Life of Maine’s Executive Chef Matthew Ginn

Popular Portland, Maine Chef

Recognize this chef?  You should.

He’s Executive Chef Matthew Ginn of Portland, Maine.

He leads the kitchens at both EVO Kitchen + Bar and the Chebeague Island Inn (Open May-October).

Matthew competed on several 2018 Food Network “Chopped” episodes, leaving with a $10,000 prize and a 3rd place finale finish.

In 2015 he was Maine’s Lobster Chef of the Year.

Balance is Key

Matthew’s a married father of two young children. He works 50-70 hours a week. Time management is his greatest obstacle. Unmarried and childless, work was his life. Today, like many, he struggles with work and life balance. “Sometimes I feel like I can’t give either my job or my kids enough; therefore, I am not being as good of a chef or as good of a dad as I could be.” However, Chef Matthew keeps the challenge in perspective:  “A great dish is all about balance, and life is too.”

Tough Love Leads to Kitchen

Matthew abruptly quit college in 2005, coming home to parents who insisted rent start the next day. His prior work experiences all included food: strawberry picking, prep cooking and dishwashing at small restaurants and working in produce and meat rooms in neighborhood groceries. Naturally, he found a restaurant gig.

His calling was gradual. Initially, he was drawn to the energy and speed of a kitchen. It mirrored his past sports competitions, filled with adrenaline and excitement. He began enjoying going to work, “which I think is very rare.”

Four years later Matthew knew he was never leaving a kitchen. The precision, technique and refined plating of fine dining had him all in. “I couldn’t get enough”. Combining an artistic and creative outlet with the speed and physicality of sports hooked him.

New Chefs Listen Up

Matthew knows a ton about what it takes to become a successful chef. “Young chefs are always surprised by how hard it actually is.” Many think in a year or two they’ll be a sous chef.  “That is totally the wrong attitude. You have to put in the work and be ready to make sacrifices.”

  • Say goodbye to weekends, as you know them.
  • Your weekend will be Monday and Tuesday, if you get two days off in a row.
  •  Say goodbye to holidays. Matthew’s worked 6 Thanksgivings in a row and hasn’t had New Year’s Eve off in over a decade.
  • Find a new Valentine’s Day for you and your loved one.

New chefs are often surprised by the wage differences between the front to back of house staffs. “You have to know what you’re signing up for. You don’t line cook for the money. If you are in the restaurant business for the money, you should be a server.”

To be a good cook you need to be

  1. Patient
  2. Hardworking
  3. Humble, and understand
  4. A great dining experience includes good food, warm hospitality and great company. And above all else,

“Know that it’s not what is on the plate that matters, it’s what’s in the chairs.”

5. Find inspiration. Cooking inspiration comes and goes. Matthew looks at old cookbooks, his old recipe journals and even to fellow cooks. He thrives in collaborative kitchens where everyone is encouraged to participate in menu development. “Cooking inspiration is like the tide. Sometimes it’s in and sometimes it’s out. And, there’s not much rhyme or reason for it.”

Adventurous Eaters Wanted

Matthew doesn’t have a favorite food or dish. Instead, he likes what’s in season and when a product is at its best. Like asparagus in the summer. And, he loves the challenge of cooking food people think they don’t like.

Chickpea Fries

The most popular menu items at EVO are tuna and chickpea fries. They’re dishes influenced by the eastern Mediterranean and made with local Maine products in a modern, progressive way. They’re approachable.

“Fries make people more comfortable, even though they are not French Fries at all. They’re actually a technique called chickpea panisse. However, when panisse was on the menu, no one ordered it.” With a name change, it’s now one of the most popular items ordered at EVO.

Making Good Food is Objective. Taste is Subjective.

You don’t have to be a “foodie” to enjoy Matthew’s cooking. In fact, it’s a term and attitude he dislikes. With the growth and popularity of the restaurant and food scene in the past two decades, people’s interest in food and cooking has grown, and will continue to grow.

Matthew acknowledges that somewhere along the way non-hospitality professionals needed to express their knowledge and understanding of the cooking and restaurant world by dubbing themselves, “foodies.” Here is what he sees with everyone now being a “foodie.”

“Making good food is objective. Use the best ingredients and cook the product with proper technique. Taste is subjective.” Some might like bitter things more while others prefer sweets.

“But because you don’t like bitter doesn’t mean the properly cooked broccoli rabe is bad or the grapefruit sorbet isn’t good, because you don’t like bitter. Someone might not be familiar with every ingredient or technique used.

You have to be adventurous. And, I’ve met plenty of “foodies” who are not adventurous.”


Matthew wants to cook whatever is your favorite thing to eat. His competitive spirit makes him attempt to make it the best you’ve ever had. In addition, he wants to please you and cook what you want.

I’m in the hospitality business. Making sure guests are happy and leaving ever happier is the name of the game.

As famed chef, Thomas Keller says, “When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, then the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear: to make people happy, that is what cooking is all about.”

Last Meal
His wife is the person he’d choose to cook for if given only one more meal to prepare. “She and I have shared many wonderful meals together over the years and I think it has always been something very special to our relationship. There is no one I like cooking for more.”

“If I’m remembered for anything, I want to be remembered for being a good dad. A great chef would be a close second.” Matthew’s wishes are likely to come true.

Recently, his 3-year-old son told him, “thanks Dad, you’re a great chef.” Matthew’s heart rightfully melted as he watched his son enjoy his cooking.

Now that’s what cooking and being a chef is all about.

SHARE this post with anyone traveling to the coast of Maine, anyone working or aspiring to work in the hospitality industry, and all who need work/life balance perspective.

Written while roasting Brussels sprouts and simmering a pot of cauliflower soup in my kitchen. Recipes found under “Recipe” tab (side dishes + soups) on this website.

©Copyright. December 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images on this site. All are copyright protected and available for sale.
Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.
Want an advertorial written on your business?
Would you like to have your community promoted?
Contact her by completing this form.

What Do You Know about Designing Hats?

Springfield Artworks–Home to Hatmaker Margie Trembley

Photo Credit: Christian Baer

Step inside 183 Main Street in Springfield, Nebraska-a town of about 1600 residents, located six miles from I-80 (Exit 440) or about  10 miles south of Omaha’s Oakview Mall on 144th Street.

The energy in this historical 2500 square foot space, one of the oldest Peter Kiewit  built remaining buildings, may transport you back in time. A time when wearing hats was as commonplace as threading a needle.

Here these remain an everyday thing. The colors, vibrant. The products, exquisite. And, the owners, effervescent. One could spend hours viewing gallery items, taking a class or watching the owners create in their studio space. Every element is open and inviting.

Margie and Glenn Trembley, married 55 years, opened Springfield Artworks in 2009. Margie is a wearable art artist and couture milliner and Glenn is a glass artist. Together they co-owns the art gallery and support one another’s business operations, including loading and unloading of Margie’s hats for presentations or exhibits. Real teamwork. Real love.

Margie’s Hats Seen Worldwide

Photo Credit: Kathy Rae Photography

Margie’s designs can be seen in their Springfield, Nebraska gallery but also in other notable locations. Her work is recognized and appreciated worldwide. Go see her work at:


The Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA) at the Juried Adornment Exhibition in Kearney, Nebraska. Four of her hats are on display at the MONA. [Snap a photo of you by her exhibit. Share it . It may be posted here.]

Omaha Fashion Week 

Margie’s designs have been a runway favorite of this annual event with the encouragement and support of “The Style Guys”-Richard Carey and David Scott, her mentors.

New York City, New York

Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (Mid December 2018-January 31, 2019)

The Milliners Guild Organization from New York is invited to exhibit there for the first time and included one of Margie’s hats in the display. The hats are found in the Mezzanine Gallery store located inside the Museum on 5th Avenue. Go upstairs from the Met Store on the right side of the entry. [Share a photo of you by Margie’s hat display.  It may be posted here.]

One of her hats was also recently displayed with other hats from the NYC Milliners Guild Organization at a popular fabric store in the Garment District of New York City.


Her greatest achievement to date is having one of her designs win the 2017 “Viewer’s Choice Award” in the Social Media Competition. This was part of the annual Melbourne, Australia International Milliners Competition.

Horseracing + Margie’s Hats

Photo Credit: Heather and Jameson

Margie’s most frequent customer is a woman attending one of the major horse racing events.

Her hats have been worn at the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes and the Breeder’s Cup.

Breeders’ Cup Winner

In fact, Omaha’s Chaeli Souvannasoth was chosen by Carson Kressley and Bo Derek at the 2017 Breeders Cup in California as one of the top five fashion winners at the track.
And, at the 2018 Belmont, one of her hats adorned a California friend of jockey, Mike Smith, who rode Justify, the Triple Crown horse.

Press Recognition

In year’s past, the Churchill Down’s website used a photo of one of Margie’s hats atop a model’s head on their social media banner. And a Vogue photographer posted a photo of one of her hats worn at the Kentucky Derby on their website. A Louisville, Kentucky TV station featured her hats on a nightly newscast. Her hats have also appeared on NBC Sports as part of their horse racing coverage.

Work of Art + Labor of Love

Margie creates about 20 hats a year. She takes great pride in her Nebraska-designed headpieces. She’s delighted so many Nebraska women wear her hats to weddings, fundraisers and other special occasions.

How Do I Look in A Hat?

Many women think they don’t look good in hats. Margie says they have never had a professional try various styles on them. When she does, customers are surprised at how great they look. She collaborates with each customer on the design and prefers a 1-2-month lead time, depending on the design complexity, her workload and lag time of ordered materials. Others can be designed relatively quickly.

When custom designing a hat, Margie considers 4 factors:

  1. The Customer’s Height
  2. Hair Color
  3. Head and Body Shape, and
  4. The event where the hat will be worn

“What makes a hat look best is its tilt as well as the coordinating attire and hair style the client wears. It’s all about the overall look when wearing a hat.”

Latest Trends

Most of her pieces are one-of-a-kind. However, she’s currently working on one specific design in various colors due to popular demand. “It is a wide-brimmed felt hat that is perfect with jeans or any dress-up event.” It’s loved for its versatility. Many celebrities are seen wearing a similar style for evening wear or casual dress.

The most popular hat designs are black for the winter and white for the summer. Hats of these colors can be worn at multiple types of events. In addition, “by changing the embellishments, it increases the versatility and life of the hat.”

Hat Materials

Margie uses sinamay, crin, wool, felt, parasisal and covered buckram in her hat designs. “It is important that I use high quality materials.”

These are often found in countries with more milliners than in the USA and “some natural fibers are not grown here.”

Own a Hat Designed by Margie

What could be more impressive than owning a hat from a world-renowned hat designer?

Margie keeps a fairly large supply of ready-to-wear hats in the Springfield, Nebraska showroom. She also enjoys participating in trunk shows and ladies group presentations where hats can be purchased on site.

Contact her through her website to arrange a presentation.

Samples of her work are found there or on her Facebook and Instagram pages at @margietrembleychapeaux. She collaborates with many customers through email and Messenger.
[Share a photo of you wearing one of her designs. It may be posted here.]

Congratulations, Tammy!

CLOSED. Won by Tammy Hill of Georgia. 

Win a Margie Trembley Chapeaux  Design

Margie is giving away a headpiece (Lilly), designed using a metal base wrapped with ribbon and re-sculpted crin. It is similar to one featured in Omaha Fashion Week. Enter here to win. Contest runs through December 21, 2018. Must be 18 or older and open to USA citizens only. Contest not affiliated with Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Winner must submit image of her wearing the design and agree to photo being posted and shared. Immediate family members of Margie and Linda are not qualified entrants.

Margie’s Journey to Hat Designing

Flowers & Floral Design

Who knew a flower garden could impact a child’s career choice?
Margie’s mother grew flowers in her Arkansas garden, exposing her to the beauty of flowers and floral design. She was introduced to Ikebana-Japanese floral design, by a friend.

Together they attended numerous floral design events in Omaha and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She took classes at the Philadelphia flower show taught by Denmark designers. She also took lessons from an award-winning Japanese designer.

Garden Club

While living in a Chicago suburb for the 13 years she and Glenn were not Omaha residents, Margie’s Naperville, Illinois Garden Club greatly impacted her creative journey and eventual career as a hat maker. She joined an Ikebana group and experienced the creations of many local, talented Japanese designers.

Margie learned about the elements of design, color combinations and other qualities that create a desired design. Today she often purchases handmade and silk flowers as hat embellishments.

Influencers Guiding Her Path

Margie has always been interested in art and design and felted with wool before designing hats from natural fibers. She found the best instructors and became an engaged student.

A felting class she took from Margo Duke sparked an interest in hat making. “I learned to make a hat out of wool roving, using an embellishing machine.” Margo encouraged her to take professional millinery classes.

She did. Laura Hubka taught her about hat blocks and the materials and processes necessary for any successful hat maker. “The impact of learning an age-old skill was immense. And, Laura was a skilled and patient teacher.”

A creativity workshop led by Katie Passquini Masopust
-a quilt artist, instructor and author-awakened Margie’s creativity, an essential quality for any designer.

Margie has an eye for detail taught to her by famed fashion doll designer, Robert Tonner, whom she’s met on several occasions. She’s seen his exquisite designs at many of his doll conventions, both in the USA and in Paris, France. “His attention to detail sticks firmly in my memory both in his current work and in my collection.”

Duchess Meghan & Interns

The one thing in life Margie wants to be remembered for is being a creator of extraordinary hats. Of course, she’d be flattered to have one worn by the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan, and photographed with the Duke of Sussex, Harry, by her side.

In the meantime, she’s looking forward to partnering with regional university fashion/apparel, merchandising and design departments and to locating a student or two who’d like to intern with her business (design and business or marketing).

If interested, please contact Margie through her website or email her at

©Copyright. November 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images on this site. All are copyright protected and available for sale.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Want an advertorial written on your business? 

Would you like to have your community promoted? 
Contact her by completing the form above.

Aronia Berries: What Do They Do for You?

Are You Eating the Powerful Superfruit?

The 2020 Aronia Berry Festival has been cancelled due to Corona Virus. 

What is an Aronia Berry?

The simple answer is an aronia berry is a tart, dark purple superfruit loaded with antioxidants. It’s often called a black chokeberry in garden centers and confused with pitted chokecherries. It looks like a blend between a blueberry and a cherry.

Native to North America, these berries thrive in the Midwest.

Sawmill Hollow Family Farm near Missouri Valley, Iowa was the first aronia berry farm in North America.

The berries taste tart and rarely are eaten on their own. You can find the berries fresh, dried, frozen,  pureed or in supplements.

Look for aronia juice and concentrate in your local supermarket, usually in the health food section.

The berries are often added to blended drinks or water and used as ingredients in many foods including, salsa, stir-fry, vinaigrettes, baked goods, jams and more. Try topping off your salad, cereal and/or yogurt with some berries. [See recipe below.]

In some regions, you can also buy aronia berry wine and beer.

However you use them, know you are adding a health benefit to your diet. (Be sure to follow the recommended dose per day instructions.)

Health Benefits

Ongoing medical research studies in Eastern Europe (Bulgaria’s Medical University of Varna) and more recently in the USA claim the aronia berry is the most powerful superfood on earth.

 Berries Are Believed To

    • Improve blood circulation
    • Balance blood pressure
    • Protect liver and gastric functions
    • Assist in decreasing inflammation in the body
    • Fight against urinary tract infections
  • Be rich in fiber

Berries Have

  • 3Xs the antioxidants of acai berries
  • 3xs the anthocyanins of tart berries
  • 4xs the resveratrol of red wine, and
  • 24xs the proanthocyanins of elderberries

Meet Berry Farmer-Chase Nelson

Chase Nelson is part of Nelson Farms located in the Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota. Chase’s family added aronia bushes to their farm in 2015 when his dad recognized the health benefits of drinking aronia berry juice after a mini stroke and a COPD diagnosis.

Today Nelson Farms has 18,000 aronia berry bushes (20 dedicated acres) in addition to their 6000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat. They also care for and harvest an additional 28 acres of aronia berries for two neighboring farms.

Chase admits the most challenging aspect of growing aronia berries is the unknown. “Everything we’ve done has been trial and error. There isn’t much information available for best methods for bush spacing, weed control, etc. Right now, we weed everything by hand and we planted grass down each row to aid in weed control.”

Marketing is also challenging as Americans are just now becoming familiar with the aronia berries and their many health benefits.

Nelson Farms is a grower for the National Aronia Growers, LLC also known as NAG. All of their harvested berries go there to get destemmed and sterilized. Once NAG finds an outlet to sell the berries, Nelson Farms gets paid by NAG.
Click here to see a video of the 2017 harvest at Nelson’s Farm.

New Market Opportunities

Chase, a 2015 Concordia College (MN) graduate,  is working on potential wholesale markets like breweries and cideries. “Those that have already purchased the berries have created some delicious beverages.”

“Aronia is great for everyone, but I think because it’s so high in antioxidants it makes it great for a post workout supplement,” reflected Chase.

Those who’d get maximum benefit include

  • Runners
  • Physically active people
  • Elderly
  • Those with inflammation issues
  • Those with allergies

Nelson Farms also partners with Ax Water which uses their berries for their aronia infused water.

AX Water 

Nelson Farms sells berries to Ax Water Company-an aronia infused water company founded in Fargo, ND in 2017.

Ax Water is an all-natural, American made, health and wellness beverage. Made from all-natural ingredients, and containing only 30 calories, ax water packs all the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of the aronia berry into 16 ounces.

Educating Consumers 

Educating consumers about aronia berries is an ongoing effort. Chase sees it as helping the community take charge of their health.

Sawmill Hollow Family Farm near Missouri Valley, Iowa hosts an annual North American Aronia Berry Festival and Nelson Aronia Farm near Fargo, North Dakota will be hosting a similar event in the summer of 2019.

“We enjoy having interested people on the farm to learn more about the berry. What a better way to educate them and show them the berries, first-hand.”

Feel free to contact Nelson Aronia Farm for more details about the  Aronia Berry Festival events and/or more information on aronia berry bushes.

Courtney’s Aronia Berry Muffin Recipe 

Chase & wife, Courtney, an elementary education teacher.


  •  2 cups flour
  •  2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt (omit if butter is salted)
  • ,1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  •  1/2 cup milk
  • 1 handful of Aronia berries
  • 2-3 tsp granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the muffins


Preheat oven to 375. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners and set aside. In a bowl, place flour and baking powder. Mix together and set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter & sugar until light and fluffy – about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in the vanilla. With a spoon, stir in half of the flour, then half of the milk. Repeat, stirring with each addition until just bended. Do not over mix! Gently fold in the  berries.  Using a cookie scoop, place 2 scoops of batter into each muffin liner and sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake for 25 minutes. Check for doneness using a toothpick. Store in an air tight container or wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the freezer.

More Information

  1. National Aronia Growers. Telephone # is 712-540-0127
  2. Midwest Aronia Association in Council Bluffs, Iowa
  3. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in your state and county

SHARE this post with health-minded friends and family. ENTER to win the case of Ax Water. MAKE Courtney’s delicious Aronia Berry Muffin recipe. LET me know how you liked them.

©Copyright. October 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images on this site. All are copyright protected and available for sale.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.
Contact her by completing the form above.

The Life of Jewelry Designer Lucy Lowe

Meet Jewelry Designer, Lucy Lowe

Photo Credit: Meg Simpson

Lucy Lowe is a woman who welds and measures millimeters by eye. Commanding skills in a jewelry design studio.

Officially she’s a goldsmith and jewelry designer.

What inspires this former North Dakotan, now living and designing in Traverse City, Michigan, are the magic of transformational materials and the beauty of creating an end product vastly different from the state in which it began.

She first saw this exciting transformative process as a 6-year-old, watching glass blowers creating goblets while she and her family were visiting Haleiwa, Hawaii.

This memorable experience set her on a jewelry design journey.

 Art of Being an Artist

Lucy says the challenge of being an artist is daring to begin. “I’ve heard stories of would-be artists and designers who never gave themselves a chance to start.” They feared the unlikelihood of achieving wild success or widespread recognition. However, “those who do undertake the path of art or design rarely seem to leave it because the powerful drive to create has fully awoken in them.”

Being an artist and designer requires a great amount of conviction and flexibility. “One has to be prompt in seizing opportunity to succeed. Unduly holding back out of caution or fear, simply slows progress and breeds doubt.”

She openly admits this is still a work-in-progress for her. She keeps working on reaching out of her comfort zones to new growth experiences.

 Work & Life Values

The daughter of retired educators, Lucy is thoughtful in her approach to both business and life. Integrity, honesty and kindness lead her.

“In order to live with integrity, I must know what I believe and value on a core level.”

Honesty requires her to be open and vulnerable. It helps establish true and lasting connections with others.

“Kindness is the best gift I can practice for myself and others.”

Like many, Lucy has found herself being unkind to herself by undervaluing her worth. “I have worked demanding jobs for pay registering below the poverty line in businesses with high earnings. I thought that was okay because I assumed I mustn’t be worth a fair living wage.”

Today, she realizes the value she brings and understands she’s worthy of fair compensation.

Giving Brings Joy

Lucy’s greatest joy comes from helping others. This could be by creating a piece of jewelry commemorating a meaningful experience, listening to a  friend transform pain into growth, or spending time with her niece while she learns letters.

She enjoys being in outdoor, natural settings and drinking coffee. And, she volunteers for fun community events and donates to causes that align with her values.

Especially close to her heart is the non-profit Women Who Weld. This organization offers training to underemployed women to aid them in entering a relatively stable and in-demand profession.


Lucy is fortunate to have outstanding role models for every aspect of her life. Her paternal grandparents deeply influenced her life. They encouraged and enabled her to experience things they valued, like international travel, classical music and higher education.

She is inspired and moved by the words and message of the 14th Dalai Lama.

She loves the Danish silversmiths of the 1900s.

Her design role model is Art Smith. “His work was so playful, yet considered. It’s a beautiful characterful minimalism. It endlessly inspires me.”

Work/Life Balance

Lucy is a work/life balance advocate.

“We are somewhat programmed for a certain kind of success in this culture, which can mean high pay, recognition, and progressive promotions.” This may be the right path for some, but not all.

“I’ve noticed many instances of young professionals stepping away from this idea of success because they see the detrimental impact it has on their lives. Work/life balance is a personal formula that people can only determine for themselves.”


Helping balance Lucy’s life is her husband of seven years, Cory, a physical therapist. Cory is a creative-minded woodworker. He helps build and design displays and make studio modifications.

Lucy trusts him to offer honest, clear-sighted and logical feedback-each critically important as she grows more connected to the Traverse City community and explores greater opportunity.

Days Ahead

Currently, Lucy’s designing a really functional studio. She’s going to keep taking brave design and business leaps to set her heart racing. She’s learning to trust the process along the way.

Join her.

Visit a gallery displaying her work. Purchase a piece online. Buy direct from an artist, like Lucy.

Purchase Lucy’s Designs 

  • Higher Art Gallery in Traverse City, MI Link 
  • Gold and Jaye Jewelry in Traverse City, MI
  • Purloin Studio Purloin Studio in Menomonee Falls, WI.
  • Pieces can also be purchased at
  • Instagram @lucylowejewelry. Instagram link.

SHARE this post.

Let’s spread the word about Lucy’s talent and art pieces available for purchase.

©Copyright. July 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form .

Did You Land on Omaha’s 2017 Naughty & Nice List?

Annual List Revealed

3rd Annual Naughty and Nice List-With a Twist

As a reader and follower you know each December I release a list of business professionals or organizations that have been great, or not so great, to work with throughout the year.

I also highlight significant events from the year and hold myself accountable by posting “things” I’d like to achieve in the next year.

2017 will be remembered for all of the special activities and occasions that happened. Reflecting back on the year, it seems unreal that all of this happened in just one trip around the sun.

2017 Highlights

• Alex, our son, landed his first post-college career position in Omaha.
• He’s recently got engaged to marry in 2018.
• Brittany, his fiancée, also graduated from college and landed her first teaching assignment with the Omaha Public School system.
• We celebrated Alex’s December 2016 college graduation with a 3-generation trip to Las Vegas in the fall of 2017.
• Ken, my husband, and I honored our 25th wedding anniversary by returning to Antigua-where we honeymooned.
• We attended both the Iowa and Nebraska State Fairs. Everyone should. Great fun and educational.
• Traveled to Hawaii for Ken’s work reward trip. He earned it. Super proud!

Making the 2017 Nice List

Greenberg’s Jewelers
No one in our household claims to know much about jewelry. Therefore, we relied on the professional advice and guidance of Mara Palmquist at Westroads Mall in Omaha for both a 25-year anniversary band and a bridal set. The selection was great. The education and service-top notch.

Crum Cakes Bakery
Elana bakes and decorates to perfection. We ordered a two-tiered cake, one with a peanut butter filling, and iced sugar cookies. Both were delicious and almost too pretty to eat. She takes great pride in both the taste and appearance of her baked goods. We met Elana at the Florence Mill Farmer’s Market. We believe in supporting small business. Maybe you do too.

Jewish Community Center

Wellness and painless mobility were 2017 goals achieved at Omaha’s JCC. The culture of fitness and community attracted me and keep me going back. I’m not Jewish and I’m not treated any differently because of it. All are warmly welcomed in the well-maintained facility with enough activity variety to please all. Special shout outs to:
Tracy Modra, Director of Membership, who patiently worked with me and finally got me there. (All sales people could learn a lot from her.)
Matt Thomas-the Physical Therapist on location. Excellent knowledge. Great communicator.
Breann Lundblad, Fitness Center Director, for letting me box with her. I know she could take me down with one punch but she never lets her superiority show.
The aquatics staff for keeping the pool clean and for ensuring my safety while exercising in the 12’ water. For the first time in years, I have not had an ear infection from pool water. Thank you for keeping your pool area and water clean.

 Travel Faire

This full-service, Omaha-owned and operated travel organization has been in business since 1970. Donna Ahrendsen, Leisure Travel Consultant, helped Ken and I plan a perfect anniversary trip to Antigua. She even ensured both our anniversary and Ken’s birthday were recognized while there. Knowing you have an experienced consultant and a recognized agency beside you while traveling provides the peace of mind every traveler deserves.

 Lauritzen Gardens

I have no good explanation as to why it took us 2.5 years to finally visit this Omaha attraction. Everything about it mirrors our interests. We were simply overtaken by the vast beauty of the natural settings and displays and will return often. It is a sanctuary filled with memorable fragrant scents and sights.

 Jarrod McCartney 

Jarrod is the Heritage Tourism Development Director in Red Cloud, Nebraska. Red Cloud is known as America’s Most Famous Small Town. It’s the home of author, Willa Cather, and more. We visited in summer 2017. It is a thriving community with enviable business support and involvement.

Jarrod organized local businesses and together we conducted a November giveaway to Red Cloud. If you haven’t been to Red Cloud, click the link above and plan a trip.

Naughty List with a Twist

In year’s past, I’ve listed businesses that needed improvement, exclusively in customer service. This year, the twist is, I’m listing behaviors that need improvement. I’m guilty of some of these too. I’ll keep working to do better.


It’s bothersome to see greed, especially as individuals rise in organizations. There seems to be amnesia about who’s helped them achieve their goals and earn their bonuses. When little, to none, is given back, it makes those in authority appear greedy and unappreciative and completely out of touch with the process of achievement. It lessens authority and breeds resentment. Create a winning team with gratitude.


Honoring one’s word and following through on commitments are signs of character. Not doing so disrespects the person and/or the cause/event you committed to. It lessens you as a person. It makes you untrustworthy. If you’ve committed, follow through, unless there is a legitimate reason not to. And, if so, let the organization or person you’ve committed to know as soon as possible. Many times, your lack of follow-through costs them money. And, leaders, never create incentives and then not deliver them. You’re seen as a liar, or worse yet, someone who gained from the hard work of others but didn’t deliver on the promised incentive.


How much time do you take to know someone versus critiquing someone? Do you notice their smile or their clothing first? Do you mingle with the group or do you stand aside and critique? Everyone has a story. Get to know it. Clothing, hair, shoes, etc.-they’re all replaceable. A human story is not.


Would your neighbors and/or co-workers call you a good person? Do you respect them and their personal property or are you habitually trespassing? How do you act?  Do you act like your rights and needs trump everyone else’s? Are you neighborly, offering help? Are you considerate? If not, maybe these could be 2018 goals.


Gratitude is an action verb. It’s a way of life. It takes discipline and practice. It’s more than acknowledging there are starving children in the world while you’re eating dinner. It’s a philosophy. Alex and Brittany received an engagement gift to help practice gratitude. It contained slips of paper and a container. Each day one writes down what he’s grateful for. A definite must-do in 2018.

2018 Goals I’m Willing to Share

Sharing makes one accountable, right?

Here are a few things I’m working toward achieving in 2018.

  • Commitment to fitness and wellness through diet and exercise.
    • 1 night a month out with friends-it’s too easy to depend on social media and texts. Looking someone in the eye still matters.
    • Tipping bathroom attendants at public events. Most do this job with a great attitude. This should be rewarded. Tipping them makes both parties feel good. Try it.
    • Attending my son’s wedding as a guest and living in the moment. (I produced events for decades. Being a guest is new to me.)

Jotting a gratitude note and placing it in a container daily. Photo is gratitude tin as of March 1, 2018. It’s true. One’s perspective does change when stopping to acknowledge what she is grateful for daily.

  • Reading all notes at month’s end.
  • Finishing a book I’m writing. Stay tuned!

So, there you have it. The 2017 List.

The organizations, individuals and businesses that deserve top billing in 2017 and the behaviors that need improvement. 2017 has been a memorable year for all the right reasons. I’m looking forward to 2018. And, I hope you are too.

If you haven’t already, find some quiet time. Reflect on highlights and grateful occurrences in 2017. Make a list. Pull the list out often. Practice gratitude.

How can your life be enhanced in 2018? Set some goals. Strive for them. List them.

It is only through action that goals become reality.

Thank you for following along. If you have a story you’d like to share, contact me. Know an interesting person I should interview, tell me.  See ways my website can be improved, do share.

And, many thanks to all who’ve shared their stories with me in 2017 so I could share them with each of you. I trust you’ve learned from them or been inspired by their words.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

Outdoorsman Living Life to the Fullest

Outdoorsman Photographer Advocate

Sam at WorkSam Soholt, 30, has lived out of duffle bags and totes since early 2014. He travels 95% of the year working as a professional photographer and videographer in the hunting and outdoor industry. His images allow clients to tell their story visually.

The only material things Sam really needs are a camera and a toothbrush- “one to make a living and the other so clients will want to talk to me.”

For a guy with no formal photography training, Sam has landed world-wide assignments and magazine covers through hard work and networking. He’s traveled across New Zealand, Patagonia, British Columbia, Central Montana, South Dakota and other places taking images and creating lifetime memories. “Every photo puts me back into a specific moment. It’s a great way to keep memories and emotions fresh.”

Becoming an Outdoorsman

A native of Sioux Falls, South Dakota and current Montana resident, Sam spent the majority of his time in nature being adventurous. He grew up hunting with father and brother. “There was almost never a question I’d end up doing something in the hunting industry.”

Combining his two passions-hunting and photography-while making a living is the purest form of cultivating a life for himself.

Sam’s is well-educated and disciplined. He earned both bachelors and master’s degrees in business from North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND. And, he’s a high school and collegiate award-winning track and field athlete.

He’s willing to take career risks and enter new areas with a “trial by fire” approach.

Right Place. Right Time.

Sam learned the basics as a graduate school intern with an Iowa hunting show. He’s watched YouTube videos and dissected photographic images trying to understand how the photographer shot the photo.

He’s met the right people at the right time. His first big break in the industry was shooting for Coast Guard Alaska in Kodiak. “I had $56 to my name when I hopped on the plane. But, I’ve had the support and encouragement to take risks.” He also had the confidence to know he could get a “regular job” if things didn’t work out.

They do work out though. Sam met the editor of Wildfowl Magazine in an Idaho bear camp. He happened to show him a few photos of duck hunting from the previous fall. That meeting landed him a magazine cover shot-a huge deal for photographers.

Not all Bliss Being Outdoorsman

Sam fights the misperception that “life is one big dream” for him. He admits to living an exciting and adventurous lifestyle. However, there are times where he doesn’t care for the more mundane tasks. “I spend more time behind a computer and on the phone than in the field.” This is a job. It’s work.

Outdoorsman with a Cause

For the next year Sam’s living in a bus-one he bought and retrofitted for a cause. It’s his hunting cabin and means to travel to public lands where he spends time hunting, fishing and recreating while capturing and sharing what those lands have to offer.

He’s partnered with like-minded organizations Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA), Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) and Outdoor Life to capture people’s attention and gain maximum exposure for his cause.

He’s been a bit surprised, however, with how long it takes while driving a bus from Point A to Point B. Yet, he’s committed to the year’s work.

Save Public Land

He’s out to educate citizens on the need to protect public lands. This land is owned by the people of the USA but managed at a state or federal level. “These lands are a free way to connect to nature and spend time in wild places.” Also, losing public lands would be losing his way of life. “I find adventure and relaxation in the wild. I don’t have to ask permission to spend time on those lands.”

Sam says he’s received overwhelming positive support for “what I am up to. People from all over the country and world have reached out in support.” His strongest supporters are sportsmen and women ages 30-60. “This group has done so much to protect wildlife and hunting heritage in the country. It’d be hard to see any of this work being thrown to the wayside.”

Predictably, the loudest opposition stems from resource extraction companies like oil, gas and electric. “These people would like to be the ones to buy up all this land and increase the amount of resources they pull from it.”

Call to Action

If you’re interested in supporting his mission, you can do so by:

  • Following along on Instagram @samsoholt
  • Purchasing a t-shirt. $5 from every sales goes to Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
  • Joining a conservation group like BHA, RMEF, Mule Deer Foundation, etc.


Sam Soholt is chasing his dreams and ambitions. He’s comfortable taking risks on things that may or may not work out. And he’s living up to the quote, “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to live a life.”


SHARE Sam’s story. Tell me yours below.

©Copyright. October 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.












Midwestern Values Led Tomlinson Straight to the Top

Sales Executive Reflects on 36 Year Career

Mike Tomlinson became a member of Aflac’s prestigious Hall of Fame in December 2015. This honor recognizes individuals who’ve had a significant career impact on Aflac’s 62-year existence. Currently, Mike is the youngest member admitted into this elite group of 17.

How did a Detroit Lakes, Minnesota  native and 28-year resident of Watertown, South Dakota reach this level in a Fortune 500 corporation that regularly lands on the annual 100 Best Companies to Work for list?

It wasn’t luck or connections. It was hard work, dedication and Midwestern values.

Father’s Influence

Mac on violin with Amazing Rhythm Aces in MN in 1920’s.

Mike’s father Mac (Marion) had the biggest impact on his life. “He was my business role model. He instilled a strong work ethic in me and extremely optimistic attitude toward business opportunity in America.” Mac founded two successful businesses and purchased another. His father, who was 72-years-old when Mike was born, retired from the day-to-day management of Tomlinson Lumber in Callaway, MN in his late 70’s. “One of the hallmarks of the lumber company’s success was treating the 50+ employees so well that they stayed long-term and performed very well,” recalled Mike. “Dad also became a Christian later in life and this had a profound impact on the business values he instilled in us.”

In retirement Mac developed a large tract of lake property that he owned in Detroit Lakes MN. Mike and his brothers and sisters worked shoulder-to-shoulder with their dad to improve and sell these lake lots, all the while learning valuable life and business lessons.

Values Guiding His Life

Mike is led by three values that guide his everyday life. They are:

  1. Tell the Truth. As his dad used to say, “Tell the truth and you only have to remember one story.”
  2. Under Promise and Over Deliver. Always meet or exceed expectations. Be careful not to overcommit.
  3. Listen More Than Talk. Ask good questions and really listen. “I was really impacted by Stephen Covey’s advice in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to ‘Seek first to understand and then to be understood’.”

Family + Music Man

Mike’s greatest joy comes from having a great family. He and wife, Michelle, have been married 40 years. They are the proud parents of three sons-Jeremy, Jesse and Jackson-and grandparents of five girls and eight boys. An ideal day for Mike, now retired from his 36 year Aflac career, is spent traveling and experiencing God’s creations and relaxing with his family.

Mike also enjoys music as a guitar player. He’s been a church worship leader for more than 25 years and played in the successful country rock band, Sagebrush, in the 1970’s. This northwest Minnesota band opened for and toured with national acts such as Black Oak Arkansas, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, Jerry Jeff Walker, The Bellamy Brothers, Alabama, and others.

His all-time favorite song to perform is Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream”. Why? Because, of course, “it epitomizes having a positive attitude and pursuing your dreams.”

Cancer Experience Begins Insurance Career

Mike’s mother Ozella passed away from a nine-year battle with cancer just three months prior to his first insurance agent interview. It was the cancer policy that drew him to a long Aflac career. “Even though my parents had excellent health insurance, I could see a clear need for a cancer policy to provide additional cash benefits to cover the multitude of non-medical (travel, lodging, meals, loss of income, etc.) expenses caused by this disease.”

As a 22-year-old, Mike was astute enough to recognize a company with great opportunity for growth and advancement, if he delivered results. And, once aboard, he applauded Aflac’s commitment to fairly and quickly paying claims and thrived in the pay and promote for performance culture. “I never really considered taking on or switching to any other companies or careers.”

Rising Through Aflac Ranks

Mike’s work ethic and business savvy led him to rise quickly in Aflac. He was a District Sales Coordinator (DSC) for five years before becoming a Regional Sales Coordinator (RSC) for three. It was during this time that his favorite Aflac memory happened. His NW Minnesota Regional Team broke the Aflac all-time production record (Wall of Fame) by coordinating a complex take-over of a block of Medicare supplement business in MN. This achievement required extensive collaboration and was one of his most challenging and gratifying leadership efforts in his 36 year career.

For nearly 20 years Mike was the North and South Dakota State Sales Coordinator (SSC) before becoming the Vice-President of the Central Territory (8 states in the upper Midwest)-a position he had for six years.

He then held several senior leadership positions at corporate before his retirement, including Senior Vice President and Director of U.S. Sales. Here he oversaw 70,000 U.S. associates and coordinators (independent contractors) and a team of 225 sales employees while managing a $125 million budget and a $1.5 billion annual sales quota. Predictably, sales positively turned 10.2 percent during his tenure.

During 35 years of leadership and management Mike’s teams achieved quota 27 years, or 77 percent of the time. When he retired, U.S. President, Teresa White said, “Mike has the admiration and respect of all of us. He is an outstanding leader, not only achieving 36 years of record-breaking sales but more importantly serving as a true role model of excellence in ethics, values and performance.” Chairman and CEO Dan Amos added, “Mike is a top performer and I’ve never known a finer person or better role model. His has been an impressive and motivational journey. Along the way, he has had a direct and positive impact on thousands of lives, including mine.”

 8 Life Lessons from Leading & Managing

For nearly four decades Mike had led and managed people and organizations. He shares these observations and lessons learned during this time.

  1. The #1-character trait that leads to professional success is persistence. It trumps talent, education and intelligence, though these are important too.
  2. Most people get sidetracked by working in their business instead of on their business to reach success. It’s good to step back and enlist the perspective and help of others and assess one’s business.
  3. Once an employee has been taught his job, stand back and let him learn from hands-on effort and results. Edge them out of the nest to fly earlier on their own.
  4. Think big. Don’t let your past limit your future. And, don’t sweat the small stuff. Most of it is small stuff.
  5. Invest heavily (time and money) in developing your people. Care enough about them to be honest and candid. Identify simple metrics (skills or activity) for improvement and monitor and discuss regularly. Praise progress as people respond much better to positive feedback than negative.
  6. Count your blessings regularly and work and live your life with passion. If you can’t enjoy the majority of your work, find something else to do.
  7. Integrity is important. If someone cheats on small things like golf or a sales number, they likely will cheat on bigger things. When I find people I can give a blank check to, I will give them the utmost responsibility.
  8. Work/Life balance is important. I suffered a serious heart attack at age 46 and now work hard to balance work with an appropriate amount of exercise, sleep and relaxation. The older I’ve gotten the more important my relationship with Christ has become. It’s easier to see through a mature lens that this is the ultimate “long-term planning.”

The Near Future

Mike considers himself to be exceptionally good at developing and executing strategy and staying calm and rational in tense situations. No one who’s worked with him would argue against that self-assessment.

Now, after almost two years of retirement and travel, he plans to continue to use his years of winning business skills as a consultant in the near future.

And, how he’d like to eventually be remembered, well that’s easy: “Being a loving husband, father and grandfather.”



Share with others who’ve had the pleasure of working with and learning from Mike.

©Copyright. March 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

What can I write for you? Contact me.








12 Businesses Make 2016 Naughty and Nice List

Annual List Revealed

As a reader and follower you know each December I release a list of business professionals or organizations that have been great, or not so great, to work with throughout the year. Thankfully in 2016 my family didn’t relocate, buy and furnish a house, or experience any major medical issues like we did in 2015. According to Ken, my husband, 2016 was boring. Adding, “boring is good.”

What we did do in 2016 was shore up our financial life. Moving to another state meant we needed to get our wills and estate in order with Nebraska rules. A local, experienced attorney guided us.  Our annual financial checkup was done via video conference, saving us time and travel.  We also replaced a vehicle in 2016.

Despite my widened and improved technology skills, I again relied on experts in 2016 to make my professional life easier. Instead of time-consuming problem-solving, I called experts. Boom! Fixed! Back to work! As a small business owner, I’m cautious about spending funds. However, when an expert can solve the problem in minutes, that’s money well spent.

Ken and I hosted two special occasion catered events in 2016. As strong supporters of small business, we hired two local companies to feed our guests. We’d use each again, without question. We recommend both to you.

Now that we are settled into our new hometown, we sought out local entertainment. We found it at the Omaha Community Playhouse. The productions and talent are outstanding. Go see a play or two. You will be entertained.

Finally, someone found me this year. My enjoyment of nature and photography was rewarded by partnering with San Francisco, California based company Vida. Together we use my photography to produce fashion art. A store link is found under “Linda’s Store” and “Meet Linda” on this website. I am deeply touched and thankful for each of you who purchased a piece of my art to wear or accent your home. One can never go wrong supporting artists, or a small business.

Making the 2016 Nice List

  1. Ashly Voss Beauty First Salon & Store– Omaha Nebraska This young professional, working in a local business, made my list two years in a row. She is not only a talented stylist but also an emerging business professional. She represents all that a professional should be-customer oriented, skilled in her trade, dedicated, and curious about her industry. Looking for a new style? Visit Ashly. Tell her Ken and I sent you. You will not be disappointed with her talent or her customer service skills.  Congratulations Ashly! You are the first to land on my annual nice list twice.
  2. Clipper Vacations headquartered in Seattle, Washington. Our family chose the Pacific Northwest for a vacation in 2016. Though we consider ourselves fairly expert in travel planning, we relied on Clipper Vacations. What a time and money saver. There is a reason travel agencies are necessary. Professional agents make travel smoother and less worrisome. If you’re heading to that region, contact them. You can see trip planning details under the “Travel” tab on this website. We also visited Victoria and Vancouver, Canada.
  3. Randy FinchVern Eide Honda–Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Vehicle shopping has always been at the top of my least favorite things to do. However, Randy is changing that. Several years ago we bought a vehicle from him. We did again this year. Only this time the purchase was made over the telephone. Then he drove it to Omaha for us.  Want a hassle-free car buying experience from a no-nonsense salesperson? Contact Randy.
  4. Mangia Italiana--Omaha, Nebraska They advertise in our church bulletin. We support businesses that do that. We have dined in and liked their food and service so well that we had them deliver food for one of our special occasion events this year. A drive by this restaurant will entice you inside. The smell of garlic and baked Italian dishes is ever so delicious. Try Mangia. Go hungry! Leave happier!
  5. Omaha Community Playhouse–Omaha, Nebraska What a great find! Here’s another example of supporting local. The nation’s largest community theatre produces plays and musicals to entertain all. There’s not a bad seat in the house and the talent is top-notch. Do yourself a favor. Get tickets in 2017! We will. Watch for my blog posts reviewing select productions and occasional ticket giveaways.
  6. Kyle Bottorff–Bottorff Tax & Accounting–Vermillion, South Dakota. Have you ever tried finding student housing for 5 months in a university town? It’s near impossible. Kyle stepped forward and rented our son, Alex, a room in his home. As his parents, we are grateful for this gesture. As small business supporters, we encourage anyone needing accounting services to contact Kyle.
  7. Richard A. Drews, Attorney at Law–Omaha, Nebraska Lawyers get a bad rap. Richard (Rick) shouldn’t. We found his ad in our St. James Church bulletin and sought his advice on updating our wills, etc. It was an efficient, painless process. Some put this off because of cost and/or because they don’t want to think of death. Planning ahead and getting one’s affairs in order are gifts for those one leaves behind. Rick is professional, knowledgeable and just a darn good guy. Contact him for a consultation. Be ready to talk baseball. He’s a fan!
  8. Darwyn Sprik–Sprik Financial Group–Sioux Falls, South Dakota You don’t need a treasure trove of cash to work with a financial expert. If you’re interested in making your money work for you, contact Darwyn. He’s Midwestern practical and works with clients in numerous states. Most importantly, he listens. We’re sure thankful we partnered with him years ago.
  9. Jeremy Johnson–TechToGo–Omaha, Nebraska Area I purchased a new computer and dreaded transferring everything from one to the other. To save time and not lose anything, I hired Jeremy. While in my office, he also schooled me on technology shortcuts to  make my workday more productive. When I’ve run into technology roadblocks that take too long for me to solve, I contact him. He fixes them remote. Time is money. My money is always well spent with Jeremy.
  10. Vida--San Francisco, California My photography is featured on clothing, tote bags, accent pillows and more. Remember, you are buying a piece of art and supporting a small business when you purchase from my collection. I love sharing my work with you. Find it on this website under “Linda’s Store” and “Meet Linda”. Or,
  11. Pleasure Your Palate Catering–Omaha, Nebraska Ted and his team provide outstanding event and menu planning, great tasting food and polished customer service. We hired them for an April brunch. Today, guests are still raving about their food quality and service. Call Ted when you need to cater an event that will have guests raving months later.
  12. Phone Surgeons Sadly, within days of purchasing a phone after the new year, I drowned it. A TV ad introduced me to Phone Surgeons. 12 months later I’m still using my revived phone, saving me hundreds of dollars. I cannot say enough good about Phone Surgeons. I’m hoping not to use them in 2017. I plan to be more cautious. You should, if your phone needs repair.

Naughty List

My family and I reviewed the year in detail. Other than a horrible experience at one Omaha Taco Bell drive-thru, we cannot identify any others in 2016. [It is my practice to inform any business on the naughty list. I did speak to the store manager after the incident.] Taco Bell is not a bad company. This store had one employee who wasn’t meant to work there.

Our home sustained significant hail damage while we were on vacation in the Pacific Northwest. Each home repair supplier and vendor was outstanding to work with, as was our insurance company.

Perhaps we’ve gotten better at choosing businesses to work with. It could be businesses are doing a better job of delivering great products and services. Maybe we’ve chilled out and expect less. I don’t think so. Whatever the reason, we are grateful for each of these favorable interactions in 2016. And, we look forward to continuing our partnership with each person and business. Afterall,  at the most basic level, business is about establishing trusting, long-term relationships.

Which business professional or organization made your 2016 better?

Tell them! Write them a testimonial. Send them a note. Deliver them a tray of homemade treats. Get to know the people in the business. It makes doing business all that more meaningful.

Share this with others as a testimonial of outstanding businesses and business professionals.

©Copyright. December 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.


Website Turns 1: Top 10 + New Addition

card Linda Leier Thomason’s website is celebrating 1 year in business on the Internet.

Thank you for following, reading, sharing, commenting, letting me tell your stories, and allowing me do what I love each and every day.

Some of you I’ve known since childhood, others I met along the way, and some I only know online. However you came into my life, know you’ve enriched mine with your presence.

I’m grateful you’re here.

Wisconsin Sept 2015 inc Haley wedding 037I named my website and blog,Hauling Rocks from Prairie to Shore™for a very specific reason. I was reared on a North Dakota (ND) farm where hauling rocks improved crop efficiency. As the second oldest child in a family of 11, I was a rock hauler. I cleared land. Therefore, I use rocks as a symbol for barriers in life-things that challenge us and things we need to overcome to reach our full potential. I’ve also been fortunate enough to live on the prairie and on the shore. Eight states later, I’m back in the Midwest.

I have never believed I cannot achieve what I set out to do. I’ve always had the mindset that “I can!” I envision what I want, and go for it. That, quite simply, is my lifelong mantra. If I’m stuck in life, I own it and change it. Some see me as a restless gypsy. I see myself as a curious adventurer.

This whole website/blog thing has been a growth-filled adventure.

Here are my TOP 10 highlights of the past year:

Thank you for sharing this year with me.

  1. One month after getting on the Internet and creating a website and blog with no formal training, my family relocated to Omaha, NE where we lived in a hotel for 7 weeks while house searching. I created categories, posted articles and pretended I knew what I was doing. The technical aspects of this venture were stretching me.
  2. While living in the hotel and looking for a house, I enrolled in an on-line course to learn more about writing for the Internet. It required discipline to complete homework and pass tests. It’d been a long time since I was a student; I learned a whole lot.
  3. Bonnie Schantz was my first guest contributor. She wrote about her life as a mother and grandmother on their North Dakota farm. Readers responded favorably and since then many others have contributed their stories, with much acclaim.
  4. I found a website consultant 12 time zones away to reduce some of the many technical challenges I faced with a growing website.
  5. Courtney was my 1st niece to marry. Returning from Fargo ND, I published my 1st undercover piece. It earned nearly 500 Facebook shares. I understood readers like objective travel posts. I also became active on Twitter.
  6. Readers wanted to purchase my photographs; thus, Alex and his girlfriend, Brittany, created “Linda’s Store” allowing all to use my photography on a whole selection of products. Check it out on the above link.
  7. The Kearney, Nebraska Visitors Bureau and I cooperated on an undercover visit to their outstanding community. To date, it’s the most widely read page on my site. Thank you Kearney!
  8.  Alan Jackson and the Sioux City, IA Convention & Visitor’s Bureau deemed my website worthy of donating two concert tickets for me to give away to readers & followers. Thank you Alan Jackson & Sioux City!
  9. I am consistently humbled with the stories readers are willing to share and allow me to publish. There is a piece of me in each of these postings. Some days I literally weep at my desk while writing. I struggle to honor their journeys and to inform, educate and inspire all.
  10. welcome riccoWorking as a freelance writer is a tad lonely. I sit at my desk communicating online with people all day, but rarely in person. I visited a fabulous Marshall, Minnesota antique store when attending the 1st nephew’s wedding on April 2, 2016. I bought this monkey, since named, Rico. All joked he’s my new office companion. He is! Succeeding as a freelance writer and blogger takes not only discipline but also a sense of humor. I’m thankful I have that, and Rico-my mascot?

Talk to me.

Here’s your chance to tell me what you’ve liked & how to improve.

  •  What stories had the greatest impact on you?
  • What recipes have you tried?
  • What category of stories would you like to see more of?
  • Are you following my Facebook blogger page? It’s separate from my personal page. The blogger page is where I post photos and other life happenings. Have you subscribed to the website by leaving your email on the homepage? Occasionally, I’ll share “secrets,” but only with email subscribers.
  • I also post on Instagram and Twitter.

Let’s have another growth-filled 365 days. Let’s haul rocks together.

Leave your comments below, or feel free to message me on Facebook or send me an email.

I’ll respond.

 © Copyright. April 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.



Farm Girl to Fortune 200 Leader

cyndy picCyndy retired from Aflac in 2015 after 24 years. She began her career as an associate and left as the Nebraska Market Director, having also served in district and regional leadership roles.

During this time she amassed numerous awards and recognition for her outstanding work, including three President Club qualifications and a nomination for the Amos Award. Her most treasured professional memory is meeting former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, but the wonderful memories and ongoing accomplishments of the coordinators and associates she recruited to Aflac are truly her greatest reward.

Cyndy’s journey from rural North Dakota (ND) to leadership within a Fortune 200 corporation provides an example for all that with hard work, sacrifice and determination, you can overcome obstacles and reach the goals you’ve set for yourself. You can start over and begin a new journey in life, at any age.

Here’s Cyndy’s story.

Rural Values

I was born and raised on an eastern North Dakota farm, which I contribute to my success. That foundation provided me with many attributes as well as challenges to overcome. My “I can do anything” attitude was encouraged by my parents who didn’t see gender as a defining reason to keep one from pursuing their dreams. I don’t know if I have done the best with work-life balance, but I can say I’ve always done the best  I could possibly do in placing my family first. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been sacrifices. There have been meetings and events where I wished I could’ve been at two places at once. I believe it is unrealistic to expect you can always be everywhere and do everything. You have to learn to prioritize what is the most important and also learn how to say no.

College Dropout

I was a rebel growing up and while the Vietnam War was just winding down when I was in junior high school, I believe that had a significant influence on my determination as well as my desire to think outside the box. College was intriguing for me as I knew it was my ticket off the farm, and at the age of 18 the farm was definitely NOT where I wanted to be. UND-formerly known as the Fighting Sioux-was where I enrolled and had my first true taste of independence without chaperones. What better place than Grand Forks, ND to experience life.
Well, what I learned was that while high school was relatively easy for me, college classes were a different story and, of course, to excel you really should show up from time to time!. After one semester I made the choice (along with some encouragement from Mom and Dad) to leave school and get a job.

Non-Traditional Jobs

I had no interest in pursuing what was considered, at that time, a typical “girls” job. Cummins Diesel in Fargo had an opening for an inventory control clerk and it sounded like something more to my liking. With my farm background I thought nothing of applying for the position and on December 31, 1975 I was offered my first real full-time job. Over the next 15 years I held several positions in the heavy-duty trucking industry. I was transferred to Cummins Diesel in Grand Forks and then promoted to Parts Manager there at the age of 19. Yes, it’s even hard for me to believe when I think back on those years. From Grand Forks I relocated to Valley City, my home town, got married, worked in the parts department at a Thomas Bus dealer as well as got my feet wet in the home fireplace and wood burning stove business. I still have part numbers in my brain and, when necessary, can recall how to measure for a triple wall insulated chimney for installing a fireplace. Some things just stick with you.

Divorce & Death

My parts department experience didn’t end in Valley City. My husband and I moved to Bismarck, where I was employed at a Freightliner Truck dealership. He drove truck and, yes, I tried that as well! Our marriage didn’t last and I had the painful experience of going through a divorce. While divorce is more common today, it wasn’t back in the 80’s. I share that experience, as well as his traumatic death by suicide, not for pity but for encouragement. I do believe that through challenge we become stronger and more determined to succeed.

A New Beginning

In 1990 I married a wonderful man with whom I’ve just celebrated 25 years of marriage. I won’t say wedded bliss, as every relationship has it’s challenges. We built a custom home the summer before our marriage and not even a year after our marriage I announced I was going to look for a different job. I knew I didn’t want to learn anything more about diesel engines, transmissions or brake shoes. I wanted a professional job where I could dress like a woman and even have my nails done, since my work uniform for the previous 15+  years was blue jeans. My Mother was thrilled as she always thought I should have a “girl” job.

A Career

Researching jobs in the newspapers, I found an ad for American Family Life Assurance Company from Columbus, Georgia (now known as Aflac). I had no idea what an insurance career involved but thought I should check it out. I interviewed with the regional manager and then was called for a second interview, which back then was done in the home. I was excited and inspired… and also scared to death… as was my husband. We had just built this beautiful home and now I wanted to quit my real “secure” job and do what? Sell insurance for commission only!! The thought that kept recurring in my head was “I can do this.. I have to try, or I will never know. I want to live my life without regret”.

Life Verse
I have to share my life verse….scripture
I kept this on my desk (the dashboard of my car) and recited it every time I would make that scary cold call in person or on the phone. Insurance was hard work-harder than anything I could’ve imagined. My customers didn’t come to me. I had to go to them. It wasn’t easy and the first year was the absolute toughest. Had it not been for the people who believed in me and mentored me, I wouldn’t have ever made it. Nor could I have done it without digging in and having the desire to learn it all. Of course you never will learn it all, but I feel you must have that deep desire and that passion to want to be successful. Not only was I learning, I was helping customers make important decisions that would help them in the future.

Who Will Succeed?

My success is not MY success. I had the great privilege of leading teams with the passion to WIN and to show others in the nation exactly what could be accomplished in small town USA.
I took this opportunity and ran with. I didn’t know until I got more involved what a great company Aflac was – and still is. Since 1991, I have interviewed and hired numerous sales associates for Aflac. I wouldn’t be able to tell you at the first interview who would or would not be successful, but I will tell you that I have honestly never seen anyone fail because of not having the resources or product to allow them to succeed. Seriously… who would have bet on me to succeed back then? Country girl, raised on a farm, high school diploma with some college credits.

Gratitude and Belief

I thank the Lord every day for giving me the faith and belief in myself to succeed. I recently turned 59 years old and have now retired from Aflac. How cool is that? Never underestimate your ability, your worth, your calling. Take that “Leap of Faith” and believe that YOU can do ALL things!

So, where you are raised, the barriers you’ve had to overcome, the failures you’ve had and the people who’ve tried to hold you back, do not determine your success. You do. Pure and simple. You are the creator of your own destiny. At any day, any moment…you can decide to change the course of your life. Is it today?

Share this post with anyone trying to discover her purpose and place in life or anyone wishing to explore a new path or career.

Everyone deserves a do-over or fresh start, at any age.

Have a question or comment for Cyndy, leave it below.

©Copyright. February 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.