One week ago today, social media was flooded with photos of our nation’s heroes: our veterans. Our neighbors, family members, co-workers and friends, proudly wearing their military uniforms in moments taking place throughout the world.

There’s a reason I didn’t share this story that day… because I want to see more of those posts and pictures EVERY DAY, not just Veterans Day.

Think about your typical day. Here’s mine:

  • Wake up
  • Send boys to school
  • Work
  • Eat dinner with family
  • Hot bath while reading vampire romance

Now, let’s take a closer look at that day:

  • Wake up <<in warm bed, without fear of a bombing taking place outside>>
  • Send boys to school <<because free, high-quality education is the right of every American>>
  • Work <<at a job I chose, where I have the power to pursue anything I dream of>>
  • Eat dinner with family <<with no worry of how I or my children will find food>>
  • Hot bath with vampire books <<don’t judge. I like the characters.>>

Think I’m being dramatic? I’m not. Right now in Ukraine as well as other places in our world, bombings of hospitals, churches, neighborhoods are reality. Free, high-quality education? Look up ‘Most Dangerous Ways To School’ on YouTube; it’s a beautifully made documentary series, following children around the world and the miles they walk and dangers they face daily all for the chance of education. I could go on and on and on about food, free speech, career choice, family size…. there are places in our world, right now in 2022, where the daily goal is SURVIVAL, and I was near tears Thursday morning thinking I lost an Apple earbud.

So why me? Why us? How did we get so lucky?

It’s not by chance. It’s because we live in America. And something this beautiful doesn’t come without a fight; when that fight has come, time and time again, brave men and women have stepped up to defend the ideals and foundation our country was built upon. Jeff Kilgore is one of our local heroes who has answered that call, for 32 years and counting.

Officer Kilgore is an Omaha Police School Resource Officer assigned to Westside High School. Let me preface the following by noting I have profound respect for our local police officers. As a reporter, I consistently saw acts of compassion and courage in our community law enforcement in my 15+ years of broadcast news, sometimes things no one else saw. The sheriff who held a lost child in his arms until his momma arrived. The officers searching for days for a missing child without stopping to sleep or eat. The hardcore detectives who stopped mid-investigation to buy kids a new basketball hoop or play catch with them, to hopefully, build a positive relationship and make those kids feel special.

Officer Kilgore is of that same class of men and women, sworn to serve and protect us in our communities. At Westside, he is a constant advocate for the safety of children and educators, analyzing school shootings as they happen to provide better preparation and planning for our district and others. He saved a woman’s life at a Westside football game a few years ago, immediately providing CPR when she went into cardiac arrest, keeping her alive until paramedics could take over. He is part of the Omaha Police crisis team, helping support his fellow officers involved in traumatic incidents like officer-involved shootings, and he offers his SRO experience and assistance to other school resource officers across the Omaha metro area and beyond.

All of that is impressive in and of itself, and it is only part of Officer Kilgore’s story. As a member of the US Coast Guard and Army, he served in wars in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I was proud to serve in Afghanistan in 2005,” said Kilgore. “I volunteered for the mission because it seemed like the honorable thing to do and my duty. Plus, I couldn’t let my brothers and sisters in arms go without me. We lost one soldier in Bosnia, SPC Blake Kelly, and I was not going to let that happen again.”

Officer Kilgore’s description of his fellow servicemen and women is reverential; that American armed forces are the most lethal on the planet, but what makes them great are the people who wear the uniform, regardless of what that uniform may be. In Afghanistan, he was side by side with true volunteers called to battle, the men and women of the Army National Guard.

“Our job in Afghanistan was to mentor our Afghan counterparts in charge of training basic trainees just outside of Kabul,” said Kilgore. He and his fellow American soldiers took Afghans, many of whom could not read or write, and trained them in multiple languages to ensure all understood. He remembers one interpreter in particular, a man named Jawad.

“I trusted him, understood him, and enjoyed being around him,” said Kilgore. “Jawad came from a family of tailors and always tried measuring me up so he could tailor a suit for me as a symbol of his gratitude for Americans, I guess. He thought all Americans were incredibly wealthy, he loved watching western TV shows like Gilligan’s Island, and he took pride in showing me the Afghan culture, educating me in many types of Afghan meals he even made me personally.”

Kilgore and his camarades missed weddings, graduations, births and more, but felt like they had made a difference in another part of the world with people like Jawad, while working to keep terrorism away from their doorsteps, and ours. Kilgore returned to Nebraska and retired from the armed services as a Lietuenent Colonel, continuing his full-time work as a police officer with both the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office and Omaha Police.

“We took raw recruits from the hinterlands of Afghanistan, made them into warfighters, and sent them to the frontlines to fight (the Taliban) alongside their American mentors down range,” said Kilgore. “Since 9-11-2001, our Armed Forces, my brothers and sisters, provided the ability for Americans to sleep at night, knowing that we had their back and that terrorists were not going to land another punch in the mouth that was planned, organized and executed from this part of the world.”

August 2021. Officer Kilgore watched from Nebraska as the United States withdrew all remaining troops from Afghanistan. The Taliban quickly moved in, killing 13 American military members who were trying to help people escape at the Kabul airport. One of them was Marine Corporal Daegan Page, just 23. He was a son, a friend, a hometown Omaha kid, a hero. Though they had never met personally, Officer Kilgore was emotionally destroyed. A guy who was typically unshakeable was visibly shaken in the days that followed. He talked about the withdrawal, deaths of our heroes, and unknown fate of the Afghans who stood with America for 20 years. With immense respect for Officer Kilgore and the time he took to share those thoughts, I will summarize his thoughts through one quote shared September 1, 2021: “recapping the last 3 weeks has been maddening for Afghanistan veterans and current members of our military. Our country is less safe, and why? My mind often wanders to my interpreters. Jawad and I lost contact in 2005. I hope he and his family are safe but I fear the worst; he spoke very good English and that is the scarlet letter he has always careered, and will always carry with him for the rest of his life.”

Here’s why I am reluctant to share more, and why I didn’t write this article in September of 2021: I was and am physically exhausted with the political theatre that seemingly comes with every daily news cycle. I was fearful that by sharing the insight of a man who was actually there, the primary planner behind the removal of intelligence equipment in Iraq, a war veteran who has now dedicated his life to protecting children and schools, I feared that I would be opening him up to unnecessary scrutiny from armchair politicos, adding undeserved insult to his injury.

Now, more than ever, this is an important story to share. Have a you ever reached a breaking point where you throw your hands up and ask why? Why am I doing this, why have I done all of this? What’s the point?

Think of that question when you are considering the scale of sacrifice these heroes make every day, to protect the freedoms and opportunities we so take for granted. My father-in-law, a decorated Vietnam Veteran, shared EVERYTHING with my husband, but suffered things so horrific at war he never spoke about it. My former co-anchor and friend since high school Adrian Whitsett watched his friends and camarades die on the frontlines of Fallujah or after, then came home to interview folks who had an opinion about everything our military did or didn’t do. How many of our heroes missed the births of their children or their friends’ weddings? How many suffered through weeks in the desert without a shower or a warm bed, or months in the jungle with no break or hope? How many lost friends and suffered emotionally and physically for years, and still now?

It’s why I cried while making this..

And why I was so damn proud to see this..

Because these moments reinforce to me there is a why.. that our country is so beautiful and the foundation of what our forefathers created is so special, it is worth defending again, and again, and again, so our children can grow up experiencing all of the freedom and opportunity these brave men and women have made possible. Because even though sometimes it feels as though we are so damn divided as a nation, we are the UNITED States of America; perhaps our arguments are so heated because we are united in our passion about a dream that is not easy to maintain and defend. Because America IS WORTH IT.

My why for writing this now, is to show Officer Kilgore and Adrian and every veteran I see in my neighborhood and at work and on Facebook… YOUR BRAVERY MATTERS. THANK YOU. Because of you, I’m comfortably sitting on my couch writing this now. Because of you, my boys are in school, learning about the principles America was founded upon, and the brave men and women who fought to ensure they still exist today. Because of you, I GET to go to work; not have to, GET to, to share stories about kids learning, kids who will change the world because of other adults who GET TO go to work to teach and love them. I get go, I can, I have the opportunity…. because I live in America. Because of the heroes who defend America and what our country stands for.

Who are we? What are we here for? How do we define AMERICA?

“Isaiah 6:8 reads: Then I hear the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here I am, send me!’,” said Kilgore. “Hopefully, that is enough in the end.”

Veterans Day. Every day. To our veterans, our true American heroes, I salute you.

There She Is/Was/Might Be…

What in all the hell am I doing?!?!

That thought was popped into my brain more than once in the last 72 hours.. from that first second I clicked ‘POST’ and shared with the social media universe some crazy ass personal news: I’ve decided to commit to compete for Mrs. Nebraska 2023.

I’ve been thinking about this for a solid six years, maybe even longer. There’s always been an excuse, but the biggest has continuously been: I AM A 41 YEAR OLD MOTHER and everyone will think I’m a huge loser for trying to relive my 20’s and be a beauty queen again.

I shared this little secret ‘dream’ with some of my favorite people about a year ago. My friend Lisa said this: ‘do you think Dr. Jaime is a loser? Do you think any of those other women are losers?’

No. They are pretty much my heroes.

‘Dr. Jaime’ is Dr. Jaime Seeman, Mrs. Nebraska 2020. She is also a finalist from the NBC hit Titan Games, a sought out Omaha OBGYN and Surgeon, and an inspiration to women all over the world who are hoping to regain their health, fitness and confidence. She’s also a mom of three beautiful girls, a small business owner, and a devoted wife to a busy Lincoln police sergeant.

The first time I emceed Mrs. Nebraska, Dr. Jaime won. That was the same year I met Mrs. Nebraska 2017 Sarah Christianson; she is organized, she is energetic, she is positive and so supportive of others. When I started following her on social media, I was IN AWE of how she just went after things that gave her fulfillment – a physical specimen despite a lifetime of heart problems and being told ‘you can’t’; a contracted model with Develop Model Management; and again, a busy mom of two and happy wife.

Michele Strom, Mrs. Nebraska 2007; a literal LEGEND in the world of health and beauty care, makeup artist and stylist for Nebraska’s first Miss USA Sarah Rose Summers. Michele has not only owned multiple successful businesses, she has been brilliant and confident in her strategies to promote her operations, extend her outreach, and expand her personal partnerships. There’s a reason that within a few weeks of Michele styling our KETV crew during annual headshots she was also styling George Stephanopoulos and the ABC News crew during Iowa Caucuses; because she is a talented lady boss who no one EVER forgets after their first meeting. She is also a proud mom raising incredible kids; her daughter Emma in on full athletic scholarship at the University of Arizona, already exploring NIL business opportunities to capitalize on that success and build her professional resume for the future.

Amanda Reinert, Mrs. Nebraska 2014; small business owner, mom of two (including one with special needs), and a crusader against childhood cancer, raising more than $100,00 and counting to support Children’s Hospital & Medical Center where her daughter, Ava, received treatment. Click here to read more about Amanda’s incredible story. She does all these things and still goes to concerts with friends, has special days with her kids, is THE best room parent in the history of elementary school, etc.

The current Mrs. Nebraska Tammy Shuff; a fellow Gretna mom of three, who I see at Dragon Football games and driving through my neighborhood during mom drop-offs and pickups. She is also a national bodybuilding champion and a constant advocate for causes supporting women.

Anna Ekdhal Peters, Mrs. Nebraska 2018, first planted the seeds of competing in my brain that same year; when I bumped into her at an event that year, encouraging me to compete with infectious positivity and enthusiasm. She just made me feel SO DAMN SPECIAL.

Mrs. Nebraska 2019 Adair Reese. I heard her final speech before she crowned her successor, talking about how that journey allowed her, who owned multiple, small, family businesses and was raising two kids, to do something JUST FOR HER. Somehow, that resonated so much within myself as my final WHY. She was just like me – we are almost the same age. We are both moms. We are both busy professionals. And she did this – and had a GREAT TIME doing it, just for herself.

So why not me? Why not now?

I’m a competitor, and there’s something within pageant land that has always sparked a fire inside of me, pushing myself in competitive venues like INTERVIEW, and PHYSICAL HEALTH. I listen to political debates or on-stage questions at my beloved Miss Omaha or Miss Nebraska competitions, and I think of how I would answer that. It takes me back to competitive speech in high school, or having to immediately respond and compete with my words in court during high school mock trial. It’s part of why I loved my job so much at KETV and why I love my job so much at Westside now; because of that adrenaline rush of being put on the spot and having to just TALK, and speak well. Then there’s the physical aspect.. health is IMPORTANT to me. I want to look and feel good for my husband, my children, AND FOR MYSELF. I want to feel confident in what I present to the world. When I sign up for an event or book a trip with a set date or deadline, whether it be a 5K or a beach trip with my husband, I work harder. I have a goal to focus on when things are hard. There’s also the promise of helping another working momma somewhere think ‘YES, I CAN.’ Whatever that ‘I can’t.’ Might be. There are SO MANY amazing things happening all around us… yet it’s so easy to listen to the haters and become engulfed in all of the bad. I want to share the good that makes someone smile, and inspires them to become better and do better.

The final why… and no way around it, it’s just selfish and that’s it.. I want something for ME. I do my best I can to be a great mom, a great wife, a great employee, a great friend… and I selfishly want something that makes ME excited.

I look back at my own beloved Mom, Jackie, and how she devoted her entire life to us kids. She had three kids 5 and under at 25 years old, with my Dad on the road quite a bit for work. Looking back now, I simply cannot imagine. There wasn’t time for anything else other than getting kids to school and homework and CCD and whose activity on which night. I also remember when she took those rare moments for herself, signing up for a painting class, and how cool I thought that was.. how I thought my Mom was the smartest lady on earth when she went back to school to obtain her degree from Bellevue, pouring over books at the dining room table each night after we went to bed… how pretty I thought my Mom was when we had our Glamour Shots pictures together when I was 15 <<yes, Glamour Shots at Oakview Mall. We were awesome.>> If my Mom had competed for Mrs. Nebraska, it would have been cool as hell, and I would have been in even further awe.

All of my fears I have held onto that my kids or others would think I was being selfish doing something like this because it would take away from them, that somehow, this new descriptor of myself might take away from my most important role on earth I will ever have as their mom… I look back at those moments and have hope that this isn’t something my children think is a choice APART from them, but rather, that they see as an example FOR them, IN ADDITION to them, and that it’s a great story of their momma doing something she wanted to do, working towards a goal. Secretly, I’m hoping they’ll also be proud of me now or later on.

All of my fears I have held onto that my colleagues or folks in the social media world would think, ‘man, that’s sad.. she’s trying to ‘be famous’ again or something and doing an adult pageant? Sheesh.’ Well, I’m a big hypocrite… since it’s all of these Mrs. Nebraska’s and the women who are part of this program who have provided such inspiration to me to work out, eat healthier, go after things that make me happy, and more, by putting themselves out there like I’ve been so afraid of doing. I think of that scene from Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle with Ruby Roundhouse <<if you haven’t watched it, do – super funny>>: YOU ARE a bad ass.

I’ve produced a documentary. I’ve interviewed a sitting President. I’ve anchored live news coverage for hours with no break. I’ve led multi-million dollar communications campaigns for my school district. I’ve lost 20 pounds and learned how to box in my basement. I’ve run several 5K’s after having two children. I’ve raised thousands of dollars for charity and helped others do the same. I try to be kind to others and improve when I am NOT my best self. I try to do cool things for my boy’s classrooms and teams and give them the best happy memories I can. I AM a bad ass.. I’m sure there are haters out there but I can’t change them or what they think.

I CAN stop making excuses, and just DO IT.




I AM BEYOND grateful to all of my friends, loved ones and colleagues who have sent such amazing well wishes.


To all asking ‘how can I help support you?’ THANK YOU – that means more than I can possibly explain. While I DETEST asking for help for myself, I am looking for sponsorship opportunities with local businesses who may be interested in becoming my partner in this journey! PLEASE CLICK HERE for details, or email me anytime:

Wanderlust: All I Know So Far

I have the COVID. I am in hell. Not the physical pain/vomiting kind of hell… but that bottomless pit of boredom, guilt and nausea that keeps you isolated from your family and depressed in your own thoughts.

Wow – ok, maybe I’m going a little too far. I’m on Day 11 and despite what the internet told me (‘by Day 7, you should be feeling better!’) I still can’t be up and moving around for more than a few minutes without feeling a whoosh of heat in my face and that feeling that something might come up at any minute, or without having a coughing fit so bad it literally takes me a few minutes to find solid breath again.

So here I am, back in bed, surrounded by pill bottles and my two canine nurses. (As far as they’re concerned, this is THE BEST. THING. EVER.) More than once, I’ve thought ‘if I were just near the ocean. If I could just breathe in that air and feel that sun – that’s all the medicine I’d need.’

Brian and I will retire by the water someday… but we still want to see more. We love to travel. As much as I have loved returning to some of our favorite destinations, there’s always a desire to venture somewhere new, where we haven’t yet explored. Belize – Fiji – Greece – Ireland. Maine – Montana – Alaska – Utah. So for a little while here… I hope you’ll indulge me in closing my eyes and remembering the beauty in my favorite, most memorable spots in our world… so far. Maybe you’ll be inspired to head to one of these, and maybe (hopefully!) you’ll leave me a note about where I can dream of heading next.

Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic has some of the warmest, natural water I have ever felt. The ocean is like bath water. We spent a lot of time in the Atlantic there and learned of it’s many personalities… the powerful beach waves that pulled literal tons of seaweed to the shore. The serene, waist deep pools that hosted our catamaran party, along with hundreds of others. And the angry Atlantic that violently rocked our deep sea fishing boat… and my near-overboard body as I retched up my breakfast over the side. On this trip the men golfed, the women shopped, we did all the excursions.. and by our final full day I was exhausted. Brian begged me to come with him to a spot down the beach from our rental.. our friends and travel companions Shea and Sandy Connolly said we HAD to visit this place after they happened upon it while exploring our area.

If we weren’t looking for it, we might’ve missed it. Hidden away from the obvious destination of the beach, and past the creepy ass ghost resort, abandoned by investors decimated during the 2008 Recession. The only indication we were in the right place was a small shedlike hut that served as the ‘welcome center’. From the tiny gravel parking lot, you walked into this little jungle, much like Fontenelle Forest for my O-Town readers, just with different types of trees. Dirt worn path, random branches you had to duck around or under.. I mean, yeah, it was quiet and neat.. but what was the big deal? Then… the trees opened up to one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen… this hidden, turquoise pool in the middle of nowhere. The pictures here just don’t do it justice – it was magical. It was so quiet… so still. How did no one know about this hidden Eden? Benches and a little overlook had been built randomly at spots along the trail.. with both a board or rope swing to propel yourself into the pool. The most amazing was still to come… we jumped in, and the water was absolutely crystal clear. That pool was easily 20-feet deep.. but you could see EVERYTHING. Absolutely everything, all the way to the bottom. It was truly an unforgettable moment.. one of those, ‘is this real life?’ memories for both us.

The beaches of Kona, Hawaii at sunset

Hilton Waikoloa Village

Brian had always wanted to go to Hawaii – he’d been talking about it since we first met. So when our good friends Scott and Megan Phillips decided to renew their wedding vows, we jumped at the chance to join them (side note for guilt-ridden moms: we were parents of one 20-month old at the time, who stayed with his adored Nana and Papa. He ate brisket, went to the toy store, spent his days at the park. I missed him terribly – he didn’t give two toots I was gone!)

Of the eight islands of Hawaii, we visited the Big Island, the largest and most southeastern of the state. Our resort was the SPRAWLING Hilton Waikoloa Village on the northwest side, where Megan had stayed with her family as a child. When I say sprawling… I mean you took a tram to get from one part of the 62-acre complex to the other. I loved the pools. I loved the Lava Flows. I loved our company. I loved the shopping, the turtles, the volcano, the convertible drive past waterfalls and farms and ocean. But nothing compared to our breathtaking nighttime tradition.. watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, while a man ran up the length of our entire coastline, lighting beach-set torches along the way. It was sheer perfection for every part of our being; the colors of the setting sun like brush strokes against the water and palm trees, the sound of the ocean lapping against the shore, the smell of nothing but purity, the feeling of being there to witness it with my own eyes, alongside my husband. Megan and Scott chose one of those Kona sunsets to renew their love for one another after 10 years of marriage, with Brian and I watching a few yards away.


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The Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona, circa June 1999

I’ve never questioned there is a God. I’ve prayed to God since I was a little girl. But the first time I remember truly being blown away by the awesomeness of what our God has created was when I saw the Grand Canyon in person. I remember specifically thinking.. ‘how can anyone who sees this ever doubt we have a God?’

No descriptive memories here.. I visited the Grand Canyon while attending High School Speech Nationals in Phoenix the year I graduated from Papillion-La Vista. That day it was just me, my incredible speech coach (and PLCS Hall of Fame Inductee) Bev Ruff, Assistant Coach Mary Birky, and a fellow competitor from Bellevue East, my roommate for the trip. I remember sitting on the beautiful red rocks and staring… just staring.. awestruck by the sheer vastness, the enormity, the beauty that seemed to go on forever in every direction.

Anna Maria Island, Florida

Gulf of Mexico, Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island, Florida

This picture is imprinted in my heart. This was the first time our boys saw and felt the ocean; Brian captured this moment as Easton and Evan stood together in the warm Gulf waters, silent, just staring.

Take your children to the ocean. Take them to Anna Maria Island.

Brian’s cousins, Nick and Vicki Zec, own a beautiful vacation property, Alecassandra Vacation Villas, in Bradenton Beach. This tiny island off the coast of Sarasota is only 7 miles long and a few blocks wide, surrounded by bay and ocean. ABSOLUTELY PERFECT for families; we stay in a beautiful 2-bedroom where the boys have their own space and we have ours, with a kitchen, living room and pool. You hit the one island grocery store to stock up for the week, walk to the beach every day, and zoom around on your golf cart for putt putt, ice cream and the unique Mom & Pop shops. It is truly magical. It’s where Brian and I plan to take our boys every year as a family for the foreseeable future, and where we hope to invest in ourselves and retire someday.

There is nothing more beautiful than watching your children experience something glorious for the first time. The look on Evan’s face as he jumped over his first wave. Hearing the laughter of my children and husband together, as they sat in the surf and felt the waves crash against their backs. The joy and excitement in Easton’s voice as he begged his Dad to take him fishing off the pier. The gratitude in my heart when Evan reached over to hold my hand in our lawn chairs and just talked to me. When we are here, I have everything I could ever want or need and feel 100% at peace and happy.

Isla Mujeres, Atlantic Ocean near Cancun, Mexico

Punta Sar on Isla Mujeres, the Caribbean Sea west towards Cancun, Mexico

When Brian and I travel to international resorts, we typically stay ON the resort. We drink, we nap, we read, WE RELAX. We LOVE the all inclusive option, and we love getting our money’s worth and taking our time – NOT watching the time – without a care in the world.

Still, when we took our first trip to Cancun, Mexico with friends we heard about a day trip to a little island of the coast.. Isla Mujeres. I believe it is Mexico’s easternmost point in the Atlantic. IT WAS BREATHTAKING. It’s a tiny little tourist island with shops, restaurants, (and some VERY tiny swimsuits, as demonstrated by a very hairy, elderly gentleman).. but our favorite spot by far was Punta Sar at the southern tip. The bluest, turquoise waters. Trails that allow you to travel right up to the precipice before a 100-meter drop to the sea. The remains of a Mayan temple and markers throughout, explaining the history that happened in the very places you are walking. Brian just stood there at the top, stared, and breathed it all in. We would walk for a little bit and just stop to stare more. How are there places like this in the world that we had never heard about? That people haven’t seen? If you travel to Cancun – YES, enjoy the fruity drinks and the sunshine and the Michael Jackson tribute shows on the resort… but buy your ferry tickets to Isla Mujeres. 100% worth it.

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

H. Toad’s Bar & Grill, Lake Ozark, Missouri

My Dad purchased his dream home in 2013 – a perfect spot on an eastern cove near Bagnell Dam at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. I’ve written about it here before – if I haven’t already demonstrated with my previous ‘most beautiful spots’ – I am constantly drawn to the water. I get it from my Dad – he says it’s the Dane in us, part of our souls. I didn’t want to crash his new getaway just as he bought the place.. but we had just welcomed Evan, Easton was just 2, Brian had just worked a 120-hour week running the College World Series, and we desperately wanted a vacation that could accommodate all of our family’s needs with adding MORE stress. After a 6-hour car drive with a 2-month old and 2-year old… we arrived to sheer peace. This water is a different type of beauty than the ocean that I so love… it is serenely calm. No constant tide, no swells that rise and fall night and day.. just peace. ‘Papa’s Cabin’ as we call it sits in a private cove away from 20-something parties and racing speedboats. Often, my Dad and Mom catch their biggest fish right off their pier, just down the steps from their home.

This beauty is simplicity. You make time stop. Nowhere to be, nowhere to rush to, nothing to tune out, nothing to worry about. Just you, quiet, and the beauty of nature in every form all around you. The water goes on forever, unparalleled sunrises and sunsets, and just EASE of life. Simplicity.

We took a family trip to Papa’s cabin every year since. I will always remember Easton’s sheer delight in throwing rocks into the lake to ‘hit the fishies!’ Or Evan, blissfully asleep at 2-months old in the shade of a summer afternoon while I did a crossword right next to him. Later on.. Easton would outfish all of us (Papa disputes this statement), and find a new passion – creating new and exciting jumps off the dock. Everyone had a great belly laugh when Mom decided to go tubing… it was not pleasant. I am 40. Evan, though he never seems to stop moving, even found his calm and center while at Papa’s cabin… that’s him in the picture above, unprompted, just off by himself at dinner watching the sunset.

My Mom and Dad put the cabin up for sale this past fall when they moved into their new dream home – right on the edge of Prairie Queen in Papillion. Without the 6-hour drive, Papa can walk right down the path to fish every, single day… and Easton loves nothing more than to join him early on summer Saturday mornings. Still, it was so hard telling our boys that Nana and Papa were selling the cabin. I hope, even though they were so little when we had such treasured memories there, that they remember.

Montego Bay, Jamaica

Excellence Oyster Bay, Montego Bay, Jamaica

The Bahamas.. Cancun.. Los Cabos.. the Dominican Republic… Jamaica has been our favorite of them all. Click here for a recap of my personal promotion of this island paradise with all of my tips and tricks of travel! There was a moment during our last trip in November where I just stopped and tried to soak in the moment, because it was glorious.

This trip we stayed where we have been hoping to visit for years: Excellence Oyster Bay. We ADORE the Excellence properties in the Caribbean; this was our third of five and it absolutely lived up to our hopes (Brian’s favorite of our visits so far!) Located on the northern part of the island on it’s own little peninsula, you are cut off from the rest of the world for a few blissful days. Brian and I wandered the beach one day and found a magical spot… sandy, white beach, hidden behind a line of trees. In front of you, the serenity of the ocean, and to your left, the majesty of the mountains. Just us – just this tropical Eden. It was like a hidden little paradise no one had ever visited before except us.. and I wanted to stay forever.

90,000 Happy People

Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska * August 14, 2021

Sometimes.. God’s beauty manifests in a place even when that beauty isn’t within the place itself.

That was deep. I think.

I visited my final Most Beautiful Place In the World on August 14, 2021.. Garth Brooks at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. 90,000 people packed the stadium for the sold out show, the music legend’s largest EVER by the time the night was over. There is something so reaffirming about concerts – how often do we see tens of thousands of people together – happy – at the same time? No bickering, no divisive rhetoric or hate. Just people united as one to enjoy life for a few hours.


Even if you don’t like country, it was hard to argue that this night was something almost medicinal. It had been 19 months since we’d been amid so many other human beings. At that point, we had once again begun a vicious debate cycle of masks and COVID-19 protocols in school, but on this night – only smiling faces, laughter and pure joy in the memories these songs reminded us of. We were surrounded by our good friends Brian, Lisa, Toni and Greg.. and across the stadium we knew countless other friends were in their own seats, enjoying the same thing we were at that exact same moment. It was almost a mythical reality – beauty that would disappear from that place as soon as Garth stepped off stage – but captured in our memories all the same.


Logic would indicate I would call this blog post ‘The Most Beautiful Places in the World’… but what the heck do I know? I just read a biography in which the author, only a few years older than me, had visited something like 130 countries. I’ve only been as far west as Hawaii, as far east as the Dominican Republic. But what I’ve realized every time I’ve experienced a magical moment.. and now, as I’ve relieved those moments reflecting on such great memories.. there is so much beauty in the world. The tough times, the chatter, the chaos… it’s all just background noise. Find the good – find the beauty.

That’s all I know so far.

Amanda’s Army

Work has been challenging of late. Frustrating, overwhelming, personal.

The second I walk through my door, it doesn’t matter. I hear ‘MOMMY!’ and see two smiling boys who do not care who said what, who thinks what, or what I do for my job. They are my why – they are my respite – they are my life. They remind me to take a breath and focus, and they fill my cup back up.

PERSPECTIVE. What if the frustrating, the overwhelming, the personal… never stopped? What if those challenges engulfed you 24/7… and kept on coming, one after the other?

My challenges are nothing. There are people around us who are true superheroes, overcoming unbelievable circumstances with poise, resolve, positive attitude and sheer goodness.

Cue Amanda Reinert.

Parents’ Night at my sons’ school last year.. I was sitting in Evan’s classroom, waiting for the teacher to begin, and I noticed another mom in the room. ‘Holy shit – that’s Amanda Reinert!’ I quickly scanned the class list to confirm – sure enough, Amanda’s daughter Ava was in Evan’s class.

The beauty of being in the ‘pageant world’ – you meet and learn about some INCREDIBLE women. Amanda was crowned Mrs. Nebraska 2014, and later, Mrs. USA Universal 2017. That’s a BIG DEAL. I remember thinking to myself ‘I wonder what she’s like? And what is she doing now?’


The beauty, the smile, the confidence all hide a disturbing story in Amanda’s past. When she was just 2 years old, her grandfather began sexually abusing her. No one knew for years, until at 6 years old, Amanda drew a detailed picture of genitals. Police were contacted, the case went to court, and a traumatized little girl was forced to sit with lawyers and a judge, across a table from her grandfather, asked to describe everything that was happening to her.

“In that moment, I refused to speak or testify,” remembers Amanda. “Because of that, charges were dropped, and he was never punished for what he did to me.”

Unimaginably, Amanda was targeted again a few years later at 11 years old.

“I was on a camping trip with my grandma, my cousin and a couple who were friends with my grandma,” recalls Amanda. “We are all sleeping in a giant tent. I awoke to find the husband <the friend of my grandma> on top of me with his hands over my mouth.”

“I didn’t share my story of sexual abuse until after I was married,” says Amanda. “I lived my life in shame and feeling extremely isolated and alone. I endured some extremely rough years through high school, and one day, I decided I wouldn’t do it anymore.”

Amanda signed up to compete for Mrs. Nebraska – and won – with the mission of spreading awareness of childhood sexual assault and forming a support network for survivors. She became a certified facilitator with Darkness to Light, a national organization committed to the education, awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse. She also became a spokesperson for the LFS RSafe® program, one of the largest child sexual abuse treatment programs in the Midwest.

Click here to watch more of Amanda’s story, shared by KETV’s Camila Orti.

“There are thousands of other survivors out there like me,” says Amanda. “I want them to know they are not alone. I want parents of victims to know that there is hope. I want to educate parents on how to prevent this from happening to their children. I used that microphone <as Mrs. Nebraska> to reach as many people as I possibly could to spread the messages of support to survivors, hope for victims and education to families.”

That mission became even more personal for Amanda when she became a parent herself.

Ava Michelle Reinert was born October 24, 2012. Amanda’s jam-packed photo albums on Facebook are titled ‘Just The Beginning!’, ‘I Love My Life!’, ‘This Will Be The Best Year Yet!’

In 2016, Amanda was crowned Mrs. Nebraska USA Universal. Pictures taken that fall with Ava and husband, Brady, show a seemingly perfect family with the world at their fingertips. They had no idea how much everything would change in just a few short months.


Just weeks after performing in her Pre-School holiday program, Ava rolled her ankle while playing at the Omaha Children’s Museum. It didn’t heal.

“<Doctors> discovered compression fractures, which were odd, but they gave us a boot and sent us on our way,” remembers Amanda. “About a week later, she started complaining of severe back pain, and within a few days, she couldn’t stand, walk, or sit at all. She was bed-ridden within another week. Over the next 10 weeks, Ava endured hundreds of blood tests, x-rays, appointments, MRI’s and bone scans. No one could tell us what was wrong. We even had a doctor tell us ‘maybe she is faking it.’ She was poked more times than we could even begin to count; she was bruised and bloody and used to scream ‘Mommy, please make them stop, Daddy, please don’t let them do this to me.'”

Amanda took this picture on March 23, 2017. Ava couldn’t stand or walk; she was in constant pain, sick and exhausted. Amanda and Brady struggled whether or not to use their Disney on Ice tickets they had previously purchased for Ava.

“We decided she should be allowed to have a couple of hours of relief and enjoyment and we took her,” remembers Amanda. “She was in so much pain and fighting through it to enjoy the magic of the show. I remember looking at her smile and wondering it we’d ever see it again.”

Ava was misdiagnosed with Brittle Bone Disease; a 48-hour infusion at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center made her even more sick. Doctors admitted Ava to the hospital to conduct more tests. She was diagnosed with Leukemia on March 27, 2017.

Ava immediately began chemotherapy and a brutal 800 days of treatment.

“There were MANY days where I believed she may not make it,” remembers Amanda. “One of them was when she started chemotherapy and became immunocompromised. Out of nowhere she spiked a 105-degree fever and became unresponsive. Within moments, we had five or six nurses and two doctors in our room. The situation became critical very quickly; when a child is on chemotherapy the most ‘insignificant’ infection can be deadly, and we did not know what was wrong with her. She was like this for about 12 hours, the scariest 12 hours of my life. They never did figure out what caused it but within 72 hours she was back to normal.”

Ava became known at home and at the hospital for her inspiring resilience, astounding for anyone facing grueling treatments, let alone a little girl.

“Ava was ALWAYS the strongest one in the room. She never complained – ever,” says Amanda. “She had to take five liquid medications three times a day that were terrifyingly awful in taste (I tried them.) She rarely cried and was always so strong. The only time I ever saw her break was when we had to shave her head. Her hair hung on longer than we had expected and one morning, she woke up and we all knew it was time. That night, her begging screams and her scared face are something I will never forget. Even reliving that night to share this story brings tears to my eyes.”

Slowly, Ava began to improve. She celebrated her 5th Birthday in true Princess fashion. She slid down the jumbo tube slide with her mom at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch that fall. She opened presents on her Dad’s lap on Christmas morning. And she inspired hundreds of family members, friends and loves ones with her smiles and fight despite all odds.

“Ava <also> underwent 12 months of physical therapy to relearn to stand, walk, run and climb stairs,” remembers Amanda. “That was also very difficult. We discovered Leukemia was hollowing her bones; that is why we were misdiagnosed with Brittle Bone Disease. She had seven compression fractures in her vertebrae because of the weakness in her bones that ultimately prevented her from walking or standing.”

As Ava’s hair grew back and she prepared for Kindergarten, Amanda once again used her frustration and anger to fuel a mission… to battle the disease that nearly stole her daughter.

“Everyone knows cancer is terrible and that childhood cancer is unthinkable, “says Amanda. “What they don’t know is that we literally had to poison and nearly kill our baby to save her. Treatments today are TERRIBLE and they have not improved in more than 20 years. I cannot accept that. Our family will fight and push until there is a better way; no child should have to fight in the way that Ava fought.”

Amanda called upon Ava’s hundreds of supporters to take action, forming Ava’s Army.

T-Shirts. Hash tags across social media. Fundraisers. Ava’s Army was seen across Omaha and Gretna, from gyms to schools, among family members and Amanda’s pageant sisters. And in December of 2019, Amanda hosted her first Sugarplum Ball, a formal dinner, auction and gala. Little girls (and big girls!) dressed up like real-life princesses for a night of glitter, fun and love for one another.

“Ava’s Army exists to raise money to fund the fight against pediatric Leukemia. 100% of what we raise goes to research,” says Amanda, who quickly notes Ava’s fight is far from over, even though, thankfully, she is now in remission. “People see Ava and they think ‘she’s good, she’s done.’ She’s not. Because of the poisonous and awful things we did to her, she will have a lifetime of repercussions. Chemotherapy melted all of her 6-year molars and they were pulled out. She suffers from neuropathy from chemotherapy damage. She is five times more likely to have breast cancer later in life or other secondary cancers. She is likely infertile from treatment. Heart problems, kidney problems, liver problems, learning disabilities, bone issues, sleeping issues – the list of things that children who ‘survive’ a cancer battle is unthinkable, and people have no idea. We will continue to raise money, raise awareness and fight for kids like Ava until there is a better way.”

To date, Ava’s Army has raised more than $55,000 with a goal to hit $100,000 by the end of 2021. More than 2,500 people follow them across social media (click here!) to see how they are constantly working to give back to places like Children’s Hospital & Medical Center – and the young patients there.

And by the time sweet Ava – smart, wise beyond her years, kind and caring – joined my Evan’s class at school, I followed her journey as the little girl who ‘had’ cancer, and I followed Amanda’s story, thinking of her as the strong, brave mother-turned BEST room parent ever. (Seriously – creative, always on top of events for our teacher and our class, that Mom you see on Pinterest who ALWAYS has her act together.. I BOW DOWN, AMANDA!) The Reinert family had built a new home, Ava was starting first grade and they were expecting a new baby!

Photo courtesy Megan Michael Photography

Bennett Joseph Reinert arrived September 12, 2019, and was diagnosed with Down Syndrome immediately after birth.

“Bennett is perfect!” says Amanda. “But I’m ashamed to admit it took me about six months to accept his perfection. We did not know he had Down Syndrome until he was born. It hit me like a semi-truck.”

Months earlier, Ava had just recovered from another medical setback: a vicious dog attack that sent her back to the hospital. The family had just moved to a new home; Ava was starting at a new school. Amanda had been planning this massive fundraiser gala with thousands of dollars in donor support on the line, all while still advocating for sexual assault survivors by sharing her powerful, yet exhausting personal story. And once again, the Reinert family was shaken with unexpected news and an overwhelming, unknown future.

“I felt like we couldn’t survive or endure anymore,” says Amanda. “I did not have the energy to stand back up. When they told me he had Down Syndrome, all of the worst case scenarios came to me – children and adolescents with Down Syndrome are between 10 and 30 times more likely to develop leukemia. After Bennett was born, we went through dozens of doctors’ appointments to check his ears, eyes, heart, digestive system, cognitive abilities, and more. It was like reliving Ava’s diagnosis all over again. I couldn’t function.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world.. the Reinerts isolated together at home, learned from each other, and grew closer as an extraordinary family of four. Just as his big sister Ava had been a light for her parents in what seemed the worst of times, so, too, was their new little man with the larger than life smile.

“Anyone that meets him will tell you he is a miracle,” says Amanda. “He is 19 months old and has no health complications (thank God) besides mild hearing loss, which he wears hearing aids for. He is developing cognitively and physically ahead of where he should be and he is thriving in a big way. He is a miracle to our family and I know in my heart he will change the world.”

The Reinerts are now active members of the Down Syndrome Alliance of the Midlands (Bennett was their cover model for the 2020 Annual Report!) They proactively and positively celebrate and share all of Bennetts ABILITIES rather than his disabilities – he’s a ladies man – he’s a cuddler who loves to laugh – HE NEVER. STOPS. SMILING.

That last part…. maybe we could all learn something from Bennett. From his sister, Ava. From their proud Daddy. And from their amazing momma, Amanda, who NEVER. EVER. QUITS.

“I have had to learn that you can’t be negative or weighed down by things you can’t control,” says Amanda. “You can’t control other people, their actions, the world, a pandemic. You can control YOU.”

These days, Ava is a BUSY 2nd grader who excels in school, competes in cheerleading, and will represent Nebraska at the national Princess of America pageant in July. Bennett recently realized how much he LOVES climbing, and he adores being outside. Brady and Amanda recently celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary in Jamaica. And Amanda just started a new business – Pink & Plaid Sleepover Parties. (Click here to learn more!)

“We want to bring happiness into a world that can be stressful and overwhelming,” says Amanda. “We want to see kids smiling and laughing and making magical memories, AND we want to help parents sit back and enjoy those moments as well.”

Pink & Plaid provides snacks, decorations, activities, food, party favors, clean up, everything – with Amanda as key organizer, remembering the importance of every special moment a family can celebrate together.

“We are so thankful (and I mean genuinely, to our cores, thankful) that our babies are still alive and thriving,” says Amanda. “We have family, we have our home, we have jobs, and we have our health – we celebrate that. We celebrate that as much as we can. We still have rough days, of course, but we are so thankful for one another and to have our babies. Nothing else really matters.”

My challenge to anyone reading this: join AMANDA’S ARMY.

Be grateful. Celebrate life and happiness. Exude positivity. Stay hopeful.

“Don’t let things you can’t control take away your happiness. You can control the messages and vibes you send into the world.”



The 2nd Annual Superplum Ball for Ava’s Army will take place Saturday December 11 in Omaha! Tickets are available now for children, adults, businesses and sponsors! CLICK HERE for more information!

You can also follow Ava’s Army on Facebook – click here!

Walk or Run one mile anywhere this Saturday, May 8, to honor Ava in the Sammy’s Superheroes Walk To Remember! Your $10 donation raises money for childhood cancer research! CLICK HERE for more information!

Learn more about Down Syndrome Alliance of the Midlands – including the Building The Future Gala this month! CLICK HERE for more information!

Learn more about Lutheran Family Services and the RSafe program. CLICK HERE for more information!

Rookie Of The Year

A National League pennant on the line. The phone rings; you’re warm. The wall swings open, and with 41,000 fans watching in person and millions more on TV, you jog out, alone, to the pitcher’s mound.

The only thing more nervewracking than that? Being 8+ months pregnant, in the stands, and that pitcher is your HUSBAND.


By the time Brian Duensing reached his 26th birthday, he had quite the resume: College World Series Athlete, 3rd Round MLB Draft Pick, World Cup Gold Medalist, Olympic Bronze Medalist. He and his wife, Lisa, balanced their time between their hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, and …. wherever Brian’s baseball career sent them. Rochester, where Brian played for the Triple-A Red Wings; Beijing, where he represented Team USA; Fort Myers, Florida for Spring Training.

The one place the Duensings hadn’t set up shop was Minneapolis, the home of the Minnesota Twins and the team that had drafted Brian a few years prior. Even though Brian had assignments with all four of the club’s farm teams, he and Lisa knew that many players spend their entire careers in Minor League baseball, never making it to the Majors.

Photo courtesy Charles Krupa for Twin Cities Pioneer Press

The Twins prepared for the 2009 season, led by their All Stars and Silver Sluggers, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.

“We’re still learning,” Mauer told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reporter Phil Miller. “We still always talk about pitchers, about different approaches, how the ball is moving, things like that. We’re left-handed, so pitchers tend to have the same plan against us.”

They say Three’s Company… and it just so happens, Brian Duensing is a leftie, too.


“I had the best Spring Training of my career,” remembers Brian, looking back on the weeks he spent in Fort Myers early in 2009. “I didn’t give up a run. I had like, a week of Spring Training left and the running joke between me and Phil Humber was ‘they tell you anything yet?’ ‘No… they tell you anything yet?’ ‘No..’ No one was saying anything to us. We had no idea what was going on.”

Just a few years prior, Brian told Lisa he wanted to quit baseball. It was too much; the constant travel and unknowns of minor league ball, the sleeping on couches and in kitchens with roommates, and the lingering fear of not staying in Triple A to make enough money for rent. (Need a recap? Click here!)

Lisa, Brian’s parents, and a well-timed Nebraska blizzard all helped convince Brian to keep trying.

“I always told myself four years,” says Brian. “I’ll give it four years and if I don’t make it to the Big Leagues, I’m done. I gave it a shot.”

Two years after that decision, Brian was out to dinner with teammates Nick Blackburn and Rob Delaney the night before the last day of Spring Training.

“I get a phone call from <Twins pitcher> Glen Perkins and he’s like, ‘hey man, congrats!'” said Brian. “I was like, ‘what? What’s going on?’ ‘Numbers-wise, you’re in, you made the team.’ I don’t know how it works, I’m just here to play baseball! I start calling everybody: parents are screaming, Lisa is screaming. On the way home, I realize, ‘holy crap. No one has actually physically told me I’m on the team. So now I’m panicked. I just called everybody, told them I was, this could be really bad.”

Lisa, Brian’s best friend and constant source of optimism, stayed positive – and BUSY.

“At this point, I had gone home to pack up our stuff because we didn’t know what was going to happen,” remembers Lisa. “That next morning, I had to start driving with an Expedition full of stuff, starting my way to Minnesota, not knowing if he had actually made it. We thought, worst case scenario I’ll turn around and come back home. But if I hadn’t gone right away, he wouldn’t have had anyone to pick him up, he wouldn’t have anywhere to live, no clothes, nothing.”

Alone, nervous, and a little hungover, Brian arrived at his last day of Spring Training.

“I walk in, sweating, and I sit down by my locker trying to keep it together,” remembers Brian. “Two seconds later, pitching coach pops his head in, ‘Duens, need you in the office now.'” They sit me down. ‘Listen, you had a great Spring Training. Couldn’t ask for anything more. Unfortunately, we can’t take everyone with us.'”

“I’m pretty sure I blacked out,” remembers Brian. “I’m like… oh my gosh. How am I going to make this phone call? Then they said, ‘good thing is though, you’re not one of them. You’re going to Minnesota with us.”

“For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you.” 1 Thessalonians 1:4


ROOKIE OF THE YEAR, Thomas Ian Nicholas, 1993. TM and Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. Courtesy: Everett Collection.

Remember Rookie of the Year? The awesome baseball movie from the 90’s you say you’ve never seen but secretly watched a dozen times? No shame – I love this movie. BUT… I must have missed that part in the movie when Henry Rowengartner gets the standard rookie treatment from his new teammates.

“I was not nervous about baseball. I wasn’t nervous about pitching. I wasn’t nervous about facing big league hitters,” says Brian, the ONLY rookie on the Minnesota roster in 2009. “I was nervous about sitting in someone’s seat. Or making the wrong person mad. Or not following road trip protocol.”

Brian’s first test came early: his first flight to Minnesota, just hours after finding out he’d made the team.

“Mike Redmond asks, ‘what kind of carry-on do you have?’ I was like, I have a laptop bag?” says Brian. “Redmond’s like ‘that’s not gonna do. Find a way. There’s two cases of beer back there and they need to go on the plane.'”

At that point, Redmond, sharing catcher duty for the Twins with Mauer, was an 11-year league veteran and 2003 World Series champion, known for skillfully guiding pitchers and for his leadership within the team. Mike spoke; players listened.

“The thing is, everyone liked Brian from the beginning because he appreciated those rules,” says Lisa. “He respected the unwritten rules.”

Back to that first plane ride; Brian found two trash bags, loaded up what he could, and boarded the Twins team bus in a suit, carrying a laptop bag and 36 pounds of beer.

“‘See so and so? Go sit next to him’,” remembers Brian. “I am sweating profusely because I’m carrying 48 beers, I’m hot, I’m nervous, my suit fit terribly and I was pitting out like you wouldn’t believe. We pull up on the tarmac, and all of the sudden it occurs to me, ‘are these guys messing with me? Am I going to get cavity searched because I have all this beer?’ We get to security and the guy rips open the trash bags – not just unties the bags, he shreds them. He says ‘you’re joking, right? These aren’t three ounces or less!’ I’m like, ‘ummm, ummm, ummm…’ and he says ‘I’m messing with you, get on the plane.’”

“I walked onto that plane with 48 beers. I walked off the plane with 45 beers. I’m like, are you kidding me!?!” Remembers Brian. “Mike Redmond’s like, ‘I don’t care if you bring 15 beers or if you bring 100 beers. We run out of beers, and it is the end of you.’ I’m like, ‘Cool. Got it.’ I bought a new suitcase for it. Redmond, one of the greatest guys ever, but he was like ‘Duens, there better be two Bud Lights in my locker at the end of each game. Every single game.’ I’m like ‘alright, great.’ 90 percent of the time I remembered. A few times, where the bullpen was, I couldn’t get there in time and he would just air me out. Later, he was a Manager for the Marlins, then coaching for Colorado, and every time we played against them I had two Bud Lights ready.”

Brian Duensing made his Major League Baseball debut on April 10, 2009 against the Chicago White Sox. Temperature at game time: 46-degrees.

“It was freezing,” remembers Brian. “AJ Pierzynski was the first hitter I faced. I broke his bat, jam job to first base, he dog-cussed me the whole way, out loud. Every name in the book. Morneau fielded the ball, tossed it to me, 3-1 put out. I whipped my head around like ‘what is this guy’s problem??’ Morneau was laughing and said, ‘relax. You’ll understand someday.’ That was just how AJ played.”

Brian’s family was all in Chicago to see his big league debut in person. Brian’s parents drove from Minneapolis to Kansas to drop off grandparents, and then turned around and drove to Chicago for the White Sox series. Somehow they knew their son was going to throw. Lisa had also driven cross country just days before from Florida to Minnesota, only to leave Minnesota immediately to watch her husband’s new team.

“I remember driving into town with my parents,” remembers Lisa. “My Dad could not handle Chicago traffic, we didn’t know how to get anywhere, hurrying to get to the game.”

Brian threw almost four innings in relief that day; he gave up his first home run to Carlos Quentin, struck out his first batter, Brian Anderson, and picked off a runner at second.

“It hit me on the run in because I couldn’t feel my legs,” remembers Brian. “That’s when I knew; I was like, ‘oh my God, what is happening. Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. I felt like Rookie of the Year; ‘oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!’ I was freaking out.”

The Twins won that day 12-5; it was Easter weekend. As they prepared for their next series against the Toronto Blue Jays, Brian was sent back to Triple-A.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” — Isaiah 41:10

After so much excitement and hope, the Duensings were back in Rochester.

“I’m trying to set up an apartment, wondering, ‘should I even be setting up an apartment?’ Remembers Lisa. “Just like Brian, if he would have one bad game, he would call his Academic Advisor back at Nebraska and say there was no way he was going to make it, he needed to finish his degree. That happened for a few years, and she stopped responding to him.”

July 2009: Rochester had a road trip to Buffalo, so Lisa went along and the two used an off day to visit a casino at Niagara Falls. The next day, Brian was called into the team office – he was being called back up to Minnesota.

“It was out of the blue to us,” says Lisa.” We were living in a hotel. I drove Brian to Rochester to get all of his stuff, then back to Buffalo to make his flight, all in just a few hours. Then I packed up our entire life so I could drive through the night to Minneapolis. I drove by myself for 16 hours, thinking, ‘ok, we were here for 9 days and he threw once or twice, whatever.’ First game, pitcher got pulled it the third inning and here comes Brian, bases load, no outs, Yankees.”

Photo courtesy John Autey for Twin Cities Pioneer Press

“I come in and the first guy I face is Mark Texiera,” says Brian. “He popped it up infield. In my head, I’m thinking, I’m one pitch away from getting out of this jam, and I’m gonna freaking fist bump everyone. Then… Alex Rodriguez. I’m like, holy shit, I completely forgot he is on deck. He hits a freaking missile to center and Carlos Gomez robs him of a grand slam, over the fence.”

“No, we’re not joking,” adds Lisa. “The opening of Sportscenter featured Gomez catching that ball.”

Brian ended the inning and solidified his spot on the Minnesota Twins’ roster in 2009.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” — Proverbs 3:3

After five years of constant moving and uncertainty, living in kitchens and hotel rooms, hoping and praying together and apart.. the Duensing finally found home in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Brian’s first starting outing: in Minneapolis at the Metrodome, the only year Brian played there. “I remember him throwing very well,” says Lisa. “They were so good that year.”

His first winning start: Twins vs. Royals in Kansas City, where Brian got to play against his good friend and former teammate Alex Gordon. “Whole family was there,” says Brian. “We had the entire third base left field side bleachers because back then, Kansas City sucked. Got my first win, went 5 1/3 innings. And it just kind of kept going.”

Two months later, just three months after being recalled from Triple-A, the Twins called upon Brian to start Game 1 of the 2009 ALDS against CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium.

Source:Bruce Kluckhohn/Minnesota Twins/MLB via Getty Images

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” — Philippians 4:8

Brian was officially named part of Minnesota’s starting rotation in 2010, the same season he threw his first of TWO complete game shut outs, agains the Oakland Athletics in August. He did it again versus the Tampa Bay Rays in July 2011.

The first person to congratulate Brian after his final out… his catcher and friend, Joe Mauer. THAT is what Brian and Lisa both talk about when you ask them about their favorite memories in Minnesota; yes, the baseball, but also, the people.

Those two All Stars, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, became Brian’s closest friends in Minneapolis, along with teammates like Matt Guerrier and Josh Willingham. Maddie Mauer, Ginger Willingham and others, became confidantes and constant companions for Lisa. Friendships extended to Twins staff, club employees, and Twins’ beat reporters. They raised their families together. They suffered losses and celebrated memories together. They understood each other in a way others outside the game cannot. For two Omaha ‘Nebraska Nice’ natives like Brian and Lisa, Minnesota was an extension of Midwest hospitality and family connectivity.

“I am ridiculously proud of his accomplishments on the field, but when I think of Minnesota my first hundred memories would be with people or things off the field,” says Lisa. “That’s the thing about baseball people miss is you do life with those people. You spend more time with them than you do anyone else in your entire life. Even your best friend, you don’t talk to that person for four hours straight every, single day for eight months like you do the girls with the team. Some days, I would come to the game and not even go to the field. I would just sit and talk to the security guard. Or the same person who had our tickets every game; for years and years. When I found out I was pregnant, our chaplain went with me to my ultrasound because Brian was on the road. I had two miscarriages there. You do life with those people, and when you leave, you are leaving so much more than the game.”

For Brian and Lisa.. that day came in February 2016. Brian, who had spent his entire career with the Minnesota Twins organization, seven of those years in Minneapolis, became a free agent and signed with the Kansas City Royals. The Duensings left Minnesota as a family of almost-5… no longer rookies to life in the Majors, but preparing to start all over again just as they had in 2009.

“The day we left, I was hysterically bawling,” says Lisa. “I was saying goodbye to the ticket people, the security guards, the people who ran the playroom. I always tell people it was a revolving door for so many years; someone gets traded and boom, they’re gone, within the day sometimes. Brian and I were always on one side of the door, which was a huge blessing. Not many people play that long, or play in one place. It was really hard to say goodbye to all of those people.”

“It felt very much like home,” says Brian. “We had a great group of people.”

“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” — Numbers 6:24–26

On to Kansas City.. with a new mission and outlook looming on the horizon.


Catch up on the first two installments of the Duensings’ story!

CLICK HERE to read Part 1: Major League

CLICK HERE to read Part 2: American League

Wanderlust: The Jamaica Edition

Great picture – and I made it better.

I will not live life afraid. Smart? Yes. Afraid, no.

I’ve written here before… maybe it’s the Dane in me, but I feel complete peace, acceptance, and joy when I am near water. I close my eyes and feel the breeze in my hair; I lift my face to the sky and feel the sun and warmth on my face; I listen to the constant ebb and flow of ocean waves or lake water lapping up to the edge, and everything makes sense. Everything is ok.

So after the God forsaken year that was 2020, I was literally counting down days until a long-awaited trip with my husband. By long awaited, I mean rescheduled FOUR TIMES. We did all the research, got all the advice, did all of the planning we could… and this blog is intended to help anyone else doing the same.


DISCLAIMER: This post is in no way a political statement or expression of my personal take on COVID or anything else. You do you; everyone’s circumstances are different.. I hope you keep reading, but if not, I hope you check out another post on this blog! Cheers!

Montego Bay, Jamaica

We have a big map of the world hanging in our basement with a push pin set on each place we have visited. Once you do that.. and look at how much you HAVEN’T experienced, you realize what a vast, uncharted world we live in… and I want to see it! Neither Brian nor I had ever been to Jamaica and we heard GLOWING reviews from our friends Kali and Thor Tripp who were married and honeymooned there.

Perfect weather – 82 every day in sunshine and no rain (and this was the end of December!) Awe inspiring views – the ocean on one side, mountains on the other. Some of the kindest, most beautiful people I have ever met. Very reasonable prices and a variety of flight and resort options. If you are considering Jamaica – GO. JUST GO NOW. And to help in your planning, I’m trying to put all of MY pre-trip questions here in one blog to help you!



Brian and I had originally planned to visit Excellence Punta Cana in March of 2020. We have visited two other Excellence Resorts (Playa Mujeres and Riviera Cancun) and have absolutely loved our experiences. We booked our trip ourselves using Vacations By Excellence, which we found out the hard way, was a third party agency that bundles airfare, hotel, etc. We held out until the umpteenth hour to cancel our March 17 trip, which ended up being less than 72 hours before the entire resort – and the world – shut down. Unfortunately for us and who knows how many others, this was the beginning of a LOOOOONG, frustrating battle over phone and email to get credits and/or refunds from our trip. Turns out, Vacations By Excellence is NOT the same as Excellence itself; no straight answers, no emails for direct contact, no phone numbers that seemed to go through to someone who understood what we were trying to accomplish – all complicated by language barriers. We had finally accepted the fact that we might not ever recoup the several thousand dollars we had invested in this trip.. but holding out hope, I texted my longtime friend Megan Boyer, who recently joined the Cruise Planners Omaha Team as a Luxury Travel Specialist. Thanks to Megan’s advice and patience, we finally received an airfare credit and full refund for our resort booking. Lesson: Travel Agents like Megan are EXPERTS. They know the ins and outs, how to get things processed and how to get things DONE. I strongly recommend using a travel agent – particularly for international travel and particularly with so many unknowns right now!


Flying internationally? Download Mobile Passport! It’s a free app approved by the US Government that processes your passport and Customs Declaration Form electronically. When you are landing back in the US, you simply load up your info and submit – and then you can breeze past ALLLLLL of the people waiting in line at Customs and go in the special Mobile Passport line. This probably saved us 20 minutes when we arrived back in the US, and when you are exhausted and ready to hug your kids after being away for a week, that is everything.

Travelling to Jamaica or South America? Download Verifly! Another free app that imports all of your COVID clearance data so once again, when you are boarding onto your plane at the start of your trip, you simply show the app with the big green checkmark to the gate, and you are cleared to go! Especially if you are rushed at the airport, or just want the peace of mind that you WILL get on that plane, this was a big help. Heads up – remember to load up all of your information a few days before!


IF YOU PLAN TO TRAVEL BY PLANE ANYWHERE IN THE NEXT 5 YEARS, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND TSA PRECHECK. Brian literally said during this last trip ‘this is the best money we have ever spent.’ For $85, the Travel Safety Administration processes a background check for you and puts in on file, meaning you are CLEARED for five years on any aircraft to skip the security lines at the airport. No removing shoes, laptops, water bottles, jackets, NADDA. Parents, your $85 for five years will also cover your kids, allowing them to skip the lines, too! This last trip, Brian and I were super late for boarding TWICE, due to snow as we left Omaha, and due to my idiocy in not realizing a flight change when we left Jamaica. TSA Precheck was our safety net.


Photo courtesy Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall Jamaica

For me, the people of a destination are a make-or-break factor. Mexico will always hold a special place in my heart because of the kindness of the folks I’ve met in Cancun, Cabo San Lucas and La Paz. On the flip side, I don’t have any desire to return to the Dominican Republic due to the ‘meh’ nature of almost everyone we met in Punta Cana. As for Jamaica – the people of this incredible place were by far, the most magical, uplifting, endearing part of our trip… and coming from a person who is in love with the ocean, that is saying something! From the moment we landed in Montego Bay at the airport, to our shuttle driver escorting us to the resort, and EVERYONE we met at the Hyatt Zilara Rose, we felt appreciated, pampered and welcomed. These folks went above and beyond to make sure we enjoyed our stay. You ask ‘how are you?’ and I never heard just ‘good’ but ‘fantastic’, ‘wonderful’, ‘blessed’, and always ‘thank you for asking.’ Joy emanates from Jamaicans – they dance while they work, they smile and offer you honest well wishes, and they sincerely hope you enjoy their country and want to return. You can’t help but absorb all of that positivity and gratitude to simply BE ALIVE and to be in such a beautiful place. IT. WAS. AWESOME. If you need a reminder of the good in humanity, oh, and a glorious beach escape – make Jamaica a destination in your travel plans.


FOR JAMAICA.. yes, you must be tested and cleared of COVID before you can even board a plane to get there. Once you arrive, those safety measures are SERIOUS. You must receive a negative COVID-19 test less than 10 days before your departure date from a certified facility. This can be either an Antigen or PCR test. Brian and I both used Total Wellness at 94th & F in Omaha and were very satisfied; make an appointment online, it’s covered by insurance with no charge, you drive up, and your results are texted to you within 20 minutes. If you do not have insurance, I think it is $80. You then use those results to complete the application for entry with the Jamaican Travel Authority, no more than 5 days from the date of your departure. We had our approval back within minutes (but I would still advise giving yourself the recommended 2-3 days leeway!) Print off everything, pack it up in a pretty folder, and take it with you to the airport – I had it on hand in my carry-on backpack and was glad I did! Once you get to your destination, you are good to go! To get BACK into the US – everything is changing later this month! (Thank you to reader Jeanne Derr) Click here for details!

Once you are in Jamaica – masks are required everywhere you go. I have been telling people Jamaicans are militant about COVID-19 safety; that’s not an exaggeration, as military members were literally at the airport as we got off the plane, and on our resort. They are very nice about it, but they make sure, at all times, you are wearing a mask if you are not sitting at your table eating in a restaurant, or in the privacy of your room. If you are lying on a chair on the beach or at the pool, you are good, but if you get up to walk to the restroom or get a drink, masks up! Was it super awesome? No, but keep in mind, this is a country that was DEVASTATED because tourism, their #1 economic driver, was shut down in their country. They want visitors back and if masks allow them to do that, so be it.


As I mentioned earlier, my husband and I were Excellence Resorts snobs; after visiting two of their properties, I had an unspoken goal of visiting all five of their Caribbean properties at some point. Unfortunately, Excellence delayed the reopening of Excellence Oyster Bay in Jamaica multiple times, and we finally said NOPE and looked elsewhere on the island. First piece of advice – don’t write off your entire destination just because one resort is closed. Are others open? Check out advisories and restrictions for the entire country!

After comparing prices, amenities, reviews and photos, we felt Hyatt Zilara would be a good fit.

AAAAAAAHHH. As I gushed about in Tip #7 – the service from the people of Jamaica is simply unparalleled, and absolutely highlighted by Hyatt Zilara staff. A few examples:

  • Our concierge emailed me a few days prior to our departure and asked what we would like in our room upon arrival. She answered every email I sent her within an hour each time. When we arrived, that same concierge, Natresha, sent us a bottle of chilled champagne to our room at no charge.
  • My ‘got on clearance’ luggage completely ripped apart at the zipper during our flight to Jamaica. We were convinced we were going to have to spring for airport or resort priced luggage just to get my stuff home but one request to our front desk, and they sent their resort ENGINEER to our room to help. This amazing man spent a solid 20 minutes realigning the zipper on my bag to seal it shut and save us a serious purchase.
  • Every. Single. Person. on this resort – from the landscape crew to the servers at restaurants to the gift shop staff – hold doors open for you, seem eager to have conversation and learn about you, and are always smiling. Always.

My favorite thing about Hyatt Zilara, aside from the amazing people, WAS THE FOOD. I seriously felt like I experienced a Top Chef culinary tour on this trip, which I don’t feel like is common for all-inclusive resorts. I was DAZZLED by every meal we tried!! My favorite: the sweet corn bisque at Urban Heat. Brian’s favorite: the lamb chops at Petit-PariZ. You MUST try: Di Roza. You literally watch a guy MAKING THE PASTA you are about to eat. I think I gained 5 pounds on this trip, and I regret nothing.


I have tried to make a mental list with each trip about the things I coulda woulda shoulda brought in my suitcase. For this trip, I think we nailed it! Here are my must have’s if you’re heading to Jamaica.

  • Bug Spray. At night.. and sometimes during the day.. THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. This didn’t bother Brian, but I for whatever reason have been a lifelong draw for bugs and mosquitos. If you plan on being out at night, in particular if your patio is at ground level surrounded by landscaping, bring your bug spray!
  • Hydrocortisone – see above. Bugs love me. Within 48 hours, I had a few mosquito bites and a BEE STING. Thankfully, my husband had packed a small tube of this magic little lotion and it helped with the itching immensely.
  • Swim shoes. This resort is spread out over several acres and we walked A LOT – in the morning along the beach, to simply sightsee our destination, and to different restaurants and shops on site. I loooooooved my swim shoes that I bought on Amazon for $11. Great for walking on the sand and switching right to concrete without getting sand in your feet or rolling an ankle on the rocks in the ocean. I am 100% bringing these to the beach forever!
  • Coffeemate to Go. There are few things I love more during vacation than having a fresh cup of coffee while listening to the water. Unfortunately for me – I drink my coffee with ½ java and ½ Coffeemate! I brought along one package of single serving liquid Coffeemate cups – and it was GENIUS to add to my hotel-supplied coffee in my room every morning. Note: there ARE two coffee shops on site at Hyatt Zilara, but I wasn’t super impressed.. and this way, I didn’t have to leave my room to enjoy my morning brew!
  • Mt. Dew. This is my husband’s guilty pleasure – he allows himself one a day. Hyatt is a Coke resort and they are not currently stocking mini-fridges due to COVID (but you can request that once you arrive, and as often as you need it filled up.) Thanks to Expert Traveler Advice from my friend Scott Workman, I learned you CAN pack plastic bottles in your suitcase with no explosions, and I secretly brought along a few 20-ouncers for Brian 
  • Yetis. If you plan to enjoy a beverage or 2 on the resort or at the beach, your all-inclusive will likely give you your drink in a tiny little plastic cup. If you don’t finish that meager 8 ounces within 30 minutes, it will melt in the Caribbean sun! We learned from another couple during our last trip that if you bring your Yeti or whatever your favorite tumbler is, the resort will just fill that – and it stays cold!! Less waiting in line for drinks, less leaving your spot on the beach.. just enjoyment of the cold beverages.
  • Cash in SMALL BILLS. Be a good human and tip these amazing people. BUT – if you run out of smaller bills and are left with bigger denominations, you may be out of luck in getting change!  (PS – everyone loves dollars, exchanging for Jamaican money isn’t necessary).


The first time my husband tried an All-Inclusive resort was on our honeymoon: Dreams Los Cabos. I don’t remember making ANY dinner reservations; we just walked around and tried whatever sounded good that night. Now in the age of COVID.. that’s a no go. With limited capacity and social distancing, restaurants at our resort did the best they could to accommodate everyone but planning was definitely required. Restaurants were only open on a rotation – we had to wait until our final night at 9pm to even get in to the French restaurant we were dying to try. Make this a priority with your concierge when you arrive – or even in the days leading up to your trip if possible – to find out what will be open, and when you can make your reservation. (If you are heading to the Hyatt, you can make your reservation up to 48 hours in advance – and they have nifty iPad guides in every room showcasing what is open each day, and what is on each menu!)  You will also need to follow a dress code in certain restaurants – men, think closed toe shoes, and women, no bikini tops while you eat!



When I go on vacation, I dream about those handful of days for MONTHS leading up to the trip. I want to get off my plane and GET. THERE. as soon as possible. So the idea of standing around in an international airport, trying to figure out another culture and paperwork and customs and luggage AND COVID requirements? Ain’t nobody got time for that! So when I found out about Club Mobay on another traveler’s blog, it seemed like a no brainer. You pay $50 for arrival and $30 for departure for VIP treatment at the airport to guide you through customs, walk you exactly where you need to go, and ultimately get you to your resort FASTER. Everything I wrote earlier about Verifly? 100% stand by that – TO GET YOU ON THE PLANE TO JAMAICA. What about when you get off? We had a gal waiting for us with our names on a sign the second we stepped off the plane. She led us through customs (bumping us to the front of each line), to the baggage claim, and to our resort shuttle. There is also a lounge you get to enjoy while you wait – but our shuttle was ready before we could experience that… so was it worth our $100? Not sure. But it definitely gave me peace of mind.. which flying out of a blizzard, and going through xxx COVID checks, was certainly appreciated!

Now going HOME – 100% worth every penny. Remember I mentioned we were an hour late getting on our flight home because of a change in our flight? We ARRIVED at the airport just minutes before our plane was set to board.. and found HUGE lines at check in. AT CHECK IN. But one reference that ‘we were Club Mobay’.. and the amazing attendant rushed us right to the front of the line to get us going to catch our flight. I could’ve hugged her (and might have if not for the whole pandemic thing.) We skipped ALL the lines and got to our gate in time. HUGE. What would you pay to ensure you get home to see your children at the end of a long trip? PRICELESS.



Guys, I can’t stress this enough. This is the second time I have done this while on vacation – no social media checks, no email checks, no answering texts, phone on SILENT. You can literally feel lightness, happiness, and a spirit of LIFE resurface. It really makes me sad that I have become that person that is THAT weighed down by so much crap, so addicted to a tiny piece of machinery, but there we have it.

The world will revolve without you. Cover all your bases at work before you leave. Make a printout day by day schedule for your kids complete with lunch preferences and phone numbers. When you return, apologize then that you didn’t respond to the funny text, question or request.

All that being said, I would TAKE your phone. Dang, my iPhone 11 takes some freaking phenomenal photos, and at Hyatt Zilara, you need your phone in restaurants to scan a QR code for menus (no printed menus!). But then PUT IT AWAY. Don’t touch it. That will always be there – the ocean, the people, the smells and sounds and laughter and that ice cold pina colada… you will want them SO BADLY the second you are home with that phone back in your hands. Just LET IT GO.. let it all go and focus on the beauty and experience around you for that short time.

You + Me

So there you have it. My rambling, hodge podge recap of our blissful escape to Jamaica. To all of you considering a trip, DOOOOOOO ITTTT. So worth it. So magical. THIS is what life is about, remember? We work and sacrifice and give of our days and time so we CAN have magical moments to truly experience LIFE.

I have no idea what COVID will mean for us tomorrow, or next week, or next month. I do know we have experienced too much damn loss in the last year to take a single moment for granted.

Dream, save, plan and GO.

Safe travels – and report back! I need to plan for our next destination 🙂


Drink A Beer

I’m writing this with a cold beer to my right on a Wednesday night. For the last three days, I’ve felt tears welling behind my eyes. Every moment I’m not living life to the fullest, not DOING something, I feel like I’m wasting.

My friend David is dying.

When I shared David’s story on this blog, I was still in TV. That alone feels like a lifetime ago, and that point in his journey felt life a lifetime since his diagnosis. He’s written a book. He’s travelled the world. He’s celebrated 11 years of life since doctors told him a brain tumor would kill him in five. For awhile, it was easy to say David **had cancer. Past tense. He’d beaten it. He’d laughed in it’s face, defeated it with an arsenal of positivity and sheer will, and shared his story to inspire and help others.


Fuck you, cancer. FUCK YOU. Mom, I know you’re reading this and I’m sorry for swearing, but there is truly no other phrase that accurately fits how I feel about this disease.

It stole Cody from us. I miss his laugh, karaoke duets, how he made my husband smile, and seeing his soul-deep love for our dear friend, Darbi. Brain cancer stole Evan Sharp, a baseball-loving little boy from Omaha, robbed of school and running carefree with his friends on the field. It stole Heather Roberts, a young professional devoted to her Omaha Mavericks, who have now raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in her name.

David’s sister, Heather, emailed me and asked me to put together a video for his girls. They are so little… ask yourself what you remember from Kindergarten?? What will these three big eyed, blonde angels remember about the father who loved them with all of his heart?

For Marian, for Viola, for Etta, for Lori, for DAVID: This is for you.


David always had a spark. There was something MORE about him. Always the guy making jokes, the guy who wore plaid when everyone else wore black, the guy who was the ever rare ‘part of every group’ guy – active in speech, band and theater, so he was popular with the Drama Dorks, played golf and baseball and ran cross country, so he had the ‘cool’ friends right alongside us. He was the center of attention in every circle he ran in. No matter what the situation, David stood out – trying to make someone laugh, trying to be something extraordinary.


Complete disclosure – David was my first ‘boyfriend’, keeping in mind we didn’t go on dates, hold hands in hallways, or anything else. I totally ditched my junior year Homecoming date AT THE DANCE for David (Jim, my sincere apologies – still feel super bad about this. Shade.) The cool thing was, after the high school drama (guys, he left me for a girl on POM SQUAD. Devastation! David – I hope this makes you laugh, I still remember that blonde hussy’s name!!), we were friends again by senior year.


I remember when we ripped a microphone off of Mike Unrein’s body, taped there to stay put under his costume for ‘The Nerd’. Mike was SUPER hairy.. and his pain was hilarious.

I remember going to Mock Trial nationals in St. Louis (State Champs!!), when he and Bobby busted into Cassie and I’s hotel room and literally carried my wimpy ass to the pool and threw me in. I hadn’t wanted to get my hair messed up. Too bad.


I remember watching him play a trumpet solo in front of the entire student body at a home football game during halftime, and feeling immense pride for my friend, shining bright in that moment in time.

Baseball at Seymour Smith. Being crowned Prom Prince with Melissa. Sitting on Lauren’s steps inside her house at one of countless graduation parties in May of 1999.

Every moment was MORE. Nothing was ‘JUST’. With David, everything was the superlative – funnier, more creative, bigger, deeper, louder and memorable.

Of course, he was featured in Election, got his own trailer, and became bff’s with Matthew and Reese.

Of course, he went on to marry a supermodel wife and started to travel the world with his start-up company, fueled by his big ideas and vision.

Of course, when he decided to write a book, people from around the world would donate tens of thousands of dollars to support him and make it happen. OF COURSE.

Girls, your Daddy was NEVER ordinary. Not one day.


I wrote my first blog post about David in 2014. He was in the very early stages of writing his book – maybe even just outlining it at that point. I knew he had battled cancer in an unorthodox fashion – attempting every method in the book OTHER than chemo. Chinese medicine, herbs, religion, going green, saunas, etc. I knew he had been divorced but had no idea of the loneliness and desertion that had come along with it. I knew fate brought him and Lori together, but had no idea the details of how that came to be. David bravely bared his soul in his book, Thank you Kung Fu, to hopefully inspire others facing cancer, surprises in life, devastation through divorce.. WHATEVER.. he didn’t sugarcoat anything, but he also found the positive in everything.

When I told my Mom last weekend that David may be entering his final weeks, she, too, focused on the positive: he had so much more time than anyone thought. My husband talked about David’s three beautiful daughters that may never have been.

I think of Lori, and this is when my tears fall. She, too, has had her own journey of challenges, heartbreak, plot turns and more. WHY. WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY. Why can’t they have the fairytale ending where POOF?!? Cancer is gone? Happily ever after? Lori deserves that. I don’t know her well but here’s what I see… the ying to David’s yang. The independent, one of a kind, unicorn light that is just SPECIAL. I praise God for bringing these two together… perhaps, no, of course.. this was always His plan.

David was given 5 years… nope.

They were both told no children… they have 3.

They found each other. THEY WERE MEANT TO BE TOGETHER. What is the meaning of life? TO LOVE. TO LOVE. Because I am in a bar and surrounded by other humans… I will only say my husband is literally, half of my soul. He is my rock, he is my partner, he was meant to be mine. We are raising two beautiful boys and someday, when they are grown and off on their own journeys, we will have each other – only each other, blessedly each other, for now and forever. To lose him… I would lose half of myself. For this, Lori, I pray for you. Sometimes more than I pray for David, because I believe he is going to Heaven without pain or fear.

<<My waitress just asked if I was ok because I am now bawling. That’s where we are at right now.>>

Girls, your Momma is a LADY BOSS. She is a fighter. She is a leader. She is kind and cool and amazing. She is strength and honor and beauty personified. Every day.


Westside was looking for a guest speaker to inspire our staff members to kick off the 2018-2019 school year. I pitched several ideas to my senior leadership team, including David. My high school friend who had proved doctors wrong, written an incredible book, and was now giving motivational speeches around the country; maybe he would be a good fit to come home and inspire our staff? August of 2018, David came to Westside High School to share his story. Thank you, Kung Fu – how he found how he had a hidden brain tumor through being his typical ‘class clown’ self and doing a mock kung fu move at a conference. How through the coming months/years of finding an alternative to his death sentence, his then-wife decided upon a different path. How he found Lori, and with her, they created a new, unexpected life. How throughout every hurdle and challenge, he chose positivity, humor, a smile, and gratitude. Our staff of 500+ gave him a standing ovation. Many left in tears, and approached David after thanking him for sharing his story. He told me afterwards he experienced multiple seizures on stage DURING his half hour speech. He knew beforehand it might happen… but it didn’t scare him, didn’t detract him from sharing his story. He just kept going, smiling throughout. He was just fine.

I met David and Lori for coffee after. They talked about the type of beans and coffee used at the locally owned coffee shop we were at, thinking of their coffee shop back home in Michigan. Everything was normal. Old friends catching up. It was fine – everything was just fine.

David held a book reading that evening at the Bookworm. Lauren. Gail. Jay. All of these high school friends I hadn’t seen in so long, coming to support David. His girls came at the end – two little princesses in dress up clothes; their baby sister with Grandma in Papillion, where David and I grew up. It was fine – he was fine. He was promoting his book.

The icing on the cake – surgery. David found a miracle surgeon in Texas just months later who thought she could remove the ‘inoperable brain tumor’. He stayed awake the whole surgery talking to Lori. She removed the majority of it! MIRACLE!!! Again – has this all been a dream?!? It’s gone!! David and Lori – watching their three babies grow up with their white picket fence, drinking beers on their front porch. It was fine – he was fine.

June 4.

A note from David:

Hello everyone. We have received some difficult news about my health recently. My cancer has spread into other parts of my brain and spine. At this point, the doctors have estimated I have 4-6 weeks. Last week after a brain scan they first estimated four months, but when they saw the cancer on my spine this week, they reduced it significantly. 

Now that this is all very present, I want you to know that I am not scared of death. Lori and I have full confidence in the future of our family. She will continue to be an amazing mother to our girls. I am so grateful for Marian, Viola, and Etta. ❤️❤️❤️

Marian, I see in your face – I have seen it in your Momma and Daddy’s posts from Day One – you will take no prisoners and conquer the world. You are your Father’s daughter.

Viola – you are proof of the miracle that was MEANT TO BE – the true love between your Momma and Daddy. You are unique, and everything your parents love: music, nature, poetry in word and beyond.

Etta – your Daddy was the only boy. Your Momma is the only girl. Your name means ‘ruler of the home’. Just look at your perfect face!?! Your Daddy will be smiling on you and proud of you every day of your life.


Anne Frank wrote in her diary, “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” My question: why does God take all of the good people? Why children and teens who have so much innocence and desire to learn, why them? Why people like Cody, who just say it like it is in the midst of so much BS – who refresh us with honesty, love and goodness? I don’t wish death on anyone, but when we are surrounded by so much hate, idiocy, ill will towards others and each other… why Cody. Why Evan. Why Heather. WHY DAVID.

Baby girls – grow up knowing your Dad wanted to change the world, and he was doing it in so many places including here in Omaha, Nebraska and your home of Grand Rapids, Michigan. A lot of people TALK; very few DO. Your Dad was a doer. A lot of people BOAST; very few have what it takes. Your Mom DOES.

Lori – from one wife to another, you are in my prayers. Every day.

David – we have one life. ONE. You have lived it with zest, humor, drive, vision, flair. You wake up every day and live TO THE MAX. I am not mad at God – I am thanking him for introducing you to my life and giving you to the world. So many people are dealt a hand, and crumple and cry. They blame others. They lie down and give up. You fought – you laughed – you used your lessons to inspire others – you never lost sight of what matters, LOVE, for your wife and your girls. You have given me not only great memories, but new perspective.

Because life is short. But sweet for certain.”

David, do you still love Dave Matthews Band? My husband met him backstage once – as cool in person as he seems on stage. Dave gave the quote mentioned above. LIFE IS SHORT. But oh, how sweet. How many of us don’t see that? We focus on the negative. You have always focused on the positive.

David, you continue to inspire me every day. I am thankful for you. You have made a difference in this world to everyone you have touched, and your legacy will live on. Jump, David, Jump – from one challenge to the next, from here to your next adventure.

Cheers to you, my friend.


The Wenzel family is sharing updates and accepting any donations their loved ones are willing to provide, anticipating costs in the coming weeks and months. CLICK HERE to follow their CaringBridge page.

I also highly recommend anyone and everyone to buy and read David’s book, Thank you Kung Fu, available online through most mass retailers. CLICK HERE to purchase his book online.

American League

There are some things that are bigger than any one of us. Experiences we all relate to as parents, as Americans, as human beings. We share historic moments or milestones and remember ‘where were you when this happened?’

Summer of 2005… Hurricane Katrina would decimate Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. Lance Armstrong retired after winning his 7th Tour De France. Lisa Duensing and her bff’s were strutting around UNL’s campus singing to the #1 song in America: ”Cause I ain’t no Hollaback girl.’

Ok, that might not have been happening, but Lisa and her girls had a lot to sing about.. her fiance, Brian, had just played in the College World Series and was picked by the Minnesota Twins in the third round of the 2005 MLB draft.

And they lived happily ever after. The end.

2015 Dozier

“You? You are WRONG. That is not what happened.”

This photo was taken in 2015 by the Minnesota Twins, 10 years after Brian was initially drafted by the club. To anyone who thinks that POOF: when a player is drafted they swim in millions dollars and live the life of celebrity royalty.. you. are. wrong. Brian and Lisa Duensing will be the first to humbly tell you they are blessed, grateful, and so very happy, but the journey from Omaha to Target Field was a long and winding road with tests and trials pushing them to the edge of quitting altogether.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

If you ever needed proof that everything happens for a reason, I present to you: American League. This chapter two starts with a packed bag in a bachelor’s apartment in Lincoln, Nebraska.


“They gave me two weeks after that to be at home and recover,” remembers Brian, who had just played with his Huskers in the 2005 College World Series. “Then I had to go to short season, which was in Elizabethton, Tennessee.”

Duensing Engagement pic

Brian and Lisa had been planning their wedding, which was supposed to take place that summer. All plans were postponed so Brian could pursue an exciting – and unexpected – adventure to play Major League Baseball. But being drafted doesn’t mean you punch your ticket for a big paycheck or the games everyone sees on TV.

“People would ask, ‘oh, when are you moving to Minnesota?” remembers Lisa. “And we’d say, hopefully in 5-8 years, if we even ever make it.”

They were 20 and 22 years old. While Lisa remained in Lincoln to earn her degree at the University of Nebraska, Brian started his professional career in Low-A Baseball in Beloit, Wisconsin.

“You get signed. You then average several years before, and if, you make it to the bigs,” said Brian. “You make $600 a month, trying to rent an apartment and maybe buy furniture.”

Brian notes he was fortunate in being drafted early to earn a signing bonus. But as he quickly learned in ‘Being An Adult 101’, more than 40% of that check was deducted for taxes. With wise advice from their parents, Brian and Lisa stowed away what was left, not knowing if/when they might need it in the future. Ironically, countless baseball families across the country are facing that very unknown right now, with the 2020 Minor League season in doubt.

“Some guys without that bonus, you flirt with the poverty line in the minor leagues. It’s a gamble,” said Brian. “There’s so many guys that are good that physically could not play anymore because they couldn’t afford it. They had a family, they had kids, they were split from their significant other, wife is trying to make money for him to play, it’s insane.”

In Beloit, Brian shared a 2-bedroom apartment with five guys. His bedroom was the kitchen.

“I had two air mattresses on top of each other in the corner of the kitchen and the pantry was my closet,” said Brian.

“Literally, people would be playing video games in the living room,” said Lisa. “They’d say, ‘hey, throw me a Diet Pepsi’ and Brian would be on his double air mattress and just toss it.’

And that, Brian says, was way better than his next stop: High-A in Ft. Myers, Florida, where he lived on someone’s couch.

“I was there a month,” said Brian. “I gave up seven earned runs in three innings. I bought a six pack of Rolling Rock and listened to ‘I Had A Bad Day’ for like, six hours. Just depressed. I go to the field the next day carrying it with me, ready to fight somebody I was so mad and half embarrassed. It was hot, I was miserable. My manager pulled me aside and said ‘listen, I need you in my office after the game. We need to talk.’ That straightened me up. He told me, ‘look, you’re going to have outings like that. You can’t let it eat away at you.’ I told him, ‘yeah, you’re right, I’m better than that.’ He said ‘yeah, you’re right. You’re going to Double-A.’

“What?!? I could have given up seven earned runs like three weeks ago!” he joked. “Timing is everything. I was left handed, one, I threw strikes. They kept making moves ahead of me, guys would get hurt, and I was the next in line. If I’m in a different organization, I might never had made it to the big leagues, who knows.”

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

“Things are going super well in Double-A,” remembers Lisa. “He lived in a Super 8 at this point.” It was the Summer of 2006, and the couple was once again planning for their wedding, already rescheduled once, with Brian now playing with the New Britain Rock Cats in Connecticut. Towards the end of the season, Brian was approached by the Minor League Coordinator about playing in fall league, more of an order than a request.

“I was like… ‘uhhh, ok, when does it end?’ Not like thank you or anything,” remembers Brian. “He said, ‘November 16. Why? You got plans?'”

Brian and Lisa’s second wedding date was scheduled for November 18. This time, their plans came first.

The following Spring, with Lisa nearing the end of her college career in Lincoln, Brian prepared to leave her once again for another grueling season of Minor League baseball. The night before Spring Training, Brian decided he’d had enough.

“He’s packing, because he always waits until the last day to pack,” remembers Lisa. “He just sat down on the bed in our room and was like, ‘I don’t want to go.’ Once I realized he was serious, I thought ‘this is my first test as a wife. I need to support my husband, but in my head I’m thinking this is not a good plan.’ We got in the car and drove over to his parents house. We walked in and Brian goes ‘I’m quitting baseball.’ Brian’s sisters were still young enough they lived at home. His dad turned to his sisters and said ‘GO TO YOUR ROOMS.’

Kent and Shari Duensing are Brian’s biggest supporters (along with Lisa), credited by many for instilling his solid work ethic, respect for others, and easygoing personality. In many ways then (and today) they were the guides and role models for their then 23 year old physically and emotionally exhausted son, and they remember that night well.

“I asked him why,” remembers Kent. “He said, ‘I just don’t want to go’. I reminded him, ‘Brian, you’ve put a lot of work into this. A lot of people believe you can do this. Don’t throw this away because you’re not sure. It’s not fair to you. It’s not fair to the people who think you can do it. It’s not fair to the people who supported you. You’ve got to give it another try, for the how many thousands of kids who never get this opportunity.'”

Shari flashed back to another time Brian wanted to quit.. as a young teenager. She thought of everything he might have missed; lifelong friendships, Jim Carrey impersonations on the field, teammates who constantly inspired and encouraged each other. These two proud parents wanted what every parent wants for their child; a life lived without regret.

“I didn’t want him to look back at the rest of his life thinking what might have been?” said Kent. “Sometimes, you’ve got to take that chance.”

The next morning, Nebraska was paralyzed by a huge snowstorm, and Brian’s flight to Florida was cancelled. Brian and Lisa spent the day thinking about what Kent and Shari had said.. they enjoyed time together.. they found their calm. Brian flew out the following day, giving himself a silent deadline of four years to make something big happen.

“God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.” – 1 John 3:20


Brian threw great in the first half of the 2007 season with New Britain. That May, Lisa graduated from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, and drove with her parents to Connecticut to finally join her husband… for one weekend. After watching Brian play in a weekend series, he left for a road trip, Lisa’s parents went home, and she was alone in a new apartment in Farmington, CT.

“It was scary, definitely a rough part of town,” said Lisa. “To go for jogs, I would literally run back and forth in front of our apartment building because I was so scared. For 30 minutes, I would just run one block of sidewalk.”

Lisa cleaned their apartment top to bottom (for both Brian and their roommate… yes, the newly married couple had a roommate) to welcome Brian home at midnight after his roadtrip. The next morning, Kent, Shari and about 10 relatives and friends were flying in to Connecticut to visit and watch him play.

“The next day at Noon, he gets called up,” remembers Lisa. “At 11:30, his parents, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles had all just landed in Connecticut. Brian calls them in the airport and says ‘I’m going to New York!'”

As the Duensing clan rented a conversion van for their impromptu 350-mile road trip, Brian and Lisa packed up their bed and clothes, so Brian could start the next day’s game in a brand new city.

“I said hello to the manager and he thought I was a young guy trying to get a bullpen catching job. He had no idea who I was,” said Brian. “He goes, ‘hello? Can I help you?’ ‘Ummm, I starting today.'”

Brian won that first game, despite a hard hit and a surprising ‘pep talk’ from his new boss.

“I was dealing my first outing and I got a line drive hit right off my ass,” describes Brian. “The manager and pitching coach come out, asking if I’m alright. ‘Yeah, I’m fine.’ The manager literally looks at me and goes, ‘welcome to Triple-A’, and walked off. I looked at the catcher and I’m like, ‘did our manager just talk shit to me?’ And he’s like, ‘yeah. He did. Let’s go.'”

And Brian did. By the end of his 2007 season, he was leading the organization in the minors for innings pitched, and was among the top pitchers in all of Triple-A baseball for the same. In less than two years, Brian and Lisa had gotten married, had slept in a kitchen, considered giving up baseball, and had jumped three levels (and three cities) of the minor leagues in an unheard of two years. They hoped that their journey up and down the East Coast might someday lead to Minneapolis.

Instead, the Duensings were headed for Beijing.


“We get home, and I get a call from USA Baseball,” said Brian. “They asked if I would play with them in the World Cup in Taiwan. Of course, I said yes.”

November 18, 2007, on his and Lisa’s first wedding anniversary, Brian started Team USA’s Gold Medal championship game against Cuba, going 4 2/3 innings. A few months later, while still playing Triple-A ball in Rochester, the head of USA Baseball called Brian again.

“We want you to be on the Olympic Team,” recalls Brian. “I didn’t even know what to say. Um, awesome, yeah, ok. They had already talked to Minnesota, the Twins gave me the OK. I’m going to Beijing to be in the Olympics. What’s going on?!?”

Brian’s Rochester teammate Kevin Mulvey (now Head Coach for Villanova), worked with the Red Wings General Manager and the Twins to raise enough money for Lisa to cheer Brian on at the Olympic Games. 22 family members flew to North Carolina to watch Brian play in a pre-Olympics exhibition game with Team USA versus Canada. America’s roster included Brian, Jake Arrieta, Stephen Strasburg, Taylor Teagarden, and Dexter Fowler among others; seven players were Major League Baseball players 10 years after the Games. Together, they were part of the mere 588 people representing our country at the 2008 Summer Games. 588 – out of 304 million Americans. Brian kept a blog while he was in Beijing.

“It was just insane, the amount of countries that I didn’t know existed,” said Brian. “The athletes, so many people in such good shape. We go to the gym to get a workout in, and the first thing I see is this 6’3″ chick from Slovakia, repping like 300 pounds. I’m like, ‘uhh, no, I’m out.'”

Everyday in Beijing was a new adventure. Maneuvering thousands of security guards and translators (“I learned about three words in Chinese”), exploring the world’s biggest buffet with cuisine from around the globe, and having more than a few starstruck moments. His fellow Olympians included Lebron James, Shawn Johnson, Jennie Finch, and Kerri Walsh to name just a few.

“I sat down to eat lunch with some of the baseball guys,” says Brian. “Someone sits down with us, I look up and it’s Michael Phelps. I didn’t talk to him at all, I didn’t even say hello.”

One of Brian’s most memorable moments was being part of Opening Ceremonies, viewed by an estimated 1.5 billion people around the globe.

“The whole baseball team couldn’t sit together, so I look up and there’s a seat by our coaches,” remembers Brian. “There are two girls next to me. I asked them what sport? The blonde girl said judo. I started talking to them a little bit, asking them how the team looked, and she said America had never medalled in judo but they were hoping to change that. I told her hey, I’ll definitely keep an eye on that! Sure enough, this blonde girl wins the bronze medal, first female to ever medal in judo for the US. Fast forward like 8 years, I come to find out that was Ronda Rousey, one of the best UFC fighters of all time.”

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports

Team USA was also ready to represent on the baseball field. Brian took the mound August 16, 2008 as the United States faced Canada.

“We have a runner on first with two outs, bottom of the ninth,” remembers Brian. “We’re up by one. Somehow I completely had a brain fart, got on the mound, didn’t know what foot to step off with, I’m panicking. I tried to call time out.”

Brian balked – twice – but officials never called it.

“They had microphones in dugouts, only on the internet, as part of the ‘Olympic experience’, so everyone listening to the Canadian dugout heard every word in the book. The guy up to bat hit what I thought was a routine fly ball. I walk off and do this fist bump like ‘yeah, I got this huge win’, turn around, and the outfielder barely caught it at the wall. If that had been a homerun, I don’t think I ever would’ve played baseball again.”

Two days later, Team USA took the field again, this time playing host country China.

“We almost fought them, which would’ve been a disaster,” said Brian. “Couple of our dudes got drilled a few times, and one of our dudes <Nate Schierholtz> trucked their catcher because of it. He hit him so hard, he broke his own molar. Everyone jumped the fence and our security was trying to hold us back.”

Team USA won 9-1, and beat Chinese Taipei the following day. The team called on Brian again in their game against Japan, a victory that eventually helped the United States secure a Bronze Medal in the games, despite several major injuries. Most of Team USA returned to the states immediately to continue baseball season at home, but their Olympic journey wasn’t over yet.

“About two weeks later we got a call that Oprah Winfrey is having every Olympic medalist on her show,” remembers Brian. “Do you want to go? I was like umm, yes.”

“And I was like YESSS,” says Lisa. Brian was treated to a free, first class ticket to Chicago and a limo ride to Millennium Park. He met Oprah, President George W. Bush, and many of the fellow Olympians he hadn’t yet talked to in person.”

“Kobe Bryant talked to us for like two seconds, he was sitting right behind us,” says Brian. “Oprah has Jennie Finch stand up, and when she does, BAM, there’s my face!”

Watch for the bus ride – Brian is in the left aisle, middle seat!

“Just crazy times. I mean, I have an Olympic Bronze Medal and a World Cup Gold Medal,” said Brian. “But again, in high school I never thought I’d play college baseball. Then getting drafted. Then playing in the Olympics. I didn’t plan for any of it.”

“For so many, there is still so much pressure along the way, from the player, from his parents, from their spouse, from their friends,” said Lisa. “This is not to discount Brian’s hard work or how much he wanted it, but every step was like a surprise.”

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.– Joel 2:28

Much like Lisa and Brian themselves, when Kent and Shari are asked to recount memories from the CWS, or the MLB Draft, or the Olympics, there’s no bragging, just reliving treasured memories and moments they shared as a family. Kent and Shari were there with Lisa at Wukesong Baseball Field to watch their ‘little boy’ play that game in Beijing, as they have for almost 30 years.

“I just sat with my hands gripped on the bleacher seat,” said Shari. “It was just overwhelming, like, this is really happening.”

“Who would’ve thought this little kid from Omaha is now representing the United States,” said Kent. “To see him out there in a USA uniform, playing in a foreign country, it was really pretty cool.”

Yet when you ask Lisa, Kent or Shari who Brian Duensing is… they don’t see Olympian. Or Gold Medalist. Or top draft pick. Just as some things are bigger than any one of us, so too are the things we love most about each other: humor, loyalty, kindness.

“To us, he’s just Brian,” said Kent. “If you would’ve known him in high school or college or now, he hasn’t changed at all. He still talks to his grandparents. He knows where he came from. He has the same demeanor that he had back then.”

Case in point: Shari’s favorite Olympic moment, at the USA vs Canada exhibition game in North Carolina.

“You walk in, see all of these Team USA jerseys, and it was an emotional sight for any patriot,” remembers Shari. “I walk in, my sister was with me, we’re enjoying the game and Brian pulls up his jersey and shows his nipple to us. He’s in the dugout of Team USA! We have pictures of the whole family afterwards, the boys posed like that. We all busted out laughing. That’s just Brian!”

“I’m so incredibly proud of all my kids,” says Shari. “Brian and Lisa and my girls. To know they all grew up, they all support each other, I’m blessed. My favorite times are just to be with my entire family. It’s been an amazing journey Brian and Lisa have been so gracious to let us all join in on.”

Duensing takes the mound, Part Three on deck.


Click here to read part 1, Major League!

Major League

Brian didn’t dream of stadiums with 30,000 fans, pitching in the playoffs with a World Series berth on the line. He wanted to marry his best friend, teach with her at their hometown high school, and coach baseball with his friend and mentor. That was the dream, and the plan.

BD Omaha Mag

Photo courtesy Omaha Magazine

“God has a plan. Trust it, live it, enjoy it.”  – unk


I think I’ve mentioned a time or two.. I am fascinated with stories. A good story kindles something inside my heart, and I can’t help myself but share it with someone else to see if they feel the same kind of reaction I did.

Everytime my husband and I hang out with our friends Brian, Lisa, Greg and Toni, there are stories. So many stories. Fascinating, hilarious, bookworthy stories. When I decided to kickstart this blog again, I knew that if they were willing, I wanted to write about these. I soon realized that there was no way I would be able to fit everything into one blog and do these memories any justice… so I PRESENT TO YOU: MAJOR LEAGUE.


No, not that Major League. Although hats for bats DO keep bats warm.

For most of the last two decades, baseball has been constant in Brian and Lisa Duensing’s lives. Their journey has taken them through Lincoln, Beijing, the trials of minor league baseball, and through the euphoria and heartbreak of being a professional athlete. It is an incredible life, seeing and experiencing things that only a handful of people ever have the resources and opportunity for. It’s also so much more than most people realize: skirting the poverty line, packing up a van and changing homes in 12 hours, living life as an object owned by a corporation. In a world where timing is everything and sometimes, nothing makes sense (for the good or bad), the Duensings have turned to faith and each other to celebrate and survive every step of their journey.

Chapter one starts on the little league fields of Omaha, Nebraska.


Like how many millions of American kids before him and after, Brian Duensing started playing baseball when he was 9 years old.

“I played baseball because I was somewhat good, and because my friends played it and I enjoyed it,” said Brian. “Back then, I played select baseball for the Omaha Patriots. After my 13-year old season, I wanted to quit. Told my friends at the end of season banquet, ‘hey, I’m done.’ All I wanted to do was go on vacation. I was missing out on so much summer stuff that I thought was important – which is important. I just wanted to go camping with my family.”

He told his teammates, who physically sat on him in the parking lot after their final game of the season until Brian called mercy and said he would keep playing.

At 14, he moved up to Millard South High School and met Coach Greg Geary.


“Anyone can find the dirt in someone. Be the one who finds the gold.” – Prov 1. 11:27 

For nearly two decades, Millard South Varsity Baseball Coach Greg Geary has been one of the most respected coaches in the Omaha metro and Nebraska. Yes, he’s had big wins, but he has also consistently molded and mentored successful young men both on and off the field. In Brian Duensing, Greg found talent, promise, and exceptional character.

“Brian was a special young man,” said Greg. I had a hunch he was going to be something special at the next level. I think the reason I thought he would do big things was that he just had that “IT” factor. He had a great work ethic (coming from his parents Kent and Shari!) and respected the game. He was also the kid that came over to our house when <our daughter> Madi was born (his senior year) to visit.  He cares about people and I always appreciated that about him, probably more than he will ever know. We had a great Coach/Player relationship. He knew how to have fun, but also knew when it was time to get after it.”

Under Coach Geary’s leadership, Brian dominated on the mound and at the plate. He led the state with a 0.74 ERA and a .522 batting average. Nebraska made him an offer to play baseball, followed by Creighton. Brian decided to become a Husker.

“What alway impressed me with Brian was he was the guy who was the first one at the field, and would always carry gear or put out bases without anyone having to tell him to do it!” said Greg. “Sounds like a small thing, but for a guy who was going to NU, he never, ever acted like he was better than anyone, and that still holds true to this day.”


“He was majoring in baseball, whether he knew it or not,” says Lisa.

“OK, whoa, hold on, let’s back the Truth Truck up for a second,” interrupts Brian.

BD Husker

At this point in our interview, I am giggling while typing, listening to this perfect pair share memories from each perspective about their journey through college. Note: journey, singular, because this time was, from the start, an adventure of highs and lows Brian and Lisa shared together.

Brian, a year older, started at Nebraska first in Spring of 2002. Big XII All Freshman Team. Lincoln All-Regional Team. When Nebraska made it to the College World Series, Brian got the start for Game Two. In one year, he had gained 13 pounds of muscle, and increased his pitching velocity from around 83 to 91 miles per hour. What could be bigger in a young man’s life?



​”We were best friends in high school,” said Lisa. “I was dating someone else and I told my parents that; they asked, ‘shouldn’t your boyfriend be your best friend?’ It was always Brian.”

The Duensings’ good friend and fellow Husker Mike Sillman remembers the team’s time working to recruit Brian, and relaying to the Nebraska coaching staff, “we shouldn’t be recruiting Brian. We should be recruiting Lisa. He’ll go wherever she goes.”

“The best thing was being his friend first,” said Lisa. “We knew everything about each other already.”

Within the first month of Lisa joining Brian at UNL, the two were dating. Lisa had also been a high school athlete at Millard South, and studied athletic training and science while working as a trainer with the Nebraska Gymnastics team. She understood college athletics better than most, and was part of Brian’s seemingly unstoppable journey from the beginning.

“I watched his baseball highest high and the lowest low,” said Lisa. “My freshman year, he went from being the National Pitcher of the Week, to tearing his arm the next week.”


Photo courtesy

By his sophomore year in Spring 2003, Brian had increased his velocity to the 93-96 mph range, and college sportswriters were calling him and Aaron Marsden ‘the best 1-2 combo in all of college baseball.’ He had also been hurting, but each time he started to get warm and find his rhythm, the pain would subside. His trainers and coaches thought Brian had tendonitis. He started his sophomore season at Louisiana Tech, and headed back to Lincoln for the season home opener. Cue Nebraska: it snowed, and the team spent the day clearing the field to prepare for a doubleheader the next day. By gametime at 3pm, the temperature was 28-degrees; so cold, metal bats were breaking during at bats. Brian threw a fastball in the third inning that went 45 feet… and sparked a burning sensation through his elbow. He had torn his arm.

The surgical option was a then-uncommon and frequently unsuccessful procedure now dubbed ‘Tommy John surgery.’ Trainers and coaches advised rehab instead, which took Brian out of rotation for the entire 2003 season. Spring of 2004 was supposed to be his return to the mound and to college baseball.

“I drove down to New Mexico with his parents to watch his first outing the next year,” said Lisa. “We drove through the night, 20 hours, pull up, get to the field. We were watching him play catch in the outfield: boom. Tears it. Done.”

‘But you must remain strong and not become discouraged. Your actions will be rewarded.’ – 2 Chronicles 15:7

Surgery. Rehab. Hearing ‘you’ll never throw as hard again.’ Brian had two teammates who had faced the same surgery and never threw again. But instead of being distraught or depressed, Brian reflected on his plan for the future: become a teacher, and coach high school baseball. Lisa rightfully refers to this time as life-changing.. but not for the reasons you might expect.

“Tommy John was the best thing that ever happened to him” said says. “Everything just got focused.”

Brian had been struggling with his Economics major, and despite tutors and perfect attendance, he had been one course grade away from being academically ineligible for the 2002 College World Series. During his time recovering, Brian switched majors and his grades shot up. He also returned to his alma mater, Millard South, to reunite with his mentor and good friend, Greg Geary.

“He coached a couple summers with Coach <Trevor> Longe and I,” said Greg.We had a heck of good time and I think he would tell you it was cool to see the other side, the coaching side. We have remained close since then and he means more to me than he will ever know.”

Brian also deepened his relationship with Lisa, a time where both learned a lot about each other. By 2005, Brian was ready to play, and ready to make a lifelong commitment to the person who never left his side. One year to the day of his muscle tear, Brian was set to start his first game in Hawaii. His Nebraska teammates knew it would be a day to remember.

“Everybody knew that we were supposed to get engaged and literally no one told me,” said Lisa. “Over Christmas break, I had to stay for athletic training and Alex <Gordon> was from Lincoln, so he had stayed, too. We were talking to him and I mentioned ‘I can’t go to Hawaii,’ and he was like ‘you have to go. You HAVE to go.’ And I was like, ‘what, am I going to get engaged there?’ And he just looked shocked. Later I was like, ‘dude! You almost blew it!’ and he said ‘I know!! I panicked!'”



I have been a Nebraska Baseball uber fan for as long as I can remember. So when Brian and Lisa say ‘Alex’ or ‘Daniel’ or ‘Jeff’ without saying ‘Alex Gordon’ or ‘Daniel Bruce’ or ‘Jeff Liese’ – full names required because hello, they’re celebrities – I still have a ‘woah’ moment. But when you ask Brian and Lisa about the success of the Nebraska Baseball teams they were a part of… it is clear they did and continue to view those teammates as family.

“Camaraderie was a lot of it,” said Brian. “We would get together every weekend. And it wasn’t like three or four guys, no, the whole team showed up. We all took care of each other. When I was a senior, they brought in all of the Nebraska recruits and there were like 18 of us. We were all homegrown. We felt like we knew where everyone was coming from. Even the guys who came from out of state fit right in.”

From 2002-2005: this was the team that Van Horn built. A perennial powerhouse with multiple prospects, future MLB stars, and coaching icons. Alex Gordon, Joba Chamberlain, Shane Komine, Tony Watson, Zach Kroenke, Dave Van Horn, Rob Childress, Curtis Ledbetter, Will Bolt.

“We didn’t even recognize Brian’s talent because everyone on the team was so ridiculously good,” said Lisa.

“There was a stretch when I got moved out of rotation, to the bullpen, and I felt like the worst pitcher ever. My ERA was a 2,” said Brian. “We played textbook, selfless baseball. Bruce had a cannon. Leise would run any guy down. Simokaitis was a magnet at short. I tell a lot of people, especially in ’05, every time we took the field, we honestly thought we were going to win. And for the most part we did. Sheer talent, we all wanted to win and we cared about each other.”

The team went 57-15, and Brian was a crucial part of the Huskers’ success. He posted an 8-0 record with a 2.6 ERA, and set records in the 2005 Big XII Tournament for number of innings pitched and number of consecutive scoreless innings. That season alone, Brian was named to the Big XII All-Tournament Team, a Collegiate Baseball National Pitcher of the Week, and named to the First-Team Academic All-Big XII.  The team, touted as arguably the best in Nebraska history, won their Super-Regional against Miami to earn a trip to Omaha and the College World Series. The Lincoln Journal Star’s Brian Christopherson wrote: “Joba Chamberlain and Brian Duensing looked like mischievous grade-schoolers as they ran to get a bucket of water from the dugout. Soon, in predictable fashion, the water was flooding down on Mike Anderson. The third-year head coach just smiled and the crowd cheered louder.”


Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

Nebraska didn’t win the College World Series, but they were one of the last teams to play in the iconic championship at Rosenblatt Stadium. A plaque marks Infield at the Zoo today, listing the names of the homegrown heroes who grew up on Nebraska diamonds and played in the Omaha classic, Brian Duensing among them.


“He happens to be standing exactly where his dad did when he pitched for the Huskers in the CWS,” shared Erin Palladino, Brian’s sister. “Boston found that to be incredibly cool!”

Us, too, Boston. Us, too.


“Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” – Philippians 4:6-7

As if the once-in-a-lifetime College World Series experience wasn’t enough, Brian and several of his teammates were also in the midst of a little something called ‘The MLB Draft’. Six Huskers were drafted in 2005; 16 more were selected over the next two years.

Brian had been contacted by every major league club except for his childhood favorite, the Chicago Cubs. He still had one, possibly two years of college eligibility with Nebraska on the table.

“He said to me, if I don’t go in the top 10 rounds, I’m going to come back,” remembers Lisa. “Then the White Sox called his dad, saying they knew he was engaged and wanted to know if I was on board. They told Brian’s dad they planned to take him in the fifth round.”

Lisa didn’t tell Brian, not wanting to jinx anything or raise hope for a deal that might not happen.

“I was just so nervous for him because I wanted him to be happy so badly,” said Lisa. “I just had no idea what to expect.”

A few days later, the 2005 MLB draft began as the Huskers were practicing for the College World Series.

“We were practicing, had music playing, but we all knew the draft was starting. Alex’s brother was sitting in the stands,” remembers Brian. “We’re looking at the clock, we’re taking BP. In between swings we look up at Alex’s brother and he holds up the number two with his fingers. We all freaked out, stopped practice, congratulated him, stuff like that. It was the coolest thing ever.”

Then the questions between teammates began… who would be next? Brian, are you going to be drafted?!?

“I wasn’t really expecting much,” said Brian. “Then practice is over and we have a team meeting like we do after every practice. I look up and I see our PR guy, Shamus McKnight, coming down the stairs as fast as he can. I thought Zach Kroenke got drafted. Shamus pulls Coach A off to the side. We were all kind of dispersing, and Coach A’s like ‘woah, bring it back up. We all took the time to congratulate Gordo. We have another guy to congratulate. Mr. Duensing just got drafted in the third round.’ My exact quote, I looked at him and said ‘holy shit.’ I was so dumbfounded. I did a bunch of media stuff, they were asking me questions like ‘was I excited to sign?’ and I had to stop and look at one of the reporters to say… I don’t even know who drafted me.”

The Minnesota Twins had selected Brian Duensing in the 3rd Round of the 2005 MLB Draft.


Lisa & Brian with Brian’s sister, Erin

“The day before the draft, Brian said to me ‘oh my goodness, can you imagine if  I went in the top 3 rounds? That would be the most amazing thing, like a dream come true’,” said Lisa. “And remember, this is when I thought I knew he was going in the fifth round. I remember just thinking ‘you’re so cute.'”

Day of, Lisa had been with a friend, monitoring the draft but still thinking an announcement was aways off. Her phone rang, and a very excited Mama Duensing was on the other end with the news.

“We literally went that day to the mall and bought Twins gear, including a hat for Brian, because he wore a Cardinals hat every single day,” said Lisa. “It got shelved that day, never to be worn again.”

“I only liked it because it was a Lids Throwback Hat!” chimed in Brian. “I had a White Sox one, too, and an Indians hat! I had hats to go with different colored shirts and stuff..”

“Ok, well we went and bought Twins stuff,” said Lisa.

New hats, new plans, a new journey.

Within the next 6 months, Brian and Lisa would officially become part of the Minnesota Twins farm club family, indoctrinated into a much misunderstood world known as Minor League Baseball. The next chapter of their lives would be challenging, trying, and exhausting. Tears, temptations to quit, and that beautiful big league carrot always dangling just out of reach. But for these two American kids in the heartland in the summer of 2005.. life was pretty damn good.

“I’ll never forget where I was when BD called me to tell me he had gotten drafted,” said Greg Geary, now Brian’s good friend as well as high school coach. “I was about to hit my second shot on hole one on Hammerhead at Tiburon Golf Club. I was so pumped for him.”

Brian and Lisa got married the following year. Madi Geary was their flower girl, and Brian’s teammates Andy Holz, Ben Bails, Darren Hoffart and Alex Gordon were all in the wedding party.


In sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. For better or for worse, until death parts us.

Play ball.


Part Two: coming soon!

Stars At Night

Well hi there.

My name is Brandi. Have we met?


It’s been 10 months since I’ve written. If I’m being honest with myself.. it’s been closer to two years. These days, I wear a lot of ball caps, not a lot of makeup, and I rarely take two steps without my sidekick at my heels (#Chester).

For a long time now, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought ‘wow – what an amazing story. Someone should write about that. I should write about that.’ Yet, I haven’t cracked open this blog. Why? Well, LIFE. And I’m a huge jerk for writing that, because.. really, Brandi?!? I am BLESSED beyond measure. Life is a gift.

When I write, life is even better – I appreciate more, I feel inspired, and I view things differently because of hearing the stories of others. I hope that through sharing the stories that have impacted me, I am then impacting someone else. Maybe you’ll support a person, cause or business. Maybe you’ll go about your day with a little more pep in your step, inspired or encouraged by the experiences of others. And maybe you will view the world, your neighbors, and in today’s case, the stars, a little differently.

So how ’bout that Corona?? Sh@*.. where to even start. March 6: I was sitting next to a colleague, Dr. Enid Schonewise, at an event at Westside High School. I saw the alert, “Nebraska has first confirmed COVID-19 case.” I passed my phone over to Enid to show her. Her response: “here we go.” We had already been planning for the long-shot-worst-case-scenario of schools being shut down for a few weeks. Still, I never imagined  the unprecedented magnitude of this invisible threat. Schools shut down for the remainder of the school year. All major sports cancelling seasons – the Olympic Games being postponed. Things so many of us were used to and took for granted like birthday parties, ample grocery store supplies, even playing at parks with our kids… gone within weeks.

As Enid, myself, and the rest of the Omaha area found out that Friday afternoon the virus was here, my high school friend and business owner Liz Lilla knew, at that moment, that everything in her life would change.



I have been creeping on Liz’s Facebook page to find some high school pictures, but here’s the thing – SHE LOOKS EXACTLY THE SAME AS SHE DID 20 YEARS AGO. Liz was one year older than me but I think we spent every school day together (and then some) for a solid two years. We dedicated ourselves to drama, choir, and speech.. and all of the shenanigans that I remember just as much as the activities themselves. That night after ‘Grease’ rehearsal the main cast all became snowbound in my basement. Riding Ollie the Trolly for 1998 Prom. The countless times ‘a few’ of us caravaned to Liz’s house for Mrs. Hladky’s world-famous homemade french onion soup.

I’m gonna need a minute dreaming about that soup…


Ok, I’m back. Liz was awesome. Liz IS awesome. Kind, positive, caring, someone everyone wanted to be around. Her husband, Erik, was also a PLHS Monarch, but I didn’t know him well back then… he was the super cool soccer guy who was also BRILLIANT. I think his ACT was like 52 or something. Liz and Erik dated, got married, were attending college (Liz, to become an Occupational Therapist), and Erik popped another question… “can we open a gym?”

Liz had been a gymnast and coach. Erik was an athlete and a damn good personal trainer (I actually hired Erik a few times over the years to whip me into shape.) Still… opening a gym? Starting a new business? No easy feat. Have you ever watched gymnastics? There’s a lot of equipment. And mats. And chalk. A LOT of chalk. Where does one even begin??

In 2006, just as their family was growing, Erik and Liz rented out 1200 square feet in a Millard strip mall (right next to what is now the Corner Kick restaurant) and Metro Stars Gymnastics was born. Liz, a Nebraska Occupational Therapy Practitioner of the Year, made sure they provided opportunities for special needs children, as well as typically developing kiddos. They started with just five students.

“We bought a balance beam and mats at a high school auction,” says Liz. “We spent about $50. We were mudding walls on Christmas Eve, building a website, creating a business plan, everything.”

Liz and Erik Lilla literally made their dreams happen themselves through hard work, sweat, planning and vision. They became my go-to’s for my TV reporter needs, not just because I knew them, they were articulate and easy to work with, but they KNEW that it was a sound, strategic move to get publicity and awareness for their company, and were always willing to help. (Also, their kids were freaking cute. I feel like I still owe Katie and Juliette some kind of compensation for how often I used them in stories.)

Over the next 13 years, Metro Stars Gymnastics grew in size, client base, and reputation. Liz and Erik earned respect across the entire US gymnastics community through their incomparable work ethic, sound and smart business decisions, and a never-changing focus to support healthy, active children by inspiring a love of gymnastics. To them, it’s never been about churning out a new generation of robot children gearing up for Olympic success. Their mission is to offer families a wonderful sports environment to grow and have fun.


Liz presenting to the USA Gymnastics National Congress in August 2018

The results? By 2019, Metro Stars had two locations with approximately 36,000 square feet, serving an estimated 3,000 families. Many Metro Stars classes had waiting lists, and in October, Liz wrote a 3-year vision statement about opening a third location. I was honored to freelance for the Lillas, becoming ‘the girl in the Open Gym videos’, relaying instructions via video for dozens of kids before each session started – one of the few times my kids have almost, ALMOST, thought I was cool. Erik founded a second business, ERK Realty, to help other entrepreneurs by sharing the knowledge he had built up over more than a decade of successful work using the success of Metro Star Gymnastics to invest in additional real estate and projects. Throughout all of their seemingly limitless success, the Lillas remained generous and thoughtful, financially and otherwise supporting countless causes, fundraisers, experiences for children and more.

It was Erik who seemed to sense early on, that this crazy virus that was spreading through Asia and Europe, could impact the businesses they spent their entire adult lives building. By the time COVID-19 reached us, Liz knew they would be hit hard.

“When I saw that first case on the news, I knew everything would change,” says Liz. “We had to really make devastating decisions for our business.”


Social distancing. Less than 10 people in an area, more than 6 feet apart. Have you ever been to a gymnastics class? Coaches need to spot kids. Kids are touching equipment, mats, and each other. You can’t DO gymnastics without touching stuff.. and other people. Liz, with a background in healthcare, knew her gyms could not stay open. And as restaurants, bars and salons began closing their doors, the Lillas had 100 employees waiting to hear if they were losing their jobs.

“For some of our employees, this is their career. They are the breadwinners for their families,” said Liz. “We knew we couldn’t just let everyone go. That wasn’t an option. We committed to paying our staff, using our savings, as long as we could. We did some math and figured we could pay them through September, maybe November.”

This, with no revenue coming in. 


Erik and Liz have four children. They have a mortgage. I can’t even imagine how much utilities cost for 36,000 square feet of gym, in addition to facility costs, business expenses, property taxes, you name it. Yet the Lillas committed to financially supporting their full-time employees.

Mind blown. Here’s where I would have curled up in the fetal position, after I had puked, and just cried. And cried. And prayed. And then cried some more.

“I didn’t sleep that night,” said Liz. “My brain started thinking, ‘how can we serve these kids? No school, no sports, no interaction.. how can we still offer our services?’ And my second thought, ‘how can my staff be involved so we have some sort of revenue so we can pay them longer?’ I went into my office, sat down, and said how do we make this happen.”

This crisis has affected so many businesses. As the daughter of small business owners, this has really weighed heavily on my heart. BUT… while I can support restaurants through takeout orders, and I can support my favorite stores and professionals by stocking up on products and gift cards… how can you keep a gymnastics facility running? 

Liz turned to the medium countless corporations (including my own Westside Community Schools!) are utilizing right now… THE POWER OF ONLINE COMMUNICATION.


“If I have to teach a gymnastics class in my living room, what would it look like?” asked Liz. “I involved my children to test out my ideas. I had practice classes over video with my friends’ families. Staff jumped in and had great ideas. I then wrote a letter to all of our customers, sharing our history and what we built from nothing. We wouldn’t be charging them for the classes they agreed to, but we offered parents a week of online courses for free, asking, ‘how can we help your kids?'”

Metro Stars offered an hour of normalcy. Kids got to put on their leotards, grab their water bottles, and hear from the coaches they knew and loved. ‘Monday is gymnastics night’ – well, through this innovative plan, it still was. For children and parents, thrown this historic loop of CRAZY with school at home and never leaving the house, gymnastics came to them.

“I was really nervous,” said Liz. “I had done all of this work, stayed up late, put it all on the line. This has never been done before. This was like a start-up company that launched in three days. It was a new celebration every time someone enrolled!”

As of April 11, 130 customers (and counting!) had enrolled for online courses through Metro Stars Gymnastics. A parent left a comment on Facebook, asking if they could enroll from Indonesia (yes!). Metro Stars has developed a library for parents to access anytime their kiddo needs a gym session.. or just a wiggle break.

Was there an option to lay off our staff and allow them to collect unemployment?” said Liz. “Yes, that was actually recommended to me by quite a few colleagues. But by us getting together and solving this problem as a group, we are uniting. We feel purpose. The ingenuity that has come out of this is so exciting.”

And inspiring. Local media and the national Coaching For Leaders network have featured what Metro Stars is doing, providing business owners and entreprenuers across the country with new ideas – and hope – that they can survive this pandemic. CLICK HERE to listen!

“Necessity is the Mother of Invention,” said Liz. “We didn’t even realize these things were options. We all have so many assets we just have to tap into, areas of strength we take for granted. Then, when we are hit with a situation like this, we realize how we can build upon those strengths and use them differently.”


I am working on focusing on the opportunities presented by this pandemic, not the challenges. I get to be home with my children everyday and watch them, really watch them, 24/7. Both my job and my husband’s jobs are secure and we have the ability to work from home. I have NO EXCUSE not to workout every day, because I’m HERE. Here I am, writing on my couch without Mom guilt because I got to spend the day with my kids AND get a lot of work done, all from the comfort of my kitchen table. How lucky am I?

The Lillas have the opposite of luck in this mess. This pandemic has dealt them one hell of a blow. But instead of lying down and giving up, instead of circling their wagons and focusing solely on their own needs, they stood even taller and have demonstrated true leadership, ingenuity and talent. They are positive. They are strong. They are inspiring. Even now, Liz is reminding herself – and everyone who hears their story – that you can always find stars in the dark if you look hard enough.

“In that October vision statement, I talked about how a third location could reach kids that never had the opportunity to experience gymnastics,” Liz said. “I had no idea I would be able to open a third location in just 6 months – a virtual location!”

Stories like this make us want to run faster and jump higher. They make us dream big, and they help us hold onto those dreams when all seems lost.

Stories like this are why I love to write. Thanks, Liz.



CLICK HERE to learn more about Metro Stars Gymnastics and online gymnastics classes, or CLICK HERE to follow Metro Stars on Facebook!