Storytellers

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Terry Gjersvik

Terry is an immigrant’s grandson and a Freeborn County 3rd generation farmer. In the late 1960’s  he attended an Albert Lea elementary school which at the time had one of the largest populations of migrant farm workers’ children in the state. As a corn/soybean farmer, Terry has always worked full time off of the farm either in the Ag-business software development industry or as a high school teacher in Albert Lea. Terry has been married to Dara for 33 years.  They have three adult children and are still recovering from “empty-nest syndrome.” He knocked on thousands of doors as a 2018 candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives, and you may have talked with him on your doorstep.  He loves museums, reading newspapers, and competing in Masters Track and Field at 400 and 800 meters.

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Edith Haenel

Edith is a retired clinical social worker who had a private practice in Albert Lea for almost 30 years. She currently lives in Iowa with her husband and various animals. Her passions for life are children, improving access to mental health services, working in the schools, animals, gardening, and art.

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David Behling

David currently serves as the Vicar of Medo Lutheran Church in Pemberton, Minnesota. He was born in Rhode Island, started school in Yokusuka, Japan, and grew up in Tucson, Arizona. He earned a BA in English at the University of Arizona before moving to the Midwest in 1985. Since then he has lived in Iowa, Texas, North Dakota, and Minnesota, completing three master's degrees in Biblical Studies, Technical Communication, and Creative Writing. He will soon be moving to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. For twenty years, Behling taught at Waldorf University, where he served as a faculty member and academic administrator.

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Luz Ruiz

Luz graduated high school just 2 months ago and is looking forward to moving to St. Peter in the fall to attend Gustavus Adolphus College. She will be majoring in biology and hopes to branch into a neurocogitive study. Luz was involved in a variety of school activities at the high school, from sports like soccer and tennis to academic clubs such as math team and humanities club. But what she prizes the most is her dedication to community service through Student Council and the National Honor Society, which she hopes to continue at Gustavus.

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Solveig Lange

Solveig grew up on a farm just south of town and graduated from Albert Lea High School in 2015. She is entering into her fourth year at Concordia College, where she studies elementary education. She will be doing her student teaching in Galway, Ireland in the fall. In addition to her education studies, Solveig is the student manager of Concordia’s Writing Center and plays violin in the Concordia Orchestra. She was a part of the orchestra’s tour to Greece this past May.

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Alexa Drescher

Alexa is a 19-year-old student at South Dakota State University pursuing her career in financial advising. She loves playing tennis, sipping on coffee, and spending time with her cat, Nala. Recently, she has been trying her hand at YouTube, creating a channel with her friends to post funny videos and memories. Alexa currently lives in Brookings, SD working and enjoying some independence.

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Lindsay Kramer

Lindsay is the owner and operator of It's Worth It Massage Studio in downtown Albert Lea. She is also currently managing the Chore Program for Senior Resources of Freeborn County. This position allows her to fill her desires to serve the senior population. Lindsay is married to Brad and they have 5 children and 1 grandchild. In her free time she enjoys traveling, playing bunco, having a cocktail with friends and watching her family having fun on the lake.

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Ella Zelenak

Ella a senior at Albert Lea High school. She is involved in soccer and figure skating. Ella is an active member of Student Council, National Honor Society, and Link Crew. She is also one of the student representatives on the School Board. Next year she will be attending college and plans on pursuing a degree in the Liberal Arts.

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Shane Koepke

Shane is a former social worker turned pastor. He currently serves Grace Lutheran here in Albert Lea. He and his family love to kayak, hike, and beat the hot and humid days with a day at the movies. Shane grew up in Nebraska along the Missouri River, lived in Iowa along the Mississippi River, and now lives on Fountain Lake.

 
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Olivia Brown

Olivia currently attends Albert Lea High School. She moved here from Omaha, Nebraska at the start of her senior year. She loves to spend time outdoors, and wants to work for The National Park Service when she is older. She is an avid reader and some of her favorite books are Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, and A Clean Well-Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway.

 
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Kaila Vollmer

Kaila lives in Mankato, MN with her husband Andrew and their two cats. Currently, she pursues writing by updating as frequently as she can on her website and working on some freelance work for Taylor Corporation, where she is a graphic artist.

 
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Therese Netzer

Therese is a native Albert Lean and has taught English in the area for 12 years. She completed her undergrad at MSU, Mankato and her graduate degree at SMSU, Marshall. She values balance and fills her free time with tennis, golf, working out, reading, gardening, yoga, volunteering with Crime Victims Crisis Center, and walking her dogs, Hailey and Steven.

 
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Evie Cunningham

Evie is a resident of the Albert Lea area. She lives with her husband, three kids and two cats. She is the author of “A Joyful Mess: Devotions for Surviving Early Motherhood”, and speaks to mom groups. She has worked as a waitress, receptionist, hairdresser, para-professional, occasional blogger and a writer. Currently, she works as a Staffing Consultant at Express Employment Professionals.

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Randy Kehr

Randy Kehr has been the executive director of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce for the last nine years. He and his wife, Ellen, moved to Albert Lea in 1996 and have two fabulous adult children and three equally fabulous grandchildren. In his past life, he was a hotel executive and girls softball coach.

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Jim Troe

Jim and his wife, Carrie, live just outside Albert Lea. They have three adult children and a 4th grader. Jim works for Pro Advantage, and is on the board of AZ-One, where he is actively involved in bringing ShineFest to the community.

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Rich Murray

Rich grew up on a dairy farm near Claremont, Minn. He’s been married to Sandy 40 years. They have 4 children, and 12 grandchildren. Rich has been active with the Yellow Ribbon group since its inception. He is an army veteran, President and Investment Advisor at ISC Financial Advisors, and is working with LOLA-Lift one lift all. He is passionate about building families, working to end poverty, and helping children that are in abusive or bad situations. He enjoys politics, having served as a state representative, and he currently serves as an Albert Lea city councilman. He is most happy with his role as a husband, father, and grandfather.

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Gail Springborg

Gail is a recent initiate to the Albert Lea community. Her marriage to Dan Springborg gave her a home here and launched her career as a military spouse. Dan and Gail have 5 young adult children; the youngest son is an Army Chinook pilot. Gail is an Army Contractor in Casualty Operations assisting the Families of the Fallen. Gail is a daily eyewitness to the courageous lives of service members and their families.

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Maddy Funk

Madeline is currently a senior at Albert Lea High School. She is actively involved in soccer, hockey, and track and field. She is also a member of Student Council, National Honor Society, Link Crew, and the Splash Pad Committee. She has grown up a military child due to her father being in the Army National Guard. Madeline plans on going to the United States Military Academy West Point next year with a focus on American Politics.

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Lizzy Kunkel-Erickson

Elizabeth Gretchen Kunkel-Erickson, Lizzy, will be a junior at ALHS. She spends most of her time in school and loves reading and social studies. When not in school, she stays busy rollerblading, photography, volleyball, and anything to do with music are her favorite things. She also enjoys time with my friends and family.

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David Larson

David has been a psychologist in our community for 37 years. He developed the first Domestic Assault and Victims of Sexual Assault Treatment Programs in Freeborn County. He currently works for Triumph Leadership Group, helping businesses build highly profitable and low stress work cultures, and he runs a personal development program called "Life Mastery", a year long inspirational program for those not wanting to die with their music still in them.

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Scott Pirsig

Scott has lived in Albert Lea for most of his life with his wife Shari. Together they have three grown sons. He works for the US Postal Service and has been carrying mail in the Shoreland Heights area since 2001. Scott cultivated a deep passion for wilderness canoe tripping beginning in July 1978 when he was “talked into” a canoe trip to Quetico Provincial Park. Since then, he has taken over 80 excursions to the Boundary Waters, Quetico, and beyond.

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Jim Wichmann

Jim was born in Albert Lea and grew up in rural Freeborn County. He graduated from Alden High School and the University of MN in St. Paul. After a two-year stint in the Peace Corps in Swaziland, Africa, he returned to the US and over the years has lived and worked in Vermont, Illinois, and Wisconsin before finally returning to Freeborn County. He currently works for the Albert Lea Seed House.

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Mina Lein

Mina is currently working at a day program for adults with special needs and is a part-time student at MCTC in Minneapolis. She spends most of her free time playing music, hanging out with friends, and biking around the city. She is a free bird at heart and has been enjoying this new phase in life as a somewhat settled down resident in her beloved city.

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Megan Radke

Megan grew up in Hollandale, MN. She earned a degree in English literature from Saint Mary’s University. Currently, she works in academic advising for Capella University in Minneapolis. She sits on The Junior League of Saint Paul’s Board of Directors and enjoys debating political issues like Kim and Kanye.

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Laura Lunde

Laura Lunde grew up in Albert Lea and earned a degree in communication from the University of Minnesota. She has volunteered with the Lakes Foundation since 2007, and currently serves as president. She has a career as the Branch Manager for a global recruiting firm called Manpower. In her spare time she enjoys walking the lake, creating jewelry, and community involvement. She is currently busy planning her June wedding to fiancé, Colby Cunningham.

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Aaron Winter

Aaron grew up in Albert Lea, MN. He graduated with honors from the University of South Dakota in 2016 with A Bachelor of Science degree in Addiction Studies. He is now a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor at Fountain Centers in Albert Lea. Aaron is passionate about ending the stigma associated with addiction and believes it should be treated as a chronic disease.


Aaron is also passionate about music and photography and loves spending time with his family. He and his wife enjoy finding new and interesting places to eat in nearby cities and attending concerts.

 
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Katie Davis

Is originally from the Sioux Falls, South Dakota area along with her husband Michael have lived in Albert Lea for just about four years. Katie is currently The Campus Administrator at Good Samaritan Society. In December Katie will graduate with her Master's degree in Long Term, Care from the University of South Dakota. In Katie's spare time, she enjoys running, golfing with her husband, palates, playing the piano and spending time with family and friends. Her favorite thing about Albert Lea: Fountain Lake and the huge July 4th celebration festivities.

 
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Kade Wiemerslage

He is a second-year student at Augsburg College and is working toward degrees in special education and elementary education, He is a 2014 Albert Lea High School graduate. He currently lives in Minneapolis and is not very good at writing biographies about himself. Kade is also a Libra and enjoys long walks on the beach. His favorite color ls brown.

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Jim Haney

Jim has been teaching social studies for 31 years and coaching the Albert Lea Cross Country Team for 18 years. He is married to his wife Lisa for 29 years and has 2 children. His son, Ben, lives in Fargo, North Dakota and attends North Dakota State University; his daughter, Morgan, is currently getting her master’s degree in special education from the University of North Dakota.

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Jenny Corey-Gruenes

Jenny enjoys teaching writing and literature in the English department at Riverland Community College. She often finds herself looking up from her school work and thinking, “I can’t believe they pay me to do this!” Recently she has been working on building a better sense of community on Riverland’s Albert Lea campus with a Liberal Arts Club, where she hangs out with students and talks about poetry, music, art, books--basically anything fun. She is married to Jeremy, and they have two wonderful daughters: Ava and Rosa.

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Jerry Gabrielatos

Jerry works in local government. When not working, he is traveling, reading, and running.

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Nate Peterson

Nate was born and raised in Albert Lea, graduating in 2000, and is now in his fourteenth year of teaching social studies in Delano. Currently, he teaches AP U.S. History and Government and is an assistant varsity baseball coach. He graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he obtained his teaching degree in social studies and minored in history. Nate and his wife, Jen, have been married for nine years, and they have two kids, Leighton (7) and Rilynn (3).

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Holly Karsjens

Holly owns The Meraki Studios and HK Fine Art Photography here in Albert Lea. She has two dogs and a husband, currently lives in rural Albert Lea, and grew up on a farm near Alden. She serves on the United Way Board and volunteers on various community event planning groups.

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Tony Johanson

Tony is a Rochester, Minnesota native, moved to the Albert Lea Area after graduating from St. Cloud State University in 2014. Tony has been a Spanish teacher at Albert Lea High School for the past 3 years and he is also the adviser of the Environmental Awareness club at the school. In his spare time Tony enjoys hiking, wildlife photography, and traveling.

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Maddie Willey

Maddie is the daughter of Eric and Missy Willey, graduated from Albert Lea in 2017 and is currently a freshman at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. She is getting a dual degree in Graphic Design and Magazine Media. In high school, Maddie was involved in band, choir, musicals, tennis, and yearbook. When not studying, Maddie recharges by watching Youtube, Netflix or talking with her friends. While in 5th grade Maddie discovered her passion for writings fictional stories which she feels has helped her in all of her writing adventures thus far. When home from college Maddie loves to force cuddles from her cats: Hurley and Otis. She loves bonfires, hiking, camping, and hammocking and looks forward to hopefully travelling the world.

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Neal Skaar

Jim owns and operates the family farm where he was born and raised south of Hayward. He graduated from Albert Lea High School in 1964 and Luther College in 1968 with majors in English and mathematics. Neal returned to the area in 1968 and began his teaching career at ALHS where he taught English and math and coached wrestling until his retirement in 2014. He continues to coach wrestling as a volunteer and serves on the School Board. Neal and his wife Jean (Frydenlund) are the proud parents of four children: Alex, Nate, Katherine, and Rebecca. Jean is a retired RN, and she and Neal enjoy many occasions attending to events involving children and grandchildren.

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Thomas Delano

Thomas is currently an EL teacher at Albert Lea High School and the ALC, as well as an advisor to the student council and assistant coach for the mock trial team. He graduated from ALHS in 2007 and received his Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University - Mankato in 2016. Prior to returning to Albert Lea, he taught English for three years at MSU, worked as an Editor for the Blue Earth Review, led a two-year creative writing workshop at a senior living center, and served a year in the Minnesota Reading Corps. His latest poem will be published in the next issue of Sediments Literary-Arts Journal. When he's not busy teaching or writing, Thomas enjoys playing guitar and remembering how nice Minnesota summers can be.

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Ava Corey-Gruenes

Ava is a sophomore at the Albert Lea High School. She is passionate about learning, environmentalism, political activism, and is involved in theater, Speech, and Key Club at the high school. Her favorite activities include spending time in nature and learning about different ways to make the world a more peaceful place.

 
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Jill Petersen

Jill is supported by an amazing group; she tends to float, so they help keep her grounded. She grew up in VIrginia, MN and spent her summers in a modest log cabin on Lake Vermilion (and by modest she means no road, no fresh water and curtains separating the few, small rooms). She still considers it the most perfect place on earth. She believes that cheap travel is an art form, and she has committed her life to becoming a master artist.

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Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Jennifer grew up in Aitkin County and has a background in sociology and education. She serves as president of the Friends of the Albert Lea Public Library and volunteers for the Freeborn County DFL and Grace Lutheran's Creation Care Team.

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Jenine Koziolek

Jenine graduated with a degree in psychology and chemical dependency and a graduate degree in School Counseling. She spent 19 years helping individuals, family, and community members understand addiction and recovery, including her current appointment as the Outreach Specialist at Fountain Centers. Jenine spends her spare time at various swimming pools watching her daughter grow wiser and faster.

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Todd Lange

Todd has taught English in Albert Lea for 20 years. He hopes that in another 20 years he might have it figured out. When he is not reading student writing, he enjoys reading other things, playing guitar, woodworking, and listening to his children play music. He is the least courageous person he has ever met, but he is the proud son and grandson of veterans.

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Josh Barker

SSG. Barker has been enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard for 18 years and currently works as the training NCO in Albert Lea. Josh has also been a part of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon since Albert Lea was recognized in 2011. He enjoys spending time with his wife, Angie, and their son, Auslund, vacationing, camping, and golfing.

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Mark Heinemann

Mark Heinemann is the President/CFO of Farmers State Bank. He grew up on a farm near Flandreau, South Dakota with his three siblings and attended Augustana Collge in Sioux Falls, SD, obtaining a B.S. in Mathematics. He also earned a MBA from University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Mark has been married to Allison for nearly 11 years, and they have a shihpoo named Augie. Mark first came to Albert Lea in 2004 for a job as a CSR at the bank. Mark is involved in the United Way Board as the Treasurer, sits on the Good Samaritan Society Advisory Board, and is the President of the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency Board.

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Ann Austin

Ann has lived in Freeborn County for 14 years. She loves philosophy and delving into the human condition. Ann is married to Nick, and they have two daughters (Elise and Aila), a dog named Jack and cat named Arthur. She enjoys having adventures in nature with her family, growing her own food and supporting local efforts that build community. She is currently the Executive Director of our local United Way and is excited about what the future holds.

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Jen Zoller

Jen (JZ) is a native of Alexandria, MN and has lived in Albert Lea since '99. She's the mother of three amazing dudes: an 8-year-old and twin 3-year-olds. She is a secretary at Albert Lea High School and has been employed with the District for more than 16 years. Jen is an active member in the Grace Lutheran Church choir. Her favorite things in life are traveling, being with family and friends, reading, movies, and, above all, laughing.

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Mai Dang-Huynh

Mai just graduated from Albert Lea High School. She was a member of National Honor Society, Link Crew, Chess Club, Math Club, Knowledge Bowl, French Club, Spanish Club, Tiger Roar, and Tennis. Mai was born and raised in Vietnam. She has lived in the U.S for four years. Mai is going to college to become a dentist. Her life goal is to bring good influences and changes into the world.

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Ross Pirsig

Ross was born in Albert Lea, graduated from UW-La Crosse, and is an actor/filmmaker currently living and working in Malaga, Spain. Along with an interest in film and travel, he enjoys spending time with family and learning new things about himself and life in general.

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Peter Sunnarborg

Peter is a native of Chisholm, Minnesota. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in French, and then completed the teaching licensure program at Hamline University. He moved to Los Angeles in 2004 and worked for 11 years at Dominguez High School in Compton, California. He moved back to Minnesota last year and is now a French teacher at Albert Lea High School.

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Rick Bonlender

Rick Bonlender is the Market President at Deerwood Bank. He is a new member of the Chamber of Commerce Business Education Committee. He actively supports the Shell Rock Watershed District Advisory Committee. He is most proud of his volunteer work on the Augsburg College Alumni Board.

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Kristin Kyllo

Kristin earned a B.A. from Gustavus Adolphus College in Communication Studies and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Hamline University. She currently teaches 3rd grade at Sibley. She is also a Destination Imagination Team Manager, Science Fair Building Coordinator, Professional Learning Community Leader, and negotiator for ALEA. She values education and never passes up an opportunity to broaden her experiences.

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Amanda Lester

Amanda graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with degrees in Political Science and Interpersonal Communication. She earned a Masters in Secondary Social Studies Education from St. Mary's University and a special education license from Augsburg College. She is currently a special education teacher focusing on reading and English at AL High School.

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Ashley Stewart

She is a 2009 Albert Lea High School graduate and 2012 University of St. Thomas graduate. She has a bachelor's degree in communications and journalism, and has been working at the Owatonna People's Press for more than three years covering Steele County goverment, transportaion, health and everything between.

 
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Mariah Maras

She is a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse graduate. She majored in English-Rhetoric and Writing and Philosophy. Yes, she did major in Philosophy and does have a job. She currently works in town at AmeriNational Community Services where she services mortgage loans for customers. She is a native of Albert Lea and just couldn't resist finding a place of her own here to call home.