Perseverance: Icing on Cake for Pastry Chef

Meet Bruce Dodds

Bruce early in his cake manufacturing career
Early Career

Bruce admits he was a poor student at North Dakota’s Fargo North High School. Book learning was not his thing. The social part was. Hands-on learning trumped books, always.

Yet, he found unconditional love and support from his parents who weren’t deterred by his poor attitude and poor grades.

They understood with time and finding his passion, Bruce would thrive. And, how right they were.

At age 50, Bruce retired as Vice President of Research and Development in a business he helped build. Then sold.

Here’s Bruce’s Story.

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Rich Texas Life

Bruce is completely content with his life’s path. “I’ve been blessed beyond my wildest dreams. I couldn’t possibly wish for anything else.”

He and his wife of 39 years, Teresa (Wickenheiser), a registered nurse, are both retired and living in  Texas. They’re the proud parents of two adult children and five grandchildren.

Most days Bruce awakens early and takes his two Labradors out to train for field trials. “It’s stress-free fun that gives me a reason to get out of the bed in the morning.  My dogs just love it.”

Hunting in North Dakota

Afternoons are spent in his pottery studio “throwing clay on the wheel or hand building pieces.” He doesn’t sell any of his many works. “One day my kids will have to figure out how to get rid of it all.”

He does get the parallel between cake baking and clay. Cake baking and pottery design both require immense amounts of creativity. Each begins with raw ingredients eventually shaped into a finished product-a cake and a beautiful functional art piece.

When not creating, he’s planning repeat trips to remote parts of the world, like Africa, to see wildlife and scenery not found in the USA. Or, he’s hunting in his home state of North Dakota and polishing up his photography skills.

Path to Texas Via New York


Bruce’s NDSU West Dining Center boss is to thank for his career path. As a high school student, he worked there after school and during the summer. Early in his senior year, work peers asked about post-graduation plans. “I shrugged my shoulders and said I didn’t have a clue.” The thought of that question made him sick. “I knew I didn’t want to go to college.”

His boss suggested culinary school because he seemed to enjoy his job there so much.

Bruce sought direction from his high school guidance counselor who steered him to The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York.

“One look at the brochure and immediately I knew I wanted to go there, without even stepping foot in the school.” He applied and was accepted.

He started in January 1978 after quitting his NDSU job and working in a restaurant for a few months (a pre-requisite for admission).

Despite feeling lost and homesick, Bruce “loved school.” He even landed on the Dean’s List-a cause for family celebration on a school break.

He graduated in August 1979 with an Associate’s Degree taking classes ranging from Beginning Bake Shop (3 weeks) to Classical Pastry and Showpieces (3 weeks) to meat cutting to table service.

Lesson #1

It doesn’t take a four-year college degree to be successful. “If one finds what they love to do and are willing to work hard, anything is possible.”

Jobs to Lay-Off to Career

Bruce held many jobs before landing a career in the food industry.

  • Baker for 4 months at a Monticello, NY hotel
  • Pastry Chef at a hotel in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands for a year
  • Pastry Chef at a country club in The Woodlands, Texas for a year
  • Pastry Chef at the University Club in Houston, Texas for six years

Like many, he contemplated a career switch, going so far as applying to become a Houston police officer. He decided to remain in the food industry after just one interview with the department.

He found himself with “walking papers” when the oil economy and real estate market tanked in Houston. “A pastry chef is a luxury for most clubs. There are outside sources for cakes and pastry without having to pay a salary.”

On his last day of work at the Club, he grabbed the classified ads on his way out and saw an ad for a pastry chef at a dessert and coffee bar.

Dessert Manufacturing

Product Line

Bruce went to work for the owners of the dessert and coffee bar and a year later owned a small percentage of the business. It had 4-hourly employees and a 600 square foot bakery.

As the business grew, the bakery moved into a 7000 square foot building and within another year it moved into a 30,000 square foot facility. One year later, they doubled their square footage to 60,000 square feet.

Eventually, they built their own 160,000 square foot place.

When the business was sold in 2006, it had 350 hourly employees.

Bruce was the Owner, Pastry Chef + Vice President of Research and Development for 21 years.

He learned large volume production on the job and initially leaned heavily on his food scientist ingredient suppliers. “It was very stressful for me as the entire business relied and counted on my being able to formulate recipes that:

  • Mixed and baked well in large volume production
  • Tasted good
  • Could be produced efficiently and cost effectively.”

250,000 Cakes

Overnight the company grew from 5-6 hourly employees to 75 employees to fulfill their first large volume club store company order: 250,000 9-inch, 3-layer black forest cakes.

“We were so naïve. We really didn’t know what we could or couldn’t do in production. We may not have had a darn clue but we needed the business and figured it out.” Most of the time, things worked out fine. “It was stressful at the time but quite humorous today.”

Lesson #2

A strong work ethic is huge in achieving success.

“Don’t be afraid to work hard. In fact, if you don’t, you likely won’t succeed.”

Lesson #3

“If you fail at something, pick yourself up, shake off the dust, learn from the mistake and keep pounding away. Sooner or later, it’ll all work out. You’ll be richer for it.”

Family Matters

The food industry is physically demanding and can be all consuming, thus taxing on the home life. “We eat and sleep the business. A supportive family sure does help.”

Teresa, his wife, “held down the fort at home” and was supportive of Bruce’s work. “She was, and is, my rock. Without her it would all have been for nothing.”

Lesson #4

Those who succeed in this industry, like most, “work hard and grind it out, daily.”

Work Life Balance

Bruce thinks a work life balance is important but easily admits “I found it to be pretty difficult.” Work consumed him both at the office and at home. Test kitchen and production deadlines were always looming and the phone rang constantly, even during the middle of the night.

“I’d say, if one is able to close the office door and go home to enjoy his or her family without thinking of the work sitting on the desk, you are better for it.”

Accolades + Awards

Bruce’s proudest achievement to date is his family.

Forced to cite professional awards, he lists being able to retire at age 50 as his greatest professional achievement. “The sale of our company was the ‘award’ my partners and I strove for and fought for all those years.”

Along the way, he

  • Survived in a household with two older academic and athletic brothers. One a dentist. The other an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.
  • Won a Bailey’s Irish Crème food competition in Houston
  • Appeared on the cover American Airlines’ American Way magazine behind a 5-tiered wedding cake prepared for his final project at CIA.

3 Principles + Values

What always guided Bruce toward these achievements were the three principles and values learned at a young age.

Lesson #5

Timeliness is important in business and everyday life. Be on time for meetings and appointments. “Being late is rude and shows you think your time is more valuable than the people you are to meet.”

Lesson #6

Preparedness. Always show up well prepared and knowledgeable. “Nothing bothered me more than having folks show up ill prepared and clearly not ready for the meeting.” This is inconsiderate and shows laziness.

Lesson #7

Exceed Expectations. Learn all you can about your customer’s business, including their customer base. Knowing this makes it possible to meet or exceed expectations. Bruce made many trips to see grocery store bakery buyers from all over the country. “If I was asked to bring a certain product, I did. But I also brought variations of it as well.” Many times, customers don’t quite know what they want. Offering options shows you did your homework and went the extra mile. “This was always appreciated.”


“I can’t think of a thing I’d like to accomplish yet in my life. I am content and happy.”

Finding what he was meant to do and fulling that calling were hallmarks of Bruce’s success and path in life.

Not surprising, his go-to song today is Lauren Daigle’s, “You Say.”


“When we think we are worthless and don’t recognize our strengths. God sees them.”

And many thank God for helping Bruce discover + understand his greater purpose.

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©Copyright. May 2019. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images or copy on this site. All are copyright protected and images are 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.
Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Contact her using the form above.

Do You Have the Manners to Soar?

How Up-to-Date Are Your Manners and Understanding of Etiquette?Are you an Etiquette Pro or an Amateur?

Need a refresher?

Seasoned professional or new graduate. It doesn’t matter. If you lack manners and understanding of basic etiquette in the workplace and elsewhere, your career will be stunted. No one wants a slob or buffoon on their payroll or in their presence.

Remember, every time you’re in public, you represent either your workplace or your family.

Having manners means you are a respectful person and considerate of others. Use of etiquette can convey respect of other cultures, traditions, or religions.

Social interactions are important to being successful in life, so teaching youth and refreshing ourselves on etiquette and manners are invaluable. You can’t practice or teach what you don’t know.

These aren’t dated and old-fashioned.

These are timeless rules of etiquette and signs of good manners.

The lists are not meant to be all-encompassing or all-inclusive.

Contact me below for additional questions about etiquette by category.


  • • Ladies first. Always. Open the door for a woman and allow her to enter before you. Restaurant managers-teach your wait staff to take a woman’s order first.
    • Men-open a woman’s car door. This is not sexist or old-fashioned. It’s respect.
    • Always hold the door open for someone with their hands full, the elderly and the handicapped.
  • Men walk on roadside of sidewalk; women on inside.
    • Offer your seat to an older, pregnant or impaired rider on public transportation, always.
    • Don’t block views of people shorter than you are. If you’re tall, stand back.
    • Avoid interrupting people while speaking.
    • Move your grocery cart to the edge of an aisle, not the center.
    • Park in one space and never in a handicapped spot, unless you are.


Napkins: Place the napkin in your lap upon seating. Unfold it on your lap not above or on the table.

Eating: Never start eating until the host has been seated and starts eating. Always eat with your mouth closed. Avoid chomping and making out loud noises. Don’t talk with food in your mouth.
Wine Glasses: Refrigerated wine (like white wine) and champagne glasses are held by the stem so your hand does not warm the liquid. Red wine glasses may be held by the bowl.
Count Your Drinks: Limit your alcohol intake to 2 or less drinks, especially at business dinners.
Forks: Work from the outside in. The short fork is the salad fork. Start there. With each new course work your way in toward the plate. When you are done, place the utensils side by side at an angle on your plate-fork tines facing up, knife blade facing the center of the plate. This signals the wait staff you are finished. [Technically, the utensils are to be placed at 4:20 on a dinner plate-pretend your dinner plate is a clock.]
Soup: Don’t put crackers in your soup anywhere but at home. If it’s too hot, stir, don’t blow on it. Spoon away from you towards the center of the soup bowl.
Toasts: Do not drink to yourself if you’re the one being toasted. Do not stand, unless you are already standing.
Salt and Pepper: Do not sprinkle seasoning on your food, unless you’ve already tasted it. If someone asks for the salt, pass both the salt and pepper.
Passing: At family style service where bowls are on the table, always pass the service bowls to the RIGHT.
Restaurant Service: Waiters serve food from the left and beverages from the right. If a waiter offers you food from a platter, use the fork from the left (where it is at your place setting) and the spoon from the right.
Cutting Food: Only cut one or two bite-sized pieces at a time, not the whole piece of meat.
Unwanted Food: The method you used to put food in your mouth (fingers or utensil) is what you use to remove the food. A pit or bone is removed with fingers.
Restroom: Don’t just get up and leave the table. Say, “excuse me; I’ll be right back.”
Phones: Never lay your phone on the table. Turn the ringer off. Don’t check scores, Facebook, or anything during dinner. It’s rude.
Hands: Keep them out of your hair. When not using your utensils, keep them in your lap. When holding one utensil, keep the other hand in your lap.
Place of Honor: It’s always to the right of the host.
Leftovers: Never ask to take leftovers home from a formal dinner party or business dinner.
End of Meal: The host will place her napkin to the left of her plate. That is when you do the same. This signals the end of the meal.


Introductions: At a business function, introduce yourself with your first and last name. Speak to the person you wish to honor first. Introduce yourself when there is a break in the conversation. In a business setting, always introduce people by saying their title and full name first, and then follow with a brief interesting or relevant piece of information about the people you are introducing. Always say, “Ms.” if you don’t know a woman’s marital status. [See “Introduction Primer” below.]
Attire: Dressing well is a form of good manners. Wear clean, non-wrinkly attire with polished shoes. If you wear nail polish, make sure it’s not chipped. Look put together, at all times.
Face-to-Face: Knock on the door or cubicle and wait until the person turns around before you start speaking. Don’t speak to her back.
Phones & Meetings: Put them away. No texting during meetings. And, please refrain from checking scores, news updates, etc. when you’ve been invited to participate and listen.
Break Room: Respect the shared space. Clean up after yourself. Throw away your food containers. Wipe up spills. If someone else leaves dishes or trash, set a great example and clean it up.
Your Voice: Talk at a moderate volume, especially in work spaces with cubicles.
Phone at Desk: Set it to vibrate or low. Don’t use an offensive ring tone.
Music: Keep the radio low or use headphones.
Smells: Don’t take off your shoes at work. Don’t bathe in perfume and cologne. Avoid eating a smelly lunch at your desk.
Timely: Show respect for your co-workers. Show up on time. Use the restroom and get your coffee before the meeting is to start.


RSVP is an acronym of the French phrase, “Respondez s’il vous plait,” or “Respond, if you please.” It is used on invitations because the host needs to know the number of guests to prepare for. How much food and liquor to buy? How many place settings are needed?
Sure, it can be difficult to commit to an event so far in the future but do your host a favor and give them a courteous reply by the date requested on the invitation.
And, if you say you are coming, attend. Hosts pay for your presence. Be there.


The thank-you note is essential in both everyday life as well as in business correspondence. Writing and sending one shows not only appreciation but indicates part of your personality to others.
Job Interview: After a job interview, send a hand-written thank you note. Proofread it first.
Post Party: A hand-written thank you note after a party and/or formal dinner is always appreciated.
Newlyweds: Contrary to popular belief, brides and grooms don’t have a year to send out thank-you notes. There is no reason to not get them done within a few months after the wedding. Gift givers have every right to be upset if one is not received in a timely manner or never received.
Gifts: Just as you never attend a party or wedding without a gift, always remember to mail a hand-written thank you note for a gift received.


Don’t Post Ugly: Resist publishing a photo of a friend or family member if they aren’t looking their best. Would you want them to post you looking less than great? No.
No Light or Sound: Turn the light and sound off on your phone during a movie, play and/or concert. You don’t want to be the annoying patron.
Restaurants: In a restaurant, phones should be silenced. If you receive an important call, you should excuse yourself and go outside to take the call.
Drunken Posts: Social media and alcohol should be avoided together at all costs.
Dinner. Be present. Keep your phone silenced during dinner, especially with friends and individuals of a certain age/generation. It’s a sign of respect.
Check Out: Never order or pay for something while you are on the phone.
In Line: Don’t chat away while in line for something. No one wants to hear your personal conversations.


The fact that one even needs to mention manners regarding hygiene is a bit disturbing. Parents-teach your children how to present themselves in public. Adults, haven’t you been taught better?

Nails. Clipping your finger or toenails is never appropriate in public. Not on your porch. Not on the bus. Not while in line. Not in the movie theatre. Nowhere but the privacy of your bathroom.
Teeth: Flossing should be done at home, or at least in a bathroom. It is not fun for people around you to watch you get stuff out of your teeth. Brush in private too. If you must use a public bathroom, please clean the sink.
Tweezing: Another private bathroom function. Remove hair in private not while driving or while in lines.
Hair: Avoid brushing or combing your hair in pubic, especially in restaurants where it flies around.


Someone is nice enough to offer you a place to stay during your get-away. Be someone who gets invited back.
• Arrive with a gift-a bottle of wine, a candle, a book, kitchen tools, something to show your appreciation. Even if the host suggests you don’t need to do this. Do it anyway. It’s the right thing to do.
• Buy or bring some groceries. Your host is not responsible for all of your meals. Never ask to change the menu for a meal the host is preparing. If you have dietary restrictions, let those be known before your arrival. Bring food items that only you would eat.
• Ask permission to use items in the house.
• Prepare a meal or pay for a meal out.

• Keep your space and the bathroom clean. Put the toilet seat down.
• Conserve linens and towels-even if you use a different towel every day at home don’t expect your host to provide one daily. Bring your own if that’s your practice.
• Ask about house rules-use of TV, electronics, dishwasher, smoking, etc.
• Lend a hand-walk the dog, do the dishes, etc.
• Strip the bed and collect linens as you prepare to leave-ask host first.
• Send a thank you note when you arrive home.


Nothing causes more heartburn than knowing who is “getting the check” after a dinner out. Clarify it before accepting an invitation. Generally, if you say “let’s go out” that usually means the bill will be split. But, if you invite someone somewhere it means that you’ll be responsible for the bill.
Birthday: If you or a group is going out for someone’s birthday dinner, you all pay for the birthday person. If you can’t afford to chip in, don’t go. The person choosing the restaurant should be mindful of varying income levels of the group and choose a moderately priced restaurant.
Tips: If you put part of your charge on a card and pay cash for the other, you TIP on the total not just the part on your card. Also, carry one-dollar bills to tip the bartender and coat check attendant.

Cost: Never announce the cost of the dinner, if you’re picking up the check.
Split the Check: Only make this suggestion if all parties ordered similar priced meals. It’s unfair otherwise.

Introduction Primer

When performing introductions, here are two steps to proper business introductions:
Step 1: The first person’s name you say is always the most important person.
Step 2: Thereafter, everyone else’s name is introduced to that most important person.
ALWAYS say the most important person’s name first. In business, rank and status are the primary determinants to who takes precedence over whom. A client always outranks the CEO or President. Gender and age are typically not factors.

  • NEVER use the word “meet” when introducing people. Rather, for an informal introduction, use the words “this is” as the bridge between saying the most important person’s name first and then introducing the second person. “Jane Smith this is John Doe, our new staff member. Jane Smith is our CEO.”

Other reminders

  • Keep the forms of the address equal. If you use Ms. Smith, you must use Mr. Doe. You should not say, “Jane Smith this is Mr. Doe..”
  • In regular situations, it is best to use both a person’s first and last name when making introductions. To use only a first name is not introducing the total person.
  • Do say something about the people you are introducing so they will have something to discuss after introductions. Then you may excuse yourself to meet and greet others.
  • When introducing  dignitaries and other notable people, such as elected officials, you may want to use the word “present” instead of the words “this is” or “introduce.”

Help a colleague, friend, new college graduate, young professional and family member out, SHARE this post.

Have a rule of etiquette you think must be added to the list? Let me know on the form 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. January 2018. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved

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.

15 Safety Tips for Buyers & Sellers

Ready to Sell Your Home? Keep Safety in Mind

What other time in your life do you invite random strangers into your home? Probably never. However, when your home is listed for sale, strangers indeed view your home online and in person. At the first listing appointment with your real estate agent, go over this list of security items to keep your home burglar proof and to keep your items safe while your home is on the market.

Buyer Screening Process

Understand your listing agent’s buyer screening process. At a minimum, it should include a phone screening prior to showing the home. Discuss whether or not you want buyers to be pre-qualified before a showing and understand what safety precautions will be in effect at open houses and showings. Will an electronic lock box be used to track all home entries? Are photo IDs required for entrance? Is video surveillance being used? If so, ask your listing agent to include these in all advertisements.

15 Security Items to Pay Attention to When Selling

  1. Prescription Drugs

Remove them or lock them up prior to open houses and showings. Also, remove expired drugs from your cabinets and night stands.

  1. Valuables

A real estate agent is not responsible for your valuables. A selling agent cannot be present at all showings. Therefore, it’s important that you canvas your house prior to any video or photographs being taken to post online. Remember, thieves can look at your home from the comfort of their home. If your images include valuables, it may make your home a target. Consider removing artwork, gaming systems, jewelry, cellphones, guns, etc. Secure all credit cards and always keep mail locked and away so no one can get access to your personal information.

  1. Personal Identifiers + Family Portraits

A listing agent suggests removal of family pictures not just for staging but also for safety. You don’t know who will be coming through your home. What if a pedophile or predator attends an open house and photographs of your children are on the wall? Take down all family pictures. Be safe and protect your privacy. Hide all family calendars and anything with your children’s names or schools, including school banners and photographs.

  1. Electronics

Stow away your laptops and conceal all easy-to-steal electronics like iPad’s and cellular phones. Keep all video games hidden away.

  1. Windows + Lights

Keep windows locked and open the blinds or draperies, especially during open houses. Check all of them after showings and open houses. Are they still locked? Make sure your home has adequate indoor and outdoor lighting before listing it for sale. Leave all of the lights on during a showing for everyone’s safety: the agents and potential buyers.

  1. Spare Keys

Keep them out of sight. This goes for house, car, safety box, etc. All keys. Keep them hidden.

  1. Kids

Try to find out if kids are attending a showing. If so, pay extra attention to your home’s safety. Is the entryway clean and clear? Any tripping hazards? Make sure a responsible adult will be watching them throughout the showing so they do not get into personal items. Speak to your real estate agent and ensure she will be vocal about kids not straying during a showing or at an open house.

  1. Knives + Guns

Always remove kitchen knives from countertops and drawers. If there are any guns in the home, remove them prior to listing the home for sale.

  1. Pets

Always remove pets prior to a showing or open house. You will be liable if someone is injured by your pet while viewing your property. If someone has a pet allergy, it makes your home less desirable to them.

  1. Extra Security

Once the home is listed for sale, it’s available to the public. Consider adding motion-sensor detectors to the home. Make sure doors have deadbolts. Sliding glass doors should have bars and extra locks. And, for added peace of mind, consult your real estate agent about a wireless security system.

  1. Unaccompanied Buyers

Never allow someone into your home without a licensed real estate agent who has set an appointment with your listing agent. If they come to your door, refer them to your agent. Never let them inside the home. Also, be aware of online real estate scams where, unfortunately, someone can list your home for rent. If this happens, immediately call your local police department.

  1. Roamers

Never allow a potential buyer to roam unaccompanied through your home. You want to be trusting and hospitable, but you cannot be foolish. Do not let your guard down and never be alone when showing your home. Watch their behavior. Are they lingering too long? Be aware.

Most people coming through your home will be legitimate buyers. Still, take the necessary precautions to ensure your safety and your home’s safety during the sales process. Always enlist the services of a licensed real estate agent who knows how to protect you, your home and your possessions.

You’re Buying

As a buyer, your safety is also foremost on a real estate agent’s mind when looking for your new home. It’s important to:


  1. Know the neighborhood you are considering purchasing in.

You will be advised to drive through the neighborhood at different times of the day to see if what it looks like and what is happening there meets with your standards and expectations. Check crime reports and sexual offender registries.

  1. Vacant and/or Distressed Homes

Prior to stepping inside, look around. Are there broken windows? Do outside walls or the roof have holes? What does the yard look like? Is it littered? Are there signs of squatters? Once inside, be on the lookout for loose floorboards, rotting decks, loose railings, stray animals, rodents or other hazards.

  1. Contamination

Be aware of the home’s history. Were there drugs like methamphetamines manufactured in the home? These drugs can seep into the surfaces without being visible and cause health related issues later. If you get a burning sensation in your eyes or throat when entering a home, that is not a good sign. Mold can result from moisture in homes where marijuana was grown. Look around carefully for signs of contamination.

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. April 2017. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved.




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.



Naughty & Nice List

It’s that time of the year to reveal Naughty and Nice Lists. list
This year our family relocated, traveled off shore, celebrated a birthday milestone in Las Vegas, housed in temporary living quarters, and purchased and furnished a house. Our business interactions were greater than usual. Some were pleasant; others not so much. Here’s who left an impression and landed on the lists.

Patty Bain, Area Sales Manager, Lodging Dynamics Hospitality Group. Patty directed us to ideal temporary housing at the Omaha Towne Place Suites while we were looking for a house. Prior to our relocation, she advised us on how to best use the space and make the most of the temporary status. She greeted us with a welcome basket and checked in on our family often-good ole’ fashioned customer service wins every time! If you or your group needs lodging in Omaha, contact Patty at
Megan Owens, Realtor at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, is dynamite! Of all the agents in Omaha, we chose Megan because we consistently favored her listings and the way she staged them for sale. In addition, she was patient with our ever-changing relocation date and very responsive to our communications. Megan’s greatest trait is her superior listening skills. She quickly grasps your housing needs and works tirelessly to find you the ideal location. She has tremendous focus, energy, and business savvy. She’s well networked and respected in the Omaha real estate market. She’s mighty and will not disappoint. Contact Megan.
First National Bank Omaha has met our mortgage and personal banking needs since the relocation. There’s always a hesitation after moving to find a new bank, especially after we had such an outstanding banker in Lauren at First Premier in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. However, the mortgage banking team led by Becky Sandiland couldn’t have done one thing better to land on this Nice List. Without a doubt, this financing experience was the best we’ve ever had! It was so favorable that we decided to do our personal banking there with Faye Gerteisen Hats off to First National Bank Omaha for hiring great staff, training them well and then allowing them to serve customers in a way that retains them for a lifetime.
• Looking good makes you feel good and Ashly, Designer, at Beauty First Nebraska keeps us presentable. She’s cheerful, enthusiastic, and just a great all-around stylist. Start 2016 off with a new cut and style by making an appointment with Ashly at 402.496.1787.
Susan Anawski, owner of Prestige Travel, has been a life-saver for the traveling Thomason Trio on multiple occasions, and not just in 2015. When an airplane mechanical issue delayed an offshore family trip, Susan, yet again, rescued us and worked magic to get us to our location and secure us vouchers for our next trip. I know many think they can do better than a travel agent, and we did too, until we employed her services and found out why she’s the expert, and we aren’t. Traveling in 2016, contact Susan at 605.367.4000 or No matter where you live, she can gladly assist.

Naughty List

Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM). What a major disappointment to find out the one you’ve been pining for doesn’t care about you, even after you’ve spent a very large amount of time and money on them. We have placed five orders with NFM and there is a 100% failure rate on post-sale activity. Furniture arrived chipped with the pieces taped to the underside. Others were damaged in the move. Pre-paid assembly was not completed. Scheduled delivery times were off by 8 hours, on and on and on. The worst part of this rude awakening is that the Mart employs some pretty capable designers and sales people. Too bad they aren’t supported with after sale counterparts who share their skill set.
Hy-Vee. Wow! Major downer! We were introduced to Hy-Vee in Sioux Falls and spent every grocery dollar there. We were so loyal we knew the staff and vice versa. We loved the culture and the way they supported the community. Fast forward to Omaha and the three stores we frequented seem like they’re foreign to the Hy-Vee experience in South Dakota. Let’s just say with so many choices in Omaha, we’ve moved on because our shopping dollar doesn’t seem to be appreciated or valued at the Omaha Hy-Vee stores. We miss “the smile in every aisle.”
Caesars Palace Lost and Found Department. We stayed in Caesars for Alex’s 21st birthday celebration. Despite the horrible smoke on the no smoking floor and drunken guests pounding on our door on multiple nights, all agreed it was an ideal location. However, never plan to leave anything behind at Caesars because you won’t get it back. Ever. A necklace was left when we checked out before 6 am. We called from the airport gate and followed all of the correct procedures. It took days to hear back from the hotel and when we did it was through a form email. Three weeks later, the case remained open. We know it’s never being returned. Ironically, when we checked in, we found the previous guest’s credit card on the closet floor. Knowing that not everyone is always honest, we called the card company and informed them of our finding rather than return the card to the lost and found department. Foreshadowing at its finest. Lesson learned-never travel with something you cannot part with.

Straddling both lists is Delta Airlines. They cost my family a day at an offshore resort because of mechanical failure discovered by pilots before we were to leave on the first flight out of Omaha. Per the pilot, the issues should’ve been noticed and fixed the evening before. Yikes! However, Delta did right by speaking the truth during the day-long delay and issued travel vouchers for future travel to all passengers. On another trip, Delta baggage handlers destroyed our luggage. Once again, they processed the claim in a fair and expedient manner and offered what seemed to be a sincere apology for the damage. So even when a company makes mistakes, and they all do because humans work there, if they acknowledge their mistakes and make reasonable amends and explanations, it sits better with the consumer, or at least this one.
Who lands on your Nice List?clap Who is on your Naughty List? Have you told them? It is my policy to always inform a company when they are about to lose my business. Hy-Vee, Caesars and the Nebraska Furniture Mart were each contacted and reasons for the loss explained. As a former CEO and small business owner, I value customer feedback-good and bad. Wouldn’t it be an ideal world if all businesses did? If someone provides you exceptional service, let that be known as well. Everyone wants to feel appreciated, even at work.

Let’s hope your Nice List has more members than your Naughty List and that those on this Naughty List will work hard to make the Nice List in 2016.
©Copyright. December 2015. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved.

3 F’s of Unemployment

Awhile back our family was anticipating an employment and relocation change. I found this beautiful verse that today is framed and in our family room as a reminder of what has been, what will be and what can be endured. 

Life does not stand still.

Change is constant.

It comes by chance, by choice or by force

but come it will…come it will.

Only character and faith can guide

for they are the anchor and the compass

in ever changing lives.

Jon and Amy share what has guided them in their recent unwanted career changes. Each relies heavily on faith, family & friends. Read their stories and tips for staying positive through change. Share this with others going through a career or job change.

Contributed by Jon May from Ohio.

jon fishFinding yourself out of work or unemployed can be both scary and overwhelming no matter where you’re at in your career. I was a Human Resources professional for 20+ years and it was my job to help others understand the reasons for changes in their employment status. Now for the first time in my career, because of a merger, I have to face this challenge myself. If you’re in the same boat, please understand the role work plays in our identity.

• It makes us feel worthy, proud and significant.
• Work gives us a sense of achievement in providing something worthwhile for others.
• Work shapes our personal growth and development, and
• Work provides us sufficient finances to adequately meet our needs.

During this time of self-examination and transition, one must also spend quality time with God to ensure where He wants you to go and what He wants you to be doing. “… to rejoice in His labor; this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:9). Remember, the creation never dictates to the creator what they are purposed to accomplish in their life.
Finally, I offer 5 steps for dealing with career transitions:
1. Allow yourself some down time to reconnect with family & friends, seek spiritual and emotional support and discern your next steps.
2. Take full advantage of outplacement services offered by your previous employer. These services will provide support on resume development, LinkedIn profiles and networking.
3. Redefine and write down your goals for income, location, industry, etc. These will guide you in working towards your next opportunity.
4. Stay motivated and active. Keep moving to make progress so you don’t get discouraged or become complacent.
5. Be open to different opportunities such as project or consulting work and/or part time work. Doing so will not only continue to hone your skills but also the next person you network with may be a great connection for your next career opportunity.

Jon May is a 20+ years Human Resources executive. He’s been married 25 years to his bride Meredith. He is the father of Jordan, a college junior, and Joshua, a high school junior. Jon has a passion for coaching and developing others and helping them find what God has called them to accomplish as part of their career and life assignment. Jon enjoys spending time with family, fishing, exercising and offering support to his church’s budget committee.

Contributed by guest blogger Amy Davis of Alabama.

amy family“Losing your job is not the end of the world – you’ll find something”. This was the first thing my sister-in-law told me as I shared the devastating news of being jobless again. I’ve worked 80 hour weeks since I can remember, so when I’m not working, it does feel like the end of the world. My entire existence changed in an instant. One day I was working the usual 12 hour day, and the next day there was complete silence. The silence – that is the hardest part – it is where one’s faith and common sense are tested daily.
I now know that my sister-in-law was absolutely correct. Hers probably aren’t the words I would choose, but she wanted me to see the big picture. Often times, our close friends and family know us better than we know ourselves. It is very easy to question everything about yourself and move into that vicious cycle of self-loathing when you lose your job. Simple tasks such as reviewing your resume or LinkedIn profile become a battle-one between a confident winner and the newly-born skeptic sure everyone sees you as a failure. When you surround yourself with the love of your faith, family, and friends, simple tasks become simple again and there seems to be a purpose to life.
Do you have a friend like this? One who reminds you God is there to take your worries or that you are an intelligent and good person? As soon as I start telling one of my friends I don’t know if I was cut out to work anymore, she reminds me of the good life I have and how I have so much to offer. My husband was the first person to tell me we will be okay; we can make it work with some sacrifices. He listens to me whine when I see another rejection email and reminds me I didn’t have my first interview until after applying for a month the last time I lost my job.
Most importantly (to me), my church friends have prayed for and with me countless times. They have helped me remember how to turn my worries over to God – through prayer and my faith.

My biggest epiphany has been that God has placed all of these people and circumstances into my life with a purpose. With my faith, every task is possible and anything is doable. I am so grateful for all of the doorstops (my friends and family) He has placed in my path as a reminder that everything will be okay.

As it turns out, I’m now pursuing what I have always loved doing and I’m writing my heart out. Losing my job is not the end of my world.

Amy Headshot 9 2015Amy Davis is a freelance writer with a background in instructional design, training program management and consulting who lives near Birmingham, Alabama with her husband and teenage son. Her passion for writing began at an early age through journaling and grew with her into her career. Amy’s metaphoric approach to writing is a true representation of her personality and approach to life.

See more at

Leave a word of encouragement, ask a question or seek advice from Jon & Amy in the Comments Section below. Have you lost a job? What did you rely on to move forward? How have Jon & Amy’s messages impacted you? Comment and share.

Copyright. September 2015. Linda Leier Thomason.

All Rights Reserved.

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