Category Archives: Life

Superbowl=$$$$ not buying futures

We have just entered a new fiscal year at the Doeun household. Each year around this time we like many Americans begin preparing our taxes, through this process we look closely at the previous year’s financials and make plans for the coming year.

At the same time our home state will host the Superbowl this year. Our home team is just one win away from playing in that Superbowl–the first time ever a team would play in their own stadium for Superbowl. My husband has several co-workers that are season ticket holders for the Vikings. They said that while they pay around $99 to view a Vikings game. If they go to the Superbowl even the cost of the nosebleed sections run in the thousands of dollars.  A good seat could be as high as $30,000-40,000!

We have hopes and dreams for the future that include financial security. As we contemplated what financial success would look like for us the question came up “would we ever spend that kind of money on a sporting event?” There was no hesitation, never in a million years would we spend that money in that way. Each year we hope that the next year we can donate more.

Proeun grew out of displacement and poverty–the refugee experience. He often says, “try getting a good grade on a Math test when you haven’t eaten over the weekend.” While we home school our children I have recently become impressed with out amazing our public school system is. I purchased the book Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan at the Rush City Library’s Christmas book sale. Akpan’s collection of short stories transports you to a world mostly tragic with some beauty thrown in. The first story, “The Ex-mas Feast,” is the story of a preteen prostitute working on the streets so her brother can go to school. Going to school is not an option for her as school costs money–alot of money. She makes the hard decision to go full-time by entering a brothel. Her brother is so distraught by her sacrifice that he runs away.

Free education for all children, we take it for granted. Fiction does often have the ability to be more truthful then non-fiction. Through stories our world is opened to the experiences of others and my world was rocked by this story. Here we are taking for granted education. Education is truly the ability to have a future.

Then my mind took the leap to how many schools could the Superbowl fund throughout the year? We could be buying futures. What are we buying instead?

Mother Heart

My soul is all mother. I am a nurturing spirit. I had the privilege of meeting William Kent Krueger (link below) a couple times now. As a writer for my local paper I have been able to attend each of his local book launches. Normally murder mysteries are not my thing but I love the sense of place (my home state) I get from his books. I also find his references to Ojibwa culture enlightening and refreshing.

In several of his books he talks about different spirits that people have. One is Nokomis, the grandmother or nurturing spirit. This is totally me. I have always wanted to be a mother, but one thing that is clear, you do not have to have blood offspring to be nurturing.

In my career as a writer I have sometimes had to write about difficult and gut wrenching things. But I am finding my ability to deal with heartbreak is lessening as I get older (or have more children?). It seems like I am feeling things more. Even the daily news is sometimes too much for me.

Recently one of those tear jerker commercials came on for the organization “Forced to Flee.” My husband, my soul mate, was forced to flee with his family. He was a refugee. Many of my closest friends are refugees. Many were refugees as the result of failed U.S. foreign policies.

As I watched the images of babies crying in the pain of hunger and disease I wished I could nurse them. It was an odd thought, one I had never really considered–being willing to nurse another woman’s child, but I knew that I would do it in a heart beat if it meant that child would survive. Those individuals, those faces, those stories, touched me.

I firmly believe that stories lead to relationships, an opening of the heart. Stories and relationships is exactly what we need right now. When I was in college I learned about systemic problems and was taught they need systemic solutions. But we are failing on a big level. What we need is baby steps. The kind where a nurturing adult allows the baby to hold their fingers while taking tottering steps. So those first baby steps need mothers/nurturers. I am thinking about the organizations like “Moms Against Drunk Driving.” We can accomplish alot we Nokomis. We just need to allow our hearts to be open, even if it means pain, and we need to be willing feel for others.

Thankful for Beauty

We had a wonderful and peaceful Thanksgiving basking in a baby glow. This year our family had 2 new babies around the dinner table and it was such an extra special celebration with a lot to be thankful for. But I have been thinking a lot lately about the future of my girls. I have 5 daughters who will be women of color one day. And honestly I am pretty concerned about how they will fair out in the world. But there have been many positive changes and I am always on the lookout for affirming resources.

This week I was at my favorite bookstore (Scout and Morgan, see below), when I came across a beautiful book The Atlas of Beauty.

I was immediately drawn to the cover and the story of author/photographer Mihaela Noroc. Noroc has been traveling the world for the past 4 years photographing all the beautiful women that she meets.

As you can see her idea of beauty is far from conventional but it “smacks of truth,” as one of my college professors, Robert Grunst, used to say. This is the kind of world I want to live in, one that celebrates the beauty of the all women (and more then just the beauty of women). I love especially the pictures of women that you wouldn’t expect to see where they were photographed. The women of Iran were particularly surprising. Even I had some preconceived ideas of beauty

I plan to share this book with my girls, having it readily available. In this time I am very grateful for all the beauty in the world.

Welcome to Scout & Morgan Books in Cambridge, MN

Yes, this is my first Rodeo

I have of course heard of rodeo. Our farrier (the person who trims our horse’s hooves) is a true cowboy. When we went to Yellowstone this summer we drove through Cody, Wyoming. Since our destination was Cody and we had a limited amount of time we didn’t stop for too long in Cody. But I did notice that they have a rodeo, every single night during the summer.

We also stopped in Sheridan, Wyoming en route. We stayed in a hotel and were watching the local news while winding down and waiting for our turn in the bath room. We found out that in Sheridan (and assuming other places) rodeo is a high school sport rivaling football. The results of the competitions are reported on the evening news.

When we moved up here we heard about Heidelberger’s auction  barn. They also boast a rodeo every year but up until this year we have never gone. Through a strange coincidence, my father became friends with the brother of Mr. Heidelberger. Dad was talking about his friend but never using last name until my mom said something like, “Neil’s brother has an auction place up by you.” Heidelberger’s was the only one I knew of and we put two and two together.

So this year we went as a family as guests of Neil and his family. So yes this really was our first rodeo.

The announcer set the stage well, “the great American sport known as rodeo–the world’s most dangerous playing field.” Luckily no one got seriously hurt last night but you could totally see that having a 2,000 pound bull as an opponent would be seriously dangerous.

Avril tried out the mechanical bull–a much safer option for this mother!

Bareback riding, I never knew that there were 2 other cowboys on horses ready to assist and catch the wild horses after their rider was thrown or to help the rider safely off in case he was able to stay on. It was amazing to see them work the horses! Some “amazing horsemanship and teamwork” as announcer Davie Kimm said.

Calf scramble. The 4-6 year olds joined 4 calves in the arena. Each calf had a ribbon tied to their tale and the children try to catch the ribbon.

Wild cow milking contest. No description can do it justice.

So yes it was a great night at the rodeo, and quite possible the start of a new tradition.


Scouting Out Some New Books

I have a lot going on in my life. In addition to being the mother of 7 beautiful children and wife of Proeun I farm, homeschool, manage my home and write, not just a blog but for 4 area newspapers (I have also written my own book). It was on one assignment for one of these papers that I found Scout and Morgan Books (link below).

I have mentioned before that my birthday is around the middle of the year. I would get a stack of books for Christmas, read them and get resupplied for my birthday. I dreamed of having a large, fully stocked library in my home when I grew up. We do still have a lot of books, but now I have also discovered the library and through the course of several moves I have had to cull some of my books. Still Scout and Morgan is one of my new favorite places and I love the fact that I am supporting our local economy and a truly great lady when I purchase my books from Scout and Morgan.

Before our Yellowstone trip we stopped by to get a small stack of reading material and visit with Judith Kissner. One of the stories early in my relationship with Judith was the Cambridge Community Read final event with Faith Sullivan this spring. The book the whole community was reading was Goodnight Mr. Wodehouse by Sullivan. Throughout the book Nell Stillman, the novel’s protagonist, turns to books as a way of facing life’s pressures. P.G. Wodehouse was her favorite author.

So when I stopped by Scout and Morgan I was looking for my own copy of one of his books and Judith presented me with a used copy of Love Among the Chickens–the very book I had in mind.

As you can see we picked up quite a stack. What is even better is my girls discovered how fun book stores are!

When we headed off to Yellowstone books of regional interest were high on my list of desired souvenirs and so I picked up a couple there as well. Now I find myself reading multiple books at once. Here are a couple of books that are on my shelf right now.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. I am not familiar with his comedy or his work on the “The Daily Show” but whenever we contemplate race in this country we remind the children that they would likely not exist, or at least it would be illegal for them to exist just a few decades before their birth. It was such a personally poignant read to hear Noah’s story, a man my age whose very birth was a crime. To read about his mother’s story and subsequently his story is such an eye opening experience. It was definitely a very fast read for me as I couldn’t put it down!

Different by Sally and Nathan Clarkson.  The subtitle is “The Story of an Outside the Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him.” I have a couple of “outside of the box” kids. I bought this book with one specific child in mind and discovered elements of myself and other children beautifully touched on in this book. Through the Clarkson family journey I am reminded of the importance of loving and letting go of control. Trying to micromanage people and life in general is a sure fire way for loads of stress. This book gently reminded me who is really in control.

The Life Giving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally and Sarah Clarkson. This book is written by the same mother who wrote Different. This time she partnered with one of her daughters. I have read many of her books before. Most of her books are more of ideal books, as in striving for an ideal. But by reading it at the same time as Different which is definitely about the reality of life it is a great foil and helps me see the beauty of ideals while accepting realities. Both books helped me realize how important home is as a launching place for not only us as individuals but also for our children.

Shadow Mountain by Renee Askins. This was one of my Yellowstone snags. I am almost done reading it. It is the story of the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone. I was not aware that wolves were eradicated from the area in the early 1900s. This was purposeful and intentional. The reintroduction was even more so. A great read–a fresh look at the world of conservation and how it intersects with real life. From the opening story Askins sets the stage, “My doe-eyed idealism about peaceable wolves, along with my meticulously planned research design, was eviscerated that day with Cassie [a female wolf she was studying at “Wolf Park”] and the six unborn puppies she carried.” Cassie was killed by her own pack. “Cassie’s death was the first of many humbling lessons in the wild’s volatility and unpredictability I was to receive in the years to come.” It is a hard lesson that ideals don’t translate particularly well to real life, but that in striving for them life is worth living. I am at the point in the book where wolves are on the ground in Yellowstone for the first time in 70 years and the first batch of puppies have been born. Askins has closed the door on “The Wolf Fund,” her life work of the past 15 years and she is ready to move on with 2 Chinese Crested dogs she recently purchased. I feel so honored that on our first night in the park we were able to witness first hand 2 wolves stalking a heard of elk, or perhaps a flock of geese (there was a lot of animals in the area). I now know the name of their ancestors and I wonder which pack they came from.

Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose. I can’t remember if I have read any books by Stephen Ambrose. I realize as I write this that I likely mixed him up with Jeff Shaara who wrote very readable and enjoyable Civil War accounts (and one Mexican War). But this is the story of the Lewis and Clark exhibition. You can’t go anywhere out west without finding some remnants of their story. While I know snatches of it I am interested to get a more complete view. This is next on my list to read. Also a Yellowstone souvenir.

While I include the links to amazon it is so worthwhile to find a local bookseller and purchase from them. Also books make great souvenirs as you seek to learn more about where you are visiting or have visited. I thank Judith for leading me out of the doldrums I was in with reading material and introducing me to some great new authors and stories. Once my pile is done I will be back.

Welcome to Scout & Morgan Books in Cambridge, MN



Things have been pretty quiet around here, except for the planning and expectation of our first family vacation—ever! As some of  you know we took a sabbatical from vegetable farming this year. When we started farming back in 2008 we assumed things would settle down eventually. But after 9 years we realized we would have to take the time. So we planned Proeun’s dream vacation–a road trip to Yellowstone.

It was great, the kids loved it and we made it through 9 days in very close quarters together. Here are some pictures from our recent trip.

Mammoth Hot Springs

Elk that wandered into our campground.

One of the 4 young male bison that lived at our campground.

Picnic at Mount Washburn.

We try to convey our family ideals no matter what we are doing, even on vacation! Things live family togetherness, an active, healthy lifestyle and care for the environment are things we value. But being in Yellowstone, was a surreal experience. I only wish I had more time for reflection. I brought my journal, but honestly it was a kind of rushed trip, so reflection is something I am working on now.

January Crafting

A few weeks ago I was reading one of my favorite blogs–Soule Mama–about how she loves crafting in January and quickly January is becoming my favorite month of the year for just that reason. The craziness of the holidays is done, but it is still nice to engage in indoor activities and enjoy a lull before the spring the storm. So crafting is exactly what we have been doing this month.

Avril has caught my bug for knitting. Here she completed her first hat, actually her first complete project ever. She used this pattern. It was one of the most expensive patterns I have ever purchased but we have gotten a lot of use out of it.

I originally made a hat for Pray and Lith and Avril liked the pattern so much she thought she would give it a try.

Mavis is more a fan of sewing. She picked out this pattern from Pinterest and Effie decided she wanted to make one too.

I have also picked up a lot of inspiration for next month. Having girls who love creating as well has been very rewarding, now we have to figure out how to get all that crafting in. Special thanks to my best friend Jenelle who knows just how to inspire this creative family!

Reading in the New Year

It wasn’t until the past couple of years that I have started doing New Year’s Resolutions. As I look at the new year and think about my hopes and dreams for the coming 365 days it has become a fun tradition and exercise in dreaming. I firmly believe adults still need to have dreams and goals they are striving for. And for this year my main goal is to enjoy life more–to not be so caught up in daily struggles that I forget about the big picture. When I was writing the author page in my book Home School Farm I was able to summarize what my favorite things are–writing and reading, cooking and eating and creating and loving. So this is where my focus will be for the New Year.

So I start today with reading. I thought I would share with you some of the things that are really filling my soul lately.

As a busy momma magazines are often more my speed. I have long been a subscriber of Taproot. I believe I have every copy, though I have not always been good at reading it, my last 2 issues I have completely devoured. So I am saving my others for a little postpartum reading. I love the authenticity of the magazine and the focus on simplicity.

Making was a dream come true for me. The handmade section of Taproot has always been my favorite as I dream about beautiful things I would like to make. Now there is a whole magazine just for creating all those projects that really speak to me. It is a new magazine. My copy, Fauna, is the 2nd issue, unfortunately I missed the first one, but I definitely plan on subscribing. I love just flipping through the magazine and planning future projects. I also love the ability to learn new skills and types of projects. I bought the tools for my first felting project yesterday!!

I picked up In Winter’s Kitchen at the Twin Cities Book Festival. Of course I am a fan of local food. I did expect this book to be a bit different though, I thought it would be a personal narrative and while there are elements of that I love that it goes into the history of various crops that are northland staples like wheat and carrots. I am learning much about plant history and getting inspired to try some new varieties. What is really cool is that since the book takes place in my home state I actually know some of the people Dooley talks about in the book. Also when she mentions a restaurant or company that she likes I can check them out myself.

Case in point she talks about Sunrise Flour Mill. They are a small mill that grinds heritage wheat and they are just 15 miles from my home! So yesterday I stopped by to get some flour and asked the proprietor Martin to make some recommendations for me. He did. Currently I am making Perfect Artisan Bread. It is a 2 day process I will continue tomorrow. I am super excited about it. Apparently the flour is good for people with high blood sugar, gluten sensitivities and celiac’s disease. I just hope it is delicious.

The last book I am reading has a lot to do with another activity–loving. In loving my children I hope to provide them with a peaceful and secure home environment. Peaceful is a little difficult to attain with 6 little (and not so little ones) running around. We homeschool and I was feeling like so so so much of my energy was going into the older children’s more complex struggles that we were loosing something in creative, fun energy. I stumbled upon Whole Family Rhythms and got a copy of their Winter Guide (it is only in ebook). The book provides a weekly story, and play activity as well as daily focus activities from a nature walk to cooking, to water coloring or crafting. It also provides momma meditations and momma crafts. I am trying to be more go with the flow and not stress if we doing get to everything every day but it is fun to have a little different focus.

What are you reading in the New Year?

Twin Cities Book Festival and Filfillah

I am beginning to rediscover my first love. As some of you may have noticed we are taking a sabbatical next year from our CSA vegetables. This is due in part to a desire on my part to focus on my writing. I continue to finalize the details of my book Home School Farm which will hopefully be available as an ebook the beginning of November. My work as a writer and author has really rekindled my first love–books. As a child I never was without a good book to read. But as a busy mother and farmer finding time to read was difficult to say the least. Over the years a void began to develop.

I haven’t ever stopped writing. I have written for the Hmong Times since before I was married. I have also recently added a couple area newspapers, then of course there is my book. But I really wanted to branch out and pursue writing more. So this weekend found me at

twin cities book festival

It was such a joy to see what books are new, what some of my favorite publishers are working on now, and seeing how some how some literary journals that were fledglings when I started writing like Mizna are doing now. I remember this journal was just coming out when I was in college and I thought my life would go completely differently. Now things are coming full circle except I have alot more life experience under my belt.

The highlight of the day for me was meeting Krista Tippett. She hosts a national radio show, On Being, that explores, “the question of meaning.” She has also written a book entitled Becoming Wise that explores some of her most prominent questions from her many interviews. I have barely started reading it and I am hooked.

I also picked up a copy of Beth Dooley’s In Winter’s Kitchen. I can’t get too far away from my love of good local food and aparently neither can Dooley. I can hardly what to get started with this one.

I also picked up some copies of literary journals I would like to submit to and stopped by many publishers booths for future references.


Some of the books and journals I picked up.

After the festival I was able to meet up with Proeun who also had a class that day for a date–sans children. This was our first date in years! So much fun to discuss all the cool things we learned and be able to eat at our own pace rather then rushing through a meal before the children finished and got antsy. We stopped at Filfillah. It has Mediterranean food and was absolutely delicious. We got a sampler platter of appetizers that had hummus, falafel (the best I have ever eater!), feta cheese and more. Then we ordered their sampler grilled platter of kebabs and chopped meats over saffron rice. I highly recommend them!

It was such a great rejuvenating day!

Up North Road Trip

Our children are getting older. They have begun asking how many states they have been to. I have been informed that Wisconsin doesn’t count as a different state since it is less then 15 minutes away. Mmm lets see three of you have been to California, otherwise we haven’t been out of the state. That can’t be right. But yes it is true we haven’t been on a vacation or even out of the state in years. We talked about doing a vacation but always the demands of the farm and a small budget get in the way. So this year we planned a staycation. During that we pretended we were on vacation so no farm work other then chores. We got to eat out and see some of our favorite places. I also wanted to try some of the interesting food destinations I have been hearing about.


I remember going to Tobies once with my grand mother. Since we were doing an unofficial food tour I wanted this to be our first stop on the way north. I lived up to my expectations but the treats disappeared so fast there were no pictures.


Then we stopped at our favorite beach in Two Harbors for a little picnic and playing in the frigid water. I thought it would be too cold for the children to want to get in the water, but they insisted on bringing their swimming suits. I am glad I listening to them. Our favorite picnic at Two Harbors is always smoked fish and cheese curds.

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Gooseberry Falls in another favorite spot. We try to go at least once a year.


Effie helped me contain Lith a bit in a more kid friendly area. My goodness Lith is a daredevil already!


We also stopped in Mahtowa at TJ’s Country Corner. This store boasts some of the best wurst and sausage in Minnesota, all made on site. It had such a fun atmosphere on the weekend with live music, a playground and interesting flea market. The sausage and brats were amazing also.