Hello and Welcome!
My name is Karen Kann and I'm the founder, owner, baker, and chocolatier of Whoever Wins Gets A Cookie LLC! I live in North Liberty, IA with my husband, Dennis. We enjoy watching the St. Louis Cardinals play on TV (go Yadi!), watching shows like The Office and Stranger Things, playing the game Rummikub, and just spending time together. I used to make jewelry quite a bit, and even won a design contest where the necklace I designed for my wedding was featured on the front cover of Bead Style magazine! I don't design much anymore, but may go back to it a little bit someday. I now work for myself with Whoever Wins Gets A Cookie LLC, and Dennis works as a special ed teacher in the Linn-Mar, IA school district.
If you're wondering why I'm posed with several instruments, it's because music has always been at the forefront of my life. I’ve been told I could sing with very strong pitch from a very young age. I started playing piano when I was 4 years old and took lessons up until the end of 8th grade. Somewhere along the line after that, I sat down at the piano again and just started improvising and songwriting, which ultimately led me to get a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Composition at The University of Northern Iowa. I loved singing in the choir, playing African drums in the West African Drum Ensemble, and hearing my compositions be performed at my end-of-semester recitals. During those years, I composed everything from string quartets and choir spirituals, to harp solos, chamber orchestra pieces, and “pop-style” songs. I also recorded two CDs. A few years after graduation, I went back to school at The University of Iowa to receive a music therapy equivalency. Once I was done with my studies, I passed the board exam and began working as a board certified music therapist (MT-BC). I spent 10 years working as a music therapist, 9 of them at Iowa City Hospice.
In December 2015, I suffered a vocal injury. For 3 months I didn’t even know if I’d ever have a reliable speaking voice again, let alone a dependable singing one. It was discovered (props to the Mayo Clinic!) that I have what’s called an “Essential Tremor of the Voice”. What this means is that every time I speak or sing, the involved muscles shake. Mine is typically a fast tremor and not usually noticeable by others. But after years of singing (especially forcefully for those who were hard of hearing), other muscles in my pharynx and larynx were trying to overcompensate for the tremor and everything was worn out.
After 3 months, and with diligent daily vocal care, I did return to work as a music therapist with the aid of a Chattervox (a headworn mic worn with a speaker wrapped around my waist - how did I work all those years without it??) but after another year it was clear to me that it was time to leave.
With some initial rest, I took an online chocolate class at Ecole Chocolat Professional School of Chocolate Arts, worked at a chocolate shop called Mt. Vernon Confections (now The Sweet Factory), and taught piano lessons at Music4Life in North Liberty. Other medical issues still plagued me, however, and after 6 months or so, I had to leave both jobs.
Subsequent doctor visits to the Mayo Clinic over the next few years revealed that Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome were affecting my general cognition and memory, my ability to handle everyday tasks, my energy levels, my joints, and causing a plethora of physical and emotional pain. Along with my husband and mother, we attended the Fibromyalgia Clinic at the Mayo Clinic (I highly recommend attending if you or a loved one has it), which educated us on the disease, what it does to the brain and how the brain then reacts. I even remember flinching when I saw the difference in fMRIs between someone who has it and someone who doesn’t. It’s pretty remarkable.
These new diagnoses, paired with depression and anxiety that existed prior, ultimately led me down the path of having to reinvent myself, as being a practicing music therapist and piano teacher was no longer a reasonable option. After some time to focus on what my new normal would look like and what that meant for me, Whoever Wins Gets A Cookie LLC was born. I have always loved to bake! Baking allows me to be creative, make people happy, and most importantly, I can work from my state-licensed home kitchen when I feel well, and rest when I don’t.
I still struggle daily with various issues, whether it’d be hoarseness, reflexive cough only remedied by inhaling nebulized lidocaine, back pain, memory problems, word find, or lethargy, I take pride in the fact that I still get up and try.
When you order baked sweets from me, know that you are helping to support a woman who, even through the worst days, still hangs on to her tenacity and spirit. And on a good day, you might even find me dancing a little while I bake. :-)