Faith, Family & Farming: McCook, Nebraska

Pillars of Southwest Nebraska Community

townI spent 22 hours covering every square inch, and then some, of McCook-a city of nearly 8000 and the county seat of Red Willow County, Nebraska. My goal on any undercover visit is to discover the heartbeat of the community-what makes it thrive, what does it value and how is it different from anywhere else.

I left McCook with a clear understanding that Faith, Family and Farming are the pillars in this Go-To city in Southwest Nebraska.

Origin

Established in 1882 as a railroad center halfway between Denver and Omaha, McCook remains a regional trade hub for Northwest Kansas and Southwest Nebraska. Residents in this rural area flock to McCook for shopping, dining, education, entertainment, medical services and more.

Red Willow County was named for the Red Willow Creek, which is a tributary of the Republican River. The name is reported to be mistranslated from the Dakota Indian name Chanshasha Wakpala, which literally means Red Dogwood Creek. The Dakota referred to the creek as such because of an abundance of red dogwood shrub that grew along the creek banks. Its stem and branches are deep red in color and favored in basket making.

History & Trendy

The city has seamlessly blended history and modernization. In fact, the two often co-exist, as seen at The Loop Brewing Company, a former railroad beericehouse that in 2011 became a brewery and restaurant with an active railway within a few feet of its front door. The Loop was at near capacity when I arrived to enjoy a beer flight and brick oven pizza shortly after 8 pm on an unseasonably 38 degree rainy night.

Norris Avenue (The Bricks) is perhaps the best example of this perfect blend of history and hip. The historical walking tour includes, in addition to other sites, the Fox Theatre and Museum of High Plains & Carnegie Library  as well as the Norris House-a museum for its namesake, the late Senator George W norrisNorris. Go a bit south to find the trendy women’s clothing store Mint 217 and the fabulous Knowlen and Yates cooking and kitchenware store. While touring, you’ll also find the H.P. Sutton Home-the only house in Nebraska designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, which today is a private residence. Venture off “The Bricks” on East B Street and discover The Painted Ladies. This home décor and painted furniture store owned by three friends is right on trend and proves that no matter how far you live from a metropolitan area, you can keep up with the trends and be just as “cool” as anyone else. West B Street finds you at Farrells Pharmacy and Hallmark Store where the best prescription here is customer service.

Gold Star Service

In fact, every business I entered deserves a gold star for customer service. flipSure, in a community this size where folks likely know one another, I’m certain I stood out. Instead of making me feel like an outsider, every encounter was quite the opposite. “Welcome. Is there something I can help you find?” Good old-fashioned customer service still exists, at least in McCook. Equally impressive was, “Thank you for stopping in and for visiting McCook.”

Well done business owners! Your employees are impressively well-trained.

Family

pianoNo matter where I dined during my visit, I was always a party of two surrounded by large family groups. Lunching at Sehnert’s Bakery & Bieroc Cafe was an extraordinary experience. Yes, the Jiffy Burger, especially the freshly baked bun, was exceptional as were the pastries, and I mean plural, but the sense of community in the establishment is something of day’s long gone. The ownership here has taken great care in creating a gathering place that oozes community.

After ordering, coffee-sipping customers caught up with one another in front of the pastry display cases while waiting for their lunch. As one moves to the dining area, a framed poster on “How to Build Community” greets all diners. tallThe message of the poster was perfectly put into action in the Café. Greetings were exchanged between and across tables and remarkably diners of all ages sat at the Café’s piano filling the room with background sounds deserving of a much larger audience, though greatly appreciated by their current one, which applauded after each performance.

Throughout my 22 hours as a first-time visitor, everything I saw and experienced in McCook was new, but my time in this Café left the strongest impression on me. It’s something I wish for every community. One person and one business can make a difference in building community.

Faith

Churches (20) of nearly every faith are represented in McCook. I visited St. glassPatrick’s Catholic Church. The doors were open-a rare find today in a town of any size. As with most communities, the churches in McCook appear to foster social capital and provide needed services as well as a moral compass for the city.

 

Farming

mooMy visit included a drive by schools, city hall, a senior center and nursing home, the community college, hospital, airport, golf course, and parks. I visited the library and the Burlington Northern and Amtrak station as well as two surrounding state recreation areas: Red Willow Reservoir and Medicine Creek. No matter where I went, I observed and understood the role agriculture plays in this area’s economy.

grainApproaching McCook on Highways 6 & 34 East, one’s senses are awakened by the aromas of feed lots and rich wet soil ; sights of windmills, irrigation systems and massively-sized, sophisticated-looking grain bins, and the sounds of bellowing cows and rumbling trains. Farming is vital and omnipresent in this region.

4hThe Red Willow County Fairgrounds, which house the Kiplinger Arena, spoke to the heart of McCook. Here young citizens learn both the values and lessons of farming and citizenship from adults who hold dear the same lessons shared by their predecessors.

Go-To McCook

golfMcCook is the Go-To City of Southwest Nebraska built on a foundation of faith, family and farming. Go to McCook. Awaken your senses, engage in conversation with the locals, shop their trendy stores, walk the Heritage Square, play in their well-kept parks and dine in one of many great eateries.

Experience a textbook example of community.

You will leave McCook a more enlightened person than when you came.

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. May 2016. Linda Leier Thomason.

All Rights Reserved.

This undercover study was done in cooperation with McCook/Red Willow County Tourism.

 

Nominate your community for an undercover study by contacting me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith Tested by Birthing Trauma

boyBirth announcements bring joy and smiles to most. Families high five and hug, celebrating the newest addition. Almost instantly social media announces the good news. Well-deserved “congratulations” pour in.

Labor and delivery is a medical procedure, yet to most families it’s also a celebration.

However, not everyone experiences a healthy pregnancy or a normal delivery. Some barely make it out of the birthing process alive.

Kristin fought for survival during and after childbirth and now shares her remarkable story of trauma and faith. Be forewarned. It’s emotion-provoking.

Early Pregnancy Days

Kristin and husband Mitch decided to leave their family planning up to God who blessed them with a pregnancy within a month of trying. Their decision was not unusual, considering she’s the daughter of a pastor, so faith was always part of her life.

24 weeksKristin was scared when she learned she was pregnant. The fear of the unknown was quite real. But once the first 9 weeks of nausea, fatigue and morning sickness passed, she felt the excitement of growing their family and the anticipation of joining the world of motherhood. Fortunately, she had a completely normal pregnancy with no concerns. She used this time to read pregnancy and parenting books, completely understanding that there is no way to really plan for the way one’s life changes when a baby comes into your world. She and Mitch also attended labor and delivery classes to get information on the birth experience and what to expect when bringing their baby home. But no book, blog or class could’ve ever prepared them for what they experienced at week 33 and beyond.

Abdominal Pain & Ambulance Ride

Kristin went to the emergency room (ER) at 33 weeks with extreme abdominal pain.   After several tests, she was told she was experiencing pre-labor contractions and given a steroid to help the baby’s lung development, should he arrive early. After a night in the hospital, Kristin went home on modified bed rest and took Nifedipine, a high blood pressure medication.

The pain reappeared exactly one week later. This time though she also was lightheaded and faint; pain radiated up her chest and into her right shoulder. She knew something wasn’t right as she dozed on and off throughout the night. At dawn she awakened Mitch and asked for help to the restroom. When he saw her colorless face and that she could barely move, he immediately dialed 911.

Rushed to Operating Room

What happened next felt like an out-of-body experience to Kristin. “Like I was on the outside looking in.” She recalls being poked and prodded and hearing EMS workers discussing difficulty finding a vein or a pulse. She remembers the blaring firetruck and ambulance siren sounds as they made their way to the hospital. And, she remembers praying, “Dear God, please just let this baby be healthy.” Today she still recalls the look on Mitch’s face as the door of the cramped ambulance closed. He was scared.

A team of nurses greeted the ambulance and rushed Kristin inside desperately trying to find the baby’s heartbeat. She saw the fearful look on their faces and knew something was terribly wrong. After painfully rolling around on the exam table multiple times so the nurses could get a heartbeat, it was found beating at 30 beats per minute (bpm)-well below a normal baby’s heart rate of 100+ bpm.

The doctor, who’d taken good care of her in the ER the previous week and whom she trusted, rushed in and immediately directed the nurses to prep her for an emergency C-section. Again, Kristin felt like she was in a movie. “This wasn’t really happening to me, was it? This wasn’t in our birth plan! Where is Mitch? I can’t do this alone; I need him by my side to protect me.”

Kristin saw Mitch out of the corner of her eye being told to put on surgical scrubs. She grabbed for his hand while hurriedly being wheeled into the operating room (OR). Code Pink was paged overhead, meaning an emergency concerning an infant, including a medical complication or abduction, was happening. Mitch knew it was for them, and he was now forbidden from the OR.

Not Breathing

Their baby boy was born not breathing at 6:09 am on Sunday, March 4, 2012, weighing 4 pounds and 12 ounces and measuring 21 inches long. He was greeted by the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) staff and given CPR and a shot of epinephrine to get his heart going. His APGAR score was zero.

Kristin’s first memory after delivery was being surrounded by a team of fetal medicine doctors explaining to family what had happened and what HELLP syndrome was. She heard them say that her abdomen was full of blood when they took the baby out. Unable to find the source of blood, another incision was made up to her belly button where they found her ruptured liver-the source of her upper right quadrant pain. The only cure for HELLP syndrome is delivering the baby.

post birth mitchMom Holds Son-10 Days Later

Kristin spent 9 days in the hospital, two in ICU because of a risk of seizures. She was given several blood transfusions and there was concern her liver would rupture again. On day three she was transferred to another hospital better equipped to provide surgical services, if needed. Her baby remained in the NICU where he was born for 10 days on oxygen and with a feeding tube. The doctors were amazed at his speedy recovery and nicknamed him ‘Superman’. Later, he officially was named Owen William.

Because her body had gone through a tremendous amount of trauma, it was extremely difficult for Kristin to care for Owen. She was under medical care herself and unable to be physically present in the same room as her newborn, making breast-feeding impossible. She felt guilty about not being able to provide for her baby as originally hoped.

A great deal of scar tissue resulted from the emergency C-section and from digging around her abdomen trying to locate the source of her bleeding. Three months after Owen’s birth she was hospitalized again for small bowel obstruction. After a week’s hospitalization where the medical team hoped her body would heal itself, she had surgery again. “I remember holding Owen in the moments just before surgery and feeling scared I might not make it through.” She remained hospitalized another two weeks post-surgery. “I was devastated to be separated again from my then 3-month old son.”

The years of abdominal pain and bloating, fatigue and other physical ailments post birth don’t compare to the emotional toll the experience had on Kristin. “Being separated from Owen during the first hours and days of his life was devastating. When I switched hospitals, I remember feeling so anxious and worried about not bonding with him because I wasn’t able to hold him or even be in the same room as him. It was heartbreaking to me that others were able to hold and feed him before I did the first time at 10 days old.”

PTSD

Kristin exhibits symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Certain triggers cause flashbacks to Owen’s birth. Driving by his birthplace or hearing ambulance sirens cause a racing heart and emotional breakdown. Owen’s birthday, which should be reason for great joy and celebration, triggers flashbacks. Even the weeks before cause considerable anxiety. While she craves more detail about the moments leading up to Owen’s birth and the weeks thereafter, Mitch has repressed the memories. “In my mind, it was the hours and days I lived through that I don’t remember, and it’s difficult having those unknowns and questions.”

Because hers wasn’t a normal birth experience, Kristin often feels isolated and finds it hard to relate to other moms. Joining a group for stay-at-home moms was less than fulfilling. Mom talk about pregnancy, breast-feeding and  more children was hard to hear. When she shared her birthing journey, there was often dead silence in the room, making her feel awkward because no one knew how to react to a story they found super depressing, only causing her to feel more isolated. Being around pregnant women, baby showers, birth announcements and newborns is a struggle.

She saw a counselor post trauma and found it beneficial but still feels isolated when random triggers hit her. “I wouldn’t expect anyone to understand my thoughts or feelings when they haven’t gone through what I did.”

1 and Done, But Wait…

Kristin and Mitch will never experience pregnancy again. Blood tests after delivery discovered several blood clotting disorders, which automatically put her at a higher risk for miscarriage or birthing complications. All medical professionals have warned against another pregnancy, though it’s absolutely possible. “There is no way we would risk that now that we have Owen. The thought of him growing up without a mom makes me sick.”

Their early marriage family plan was disrupted but Spring 2016 finds them in the adoption process, which brings all great joy and hope.

Message to Pregnant Women & Obstetricians (OBs)

Kristin admits that even though she was academically prepared for pregnancy and childbirth, she was unprepared for their reality. Before pregnancy she was unaware of any type of clotting factors in her genetics. In fact, she was the healthiest she’d been in her entire life when she became pregnant. She tells pregnant women that no matter how much you plan; it may not go as planned. Additionally, she asks them to trust their bodies. If something doesn’t feel right, get it checked out. “If I had to do it over, I’d have listened to my body and gone to the ER sooner. But when it’s your first pregnancy and everything is new, you don’t know what is “normal” and what’s not.”

She advises OBs who have patients with HELLP syndrome to run a complete blood workup on them looking for blood clotting factors such as Factor V Leiden, MTHFR, or Lupus anticoagulant, which is what she has. She adds that patients with rare blood clotting disorders should be followed by a hematologist.

Faith & Family

This experience tested the faith of every member of Kristin and Mitch’s families, including them. In her unstable condition, Kristin “prayed without ceasing” and trusted that the God who allowed this to happen to her and their son would be the same God who would reveal His healing powers and get her out of it. Understandably, when she was re-hospitalized, she was angry at God. “For any Christ follower who’s gone through tough times, it’s a normal progression to question God and His goodness. For me, this was a necessary step to work through to get me to the place I am at today.”

Kristin hopes that their story will be used to bring others to know God. “Because the God that I serve is the same God who didn’t let me die; He kept me around for a reason.” Admittedly, Kristin doesn’t know the reason yet, but today she’s focused on finding that out and sharing her testimony with others. She counts herself in the group of people who need to “hit rock bottom” or be on the “brink of death” to let go of control and give it over to God.

family photo Mitch
Leah B Photography

Owen Today

Though there was concern about brain damage or developmental delays because he was without oxygen and not breathing at the time of birth, today Owen is a completely typical boy. He has one speed and that’s ‘full on’- always physically moving with a mind going a million miles a second. “We joke that it’s because of the steroid and epinephrine shot he received when he was born.”  No one would want him any other way.

Kristin & Mitch Today

They live differently today than before this birthing experience. Their faith was made real. Neither takes life for granted and each avoids fretting over little things. “Stupid arguments are just that-stupid.”

Kristin knows she’s a different mom than she may have been had she not had gone through all this. She owns her over-protectiveness of Owen and still struggles with feelings of guilt about her body putting him at risk. They’re both doing their finest to be the best parents they can be and to enjoy every moment while Owen still wants to “hang out with them.”

And, they cannot wait to see how God will use Owen.

Neither can we!

Click here for more information on  HELLP Syndrome.

  • H(Hemolysis, which is the breaking down of red blood cells)
  • EL (Elevated liver enzymes)
  • LP (Low platelet count)

How did you react to Kristin’s story and faith journey? When has your faith gotten real?

Leave your comments below.

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WOWT TV Story Aired May 31, 2016 in Omaha, NE

 

©Copyright. April 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.

 

Farm Girl to Fortune 200 Leader

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

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

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

Here’s Cyndy’s story.

Rural Values

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

College Dropout

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

Non-Traditional Jobs

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

Divorce & Death

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

A New Beginning

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

A Career

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

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

Who Will Succeed?

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

Gratitude and Belief

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

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

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

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

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

©Copyright. February 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

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

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 http://reinventamy.blogspot.com/.

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.

If you’d like to be considered as a guest contributor, email me at llthomason60@gmail.com.