Tag: connection

A toolbox for creating lasting change with Anne Thompson

A toolbox for creating lasting change with Anne Thompson

What would a healing practitioner say about how to deal with our strange political environment?

I recently met with Anne Thompson—founder of Healing Spirit and EarthOmaha.com—on the sunny patio of an Omaha coffee shop

Also known as EcoAnnie, Anne uses her MS in Psychology; certifications in hypnotherapy, energy work, and yoga; and her own dramatic life change experiences to guide people through life transformation. A passionate environmentalist, she also educates on the health of the planet.

Anne was decked out in Bohemian attire for our interview, down to the bright boho bag she told me she had sewn with her daughter from an old patchwork skirt. You know how some people just light up a room and make you smile? That’s Anne.

Read on to see what Anne says about living a full life, covering topics as diverse as politics and intuition.

Easy steps to help Mama Earth

Mandy Kubicek: You’re known as EcoAnnie because you care so deeply for the Earth! As you know, I’m big on teeny tiny action steps. What are some little things we can do to help the environment?

Anne Thompson: There are so many easy ways you can help create a healthier planet!

Ask questions, build awareness, just notice. Think local. Appreciate the Earth, plants and animals. 

Buy less stuff. Reuse or buy used when possible. Refuse to use plastic when possible. Share with your neighbors. Buy produce without packaging. Use both sides of a piece of paper. Buy recycled products.

Allow “weeds” to grow. Toss your kitchen scraps into your yard or a compost pile. Leave your lawn clippings on your yard. Mulch your leaves. Plant flowers, bushes, and trees that support wildlife and the planet. Use a rain barrel to water your plants. Catch as much rain as you can in your yard.

Divest from big banks that support the pipeline, pharmaceuticals, and Monsanto. Support companies that care about the earth and the people. 

“Be patient with yourself and others.” – Anne Thompson

And be patient with yourself and others in the process of transitioning to an Earth-healthier lifestyle!

The state of our nation

Mandy Kubicek: There are so many infuriating things in the news these days. I wish I could contribute more without feeling overwhelmed. What do you think we can do to solve our country’s biggest social issues? 

Anne Thompson: When you look at how a family operates, how a business operates, or a country, it’s really all a reflection of the emotional health of the people involved.

Our president is the shadow side of America rearing its ugly head. That’s a good thing, because it needs to be seen and acknowledged, and simultaneously, we can heal and move more and more into our hearts to change how we interact with one another.

So what do I do about that? In addition to taking actions that feel right to me, I focus on healing my own emotional wounds so I can love better.

We all affect one another. When one person makes a change, it affects the whole. It’s the little things, like you talk about. In each moment, learning to be aware of your own intentions, how open your heart is to those you are with, noticing where we are judging another and ourselves, or closing ourselves off.

You practice it here, in your own moment wherever you are, and the effect grows to those around you and beyond.

The 3 ingredients of your self-love toolbox

Mandy Kubicek: What have you learned that you’d want anyone just getting started to know? 

Anne Thompson: Be authentic! People love heartfelt, vulnerable authenticity, and they will be drawn to you when you show them your light.

Pay as much attention as you can to your intuition, including how you feel emotionally about what you are doing and experiencing around you. Let that be your guide. Set your intentions clearly and follow your intuition on which action to take next. Don’t expect to know how to do it all, because you won’t. Just hold your clear intention and take some action. You’ll find your way.

“Set your intentions clearly. Follow your intuition. Take some action.” – Anne Thompson

Find people who can help you learn the skills you need. If you’re scared, find someone to help you move past your fears because you’ve TOTALLY got this!

Learning how to apply these concepts

Mandy Kubicek: These are such important concepts! I find that things like authenticity and intuition can be hard to put my finger on. Is there any way people can learn more about how to apply these techniques to their everyday life?

Anne Thompson: Yes! So many people ask me, how do I connect with my heart to access my inner wisdom? I’m excited to announce that registration is now open for my Self-Healing Classes! You’ll experience the transformational power of the heart as we explore mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual healing over the course of 5 weeks. We start October 16, 2019.

Apply here!

Passion, Purpose, and Pastries: How Michelle Kaiser Found Meaning in Her Work

Passion, Purpose, and Pastries: How Michelle Kaiser Found Meaning in Her Work

Michelle Kaiser is a passionate entrepreneur and baker who owns The Omaha Bakery here in (you guessed it) Omaha, Nebraska. I recently interviewed Michelle about her career journey. Read on to learn how this joyful woman has found meaning in her work.

This one’s a tear-jerker, folks!

Meet: Michelle Kaiser

Michelle has shiny auburn hair, a friendly smile, and an almost cartoonishly cute voice. When I met her in her bakery for this interview, we stopped to chat with regulars as we slowly made our way to a table in the back of the comfortable event space connected to the bakery. While we talked, her youngest daughter sat beside us, silently filling pages of her sketchbook with impeccable drawings of Spider-Woman Gwen.

I met Michelle two months earlier when she spoke at 1 Million Cups about her recent business transformation. After a full decade without paying herself an income, her business is now booming as she focuses on keto baked goods. (Some customers drive three hours from Kansas City for her unmatched ability to create delicious pastries with such limited, healthful ingredients.) But why keto?

The decision that saved her life

A little over a year ago, Michelle was *very* sick.

She had developed multiple autoimmune disorders, one of her many medications had started giving her seizures, and she was in so much pain that she couldn’t even stand up. Specialists said “There’s nothing we can do” and even “You’re not sick.”

Her resulting depression was so severe, she had plans to commit suicide.

That’s when a friend suggested she look into a ketogenic diet. One final thing to try, she thought. Almost immediately, her ailments started to disappear. Now 95 pounds lighter and much happier than she was last July, not only can she stand without pain—she can bike over a mile!

Fascinated by her transformation and vulnerability, I wanted to learn more about Michelle’s life and career journey. How did she get interested in entrepreneurship and baking in the first place? What kept her going all those years without a paycheck? And as someone who seems to love what she does so completely, how has she found meaning in baking treats, something that seems so… extraneous?

The mindset that took her to culinary school

Michelle grew up in smalltown Nebraska where she developed a strong conviction.

“As a woman,” she explains, “I was always told what I can’t do. And I thought, I’m gonna prove you all wrong!”

After realizing college wasn’t for her (OK, maybe that one time they weren’t wrong), she decided she wanted to go to New York. She admits to having some major naivety behind this desire. Being on the coast, she assumed it would be sunny every day, and she’d spend all her free time at the beach!

Her family urged her to stay. “You can’t do that. That’s too far away!” But this only pushed her more.

Michelle went to New York as planned and became a nanny. (The sunshine didn’t quite pan out as expected.) As a nanny, she enjoyed cooking and baking. But, she explains, “I didn’t want to be somebody’s servant. So I decided, I’m going to be a chef!”

Having made her decision, she waltzed into more than half a dozen restaurants asking for a job before learning that as a woman, she’d need to go to culinary school to make it into those kitchens.

So she did.

An abusive early mentor

In culinary school, the first 6 months of classroom training were followed by 6 months of unpaid internship. Michelle joined a French bakery that frequently employed interns. The owner loved getting the free labor and never hired interns full-time, instead keeping a steady stream of unpaid workers coming in the door. 

The talented French pastry chef, on the other hand, hated having to invest his time into training someone only for them to leave. During the day, he was a much scarier Gordon Ramsey. When he had nothing to say, he’d say nothing. Otherwise, he’d scream and throw things across the kitchen. Michelle says, “For six weeks, he made me cry every single day.”

One day, the chef asked Michelle to make pastry cream. She hadn’t seen a bain-marie, the equipment she was accustomed to using to make the classic French creamy custard. So she asked, “Chef, how would you like me to make pastry cream?”

He replied, “Just do it,” and hit her over the head with a cast iron skillet.

Not aware of how easy it would be to get a different internship, Michelle did what she knew how to do: she stuck with it. 

“Giving up is never an option,” she tells me.

Plus, at night, the Frenchman would turn into a different person. If she did exactly what he told her to do, he might stay an extra hour or two and teach her how to make things her classmates didn’t have the opportunity to learn: truffles and nougatine and beautiful, flat marzipan… (She was so excited at this point in her story that I found myself wanting to be in that New York kitchen making complex French delicacies!)

She hated him, and she respected him.

After her internship, Michelle became one of the only interns to ever be offered full-time employment in that bakery. The Frenchman promoted her to Assistant Chef, and they worked together for 2 years.

Searching for meaning in tough times

Since those early days with the French chef, Michelle has held many jobs, married, had three children, and made her way back to Nebraska.

Sometimes, money was painfully tight. Michelle recalls her family’s financial low, during the years her bakery was called Alotta Brownies and located in Fremont, Nebraska. She had to routinely figure out how to cover utilities and feed their family of five on less than $50 a week.

Feeling hopeless at this time, Michelle took to prayer. She didn’t expect her prayers to be answered, but she said them anyway. If you haven’t noticed, she’s not much of a quitter.

“I just start praying. I prayed every single day: on the way to work, on the way home from work, at night when I couldn’t sleep and was crying. ‘God,’ I said, ‘tell me what you want from me. Because I know I’m making a difference. I know I’m doing something right. But is that enough? Is my husband going to stay with me? Are my kids going to appreciate this someday? Or are they going to resent me?’ And one night in the middle of the night, I couldn’t sleep. I heard God say, plain as day, ‘Tell your story.’”

She was surprised but certain. And she didn’t understand.

God speaks through peanut butter rolls

Several weeks later, on a Tuesday morning, a woman walked into Michelle’s bakery.

“I’d like 2 peanut butter cinnamon rolls,” the woman said.

“Well, it’s your lucky day!” Michelle replied.

It really was. They don’t normally have peanut butter rolls on Tuesdays. Rolls don’t sell well. So, they only make 6 at a time, and only on the weekend. However, that morning, they happened to have a special order for 12 peanut butter rolls. Michelle was annoyed, in fact, when she walked into the kitchen earlier that morning and found that her staff had taken 14 rolls out of the freezer. She knew she wouldn’t be able to sell them, and money was too tight to waste two rolls!

As Michelle made conversation, she learned that the woman had driven over from Council Bluffs.

“You drove 45 minutes each way for a couple of peanut butter rolls?” Michelle replied with a smile. “What’s up with that?”

The woman took a breath and began. “Well, on Saturday night, I was with my best friend. She’s dying of cancer. I asked her, ‘If you could have one food in the world, what would it be?’ And she said, ‘I want a peanut butter cinnamon roll from Alotta Brownies Bakery in Fremont.’ You were closed on Sunday and Monday, so I’ve been waiting to come get these peanut butter rolls and take them back and share with her. It’s probably going to be the last meal she has.”

For Michelle, this was a clear sign from God. She had been given a purpose. Signs continued to appear for months, and together, the direction she was looking for began to take shape. She had her answer.

“My purpose,” Michelle says, “is to inspire others through food and emotion, and comfort and love and happiness.”

Just the beginning

Like yours and mine, Michelle’s story has many chapters left to be written. She’s working on opening an online keto shop and a keto cafe! 😮 You can follow the bakery on Facebook to stay in the loop.

And if you’re in town, stop in for a fresh coffee, heartwarming pastry, and friendly conversation! (The vegan raspberry coconut scone I ate was—not kidding—the most delicious scone I’ve ever eaten.)

More powerful stories

There’s something so powerful and connecting about hearing other people’s stories.

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for my weekly Play Dates. I’ll personally deliver my next warm-fuzzy story straight to your inbox!

A career change story: from teacher to tech

A career change story: from teacher to tech

What do sign language, Python, and socializing with geeks have in common?

They’re all things Abby Jones taught herself!

A few days ago, I heard Abby share the story of her career change from classroom teacher to software architect. It’s a fascinating story full of lessons.

What can you learn from Abby’s story and apply to your own life?

A big career change: from classroom to corporate

Abby began her career in special education. In her first job after college, she had one deaf student. It bothered her that while she could greet all of her other students, she couldn’t easily communicate with this kid. So, what did she do?

She taught herself sign language!

And she fell in love with the language. She went back to school for a Master’s degree and became a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing—her first career change.

She enjoyed this work. Still, she hit some major burnout after about 4 years.

Craving something totally different, Abby started spending her evenings and weekends learning the programming language Python. She didn’t know anything about programming, but she was sort of the gadget guru in her family, so she thought, why not? This little project grew bit by bit as she took online courses, bought more books, and built websites for her friends. It really took off when she immersed herself into the local tech community, where she found her stereotypes crumbling in the faces of friendly, generous dudes. (OK, the gender stereotype mostly held true.)

When did she know she wanted to program professionally?

She realized, “I’m excited to go into my office Saturday morning and do this. I think this is what I want to do!”

It was another year until she made the jump. She wanted to wrap up a few things with her current students and their families.

Once the school year was up, she explains, “I had just finished the best two years of my teaching career. I finally felt like I was making a difference. But I was still ready to go, ready for a new challenge.”

YES! This is the dream, isn’t it? To leave on a high note?

Abby made the big leap into career change again, this time to an entirely different industry. She joined Mutual of Omaha where she’s worked for the past 3 years. She continues to learn and move up the ranks, from Technical Specialist to Technical Solution Architect.

How did she do it?

I saw a lot in Abby that helped her on this journey to a career she loves: jumping into a curiosity (programming) without needing to know where it was leading, an inspiring vision of her future (generally taking on the form of cool stuff she could build), gratitude for her current work, the decision to commit fully in that final year of teaching.

Another consistent theme to Abby’s story was community. This is a theme that comes up again and again when I get to hear people’s stories in any depth. I wonder if it’s not just helpful, but necessary.

When you tell the story of your life, what role does community play? How many of the best things in your life wouldn’t be possible without community—your family, a loving friend, a generous colleague?

Her success at Mutual seems to have a lot to do with her willingness to accept roles and projects that she didn’t feel ready for. She shared, “To feel ready and be ready are too very different things. Don’t wait until you feel ready!”

Abby wrapped up her story with a reference to this quote…

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Thomas Edison

PC: Tech Omaha

Three must-have qualities of any transformational retreat

Three must-have qualities of any transformational retreat

I adore retreats! I have taken retreats by myself, from a Do Nothing Day at home to a quiet week at a state park cabin. I’ve also created and attended group retreats, both close to home and out of state. There’s something so special about setting the intention to simply “be” rather than “do.” To me, a retreat feels like lightness and freedom.

An intentional retreat from daily life feels like lightness and freedom.

There are endless types of retreats. Endless reasons you might want to take a retreat. What I most love to create — and the focus of this post — are retreats that have the potential to transform your life.

We’re talking about retreats that have the potential to transform your life.

Read on for three qualities a retreat should embrace to create space for its participants to transform their lives.

Community

While solo retreats have brought me great insights, there’s something especially expansive about retreating with a group of others.

I led a workshop in April called “Life Lessons from My Dog.” (It was packed with some pretty stellar dog gifs.) I talked about forgiveness, authenticity, and gratitude. At the end, we shared our key takeaways.

One woman said, “I’m going to start a gratitude journal because I noticed I was the only one who didn’t raise my hand when Mandy asked if we’ve tried that!”

This wasn’t about me teaching a concept. She knew about gratitude journals! It was the collective experience of the people in the room that inspired her to action.

It’s about the collective experience of the people in the room.

Bringing together a community allows us to harness the group’s collective power, rather than one leader’s experience, to help each other take meaningful action in our lives.

Stillness

I’ve enjoyed extended periods of silence by myself and with others. It’s always special. It might bring insight, connection, or even frustration — but something always comes up.

I once spent four hours in the city not communicating, verbally or with gestures. I did, however, set the intention to mentally and consistently feel love for each person I encountered. I’d engage with eye contact and genuine smiles. As I walked through the city that day secretly loving everyone I saw, I received SO much more love than what’s typical. An apparently homeless man offered me a hug, which I easily accepted. I felt safe. As we parted, he said — with zero creep factor — “I love you.” I’ve turned to that memory of feeling completely safe and loved many times since.

A transformational retreat provides space for meditation and silence. Magical things seem to happen in this stillness that our busy analytical minds alone can’t create.

“You cannot find yourself by going into the past. You find yourself by coming into the present.” – Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

Ways to incorporate stillness include ample breaks, guided group meditations, and an invitation to spend some time in silence during the retreat. For instance, this could be at the same time for everyone, or a more flexible setup where each person can flip or alter their name tag to indicate when they are practicing silence.

Inclusivity

Not all retreats have been a fit for me.

A few years ago, stressed out by my job, I was excited to find a women’s retreat near Omaha. I noticed the venue was Catholic-affiliated. I’m no longer Christian, but I signed up because it was “open to all women.” I enjoyed walking the trails and journaling in my private room. However, the Christian-centric group conversations left me feeling like I didn’t belong. Even though the women had loving intentions, I felt eager to leave.

Each of us deserves and craves a sense of belonging. While there are benefits to retreating with people who share a common belief system, interest, or background, the most transformational retreats provide space for you, wherever you are on your life’s journey.

The most transformational retreats provide space for you, wherever you are on your life’s journey.

The topic of how to make an event inclusive is too complex for this post, but I will share one tip: clearly state upfront who all is welcome. For instance, I share who’s welcome and what’s expected prior to registration: “This retreat is open to anyone who identifies as a woman. It’s a judgement-free zone where we strive to make each other feel safe, heard, and valued.“

Join us!

Are you ready to transform your life while being treated all day long? Join us at my next retreat on Saturday, November 10, 2018. Be Your Own is about getting in touch with your own inner power. In this space of community, stillness, and inclusivity, we’ll explore how to be your own guide, leader, healer, and visionary. Read more and register here!

How I Found My Tribe

How I Found My Tribe

Guys, I think I’ve found my tribe. I’m so geeking out over here! For years I’ve read self-help books and scribbled answers to their introspective exercises in journals I keep tucked away in drawers. It’s always been a solo affair. But now? Now I have a whole tribe of people to work through this process with me!

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