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!