by Kim Jondahl

Kim Jondahl

Deb Seminary graciously asked me to contribute a “Top 10” list of favorite memories from the beginnings of this magazine, initially named Inspire.

Inspired Woman continues to be a great source of pride for me as the six-year editor who helped launch this magazine. From humble beginnings, the staff helped it evolve into a respected community magazine. It wasn’t easy. Before the first issue even hit the stands, one local reporter commented that we were “gutsy but stupid. It’ll never fly.” A potential advertiser claimed we would fold within the year. Ignoring the naysayers, we kept plugging away.

Dream it. Achieve it. And we did.
Inspired Woman continues as a vibrant publication that champions women. Deb and the advisory committee are creatively growing this magazine. With every new issue, my heart does a little dance of joy.

Memories from the Early Years
1. The very best memory is the amazing local women (and men) I had the privilege to meet along the way. Our community has an abundance of vivacious, strong, sage, fun and creative souls. I never ran out of story ideas, just space to feature them. It was an honor and a blessing to share their uplifting stories.

2. The second Inspire issue came out a few months after the 9/11 tragedy. I wrote an article focusing on how that day helped some people define what is important in life, featuring comments from clinical therapist Penny Wedin-Gorden. With the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 approaching, I think it is important to note that Penny’s words still ring true: “Tragedy can either make or break us. It’s what we decide to do with events and relationships in our lives that defines us. If we keep going, growth will have come from our loss.”

3. The majority of women I talked with felt unworthy of a feature story. I’d hear, “I haven’t done anything interesting enough to deserve magazine recognition.” But after seeing their own stories in print, they’d often say, “Wow. Maybe I do have something to share.” I loved watching a woman realize a sense of being extraordinary in some way. By continuing to embrace ideas of being worthy, gifted, and beautiful exactly as they are, women can tap into that positive energy, and life can become more fulfilling.

4. I gained something from every person I interviewed, but one who stands out is actress Ann-Margret, Inspire’s September 2007 cover person before her Hostfest appearance. Her publicist firmly insisted that I had only 15 minutes for questions. Ann-Margret was kind enough to chat for 40 minutes in her buttery purr of a voice. She was genuine, warm, and felt like an instant old friend. Ann-Margret graciously met my then 12-year-old daughter—an Elvis admirer, shared movie memories with her, then autographed a special photo of herself with Elvis from Viva Las Vegas, sending my daughter into orbit as a crazed fan of The King.

5. Patrick Atkinson, The GOD’S CHILD Project director, had written a touching story about placing a railroad tie bench atop Crying Hill in Mandan as a place to sit and mediate. I wanted a photo for the story. A friend and I climbed up the hill, snapped bench pictures, then started down another side. Our return led directly into an enormous patch of the giant grasshoppers. Shrieking, we sprinted to my van. Anything but meditative, our drive home included swatting dozens of dive-bombing grasshoppers biting us.

6. I accidentally hung up on former HGTV home decorating star Christopher Lowell during our telephone interview. Christopher was in his prime (2004), launching a radio show and new furniture and paint lines. Mr. Lowell called at the appointed interview time. Somehow, during his answer to my second question, I touched “cancel” instead of the “speaker” button. Serious panic. Not only had I cut off a major celebrity in mid-sentence, but I also didn’t have access to his private phone number. Thankfully he called again. When we met in person one month later, I apologized. Christopher gave me a blank stare, not even remembering my mortifying moment.

7. It was a true joy to know that some articles made a real difference in people’s lives. When we featured a new women’s shelter, the growing homelessness problem, and other charitable causes, donations poured in. Our staff and writers were gratified to help bring about an opening of people’s hearts and pocketbooks to those in need. It showcased the true spirit of North Dakota generosity.

8. In the early days, local chefs and crafters submitted ideas for publication. About one month before each issue came out, I would bake the recipes or make the crafting ideas at home, then take photos. During a photo shoot for a Halloween article to hit the stands on October 1, I had plenty of neighbors wondering why I was placing cloth ghosts on my lawn in early September. Sometimes I had Christmas decorations set up in October for holiday issue photo shoots. Inspire pretty much solidified my status as “the eccentric neighbor.”

9. A point of pride was winning first place in the magazine category of the 2008 National Federation of Press Women contest. Inspire was up against the top magazines submitted from every state. Our tiny staff showed ‘em that North Dakota is right up there with the best of the best.

10. Hundreds of wise women covered important topics, from Mikey Hoeven (March 2003) sharing how faith guides her daily life to Rola Koleilat (July 2008) explaining the importance of reaching global understanding of people and cultures. My favorite pearl of wisdom came from Sister Thomas Welder, then U-Mary president (September 2006). She commented: “It’s very tempting to think about other things while you are with someone . . . But if we can be truly and fully present to each person and listen, that is the greatest gift we can give.”

Thanks for the memories, Inspired Woman! Keep reaching, challenging, and connecting lives. The joy is in the journey!

Kimberly Jondahl is the marketing director of Bismarck Cancer Center and served as editor of inspire for six years.