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.

The Life of Jewelry Designer Lucy Lowe

Meet Jewelry Designer, Lucy Lowe

Photo Credit: Meg Simpson

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

Officially she’s a goldsmith and jewelry designer.

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

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

This memorable experience set her on a jewelry design journey.

 Art of Being an Artist

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

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

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

 Work & Life Values

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giving Brings Joy

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

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

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


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

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

She loves the Danish silversmiths of the 1900s.

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

Work/Life Balance

Lucy is a work/life balance advocate.

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

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


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

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

Days Ahead

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

Join her.

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

Purchase Lucy’s Designs 

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

SHARE this post.

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

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

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

Quotes That Stuck for a Lifetime

Origin of “Were You Raised in a Barn?” Quote

I rushed through the laundry room to close the garage door. One of the men in our house habitually leaves the door open while unloading vehicles. The heater or air conditioner senses the rapid air change and comes on. This makes me crazy. Aloud I said, “Were you raised in a barn?” The question startled me. I hadn’t said that in decades. That quote was dormant in my brain. Funny how it just popped right out my mouth at that time.

I often heard it growing up in a North Dakota family of 11.  Leaving the door open in North Dakota is a big deal.  Sub-zero temperatures chill the house instantly; sometime snowflakes blow into the foyer. Asking “Were you raised in a barn?” makes a point, especially during winter months.

I began to wonder. What other sayings or quotes did I hear as a child that I’m  using today? I asked  Midwestern followers. The findings are below. I thank the many who shared.  I understood most quotes and also remembered hearing them as a kid.  Each brought a smile as I recalled memories associated with the quote.

Hope they do the same for you. Here’s what a follower called the quotes:

“Stupid Things My Parents Said That I Now Say”.

Child Rearing &  Development

    • rooster“A rooster is going to come poop on that lip!” Parents said when I was pouting.
    • “Don’t make me come back there.” When kids fighting in car.
    • “Right is Tight; Left is Loose”-when opening or closing something-mostly jars.
    • “People die in bed!” Said  if I was sleeping or napping too long.
    • Grandpa would grab me by the back of my neck and hair and say “Do you know how a rooster looks when he looks over a log?”
    • “If you had a brain, you’d be dangerous.”
    • “Hit the hay.” -Meant get to bed.
    • “Get the lead out!”-Meant hurry up.
    • “Cool Your jets.” -Meant slow down and be patient.
    • “You’d lose your ass if it wasn’t tied on.” I lost everything, always, but not that.
    • “Go ask your father.”
    • “Have you asked your mother?”
    • “Don’t let the sun shine up your keester”…as in get up and out of bed.
    • “Slow as molasses in January”-when not moving fast enough
    • “Don’t make me stop that car.”-Usually when we were fighting in the backseat.

Moms as a Teacher Quotes

    • Mom would say “Weight broke the wagon down.” She would use this when we would say, Wait, we aren’t ready to do X yet. I don’t know if that was a school teacher thing with the play on the spelling of Wait/Weight, or not?
    • “It’s better than a sharp stick in the eye.” –meant-look on the bright side it could be worse, I guess.
    • Mom would say, “to make it stretch” when adding macaroni to a hot dish to make the pound of meat go farther
    • “There is no sea to it, it’s all dry land.” Mom would say this to us when we would say, See. Again, it may have been a school teacher thing playing on the spelling of see/sea.
    • Mom used to say “You are a poet but don’t know it, but your feet show it – they are long fellows.” She would say this when we rhymed words.
    • “Back to back, they faced each other, drew their swords and shot each other.” It makes no sense and I can’t think of when she would say that to us.

angelFaithful Quotes

    • “This too shall pass.”
    • “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.”
    • “It’s a sin!”
    • “Sweet Jesus Come to Mama!”
    • “May his soul rest in peace.”- every time we passed a hearse or cemetery.

Random Quotes

    • “Help yourself. If you go away hungry, it’s your own dang fault!”
    • “The almond is the king of nuts. ‘Almonds have it all! Therefore, they’re the king of nuts.”
    • “Were you born in a barn?”
    • “We look like a bunch of gypsies.” When taking the whole family out for a family drive
    • “Cracked a korny”- when telling a joke
    • “It was quite the shindig,” referencing a great celebration or party.
    • I remember Mom always yelling upstairs asking “What do we do with the hallway light?”  My usual response was “Leave it on so mom has something to complain about.” I think she meant, “turn it off.”
    •  “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

11Preparing You for the Workplace Quotes

  • “Problem…solution.”
  • “A function of getting the right answer is asking the right question.”
  • “Haste makes waste.”
  • “Practice makes perfect.”
  • “Don’t let the grass grow under your feet.” Get out there and get to work.
  • “Wait 3 days before acting on major life decision.”
  • “Fail to Plan; Plan to Fail.”
  • “Keep your nose to the grindstone.”
  • “Simmer down”-meant settle down
  • “Calm, always be calm.”
  • “Practice 10 times before giving a presentation or speech.”
  • “Get on the stick!” -Meant hurry up.
  • “Do you think I’m made of money?”-when I asked for school trip money
  • “Finish up and call it good.”-when I obsessed about project perfection

Relationship Quotes

  • “You made your bed, you lie in it!”
  • “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.”
  • “Take care of each other”
  • “Think enough of yourself and others will think enough of you”
  • “Thanks for the visit.”  “Tenks for da wizit.” I still say it to this day after an especially pleasing chat. Then I tell them about my German-Russian grandpa. I just said it to my boss last week.
  • “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

000Fashion Quotes

  • “Like something out of VOGUE”-when someone looked beautiful or “like Aster’s plush horse” or the “cat’s meow.”
  • Boys get hair cut they were “going to get their ears lowered.”
  • “It fits like a glove” When trying on something for size.
  • “They’d even look good in a gunnysack”…when someone would look good in anything.

Bathroom Quotes

  • “Don’t eat too many prunes or you will get the trots.”-meaning diarrhea.
  • “Clean as a whistle” or “smell like a rose” when you got a bath
  • “A site for sore eyes”-when bathed
  • What did you think of supper? Ehhh, “It’ll make a turd.”
  • “Cut the cheese” when passing gas or “pull my finger” and the person would fart

All-Time Favorite Quote Learned While Living in the Deep South

give-me-some-good-loving“Give Me Some Good Lovin'”

To this day, my son dips his head and lets me kiss it.

Yup. I’m hoping this quote is the one that sticks and gets passed on.



What quotes or sayings do you remember from childhood? Add them below! Such great language memories.


©Copyright. December 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.





Once Infatuated Now Turned Off by Political Process

Political History Uncovered in Red Storage Tub

elephantThere they were. Underneath journals, diaries and other notebooks inside the red tub containing my written history. Lugged to eight states and gently protected, the over-sized container now sits on a basement storage room shelf. I was inspired to browse the tub’s contents yesterday. It’s political convention week-a period that in decades past was both remarkable and memorable to me.

I pulled out time-worn, yellowed stenographer notebook pages with faded ink and curled edges. I paused, smiled and flipped back the hardened notebook cover, eager to recall simpler, more civil summer political conventions. Warm memories of Grandpa Pius M. Reis (1900-1985) discussing political issues overtook me as I instantly recognized the cursive writing and smiley faces doodled on page margins. These were my notes. Notes taken while lying on the green carpet of my parent’s living room floor, soaking in the words and atmosphere of the 1970’s political conventions. As the second oldest of nine children, to this day, I’m amazed my parents allowed me to devote two weeks to watching political conventions and note taking. TV time was a luxury in our farm household where endless chore lists existed.

Yes, I was a bit unusual for my age. As a pre-teen I was infatuated with Robert’s Rules of Order and everything about the political process. In fact, shortly before graduating from Napoleon High School (NHS), I announced in the student newspaper my aspiration to be a political leader. That is the one thing on my high school bucket list left undone. Sure, I’ve skirted the area by volunteering for a gubernatorial candidate, working for a US Senator and being a registered lobbyist on Capitol Hill and in various states. But, to date, I’ve never undertaken a campaign to be an elected official.

Well, that’s not true! I ran for NHS’s Student Body President and lost, big time. I was beat before I self-nominated. Greg Becker, my opponent, was a popular, rising football star, and a year younger than me. Even though supporters pinned construction paper campaign buttons to their shirts and hung posters throughout the school with my campaign slogan, “VOTE Linda Leier (pronounced Liar) She’s on Fire,” I lost. Bad.

I recently re-read the speech I delivered to the student assembly in the gymnasium the day before the voting. Much of the content I’d repeat today, surely in a more polished way. But the bones of it were strong and the values represented within are consistent with mine today. It was a bit serious and academic, but so was I, and so am I. Greg was way more charismatic than I was. It was a lesson I know today, but didn’t know then. Personality matters. Charisma wins elections.

AAAThe historical notebooks from that red tub reveal convention candidate appearances from Richard M. Nixon, Spiro Agnew, George McGovern and others. There are lists of who endorsed the candidates on stage. There are also plenty of notes about the process of winning the nomination and record of my giddiness about roll calls where state spokespeople announced the number of votes cast per candidate. Currently, most of the process of the convention or the business of party nomination is relegated to higher numbered cable channels during the day or withheld from the public eye. What a shame!

Instead, for an hour each evening in prime-time, well-rehearsed speakers march to the podium and deliver rousing endorsement speeches for the presumptive presidential candidate. They’re as polished as smooth river rocks, but not as durable. Some speakers have been beaten in the primaries by the presumed nominee, making their words from stage contrived and far-fetched. Not too long ago the endorser was belittling the nominee’s credibility and now he’s speaking of his strengths. It doesn’t ring true or sincere. Call it what it is. It’s a test run for a possible cabinet or ambassador appointment. It’s another form of reality TV or what I call, “the dumbing down of Americans.”

Flipping through the musty pages of the accumulated stenographer notebooks, I was overwhelmed with the significant changes to our nation’s political process, especially the presidential election. Notably, the media seems to have become the fourth branch of government, behind the executive, legislative and judicial. Like many things, I long for the simpler more genteel ways.  I understand they’re extinct, but I still crave them.

It remains uncertain if I will fulfill my late 70’s proclamation to run for political office. It seems highly unlikely. My tolerance for the process is greatly reduced, though my desire to connect with and serve the people remains at an all-time high. I don’t play games well. I’m not a millionaire. I have Midwestern values. I speak the truth as I see and know it. I understood the nomination and election process at a young age and despise its current form. None of these make me an ideal candidate today.

VOTE-It Counts

vote buttonI’ve dusted off the stenographer notebooks and placed them back inside the red tub on the basement shelf. I will deal with my restlessness of the political conventions and the upcoming election, though I know I will never be happy or content with the outcome. What I can guarantee I will do is VOTE, and hope you are not so disenfranchised that you will stay away from the polls. You need to exercise your right to VOTE, even if you’ve never accumulated notes from political conventions, attended one or watched one on TV. It’s your right. Please VOTE.

Let me know if you’re watching either, or both, political conventions and what your thoughts are about them. This is not the place to lobby for either candidate. Rather, it’s a forum to discuss the election process and recall the favored processes of yesteryear.

SHARE this post with others longing for a return to a more civil presidential election process.

©Copyright. July 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.




Army Veterans Meet 7 Decades Later to Mourn Brother

Minnesota WW II Veteran Meets Family of North Dakota Solider 70 Years Later

yard dadOn a cool May 2016 Madison, Minnesota day,  a very special gathering was taking place in the home of WWII veteran, Carlyle Larsen. He was meeting the brother of fellow 1943 Army Cadet, Andrew J. Leier from Kintyre, North Dakota,.

Leier and Larsen met in basic training while stationed at Sheppard Field near Wichita Falls, Texas. Both yearned to become part of pilot training. Instead, Larsen was sent to radio communication training in St. Louis, Missouri and Leier to gunnery training in Kingman, Arizona. Their shared farming backgrounds and similar personalities drew them together during training. Death separated them.

andy portraitLeier was aboard a B-17 when he lost his life over Muenster, Germany on October 7, 1944. After rising to the rank of Sergeant, Larsen returned to Minnesota to seek employment after completing his service. He’d heard of Sergeant Leier’s death but for reason unbeknownst to himself today, Larsen never reached out to Leier’s North Dakota family. That is until April 2016.

Larsen was attending a wedding celebration in Madison when he met Tony and Rita Wangler who had raised their family and attended the same church near Kintyre, ND as the brother of Sergeant Leier, Anton Leier. Learning this, Larsen asked the Wanglers to provide Anton his contact information.

Anton and wife, Alvera, were overjoyed to learn of the connection. Afterall, Anton was only six-years-old when his brother Andrew left for the Army and has very few memories of him. Meeting someone who knew Andrew as an adult and member of the U.S. Army brought Anton “warm fuzzy feelings.”

uniformThe day was spent reminiscing over photographs and preserved communiques, and other memorabilia. Anton, who also served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era, easily understood the significance of the gathering and the special meaning of seeing Larsen’s uniform and sharing his brothers medals.

Larsen readily admitted he knew that he and Leier would have remained lifelong friends had it not been for their separation and Leier’s subsequent death.

The families committed to remain in contact. Larsen plans to repay the visit by traveling to North Dakota to meet Leier’s remaining siblings. Since the initial reunion, telephone calls have been exchanged with expressions of gratitude from both parties.

It’s never too late to connect and to honor those who served.

Have you had a family member serve in the U.S. Armed Forces? Have you served? Thank you, and thank them for their service.

andy upgradedMemorial Day is a day to honor those who died in the service of the United States of America.

Share this with those who have served, those who loved them, and those who care.

The Statler Brothers’ Jimmy Fortune was inspired to write the following tribute song after a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. ‘More Than a Name on a Wall’ became the final Statler Brothers song to reach the Top 10 of the Billboard country charts in 1989. Fortune says, “The spirit of the place will overwhelm you. I was standing there with soft music playing in the background. I was actually seeing a woman laying down flowers and tracing a name. All this stuff was playing out in my mind and this profound statement kept coming up in my head: They are more than a name on a wall.’

©Copyright. May 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

Story details provided  by Alvera M. Leier.







Retired Ohio State Cardiologist with a Big Grateful Heart

from camera Introducing Uncle Carl

Who can fault retired cardiologist Carl Leier for choosing ‘home’ as his favorite place to be? After sacrificing considerable personal time during 36 1/2 years of practice, today when he and Jolene, his wife of 46 years, leave home, they travel across the country visiting their three children: Rachel, Andrew and Joseph, and two grandsons Owen and Grant.

Learning from Monks

Carl was raised in rural Napoleon, North Dakota, attending a one-room country school until enrolling in Minnesota’s St. John’s Prep School (1958-1962). The monks there made an enormous impact on his life. They taught him how to prioritize activity, inculcated a work ethic that began with his ND German farm life, and instilled the philosophy that through focus and hard work all goals and things were attainable. Through their guidance, Carl excelled in academics and almost everything he did, including football and wrestling. He gives full credit to the monks for introducing him to the spirit and merits of competitive sports. He richly used these years before becoming a doctor to prepare for the years that followed.

graduation enhancedBecoming a Cardiologist

Carl earned both his college and medical degrees at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. He chose cardiology as his specialty while serving as Medical and Chief Resident at Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, Ohio. He credits his parents, the former Carl and Mary Leier, for delivering an enormous work ethic and offering both personal and financial support while pursuing his degree. Afterall, “unless you’re born with a ‘silver spoon in your mouth’, a work ethic is the key ingredient to success in any field. Brilliance is helpful, but it only takes you so far.”

A brief encounter with hometown physician, the former Dr. Edwin Goodman, who gave Carl a shot as a youngster to quickly cure his sore throat, also played a role in his career choice. “I was overwhelmingly impressed with him and medicine, in general, from then on. It’s simply amazing what a five-minute contact and interaction can do for one’s life.”

Preparing for an Academic Institution

Carl’s life has been saturated with bright, intelligent and kind people who have influenced his career. However, none has had greater impact than Robert Heaney, MD, an esteemed Creighton University faculty member.

Dr. Heaney allowed Carl to work in his research lab during undergraduate and medical school years. This side-by-side interaction taught Carl the excitement of doing research, publishing results and thriving in an academic arena. “Dr. Heaney also happens to be one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever worked with.”

Carl found much joy and excitement in his own work. His greatest joy came when patients improved clinically, and did well. But he also celebrated getting manuscripts published in major journals and securing research grant funding-both hallmarks of academic institutions, where independent research is required.

uncle carl jacketLeading & Thriving at Ohio State University

Since 1976, Carl has spent his professional life at Big 10 University, Ohio State, where one of his career highlights was serving for 12 years as the Director of the Division of Cardiology. As a leader, he reached back to his athletic years at St. John’s Prep and club soccer teams at Creighton University to create a culture in his cardiology department where members developed an attitude of winning, understood the importance of team work and created strategies to achieve such. He coached his “team” to success.

At OSU he tirelessly worked to uncover the pharmacology and mechanisms of Dobutamine. Today, this widely used drug enhances cardiac function when the heart fails to function as needed He is widely published in the areas of heart failure and cardiac transplantation.

Coaching Future Doctors

Carl enjoyed teaching students and trainees at all levels and loved being surrounded by, and working with, brilliant, professional people. In fact, the greatest change he’s seen in medical students through his years is “they are smarter, which is great for the profession because they’re better able and prepared to handle the enormous amount of information in all phases of medicine.” He advises anyone interested in a career in medicine to:

  • Study your butt off-the field is extremely competitive. Unless your GPA is at least a 3.8, you might need to try another field.
  • Take some business classes.
  • Do some extracurricular activities to override the impression you’re a book nerd. Continue some of your own major interests to keep balance in your life.
  • Never lose, and continue to develop, a kind personality and an indispensable character, which will serve you well throughout your career.

Reflecting on Progress of Medicine

Looking back, Carl says the greatest change he’s seen in cardiology patients  is increasing age. In the 1960s-70s, it was unusual to see patients in their 80s; now 95-100 years of age is commonplace. The technological advances in cardiology over the past five decades have also been astounding.

When he was a medical student (1965-1969), electrocardiograms (EKG) and chest x-rays were used to diagnose cardiac disease. Today, cardiac catheterization, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), genetic markers and analyses, and other methods are used to approach cardiac disease; surgical and medical treatments follow closely behind. These advances and application of preventative measures explain the improved survival rate and increasing age of our population.

Preventive measures like proper diet, exercise to stay in physical and mental shape, and avoidance of substance abuse all factor in one’s longevity and heart health.

Feeling Grateful

Carl is grateful for being able to pursue a rewarding and satisfying career in medicine. And, like many, he hopes he’s made a positive difference in people’s lives. Now retired, he can spend more time focusing on the personal elements of his life and participate in activities he enjoys, like reading history, visiting historical sites throughout the country, traveling, sketching and painting. And, then there’s always the kids and grandchildren to visit.

Well done Uncle Carl. Well done.

SHARE with anyone interested in a career in medicine, who’s extended their life through Uncle Carl’s research and practice, and those who find joy in others’ success.

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.










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.

FFA Advisor Lives Through Death

Family PictureBrian has led one of the most successful Agricultural Education programs in the nation for 25 years in Napoleon, ND. A proud NDSU  Bison graduate (1982), his FFA Chapter has earned over 100 individual and team championships, two national team championships and numerous other top 10 national awards.

He and his first wife, Lorie, were married in 1984 and raised two beautiful daughters, Christina, 28, and Brianna, 26, both elementary school teachers.

Brian married Mary Beth in December 2011. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife, fishing, hunting, going to concerts, working in the yard and garden, and playing cards.

He also loves decorating for Christmas, something that began as a challenge from Lorie one year and continues today.

Here’s Brian’s Story

Cold sweats. Soaked sheets. Prayers through the night, pleading for a quicker sunrise.

A nightmare?

YES. A nightmare called my life. No one should experience death and grief in the prime of his life. Unfortunately this nightmare centers around the death of a spouse. It happens to many of us and we live through it, maybe even grow through it.

Our Love Story

I married my high school sweetheart at the age of 20, halfway through my college education, against the advice of some who said we were too young. They questioned our thinking. I thought I’d found the lady I loved more than myself and I wasn’t going to let her get away! Were there hard times? Absolutely! There was never enough money. I battled alcoholism and, like many, we had everyday life struggles. But, the worst was yet to come.

The Nightmare

It started with my wife Lorie’s physician’s assistant finding a lump in Lorie’s breast. We convinced each other it was nothing. Lorie was only 32. But then we received the news that she had breast cancer and that we needed to react immediately. A mastectomy was quickly done and a decade of chemo, radiation and other medical procedures ended on May 24, 2006 when my wife of 21 years, 10 months and 18 days died in my arms with our daughters at her bedside in the old house we had called home for 15 years. The cold sweats and daily washing of bed sheets began that night.

Stages of Grief after Death

We battled her cancer for a decade. There were periods of hopeful remission and then re-occurrence. I went through the stages of grief multiple times: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. My experience convinced me this isn’t an inclusive list and varies from person to person and situation. What I can do is reassure you that with each day it does get better and that you will eventually reach acceptance of the death and loss.

Acceptance Journey

Reaching acceptance of Lorie’s death was slow and painful and not always pretty, but maybe my journey will give you guidance and solace.

1. First and foremost I grew immensely in my faith. We’d always been a church-going family that had a “normal” amount of faithfulness. However, this experience, and the loss of my mother four years earlier, intensified my inner faith. It had to in order for me to get up and move forward. I had to believe that Lorie was now pain-free in paradise alongside those who were faithful and had gone before her. And I had to believe God still had plans for me to make this world a better place and give me purpose. Otherwise, He would have granted my prayers and taken me instead. So I say, “Believe in the power of prayer and have those real and raw conversations with God.”

2. Family and friends will reach out to you. Accept the opportunities they present. This may be a conversation over coffee, a phone call or an invitation to do something. Even if you don’t feel like going out, I’d encourage you to do so. I am so thankful for the friends and family who reached out to me and invited me to shoot pool, attend a backyard barbecue, go to area races, etc. There were many times I wanted to say no but forced myself to say yes because I knew staying home wasn’t going to help me get up, get dressed and get moving. Ask yourself often, “What would my loved one want me to do?”

3. I’m an educator by profession with an 11-month contract because of supervised summer activities. Summer 2006, after Lorie’s death, began the longest, most painful summer of my life. I simply wasn’t busy enough. Although I didn’t want to not be busy, I subconsciously sometimes made this choice. The schedule was flexible, not fixed like the academic school year, and now I know I could’ve used the structure. There were times I needed to be alone, but it’s not healthy to withdraw and wallow in self-pity. One should return to a normal routine as soon as mentally and emotionally possible. It was the reason two weeks after Lorie’s passing that my younger daughter, Brianna, and I decided we’d attend the State FFA Convention. We also knew that’s what Lorie would want us to do. Once the new school year started, the routine got easier. Obviously I had to be at work, which includes many hours of after school activities. Keeping busy and returning to a schedule made the days go by quicker and with less pain as my mind was occupied with the activities of the day.

4. Find natural ways to release stress and improve your mental health. One of the things I truly enjoy is listening to music and singing along. It is scientifically proven music has mental health benefits. It doesn’t matter what kind of music you choose. I select the music that is appropriate for my current state of mind. Sometimes I listen to Christian music.

Sometimes I’m listening to my “angry” music to vent. Sometimes I play tear jerking country and sometimes just some fun easy listening tunes. I also started exercising on daily basis-walking and lifting weights, not for the physical benefits but for the mental health benefits.

Whatever your hobbies are, or if you have none, I would encourage you to continue them or find some. I would also avoid the use of alcohol and/or drugs. I’m a recovered alcoholic, so in my mind that was never an option.

We all know that alcohol and some drugs are classified as depressants but yet many have some strange idea that it makes them feel mentally better when, in fact, it intensifies the depression we already have.

Gifted With a New Love

Two years after my wife’s death I started to experience something I never brian and marythought I would feel again. I fell in love. By attending activities with friends, I began to build a friendship with a beautiful lady whom I married three years later. It started as a friendship only because, honestly, I never thought I’d again feel the kind of love that makes a person want to commit themselves to another for a lifetime.

But, I did. Falling in love and possibly remarrying are certainly not disrespectful to the one you lost. The love and memories you have for your deceased spouse are certainly not diminished in any regard. I relish the memories Lorie and I had. I see my wife in the beauty of our daughters and I will forever cherish the love we had.

Get Up. Get Moving.

If you allow yourself to fully experience the death of a loved, you will grow. How have I chosen to grow through this experience? I grew in my faith. I am more grateful for the people in my life.

I love more deeply. I am more forgiving and less angry in my daily life. And, ironically this experience has made me a more positive person.

So, as hard as it may be-Get Up. Get Dressed. Get Moving! Your loved one would expect no less!

How has Brian’s story and journey touched you? Comment below.

Remember to encourage your loved ones to do monthly breast self-exams and to have annual mammograms.

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. December 2015. Linda Leier Thomason.
All Rights Reserved.

Check Under the Hood

I bought a 4-door silver Plymouth Fury in 1979. I bought after being without wheels as a college freshman and relying on others for rides. Dad decided I needed to learn how to change a tire, open the hood and “check under the hood.” To this day I’m not exactly sure what I was checking for other than if there was enough oil and if it was clear. I went through the motions to make him feel better about sending me on the highway, praying I’d never have to really use the lessons he was teaching. Luckily, I’ve only been stranded once hoodand it wasn’t for anything under the hood. It was a flat tire fixed by a kind farmer on North Dakota’s Interstate 94.

“Check under the hood” has stuck with me but the meaning isn’t as literal as the initial lesson taught that hot August afternoon on the farm’s gravel driveway. Instead it’s come to mean maintenance and protecting one’s investment. And as I age, holy smokes, I’m doing a lot of “checking under the hood.” So much so that some days I’d like to invest in a new model, one with fewer maintenance issues. And, I’m not talking about the vehicle either. Rather my body. Relate?

Today my annual physical is much like a 100,000 mile vehicle check. It takes a whole day and involves looking at everything from front to back to top to bottom. What needs further testing? What needs repair? What needs replacement? Question the recommendation. Get a second opinion. Make another appointment. See a specialist. Extract a part. Import a part. Sticker shock! Yikes! You get it.

Despite all this, I keep “checking under the hood.” I drive my vehicles until the wheels fall off-that’s a whole ‘nother story. Warren Buffet and I share that in common-if it ain’t broke-why replace it? Begrudgingly I schedule annual physicals, dental appointments and other wellness exams each time hoping to leave doing my best impersonation of a smiling Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat jubilantly in the air celebrating life and all its glory.mtmoore

“You’re gonna make it after all”…just keep “checking under the hood.”

Copyright. October 2015. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.




Aging Parents: Six Daily Reminders

By guest contributor -Karen (Dutt) Horan.

“I’ve become a burden,” sighed my 87-year-old father Jack from his Fargo, North Dakota hospital bed. “You’re missing work and being with your family.” He was right. I’d missed 4 days of work, sitting beside him after he was airlifted from Bismarck. And my daughter and grandson, who’d flown to Bismarck for an extended weekend, were waiting for us to get back home. But Dad was wrong about being a burden. To our family Dad always has been a shining example of how to live one’s life.
He is one of those guys from the “greatest generation” who’s always been fiercely independent Uncle Jackand responsible. He spent his life being a good son, brother, husband, dad, grandpa and great-grandpa. He was the neighbor who minded his own business, but was always  there to help. He was a loyal employee, showing up every day and working hard to provide well for his family. He continues to work part-time for the local school system, managing sporting event parking lots and taking tickets at games because he loves the energy of the student athletes and spectators. He lives independently, drives, gardens, cleans, cooks, pays his bills and, until three weeks ago, avoided going to the doctor like the plague.
In an instant an episode of dizziness and a frantic phone call changed everything. It brought me face-to-face with a father depending on me for health care assistance and decisions.

Now we’re traveling a new road, balancing dignity with care. I know more about Dad’s health than he’s comfortable with. I’m trying to help him understand medical information, procedures, plans and options, while continuing to respect him as the man who raised me. Dad doesn’t feel the need to know his blood pressure is high, but I freak out because of my Mom’s history of strokes. Dad doesn’t want to hear the arterial bleed he has can cause him to bleed out or stroke out, but I need to remind him why he can’t lift or strain in any way. Dad doesn’t want to give himself shots in the stomach, so I do it and tease him that he fusses like a girl. I don’t want to remind and check up on whether or not he’s taken his medicine twice a day, but I can’t relax until I know it’s been done. He doesn’t want to call and report to me when he’s going somewhere, but I need to know he’s safe.

To navigate this new frontier with Dad, I’ve created a list of 6 reminders for myself.

These 6 Reminders Are:

  • Allow Dad to experience his life and comfortable routines. His current medical situation shouldn’t change his life any more than absolutely necessary.
  •  Slow down and process information and situations at Dad’s pace, not mine.
  •  Include Dad in all decisions. As an only child there is no one else to include. Even if there was, he should be included.
  •  Preserve Dad’s privacy and modesty in all situations.
  •  Reinforce who the patient is when medical personnel talk about Dad as if he isn’t present.
  •  Allow myself to be imperfect. Dad and Mom didn’t get everything right when they raised me and I’m not likely to get everything right in this matter with Dad’s health. Always keeping the love I have for him first, I know things will be all right.

May his soul rest in peace. (Deceased 12.17.18.)

Reis Girls July 2014 129 - CopyKaren (Dutt) Horan (Mike) is an energetic Bismarck, ND professional. She is the mother of two and grandmother of two, with another grandchild expected in 2015. She is the daughter of Jack and the former Teresa (Reis) Dutt. Karen is an avid reader who enjoys gardening and spending time on the Missouri River aboard her pontoon. The most  precious hours of her day are the ones she spends with her family. Karen has discovered that respect and love are the guiding forces for dealing with an aging parent’s health.

If you would like to be considered a guest blogger, contact me below.

If you have a message for Karen or her Dad, leave a comment below. Thanks!

Copyright. September 2015. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.