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Barbara La Valleur

Barbara La Valleur is an international photojournalist of more than 50 years. She was the first person to major in Mass Communications at the Minnesota State University Moorhead (formerly Moorhead State College), working her way through college as a cub reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. She went on to work as the editor (and actually the entire staff as it turns out) of Carib, a newspaper in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Next came a stint as chief photographer of the Daily News in Wahpeton-Breckenridge. After moving to England, where she married and had two daughters, her young family moved to Germany for over 18 years. After being a stay-at-home Mum for 10 years, she freelanced for seven German newspapers, returning to the U.S. in the early 1990s. Since then, her photographs have appeared in The Forum, Women’s Press, Star Tribune, Sun Current, Edina Patch and as cover features of an international nursing magazine. She her husband, Arnie Bigbee, have three grandchildren, and reside in Edina, Minn. Barbara was recently honored with the Mayor’s Volunteer Service Award for her years as Public Art Edina Chair. She was also recently recognized for six years on the Edina Arts and Culture Commission. Barbara and Arnie love spending time at La Farm, a family farm near Ashby, Minn. She has edited three books, self-published and is busy working on her 17th photo book, on Cuba. A prolific exhibitor, she had a successful photo exhibit, “Love of a Lifetime: 50 Years of Photos in the U.S. and Europe,” in Edina and the Evansville (Minn.) Art Center in 2015. A photo exhibit, “25 Black & White Photos of European Women in Traditional Male Professions & Trades,” had a four-month run at the Germanic-American Institute in St. Paul at the end of 2016. During 2017, she will have three photo exhibits highlighting some of the 5,000 photos she took on a recent trip to Cuba. “Hola, Cuba!” runs through May 16 at the Kaddatz Galleries in Fergus Falls. “Our Cuba Family” is at The Westminster Gallery in Minneapolis from April 30 through June 18. She will also be exhibiting her Cuban photos at the Evansville Art Center in October through November. In addition to her unHeralded.fish blog, Barbara also writes an international blog about her journey loosing 55 pounds — and counting — with Metabolic Balance®, a German nutrition plan. https://livecleanmb.com/category/la-valleur/

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Justice Choir: Something To Sing About

Saturday was quite the day. If you follow my blogs, you read my take on the re-opening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden with a couple of dozen photos.

From the Walker event, I went to Westminster Presbyterian Church and continued my artful day with songs in an inaugural event that I hope will multiply throughout this great land of ours.

Song: “A Bridge is Stronger Than a Wall” by Emily Feld.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced a shortage of hope in the last few months, and I refuse to “take it” sitting down. In fact, I’m taking a stand and singing, which isn’t difficult as I’ve sung in choirs as a child and in a German secular choir when I lived in Europe.

The first Justice Choir sponsored by WPC was a mixed group of about 200 people from the Twin Cities with a rehearsal in the morning and performance in the great sanctuary from 1 to 3 p.m. It wasn’t just about singing songs of hope, peace, love, human rights and freedom, though.

Song: “Another World is Possible” by FLOBOTS.

Thoughtfully organized by Tesfa Wondemagegnehu (won-dih-MAWG-nee-you), our director of Choral Ministries, among others, it also featured a dialogue with Tesfa and Nekima Levy-Pounds, activist, attorney, former law professor at St. Thomas University and currently running for mayor of Minneapolis. But she didn’t mention that.

They spoke about social justice, speaking out when we see injustices and taking a stand.

Song: “Love is Love is Love is Love” by Abbie Betinis.

Everyone present received a Justice Choir Songbook containing over 40 new and familiar songs, co-edited by Tesfa and Abbie Betinis, a St. Paul composer who coincidently was compiling a songbook to be used across the country for a national movement of justice choirs, and Ahmed Azald, a pianist and conductor from Minneapolis.

New songs will be added to the songbook in the coming weeks and month.

Song: “Resilience” by Abbie Betinis.

Tesfa said Saturday that the free songbook will be a resource for choirs across across the country due to special arrangements so other congregations, choirs, schools and communities will be able to download it soon.

I’m proud to be part of a progressive church that sponsors events such as this. In his forward to the songbook, WPC pastor, Rev. Dr. Tim Hart-Anderson wrote, “The longing for a just and peaceful world is not limited to any one religious tradition or practice. People of faith and good will everywhere want to build a new future. Westminster invites you to join the movement for justice wherever you live. There are others who will work with you. Together we can transform the world.”

If you’re interested in joining the choir or starting one of your own in your own state and/or community, go to the Justice Choir website www.justicechoir.org.

Song: “Sing for Justice” by Ar Had Y Nos.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — What The Cluck?

What the Cluck! Have we been Cluckolded?

No one can convince me that a 10-foot bright blue rooster is more interesting, artistic or pleasing to look at than Claes Oldenburg’s and Coosje van Bruggen’s “Spoonbridge and Cherry.”  I’ve loved that sculpture since I first saw it over 20 years ago. And with today’s high 90s temperatures, the water mist that fell on my face was a welcomed relief.

However, in promoting today’s (Saturday) reopening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden complete with official ribbon cutting ceremony, the Walker is clearly communicating the blue cock has what it takes with Hahn, the German word for cock or rooster.

Despite all the negative press the Walker has received the past two weeks due to an ill-planned choice to include “Scaffold,” a sculpture by California artist Sam Durant, in its new collection.

The Native American community powerfully and peacefully protested that it was not OK to display the “sculpture” meant to be a commentary on capital punishment in the U.S. with design elements from the gallows used in the 1862 hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato.

Some have said Walker Executive Director Olga Viso should resign. I disagree. She acknowledged the mistake, which I might add was not her’s alone, apologized and worked with the Native American community through a mediator. The sculpture was removed in less than a week. Native American elders will be meeting this month to determine what should happen to the wood used in the sculpture, whether it should be burned or used to make something positive.

We all make mistakes. This has been a huge learning experience for countless people; I would assert far more than if everything had gone smoothly in the beginning. Who among us has not made a mistake? I believe Director Viso has learned from this mistake and in the process, due to local and national media attention, thousands of people have learned more about Native American and our history as well as how some works of art are not viewed the same by all people. I say move forward.

I was particularly proud when viewing and photographing the ribbon-cutting ceremony to witness the four powerful woman doing the honors. They were Jayne Miller, Minneapolis Parks superintendent; Lt. Gov. Tina Smith; Olga Viso, Walker Art Center executive director; and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

So, I’m happy I went today. I’ll enjoy the sculpture garden even more in a few weeks when I can walk on the grass and take photos at the angles I like to take them for my best results. No doubt, I’ll head first for the Spoonbridge and Cherry. I’m not going to be “clucked.”

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — The Eyes Have It

OMG! “What a difference a day makes ♪♫♫♪♪♫♫♪,♪♫♫♪,” as the Dinah Washington song goes.

Went to Mayo Clinic on Wednesday and had cataract surgery on my left eye. It was a surprisingly easy procedure. The prep time actually took longer than the surgery.

I’m now officially a “Patient Lens Implant Identification Card” carrier. The brand name is AcrySof out of Fort Worth, Texas. My mother, a staunch Texan who never did quite loose that Southern drawl despite moving away as a teenager, would be happy to know I now have another Texas connection.

A few years ago when I had an eye exam and was informed I was getting cataracts in both eyes, I wondered allowed how I would know when it was time to have surgery. As a photojournalist, my eyes are my everything. The ophthalmologist assured me, “You’ll know.” I wasn’t so sure about that.

Fast-forward to the end of my nine-day Cuba trip earlier this year during, on which I took over 5,000 photos. I knew. No question. I made an appointment at my favorite health care facility when I got back. For that, I give thanks to my dear husband, Arnie Bigbee, a 32-year Mayo Clinic retiree, who provides us with outstanding health care insurance. Sure enough, time for surgery.

So Wednesday was the day. After about 40 minutes of prep time and 20 minutes of surgery, it was over. I was awake the entire time with slight sedation and numbing in and around my left eye, laying motionless in the reclined medial chair, while Dr. Sanjay Patel did his “magic.”

A corneal specialist and professor of ophthalmology at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Patel’s skilled hands inserted that 13-millemeter devise that looks like a contact lens with two tiny, curved appendages, into my eye.

The “light show” that I had during surgery was, in and of itself, fascinating; incredibly colorful.

After putting a patch over my eye, I was sent off to rest for the remainder of the day. Given the drive from Edina to Rochester, Minn., we opted to stay there overnight, especially given today’s 7:20 a.m. post-op exam.

Once the patch was off, I could not believe my eye(s)! It was like viewing a tropical jungle from my left eye and a dry dessert with my right eye.

The difference is best seen in the following two photos. The one on the left is how I “NOW” see out of my cataract-free eye. The one on the right (which I altered in my computer’s Photos program) is how the same view looks through my right eye.

I assured Dr. Patel he’d be seeing me again soon.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — 500: One Day At A Time!

Today marks another milestone on the path with my German Metabolic Balance® journey: Day 500! And it’s still working — “when I am ‘on plan.'”

It’s been challenging the past four months for a variety of reasons, all of which would come under the heading of “life and  death events.”

It started with an incredible trip to Cuba in late January to early February, followed by the affects on my arthritic knees of walking those cobblestones and uneven streets for nine days. It’s boring to talk about aches and pain, so I’ll just say it kept me from exercising for a couple of months.

Everyone knows how to lose weight: eat less and exercise more. So suffice it to say that only in the past few weeks have I been able to get back on the treadmill or walk five days a week. I have really enjoyed getting back to the Y and going to the arthritic pool class.

Another challenge was the sudden death of my sister, Sharon Henneman, in late February. Along with my sister, June, my sisters have known me the longest and best. Nothing prepares you for an unexpected loss like that.

Then there were the distractions — albeit great, fun and welcomed activities — sorting through more than 5,000 photos that I took while in Cuba to choose 45 to 50 photos for each of two exhibits. “Hola, Cuba!” at the Kaddatz Galleries in Fergus Falls, Minn., had a good run and closed May 16. “Our Cuban Family” at The Westminster Gallery downtown Minneapolis at Westminster Presbyterian Church (WPC) runs through June 18.

Another project I completed Monday is my 17th self-published photo book titled “Our Cuban Family” after the WPC photo exhibit.

My next two projects, which I’ll start in a few days, are creating a small photo book of my MB® journey and working with my daughter, Andrea La Valleur-Purvis, who is visiting from Barcelona, Spain. She’s a graphic and web designer. I’m excited that she will be creating a photo website for me.

What I’ve learned in the past 500 days on the MB® plan, above all, is to “take one day at a time.”

Being a competitive person, I like to set goals that stretch me. My initial goal was to lose 88 pounds —  similar to Sharon’s weight loss — in 12 months. I want to be at the same weight I was when I left for Europe 22 years ago. That is still my goal. But I set an unrealistic time-frame. I thought I’d reach it in the space of a year. That didn’t happen.

It is not easy losing weight when you’re 71 and obese. Dang it! At least now, I’m in the “overweight” category and no longer obese. And I’ve rescheduled my goal date to Dec. 31, 2017 — just in time to pop the cork of a bottle of Korbel sparkly and ring in the New Year!

For sure, the biggest challenge has been to limit my favorite wine intake — Chardonnay — to once a week vs. the previous 40 years of enjoying more than one glass of wine in the evening.

Considering my dear husband continues his nightly Merlot imbibing, I’m doing quite well!  It’s my body, and I’m the only one who can make it happen. Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can.

Results Down 60 pounds in 500 days on Metabolic Balance® with 28 to go.

Tip: Take one day at a time!

BARBARA LA VALLEUR: Photo Gallery — Minnesota State Capitol

Take a look at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, which has been undergoing a comprehensive preservation effort since 2013, the first since it opened in 1905. The Capitol Restoration Project returns the Capitol to architect Cass Gilbert’s original 1905 vision. There will be new and expanded space, for public use, tours and school educational programs. After 100 years of service, the Capitol building had reached a critical deterioration point with a crumbling exterior, antiquated infrastructure and inadequate life safety systems. The project will be fully complete, and a public Grand Opening celebration will be held in August. Edina, Minn., photographer Barbara La Valleur was at the Capitol recently, and this is what she saw.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Something Missing At 50th Anniversary Event Of Minnesota Department Of Human Rights

With anticipation and excitement this morning, I headed to the celebration marking the Minnesota Department of Human Rights 50th Anniversary celebration in the new multimillion dollar renovated House of the People.

I went with my husband, Arnie Bigbee, one of the state’s champions for Human Rights who helped Edina pass the first suburb’s Domestic Partnership Ordinance seven years ago when he headed the city’s Human Rights and Relations Commission. We were joined by my sister, Dr. June La Valleur and her husband, Dr. Duane Rost, also two huge proponents of human and sexual rights in Minnesota.

It wasn’t just seeing the gorgeous ubiquitous restoration work throughout the Capitol that I was looking forward to. The program in the rotunda was titled, “Creating a More Perfect Union,” no small order.

Gov. Mark Dayton proclaimed today Minnesota Department of Human Rights Day.
Gov. Mark Dayton proclaimed today Minnesota Department of Human Rights Day.

Commissioner Kevin Lindsey, who heads up the MDHR, did a fine job of emceeing the event, introducing Gov. Mark Dayton, who briefly addressed the crowd and showed the framed declaration marking the day as Minnesota Department of Human Rights Day.

There were several interesting and historical black-and-white photos on easels surrounding the back half of the circular space highlighting struggles of years gone by. I liked the one of woman voters from the early 1900s. Then there was a portrait of Frank Kent, who was the first African-American to head a state agency (MDHR 1967-1969). Fittingly there was a great photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking against the Vietnam War at the University of Minnesota. The date: April 27, 1967 — 50 years ago today.

I was delightfully surprised and thoroughly enjoyed a short, yet beautiful executed artistic performance by Deneane Richburg dancing to the powerfully spoken words of Thomasina Petrus as part of the celebration.

I was delightfully surprised and thoroughly enjoyed a short, yet beautiful executed artistic performance by Deneane Richburg dancing to the powerfully spoken words of Thomasina Petrus as part of the celebration.

No doubt most people came to hear the esteemed Dr. Josie Johnson, Minnesota’s most recognized human rights, social justice and civil rights activist who was there at the beginning five decades ago.

Dr. Johnson provided an historical backdrop to the beginnings of the MDHR and spoke about the 1961 State Commission Against Discrimination.

The esteemed Dr. Josie Johnson, Minnesota’s most recognized human rights, social justice and Civil Rights activist who was there at the beginning five decades ago.

She talked about the jurisdiction of housing and education discrimination, pointing out that, unfortunately, we’re still dealing with things in Minnesota — and I’d include the rest of the country as well — that we thought we’d “dealt with” 50 years ago.  Unfortunately, not.

Dr. Duchess Harris with Hidden Human Computers: The Black Women of NASA at ABDO and professor and chair of the American Studies Department at Macalester College, gave a 50-year overview of Minnesota protecting human rights emphasizing MDHR’s role as it pertains to the law.

I was pleased to see several legislators, on a short break from their sessions, address the group, especially Sen. Foung Hawj, St. Paul, District 47; Rep. Peggy Flanagan, St. Louis Park, District: 46A and Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein, New Brighton, District: 41B.

A birds eye view of the empty seats at today’s MDHR 50th anniversary event.

But it was what was missing that was most noticeable to me as I photographed the event knowing I’d be writing a blog about this momentous occasion. It was all the empty chairs in the rotunda that I couldn’t help but notice. Where were all the people to listen to Dr. Johnson’s stirring words and warnings? 

There were probably 40 to 50 people standing while listening to the speakers. But only half the 60 chairs for the “crowd” were occupied.

Looking back to 1965, the population of Minnesota was 3.6 million. The latest census puts our state at 5.5 million people.

What a missed opportunity for our grade school, high school and university student groups to say nothing of the general public to witness this historic occasion!

There were sure a lot more people in the photo to hear Dr. King 50 years ago than turned up today. Dr. Josie Johnson’s message today pointed to the same message of the ’60s: We need to organize.

We obviously have a lot more work to do if we’re going to accomplish “Creating a More Perfect Union.”

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Maple Sap Levels Low This Year

My cousin, Ron Bowman, and his wife, Marsha, and their siblings have been tapping about 190 trees for the past eight years in an 80-acre forest not far from La Farm in rural Ashby, Minn.

But this year was not a good year, according to Ron. They started tapping in February.

“It started early, got too cold, our trees never ran like they did the the year before. That was an exceptional year,” he said on their last day of tapping April 8, a Saturday.

Ideally, he explained, the temperatures need to freeze at night and have temperatures above freezing in the during the day. There are many varying factors to produce a bumper year like precipitation including snow, rain and temperatures.

While they only make maple syrup for family and friends and have no interest in selling their “gold,” they enjoy the family closeness that results from the tapping tradition. The land has been in the Bowman family for over 140 years.

According to their handwritten log, last year’s exceptional year yielded 1,500 gallons of sap compared to only 1,000 gallons this year. The ratio of sap to syrup can vary from as high as 53 to 1 down to 29 to one.

The colors of the syrup varies as well from a light honey tone to a dark maple look with the number on top of the bottles referring to the batch which they then can track back to the day of boiling down the sap to syrup.

It was a blast riding in Ron’s four-wheeler on the rough back trails where I’d never been before.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Our Cuban Family

Our Cuban Family is the second photo exhibit I have from the 5,000-plus photos I took on a trip with 12 other Westminster Presbyterian Church (1200 Marquette Ave.) members a couple of months ago.

This exhibit opens in the Westminster Gallery on Sunday with a noon reception following the 10:30 a.m. church service. I will speak very briefly as will a handful of others on the trip. It also features other Cuban art including paintings, pottery, fabric and paper maché art.

The photos in this exhibit are a totally different exhibit than Hola, Cuba!, which opened April 6 in The Kaddatz Galleries in Fergus Falls, Minn., and runs through May 16. I will also be presenting a second salon at the Kaddatz from 2 to 4 p.m. May 6 featuring a tour of the exhibit and a discussion about why I took the photos and what I intended to communicate through the photographs.

FYI: For the opening this Sunday, free parking is available at the Orchestra Hall Ramp by picking up a voucher at WPC as you enter.

BARBARA LA VALLEUR: Photo Gallery — A La Farm Morning

Edina, Minn., photographer Barbara La Valleur and her husband, Arnie Bigbee, spend a lot of time at her family’s farm, appropriately named La Farm, near Ashby, Minn. A recent foggy morning provided her with this amazing photo op.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings By Barbara La Valleur — Life & Death: A Curve Ball

You may have heard the expression “life threw me a curve ball.” Well, that is certainly true in my case. If you’re following my blogs that are about the  ® nutrition plan I’ve been on for 15 months, you may have noticed I haven’t written one for two months. April Fool’s Day seems like a fun day to get back on track.

Because getting back on track occurs to be a theme for me these days.

I have only been on the treadmill once since Jan. 29. Before that, I had had a healthy regime of three to fives times a week on the treadmill plus one to two times a week walking around the lovely, art-filled, piped-in-music, gorgeous- landscaping lake that is just across the street from, La Condo, our home. Both take 30 minutes.

In Minnesota winters, the treadmill is my friend. In summer, I’d rather cycle or walk outside, of course, and with no snow, now, I’m eager to do that.

This group of young women accompanied us on our afternoon at the beach with lunch following at Dora Valentin Presbyterian Church in Cardenas, conveniently located two blocks from the beach.
This group of young women accompanied us on our afternoon at the beach with lunch following at Dora Valentin Presbyterian Church in Cardenas, conveniently located two blocks from the beach.

But Jan. 30, I began another fascinating life altering adventure. (Reminder: I started MB® Jan. 2, 2016.) Along with 12 members of Westminster Presbyterian Church, we flew to Cuba for a nine-day mission trip. As an international photojournalist, I volunteered to be the official photographer for the group and took 5,000 photos plus 50 short videos.

As a result and due to intentional planning, I have three Cuban photo exhibits opening this year, two in April and one in October. So I’ve been super busy getting ready for those.

Unfortunately, there also have been two life-altering events that have occurred. One, in retrospect, not so serious. Due to the 12-hour days, in which we did a lot of walking and mostly on uneven cobblestones, my poor already arthritic left knee — which had not given me any problems since loosing over 50 pounds — has flared up again.

It has been extremely painful for almost two months, and that has prevented me from getting on the treadmill.

So this week, at the recommendation of my MB® nutrition coach, Christine Lindell Detweiler, I went to a Mayo Clinic sport medicine doctor.

After several X-rays and an exam, she recommended physical therapy and a surprisingly painless cortisone injection. Thankfully to my surprise and delight, I had immediate relief!

I’ll start going to the pool now that I’ve finally bought a swimming suit that fits. I left my old one, about five sizes too big, with new friends in Cuba. Next week, I’ll be back on the treadmill. Yeah!

I mentioned I had two life-altering events. The second one was tragic. My sister, Sharon Henneman, died suddenly of an aortic dissection Feb. 21, three weeks before her 74th birthday. She had been my inspiration and the person responsible for me being on MB® after she had lost 90 pounds the proceeding year.

Despite enduring many deaths of family members and friends throughout my 71 years starting at the young age of 11 when my grandmother died, nothing has rocked my world in the worst way since my father’s suicide, when I was 12. Absolutely nothing can prepare you for a sudden death, especially since Sharon was the closest person to me my whole life.

As children on the farm where we lived, we played together for hours riding our ponies. In the summer, we’d walk up the gravel road to the culvert and squish our toes in the cool mud. We didn’t have a care in the world.

When Sharon returned to Minnesota after a few years of a hippy fling in San Fransisco and the West Coast during the 1960s, she was a newly divorced young mother with two young children. We became college roommates so I could baby-sit for her kids when she was in class.

When I lived in Europe for 20 years, we wrote letters. Since returning from Europe in the early 1990s, Sharon and I became even closer when along with our older sisters, we bought our grandparents farm, lovingly called La Farm, a play on our last name.

Whenever we went to La Farm — a 2½-hour drive from La Condo — we’d get together and talk for hours while playing Hand and Foot.

So her sudden death has been truly devastating. I’m still grieving. Thankfully, I have been able to keep extremely busy focusing on preparations for two of my photo exhibits, one opening next week in rural Minnesota (Thursday, April 6, Kaddatz Gallery, Fergus Falls) and the other opening in downtown Minneapolis (April 30th, The Westminster Gallery, noon).

Those two life-and-death events have obviously impacted my MB® success. In Cuba, I didn’t even TRY to stay on plan. I did, whenever we ate at restaurants, do my best to make healthy choices. I also drank wine whenever I had the chance, which wasn’t every day.

Lobster dinner.
Lobster dinner.

There’s no way I was going to go to Cuba and not take advantage of the local cuisine. OMG, it was fabulous! I ate a lot of fish, lobster, shrimp, salads, black beans and rice especially whenever we ate at churches. I did succeed in drinking seven bottles of water a day. Temperatures were in the 70s and 80s. I also experienced Cuban coffee and Cuban rum for the first time. The fact that I brought back two bottles of rum, one of which cost $40, and a 2-pound bag of Cuban coffee may indicate my enjoyment of the local fare.

A fruit stand in Havana.
A fruit stand in Havana.

I was thrilled after getting back and inviting a Cuban friend over for a meal and photo slideshow, when he gave us four tiny Cuban coffee cups — and they even match our dishes perfectly!

For the most part in Cuba, I didn’t eat between meals nor have seconds. I did eat a lot of fresh fruits — mango, pineapple and watermelon — and veggies.

A delightful throwback to when I worked as editor of a weekly newspaper in the U.S. Virgin Islands back in the early ’70s was rediscovering the delicate taste of plantain, a type of banana, served as a dessert fried in butter. Yum.

I was delightfully surprised that upon returning home, I’d only gained a pound. That was totally due to the incredible amount of walking exercise I had. The downside was the damage to my knee of excess walking on uneven surfaces.

Sharon’s funeral program featured a photo I took of her on her birthday almost a year from the date she died. I also wrote her obituary.

Exactly two weeks after returning, Sharon died. I don’t know about where you live, but here, especially in rural Minnesota, when someone dies, people bring the affected families food. And it’s absolutely not what I eat on MB®. It’s what is commonly called comfort food, for good reason.

From Day 1, cousins, friends and neighbors brought catering-size pans of homemade lasagne, pork and beans, mac and cheese, scalloped potatoes and ham, tater tot hotdish (for some of you, that would be a casserole) and blueberry crumble.

I didn’t even attempt to stay on plan during that first week. In fact, I was so shocked, that I didn’t even remember to track my food, something, I’ve done every meal since starting on MB®. In addition, another life event was our granddaughter’s 9th birthday when we returned home, so we bought her a Dairy Queen birthday ice cream cake.

After all that, it was seriously time to get back on plan. Due to a lack of exercise for the past seven weeks, I’ve gain 6 pounds, and I still have 36 pounds to reach my goal weight — now that I have a pain-free knee and can start exercising again. That is baring any unplanned life-altering events. I intend to reach goal by this Thanksgiving.

When I reflect back to 2015, before I began healthy eating, between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, I gained 9 pounds. After being on MB® for nearly a year in 2016, during the same time frame, I lost 3.5 pounds.

Those are the kinds of results of which I’m proud. It’s important to me to have balance in my life, and when life throws those curve balls, you just have to deal with it the best you can, one day at a time.

The good news is that each new day, I get to choose.