About Sam

Where to start, how to start.

First, about why I’m writing: to process and explain. The outpouring of love for Sam and those close to him has been incredible and appreciated beyond measure. We all feel extremely grateful for the support and well wishes that have been given. Thank you thank you thank you from the bottom of our hearts. There have also been many questions people have had so I want to answer as much as I can in one place. Heads up: for now it may be mostly facts and trying to encompass most of the story, rather than feelings and emotions and processing.

Six weeks ago, my best friend/love/boyfriend Sam had two massive heart attacks (technically two cardiac arrests) at the age of 30. We woke up on a Sunday morning after a fun evening playing music together at a local creative event. Sam stated he wasn’t feeling well and started having chest pain—13 short minutes later I was calling 911 and starting chest compressions as he had stopped breathing. I don’t think words can or ever will accurately describe that feeling and that experience. Luckily the first responders were extremely quick and arrived within three minutes of my initial phone call. I am eternally grateful for their expertise and readiness.

He was taken to a nearby hospital in Bismarck via ambulance. After waiting in the ER, a doctor came in to the small room where Sam’s parents and I were and told us Sam would not survive and to go say goodbye to him. He would die, they said.

We walked into his room and saw his body struggling to keep going. But it did, and he ended up being transferred to the ICU awhile later. He then had a second cardiac arrest there and completely flatlined. But still, he kept going. He was shocked over 20 times that morning. He had emergency surgery that afternoon where they removed a blood clot from one of his major arteries and put a stent in to keep blood flowing to the rest of his heart. They call the type of heart attacks he had “widow-makers.” If that isn’t terrifying I don’t know what is.

The next few days, the doctors were not optimistic—they stated that even if he did survive, his brain may have extensive damage as it went without oxygen for 40 minutes.

He was intubated and in a coma for 13 days. Initially his body was cooled to hypothermic temperatures to try and preserve as much brain function as possible. He also had to be medically paralyzed to stop his body from shivering which is the body’s natural way of warming oneself up (which they did not want him to do).

Each day a small improvement was made—one day he opened his eyes, the next day he moved his arms, etc. They had to see him start to make purposeful movements, which thankfully he was eventually able to do, which indicated to them his brain function may not be horribly bad. Each day was like this, waiting for a small sign of improvement.

When he got his breathing tube out on day 13, he knew who everyone was. He was cracking jokes. He was Sam—brain functioning perfectly and really obsessed about ice (they had drained 20 pounds of fluid from him in 2 days so the thirst level was high). It has been a long road but he is more stable now. His heart is very ill but he has been making improvements. He is no longer on dialysis as his kidney function has improved and his liver is also back to normal. We are very grateful for these things.

A few days ago Sam was flown to Minneapolis to the U of M. He was in the Cardiac ICU and just today was able to transfer to a nearby physical rehab facility where he will be able to regain his strength. They are saying in about a week he can go home! This is so exciting for us and Sam is itching to get back to his kitties something fierce. His mom and dad and I are currently here with him, giving support to him and one another and sleeping in shifts. He has a feeding tube in and today got several IV’s and pick-lines removed. He is finally off oxygen. We found out he has many small blood clots in the bottom of his heart and recently one traveled to and started to affect his spleen. We aren’t sure what this means for the future yet but will just continue to take everything one day at a time. He has been through more than what one post can capture—I am SO proud of Sam for getting through it all with grace, bravery and strength.

Seeing the person you love most suffer in those ways is horrifying. Sam is extremely healthy as a vegan who skateboards, runs, and bikes; they think he just has small arteries and/or this was such a freak thing. The days have been draining and difficult for each of us. But if anyone can get through all of this shit, it’s Sam. He’s the bravest person I know and I love him with everything I have. He is here to do so many beautiful things in this world and lifetime, and I cannot wait to see each of them. I want to thank Sam’s family for taking me in and treating me like one of their own. I am so thankful to each of them for the love they have shown me.

Again, thank you so much for all of your care and love. Whether it has been well-wishes, food, money, prayers, donated auction items, your time, or anything in between, it is appreciated and felt wholeheartedly. We would not be able to keep going without all of your support. It is a long road ahead but we are so grateful for each day.


Project Postponed

Hi all,

I am writing to let you know that this year’s Hope in Focus program will be postponed until next summer due to a family emergency.

Three weeks ago, my boyfriend Sam suffered two massive heart attacks. We were told at first that he would not make it. I was actually told to go say goodbye to him.

Luckily and very thankfully, he has made an incredible recovery and last week he was transferred out of the ICU. We are so thankful for this and appreciate everyone’s support and love. And I appreciate everyone’s understanding, because of all this the program will be pushed back to next summer.

I know that next summer will be lovely and powerful.

Thank you all,



P.S. Here is a link to a Go Fund Me made for Sam if you’d like to learn more/give:


Kindred Creatures Film


“Kindred Creatures” will tell the stories of animals normally used in animal agriculture that now live lives of peace and freedom. Sam has been working so hard on this documentary; his passion is evident and thriving. We have filmed at SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary, Chicken Run Rescue, Rooster Redemption, and have interviews set up with PETA, Direct Action Everywhere and other sanctuaries throughout the Midwest. But we need your help to continue making this film in order to help the animals.

Please help support this film and learn more at:



Thank you!




img_2057This morning I marched alongside hundreds of fellow Fargo citizens and countless others around the globe. We marched for women. We marched for equity. For equality. We marched for those who do not have voices. Those whose rights have been infringed upon. Those who have ‘dis’abilities (extra special super powers if you ask me). Those who believe differently and uniquely. For our future daughters and future families. For those who know love is love. For those whose land has been taken.

I marched alongside women. Men. My professors. Friends. Children. Even some animals. Peacefully. Non-violently. This is non-violent resistance. This is civil disobedience. I marched for myself and all women in my life. I marched for my Muslim friends, my LGBTQ+ friends. I marched because I hope to one day be paid as equally as my male counterparts. I marched for all the men in my life, that they may know I care for them also and their rights and struggles.


I marched because I have Cystic Fibrosis. Because I’ve spent countless hours worrying about how to pay for overpriced medications and insurance.

We marched to show the new POTUS that we are in fact stronger together rather than divided. We marched to show solidarity. We marched in the name of love; in the name of our mothers, including our greatest mother, Mother Earth. Love unites. Love binds us and enables us to respect and care for one another.

The experience was more than powerful. It was an inspiring display of love and community. I have never felt more connected to my city. I’m still trying to find words, but these are a few.

Thank you to each soul who marched today. And thank you to those who were unable to march but held the cause in your thoughts and hearts today.

The fight is not over. Fight for love. Fight for justice.


small moments, big impacts

This evening I walked into a Starbucks in my hometown and found a cozy corner spot to write, check emails, and read. As a Starbucks barista, I’m familiar with the sounds and flavors of the coffee shop and the general process of functions and things of that nature and often find it a comforting environment to work in.  I knew some of the baristas and talked with them for a bit before sitting down. A few minutes later, an elderly gentleman who used a walker got up to leave and thanked the baristas for the good coffee as he did so. The man seemed kind, yet lonely. One of the baristas talked to the man for a moment and then offered to hold the door open for him. The man was kind, making remarks about how he was so used to it now and not to worry. However, the barista decided to go hold the door for him anyway, but never made the man feel small. The gentleman was thankful, saying, “Wow, there’s not too many people like you around anymore. The world needs that.” The small action seemed to make the man’s day. I felt proud of my fellow Starbucks barista and started reflecting on other similar instances I’ve witnessed while working and how more actions like that are needed now more than ever.

I began thinking about all the times I’ve held back kindness (whether on purpose or on accident) because of the busyness of focusing on my own small life. How many hurting people have I overlooked? How many people just needed another human to smile at them today?

I decided that I need to work on being more outwardly focused. I need to continue to notice the small things and cherish them. I need to show more kindness to people, especially “strangers.”

My challenge to you for this new year is this: notice more. Notice the small things. Be outwardly focused. Smile. Smile. Say hello. Have those tiny sometimes very awkward conversations while waiting in a long line instead of checking your phone.

Let’s make 2017 beautiful.




LA adventures

Earlier this month Sam and I were able to travel to Los Angeles to attend the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards for his film “Uncle Albert” (yes Sam is the coolest!). He’s won three awards for the documentary so far and I could not feel more proud!

It is so beautiful seeing someone you love achieve great things for something they are incredibly passionate about. I admire how hard Sam works and am constantly impressed by his creativity and talent. He supports my dreams so well and  was encouraging throughout Hope in Focus, so it was great being able to celebrate him and all the great things he has worked so hard for.

We were super fortunate to be able to stay with Sam’s sister Anna in LA! She was able to show us around and adventure with us and friends and it was an absolute blast. We went to The Last Bookstore (is it acceptable to live in a bookstore??), an amazing pastry shop, and a craft fair to rival all craft fairs. Such a fun time.

I’ve been feeling pretty lucky lately and cannot wait to see what adventures 2017 holds!


Where healing happens

Today I went on a walk and listened to Allan Watts while taking photos (multitasker at heart, yes) and reflected on some really beautiful moments life has granted me with lately amidst the stresses of school and work.

I’ve been holding back feelings of being angry at the way things are… like why kids are allowed to die from cancer while other people get rich off of oil and things of that nature. By actually feeling those thoughts and emotions however, one begins to heal. It’s messy and not always easy, but it’s necessary for growth. And we don’t have to do it alone; we are one another’s best resource for hope within our world.

And lately I have had so many glimpses and reminders that hope remains.

I have found that healing comes through small moments. Conversations with friends, holding the hand of someone you love, playing music, talking with random strangers on campus walking their dogs, going on hikes, creating, eating lots of veggie pizza… this is where healing begins, where you feel your lungs inhale more deeply and an expanse of love growing deep within you that perhaps was lost for a little while. Little moments are like hole-ridden leaves when held up to the sun, the light beautifully shining through each cracked and torn part. And although the leaf is a little bent out of shape, it can still be used as a vessel for light. It creates something beautiful. I think that’s pretty extraordinary: we don’t need to be perfect before we can help someone begin to heal. And because of that, we are not alone.

Thanks for being on this journey together.

  • M

We have photo books!

Exciting news: the final photo books showcasing the awesome work of all the kiddos have been finished, printed, and sent out! That deserves a WOOT!

Thank you so much to Mary Van for helping with your wonderful design advice and InDesign skills. I am so thankful for all of your help with Hope in Focus. Mary and I worked hard this summer to create a layout and what turned out to be a beautiful tiny literary magazine of sorts. The book is a combination of photos, thank yous, and writings about the entire experience.

I’m missing all the participants and the city of Duluth but am so glad to have a tangible way to remember the experience.


cultivating a beautiful life

Hello friends! I thought I’d share a little something today that I’ve been reflecting on as I transition into my senior year of college. As May slowly approaches, (seems so far away but for a college senior it couldn’t feel closer already!) I’ve been thinking more and more about post-grad plans and future careers. For someone without a totally set career path, this has seemed a little daunting. But it’s been so helpful for me to remember that this is exactly why I chose the majors I did– to keep my options open. For some people I think set career paths are great, but I knew for me the best option was keeping an openness that allowed for change if need be without having to start my life completely over should I feel change necessary. What I mean by this is after a few years of doing something, I could transition into something else that still allowed me to use the skills and knowledge gained.

I recently watched a TED Talk called “Why some of us don’t have one true calling.” In it, the speaker coins a term she calls “multipotentialite,” which means just what it sounds like: someone with many interests and potentials that doesn’t choose just one thing to do forever.  It was insanely helpful to hear this perspective and learn that many people fit into this category.

I’ve never really had one main thing that I’m good at: I play mandolin, but I’m certainly no Chris Thile. I enjoy art but mostly as a hobby and creative outlet. I love learning about theology but am far from teaching it to others or getting a doctorate in it. The cool thing is that within the last year or so I think I’ve realized that all of these kind of strange and seemingly unrelated interests can actually be intertwined and connected by an overarching love of helping others. I think Hope in Focus taught me a lot about that. For a long time my interest in photography was just a hobby, but the project allowed it to be something that made a difference: and something that I could create as a career if I felt compelled to.

I just think that’s the coolest thing. Everyone deserves to find those things that make their soul super happy and find meaning within their work.

What I’ve been reflecting on further is this: no matter what I end up doing, I always want my main goal to be continually cultivating a beautiful life.

If I work at a non profit, start my own non profit, work at Starbucks, pursue photography, pursue art therapy, or whatever it is, these goals will remain: I want to cultivate happiness within my home. I want to serve the poor. I want to help those who suffer in any way I can. I want to be a light to others. I want to create on a regular basis. And I want to love with such fullness and beauty.

Boom. Reflections before the fall to put me in the right mindset.


TED Talk link: https://youtu.be/4sZdcB6bjI8