Mother’s Day without Mom: Seeking Signs

More than eight months after I lost my mom, I am grateful I only have two big regrets. The first, not bringing her home to us sooner. The second, leaving two of her rings unprotected at her assisted living facility. She still wore her wedding and anniversary bands, but kept the others in a Tiffany-style box in her bedside table. One featured a ruby surrounded by diamonds; the other, a cluster of diamonds. The stones were small, but each a dazzling reminder of the love with which they were given and received. Years later, both were cold-heartedly stolen.

At my wedding, May 4, 1996.

Dad, who died in 2002, was a gregarious man who came to America from Norway with very little. He worked hard and loved showering Mom with gifts, like those rings. Mom, born Sigrun Håheim, also came from Norway. She was a vibrant spirit, bursting with love for God, people, and life.

For years, Mom suffered from peripheral neuropathy, but her health started declining in earnest in early 2019 when she was diagnosed with vascular dementia. Her condition deteriorated further throughout the year. In December, doctors told us she had a spot on her pancreas, Atrial Fibrillation, and a urinary tract infection (UTI). What struck me most wasn’t the dire diagnoses, but her steadfast faith in the midst of them. “I just long to see Jesus,” she said. “To touch His face.” She was ready to go, but had more to endure.

When COVID hit in March, senior living facilities locked down, isolating millions of elderly men and women, including my mom. In April, I had to wish her a happy 86th birthday through a plexiglass screen. In May, she was admitted to hospice and I was granted special visiting privileges. We were reunited! I cherished the hours we spent watching Church services on YouTube, reading the Bible, and just being together.

Last June, my siblings, Heidi and Larry, came to Huntsville for what would be a farewell visit. We stayed together in our house. Mom, who barely spoke in preceding weeks, poured her heart out, declaring her unconditional love and trying to right any wrongs.

Last summer, my siblings came to Huntsville to see, support, and celebrate our mom.

I continued to marvel at her faith. She later shared that she went to bed every night wondering when she’d wake up in her other room, the one Jesus said our Father was preparing for her (John 14: 2-3).

By August, she was extremely weak and frail. We finally brought her home. Two weeks later, on August 28, her breathing changed. I jumped to her side and held her hand, recognizing the guppy-like breaths that indicate end-of-life.

After initially bursting into tears, I pulled myself together. “Mom,” I laughed, “You don’t want your last memory down here to be of me bawling my eyes out.” I flipped the switch, gave her my best smile, and told her how much we loved her. She could go; we’d be okay.

When she slipped away, I could almost see her spirit rising to follow Jesus to her heavenly home. But her earthly absence crushed me. Suddenly, I was the one gasping for air.

The next morning I stepped outside and a female cardinal flew by, hovering near Mom’s window. I smiled, temporarily comforted by the sign. Of course, waves of grief still come and go. Recently, I was driving and missed her terribly. Tears streaming down my face, I cried, “Mom, please tell me it’s real. That you’re in heaven and everything we believe is true.” Moments later, I saw a woman holding a sign that said, “Jesus is coming soon.”

Signs like these assure me that Mom is still here, even though she’s also “there,” in that highly-anticipated other room. As we honor mothers this month, I’ll be sure to give mine the shout-out she deserves. I’m certain she’ll hear me, and respond. I can’t wait to see the sign she sends next.

Posted in Alabama, COVID19, Death, Faith, Family, loss, grief, Mother's Day | 7 Comments

Mom’s 86th Birthday: Celebrations in Quarantine

The COVID-19 pandemic is hurting us all. To date, more than 14,000 thousand people have lost their lives in the United States alone, leaving families immersed in grief and despair. Thankfully, many others have won their battles, or escaped affliction altogether.

The most painful part for me is watching my mother endure the crisis in assisted living. This isn’t an insult to assisted living facilities. Most are taking great strides to keep our parents and grandparents safe. But that doesn’t make it much easier.

A photo of Mom, looking happy and invigorated, November 2018.

Today, April 9, my mom, Sigrun Hovland, turned 86. I won’t be celebrating with her. To protect residents from this dangerous coronavirus, many assisted living facilities are not, under typical circumstances, allowing visitors.

Thrive at Jones Farm, where my mother lives, is among those following Centers for Disease Control guidelines. The CDC also advises against communal dining and group activities. The protection comes at a price.

Being alone can be hard. Even the most hard-core introverts may long for a little human interaction after a few weeks of quarantine. I imagine it is especially hard on seniors.

My mom has vascular dementia, which seems to have progressed during the pandemic. She also has severe neuropathy and struggles with depression. Her body and mind are weakening. She’s not eating as much as she should, but she is likely hungrier for emotional nourishment than she is physical sustenance.

My mom is five miles down the road, but it feels as if we’re a world apart.

In response, Thrive staffers are creatively trying to connect seniors to loved ones.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit Mom, kind of. She was on one side of a large plexiglass wall and I was on the other. My sister and I joked that it was like a jail visit. But her jailer is a cruel, highly contagious virus.

My mom is a hugger. I couldn’t hug her. But I could smile at her, I could laugh with her, and I might have bent the rules a little — “hugging” her feet with mine through the space at the bottom of the barrier.

Mom, like many people her age, have experienced far more difficult and challenging ordeals throughout their lifetimes.

She was a child in Norway during World War II. She might not remember what sports I played in high school, but she vividly recalls her birthday 80 years ago. It was the day Nazis invaded her beloved homeland. “There will be no birthday celebration today, Sigrun,” her mother had told her.

Today, she will get phone calls from friends and family, along with a special birthday meal delivery. Thrive staff will do their part to provide some birthday cheer, as well.

Still, I’m afraid her 86th birthday will feel similar to her 6th. Today’s is clouded by a  very different kind of war, but a distressing battle nonetheless. 

Of course, this too shall pass. We have recovered as a family, and as a community — locally, nationally and globally — from much worse. 

And this birthday celebration isn’t canceled, it’s just postponed.

In June, as long as conditions allow, my siblings, Larry and Heidi, along with my niece, Rachel, will come to Huntsville to wish her a happy birthday in person. Rachel will bring her baby, Audrey MaeLene, and introduce Mom to her first great grandchild.

Hopefully, by then, we’ll all be back at work, at school or summer camps, and at gatherings with friends and family. Hopefully, health care workers will have a reprieve from exhaustive COVID-19 caseloads.

And hopefully, mom will finally get the chance to hold precious Audrey, hugging her great granddaughter with her whole heart.

That, alone, will be worth celebrating.

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New Year’s at 50: Resolving to fly

Happy New Year, everyone. It’s a big one for me. I headed into 2019 at 50.

Fifty means another year to watch my beautiful daughters grow. Another year to spend with my husband, David. Another year to figure out God’s purpose for my life. 

It’s also a year to try something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time: Ride.

I love watching my daughters in their chosen activities. Serina, 13, and Sophia, 11, both play volleyball, a sport I played in high school, and ride horses, something I wanted to do as a kid, but never had the chance.

Sophia jumping Milo at the Jaeckle Centre in February 2018.

I enjoy taking pictures of them in the arena, capturing their joy and humorous antics on camera. But I realize, at 50, it’s not too late for me to experience equestrian-related joy of my own. Not as a spectator, but as a participant.

Some people know that I wanted a horse as a child, but I grew up in a south Minneapolis neighborhood where homes were packed into small rectangular lots, divided by rusted chain-link fences. When I asked for a horse, my dad joked, “Where will we put him? In the garage?”

On road trips, when we drove past horse pastures, I’d ask to stop. We never did. Even so, this pattern continued into adulthood. My boyfriend (now husband) obliged, although he was nervous that a property owner would come out with a shotgun or that one of the horses would take a chunk out of my arm. Neither happened.

Serina on Dillon at Riverdale Farms.

I have often expressed my gratitude for the opportunities afforded aspiring riders, including Serina and Sophia, in North Alabama. There are a handful of wonderful stables within a 20-mile radius of our home. You can board your own horses, take lessons or participate in shows. Even leasing a horse in the Tennessee Valley is reasonable.

My children have been riding for almost seven years and are on the recently-resurrected Pine Ridge Equestrian Team at Pine Ridge Day Camp & Equestrian Center (Disney World has nothing on this place, according to the girls).  The friendships and character developed through riding are incredible. Over the past several years, I’ve spent many hours observing, snapping pictures and capturing videos in heat, cold and rain.

As a kid, I not only wanted to ride; I also wanted to fly.  When Serina and Sophia jump, they look like they are flying!

Now it’s my turn.

I took a trip around the arena with Milo on New Year’s Eve. I’ll definitely need to invest in more appropriate footwear!

I jumped on Milo, the horse Serina is “partial-leasing” at Pine Ridge on New Year’s Eve and the experience confirmed my 2019 New Year’s resolution. This 50-year-old mom, wife and professional fundraiser is going to learn how to ride.

Sure, it’ll be a while before I get to tackle the 3′ jumps. First, I’ll have to work on my form and figure out what “get the right lead” means. I’ll have to learn to walk, gallop, trot and canter. That’s okay. We all had to crawl before we walked, right?

So in 2019, I resolve to fly. On horseback. And off. I might as well resolve to make this my best year ever. At age 50. With the people I love. Pursuing passions once dismissed.

I hope you will consider doing the same. 

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Generous even in death, Jim Pickett gave the gift of life to five strangers

In loving memory of James Michael Pickett, November 7, 1964 – July 1, 2018

heidi and Jim pickett family

Jim Pickett was passionate, kind, entrepreneurial, loyal, and spirited. He enjoyed good friends, great food, and lively conversation. But more than anything, he loved my sister, Heidi Hovland, tenderly, unconditionally, and with his whole heart. He loved his kids, Riordan, 12, and Lena, 15, in the same vein.

Such a force on this planet, we never imagined his life would be ripped from ours — from Heidi’s — so soon. Jim was 53 years old when he suffered a massive stroke late last month. There is a huge void where his dynamic spirit once walked, especially in Maplewood, NJ, their home for the past 14 years.

Jim was a serial entrepreneur, building brands, refining recipes for Pickett’s Ginger Beer, and starting companies since he was a business student at Penn State. But that won’t be his legacy. Rather, the love he had for his family and friends may be what strikes people most.

And the love and admiration they had for him! Those from near and far attended a remembering Jim Pickettquickly-assembled “Gathering of Remembrance” in Maplewood earlier this month. A standing-room only crowd shared memories from across Jim’s lifetime, depicting a man both well loved and well lived. They highlighted entrepreneurial struggles and triumphs, his remarkable curve ball, and again, his devout loyalty for his friends and unequivocal adoration for his family.

But Jim Pickett’s legacy goes even further. Jim, like many of us, had registered as an organ donor with the DMV.

On July 1st, Jim passed from this world, but his heart continues to beat, his lungs continue to breathe, and his kidneys continue to process. Thanks to Jim’s generosity and selflessness, the wait was finally over for five people desperately awaiting lifesaving organ transplants.

“Only about one percent of people who die are able to go on to be organ donors and about 10 percent of people who die are able to go on to be tissue donors,” said Jacqueline Salvatore, Family Support Coordinator at the NJ Sharing Network. “Jim was able to save lives through organ and tissue donation and we will not know the full extent of the lives he has saved and helped for about a year.”

After Jim died, Heidi initiated the process required to honor his wishes. During a time of chaos, confusion, and insurmountable grief, my amazing sister took the time to clear her mind, learn the process, and make a rational decision that would define his legacy.


The Sharing Network honored Jim by flying a flag signed by friends and family outside Saint Barnabas Medical Center for 24 hours.

Experts say one organ donor can save eight lives and impact another 75 through tissue donation. If more people registered as organ donors, and their families were aware of their wishes, more miracles would arise from tragedy — in New Jersey, in Alabama, where I live, and across the country (according to an article from The New York Times, the situation is especially dire in the Empire State.)

“Our donation numbers in Alabama are improving, but we could transplant additional people if more people said yes,” said Ann Rayburn, Director of Education at the Alabama Organ Center. “Last year we had the highest number of organ donors and organs transplanted in our history.  Sadly, there are still nearly 2,500 people waiting for an organ transplant in Alabama today and our kidney transplant waiting list is one of the longest in the country. ”

Heidi and Jim pickett wedding

Heidi and Jim at their wedding in 2000.

We are devastated by the loss of a great man. Fortunately, Heidi is strong and resilient, and she can imagine the pleasure Jim would have had knowing that his strong lungs and loving heart are now helping others.

To learn more about organ donation, contact your local organ procurement agency. In New Jersey, visit the Sharing Network; in Alabama, the Alabama Organ Center.  To make a donation in Jim’s memory to the NJ Sharing Network, click here and select the tribute option for your gift.


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Self-Defense and Situational Awareness: Potentially lifesaving lessons from a former Navy Seal.

For years, I talked about enrolling our daughters, 10 and 12, in a self-defense class. One mass shooting after another (Sandy Hook, Aurora, Charleston, and Orlando, for instance) was shaking our nation. After each one, I, like so many others, shuddered with horror, mourning the innocent lives lost and feeling absolutely helpless.

I held my children tighter, as I do anytime I hear about a crime against a child, including child abductions. The prospect of someone harming my child terrifies me.

Of course, I know you can’t live in fear, but that doesn’t mean you can’t arm your kids with knowledge, tools and strategies that can help them fight back should they ever find themselves in a dangerous and threatening situation, like an active shooter or abduction attempt.


Former Navy Seal Brett Jones instructs several pre-teens on situational awareness and self-defense at his company, Riley Security.

Fortunately, I know an amazing person who understood my qualms. Last weekend, my girls, Serina and Sophia, along with several of their fellow tweeners, took a one-day self-defense and situational awareness training provided by former Navy Seal and CIA operative Brett Jones.

Jones currently works full-time at Riley Security, the company he co-founded in Huntsville. He also works tirelessly to provide self-defense and situational awareness training to folks across North Alabama and beyond.

“It’s a passion I’ve had my whole life,” said Jones. “As a Navy SEAL, CIA agent, or the owner of a security company, I have a passion for protecting people or educating them to protect themselves.”

While Jones has trained many adults over the past 20 years, this was his first go with kids. He did great! Jones started with basic lessons, explaining levels, or conditions, of  alertness, or awareness. It starts with white, when you are relaxed and unaware. It can move into yellow, when you are still relaxed, but aware of your surroundings. In Orange, you’ve noticed something that may or may not be a threat to you; you narrow your focus and pay attention.

When you hit red, you’re aware of a definite threat and you:

  • Run
  • Hide, or
  • Fight

In that order. Run as far away from the noise, commotion, or threat as you possibly can. If you can’t run any further, hide. They practiced this, first as a group, with Jones storming into the room. (Serina, our oldest, climbed into a trash can, successfully hiding from the acting assailant.) If you can’t hide, then it’s time to fight.

The girls learned how to hit (not with your fist, but with your palm) and where to hit 20171203_120809(the face is a key target).  Keep hitting, one hand after the other, making sure you keep your non-hitting hand near your face to protect you.

Jones, donning protective “armor,” feigned a threatening situation with each individual child, giving them an opportunity to run, hide and fight.

The girls had a great time, especially when they got to hit a grown man. There was laughter and light-heartedness during the day, but ultimately, they recognized this experience for its serious, potentially lifesaving lessons. I know there are some cases when the most situationally-aware person can’t get away. I also know there are situations in which the best self-defense moves can’t defeat an assailant.

But I also know that this knowledge and these tools can at least give them a greater chance of escaping. Of surviving. 

Each time the girls raced out of harm’s way in the scenarios Jones created, or hid in a very clever spot, or managed to outmaneuver the “bad guy,” I saw their confidence grow. My peace of mind grew as well.

If you’re interested in self-defense and/or situational awareness training for your group, business or municipality, email Jones at

“If it is an entity that is legally required to carry a weapon because of their job, I provide some really great active shooter/killer training for free,” said Jones. “Nobody else in the state is qualified to teach it. It’s good stuff.”

Fortunately, the girls didn’t scare him off. Jones is also looking forward to training more children.



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Teens, Tweens and Social Media Madness

BACK IN MY DAY I walked to the sketchy corner grocery store alone, at night, to pick up milk or eggs for my parents. Also back in my day:

  • I played outside long past sunset, until my mom hollered for me to come inside.
  • We biked and walked to friends’ houses, to the store, to school. We didn’t need rides.
  • We had four TV channels: PBS, CBS, ABC and NBC. In high school, some kids were lucky enough to get MTV. We weren’t among them.
  • My high-tech gadgets were a handheld Simon and Wildfire pinball machine.
  • We had one phone that could only go into another room if we had a cord that was long enough.

tweens and phonesEverything has changed. According to an online child safety website, 95% of children, 12 – 17, are online. So many of them accessing the Internet via smartphones.

We finally caved and got Serina, our oldest and a member of the so-called Linkster generation, an iPhone when she turned 12. The breaking point was at a volleyball tournament. Everyone on her team had a smartphone (and an Instagram account) except her and one other girl, who was 10.  For us, it was time.

But let me be clear: Just because she got a phone didn’t mean it was her phone. I have her passwords and check her accounts, which initially caused many arguments, especially when I discovered she changed her passwords to lock me out. “Mom, there’s nothing on there.” “You don’t trust me.” And so on.

After all, to a teen, a phone signifies independence. It is a sign of growing up. It is a license to communicate freely. And it terrifies me.

My concerns were validated at middle school orientation when the principal not only encouraged, but begged parents to stay on top of their children’s phone use, particularly with social media and text messages.

Be nosy. Be as nosy as you possibly can.

“Times have changed,” Dr. Dianne Hasty reminded us. Today, the bulk of bullying takes place online, where mean-hearted kids (and adults) hide behind the screen of anonymity. Experts blame cyber-bullying for a number of teen suicides across the US.  Additionally, the National Center for Health Statistics recently released new numbers, stating that the suicide rate among girls, ages 15 – 19, hit a 40-year peak in 2015.

Depression is also becoming more prevalent.

“Look for signs of depression,” Hasty urged, adding that teachers are instructed to do the same, taking all threats of suicide seriously.

Hasty didn’t go into the subject of online predators, but I am fully aware of those dangers, too.

That night, David and I drew up a contract for our daughters (yes, daughters — we caved again and got Sophia, 10, a phone, too). We started with this: Having a phone is a privilege. Not a right. It is our phone. You simply get to use it. We laid out what constituted violations of this privilege, which included:

  • Swearing/inappropriate language.
  • Visiting inappropriate websites.
  • No phone after 9pm.
  • Staying in a message group in which someone is locked out/excluded or being bullied. At the onset of any bullying, you will come to us immediately. We will discuss and you will remove yourself from the group. You will block the bully.
  • Sexting.
  • Changing your phone password. (If you do change your password, notify your parents of the changes immediately.)
  • Seeing someone you follow use crude and/or sexual language and not blocking/unfollowing. Warn your friends that if they use this language or participate in any bullying, they will be blocked and, if warranted, we will tell their parents.

We also listed consequences for violating our rules:

  • 1st offense: Lose phone for two days
  • 2nd offense: Lose phone for one week.
  • 3rd offense: Lose phone for three weeks.
  • 4th offense: Lose phone. Period.

As we navigate these rocky new waters, it’s hard to say what will work and what won’t. This is hardly the solution for all social media and smartphone madness, but for us, it’s a start. As we move forward, we appeal to other parents to also “be nosy.”

It still takes a village to raise a child. Today, however, we villagers need to be more vigilant than ever before.



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Thank you, Officer, for my speeding ticket

Reminders to slow down this Fourth of July and all year long

It had been a fabulous weekend! Our daughters were in Atlanta helping a friend celebrate her 13th birthday. My sister, Heidi Hovland, made an impromptu trip to Huntsville, Alabama to spend some quality time with our mom and me.


A great visit at the Huntsville Botanical Garden with my sister, left, and mom, center.

We had a jam-packed visit. Heidi came in late Friday night, flying into Nashville, renting a car and heading straight to North Alabama. On Saturday, we enjoyed time at the Huntsville Botanical Garden and Bridge Street, a girly lunch at Connors and a lovely dinner (my husband, David, got to come to this one) at Grille 29.  On Sunday, I introduced Heidi to our Church with an 11am service at St. Mark’s Lutheran, which was followed by grocery store runs, library runs, a workout and other must-dos.

After a full weekend, I drove Heidi back to Nashville to catch her return flight to New Jersey. We left at 5:30 am Monday and had two solid hours of sisterly heart-to-hearts. The drive there was wonderful and relaxed. I mentioned that I had to be careful. Tennessee State Troopers would be out in force; after all, it was a long Fourth of July holiday weekend. They would be watching for speeders and drunk and distracted drivers. Fortunately, Heidi and I hit the road early enough to avoid feeling rushed. We soaked in the incredible scenery between the Rocket and Music Cities.

I dropped Heidi off at the Nashville Airport with time to spare. We said our goodbyes and, for me, it was off to the races. My ADD kicked into high gear. Instead of focusing on the two-hour journey ahead, I started a growing to-do list in my head: Fold the laundry, paint the bathroom, walk 7 miles, etc… Suddenly the relaxed mentality with which I had driven to Nashville transformed into an anxious, gotta’-get-back-to-Huntsville-as-soon-as-possible mindset.

Somewhere south of Cool Springs, Waze rerouted me to avoid a horrible standstill on 65 South. Waze is the magical traffic and navigational app designed to save users time and money. It redirected me onto a two-lane highway in Maury County. My mind raced. So, too, did my car, speeding past the beautiful scenery. I paid little attention to the goats, cows and classic red barns dotting the landscape. I also failed to notice the reduced speed limit. After all, this was just a detour. I was saving so much time.

Until a Tennessee State Trooper passed me in the opposite lane. I looked at my speedometer. Time suddenly slowed down. I tried to, as well.  I watched him from my rearview mirror as he did a u-turn, flipped on his flashing lights and sped ahead. Another driver, also from Alabama, and I both pulled over. Two-for-one!

It had been decades since I got a speeding ticket. While not an outrageous speed 20170704_073948violation, it was a violation nonetheless. And it cost me $247.50. When the trooper handed me the ticket, I told him he hurt my heart. He smiled, but didn’t care. I was one of dozens he would likely stop during the holiday weekend

This happened on a day I had taken off of work. I had no reason to rush. Even if I did, the time and money it cost me wasn’t worth it. No excuses.

The officer was kind, professional and patient. He told me I could appear in court on August 18th and could probably avoid the ticket if I went to driving school. “In Tennessee?” I asked. “Yes, in Tennessee,” he said. It looks like I’ll be forking over $250.

I was angry with myself, but fully accepted the blame and costly consequence. I always tell our girls: “Do what you’re supposed to do and bad things are less likely to happen.” It was time to take my own advice. I made a renewed commitment to slow down, on the literal and figurative roads of my life. I had to slow down the spinning wheels in my mind and the speeding wheels of my vehicle. After all, our time on earth is limited and I don’t want to miss a moment with my mother, husband, our children or other family and friends. Plus, follow the rules of the road and we’re all more likely to stay safe, right?

Shortly after I resumed my ride, I stopped at a gas station. Power Ball was up to $121 million. Before I went in, I called my husband to deliver the bad news: “Don’t get mad at me, but… Oh, and by the way, I’m buying lottery tickets.”

“Why not,” he responded. “Today’s your lucky day.”


Happy Fourth of July, everyone. Thanks to all of our service men and women who continue to secure our nation’s independence and freedom. A special thanks to the police officers, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers who monitor us on the roads in an effort to keep everyone safe and remind us to slow down — on the roads and in our lives.




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Father’s Day 2016

Belated thanks and apologies to my late father, Gjert Andreas Hovland

Dear Dad,

morfarThis is my 14th Father’s Day without you. I remember when you first passed away on October 9, 2002. The hurt was not only emotional, but physical. I had a lump in my throat that made swallowing painful. It faded eventually, but I still feel your absence, especially on Father’s Day.

Today, I can’t wish you a Happy Father’s Day. And I can’t go back and thank you for all the great things you did for me that went, if not unnoticed, then un —or under—appreciated. I can’t apologize directly for the things I did or didn’t do while you were still around. But I can recognize them and put them out to the universe. Perhaps God will relay the message. Or maybe, just maybe, you can sense them from where you are:

  • Thank you for getting me the “How to Change a Tire” video from The Dummies series. I am sorry I never watched it. You wanted me to be armed with information should I ever need that knowledge. I didn’t appreciate the gesture for what it was.
  • I am sorry that, as a child, I went out begrudgingly to help you as you worked tirelessly in the garage after hours to fix cars and “earn a few extra bucks.” I just needed to press the brake and gas pedals and should have done so with a grateful heart as you worked your magic under the hood.
  • Thank you (and Mom) for taking us to Norway so often during our youth. I didn’t appreciate it back then for the incredible opportunity and privilege it was. You helped us develop a relationship with our family — with your families — that we wouldn’t have known otherwise. That we still have today.
  • I am sorry I didn’t ask you more questions. About the hardships you endured as a child growing up during World War II; about the accident in the factory in Egersund that put you in a coma and nearly cost you your life; about the difficulties of making a fresh start as an immigrant in the US; and about the challenges you overcame as a single parent before you and mom were reunited.
  • Thank you for providing me with a college education. I go back for my 25th reunion at the College of St. Benedict next week. I had experiences at St. Ben’s that helped shape who I am today. You and mom made that possible. Today I am grateful and recognize that I didn’t give you adequate thanks for the value of that education.
  • Thank you for walking me down the aisle before “giving me away” to David. Thanks


    My dad and me at Mindekirken after I married David. He was always supportive in big life events and small.

    for your patience and assurance as I started hyperventilating right before the ceremony.

  • Most of all, I am sorry that I never had an open and honest conversation with you about your drinking. I understand it all too well now. Instead of being angry and resentful, I wish I could have walked through the fear and shared with you a clear dialogue about alcoholism. Who knows where such a conversation may have led us both.

Thankfully, as a parent myself now, I know that you loved me more than anything in the world, despite my shortcomings. You cheered me on and loved me unconditionally, just as you did my wonderful and amazing siblings, Larry and Heidi. You gave us everything you had. And more.

My wish today is that I can provide for my children at least half of what you provided for me. Then I’ll know I have done a good job as a parent.

Love always,
Your youngest daughter

PS: Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there doing the best they can, including David Robert Petersen, the fabulous father of my children. I love you! For those who have recently lost their dads: I am very sorry for your loss. It does get better. I promise.




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Hello. It’s me.

Hello from the other side.  It’s been a long time since my last blog. Almost a year. A lot can happen in a year, including the release of Adele’s “25,” which surpassed 8 million sales by February. We are among the millions of fans. The girls and I have almost worn out the CD, listening and singing aloud (really loudly) on the way to school each day.

Also over the past year: I was promoted to Director of Annual and Planned Giving at HudsonAlpha. I am grateful to have found a career that drives and challenges me professionally and inspires and fulfills me personally.

serina horseAnother update: our girls’ passion for horses has soared. Serina, 11, and Sophia, 9, spout off facts about care, anatomy, techniques and breeds the way some tweens talk about, well, what do typical tweeners talk about?

Serina and Sophia have done two horse shows, both in Fayetteville, Tenn. Neither “won,”
but they will still tell you it was a great experience and neither can wait for the next opportunity. The girls are presently gearing up for another month of Appaloosa camp at Pine Ridge Day Camp and Equestrian Center.

They want their own horses, of course. David and I have told them they’d have to secure their own funds to buy and board them. Not an easy financial feat, as you might imagine. You should see their young entrepreneurial minds churning.sophia jump

Mormor, after moving back to Minnesota, has settled into her senior living community in Minneapolis. She is also back at Mindekirken, her Church of 50-plus years, where she worships with her fellow Norwegian believers.

Our family returned to Minnesota for a visit last fall. We got to see my oldest niece, Rachel, marry her best friend, Mike McArthur. Beautiful wedding! It was wonderful to see our families, both on my side and David’s. We love our brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins very much. Time with them is always special.

rachel and mikeSerina also discovered volleyball. She played her first season with the North Alabama Spikers Association and loved NASA. She also won a song recording at a local studio, Maitland Conservatory, through a talent show at the Academy for Academics and Arts.

Sophia dabbled in volleyball too, showing a knack for the sport that I enjoyed playing in high school. She also appeared in a local commercial for Redstone Federal Credit Union and a national print ad for Dollar General.

The summer, I suspect, will be short and busy. We’ll likely say goodbye to Adele and move on to another CD. The girls will have fun and grow in spirit, mind and, in true Petersen fashion, body (Serina was 5’8″ at her 11-year check-up). And hopefully I’ll get back to my writing roots because it just feels right.




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Aladdin: Get Ready for a (magic carpet) Ride

Serina with her proud little sister, Sophia, after opening night.

Serina with her proud little sister, Sophia, after opening night.

When my oldest daughter started her journey with “Aladdin” earlier this summer, neither of us knew where it might lead. This theater business is hard work. Initially, she swore she would never do it again.

Serina is a rising fifth grader at the Academy for Academics and Arts so it’s no surprise that she’s interested in performing. Up until now, though, horses have been her main obsession, leaving little room or desire for anything else.

But as the Aladdin production, coordinated by the Huntsville Community Chorus Association and directed by Micki Lighthall, took shape, Serina had a serious attitude shift. Two weeks in, she came home dancing and singing songs from the Disney classic. (Now I can’t get Arabian Nights and A Whole New World out of my head.) Sometimes the rehearsals ran late. During “tech-week,” she came home at 10:30, long after her early-bird mom had gone to bed.

Aladdin (Guerin Tidwell) and Jasmine (Eboni Booker) following the matinee on July 18.

Aladdin (Guerin Tidwell) and Jasmine (Eboni Booker) following the matinee on July 18.

By the time opening night rolled around, however, Serina, was hooked on musical theater. So was I. The cast of 80 kids (18 and under, hence Disney Jr.) was phenomenal. They spent their summer vacations working their talented tails off and the payoff was huge. The cast, directors, producers, tech folks, set and costume designers and the countless other volunteers were rewarded with the satisfaction of a job well done, having pulled off a spectacular community production in about eight weeks. The community was rewarded with an hour-long show that showcased some of Madison County’s amazing young talent.

Eboni Booker plays Jasmine. The Sparkman High graduate has a phenomenal voice, which she’ll continue to grow when she starts the University of Alabama at Birmingham this fall.

Guerin Tidwell, a student at Bob Jones, delights as Aladdin. Marcus Gladney, a rising junior at Lee High School is smokin’ as Genie. Marcus is a product of AAA and we are proud of him. Be sure to keep an eye out for Jafar and Iago, as well. This villainous pair often stole the show, as did the magic carpet, cleverly played by Ella Jackson, a rising sixth grader at AAA.

Serina with Genie (Marcus Gladney)

Serina with Genie (Marcus Gladney)

You only have three chances left to check out this summer smash. I’m learning what many others have known for years: This community has an amazing pool of talent, showcased on stage and behind the scenes. If you can make it to Randolph School’s Thurber Arts Center, be sure to hit one of the following remaining shows:

  • Friday, July 24, 7pm
  • Saturday, July 25, 3pm
  • Saturday, July 25, 7pm

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids.

I’ve always told Serina God gives us all gifts. Her beautiful voice is one of hers. It is wonderful when your child not only discovers, but embraces, her gift. As a mom, that makes my heart sing.

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