Mary Kay Superstar-Rhonda’s Journey to the Top

How did a self-proclaimed shy girl from rural North Dakota come to lead a team of nearly 300 consultants, earn $500,000 in sales and get herself featured in New York’s Time Square?

She became a Mary Kay Consultant in 1996 and has never looked back.

Meet Rhonda

Rhonda’s entrepreneurial parents owned Schmitt Locker in Napoleon, North Dakota. https://www.facebook.com/Schmitt-Locker-1721202918133954/  There, she worked side-by-side with them after school and in the summer, observing their work ethic and customer service skills, which she now mirrors in her professional life.

She and her husband Joe of 31 years raised three adult children who’ve richly blessed them with three young grandchildren. “The most important thing to me is spending quality time with my family. I want to share as many experiences and fun memories with them as possible.”

Rhonda attended beauty school, worked for the Bank of ND, was a stay-at-home Mom and now has been self-employed with Mary Kay for 23 years. “I’ve always loved helping women look and feel better.”

Faith, Family & Career

Rhonda started selling Mary Kay because she always enjoyed skin care and makeup. Initially her earnings were tagged for fun, little family extras like taking her children to Chuck E. Cheese. “I took it one day at a time, day in and day out and as my customer base grew, I looked back and realized I’d created a mountain.”

She’d found something she loved doing. “It has never felt like work.”

Rhonda’s been an Independent Senior Sales Director for 20 years.

Business Model

Mary Kay’s business model and principles align with Rhonda’s.

  • Faith First
  • Family Second
  • Career Third

According to Rhonda, Mary Kay is a company with a heart, always encouraging consultants to treat every person as if they have a sign around their neck saying “make me feel important” and treating others the way we would want to be treated.

The true heart of Mary Kay is Enriching Women’s Lives.

At Mary Kay, success is defined as “simply ordinary women with extraordinary determination.” She boasts the “organization attracts the kindest women with huge hearts. If you live your life in this order: faith, family and career, you can’t help but be successful.”

Achieving Success

Rhonda’s been splendidly rewarded for her Mary Kay success. She’s

  • Earned the use of 14 career cars, including 9 Cadillacs
  • Achieved a half million in sales and was featured in New York’s Time Square
  • Named a Director-Top 2% in the company
  • Received diamond rings and diamond bar pins
  • And, earned the Director Miss Go-Give Award, voted on by one’s peers for giving enthusiastically, willingly and beyond what is expected of them

She’s striving to become a National Sales Director. “To achieve that I need to help more women have the life they want and deserve, using Mary Kay as their vehicle.”

Building a Successful Sales Team

Regardless of one’s chosen career, Rhonda strongly believes a commitment to never quit-determination-is essential.

As a leader she makes it her mission to figure out what matters to her consultants. “What is their ‘WHY’? She pours her belief in her team members and leads by example.

She’s had many consultants who’ve stayed on her team throughout her 20 years because they love the brand and the company. “It truly is a sisterhood.”

Her consultants must

  • Have a genuine love for helping others
  • Love skin care and beauty
  • Know they deserve more and be willing to work for it

She seeks 5 key work habits in her Consultant team members

          1. Determination

          2. Self-motivation

          3. Strong, independent work ethic

          4. Self-discipline

          5. Never give up attitude

Rhonda’s disappointed when consultants quit but understands that’s part of the process.

Those that quit often don’t believe in themselves or have had someone crush their dreams by telling them they can’t do it or they know someone who’s tried and failed.

“Our business is simple, but not always easy. Sometimes it’s easier or more comfortable to quit after a few disappointments.”

When it comes to fear of selling, she wants everyone to know that we all sell every day. “When we find a good movie or restaurant, we “sell” it to others. We “sell” our children on why having lunch now and snack later, is best.”

Selling is simply finding a need and filling it. There is no reason to fear it.

Measuring Success

Rhonda knows there is nothing more rewarding than setting a goal, working toward it each day, realizing the fruits of one’s labor and feeling a sense of accomplishment.

She believes all women have within them the power to control their life and future.

“I measure success when a woman in my organization realizes how great she truly is and uses my belief in her, and her God given talent, to achieve her personal and financial goals until she has belief in herself.”

Rhonda & some ND team members at Dallas, TX annual convention

Overcoming Barriers to Success

No one rises to the top of any organization without establishing good work habits and overcoming some barriers along the way.

Rhonda’s journey to the top is no different.

“Because Mary Kay has no time commitments or sales quotas, it’s very easy to put Mary Kay on the back burner and say yes to everything else.”

To reach the top Rhonda had to set a schedule for herself and commit to working in and building her business. She never felt like she had to make sacrifices to be successful. “I haven’t attended every game or school activity for my children, but I never missed any of the big ones.”

She accepts that life isn’t always going to be balanced. Instead, she believes it’s all about harmony. Sometimes you work 12-to-15-hour days, many days in a row. Sometimes you have days of relaxation.

Her motto is “Work Hard. Play Hard.”

She readily reveals the barriers she’s had to overcome to become successful.

1. Shyness. “I’m probably one of the least likely to succeed at owning a people business because, by nature, I’m shy.” Now she understands that shyness is sometimes a selfish trait-focusing on oneself. “Turning my focus on others makes everything work better.”

2. Limited Belief in Self. My National Sales Director always believed in me. I used that belief until I had it in myself.

3. Limited Faith. “If I couldn’t see how the goal could happen, I didn’t believe it could happen.” Today she keeps her mind in the right place by constantly reading and listening to motivational and self-improvement books, podcasts, etc.

4. Comparing Myself to Others. “I realize that when we do that, we always compare our worst traits to someone’s best traits. God made each of us perfectly, and he doesn’t make mistakes.”

5. Wanting to stay “comfortable.” Every success takes stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Rhonda has kept a magnet on her kitchen refrigerator since her early Mary Kay days. It reads, “Do one thing every day that makes you uncomfortable.”

About Beauty

Rhonda shares 4 insights about beauty.

1. Beauty comes from within. Skin care and makeup can enhance beauty. When we look good on the outside, we generally feel good on the inside.

2. Self-love, care and pampering are important. No one can be good to others if they are not good to themselves too.

3. Skin care is the #1 secret to a great, finished makeup look. If one doesn’t like how her skin looks and feels without makeup, she won’t like it with makeup. However, if you like how your skin looks and feels without makeup, you will love it with makeup.

4. Good skin care regimens, used consistently, help slow down the aging clock.

You & Mary Kay

If you’re inspired by Rhonda’s Mary Kay journey and would like to explore becoming a Consultant, reach out to her

Text or Call: 701.226.4545

Email: rkambeitz@bis.midoc.net

Website: www.marykay.com/rkambeitz

“It’s the best decision I have ever made. Endless possibilities and earning potential.”

And, as founder, Mary Kay Ash always said, “If just one more woman realized how great she truly is, it’s going to be a great day.”

Click here for other great Mary Kay Ash quotes https://succeedfeed.com/mary-kay-ash-quotes/

Who Could Use This Inspiration?

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© August 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved.

This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Do you have a story idea or interesting person who’d be a great feature?

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Depression & Suicide in Rural America: Joey’s Story

Who’s Joey?

Joey’s a white, 54-year-old male living in a small town in rural North Dakota. He’s been married for 29 ½ years to fellow Napoleon native, Missy (Sperle).

He’s the proud father of three grown children (Amanda, Megan and Elijah) and has an adorable 9-month-old grandson.

Joey’s the middle child with two sisters and an in-law to Missy’s 12 siblings.

He’s provided for his family as a restaurant owner and manager, retail manager and maintenance worker at the Napoleon Care Center.

Joey loves spending time with his family, especially hunting with his son, mowing the lawn and watching TV.

He’s described as kind, soft-hearted, genuine and sweet.

Joey loves people, but is shy.

He works hard not to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Joey can also be a prankster and a joker.

He has a strong Catholic faith.

Joey has suffered with depression for 34 years.

On December 9, 2016, Joey ended his life by suicide.

Battling Depression

This wasn’t Joey’s first attempt at ending his struggle with life.

Three times he overdosed with medication chased by alcohol. The last time by a fatal gunshot in the master bedroom.

“In the 35 years we were together, it was like a roller coaster ride,” said his wife, Missy. Joey was hospitalized for the suicide attempts. He saw doctors for decades and took a variety of antidepressants. He even had shock treatments, which worked for a few years, but, according to Missy, also affected his short-term memory.

Joey’s depression peaked when he was under pressure or conflict was present in his life.

“Joey loved his family so very much but I believe the suffering just got to be too much. He was so tired of the struggle to keep going,” shared Missy.

Suicide’s Effect on Family

Joey’s children felt deep guilt in the months after his death. “These days were very hard. The kids felt guilty because they didn’t call or visit their dad more often.”

Somehow they believed if they’d have reached out and visited more frequently his suicide could’ve been prevented.

Not likely.

Hilzendeger Family

Joey and Missy often talked about suicide because of his 30-year depression battle. “I knew the day would come where he’d accomplish it. However, I always figured it’d be by means of overdose and not by shooting himself on a day when all the children were coming home.”

Missy assured and comforted her children and told them what she’d say to any family who’s suffered such a loss:

1. This is not your fault. Depression is an illness like cancer, diabetes or alcoholism. It is no one’s fault and certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

2. Use available resources for helping you cope: support groups, pastoral counseling, therapy, physician visits, retreats, spa services-whatever is available to you and makes you feel better.

3. Stay strong. It may feel like you will never get over this. It is not easy and you will never forget. Each day does get better and you will learn to live with it. You have to believe God loves you and will help you through this.

Though she coaches her children and others to be guilt-free, Missy sometimes blames herself for Joey’s suicide. “We were together for 35 years and I just couldn’t bring him back from the darkness this one last time.”

However, Missy has never been angry with Joey for what he did. “We were together so long and I knew how much he struggled on so many occasions. I can’t be angry with him.”

She admits, though, she’s been disappointed that he didn’t fight harder, especially after they had their first grandchild. “He was so unbelievably proud of that little boy.”

Missy is comforted knowing that she and the kids did not miss any warning signs of Joey’s impending suicide. “He battled depression for 30 plus years. Though it was difficult, it was part of our lives for so many years.

I wish I could have him back, but for Joey’s sake, knowing how much he suffered for so long, I truly hope and pray that he is now at peace.”

Moving Forward

Joey is terribly missed by all. Thinking of him brings both a smile to Missy’s face and tears to her eyes.

She talks to him regularly, asking him to watch over the family and to keep them safe, always, but especially from the current pandemic. “I pray every day that Joey is at peace and is right beside God.” That was always his greatest wish.

Missy’s relies heavily on her immediate and extended families to cope and is deeply grateful to each of them for their commitment to her. “They’ve helped so much with everyday life since Joey’s death. I wouldn’t have been able to get through this without them and my faith.”

Her toughest days were the grief-filled ones the first four weeks after Joey’s death. “I cried every day, many times a day. I remember thinking I’d just lost my husband yet everyone is moving on like nothing happened.”

She returned to work and kept busy, yet when summer arrived, she was hit with another wave of grief. She was alone to tend to yard work-one of Joey’s favorite chores that he enjoyed so much.

I had a wake-up call. Life was moving on with or without me. “The pain of his death has not gone away. I have just learned to live with it.”

“It’s been 3 ½ years. Every day is anyone’s guess how the day will be. Some days I feel like crying when I hear a certain song or relive a special memory. The next day, I’m just fine.”

Wishing Missy and her beautiful family days of peace and happiness ahead.

Thank you for sharing your story so that others may have hope.

If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide, please seek immediate help from a physician or mental health professional. In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For more information, visit the NSPL web site (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org).

Pinochle Tournament

Keeping Legacy Alive

Joey loved playing pinochle https://bicyclecards.com/how-to-play/pinochle-2/, as do many in the Napoleon, http://napoleonnd.com/ North Dakota community.

To keep Joey’s memory alive, every March his family hosts a pinochle tournament in Napoleon with funds donated to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP) in memory of Joey Hilzendeger.

If you’d like to make a donation to the card tournament, send a check to Missy Hilzendeger 322 Avenue C East, Napoleon, ND 58561.

Or, you can donate directly to AFSP online in memory of Joey Hilzendeger. https://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=cms.page&id=1390&eventID=2043

The 5th Annual Pinochle Tournament is scheduled for March 2021. The day is not yet available.

What Can You Do?

  • Seek help if you are suicidal. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Leave notes of encouragement for Missy below.
  • Donate and participate in the Pinochle Tournament.
  • Send a donation in Joey’s name to AFSP.
  • Encourage loved ones to seek help.
  • Objectively listen and pay attention.
  • Keep the lines of communication open.
  • SHARE this post with others struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts.
  • SHARE with family members left behind.

North Dakota Facts

North Dakota saw the nation’s largest increase in suicide rates from 1999 to 2016- 58 percent.

That was more than twice the national increase of 25 percent, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That means that in North Dakota, which has the nation’s 10th-highest suicide rate, a person dies by suicide every 57 hours.

In 2019, 154 people committed suicide.

Guns are the leading means of suicide nationally as well as in North Dakota. They account for slightly more than half of all suicides in North Dakota.

Easy access to firearms, along with increased social isolation and lack of behavioral health services, are among the reasons cited for higher suicide rates in rural areas.

Learn More

https://www.theitem.com/stories/the-pain-of-suicide,339546

http://www.ndaap.com/uploads/2/6/4/7/26479511/reaching_zero_suicide_in_nd.pdf

https://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/suicide-numbers-keep-rising-in-nd-but-there-s-help/article_41deb409-b5b9-5efa-b48c-6b0d6efe7753.html

https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/the-sin-of-suicide.html

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/men-and-depression/index.shtml

https://www.governing.com/gov-data/health/county-suicide-death-rates-map.html

https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/01/30/americas-suicide-rate-has-increased-for-13-years-in-a-row

https://www.nbcnews.com/health/mental-health/suicide-rates-are-rising-especially-rural-america-n1050806

https://www.kfyrtv.com/content/news/Resources-in-ND-available-when-mental-health-and-suicide-grief-becomes-too-much-567637891.html

https://afsp.org/state-fact-sheets

©April 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved.

This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Do you have a story idea or interesting person who’d be a great feature? SHARE details below.

Are You an Alcoholic? Twila Shares Her Story

What Does It Take to Stop Abusing Alcohol?

When Do You Finally Hit Rock Bottom?

Is It When You

  • Run away from home?
  • Destroy a 22-year marriage?
  • Compromise relationships with your children?
  • Are required to undergo random monitoring to keep your professional RN license?
  • Complete multiple treatments for alcohol dependency?
  • Are placed in a sober living house?
  • Receive numerous DUI arrests?
  • Spend nights in the county jail?
  • Nearly lose your RN career, or
  • Are placed on a 24/7 monitoring program for an entire year?

No.

It is only when you are desperate enough to surrender and seek help that a changed life starts.


Meet Twila

Twila is an alcoholic.

She went through each of these experiences and losses trying to control her drinking.

Early Onset Drinking

Twila grew up in a rural North Dakota farming family the middle child with two brothers. In high school she participated in basketball, cheerleading, gymnastics, volleyball and track, along with FFA-Future Farmers of America.

She was social outside of school. She started drinking at age 13.

Like many students in her area, she partied on the weekends, easily getting alcohol supplied by the older siblings of her friends. “We met on the section lines and gravel pits in the country. Sometimes I drank to the extreme.”

Her dream of going to college, getting married and having a family came true. And then it all fell apart as alcohol played a growing role in her life.

Alcohol was often a part of their married social life. “We entertained other couples with children so no one had to get a babysitter. We hung out with sports parents who wanted to have a few beers after the events. There were times I wasn’t done drinking when the event ended for the night.” But being a parent and having a job often curbed her drinking, when it needed to.

Fitting In

The effects of alcohol helped Twila feel like she was “fitting in and being a part of.” It helped her feel comfortable in her own skin. “I was never told growing up I wasn’t good enough or that I didn’t fit in. I told myself these things. I was always trying to be somewhere else, as someone else, doing something else.” Alcohol was her solution. It worked right up until it didn’t work.

Failed Self-Control

She spent many years trying to control her drinking so it would not go to the extremes. She felt guilt and shame by her behaviors around her drinking. “I knew I might have a problem when I drank to black outs or when my husband had to take care of me after I drank too much. We often had arguments about my drinking.”

She’d trick herself into thinking everything was okay because she still had things like a house, a car, a job, etc.

But she wasn’t.

Abusing alcohol cost her a lot, including her

  • Sanity
  • Peace
  • Purpose
  • And most importantly, her relationships with her children and her 22-year marriage
Twila’s greatest joy comes from seeing her children & grandchildren happy.

Rock Bottom

Twila’s desire to keep her RN job defined “rock bottom” for her. “I couldn’t compromise my professional career. It was the last thing I was holding on to. I’d already failed as a mother, wife and family member.” She often felt embarrassed for not showing up to work after spending nights in the county jail for DUIs. Losing her job was too much to bear.

Rehab to Sobriety

1st Time

Twila’s been to treatment for alcohol dependency twice-both at Heartview Foundation https://heartview.org/ in Bismarck, North Dakota. The first in January 2014. By this time, she’d run away from home, her marriage and her children. It was intensive outpatient treatment that lasted until March. She then attended an Aftercare program once a week. This was to last for five months.

She couldn’t stay sober.

Twila attended 12-Step Recovery meetings. She could string up a few months here and there. “I honestly didn’t want to stop drinking.” She wanted to be a ‘normal drinker,’ to control her drinking and to drink socially.

She was angry. “I was angry at the hurts I’d caused and at the life I’d destroyed for myself and others.”

2nd Time

Twila entered outpatient treatment again in June 2015 because her drinking had compromised her job. She took time off from work-the first time in 20 plus years. She still couldn’t stay sober.

Sober Living House

A third DUI in October 2015 resulted in Twila spending a couple months in a Bismarck women’s sober living house. “I couldn’t trust myself. Alone time was drinking time.” Consequences of that DUI required 24/7 monitoring for a year and random monitoring for her professional license. “The combination of these two monitoring programs slowed me down enough to do the honest inside work that 12-Step recovery asked me to do; as honestly as I was able to at that time.”

AA-Alcoholics Anonymous

https://www.recovery.org/alcoholics-anonymous/

AA is Twila’s solution. “AA has taught me to be comfortable in my own skin. In addition, I’ve learned to be grateful and humble, and to be of service every day, especially to the next suffering alcoholic.”

There are three innate traits all addicts need to recover, according to Twila.

  • Willful surrender to the disease and to a program of recovery
  • Attitude of gratitude
  • Humility without humiliation

Twila believes the #1 thing all those in recovery need is LOVE. “In AA, it is said that we will love you until you can love yourself.” Those still actively using need “a chance to suffer enough to seek a life in recovery” and those incarcerated need “a message of hope that life can look different. That they can press the reset button anytime.”

North Dakota Resources

Twila participates in her state’s efforts to reduce recidivism https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/recidivism and decrease incarceration for crimes involving addiction and mental health issues. Several of these organizations include:

F5

The F5 function key on a computer keyboard is the REFRESH button.

F5 https://www.f5project.org/ is a non-profit organization headquartered in Fargo, ND. It’s founder, Adam Martin, is a five-time felon turned entrepreneur.

The organization’s mission is to reduce recidivism and to erase the stigma of being a felon and a person with an addiction.

It preaches that one’s past does not have to define one’s future and that you are your own greatest asset. You can refresh!

Twila is actively involved in this growing organization that today has men’s houses in four cities. In addition, F5 has care coordinators and peer support specialists in eight anchor cities. And, holds jail/institution meetings at facilities in seven anchor cities. “Most of the people working with the F5 project have lived the experience either as a felon, as someone in recovery or as someone with a mental illness.”

Free Through Recovery

https://www.behavioralhealth.nd.gov/addiction/free-through-recovery

Free Through Recovery is a North Dakota community based behavioral health program designed to increase recovery support services to individuals involved with the criminal justice system who have behavioral health concerns.

Recovery Reinvented

In addition, it’s worth noting that North Dakota’s First Lady, Kathryn Helgaas Burgum, https://www.governor.nd.gov/first-lady-kathryn-burgum a person in long-term recovery, has made tremendous impact on recovery efforts in North Dakota through her addiction platform.

Recovery Reinvented https://recoveryreinvented.com/ is an ongoing series of innovative practices and initiatives to eliminate the shame and stigma of addiction in North Dakota. They seek to find solutions to help people affected by the disease of addiction with proven prevention, treatment and recovery approaches.

One Day at A Time

Every night before she goes to sleep, Twila says prayers for those needing healing and forgiveness. She awakens with a prayer of gratitude and asks God how she should show up for the day.

Sending Twila prayers for strength in her continued recovery and patience and understanding in her search for purpose and self-worth. Deep gratitude for all she does for those seeking to refresh their lives.

Keep it simple. Remain grateful.

Additional Resources

https://aa.org/ Alcoholics Anonymous

https://al-anon.org/ Loved Ones of Alcoholics

https://drugabuse.com/alcohol/ Alcohol Abuse

http://www.aahistory.com/prayer.html Serenity Prayer

https://www.alcohol.org/faq/am-i-an-alcoholic/ Am I an Alcoholic?

What Can You Do?

  • Leave questions & notes of encouragement for Twila below.
  • Donate to the organizations listed above.
  • Encourage loved ones to seek help.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.
  • SHARE this post with others who will be inspired & encouraged by Twila’s story.

©February 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab 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.

Influencers

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.”

Personal

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 www.higherartgallery.com 
  • Gold and Jaye Jewelry in Traverse City, MI www.facebook.com/goldandjaye
  • Purloin Studio Purloin Studio in Menomonee Falls, WI. https://purloinstudio.com/
  • Pieces can also be purchased at http://squareup.com/store/lucylowejewelry
  • 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 .

Dr. Havidich on the Life & Practice of Successful Medicine

Introducing Dr. Havidich

Jeana, as she likes to be called, is one of the most well-rounded professionals one will ever meet. She’s a brilliant,  20-year practicing anesthesiologist and researcher. An outstanding chef and world traveler. She’s a community servant. A history buff who explores archeological sites. Secretly, she dances waltzes to big band music. She lives her life to be remembered as one who positively impacted others. She has. She continues to. Here’s how.

Principled Life

Jeana values friendship and time with those she cares about most. She gets boundless joy spending time with family and friends, particularly when they’re having a great dinner filled with laughter and cheer.
She understands her many achievements came with the help of her husband of twenty years, Dr. Mark Herrin, and her family and friends. “Although my life has been a fantastic journey, it’s been challenging at times.” Their love and support have kept Jeana grounded during the most difficult times. So have the principles guiding her life.

Honesty and Integrity: These are the traits she values the most. No matter what mistakes one makes in life, individuals who strive to incorporate honesty and integrity are respected by members of their community. Always trying to do the ‘right thing’ by others allows one to sleep soundly at night.

Service to Others: This has provided Jeana the greatest sense of satisfaction. Being able to help children and adults during a very difficult and stressful time in their lives is very challenging, but extremely rewarding.

Personal & Professional Growth: Growth is the key to happiness. Jeana continuously strives to improve herself to help others. She believes complacency is detrimental, on every level.

Choosing Medicine

Jeana feels fortunate to have found a profession that aligns with her values-something she considers key to a successful and fulfilling life. Medicine allows her to incorporate her principles of service, independence, and continuous professional and personal growth into her daily life.

“My choice to become an anesthesiologist was based on my desire to provide life-saving care to patients in critical situations. I thought I’d pursue a career as a Critical Care specialist in Anesthesia but soon realized my passion was providing perioperative care for children. I have not regretted my choice.

After 20 years of practice, “I still enjoy coming to work and providing this care.” She enjoys the daily interaction and learning from her patients, colleagues and students.

In fact, her most memorable moments as an anesthesiologist come from being outsmarted by children. For example, the six-year-old who locked himself into a bathroom so he didn’t have to have surgery. Or, the three-year-old who showed up for surgery and promptly went behind the nurses’ station and ate a nurse’s lunch, prompting an immediate cancellation of his procedure.

She’s humbled by the many patients who’ve survived against all odds-patients with tremendous resilience.

Dr. Havidich at Dartmouth

Jeana is a board certified Pediatric Anesthesiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire. She was awarded a scholarship from The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice (TDI). She spends 75% of her time as a clinician, 20% researching and 5% lecturing/teaching.

Her current research focuses include health services research, quality and safety initiatives and the science of health care delivery.

Her latest research publication illustrated that patients born prematurely have a higher incidence of perioperative complications that last until adulthood. This research will enable anesthesiologists to prepare for the possibility of perioperative complications. “By understanding when and why complications occur, anesthesiologists can develop plans to minimize risk to patients.”

Jeana’s excited about an upcoming research project that looks at cancer development in patients exposed to opioids. Currently she is seeking government funding for this research.

Since the first rule of medicine is DO NO HARM, she is continually identifying those areas and processes to improve anesthesiology practices. “There is nothing more devastating than to watch a patient suffer or have an adverse event.” Her goal is to prevent that from ever happening.

7 Tips for Successful Career in Medicine

Educating and guiding young women into medicine is a passion for Jeana. While not claiming “to have all the answers,” she hopes younger professional women can learn from her experiences.

She believes the most important character traits leading to professional success are strong leadership and communication. “Fortunately, life-threatening situations are rare. However, those who handle these situations well by remaining calm and focused are most respected.

Persistence is also key to success. “As one moves up the ladder, competition is tougher. It’s not going to be easy. There are failures and disappointments along the way. Persistence pays off.”

Other tips for a successful career in medicine include:

1. Excel as a Clinician. Physicians respect other physicians who are hard-working, knowledgeable and provide high quality, safe, and compassionate medical care to their patients. This is medicine’s primary mission – “and you must do it to the best of your abilities. If you are not perceived as a dedicated, successful clinician, you will not have respect from others.”

2. Pursue Your Passion. Engage in the area in medicine that energizes you. Your specialty will find you–not the other way around. The amount of time and energy required to be successful in this field outweighs any financial gain. Circumstances change–and so do lifestyles and financial compensation. Be dedicated and passionate about your work.

3. Cultivate Strong Communication Skills. When the American Board of Anesthesiology first published core competencies that focused on communication and professionalism, Jeana was somewhat perplexed. After thoughtful consideration, she realized that mastering these skills ensures success for both the physician and the profession. Doctors work in a highly complex, fragmented medical system and effective communication with patients and colleagues is necessary to provide high quality, safe medical care.

4. Become Resilient. Doctors also work in a high risk, high stakes profession. They work long hours in a stressful environment. Patient lives are on the line and unfortunately things don’t always work out. How one addresses adversity in their personal and professional lives impacts their ability to care for themselves and others. Flexibility and adaptability are essential components as well. She recommends developing and cultivating these skills early in one’s career.

5. Get a Sense of Humor. It will be needed. Although practicing medicine is one of the greatest professions in the world, it is also fraught with frustrations. Therefore, one must develop a strong sense of humor in order to go about their day. The great thing about working with kids is that they provide a unique perspective that enables laughter. Try to take it in stride. Remember what’s really important.

6. Embrace Failure. Learn from it and move on. One of the most difficult lessons Jeana has learned over the years is how to deal with failure. “We are not perfect, and we will make career mistakes along the way.” While dedication and persistence are important characteristics to achieve success, it is also important to recognize when they are detrimental to one’s career. The important thing is to learn from failure and move on. The past cannot be changed. One can only learn from it. “In many respects, my biggest failures have led to my greatest successes. Correcting real or perceived deficiencies through determination and persistence have enabled me to achieve my goals. I’d tell my younger self not to fear failure but instead learn from it and move on. Take chances.”

7. Appreciate Life. It’s Too Short of an Adventure. Medicine constantly reminds Jeana that life is both extremely fragile and resilient at the same time. She watches patients endure unspeakable hardships and yet emerge with new-found hope and strength. “This always amazes me.” It’s also reminds her that it’s important to cherish every minute and to strive to reach one’s full potential. “Life is a gift, but often it seems too short.”

Work/Life Balance

Jeana reports that recently there has been a lot of attention given to physician burnout. “Medical professionals simply cannot provide care for others if they are not well themselves.” Maintaining a work/life balance can be a struggle. But, it is necessary to achieve personal and professional goals.

Work/life balance ratio will change over time. Career opportunities, family obligations, economic circumstances and practice changes impact the right balance. “It’s important to recognize signs of burnout early and make changes before serious issues in relationships or one’s career occur.”

Separate but Together

Drs. Jeana and Mark have lived in different states for a number of years due to professional opportunities. To some, this distance can be distressing. To them, it’s strengthened their relationship. “We designate protected time each day and throughout the year for each other.” They focus on their relationship when together and on their work and outside interests when apart. They understand the temporary nature of this status and have consciously decided to “make it work” with the support of colleagues, family and friends.

Having the right perspective matters. They understand other couples are less fortunate than they are, particularly those military families with overseas deployments.

Giving Back

Jeana subscribes to the belief that community service and engagement are key factors for resiliency and achieving happiness. Therefore, one of Jeana’s greatest personal satisfactions comes from “giving back” to both her profession and her community.

To Her Profession
She is grateful for the physician scientists and educators that have moved her profession forward. Advances in patient safety, technology, and education have decreased perioperative mortality over the past several decades. In return, Jeana has volunteered time at the local, state, and national levels with the hope of contributing back to her profession. Participating in national organizations such as the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF), serving on State Appointed Task Forces, and lecturing at local schools and community centers have enriched her professional life.

To Her Community
The hard-working, blue-collar Croatian-American community in Jeana’s Pennsylvania hometown raised money for children of Croatian heritage to further their education. These scholarship funds greatly benefited Jeana in achieving her career goals. In return, she has been working with the Association of Croatian American Professionals to develop a birthright “Domovina” scholarship program and a national Medical Tourism program in Croatia. “I hope to repay the Croatian American community by contributing to the development of these programs.”

Tips from Dr. Jeana for Patients

Surgical Patients Should Ask Anesthesiologists These:

Anesthesiologists have developed protocols and screening tools to identify medically complex patients who may be at risk for perioperative complications. If identified as such a patient, Jeana advises you to ask your anesthesiologist:

1. Based on my surgical procedure and medical history, what are my major risk factors for perioperative complications and what we can we do to decrease that risk?

2. What resources are available should an unexpected emergency occur? For instance, is there a blood bank readily available in the event I would need blood? Are there appropriate emergency equipment and personnel able to provide care in the event of an emergency?

3. What should I expect after surgery? Are there other means of controlling pain in addition to narcotics?

3 Skills Every Great Doctor Must Have

“Over time, I have found patients gravitate to physicians based on whether or not they approve of their personality.” Some physicians are scientific and matter of fact. And, some patients prefer this style over what others may refer to as a more compassionate physician. Jeana thinks the important thing is to find the right fit for you as a patient. “Ask for an interview or schedule an appointment to see if the physician is a good fit for you.”
Other things to consider in choosing a physician:

Solid Communication Skills. This is important not only for the patient but also the medical team. In today’s world of advanced technology, doctors are using web-based programs to communicate with patients.

Great Technical Skills in the procedural area. Investigate their outcomes data, although it might be hard to find. “It’s easier to find out more about a car you’re purchasing than who will provide your medical care.” Get a second opinion and ask for patient references and interview them.

Consistent Follow-Up Skills. Find a physician who follows up with their patients both personally (communication skill) and with processes like lab tests, x-rays, etc.

What’s Next for Anesthesiologist Dr. Jeana?

She’d like to continue practicing pediatric anesthesia and pursuing academic interests like:
• Research on health services-analyzing outcomes and quality using large databases.
• Research on the science of health care delivery systems
• Monitoring the growth of the Medical Tourism industry

As a researcher and practitioner, she’d like to see the development of regeneration of tissue, especially neural tissue. For instance, enhancing the growth rate of functional neural cells, one could theoretically make a quadriplegic patient walk again. Regenerating hepatic cells could eliminate the need for liver transplants. Generating neurons that produce hormones could cure diseases like Parkinson’s.

As an academician, she’d like to see expansion of individualized/targeted medical therapies tailored to a patient’s genetic makeup. This allows physicians to find the right drug for each patient, based on their genetic makeup. (This already exists for certain types of cancer and genetic diseases.)

Jeana wants the medical profession to discuss the cost of getting a medical degree and offer solutions. “It’s expensive and not reimbursed.”  She’d like to see the practice of ‘simulation’ to advance patient safety.

On a personal level, she wants to explore more of the world as a traveler with husband, Mark.

Jeana is an endless crusader for her profession and her own personal and professional development. She is a blessing to her family and circle of friends. Knowing her makes each of them better.

Here’s wishing anesthesiologist, Dr. Jeana Havidich,  many more years of practicing medicine, researching and developing and training new practitioners.

Do you have a question you’d like to ask Dr. Jeana or a recommended travel location for her? Share below.

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.

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

Why Having Cancer Can Be a Positive Thing

Cancer is Hard & Scary. It Can Also be Amazing

Two 57-year-old female professionals meet for the first time at a sushi bar in Omaha, Nebraska. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. It’s not. Kathy and Terry quickly learned they shared triple negative breast cancer.

At a patio table in the late day’s sunshine, they tossed medical jargon around like others discuss politics or sports. They laughed while sharing baldness tales. They empathized with one another while listening to how cancer affects loved ones more than themselves.

Repeatedly, they blasted the negativity of cancer information. Neither ever found a book or article that was “positive about what an amazing journey cancer can be if one keeps the right attitude.”

Despite this, these women stayed focused on the positive aspects of cancer during and after treatment.

I marvel at their strength, frankness and sense of humor. Each will inspire you, or a loved one facing a cancer diagnosis.

If someone you know or love is facing cancer, SHARE this story with them. Even if you don’t have a cancer diagnosis, these women and their positive approach to life are inspirational.

Meet the fantastic Kathy & Terry

Kathy Bressler

Kathy and Mike, her husband of 35 years, recently moved to Omaha from the Pacific Northwest. She’s the Senior VP, Chief Operating Officer for CHI Health. Their two married sons, a daughter and four grandchildren remain there. Her general health was “amazing” before her 2015 cancer diagnosis. Today she still describes it as “awesome.”

She should know. Kathy has both a masters and a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Family History

Kathy’s mother died from her second breast cancer at age 61. Her grandmother died from the same when Kathy’s mom was just 9 years old. This strong family history had Kathy doing monthly breast self-exams at a young age and starting mammograms at age 35. In 2002 she was genetically tested and was negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2.

“When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, I was genetically tested again for all of the genes known, and I was negative for all of them, again.”

Hearing You Have Cancer

“I had a very hot, sharp pain in my right breast on November 29, 2015. My husband urged me to be seen. So, I had diagnostics the next day.” Kathy’s general surgeon delivered the cancer diagnosis to her. “Hearing it is a surreal out-of-body feeling. I was probably less scared than my family and friends because I had so many things I had to do.” Her surgeon didn’t give her any prognosis. Instead, they got to work and jointly planned action steps “to take care of business. I was sad and scared for my family, more than anything.”

Bilateral Mastectomy

Kathy had both breasts removed 11 days after diagnosis. The tumor was so close to the surface that the circulation in her right breast was compromised. She spent six weeks in a hyperbaric chamber. Doing this five days a week, seven hours a day healed her.

In early February 2016 she started 22 weeks of chemotherapy and ended five weeks of radiation therapy in August 2016. She had reconstructive surgery to remove spacers and insert implants in April 2017.

A month later she contracted an infection behind the right-side implant and was hospitalized for five days on IV antibiotics. She also took oral antibiotics for another six weeks.

Today, she’s infection free and feeling “awesome.” She has oncologist appointments once every quarter. “She checks labs for abnormalities and any symptoms that might indicate a recurrence. Recurrence is my greatest fear.”

Head Shaving Party

Kathy’s family, friends and caregivers surrounded her with love and comfort upon hearing her diagnosis. Each continues to check in regularly. As one would expect, when hearing the diagnosis, they had the normal emotions of sadness, thoughtfulness and support.

They drove her to appointments and offered to help in other ways. “I tried hard to stay independent. It was nice to be able to let loved ones do something.” It made them feel part of her journey.

“I’d urge family members to learn about the diagnosis, don’t baby the patient.” Rather she’d encourage them to exercise daily and stay connected socially. She did both.

She’s a hot yoga fanatic. She did it every single day throughout treatment. “The people there were with me every day. I couldn’t have asked for more love and kindness.”

Kathy hosted a head shaving party for 53 people. “It was amazing to watch the emotion in the room. I was doing great. I know it was hard for everyone. It was a very special evening. Being bald was amazing and I love that.”

Gold Star

Hopefully any cancer patient has a list of those who provided comfort through treatment. Kathy does. Husband Mike was “positive and encouraging.” Her kids were amazing. Her daughter was like a nurse to her-hopping in the shower with her mom to ensure her safety when she was weak.

Her brother and sister-in-law and girlfriend, Jennifer, were rock solid in their support.

She’d award a gold star to her chemo nurse Krystal. Krystal took care of her every Monday for 22 weeks. “I fell madly in love with her. She could not have provided me more positive care.” Krystal became a good friend and a great teacher.

Blessed by Cancer Lessons

Kathy is an administrator in a large healthcare system. Her personal cancer journey has changed the way she leads.

It caused her to re-think about what their patients deserve.

She’s quickly irritated hearing stories about how other women were not taken care of in the way they should’ve been. She fully understands not everyone’s journey was amazing as hers was.

Today she:

  • Asks employers of cancer patients to be sensitive and let them keep working as able.
  • Tells oncologists to stay positive and encourage their patients to do the same.
  • Urges patients to accept the love and support of family, friends and caregivers.
  • Reaches out to newly diagnosed women.
  • Participates in a California study specific to triple negative breast cancer.
  • Serves on the Susan G. Komen Advisory Board.
  • Wishes for a world without breast cancer.
  • Feels beyond blessed to have experienced breast cancer. “I know it sounds odd but this diagnosis has changed my life for the better, in so many ways.”

Terry Owens

Terry, a recently retired Disability Management Director, was in excellent health when she learned she had breast cancer. Equally annoying was the fact that there was no family history of breast cancer.

“I was showering one July 2015 morning and felt a large lump in my left breast near the armpit. I called my gynecologist and therein began my cancer journey.” Several referrals and appointments later, she learned it had already become Stage 3. It wasn’t until after Labor Day 2015 she heard it was Triple Negative Cancer.

Self-Exams & Mammograms

A native of Northeast Arkansas with a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling, Terry is a mother of two adult children and grandmother to a 17-month-old. Baby Lyla is expected in December 2017.

She learned to perform breast self-exams at the Baptist Health Breast Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“They have videos and sample breasts with lumps for patients to palpate.” This teaches women what a lump may feel like on her body. Terry admits she was not vigilant about performing monthly self-exams, but she did perform them every so often. She did have mammograms yearly.

Steps to Wellness

Terry’s initial screening (mammogram and ultrasound) was in Arkansas. “The technician returned to the room with a pale and sick look on her face. I knew it was cancer even though she couldn’t confirm it.” Terry was alone when the gynecologist called to share the results and initiate a plan.

She returned to Omaha where she lived and worked. Her primary care physician referred her to a breast surgeon who performed a biopsy and reported the triple negative diagnosis.

She started chemotherapy in early September and became terribly sick, losing 12 pounds along with her hair 16 days after starting. She felt extreme fatigue.

In February 2016, she had a lumpectomy and began radiation, which lasted two months. [Her lymph nodes weren’t removed. Instead her chest, breast and armpit were radiated.]

Follow Ups to Health

After completing radiation, Terry was seen every three months and had repeated mammograms.

Today she’s seen every six months by a breast surgeon, oncologist and oncology radiologist. Like Kathy, she’s also participating in a research study. Hers is for patients who choose not to remove lymph nodes.

She’s happy to report she’s clear and returning to health.

Faith & Comfort

As expected, when hearing her diagnosis, her children cried. They offered love and support throughout. “Most embraced the hope of recovery and survival.”

Terry has a deep faith in the Lord. “He provided my friends and family, as well as my church family, to minister to me and take care of me. Even though I lived alone, someone was with me every time I had chemotherapy.”

Her best friends visited, brought food and kept house. Her children came. “I had enough drugs in me from Friday treatments that I felt well enough to show friends and family around Omaha. Unfortunately, I was always sickest on Sundays-the day everyone left to go home or back to school and work.”

Simple Bit of Food Advice

In their wanting to help, many brought food Terry couldn’t eat. Unfortunately, she had to dispose of it and sometimes didn’t have a prepared meal as scheduled. For instance, she couldn’t tolerate onions and garlic. So, she’d recommend asking the patient or her caregiver about food tolerance before you drop food off for the patient. She doesn’t want someone’s thoughtful and kind gesture to go to waste.

Superstar Chemist

Terry singled out the chemist who mixed her chemo drugs as a superstar through her cancer journey. “He was fabulous in giving me all kinds of helpful tips on caring for myself and managing the nausea, constipation and fatigue.” He even put stickers on her papers and directions for her medication schedules. Simple touches go a long way.

More Information

  • Click on the green live links throughout this article.
  • Pink it Forward
  • Susan G. Komen
  • Breast Cancer Research Foundation
  • CHI Breast Cancer Support Group

7 Simple Ways to Help Someone with Cancer

  1. Treat them as normally as possible.
  2. Offer rides, meals (see above), chores, phone calling, etc.
  3. Plan an outing with flexibility in case patient doesn’t feel well.
  4. Keep your troubles to yourself. Your friend has cancer. Don’t ask her to fix your life at the moment too
  5. Stay positive. If patient is prayerful, pray with and for her.
  6. Stay in her life even if you feel like you don’t know what to do for her.
  7. Organize a scheduled support group around her. Schedule ride, food delivery, companionship, bathing support, etc.

SHARE this article. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

©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. Rights Reserved.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Smile Hides Russian Orphan Life

Meet Mara

Mara shares in the happiest times of her customer’s lives. She helps select engagement and wedding rings, anniversary bands and other special occasion jewelry. She’s a jewelry sales professional for Greenberg’s Jewelers  at Omaha’s Westroads Mall.

But, while she’s helping others celebrate their happy times, few know the life she’s lived. Meet the incredible Mara Alyona Palmquist.

Russian Orphanage & Kindness

Mara’s earliest years were spent in Kalyazin, Russia.

Her strongest Russian home memory is of boiling water for her brother’s bath. “It took so long to fill up the tub. I had to boil the water and then carry the pot back to the bathroom. By the time I got there, half of it was spilled. It stands out to me because he was all I had. I always looked out for him, even at that early age.”

In Russia

When she was five, the State removed Mara and her 3-year-old brother, Vanya, from her alcoholic parent’s home and placed them in a Russian orphanage. She’s never seen her parents since, but longs to return to see especially her dad, whom she’s recently learned is still alive.

Though life was tough, her fondest memory is of kindness at school, particularly from her first-grade teacher. It was not hard to identify orphans in school. They wore jean skirts and jackets. The students were asked to draw a picture of whatever they wanted. “Everyone got a pencil. The teacher gave me a pen. And, my classmate next to me gave me stickers for my picture. I’ll never forget their kindness.”

In 2001, at age 11, Mara’s life was again filled with kindness. She and Vanya came to Los Angeles, California through the Kidsave organization.

Summer Miracles®

The Summer Miracles ® program places older orphans, aged 11-14, who have little chance to be adopted in their own countries, with families in an orphan hosting program. Children, who are available for adoption, stay with host families for a 4-to-5-week summer visit. While in the USA, the kids learn about the culture, attend summer camp, and experience life in an American family. Host families work with Kidsave staff and volunteers to find the children adoptive families. [Nearly 200,000 orphans are currently growing up without families in Russian state institutions.] Visit the Kidsave website for more information and/or to host a child: https://www.kidsave.org/

Los Angeles to Branson, MO

Mara and Vanya were placed with a widow in Los Angles who wasn’t interested in adoption after the summer program ended. Instead, a Branson, Missouri family that was in California on vacation “got a random voice message on their hotel phone saying there were 2 kids about to be sent back to a Russian orphanage if not placed with a family.” The family shortened their vacation. The father remained in California with Mara and Vanya for a few days and then traveled with them to Missouri to meet the “rest of the family.”

Fitting into a Family of 11

The rest of Michelle and Andre’s family included 9 other children-7 of their own and another brother and sister adopted from a different orphanage. All of a sudden, Mara and Vanya were part of a group of 11. Adapting was difficult.

While she doesn’t want people to feel sorry for her, Mara admits being adopted is not easy. It’s difficult to be part of a new family, knowing where to fit in the family, church and culture. “I had to learn how to be a daughter, an older sister, a younger sister. Religion was hard. Fitting in overall was challenging.” She sat in front of a mirror for hours each day practicing her English accent so she wouldn’t sound “funny.”

Mara feels extremely blessed and eternally grateful that her family opened their home to them because some of the kids they knew from the orphanage got sent back to Russia for behavioral issues. “It changed my life for the better. I have so many opportunities that I’d never have had in Russia. There, at age 16, you are put on the streets. Prostitution is so high for that reason.”

Guilt & Gratitude

Mara sometimes feels guilty for the life she has in the USA. “I’m living this beautiful life with so much, knowing my Russian family is still struggling  and I can’t help them at all.”

She understands many Americans have it worse than she ever did. “I grew up going to school, having food in my belly and dressing in clean clothes. I had a roof over my head.” Mara’s inspired by these basics: she calls them gifts. “God brought me here for a reason. I want to show him it was the right place for me and I won’t waste this opportunity to better myself.”

She never takes relationships and friendships for granted and cherishes life. She seeks opportunities to do something great and make someone smile.

Jewelry Sales

Mara achieves that goal every day she’s selling at Greenberg’s Jewelers. She finds it particularly rewarding to help nervous couples select a perfect piece of jewelry. She builds rapport, especially with “lookers,” easily finding out why they entered the store and then helping them. She’s a relationship builder with excellent listening skills. “Customers will just walk in to chat when they’re in the mall shopping. I love that. I enjoy hearing their stories about how they met, their first date, etc. It makes my work day all worth it.”

Circle of Life

Making her life all worth it is her adorable six-year-old son, Brody. “He has the purest heart and was the best birthday present ever. [Born six weeks early on Mara’s 21st birthday.] “Having a child of my own makes me understand God’s unconditional love for us.”

Mara works hard every day and hopes Brody is proud of “his mommy.” She does not want the life she has had for Brody. She’d like to be able to provide him everything she never had growing up. “I’m not talking about material things.” Instead, Mara wants to shower Brody with love and affection and kisses and tell him “he’s the best kid in the whole world.”

Growing up in a Russian orphanage was not easy. But Mara learned how to survive and how to blend in. Now, as a mother, she knows what she craved and never received in her younger years. Mara now provides that to her own son. And, when the time is right, she will share her early years with him, most likely with a joint trip to Russia.

My husband, Ken, and I had the remarkable experience of working with Mara when selecting a 25th wedding anniversary band in May 2017. She made us feel like newlyweds through the entire sales process.

Other than her outstanding sales skills and techniques, we were drawn to her as a person.  Behind her charisma and smile, we sensed a deeper story to her life. I thank her for the courage it took to recall memories of her Russian life and for sharing them with all of us.

Russian Trip: Funds Needed

Mara needs to raise funds to secure the required paperwork to plan a visit to Russia. If you’d like to help, please contact me by completing the form below. Can you contribute?

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.

 

©Copyright. August 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shop Small Business Fashion Art

My Photography is Now Available as Fashion Art

A few months back I was contacted by a San Francisco, California based company, Vida. They asked to use my photography for a number of custom-made fashion items and accessories. By agreeing to this, I can now offer  followers, friends and family my photography on custom-made items. Today, accent pillows, tops, scarves, pocket squares, wraps, and totes are available for purchase at “Linda’s Store” on this website.

Vida often gives me discount codes and coupons to pass on to you. Watch for these on my Facebook page and on the “Linda’s Store” tab on this website. Note each one has an expiration date and time. Items are hand-made. Read the description to see expected delivery date. Sizes are also described on each item.

Shop Small Business

Remember, with a purchase you are not only supporting my small business but buying a custom-made piece of art. Know how deeply I appreciate your support of both-my photography and my small business.

Share a Photo of You

When you purchase, share a photo of you wearing your fashion or showing your tote or pillow. I’d love to see it and share it with others.

Here is a sample of photographs customers have shared to date. Let me add yours!

Remember, if you see a photo that you’d like made into a top, scarf, tote bag, square or oblong pillow, wrap, or pocket square, contact me. I have complete design control over the photographic images.

Enjoy “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison while shopping and looking at the photographs customers have shared.

 

Donna looking great in her cashmere Mt. Rainier modal scarf
Donna looking great in her Cashmere Mt. Rainier Modal Scarf

Diane's Beatrice Flowers Tote is perfect for a day of errands.
Diane’s Beatrice Flowers Tote is perfect for a day of errands.

Peach Rose Cashmere Modal looks stunning on Brenda.
Peach Rose Cashmere Modal Scarf looks stunning on Brenda.

kathy-collection
Kathy wearing her North Dakota Sky Modern Tee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonnie modeling her Coffee Cashmere Modal Scarf.
Bonnie modeling her Coffee Cashmere Modal Scarf

©Copyright November 2016 Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Domestic Violence Happens to 1 in 4: You?

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 out of 4 women and 1 out of 7 men will experience intimate partner violence annually.

(One in Four Women) 1:00 minute

Being in an abusive relationship can be scary and confusing.  You may feel isolated, guilty and ashamed.

If you are being abused, please seek help. Call 911, the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799–SAFE (7233), a local Crisis Hotline or your church office.

There is HOPE. You do not need to remain in an abusive situation. Hear from women who have reclaimed their lives. You too can be someone who gets her life back. Reach out today.

It’s a Sign of Abuse if a Partner…

Courtesy USCCB Publishing Washington, D.C.

  • Calls names, insults and constantly criticizes or humiliates
  • Isolates her from family and friends
  • Monitors where she goes and how she spends her time
  • Controls finances, refuses to share money, or gives her an allowance
  • Threatens to have her deported or to report her to a welfare agency
  • Threatens to take her children away
  • Threatens to kill or hurt her, the children, other family members, or pets
  • Threatens her with a weapon
  • Destroys property, such as household furnishings
  • Pushes, slaps, hits, bites, kicks, or chokes her
  • Forces her to have sex or to perform sexual acts

(Warning Signs) 2:37 minutes

Make Your Safety & the Safety of Your Children a Priority

 No one has the right to hurt you or your children.

Did you know that 3-4 million children between the ages of 3-17 are at risk of exposure to domestic violence each year? U.S. government statistics say that 95% of domestic violence cases involve women victims of male partners. The children of these women often witness the domestic violence.

children_churchWhether or not children are physically abused, they often suffer emotional and psychological trauma from living in homes where their fathers abuse their mothers. Children whose mothers are abused are denied the kind of home life that fosters healthy development.

Children who grow up observing their mothers being abused, especially by their fathers, grow up with a role model of intimate relationships in which one person uses intimidation and violence over the other person to get their way.

Stop the cycle of abuse. Reach out for help. Call 911, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799–SAFE (7233).

Are you a victim of domestic violence?

  • Trust your instincts
  • Know it is not your fault
  • Don’t be afraid to call for help
  • Value your freedom to choose, learn and grow

Helpful Numbers to Call:

1.800.799. SAFE (7233) National Domestic Violence Hotline

 1.866.331.9474 National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline

 911

Share with anyone you suspect may be domestically abused. You may be saving a life.

©Copyright. October 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Beauty Queen Conquers Nashville Only to Suffer Loss

Georgia Bedwell portraitGeorgia Becker Bedwell has packed a lot of living into her life. The 1972 Miss North Dakota traveled the world, married twice, raised a son, lived and worked in Nashville, earned a college certificate, and moved back to North Dakota. Today she’s working full-time and learning to adjust to her life as a widow, something she’d rather not be doing.
Inspiring North Dakotan Musicians
Georgia, the oldest of seven children, was raised in a musical family in Napoleon where she was surrounded by the ever-present sounds of country music on her dad’s radio and stereo. Her high school music teacher, Gene Mosbrucker,  encouraged her to pursue her passion of music. Both saw music as a way for Georgia to fund a college education. When she learned pageants provided scholarships for college, she entered. She won the Miss Kidder County pageant and then Miss North Dakota, including the talent portion, singing the popular, “Rose Garden,” recorded by fellow North Dakotan Lynn Anderson. Like many North Dakotans, Georgia watched Strasburg’s Lawrence Welk on his Saturday night show where Lynn performed regularly. Lynn became Georgia’s inspiration.
georgia homesteadOne Song, Many Opportunities
Georgia’s memorable performances of “Rose Garden” opened many doors for her. After receiving a non-finalist talent scholarship at the Miss America pageant, Georgia joined the Miss America USO tour and was a part of the Miss America pageant production the following year. Tom Bryant, a fellow Napoleon High School graduate who worked at Nashville’s WSM (AM) radio, home of The Grand Old Opry-the world’s longest running radio program, shared a tape of Georgia’s performance, landing her an invitation to perform there in 1973. Shortly thereafter she moved to Nashville and began a career in country music.
Garth CMA Horizon AwardCountry Music Career Takes Off
Georgia worked in the country music show at Opryland USA where she met two other female vocalists who together later became Roy Clark’s backup singers. Besides working many television shows like the Tonight Show, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Dinah Shore and the Merv Griffin show, in 1976 the group accompanied Roy on a cultural exchange tour to the former Soviet Union. They also toured the entire USA and Canada. After leaving Roy, the group returned to Opryland USA with their own show called “Three of a Kind.” In addition, Georgia started singing on writer’s demos; one was released as a single record on an independent label, which led to a second single. She toured with her own show until 1983 when she took a job in record promotion at Capitol Records where she stayed for 14 years. There she experienced the music industry from the inside out.
Georgia helped launch the careers of, and brought home number one records for many artists including, but not limited to, Trace Adkins, Garth Brooks, and Tanya Tucker.
Georgia acknowledges that today’s music industry has changed. Success still depends on one’s own determination and being a songwriter still separates one apart from others. However, playlists are tighter and now consultants rather than markets pick music. Her favorite performers include icons Garth, Reba and George and the song she often sings to herself is one written by Rodney Crowell and originally recorded by Emmylou Harris, “Till I Gain Control Again.”

Her husband of 22 years, Byron L. Bedwell, III, played this song on his guitar while she sang. She misses that, and him.
Me, Trent & ByronLove Hurts
Georgia’s life partner, Byron, was diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer in February 2015 and died July 17, 2015. It’s her greatest heartache and one she’s learning to cope with today. She understands her life has been blessed and continues to be blessed. But, if she had a magic wand, she’d wish for Byron to return so they could grow old together. Like many who’ve lost a loved one, Georgia feels like a piece of her is missing and she’s working hard to figure out how to become a whole person again.

Next Chapter
Georgia recently finished college classes and earned a human resources certification she’s using at her Bismarck bank job. She knows it’s never too late to change “horses and find a new career.” She understands that all of us have the choice to be who we want to be and that it is up to us to make it happen. Georgia also serves on the Board of Directors for the Miss North Dakota Scholarship Organization as their talent coordinator. She continues to promote the pageant as a source of scholarship funds for young women.
She cites her greatest accomplishment as her wonderful son, Trent, whom she wishes she lived nearer to. Her greatest joy originates from sharing her heart and faith and from caring for others who may need her help. More than anything, she wishes to be remembered for that loving and giving heart. She longs for her parents to be with her for many years ahead and wishes she could thank her deceased Grandma Johanna Mitzel for teaching her the value of loving unconditionally.
verseMore than ever she’s living by her favorite verse “Walk by faith not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7.

Still a beauty. Still a talent. Back in North Dakota. Georgia Becker Bedwell.
Leave your greetings for Georgia in the comment section below.

Share this with others who also were inspired by and admired this remarkably talented woman.

Miss North Dakota Becomes Miss America 2018

Georgia is on the Board of Directors and the Talent Coordinator for the Miss North Dakota organization. In September 2017, Cara Mund, Miss North Dakota was crowned Miss America 2018. Congratulations to all!

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.

 

©Copyright. March 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.