Monday, December 28, 2015

Derailing the Crazy Train

As 2015 comes to a close, as always, I contemplate the meaning and purpose of the Butterfly Phoenix blog. I have taken the last month to determine in which direction the blog is going to go in 2016.

In the last couple of years, the blog has kind of taken an alternate route on the tracks of the crazy train. It has felt chaotic and without purpose or direction. Well friends, it’s time to derail the crazy train and get back on the Empire Builder.

As a young person, I always wanted to be an author. I wanted to build a life around storytelling; and then real life took over and that dream dwindled into the smoldering ash heap of dreams that I convinced myself would never come true for me.

At forty years old, I made the “now or never” decision that I would write my first novel, Sticks and Bones, which, with all its imperfections, is still my best seller. At the time, I found that the publishing world has changed, for better or worse. It’s still evolving into something new and wonderful. As an author and a blogger, I had to decide how I am going to fit into the landscape.

I don’t have the time or the desire to spend copious amounts of time on social media to join independent author networks. This in itself creates a conundrum of sorts for me. I have come to the acceptance that my books will have to stand on their own and my blog as well. It wasn’t easy, because like everyone else I want to make money too, but at the same time, I am not willing to sacrifice my family and friends for a few coins. I write for the pleasure of it.

So, what does this mean for the Butterfly Phoenix blog? I have made the decision that the theme for 2016 is going to be “Life and Literature.” I am a reader of the classics and the contemporary. I will be discussing the literature I have read, and will read, and how it relates to our lives; mine, yours, and the world’s. The blog publication schedule is once a week, on Sundays.

In 2016, I plan to finish the two books that have been suffering on the crazy train ride, “Prairie on Fire”, and “Scribes.” So, let’s derail this locomotive of destruction and all climb aboard the Empire Builder. It’s time to make dreams come true!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 14, 2015

In Hope There is Love

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”
–Laura Ingalls Wilder

Well, here we are again, as in olden days, happy golden days of yore. It’s Christmas time again, and I heartily wish a Merry Christmas to all.

Christmas is the time of year where underneath all the hustle and bustle of shopping and baking, and making preparations for family from far and near, there lives a certain feeling of something greater.

Oftentimes, we find ourselves drifting back to the days of our youth, longing for that certain something that most assuredly existed, way back then. As we contemplate the days of youth, we can’t quite put our finger on the one thing that made it all so special; that certain something that found a home in our hearts, and each year is rekindled into a glowing warmth that is reflected in the smiles on our faces and the lights that shine in our eyes.

Many times we find ourselves re-enacting the activities that took place once upon a time in a snowy world that now only exists in our hearts and minds. Perhaps it is a sleigh ride through the countryside with someone we love; or maybe it is building snow forts and engaging in the snowball fight to end all snowball fights; or participating in the family traditions that have been handed down generation to generation.

There’s an anticipation that comes with Christmas. I like to believe it is the anticipation of hope; hope for better days, for a better world, hope for peace on earth and good will toward men.

Our world doesn’t always reflect this anticipation. It is marred with wars that extend from the home to the nation states. It is marred with hunger, poverty, and injustice. It is unfair at times and sometimes bleak at best. Yet each December, that certain something stirs in our hearts. That certain something called hope.

As we move toward that most wondrous night of the year, the night Christ was born, let us keep hope in our hearts. Let us take a moment each day to kindle the spark of hope in our fellow human beings, and pass on the greatest gift that was given to us over 2,000 years ago. In hope there is love. This Christmas, let us love one another.

Monday, November 30, 2015

If You Can't Say Something Nice...

There are times when we all need to get off the grid for a while. I don’t necessarily mean escaping to a cabin in the woods, far and away from society. However, taking some time away from the non-stop negativity of the internet is something we all need now and again.

This thought began formulating a few weeks ago when my oldest daughter announced she was no longer interested in FaceBook, and culminated this morning when I read Nicole Phillips blog, Kindness is Contagious. Both women gave the same reason for taking some time off.

I scrolled through my timeline and sure enough there were countless numbers of negative posts, mostly sharing the “hooray for our side,” type content, listing all the reasons the other side is wrong about this, that, or the other thing. Then there were a few hateful posts about love gone wrong, or the unfair nature of life.

It must be FaceBook! I declared in my mind, and quickly bounced over to LinkedIn where the professional people post. Scrolled down the feed, and discovered the reason so many people hate their jobs, or hate their role in their jobs. Every other post tells you exactly why YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG! You suck as a leader, because you aren’t doing it this way, or that way. You suck as an employee, because you aren’t doing this or that. You aren’t making a profit, because you failed at this or that. You are taking too much from others, because you failed at this or that. On LinkedIn, you can’t win. Either way you failed.

Twitter came to mind. Surely Twitter must be better! Afterall, you only get 140 characters to express your thoughts and opinions. :::sigh::: not so. The Twitter feed was buzzing in full vigor of negativity and vulgarity. In 140 characters you can read all the reasons you do not stack up against human expectation.

So, here we are in the cesspool of the internet, feeding off all this negativity. Now, we can point fingers at each other and lay blame at the feet of any one of the five billion people who use the internet every day. But, the question remains, am I contributing to it? The answer is yes. No matter who we are, or how wonderful we think we are, we are most definitely contributors to the constant negativity of the feeds.

Life is not filled with sunshine and roses. That is a fact. We all have our days, weeks, months, and years filled with tragedy and loss. However, do we really need to share all that with the rest of the world, on a regular basis?

It would seem that Negative Nancy and Ned have been promoted to CEOs of the internet. The question of the day, are you working for them? Are you sharing every negative post that comes along? Are you quipping at someone else, because you can? Are you passing judgment on people you don’t know? Is sarcasm your new favorite language? Are you dissing on yourself for whatever reason? Are you taking pleasure in another’s tragedy? Are you posting blind statuses directed at specific people, but you don’t have the courage to mention their names?

The internet is a choice. You can participate or not. You can choose what you share, and with whom. You can choose how much you share, or don’t share. We all have our ways and means of making a life for ourselves. Success is as we define it. Some people need to have lots of stuff and money. Some people need to have lots of family and friends. Some people don’t need a lot of either one, or they need a lot of both. Whatever category you find yourself defines you as successful.

As we learned from Thumper’s mother in Bambi, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Sometimes It's Hard to Breathe

My day had not started out so great yesterday (Wednesday.) I should have expected it, but I didn’t even give it a thought. I’m pretty sure it was the weather turning cold that brought on a major muscle spasm in my back. It was so bad I could hardly breathe. I lay there in the bed for a good amount of time, wondering if I was ever going to be able to get up again. Always be grateful for the things you can do, before you are left to wonder if you will ever be able to do them again. Every breath created a deep, dull ache in my back. It was hours before I could fully function again.

As the sun went down in the late afternoon, I needed to go to the grocery store, so I reluctantly decided that yes, I could do it. It was either go to the store, or go hungry. I walked around the store looking for the things that I wanted, and proceeded to the checkout lane when I was finished.

Before I knew it, a woman had latched onto me in a full frontal assault of a hug. She squeezed me so tight that I couldn’t breathe. She just kept her arms around me, saying thank you, over and over.

In the first few moments, I was quite certain that I had committed no act of kindness toward this woman. In reality, I had no idea who she was, or why she was holding onto me so tightly.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, she let me go, and took a step back. She asked if I remembered her. I’m sure I had the ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look, because she told me her name, and began to thank me again. By this time, there were several people who had stopped to take pause to watch what was happening. If you know me, you know that having people in my personal space is way out of my comfort zone, and also having all eyes on me in this type of situation is also way out of comfort zone. I had to ask what she was thanking me for.

It turns out that several years ago, which seems like a lifetime, far and away, this woman took one of my classes and then came to my office seeking help. At the time she was homeless, sick, and running out of options. It all came rushing back to me as she kept telling me her story. The bystanders all seemed to be listening to her as well, but in the moment it was just her and me in the whole of the world. She was telling me about her apartment, her job, and the re-connections she had made with her adult children. I was wondering what any of this had to do with me.

She bluntly said, “If it hadn’t been for you, I would not be here now.” That statement still sits in my heart as I write this. My mind rushes back to the days we sat talking in my office. I search for the single moment that made the ‘big difference.’ It was the moment I chose to listen, to hear the story that lived inside of her in those dark days.

You might think this story is about me, and maybe even think I’m talking about how great I am or was. No, this story is about her and the deep amount of gratitude that I feel toward her, and having the opportunity to know that her life is different now. She’s made leaps and bounds of progress. She’s happy in her life.

We don’t always have the luxury of knowing the rest of the story. She could have just as easily gone on with her day as though I wasn’t even there. She chose to share her joy with me, and for that I will forever be grateful.

As I remember those days, working in that nonprofit, I recognize that I learned something way back then. Each person that crossed the threshold of my office was a piece of my strength, a piece of my courage, and a piece of my light. They were everything that I was not. They were everything I wished I could be. If it hadn’t been for them, I would not be the woman that I am today.

Thank me? No, do not thank me. It is I who should be thanking each one of them.

Sometimes it’s hard to breathe. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I Can't Adult Today

Summertime was great back home on the shores of Lake Sakajwea. The family – the whole family – sometimes fifty or more at a time would gather down on South Pointe of Parshall Bay, spending the day fishing, swimming, grilling, and roasting marshmallows over campfires when the sun went down.

Time rolled forward and Summer would turn to Fall. It was my favorite time of the year. The town would swarm with kids who had been here or there throughout the summer. The fall evenings would fill the air with the shouts and laughter of children, playing kickball, or a game that the title is no longer politically correct to name, hide and seek in the dark, and so many other games, until the streetlights sent us home. As we got older we would sit wrapped in blankets, star gazing and talking about boys – the ones we liked and the ones we didn’t. We would tell our secrets and pinky swear to never tell a single soul, take it to our graves.

The world turned one day at a time, and the winds of change would bring Old Man Winter across the plains. It was time for sledding on the Rock Museum hill, or snowmobiling on the streets to make the old people mad, trick-or-treating in homemade costumes, and building igloos in the backyard. Halloween would slip quietly away and usher in the Christmas season, requiring our best behavior for the simple gifts we received. The windows of Main Street would become laden with all the finest gifts the stores had to offer. The streetlights would be decked with boughs of holly, stars, or jingle bells. Santa Saturday would come and go, and soon Auld Lang Syne would be on the lips of the older folks as the ball would drop in New York City.

Love would be shared in the classrooms and between lovers at the Redwood Mixer as Valentine’s Day came and went. Shades of pastels would replace the rose red, again requiring our best behavior to entice the favors of a benevolent bunny that came and went each year. Spring arrived with the first sprout of the crocuses on the prairie. Pomp and Circumstance would become the theme, accompanied by the cheers of the graduating class as caps were tossed in the air in celebration of the close of childhood.

Every now and again, we all travel down the familiar roads we traveled as children. For me, as a writer, it’s an integral part of what I do. My memoirs are contained in every story and novel that I write. And yes, sometimes I miss Donna the Kid, those are the days I want to say, “I can’t adult today.”

Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Secret of Authors

When I first began writing, I searched the world over on the best ways and means to write and get published. I frantically scoured the internet for the best tips from the most successful authors out there. I tried to mimic their patterns and thought processes. And then one day, I discovered that all the joy of writing had been sucked out of my passion.

I joined a writers group, only to discover those that were in it didn’t know any more about writing and publication than I did.  We all talked a good talk, but none of us were moving forward. Critiquing became an exercise in each of us telling the others they should change this, that, or the other thing, because ultimately it wasn’t the way we write. A writers group is not a replacement for a good editor. It’s mostly for two purposes: support in a common effort, or brainstorming.

Marketing in itself was taking a huge chunk out of my time. The time I could be spending with my family and friends, or writing. I would spend hours on Hootsuite crafting tweets and Facebook postings, and even some for LinkedIn, and then I realized I was spending more and more of my time marketing and less and less of my time writing.

If I want to be a good writer, or maybe even a great writer, I have to keep at it, every day; 30-minutes minimum - every day. It’s a developed habit. It can be a daunting task at times. Sometimes I sit there staring at the blank screen before me and I just want to cry because nothing comes out. “Write something; anything,” I tell myself. “Write all the chores you have to do today in story form.” Sometimes even that can be a challenge. Writer’s block is a very real thing. Sometimes the words just don’t come. However, I still sit there for 30 minutes, just in case. I have neglected my blog, or at least have seemed to, since August 30th. The words just wouldn’t come. I assure you, I sat there, every day, for 30 minutes, and nothing.

My cure for writer’s block: I just sit with it for a while. After my 30 minutes of sitting, I go do other things that have nothing to do with writing. It works every time, sometimes it takes days, but it works.

In my quest to become an author, I also tried to write like someone else. This was a bad idea; a very bad idea. When I try to write like someone else, I lose all the flavor of the story I am trying to tell. I stopped doing that. I have to write authentically as myself.
I stopped listening to what the world was telling me about writing. I limited my marketing time – on purpose. I developed a habit of writing, and a cure for what ails writers the most. I developed my own voice. Now I write what pleases me.

Here’s the secret about successful writers. They don’t write for the market. They simply write for the sake of writing. Believe it or not, most of the great writers out there have had a flop of a book. They don’t dwell on it. They don’t drown their sorrows in wine and beer. They get to work, writing a new story. And, that is the true secret to becoming an author.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Live On, and Live Well

The sun would shine down on the backyard, infusing the air with its hot breath. The only refuge was the shade of the towering evergreen tree on the other side of the fence in the neighbor’s yard.

Dust mixed with the sweat of my brow encrusted itself into brushed streaks as my hand swiped away the beaded perspiration. The intensity of the moment causes time to stand still as the inspection of the flutter of wings takes on all the importance of the discovery of the ages.

All those years ago, the life of a child was simple. It was the long summer nights filled with friends playing in the neighborhood, or sipping on lemonade as the elders shared their stories. It was watching the northern lights dance on a brisk fall evening, cheering on the home team, and meeting up with friends on the first day of school.

As time moves forward, life becomes more complicated and the world a much smaller place. The world becomes noisy, clingy, and needful. The days of loitering in front of the Tastee Freeze™, watching people come and go, long gone. There is always some place to be and so many more places to go.

There is nothing more precious in the world than the gift of life where every moment matters. Being fulfilled requires a bit of childlike behavior. Note, I said childlike, not childish. There is a difference. Be kind to one another. Be generous with your time, talent, and treasure. Be wild and free in your dreams, and never let them die for the sake of someone else. Fill every moment of every day with the things that create happiness in your life.

Fill each moment with that precious breath called life. Live on, and live well.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Holding Out for a Hero - Prairie on Fire

As a person who writes, I learned something that is valuable. The secret to successful writing is emotional intelligence. I know ground-breaking isn't it? The hook for readers is the emotional connection to the characters in the story, not necessarily the story itself.

For example, I am currently working on my new novel, "Prairie on Fire," which takes place in western North Dakota. I wanted to write something fresh and new, and something that is near and dear to my heart, yet a story that can be lived by the readers as well. I knew I had to write what I know.
What I know is this: It is rare in any novel that the hero is a Native American. What many people don't know is that more Native Americans serve in the United States military than all other ethnic groups combined. When Native Americans are portrayed in film or literature, it is the stereotypical Native American from the late 19th and early 20th century. We need a 21st century Native American hero.
The main character, Devin Goes Along the Road, is an army veteran who suffers from PTSD. He tries to live a simple life with his fiance' and her mother. The home that he has known all his life is rift with land grabbing, environmental hazards, and now, there is a new threat. 
In 36 hours, Devin's life will change - forever. Everything he thought he left in the mountains of Afghanistan has surfaced in an explosive chain of events that ignites a fire no one expected, and only Devin can put out. But, only if someone will believe him.
Watch for "Prairie on Fire," coming soon to on-line book retailers.
I'd like to thank my Native American friends on Fort Berthold for their support and consultations of "Prairie on Fire."

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Millennial Entrepreneur - Courtny Evanson, CEO at Innovative Mother

This week in the Millennial Entrepreneur series, I was fortunate to catch up with one of the busiest entrepreneurs in Fargo-Moorhead, Courtny Evanson. Ms. Evanson, not yet 25 years old, is the inventor of the Nevaeh and CEO at Innovative Mother. Courtny has taken the phrase "Necessity is the mother of all invention" to whole new level. Here's what she had to say about being an entrepreneur and inventor:
(Q1:) You seem to have a lot of drive and passion. Tell us more about the source.
 My passionate drive began when I became pregnant and took on the responsibility of caring for another life. When my son first came into this world I never knew how much I could love another human being. My passion is fueled daily with hugs and sweet kisses from my son. He has become the inspiration I need to keep moving forward and his smile is my motivation to work even harder. As a single mom it is important that I become a positive role model in my child’s life and development.  I want to be the proof my son needs to encourage him to set his sights high and dream big no matter what the world may tell him.
 (Q2:) Did you ever think you would be a CEO before you turned 25?
 I never thought in my entire life that I would ever be a CEO. Business never interested me whatsoever, I dreamed of a fast paced adrenaline rushing career in the medical field. I thought business was boring and consisted of sitting at a desk 40 hours a week. Being a CEO has been anything but that. My blood gets pumping every time before I step on a stage, in front of an audience, or a business meeting. I feel like starting a business is like playing a game of chess, full of strategy and what pieces are you willing to give up to reach the king to win the game.
 (Q3:) What scares you the most about being a CEO? How do you handle that fear?
So far public speaking has been the biggest thing I have struggled with. I have overcome this by never turning down a presentation or speaking opportunity. Every time before I speak I’m like I can run out of here right now I don’t have to do this, but then I force myself to get up there and speak and tell myself I won’t die from this.
I have also struggled with not having a background in business. After I won Women’s start-up weekend it was a little overwhelming because I felt like now after winning the Fargo-Moorhead area had some very big expectations of me. I was very out of my comfort zone maneuvering the business world that was mainly dominated by men.  I have had some defiantly awkward and funny conversations with men about my product and how it works. Usually breastfeeding is out of their domain unless they have little ones at home.
 (Q4:) Where did the idea come from for the Nevaeh? 
 The idea for the Nevaeh blossomed soon after my son was born and he was unable to breastfeed and formula was not an option since he was allergic to every brand on the market. He suffered from 14 allergic reactions within the first year of his life from all the different brands of formula that Aden was introduced to. My only option was to use a breast pump to provide nourishment for my son. I used the pump 8-12 times a day for on average 30 minutes per use. Every day I was spending 6 hours sitting stuck within 3 feet of an electrical outlet unable to move, lie down and rest my sleep deprived body, or take care of my child. I also worked as a Certified Nurses Assistant and Medication Aid at an Assisted Living Facility and I was unable to pump when I needed to because the residents I took care of and passed meds to came first. I suffered horrible infections and mastitis. I went on like that for eight months until I was finally able to quit. I’m glad that I was able to provide the best nourishment for my child, but it was not an easy one.
 (Q5:) You have a son. How do you balance work and life? 
 I don’t believe life will ever have a balance. I typically go with the flow with what is going on in my life. When I have business events or presentations my son’s father, his family, my family, and friends have all aided in helping me juggle the busy life of being a single mom and entrepreneur. My son loves it because he gets to spend equal time with both of his families and I have time to focus on work when I need to and he has all of my attention when we are together.
 (Q6:) What are your plans for the future? College or no? Why or why not?
I am considering going to college for a business degree so I can make better choices for my business and understand more about the vast business world. I was thinking maybe going to MSUM for their entrepreneurship certificate that gives you tools to run a business, but not a degree. I don’t think I need a degree because there are plenty of examples of entrepreneurs that don’t have degrees. I have gone to workshops, business boot camps, and  round table discussions to learn business from business people.
(Q7:) Who has been the most influential person in your life? How have they contributed to your success as an entrepreneur?
One of the most influential people in my life I would have to say would be my track coach from West Fargo High School, Darrin Boehm. He saw my potential in me before I saw it in myself. Also Betty Helmer, the director at the Perry Center who gave me hope when I had none and helped me begin my journey on the right path.
(Q8:) Being an entrepreneur is not an easy endeavor. What is your best advice for someone wanting to become an entrepreneur?
My advice for someone pursuing becoming an entrepreneur is, do it for the right reasons. I began as an entrepreneur because of I thought of a product out of necessity not because I wanted to become famous, rich, or never have to work. If money is your motivation that drive will begin to fade when people realize how much a business costs to start. I started on this journey to make a difference in this world and so other mothers do not have to suffer through sleepless nights to provide their child with the best nourishment. I want to be an inspiration to other single young mothers like myself and that when you have a child your life isn’t over, it’s just beginning. If it  wasn’t for my son coming into this world I wouldn’t be who I am and I wouldn’t be on this grand adventure of starting a business.
Learn to fail with grace. Through the past year while starting my business I have competed in 3 competitions, 16 presentations, and numerous business events and workshops. Of the three competitions I lost two, one very horribly. It was a competition for a grant program, Innovate ND; I had not completed any of the business boot camps beforehand like the other competitors and had jumped right into the competition. I had to do a 60 second pitch and a 10 minute speech. The 60 second pitch went pretty smoothly, but then the 10 minute speech I completely butchered. I felt calm and collected and went in front of 4 judges and 1 bystander. I started my speech and then I went to click the clicker in my hand and it didn’t work. I guess I was supposed to stand behind a podium next to the screen in front of a laptop to change the slides. Which completely through me off and I forgot my whole speech, my 10 minute speech turned into 2 minutes. Also one of my ideas to do with breast milk is illegal in the US. (for some reason Dr. Stamp knew that fact).
I also competed in Start-up weekend in Bismarck and pitched a new idea other than the Nevaeh. I did not even make it past the idea round where the audience votes on which ideas go on to present in front of the judges. I think that my idea was not a popular one because the audience was a room full of college students not parents or women. An engineering company that I was working with out of Madison Wisconsin loved the idea that pitched at that event more than the Nevaeh. So I know it’s not a bad idea and one I would like to pursue once the Nevaeh hits the market.  If you truly believe in your business venture you can make it a possibility. Don’t listen to what everyone tells you, I talked to people about my idea and was told no one would ever buy one. There is a lot of risk, cost, and work involved so weigh out the choices before starting a business and it’s not going to happen overnight. I was very unrealistic in the beginning and I thought I’d have InnovativeMother up and running selling thousands of Nevaeh tables around the globe.
“Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.” Don’t sweat it if you don’t have a 5 year step-by-step plan throughout the process you will find the answers. 
Thank you for participating in the Millennial Entrepreneur series, Courtny! If you would like to learn more about Innovative Mother and the Nevaeh breastfeeding table, please contact Ms. Evanson through her LinkedIn account: Courtny Evanson

Monday, July 6, 2015

Millennial Entrepreneur - Kaytlin Dargen Photography

Last week I had the privilege to interview one of Fargo-Moorhead's most sought-after photographers, Kaytlin Dargen of Kaytlin Dargen Photography. What is unique about Miss Dargen is she is 17 years old. She has an amazing eye, and a creative flair that just won't quit. Her style and charming personality doesn't take away from her professionalism. Here's what she had to say about running a business at 17:

Q1:) You seem to have a lot of drive and passion. Tell us more about the source.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a very visual person. It started out when I was little and became really engrossed in the arts, like I don’t think there’s a school assignment I haven’t doodled on. So a lot of my passion comes from the love of art in all its forms and the way that images connect with me. My drive and passion seems to be fueled by the beautiful work that other artists are producing. I follow an insane amount of photographers and other visual artists on social media and seeing what work they’re producing definitely makes me want to keep stepping up my game. And sometimes I’ll see some of their work and it’ll hit me especially hard, and I’ll subconsciously take notes to be able to add to my own mental pallet so I can grow as an artist as I kind of absorb the elements that connect with me most strongly, if that makes sense hahaha.

(Q2:) You're 17. Did you ever think you would be a professional photographer at 17 years old?

Definitely not. It was only a year and a half ago where I was in probably the worst mental ditch of my life, because I had this great big dream of being able to make a living off of the one thing that truly makes me feel fulfilled but I figured I’d never be able to do it without a big, expensive fancy camera set up. The camera I had back then was an entry level DSLR that was a Christmas gift from my mom a couple years back. I loved the thing, but none of my favorite photographers were using $500 cameras and there was no way me nor my family could afford a professional setup. However, during my high school years I made the right connections and joined the right clubs and was the Historian for Student Council and DECA, so I was always taking photos for those clubs. With that I somehow kind of worked up the reputation of being my high school’s go-to photographer, and that summer I started getting bookings for senior photos. Convincing myself that my work was worth a reasonable amount was SO hard, but when I finally did it, I had zero backlash and ended up booking about 35 seniors that summer and used that money to buy my own top of the line camera setup, which is by far my proudest accomplishment to this day. 

(Q3:) What scares you the most about being a CEO at 17? How do you handle that fear?

I’m really terrified of peaking early on, creatively and business-wise. My ultimate goal is to never stop getting better and find my niche and be on an upwards route from here on out. I’m still really working on finding my own style. I can look at photos from my favorite photographers that I’ve never seen before and instantly know who took it because they’ve found their own distinctive style and I’m really looking forward to the day I can do that too. Biggest fear would be not finding that distinctive style that I could be known for, and I’m handling it by of course looking forward to the fulfillment that would bring.

(Q4:) Let's lighten things up a little bit. You're doing shoots for rock bands is that right? Tell us more about what that's like.

Yes I do! Not a lot of people know that Fargo has one of the most tight-knit and remarkable music scenes of the country, and it’s all thanks to a little DIY venue called The New Direction. Tons and tons of local and out-of-town bands play there, and I’m usually there taking photos for the bands and the venue. I recently just got a wall of photos up in that venue, and that wall means the world to me. I love knowing that I get to document the talent and passion that those bands bring through this town. I also occasionally get to shoot big concerts, usually out in Minneapolis which is way incredible. That happens when I find out one of my favorite bands is coming through and I email them hoping to get a photo pass, and sometimes luck out and get a front row seat and the chance to shoot a band I love. I’m never happier than when I’m at one of those concerts, singing along while shooting. These concerts usually have awful lighting and you can’t predict what’s going to happen, so I love the challenge.

(Q5:) You've made a name for yourself in the high school senior pictures market. What was your favorite shoot?

My favorite shoot would have to be the first one I did with my new camera. It was with my friend Morgan, and I remember literally almost being in tears looking at how incredible the photos were turning out after using my old camera that was a fraction of the quality for so long. I still freak out occasionally during shoots when the lighting or setting is just right and everything comes together just as I’d hoped.

(Q6:) You just recently started shooting weddings. What are you thinking when you first arrive at the wedding?

Weddings can be kind of REALLY nerve-wracking. You have to be ready to catch every little detail, and don’t forget about any big details, all while staying sociable and friendly as to not stress the bride out any more than necessary hahaha. I’ve lucked out in that both the weddings I’ve solo shot have had the most laid-back, lovely couples and bridal parties and I leave those weddings with new friends and feeling on top of the world. Biggest fear would be getting home and finding that a memory card got corrupted or something like that. Before I started doing weddings, a lot of my photographer friends told me that they strongly advised against doing weddings because they’re so stressful, but I really haven’t felt that fear yet so I’m definitely going to ride that out and see how far I can get in that field. I am a firm believer that every single couple deserves beautiful wedding photos, I know that some photographers discriminate against the couple’s looks or chosen venue or stuff like that, and I frankly find that awful.

(Q7:) If you could choose any photographer in the world to mentor your career who would it be and why?

It would definitely have to be Jordan Voth. His portraits are what kept me inspired during that mental rut I hit a year and a half back, his use of light and setting leaves me dumbfounded every time. He lives in Seattle and takes advantage of all the beautiful scenery around there and is a huge reason why Washington is my #1 place I can’t wait to visit someday. Sometimes I look at my own photos, and I’m literally like, ‘What would Jordan Voth think of this?'

(Q8:) What are your plans for the future? College or no? Why or why not?

At this point, I have been lucky enough to make the right connections as to where I think I might be able to spare myself of any more time sitting cooped up in a classroom. I much prefer learning one-on-one with my photographer friends. I want to learn from people who are at a place in life where I want to be someday, and who are teaching me exactly what I need to know, not sitting in a college classroom getting generalized knowledge that may or may not be useful down the road. A year ago I thought I would go for Photography, but after talking with those professors I learned that their curriculum is really outdated and irrelevant to what I want to be doing, and frankly there’s no way I’m going to subject myself to anymore classroom time than I need. Which is funny to me, because I got straight A’s in high school because I would stay up all night making sure my assignments were perfect so I could get into a good college, but now I’m like ‘where would I be now if I had taken that time I stressed on schoolwork and focused it on photography instead?’ If anything, maybe I’ll take some business classes, because like what the heck are taxes?!

(Q9:) A ten year old with mom's old camera tells you they want to be a photographer when they grow up. What do you tell them?

I’d tell them to make that camera an extension of themselves and pour their heart and soul into it, and don’t get discouraged when recognition doesn’t come easy and fight to make a name for yourself regardless. Don’t get jealous of other people who are excelling in your field, befriend them and learn from them and be inspired by them. Make the right connections and never stop trying to find your own distinctive style.

(Q10:) If time and money were no object, what is your all-time dream photo shoot? 


Thank you, Kaytlin for taking time out of your busy schedule to participate in the Millennial Entrepreneur series on Butterfly Phoenix!

If you are interested in booking a session with Kaytlin, please visit her website at:

She is currently booking high school senior photos and weddings.Who knows where we will find her in ten years. Best of everything for the future, Kaytlin!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Millennial Entrepreneur Blog Series

I am so excited! Next week on the Butterfly Phoenix blog and my LinkedIn blog, millennial entrepreneurs will be answering questions about their businesses, how they became entrepreneurs, and what their hopes for the future look like.

The blog series will feature local favorites, such as Courtny Evanson, the inventor of the Nevaeh, and CEO of Innovative Mother. Read her uplifting and inspiring story!

You will also hear from one of the youngest, most successful and sought-after photographers in Fargo Moorhead, seventeen year old Kaytlin Dargen. Miss Dargen launched her photography business at sixteen years old.

These are only two of the millennials who have struck out on the road to success, with a drive and passion to achieve their wildest dreams.

Don't miss this series!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Be Harper's Hope

As most of my readers know, I am huge supporter of Pay It Forward. Today, on Butterfly Phoenix, I want to pay it forward for a two year old little girl, whose shoes I wore so many years ago. Well, not the exact same shoes, because Harper has Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which is different than ASD.

Harper was five days old when she underwent her first surgery - 5 Days Old, her second at 4 months old, and her third at 2 years old. That's a lot of surgery for such a little child. Harper is also suffering from PTSD from all of this.

I don't know Harper personally, or her mother. What I do know is being a little girl who is scared, hurting, and confused. I understand all too well the separation anxiety little Harper feels when her mother can do nothing to comfort her as the doctors and nurses poke and prod, and she has to go into that operating room - alone. Forty years later, I haven't forgotten. It's something that is etched on your heart and soul.

Today, I am asking my Twitter followers, my LinkedIn connections, and my FaceBook friends to be Harper's Hope. I'm asking you to pray for this little girl, and help her mother with the medical and travel expenses she is incurring on a daily basis. Harper's mother is only asking for $2500, and has already received $750. We can do better than that. Through our contributions, we can remove a lot of the financial stress from her mother, so her mother can focus on Harper.

This is not a time when we wait for someone else to do what God has called us to do ourselves. Together we can make a difference in a little girl's life. We can give her a chance to grow up into the beautiful woman God created her to be.

Click this link to donate today: Be Harper's Hope

Thank you!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Men - You Need to Step Up Your Game

In light of the fact Father's Day in America is coming up on June 21st, I had to ask myself, "Where are the fathers in America? Now most people who read this post will shrug it off as a non-issue.  However, we see it all the time, young men who strut their swagger in the clubs, in the workplace, on the street, wherever they happen to be. Young men who violate every tenant of the meaning of Manhood.

It seems that some young men today have confused Manhood, with their manhood. If you don't know what that means, you probably aren't old enough to be reading this article.

We have created a society where the idea that children without fathers is OK. IT'S NOT OK! Children without fathers are more likely to live in poverty. 39.6% are considered poor, while 51.9% live in extreme poverty. Those who live in extreme poverty live on a family budget of approximately $200 a week. That $200 a week must cover everything from housing to daycare to food. Forget about clothing or extra-curricular activities or birthday parties, or anything beyond survival. (source:

Responsible fatherhood must become a mainstream ideal of our society. Men, you have a duty and an obligation to the boys of the nation. YOU need to step up your game and start teaching responsible fatherhood to your sons, nephews, students, and boys in your community. Girls and women are only half of the equation. They are not solely responsible when a baby is created.

The father's absence in a boy's life causes them to feel ashamed of who they are. That void lives with them their entire lives - even if another man steps into the father's place. The voice in the back of their head says, "I'm inadequate. I'm not worthy. I'm unwanted. I'm unloved." Boys crave the love and approval of their father.

I've heard every excuse in the book: 
  • She got pregnant on purpose to hold on to me. - You knew what kind of woman she was when you got with her in the first place. Not an excuse.
  • I had to leave. That [insert explicative here] was crazy. - You knew what kind of woman she was when you got with her in the first place. Not an excuse.
  • It was just a one-night stand. It didn't mean anything. - You knew what kind of woman she was when you got with her in the first place. Not an excuse.
  • Hey, she came onto me. - You knew what kind of woman she was when you got with her in the first place. Not an excuse.
  • I had to leave, we didn't love each other. - You knew what kind of woman she was when you got with her in the first place. Not an excuse.
 Note: You can switch the gender roles in these excuses and it's still true.

In a perfect world, none of the above would happen, but as it is, human beings are fallible creatures and we all make decisions that result in unintended consequences. Unfortunately, it is the children who are suffering. Not one of the situations above is a reason to abandon your child. This isn't about the woman, it's about the child.You don't have to live them to be a part of their lives.

Judge Lynn Toler of Divorce Court said it best in a case in which the video has gone viral on the internet. The virility of the video in itself says a lot about the current state of the definition of manhood. Watch it here:

Millions of Americans are in agreement with Judge Toler. Just because you can make children, does not make you a man.  You must be emotionally intelligent, financially secure, able to love and receive love, and most of all respect yourself and women. The children you create are depending on this. Step up your game and live manhood.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Borrower is Servant to the Lender

Proverbs 22:7

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” 

One of the many contributors to the Great Depression in the United States, during the 1930s, was the over-extension of credit.  Banks, as well as Savings and Loan companies, were giving out high-risk loans to people. When the stock market crashed on Black Tuesday in 1929, the practice came back to bite them. When their creditors came to collect, it brought many-a-family to rack and ruin.

All this sound familiar? Consumerism has been around since trade and barter. It’s who we are as a species – we consume what we need and what we want. The tricky part is drawing a hardline between needs and wants. Most people never take the time to figure it out, until we wake up one day to realize we are sending out more than we are taking in, and a vicious cycle has embedded itself into the finances. We are facing our own mini “Great Depression.”

This situation can easily spiral out of control IF we let it. The number one way to snowball your situation – financial or otherwise – is to avoid it. The number one reason (i.e. excuse) for not facing Mount Debt is not the fact that one has no money, it’s vanity, otherwise known as pride.
The first step in taking on such a problem as Mount Debt is to humble ourselves and admit that we created Mount Debt all on our own. There’s no sense in pointing fingers at anyone. Everyone has the ability to say yes or no to any expense. If the hardline between need and want is in place, it makes the decisions a lot easier.

Late last fall, I realized that my debt to income ratio was way too high. I couldn’t let it slide anymore. While formulating a plan of action, my grandfather’s voice started chitter-chattering in the back of my mind. “You cannot rob Peter to Paul. Never a borrower or lender be. If you have money problems, you pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and take care of it - before it gets out of control.”

Grandpa Scheer, God rest his soul, was right all those years ago, and he’s right now. What is the point of borrowing more money to pay back the money you borrowed in the first place; right? So, I did exactly what my grandfather would have done. I found a part-time second job that would work with my existing schedule and now find myself with more and more financial breathing room with each passing month. I don’t have to pay any of the money back. I’ve already paid for it with my labor. My creditors are happy. I’m happier. And, in about 10 months or so, I will be 100% debt free, including my student loans and my car.

I have indeed become a servant to my debt.