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Work-Life Balance: 5 Local Couples Tell You How They Do It

Work Life Balance

Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography

We’ve all been there.

Between that upcoming work-project deadline, your kid’s basketball game, and the fundraiser you’re scheduled to go to tonight, you’re feeling burnt out … and it’s only Tuesday. You start to question whether you’re ever going to figure out this work-life balance thing. This month, five area couples provide a mix of insight, advice and encouragement on how they do it.

Hopefully, their words are a breath of fresh air and you learn new ways to approach your own lives and relationships.

RUSSELL PETERSON & ROBIN NELSON

Russell Peterson, Professor of Music, Concordia College

Russell Peterson is an associate professor of saxophone and bassoon and a conductor of jazz ensemble at Concordia College. With degrees from Youngstown State University, Bowling Green State University, and Le Conservatoire de Bordeaux in France, he’s an accomplished classical and jazz saxophonist and an internationally renowned composer.

In addition to being the father of three kids—ages 26, 21 and 14—Peterson is the founder of popular local horn band Post Traumatic Funk Syndrome and is the leader of the “Monday Night Big Band” at Dempsey’s in Downtown Fargo. He’s won numerous awards as a performer, composer, and teacher, and has toured extensively throughout Europe and Asia. He also serves on the boards of both the FM Symphony and FM Area Youth Symphonies.

“We’re up early—5 a.m. at the latest. Russ finds this is his only time of the day to respond to emails, schedule concerts, etc. We also like to go to the gym together a few times a week. We see it as a ‘morning date.'”-Robin

Robin Nelson, CEO, Boys & Girls Club of the Red River Valley

The current head of the Boys & Girls Club of the Red River Valley, Robin Nelson has held a number of positions in area education over the years, including as a three-term elected member and former president of the Fargo School Board and as a former president of an elementary school PTA.

Her commitment to the community is also evidenced by her role as a mayoral appointee to the Fargo Youth Initiative advisory board, Fargo’s Native American commission, and the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Addiction, as well as by her participation as a consultant in the local education, political and business communities. She’s also managed and consulted on numerous campaigns at the city and state level and serves on the boards of both the Great Plains Food Bank and the Fargo Public Schools Foundation.

5 a.m.

Russell & Robin: Wake up

6 a.m.

Russell: Emails & scheduling
Robin: Get ready

7 a.m.

Russell: Practice guitar
Robin: Great Plains Food Bank board meeting

8 a.m.

Russell: Write music
Robin: Drive to work

9 a.m.

Russell: Teach
Robin: Boys & Girls Club of the Red River Valley director meeting

10 a.m.

Russell: Teach
Robin: Emails

11 a.m.

Russell: Teach
Robin: Boys & Girls Club donor tour

12 p.m.

Russell: Lunch with Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra executive and Concordia College conductor/faculty member

Robin: Lunch with leadership networking group

1 p.m.

Russell: Teach
Robin: Office work

2 p.m.

Russell: Teach
Robin: Conference call

3 p.m.

Russell: Teach
Robin: Work with kids at school site

4 p.m.

Russell: Concordia jazz band rehearsal
Robin: Board finance committee meeting

5 p.m.

Russell & robin: Dinner at JL Beers

6 p.m.

Russell: Private lessons
Robin: Volunteer board work

7 p.m.

Russell: Jazz or Post-Traumatic Funk Syndrome gig or F-M Symphony rehearsal
Robin: Prepare for next day’s meetings

8 p.m.

Russell: Gigs

9 p.m.

Russell: Gigs

10 p.m.

Russell & Robin: Home

OUR ADVICE

“Celebrate each other’s personal and professional growth. Understand each other’s motivation and passion. Respect that individual successes wouldn’t be possible without the unwavering support of your spouse.” -Russell

“Our schedules are so busy that we laughed when we were asked how we keep our schedules balanced because we rarely do! But the reason our relationship works is because we’re both busy, and we respect each other’s passions. That’s what attracted us to each other and continues our energy and love for one another. We find it a gift when we can spend an evening together and share the events of our days and our dreams for the future.

“We also find it important to spend time away from the distractions of housework and cooking so we can have more focused and intentional conversation.” -Robin

“We visit in the kitchen while preparing for the next day before we head to bed and watch the news.” -Robin

WE RECOMMEND

  • Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Eckhart Tolle

Russell: “These authors suggest that if you’re anxious, you’re living in the future, and if you’re depressed, you’re living in the past. For relationships, it’s important to forget both, and enjoy the beauty of the present moment we are given with our families.”

AUSTIN & LAURA MORRIS

Work Life Balance

Austin Morris, Managing Partner, Enclave Companies

If you’ve ever worked in commercial real estate, have been in need of an apartment, have attended a Downtown event, or just enjoy a good laugh, you may have met Austin Morris. Austin is a local entrepreneur, real estate investor, and cofounder of Enclave Development, Lux Communities and Radiant Homes.

He met his match, Laura, in high school and married her seven years later. Austin and Laura have been together for more than 13 years and have been creating alongside one another, and together, since they met. A few years back, they welcomed into the world their daughter, Camilla, or as they like to call her, “the greatest thing to ever grace their life.”

AUSTIN & LAURA MORRIS

Laura Morris, Co-Owner, Dakota, Clinic Pharmacy

What do the pharmaceutical industry and fair-trade fashion have in common? Other than Laura Morris, not too much. Laura says that for as long as she can remember, her life has looked more like a buffet than a plated meal. She’s passionate about a wide variety of topics, always eager to learn and quick to offer herself as a solution. The result is a busy, diverse and tremendously purpose-filled life.

Laura is a lifelong Fargo enthusiast, and when she’s not practicing as a pharmacist and co-owner of Dakota Clinic Pharmacy in South Fargo, she fosters a passion for humanitarian efforts through a one-of-a-kind boutique she founded in Downtown Fargo called Others. It’s the only shop in the area to exclusively feature buy-one-give-one and fair-trade items, and better yet, 100 percent of store profit is donated, making it the only shop of its kind in the world—right here in Fargo.

Fiercely community-minded as well, you can often find her at local events such as Group Think, Social Entrepreneurship group, TEDxFargo, North Dakota Downtown Conference and The Possibility Symposium. She sits on the North Dakota Pharmacist’s Association committee, is a co-host for Do It All Downtown After Hours, supports a number of nonprofit groups in their efforts and serves as a student mentor.

6:30 a.m.

Austin & Laura: Awoken by a tiny, blonde alarm clock known as Camilla

7:45 a.m.

Austin: Departure time (after making a quick stop in the driveway to greet the sun with Camilla)

Austin: “After our morning drive, I drop her off at school, we share a hug and kiss, and I tell her to have fun and ask her teachers lots of good questions.”

7:45 – 8:45 a.m.

Laura: After seeing her “roommates” out the door, Laura has an hour to herself, where she grabs a quick breakfast, does a daily gratitude practice and chips away at a few easy/urgent emails.

Laura: “Being overly optimistic is terrific when it comes to encouraging people you believe in but not so great when it comes to estimating time. A silver lining? I have mastered the art of curling my hair in less than six minutes, and dry shampoo has become a dear friend. I realize I could do this hour differently, but I worry I would risk missing out on my favorite parts of it.”

9 a.m.Noon

Austin: After arriving at the office and updating with a couple colleagues, Austin grabs a Diet Drew and reviews his calendar for the day.

Austin: “Assuming I don’t have an early meeting, I usually start the day by reviewing my priority to-do list, determine which major items need to be accomplished that day and begin working on them.”

Laura: Laura’s mornings typically follow one of two tracks. She either heads into the pharmacy for a full day, or she heads into Others in the morning followed by an afternoon at the pharmacy.

Laura: “Volunteering my time and experience (at Others) is something I feel very fortunate to do. It fuels me in a unique way to see the impact of our work on so many lives locally and abroad.”

12 –  1 p.m.

Austin & Laura: Lunchtime

1 – 6 p.m.

Austin: A mixed bag

Austin: “Since every day is so different, there really isn’t a typical afternoon. I typically have more meetings in the afternoon than the morning, but I like to reserve at least one or two hours in between for meeting prep and project-based work. It’s important to actually book time on your calendar to tackle complex projects independently. It seems like if we don’t, our time slots fill up pretty quick throughout the week and can easily cover up the time we thought we’d have for that independent project.”

Laura: Drug dealing (she kids)—the bulk of her day is spent verifying dosages, preparing medication and providing consultation to patients.

Laura: “Many of our repeat faces at Dakota Clinic have turned into people I care deeply about and enjoy seeing each month for their refills. Doing so alongside people you trust, respect greatly and have a wonderful time with is additionally rewarding beyond measure.”

6:30 – 9 p.m.

Austin & Laura: Foodies

Laura: “We go out to eat most nights, which allows us to be fully connected during this time rather than finding recipes, buying groceries, prepping a meal and cleaning up. We realize this isn’t the best long-term plan and do a better job of meals at home on the weekends, but it works well for the time being. We also support local restaurants almost exclusively, which has brought a greater depth to the restaurant experience, both in terms of the menu items offered and in connection to our community.”

Austin: “We’ve really enjoyed getting to know many different local restaurants and their lovely staffs. As a family, we’ve had many enthralling conversations, ideation sessions and problem-solving adventures at our favorite local dining spots.”

9 p.m.midnight

Austin & Laura: Just the grown-ups

Austin: “For Laura and me, our nights are important. We don’t eat breakfast or lunch together on a regular basis so after Camilla is in bed is supreme couple time. We talk about our days, our life, family, friends, our daughter, anything on our minds. We relax some, work some, dream some and problem-solve together.”

Laura: “I really try to slow down and be present during this time. We have a couple shows we watch when we can get to them, and we both partake in the occasional mindless Facebook scroll, but for the most part, we do a pretty damn good job of unplugging when at home. There is probably a half hour where we are both catching up on loose ends for the next day, but the majority of our evenings at home are spent relaxing, talking about our day and just being together.”

OUR ADVICE

“Something I’ve realized is that reading and exercise are two indicators for the current balance in my life. When personal demands are overwhelming, these two things are all too easy to cast aside. When I’m actively pursuing both, I have an underlying sense of balance.” -Laura

“Set boundaries. Most of the great work-life zen masters seem to have pretty distinct boundaries between work and family life.” -Austin

“A series at church talked about guard rails—finding comfort in not always driving straight down the middle of the road while also setting safeguards to prevent you from ending up in the ditch. Cheesy, but I love cheese, and it rang true.” -Laura

“If your day was horsesh*t and it’s difficult to be present, think of how your challenging day would probably be someone’s best day. Feel grateful and regain present-ness, or be the best damn artificially present person you can be. Easier said than done. ” -Austin

“More often than I should, I think, ‘How do you want to be remembered?’—as a husband, father, son and friend. It helps me be more of who I want to be in the moment. This can be difficult after work when your brain is still thinking about how to solve a dozen to 12 dozen puzzles before the next day or week, but to me, being present during your time with family and friends is the most important item—next in line to simply showing up.” -Austin

“You don’t always need to be excited by the big things. Perspective can turn the ordinary into a wonderful time. Grocery shopping can be viewed as a rushed obligation, or it can be an opportunity for us to have one-on-one time with Camilla—hearing about her day, explaining life skills or connecting with the kind person ringing up our items.” -Laura

NICK & MICHELLE KILLORAN

Work Life Balance
Nick Killoran, Founder & Co-Owner, Great North Insurance

Originally from small-town Buffalo, North Dakota, Nick Killoran first moved to the FM area to play basketball at Concordia College, which is also where he met his future wife, Michelle. The father of three girls, Nick has held two professional roles since graduating college in 2001, first with Wells Fargo and currently as the founder and co-owner of Great North Insurance Services in West Fargo. Since founding Great North in 2010, Nick has since opened four other businesses, the most recent a joint nonprofit venture with Michelle called The Great North Pole.

A strong believer in giving back to the community, Nick and his family enjoy volunteering with nonprofits such as the United Way of Cass-Clay and the Great Plains Food Bank. It’s their work with these organizations that actually inspired them to found their own nonprofit. Nick also spends time giving back to local youth through coaching and volunteering with DECA.

Michelle Killoran, CFO & VP of Finance, SCHEELS

During her senior year at Concordia College, Michelle took a part-time job in the SCHEELS corporate office, not realizing at the time it was the organization she’d still be with 17 years later. Now SCHEELS’ CFO and vice president of finance, Michelle is just the second woman ever to serve on the SCHEELS Executive Committee board of directors.

Having always been passionate about women in leadership, Michelle spearheaded a leadership program within SCHEELS to encourage women to hone their leadership skills. The program is especially important to Michelle, as she always strives to be a positive role model for her three young girls. Michelle has held multiple chair positions with the United Way of Cass-Clay, and she currently sits on the board of directors for Sanford Medical Center Fargo, Affinity Captive, and the NDSU Department of Accounting, Finance and Information Systems. She’s also active with The Great North Pole, a nonprofit she cofounded this year with Nick.

6:30 a.m.

Nick & Michelle: Breakfast and morning pep talks

noon – 1:30 p.m.

Nick & Michelle: Always communicating

6 – 7:30 p.m.

Every night is family night.

Nick: “This is another special time of the day. Michelle always asks the girls what their favorite part of the day was. ‘Tell me something good that happened today’ is how she phrases it. The statement is always full of energy and looking for the positives in life.

“We’re very fortunate to have a nanny to help with running the girls from one activity to the next, feeding them before we get home, and helping to ensure the chores and homework are being done. She’s a blessing to us, and we think of her as part of our family.

“Because of Sydney (nanny), we’re given time with our kids each night that we otherwise wouldn’t have. Because the homework is done and the meals are prepared, we get a couple hours each night for family movie night, family game night, dinner out as a family (including Sydney) or just a quick episode of ‘Big Brother.'”

8:30 p.m.

Decompression

OUR ADVICE

“There’s no such thing as balance. You just do your best to integrate work, life and everything in between.” -Nick

“Live in the moment, and appreciate the time you have with your family. Work will be there when you get back. Make plans with friends and family and stick to them—whether it’s dinner, happy hour or bowling. There really is no such thing as work-life balance. It is all life. The balance has to be within you.” -Michelle

“There’s no 50-50 in marriage. Everyone gives 100 percent. We feel the same about work and our time away from work. When we’re at work, we give 100 percent. When we’re at home, we give 100 percent. It isn’t perfect, but everyone does their best.” -Nick

“Communicate. Trust that the other person is doing their best to make life better for everyone. There are days, even weeks, when one person is carrying a bigger load at home, but it all evens out in the end. We don’t ‘keep score.’ In fact, we’re on the same team. We actually call this house ‘Home Team.'” -Michelle

WE RECOMMEND

  • “Make Today Count” by John C. Maxwell
  • “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey
  • “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” by Sean Covey & Chris McChesney
  • “The Legacy Journey” by Dave Ramsey
  • “How Full is your Bucket?” by Tom Rath
  • “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath

DONNY & HOPE GOLDAMMER

Work Life Balance

Donny Goldammer, Co-Owner, LOT 2029, MINT + BASIL, & ONYX + PEARL

A Native of Wing, North Dakota, Donny Goldammer attended Concordia and NDSU. After college, he got a job at his brother’s company, Verity Homes, which he says set him up well for a future in general contracting, business and customer service. Soon after, he met “the love of his life,” Hope, at a street dance in Dawson, North Dakota, and they were engaged over a game of dice. In addition to his responsibilities with the stores, he’s currently in the process of settling the pair into a new home near Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.

Hope Goldammer, Co-Owner, LOT 2029, MINT + BASIL, & ONYX + PEARL

Originally from Bismarck, North Dakota, Hope Goldammer moved to Fargo to attend NDSU as an apparel and textiles major. She opened the flagship LOT 2029 boutique in Bismarck, North Dakota, in 2011, followed by a Fargo location in 2013 and a Sioux Falls spot in 2014. In 2016, she and her husband, Donny, founded Downtown Fargo kitchen and home shop MINT + BASIL before this year opening another women’s clothing boutique, ONYX + PEARL, also downtown.

Morning

Donny:

  • A dip in the hot tub to wake the body
  • Spend time ordering materials for store, working on their downtown loft, doing chores at home and addressing the store’s to-do lists
  • A gratitude journaling session to align his thoughts with the upcoming day

Hope:

  • Jump in the hot tub to wake up
  • Spend the first 30 minutes of the day gathering inspiration from social media
  • Get a workout in

Midday

Donny: Building maintenance

Hope: Brand development, buying for the boutiques, accounting and managing employees

“We have absolutely no sugar or anything with glucose so our bodies stay in a semi-ketonic state.” -Donny

Evening

Donny: “At night, I try to get to the gym for a workout followed by a sauna session to release the tension of the day, as well as reduce the inflammation in my body, allowing my mind to slow to be present in the moment with Hope for the time we have together in the evenings.”

Hope: Depending on the day, the workday can end anywhere from 7 p.m. – midnight.

OUR ADVICE

“I think we’ve learned you never stop learning. We’re faced with so many ‘crisis’ situations, but once you take a step back and realize how much we have to do to keep the businesses running, we laugh. It’s so much. Our primal minds aren’t used to coping with so many stresses.” -Donny

“Today, for example, nothing seemed to go the way it should. My mantra in these times is: keep moving. Even if it seems inefficient or like it’s taking too much time, keep moving. Meditating for 5-10 minutes to think about and remember whatever you find this life to be is very grounding. Constant research and finding out what other successful people do and try to improve on their successes is the evolution of business and awareness.” -Donny

“Long walks through Island Park and any sort of gym time are a time to reconnect with nature and ourselves while slowing our racing minds. The sauna has been one of the biggest health benefits we’ve experienced. After 10 minutes, you can leave with a clear mind, heightened awareness and with the stress melted from your body.” -Hope

“When our teachers, coaches and daycare providers spend more time with our children (than we do), the question of, ‘Am I doing this parenting thing right?’ comes all too often. Our key is realizing you have to involve your family. Even if the job doesn’t get done as fast, include your family as much as possible.

“Give them value to your success and failures. Learn together. When 
Grandma asks to help, let her come help. Even a text or call to family members with something wily or just a few-minutes-long chat is a great way to remember who is important in your life. Our parents know we are busy so we start all phone conversations by stating how much time we have. Bluetooth headsets are wonderful as you can chat while doing house chores, making meals and doing mindless work.” -Donny

BERNIE & LOUISE DARDIS

Work Life Balance

Bernie Dardis, Former CEO, Indigo Signworks

The recent recipient of the FMWF Chamber of Commerce’s highest honor, the “Legacy Leader” award, Bernie Dardis has had strong ties to the FM area community for decades, most notably as the former CEO of Indigo Signworks—where he oversaw five acquisitions and expansion to six locations—and as the current board chair of the Greater North Dakota Chamber.

Dardis has held numerous positions on area boards, committees, and clubs, including the West Fargo Exchange Club and Sanford Health Foundation Board, as well as numerous chairmanships within the North Dakota Republican Party. The former Bison football player was a crucial player in the merger of the West Fargo and Fargo-Moorhead Chambers of Commerce back in 2010 and has served in various capacities with the FMWF Chamber for the past seven years, including on the FM Flood Task Force.

He’s won numerous other awards over the years—including the NDSU Lifetime Achievement Award—and, in addition to his professional achievements, has also been active in his church for many years.

Louise Dardis, Former Assistant Superintendent, West Fargo Public Schools

Louise Dardis has been involved in FMWF community in numerous ways throughout the years, most notably with the West Fargo Public School District for more than 30 years—16 as a building principal and 14 as the assistant superintendent. Since retiring from the school district, Louise has spent the last four and a half years as the North Dakota program manager for Succeed 2020, a $25 million, statewide, education and workforce initiative funded by Hess, an international oil corporation.

Louise’s community involvement varies but is typically tied to children, families and education. She says that working in education automatically provides opportunities to work with the public for the good of children and families. In the past, she has served as the president of the North Dakota Elementary Principals Association and on numerous local and state education committees. Most recently, she served as the chair of the board of the United Way of Cass-Clay.

Morning

6 a.m.

Bernie & Louise: Quality child care was always a load off our minds.

Louise: “When our boys were young, the daycare drop-off schedule was dependent upon which of us had early morning meetings or had a deadline at work that needed to be addressed. We were fortunate to have a home daycare that preferred having the children start the day around the breakfast table, which was one less step in the morning routine at home.

“One of our requirements and an advantage was having a wonderful daycare provider, and we were fortunate to have the same one for nearly 15 years. She and her family were like family to us and a second mom for the boys, which freed us from wondering or worrying about the boys while we were at work. As the boys grew older, they were always responsible for getting themselves out of the house and to school at the appropriate time after we left for work.”

Workday

9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Staying involved

Bernie: Bernie’s days are quite diverse. They vary according to what he is addressing at Indigo Signworks or with board activities at the Greater North Dakota Chamber or Sanford Health Foundation. He’s also involved in myriad legislative interim public policy and business discussions. Time is typically split between Fargo and Bismarck.

Louise: After nearly 35 years with the West Fargo Public School District, Louise currently works out of a home office. Each day varies, but there are three constants:

1) Spends a great deal of time in electronic virtual meetings with various education entities across the state or with staff of Family Health International, an east coast-based nonprofit organization that hired her as the North Dakota program manager for its Succeed 2020 initiative.

2) Plans, communicates and leads the aforementioned meetings.

3) Travels predominantly to the eight regional education associations across the state, to Bismarck, or to the east coast (New York or Washington D.C.) for meetings related to the work, activities and outcomes of Succeed 2020. Much of the travel relates to various committees, work sessions, training of REA staff, and addressing a variety of groups and professional conferences on education, education related to workforce, and the need for students to be prepared for college and careers when they graduate from high school.

Dinner

5 p.m.

Bernie & Louise: Dinner time is our time.

Louise: “We are typically on our own for daytime meals, but our dinner is together. As empty-nesters, we now have more evening time to read the paper, watch a movie, FaceTime the kids and grandkids, or read a book. Importantly, we continue to compare daily, weekly, and long-term schedules to determine when and how to spend quality time with each other, family and friends.”

Evening

6-7:30 p.m.

Bernie & Louise: Spouses, parents, choreographers

Louise: “When our boys were young, our evenings were often choreographed to determine which of us had evening meetings, what the schedule was for each of the boys’ activities, and how to maneuver getting each boy to and from activities.

“We still continue to compare our schedules to determine when we have time together as a couple, which has become simpler as empty-nesters. This choreographed schedule continues sans kids, except now our passion is our three grandsons, all age 5 and under.”

Late Evening

7:30-9 p.m.

Bernie & Louise: Socialize

“We use community events as one component of our social outings since we typically see friends at such events.” -Louise

OUR ADVICE

“Put family first. As difficult as that may be at times, if kept in the forefront of your mind, one is more likely to lean in that direction when making decisions about work, play and family time.” -Bernie & Louise

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