2020 Community Connections Profile - Whether it's suburban Atlanta or coming 'home' to Crookston, they are 'Team Brown'

Mike Christopherson
"Team Brown" consists of Bryan and Leah, and their kids, Cooper, McKayla, Libby, Miles, Ellenore and Abigail.

First off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your family, education, background/previous stops, career, etc.?

    I am the oldest daughter of Tom and Lenore Anderson. I grew up right here in Crookston and graduated from Central High School in 1996. I am a twin Sister to Marrie Anderson, who died after 5 days of life, with Terra Bingham 18 months younger and Tim Anderson as the adorable baby brother coming into the family at 6 years my younger. After High School I headed off to Ricks College (now BYU Idaho), a private church college located in the beautiful farmlands of Idaho.   

     While there I met and fell head over heels for my rockstar husband Bryan! We dated for 2 years and then got married the summer of 1998. A few years later we finished our degrees at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, with mine in Parks, Recreation & Tourism, and Bryan’s in Business Information Systems. We both love learning and hard work (which for me started right here in Crookston, working for Kim Samuelson at RBJ’s Restaurant) and since that time I have been trained and worked in floral arranging, event design, Zumba instruction, and not to mention head chef for our large family.

    And now... on with the children!

    Our road to having kids was not an easy one. We have miscarried 5 times, which was spread out in between the miracle children that we have the honor and privilege to raise. With one of our “miracles” being our wonderful adopted son Miles. God has been so good to us!!! Some days I fall to my knees and pray with thankfulness, and some days in just needing to be reminded that He has given me the gifts to be able to do it all!! Our kids have taught me sooo much and I know I wouldn’t and couldn’t be who I am without each and everyone of them!

    Our kiddos are:

    Cooper 18 yrs

    McKayla 16 yrs

    Libby 14 yrs

    Miles 11 yrs

    Ellenore 7 yrs

    Abigail 3 yrs

    And our 7th child, our Goldendoodle 6yr old puppy, Charlie Brown.

One of you is from California, the other grew up in Crookston. But you were gone for some time and you’ve moved back here from suburban Atlanta, Georgia. Tell me about adjusting from life there to life here.

    After Cooper was born, and with hopes of Bryan getting a Masters Degree, a great job and living closer to family, we headed back to MN in 2000, with the bulk of our time in Moorhead. Then, after a company acquisition, we made the life changing move to Georgia in 2010. At first it was too big, too crowded, way too hot, super far away from family, with no wide open spaces and too many trees! Thankfully over the years, while finally accepting the challenge to bloom where planted, we learned to love it all! The size, the people and even the endless colors and textures of dense green and steep rolling hills. It all became our favorite place to be!!! Y’all, Southern hospitality is real! And we couldn’t imagine ever leaving it’s warmth and beauty.

    Yet, following the guidance and direction of God is how we have always chosen to live. So as I found myself getting really sick about 2 years ago, the kind of sick that the doctors couldn’t explain or diagnose, we were impressed to move back to MN. And by the grace of God, and a miraculous two week trip to the Mayo Clinic, I was given a diagnoses and much hope for healing.

    So now here I am. Coming up on 10 months at being back home in Crookston. Having received more great medical treatment at Mayo, having simplified life, being blessed to be back into the loving arms of dear family and friends, and healed!

    God is good!!!

Six kids and a dog...how do you do it?

    We were both raised in good homes with loving families and we have tried to pattern our parenting after that. Children are a tremendous blessing and gift but of course it can be challenging. Strong families are made intentionally - so we try and preserve time together for quality conversations and experiences that allow us to grow. game or movie nights and lots of treats are also helpful - it’s important to create fun moments and memories! We learn what doesn’t work and keep adjusting, we try to laugh at things. We regroup and forgive each other a lot. We strive to never go to bed angry. Animals make kids happy - and Charlie is no exception.

    You’re currently renting a house in the Woods Addition while a home for your family is being built on that little slice of paradise outside of town on the same property as Leah’s parents, Tom and Lenore Anderson. It must be a little crazy now, but you also must be very excited about your pending move to the country...

    This is the first house we’ve built so we are beyond excited for it to be completed but have to say that living in a smaller house this past year came with some unexpected advantages - who would have thought that sharing rooms and tighter quarters would bring about tighter bonds and a closer family - but it really did.

You met at Brigham Young University in Idaho then you both graduated from the University of Utah. Your family are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Your son, Cooper, who was a student writer and photographer at the Times during his senior year in high school this year, says your religion is a big part of your lives. Can you expand on that a little bit?

    When you have personal experiences with God, religion and faith become natural components of everyday living. In our first year of marriage, Bryan was driving home, it was late at night, the roads were empty. He had been feeling discouraged about the challenges of figuring out college, career, and our finances. In that moment he felt prompted to turn off the radio and just give thanks to God for all the things he had been blessed with, then as he approached a green light he heard a clear voice say, “stop at the green light”, so he slowed down and began to stop when all of the sudden a car came speeding through the intersection having just ran the red light. A great sense of peace and humility came over Bryan as he realized that God was keeping him safe, and was very aware of our struggles. In simple terms religion for us is about becoming and helping others to become more like Jesus Christ. It’s a daily quest.

Adding to the previous question, during the holidays, Cooper had a photo assignment one evening but then contacted me and said he couldn’t make it because he’d forgotten that his family was going to be at the Care and Share that evening helping to prepare a meal for the residents and eating dinner there. In the scope of your answer to this question, can you comment on how important a family service project like that is to you as parents?

    It’s one thing to say to your child, “hey you need to have more empathy”, or “stop thinking about yourself”, or “be thankful for what you have”, but it’s an entirely different thing to give them opportunities to feel empathy, or think about someone else's needs. The funny thing about service is that it’s never convenient and usually begins with some complaining, and then miraculously ends with a positive experience and uplifted spirits. Kids feel better about themselves when they do good things.

Do either of you have any quirky skills or talents or habits that few people outside your inner-most circle know about...that you’re willing to share with our readers?

    Bryan about Leah -

    Leah is an amazing chef. Her gourmet belgian waffles are incredible and she did win the chocolate cake contest at the Polk county fair last year - she had a gluten-free, dairy free cake take first place and no one would have guessed it.

    Leah about Bryan -

    I met Bryan when he was on stage playing guitar and singing in an alt rock college band. Most people would have no idea. I think there’s still a case or two of albums from the 90’s if you want a copy. Ha ha.

Let’s try a you’re-stranded-on-a-deserted-island question: You have an amazing home theater and audio system and somehow have all of the electrical power you could ever need. But you can only play three songs and watch three movies. Which three songs and which three movies do you pick? Maybe the toughest part of this question for you two, which I’m also asking of my other profile subjects in this edition, is that you as a couple have to agree on your answers.

   Pretty much guaranteed that our kids would find us on said island, so we need movies to keep them entertained as well. Sing, Elf, and Bedtime stories.

   Songs are tougher but Bryan would have U2 and Leah would have Lower Lights or JJ Heller.

I’m not asking you to list your heroes, since that term is a bit too casually tossed around these days, but could you list three people you look up to and/or admire, and explain why? If you want to agree on three or each list your own three people, I’ll leave that up to you.

   1) Jesus Christ because we need a true and perfect example to follow while here on earth. There is just none better.

   2) Parents - We both have parents who taught us how to work hard and instilled a desire to serve others

Please describe your family using no more than 10 words.

   “Team Brown” is our mantra. Committed, resilient, positive, caring, and spiritual.