Fostering the future

IMG_0019Every April, Becker County Human Services sends me this letter asking to help send local foster kids to summer camps and summer sports. A few years ago I opened up about why I’m so passionate about helping our local foster children and how I spent a very short time in a foster home when I was 14. Every time I read this letter I’m reminded how much God has blessed me and how far I’ve come. There is another part of my time in that foster home that I have never shared with anyone except for my husband and I wasn’t planning about ever openly talking about it but our community has lost some amazing people who took their own lives and I know there are people of every age struggling so I’m going to share more of my story in the chance it could save a life or spark random acts of kindness.

I had been through a lot in my 14 years of age but when I ended up in a foster home I hit an all time low. I remember the negative thoughts that ran through my head during that time “You will never amount to anything, you can’t even figure out algebra”, “Why can’t I just be like everyone else”, “Why is it so hard to make friends” “I wasn’t meant to be here”, “God clearly doesn’t love me like he loves everyone else”, “This world will be better off without me”.

I decided while sitting in my bunk in the foster home I couldn’t take life anymore as I saw no hope. That evening I made a plan to take my own life after everyone went to bed and I wasn’t turning back. As I sat there I said goodbye in my head to everyone. Then a little foster kid walked in my room, I think he might of been about 7. He saw the tears in my eyes and he asked if he could give me his teddy bear, his only possession. I was past the age of liking teddy bears but somehow his teddy bear and his words soothed me in that moment. He sat down next to my bed and told me not to be sad that it gets so much better and that everything will be ok. I took a pause from my own situation and thought about this boy who is probably hurting just as bad as me if not worse, missing his parents and he just gave me the only thing that belongs to him. This courageous little boy will never know he saved my life that night. I decided that same day I was going to tough it out and try to be there for the other foster kids who needed me as much as I needed them. I also decided that when I grow up I will try to help foster kids if I ever get the opportunity.

Life is hard especially in those teenage years as you try to navigate the world but it can also be hard when you go through hard times as an adult. It’s easy to listen to our negative thoughts and believe them as truth. It’s easy to think I wish I was more like someone else or I wish my family was more like theirs and not celebrate this amazing unique life we’ve all been given. Now that I’m older I can look back at my entire life in awe at how all these little hardships were Gods mountains for me to climb to take me higher. I pray that you remember daily what a gift you are even when you’re feeling low and I pray if you have the opportunity to be kind that you do it because it can change the world just like that little boy did with his teddy bear. I have four boys and an amazing husband now and I thank God for that little foster boy every day.

This Monday-Saturday I will be donating a percentage of my sales at our stores to help our local foster kids so come on out and shop for a great cause!

Celebrate yourself

20180506_071111It’s been a little while since I did one of my pay it forwards so when a little bird told me about a local woman who is currently going through a challenging time I was excited to get involved :) My goal was to help her find a new outfit to help her celebrate her new look with confidence!

Timber Johnson has been battling psoriasis for 14 years. Back in March, at the recommendation from Mayo Clinic physicians, she made the decision that it was time to shave her head. The reason? The psoriasis medicine had a better chance of being effective when absorbed into her scalp vs. her long hair. While her husband and 3 brothers all stepped up to show support by shaving their heads too, losing her hair significantly impacted her self-esteem. That’s when a mutual friend, suggested that they go and find a few outfits at The Nines that helped her feel as though this new hair-do is part of her new style. Clothes & accessories certainly can’t solve our physical challenges; however, when a person discovers a flattering pair of pants or a top that is cut to accentuate one’s shape, it can change the trajectory of their emotional state. Over the course of a few hours, Timber learned all kinds of fashion tips and tricks for her body shape…and she began to see herself differently. She began to see herself as the beautiful person she is.

Watching Timber at the store yesterday was truly inspirational and a great reminder that when life hands you lemons you put on an awesome outfit and rock it out like the badass God created you to be! When we look good, we feel good. And another thing I know: when we help others…we can feel pretty good too!

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Mini vacations are my fave!


Some of my favorite trips are mini road trips with my husband or with the whole family. My husband Steve and I had the best date night a few months ago when we went out for dinner and then stayed at the new Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott next to the lake and only about 6 blocks from where we live. We had a blast and it completely felt like we were in another city. It was a much needed reset! You really don’t have to travel far to have a lot of fun. So this awesome date night we had inspired me to create a shopping getaway event at my store on Feb 24th with tropical drinks, treats from the bakery and we are giving away one mini trip package for two on Feb 24th! Package includes: one nights stay at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in DL with a lake view, two $100 Nines gift cards, $40 For lunch at Brygge Taps & Tastes, $60 for dinner at Hub 41! Visit our Instagram or Facebook page to get entered! This would be fun for a girls trip, date night trip or a Mom & Me day! Hope to see you February 24th!


Lauren Zima

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Who Inspires you?

20171127_090629I remember watching tv shows like Oprah when I was little where an inspirational person would get nominated for a makeover or a prize and I remember thinking I should write in and nominate my Mom. I really wanted my Mom to know how incredible I thought she was and I also wanted to see her get a little TLC since she always made everyone else a priority. Now that I’m a mother of four I look back in awe at how tough she was and how she managed to work two jobs and take care of us. I think back to hard times like when the U.S. bombed Baghdad when I was 9 years old and my Mom was immediately deployed. I still get teary eyed remembering that day at the airport when my Dad had to pull me out of her arms because I didn’t want to see my Momma go to war. I draw strength from inspirational people like my Mom and I know others do too. In a world where we often forget just how many incredible people there are around us I want to take a little time to celebrate somebody who’s inspiring others. This holiday season I want to pay it forward to a special someone who inspires you! Message us and nominate someone who deserves a little pampering from us! We will be picking one lucky winner who we will be surprising in December! Happy Giving Tuesday!

It takes a village


It’s already been a year since I wrote this post below after receiving a letter from Becker County Human Services. After it posted last year THE NINES ended up raising enough money to send local foster kids to camp and they even hand wrote me the sweetest thank you letters! If you didn’t read my post from last year please read and enjoy 10% off all of your purchases all week both online and in the store (3/27 – 4/1). We will be donating a percentage of our sales for the entire week to help send local kids to camp again this summer! Use coupon code camp10 online.


PLEASE READ! I received this letter last week from Becker County Human Services asking for a small donation to help local foster kids go to summer camp. I’ve never openly talked about this before (and I will probably go throw up in the bathroom after this posts as I don’t like to get personal lol) but I was in foster care for a very short period of time when I was 14. I started telling my husband one of the painful memories that came to my mind after reading the Becker County letter and I couldn’t stop crying. When I think back and remember how traumatic it was and how I almost gave up on my life, I can’t help but want to somehow help these kids and give them some type of glimmer of hope and let them know how loved they truly are and that even with a sometimes tough beginning in life there is a very bright future ahead even though you can’t always see it. I’m not going to share my full story as I’m saving it for a book I’m writing but I felt I needed to share this. Monday and Tuesday this week I will be giving a percentage of my sales at THE NINES to help these fabulous local foster children go to summer camp. Enjoy 10% off your purchases and shop for a good cause Monday & Tuesday!
God Bless! -Lauren
#payitforward #fosterkids

The Magnolia Story


Sunday mornings call for a big cup of coffee and an inspirational read! For a while now a few of my close friends and customers have been telling me how much my story reminds them of Joanna’s story from the reality show Fixer Upper. I haven’t found the time to watch her show between the store and our four boys so I bought this book last week while I was traveling to learn more about her. I found out I have so much in common with Joanna and my husband is just like Chip lol!!! There were so many crazy coincidences we share that I kept slapping my husband’s leg telling him you have to read this paragraph because you will not believe this! One of the many crazy coincidences is when she talked about opening her first store. She talked to Chip before she opened and they decided she needed to make $200 a day to be able to stay afloat and on her grand opening day she was so nervous that nobody would show up that she was hyperventilating and then the customers started to pour in! (This is exactly how it went for me right down to the exact daily sales goal and talk with my husband Steve and lots and lots of hyperventilating lol!) Another great part of her book is where she talked about her customers. There were women that stopped by her store and spent a lot of money and there was another customer who never bought a thing. She would show up now and then and poke around and one time she told her “I just come here because I want to be here. This place inspires me.” Joanna said this is one of the greatest compliments she could imagine and that it affirmed that she had accomplished exactly what she had set out to do. This gave me goosebumps as I read this because again this is just like my own story. I remember shortly after we opened telling my husband how fulfilling it was to watch women come in and have fun whether they bought anything or not. I was and still am so humbled and honored that people love to come and visit and sometimes from hours away. I love seeing the customers everyday who stop by to waste time before a doctor’s appointment, or the customers that love to just walk around the store for a pick me up, seeing friends meet up at the store to shop and catch up, or when three generations of women make memories shopping together and watching couples and families shop together and the husbands enjoy sitting in the man cave or the dressing room lounge while their wives shop to their hearts content. Hearing the laughter radiate through what used to be an old abandoned theater makes me feel like I’m doing what I set out to do. I woke up feeling so grateful for every single one of my customers this morning and want to sincerely thank you for being a part of what feels like a dream!

My Biggest Fear


We dropped off and donated a truck full of shoes to Dress for Success in Fargo this afternoon and it brought back a memory that made me smile. I remember how nervous I was when I first opened the store about 3 1/2 years ago. I was insanely scared at the thought of the store not surviving in our little tourist town. My biggest fear: What if things don’t sell? What would I do then? I faced this big fear head on everyday, prayed like crazy, worked my butt off and I persevered. So this big fear I had, things not selling, turned out to be a blessing. The awesome part is when things don’t sell I bring those items to Dress For Success who in turn help women with interview/work outfits to help get them back into the workforce. From time to time Dress For Success posts pics of the women they help and when I see those women wearing the clothes or shoes donated from my store it’s a reward that money could never give me. Knowing that a pair of shoes or an article of clothing from my store helped a woman feel confident for her job interview is not only something that feeds my soul but it reminds me to not let fear stop me. I just wanted to share this in case someone needed to hear it :)

Dreaming Big: The behind the scenes of creating our store

New Nines facade 1 (1)Before

New Nines facade 2After

Watch this behind the scenes video

My Dad made this video (click on the link above to watch) for me for my birthday last week and it brought a tear to my eye so I wanted to share it with all of you :) This video is all about the transformation and behind the scenes of what went into remodeling our current store location before our Re-Grand Opening in November. Deciding after just one year of being in business to move from our 1700 square foot boutique into an 4600 square foot old theater was definitely a risk and I’m not going to lie, I was scared at times during the process especially when we realized the remodeling challenges that lie ahead. This video makes me cry because it reminds me that you need to push forward when you’re scared and not back down even though life would be easier if you didn’t grow and if you truly believe in yourself you keep pushing forward no matter how many people tell you that you might fail. I remember at times thinking ” We are honestly crazy! How are we ever going to pull this off?” but I had incredible faith and an amazing husband with serious carpentry skills lol. I still look at the store and find it hard to believe we did it and every time I hear a customer tell me how much fun they had shopping I cant help but feel humbled and grateful that my once crazy dream is bringing people joy on a daily basis. We initially thought the remodel would take 3-4 months and when we realized the design challenges we were up against it ended up taking us over a year. The biggest remodeling challenges included a floor of all different heights designed originally for a movie theater and a load bearing wall at the entrance that completely shut off the rest of the building that we had to remove. My husband was very patient with me and all of my crazy design ideas especially when I told him I wanted the floors made out of giant recycled electrical spools that he would have to dismantle and then plain by hand in our front yard for 3 months or when I told him I didn’t just want basic sinks in the bathroom, I wanted bathroom sinks made out of vintage Singer Sewing Machines.

It’s hard to believe what can happen in 3 years when you believe!
“Follow your dreams, believe in yourself and don’t give up”
Have a beautiful Sunday :) -Lauren

Meet our “Hero” Winner!


Meet our Hero Winner Amanda! We asked all of you last month to nominate your personal hero or someone that inspires you for a chance for her to win an hour of pampering from my staff and I along with a free outfit from THE NINES. The emails poured in and it was so hard to chose one hero after reading so many incredible stories.
Amanda is one fabulous lady but before I tell you about her, another part of this story that we fell in love with was that a complete stranger nominated Amanda. The lady that nominated her wants to remain anonymous and this is part of what she said in her nomination email to us “My hope is only for this dear woman to know there are people, she doesn’t even know, pulling for her. My heart aches for this woman I’ve never met. I’m not sure how much sleep Amanda gets, or if she’s been pampered since the birth of Gannon, but this girl could use some love from out of nowhere!

Amanda and her husband Bobby of Park Rapids, MN have an eight year old son named Gannon who is awaiting a heart transplant. For a little insight into this family’s life for the last eight years read this great article from the Park Rapids Paper about Gannon:

Gannon Wilkins is at the top of the list for a heart transplant and until that call comes his family feels blessed the 8-year-old Park Rapids boy is able to spend this time at home, not in a hospital bed. The pump Gannon carries with him at all times, 24 hours a day, administers medication to keep his heart pumping. This medication pump allows Gannon to live at home, go to school and be as active as his body permits. It also allows the Wilkins family some normalcy in an extremely abnormal and scary situation. It’s been a long journey for the family since doctors first discovered something wrong during Amanda’s pregnancy with Gannon. The family has endured countless hospital stays, tests and frightening uncertainty since.

As the family waits for a donor heart for Gannon, Amanda says they try to enjoy every day and not think too much about what may happen with or without a heart transplant. “It feels like a blessing and a miracle he’s even here,” Amanda said. “We’ve always known from day one every day is a blessing with Gannon.” Gannon was born with Long QT Syndrome, a heart rhythm condition that causes fast, chaotic heartbeats. Doctors also suspect he has a rare condition characterized by an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). Doctors discovered the genetic anomaly during the sixth month of Amanda’s pregnancy with Gannon while the family was living in New Mexico. Her husband Bobby was stationed there with the United States Air Force.

An ultrasound showed the baby’s heart rate measuring over 400 beats a minute. The baby had severe hydrops, a serious fetal condition where the body fills with a layer of fluid causing congestive heart failure. Doctors gave Amanda the antiarrhythmics medication Flecainide to slow the heart rate. Amanda and the baby were monitored throughout the pregnancy and about six weeks before Gannon was born Amanda said the heart rate looked fine. The hydrops was resolved and doctors stopped the medication but the heart condition returned. That’s when the doctors realized this was something Gannon would be born with. He was delivered three weeks early and spent close to a month in the NICU to regulate his medications.

Gannon is at the top of the transplant list for his size and age at Mayo Clinic in Rochester after going into cardiac arrest in July. He doesn’t like to talk about all the medical procedures he’s been through and shies away from conversation about his heart. Gannon’s heart functions at 15-20 percent. The medications now administered through his PICC line help his heart pump efficiently. Gannon continues with routine trips to Mayo for tests and consultations. Amanda said the doctors have been amazing through the entire journey from New Mexico to Denver and now Minnesota. “They keep him healthy and not panic us. We have the absolutely top doctors in the country,” Amanda said. “They all know Gannon by first name.” When Gannon was 3 ½ years old doctors in Denver, Colorado wanted to try a cardiac ablation, which is a medical procedure that attempts to fix the troublesome area in the heart that is causing the heart to beat too fast. But Gannon’s heart wasn’t big enough for surgery. Medications to regulate his heart rate continued until he was 5 when doctors discovered new arrhythmias in Gannon’s heart. Doctors then had to wean Gannon off meds to now do the ablation. Once back on the meds doctors discovered they no longer worked. Doctors then had to look for another medication combination.

“While in the room with the doctor Gannon got a scared look on his face, his heart rate sped up and he went into ventricular tachydardia,” Amanda recalled. “They called a code blue and had the crash cart come in and were standing over Gannon waiting to shock him.” The IV meds worked to settle his heart rate down.

Bobby requested a transfer from New Mexico and the family moved to Aurora, Colorado for continued care at a children’s hospital. In 2012 doctors decided to place an Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) to regulate the arrythmias. “We got home and everything was going okay,” Amanda said of Gannon, who then was one month shy of his fifth birthday. “Dad and I were downstairs, Gannon was upstairs playing and we heard a blood curdling scream.” Gannon was crying at the top of the stairs. “My husband scooped him up and asked Gannon what was wrong when his whole body jumped and brought my husband to his knees.” Gannon’s ICD was discharging and they called an ambulance. “The ICD discharged 14 times in an hour,” Amanda said. “It did its job but the heart wasn’t cooperating with the defibrillator.”

Doctors in Denver consulted with experts at Mayo Clinic to discuss his case. Bobby retired from the Air Force after a 23-year career and the family moved to Park Rapids in November of last year to be closer to Mayo for Gannon’s continued care. Amanda grew up in Park Rapids and living here provides additional support from family and friends. Amanda said the ICD hasn’t discharged since 2012.

The meds continued to work up to about December of last year when doctors noticed Gannon’s heart function had decreased from 60 percent to 46 percent. They continued with further medical evaluations. While waiting to return to Mayo to see Gannon’s electrophysiologist his heart function dropped to 25 percent. Doctors tried new medications to figure out a solution. Weaning Gannon off one med and trying a different one was hard on his heart and in July of this year he went into cardiac arrest at the hospital. Doctors performed CPR and administered emergency medications to get his heart beating normally. An echocardiogram showed his heart function had dropped to 10 percent. At this point the decrease in the heart’s ability to pump moved Gannon the heart transplant list.

The Wilkins family waits as Gannon goes about his life as an 8-year-old boy. He’s a 3rd-grader at Century Elementary. He’s active with limitations, a funny kid who enjoys playing Lego’s, soccer and carpet hockey with older brother Kiergon. He also likes to make crafts and create artwork with his grandmother. Daily activity wears Gannon out but Amanda says it’s worth having her son home with the family and attending school in Park Rapids. “When he gets home from school he’s exhausted. It definitely takes everything out of him,” Amanda said. “We have no worries or reservations about sending him to school. We know they take excellent care of him.” He’s able to attend school because the medication pump he carries gives his heart the ability to function the best it can until the transplant.

“Transplant is the next step. This has to get done,” Amanda said. “I’ve got my phone and it could be any time we get the call.” She tries not to look too far ahead though, instead enjoying the daily routine with Gannon. “The anticipation was very high when he first came home in July. Now, physically and emotionally it can get exhausting,” Amanda said. “We’re in our routine at home. You just can’t think about it, you’d drive yourself crazy. It’s nice to be home. The calmness we have here is greatly appreciated.”

“There’s no way of really preparing for anything,” Bobby added. “We go day by day and see how things pan out.”

The transplant team is in place and ready when the donor heart becomes available. Once the call comes Gannon will fly to Mayo for the transplant surgery. The surgery is expected to take 4-6 hours with inpatient recovery about two weeks. Once discharged, Gannon will have to stay in Rochester for three months. 

My staff and I here at THE NINES were honored to meet Amanda this morning and give her an hour of fun and a new outfit that she so deserved!

If anyone is in the neighborhood there is going to be a benefit in Park Rapids this Saturday for Gannon from 4-7 at the American Legion. You can also follow Gannon’s Heart Journey on Facebook where Amanda posts updates about Gannon.



Nominate your hero!


For those of you new to my store ,THE NINES, and what we’re all about, we often like to do little pay it forwards to local people that inspire us. Sometimes we ask our customers to nominate people they know and sometimes we just happen to run into these amazing people around town.

These little pay it forwards all started on one of my days off when I first opened the store almost 3 years ago. I  was getting a coffee at McDonald’s (yes, there wasn’t a Caribou Coffee in Detroit Lakes back then) and the lady in the drive through was so unbelievably happy and insanely upbeat that it almost scared me at first and it also kind of took my breath away.  I had been getting my morning coffee at that McDonald’s location since I moved back to Minnesota several years ago and the customer service has always been good but nothing like this, that’s why I was so thrown off by her that morning.  I left the drive through so incredibly uplifted and inspired by her that I knew I needed to do something. I told my staff about the lady at McDonald’s and how I felt we needed to let her know how much she is appreciated. I decided if that same happy woman working the drive through was there the following morning I was going to have a $50 gift card ready for her and tell her thank you for brightening up this world with her contagious enthusiasm. She was there the next morning and she was so shocked and excited when I  gave her the gift card. She even visited me at the store after work and hugged me and thanked me.  Sometimes we forget how powerful our words are. Words change people’s lives, as they have mine (but that’s for another blog).

So that’s how this all started and then we decided to get our customers involved! One of my own personal heroes, my Mom, who has served in multiple wars as a flight nurse and has faced obstacles I can’t imagine facing. She’s one of those people that you would never even know has led such an incredible life because she is so quit and humble.   She’s the reason I wanted to reach out to all of you and hear about your personal heroes so we can all learn and be inspired and of course to treat that deserving woman to a new outfit!

Please send me an email and nominate your hero! She could be a friend or co-worker who’s just flat out amazing, someone you know who’s big into helping others or the community or maybe a relative who takes care of everyone but herself. We want to hear her story and give her an hour of pampering while my staff and I have her try on clothes like “Pretty Woman” until she finds the perfect outfit to take home for free! Then we are going to share her story and pictures on our Blog!

Please send your emails to and put “hero” in the subject line. Your hero must live somewhat close to Detroit Lakes or be willing to drive to get here for her mini makeover :)

All emails need to be sent in by the end of February. My staff and I will be picking one lucky winner the first week in March. We are  looking forward to reading about your heroes!