the East Coast from DC to Maine. Yes at times I feel like I spend more time out at East than at home! In addition to construction, I have spent 13 years working in the restaurant world as well.
3. How did you connect with the INDY nation?
I started it in honor of my late husband Kyle Strand. I wanted to be able to carry on his legacy by giving back to others who are in the midst of their battle. It was a dream that Kyle and I had talked about. It actually started as writing a book – Cancer from his side and her side. Then it morphed into how we could help people. It was halted by Kyle’s passing but he made sure to tell me that if I didn’t get working on it every day he would haunt me… he was MOSTLY kidding, I think.
4. Greatest accomplishment:
Becoming a widow at 28 and carrying on my husband’s legacy by starting a non-profit. Something I dreamt of. Something that I am passionate about. Something that I am determined to grow to help others through their cancer journey.
5. Greatest Adventure:
I love to travel… if you didn’t know that already! My most recent greatest adventure was my first trip to Europe with one of my best friends to visit my brother Erik, who was studying abroad. Neither of us had ever been to Europe before. Did I mention we backpacked, traveled on counteless trains, booked our hotels, air bnbs and hostels the night before we flew out. Oh and my friend Brittany booked a room at a honeymoon hotel by accident! We had somewhat of an itineray but we winged a lot of the trip. 10 Days, 3 countries – Austria, Italy and Germany. Definitely a trip of a lifetime!
6. One word that describes your purpose for how you live life?
Can I pick two?!? Grateful and Faith.
The saying goes – life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you will get. Yep, couldn’t be more true. Unfortunately I was given some bad chocolates – you know the ones you bite into and spit out immediately. However through all the struggles and heartache I have found myself on numerous occasions to be grateful and have faith (something that was said to me 2 years ago and propelled me to follow my purpose and passion). Although my life isn’t exactly what I had pictured for the age of 29, I trust that it’s exactly where I am supposed to be.
7. Life motto:
“Live for today because tomorrow is never promised.” Something I had to learn to come to terms with at a very young age, but it molded me to truly live behind this quote.
8. What is your superpower?
Going 100 in a 55… no literally I have a lead foot. After turning 16, I got 4 speeding tickets in the first year. Knock on one I haven’t gotten one since!
For real my drive to get things done is insane. I am always doing something….
9. What is your At-Bat song (The song that gets you going or they would play if you were up to bat)?
Hmmm… lately it is the song “Whatever it takes” by Imagine Dragons. If you listen to the words it kind of resembles my life at the moment. I will do whatever it takes to succeed and rise to the top.
10. Where is the best place you have traveled?
Oofta… this isn’t a fair question. SO many good places that I have been but I have to go back to the place I call heaven on earth… Hawaii! I went there on my honeymoon and recently went back over Christmas, there is just something about it. So peaceful. So beautiful.
11. One item on your bucket list: It's too long to list but my biggest goal is to hit all 50 states before I am 50. I am at around 35 or 36, so I may be a little ahead of the game!
12. What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
I started College at 17 (summer after my Junior year) and bought my first house at 19. I used to be in beauty pageants when I was little.
13. What is your favorite thing to do with your family?
Spend time out on the lake. Boating, playing yard games, bon fires. I mean why else do we live in MN? Simple – for June, July and August!
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