Inspirational Advice

How to Open Your Mind to the Possibilities

 Photo by  Anton Darius

Photo by Anton Darius

Our mind is a powerful piece of machinery that can work in our favor—and also work against us. When imagining all the possibilities in life, sometimes it is easier to shut down than it is to ask “What if …?” While analyzing opportunities or possibilities, it can be helpful to break each decision down and write down all the pros and cons. Additionally, it is important to be completely honest with yourself during this assessment. You don’t have to show your list to anyone. This is just for you. For example, your question and list might look something like this:

What if I sold my house?


I would gain freedom from yard work, house repairs, and hefty property taxes.

I would have more time to pursue my passions.

I could invest the profit from the sale for retirement.


I would lose a solid investment that generally increases in value with each year.

I would lose a significant tax deduction.

I would lose space for my dog to run.

I would lose great neighbors who know me and look out for me.

Now it is time to sit back and evaluate the pros and cons. Are there more pros than cons or the opposite? Are your pros stronger than your cons? Are your pros and cons realistic (R) or are they fear-based (F)? Write an R or an F next to each pro and con. Do you have more Rs or Fs? Finally, ask yourself one last important question:

Am I making this decision for me or to make someone else happy?

Although we all sometimes make decisions based on what is best for our families, it is equally as important to make decisions that fill our happiness tanks and give us a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Is this decision taking you to where you want to be? If not, it’s time to re-evaluate again.

Another example might be this question:

What if I take the job?


I would gain a 20% increase in annual salary and bonus incentives.

I would gain the kind of skills that I need to pursue my dream job.

I would gain a relationship with a superior who is nurturing, kind, and supportive.

I would be free from a negative culture that does not support the growth of its team members.

I would have regular hours that would allow me more time with my children.


I will lose three weeks of vacation.

I will lose the feeling of security.

I will lose an office with a door.

When contemplating career changes, it is crucial to your decision-making process to evaluate the role based on facts gathered through research, the culture of the prospective company, the personality and management style of your potential boss, and most of all, the gut feeling you get when you walk in the door for the interview. Trust it. It doesn’t lie.

Other sample questions might be as follows:

What if I move to Los Angeles?

What if I end my marriage?

What if my son goes away to college three states away?

No matter what decision looms in front of you in the future, following this process of opening your mind to the possibilities will lead you to the answer. If it doesn’t, perhaps it’s not the right time for a change.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at


Living His Passion – Ben Evers

 Ben Evers, Farm Focused

Ben Evers, Farm Focused

When Ben Evers was young, his parents purchased property outside Plattsmouth, Nebraska, with the intent of creating a horse farm. Little did he know at the time that the move would be the single most impactful change in his life. As life on the farm presented him with daily opportunities to perform chores, creatively solve problems, work with his hands, and develop a variety of skills, Ben grew up understanding the value of fulfilling work that instills pride. Additionally, he watched his mother walk away from a corporate job to start her own business. As her company developed and grew, Ben was by her side, helping whenever and however he could. Despite his desire to pursue other interests that included playing sports and riding a dirt bike, Ben never forgot the valuable life lessons he learned during his childhood.

After graduating from the University of Nebraska with a degree in Business Management and marrying his wife, Morgan, Ben pursued a career in retail management that took him from big box stores to a family-owned automotive collision repair shop and finally to a major auto parts supplier where he progressively moved up the ladder to become a district manager who oversaw over 200 employees. In 2015 after deciding that fulfillment was more important to him than chasing the dollar, Ben moved with his wife and their three children back to Nebraska with the intent of starting a business and getting back to his roots. A few months later, Farm Focused was founded near the horse farm where Ben first learned to embrace the country life and the value of hard work.

Driven by his love of working with farmers and a respect for agriculture, Ben started the business based on the idea of bringing efficiencies to local growers through soil additives at planting time that ultimately allow the grower to use less inputs (synthetic fertilizers and fungicides) and increase the health of the soil. Additionally, Ben focused his business on improving efficiencies of the diesel engine, the heartbeat of the farm. As the business grew, Ben added another sector to his brand by creating lifestyle apparel items that he originally created as thank you gifts and marketing collateral. Before long, a demand for his apparel helped him discover that there are surprises in every business. Ben states that he eventually realized that Farm Focused is not just a company that helps farmers, but also a relatable brand that people want to be a part of, no matter where they live or work. Since creating a great logo, Ben has built the line from one t-shirt to 10 separate designs in both unisex and female cuts, seven hat designs, and has even branded socks. Ben adds, “The growth of this side of the business has happened very rapidly. Today we are at a point where we are ready to take it to the next level.”

The farmers that Ben deals directly with on a daily basis all primarily grow corn and soybeans. He states that one of their biggest challenges is the current state of the commodity market. Unfortunately as smaller acre farmers start to fall off and massive yield farmers continue to produce higher yields than ever before, an increase in supply is outrunning the demand. Because of this, there are many progressive growers who are looking for better ways. That is where Farm Focused steps in to help.

A typical day at Farm Focused involves office business as well as time working on a diesel engine, walking fields conducting comparison analyses between treated and untreated soil, or staffing a booth or space at a county fair or other event. The company continues to evolve and change as Ben learns more about the industry and identifies opportunities to bring further products and services under its umbrella.

Ben openly welcomes the personal growth he has experienced over the last few years. “I have seen a different side of life and I am a happier and more content person today. Professionally, I have gained new perspectives that have allowed me to look at things a little differently.” He advises those who want to pursue their passion to build self-confidence first and then decide that you are going to make it, no matter what unexpected obstacles pop up on the path to living a dream.

John D. Rockefeller once said, Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great." Three years ago, Ben Evers did just that when he stepped outside his comfort zone, listened to his heart, walked away from a corporate job, and jumped into building a business that would not only provide him with fulfillment, but also support his family. As he walks the fields and searches for innovative ways to help those who provide the world with food, there is no question that Ben is putting his all into going for the great. Rockefeller would be proud.

For more about Ben and his business, visit

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at

Living Her Passion – Chelsey Erpelding

 Chelsey Erpelding in her garden.

Chelsey Erpelding in her garden.

Chelsey Erpelding was a busy mother of two little ones, Edith and Bette, when she first began receiving Reiki, a Japanese technique that uses touch to activate the natural healing processes of the body and restore physical and emotional well-being. From that point on, Chelsey, who had become frustrated with the lack of support for mothers post-birth, was hooked on the nourishing effects of Reiki. Six months later, she began training to become a Reiki Master. It wasn’t long before her passion for healing, gardening, and creating natural products led her to open an online shop, Other Magic, LLC.

Chelsey, who holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in public health, always yearned to own a business. But it wasn’t until her path led her to healing work that Chelsey discovered her true passion. After her love of vegetable gardening inspired her to grow more herbs and medicinal plants and contemplate how she could incorporate them into her healing work, Chelsey’s backyard transformed into an organic oasis for roses, mint, lemon balm, yarrow, bee balm, valerian, lavender, sage, thyme, red raspberries, blueberries, goldenrod, anise hyssop, chamomile, and other flowers and vegetables.

In 2017, she began researching how to infuse her garden plants in oils. Soon she was creating nontoxic products to sell through Other Magic, LLC, that include Rose Oil made with yarrow, rose petals, and rosehips; Face Magic Oil made with chamomile, rose hips, and hibiscus that are all high in Vitamin C and great for skin; Magic Salve created with yarrow and plantain that is tailored to help heal deep dryness, burns, scrapes, and bites; and Lemon Balm made to use as a protective coating for hands and lips. Today she is studying herbalism and is excited to grow new plants and create more natural products to sell in her online shop.

Chelsey’s favorite part of owning a business is that she is doing what she loves. When she is not fulfilling the duties of motherhood or performing Reiki for her loyal clientele, Chelsey is busy harvesting her garden and developing products in her kitchen. She says, “Some products can take weeks to prepare, so some days I am creating and other days I am bottling or shipping.” By pursuing her passion, Chelsey claims she has gained a sense of calm about her life. She adds, “I spent most of my twenties trying to find my purpose. I can now happily say that I am finally doing what I feel I am meant to do. I also know now that finding purpose doesn’t always look like a nine-to-five job. Finding purpose means digging into the things you love.”

Supported by her husband Brent, her family, and an incredible group of female friends who are always cheering her on, Chelsey encourages others to find the courage to put themselves out there and pursue their passion, even if it causes them to feel vulnerable. “Sometimes it takes a while to connect all of the dots when thinking about a passion,” she says, “but stick with it. Spend time with people who inspire you, do the things you love as often as you can, and keep your mind open to creative solutions.”

Vincent Norman Peale once said, “The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.” When Chelsey Erpelding uses her hands to heal through touch or to plant medicinal herbs in her garden that will eventually be turned into natural products, there is no question she is investing in something much bigger than herself: helping others find happiness and inner-peace through healing.

For more about Chelsey and her products, visit her at

Living Her Passion - Jean Thares

 Jean Thares, Owner Mainstream Boutique of Northfield

Jean Thares, Owner Mainstream Boutique of Northfield

As a busy Minneapolis mother and wife, Jean Thares always enjoyed her career outside the home that allowed her the flexibility to be there for her family. Still, she recognized the nagging feeling inside that she needed more. After raising her son and daughter, Jean stood at a crossroads, uncertain of where to go next. With help from her husband, she began brainstorming.

A self-professed lover of clothes and unique pieces, Jean had been a long-time loyal customer of Mainstream Boutique, a Minnesota-based women's clothing retailer built to empower, strengthen, and celebrate women through fashion. While researching franchise opportunities, Jean completed several assessments to discover what would make her happy. After each assessment pointed to working with women, Jean decided to take the plunge and open her own Mainstream Boutique.

Jean confesses she was afraid to own a business. “It was definitely easier to keep working for someone else.” While coming to grips with the fact that many new businesses fail, Jean says that weighing the pros and cons became an extremely important part of her research and decision to start a business. She adds, “It’s easy to be inspired by the stories of successful businesses instead of failed businesses. But studying failures is an essential part of the analysis before investing in a business.”

Once Jean made the decision, her opening came together quickly. Four months from the time she decided on the location, signed the franchise and leasing agreements, and hired a contractor to perform the build-out, Jean opened her boutique. Supported by her family and friends as well as other franchise owners, Jean soon realized how much she loved meeting people and helping her clientele find their own unique style and feel good about themselves.

Just like any business, there are challenges that come with the joys. Jean says that hiring and keeping excellent staff is her greatest challenge. “It takes the right person to help a woman find what she looks good in,” she adds. “I have had to adjust my schedule to work nearly every Saturday so I can be there for my customers. Being a present owner, rather than an absent owner, does make a difference to your business, sales, customers, and employees.”

Jean loves the variety that comes with owning a boutique for over two years now. She switches gears a lot between answering emails, posting on social media, working with vendors, directing employees, helping customers, paying bills, and attending networking functions. It is clear she has gained much since opening the boutique. “I’ve grown as a person and have met so many fabulous women. I also have a better understanding and appreciation for challenges in women’s lives.” Although Jean is careful not to focus on the success of the business all the time, she does feel a sense of accomplishment and pride when she looks back and sees how far she’s come as a business owner.

 Mainstream Boutique of Northfield

Mainstream Boutique of Northfield

Her advice for someone who wants to open a business is sound. “Research and try to work in the business before signing any agreements. Decide what you are willing and able to sacrifice in your personal life. Find a good bookkeeper. Partner with people who know how to do things you don’t know how to do.”

Mark Twain once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” There is no question that Jean Thares is a sailor at heart who waited for the right wind to carry her to achieving her dream. And every day when she walks into her boutique, she inspires other women to do the same.

For more about Mainstream Boutique of Northfield, visit:

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at

Five Ways to Work through Life’s Challenges

 Photo by Koushik Chowdavarapu

Photo by Koushik Chowdavarapu

Life has a way of throwing challenges our way when we least expect them. One day we’re motoring along on our journey through life without major bumps in the road. But then when we least expect it, life throws a curve in the road that sends us in a direction we never anticipated. Oftentimes, an unexpected turn of events causes us to wonder if we are expected to overcome obstacle alone.

Navigating through challenges is like driving in a snowstorm. Even though you are a cautious driver, your car suddenly hits a patch of ice and, in just a few seconds, lands in a ditch. As you assess the situation, you realize you are the only car on the road. Suddenly you begin to panic. You have two choices: to attempt to shovel yourself out or to call for help. It’s hard to know what to do.

Unfortunately we will all face our own snowstorm at one point or another in life—and the same two choices. So, how do we know when to shovel ourselves out of a situation or ask for help? Here are five ways to work through a challenge and determine whether you need help from an expert:

1.      Assess the situation objectively. If your car is stuck in a ditch during a snowstorm, you’re going to get out and look at how bad it is, right? Then you’re going to determine if you can shovel your way out or if you need a tow truck. When assessing the situation, view the challenge as a stranger would. What is the worst possible outcome? Can I solve this challenge on my own and remain safe? What are the ways I can solve this challenge?

2.      Try a few solutions on your own first. Stay calm and go into problem solving mode. Mentally go over solutions or list them out on paper. Work through the problem one step at a time, just like a math student would. Select one of the options and try it. If it doesn’t work, try another. If your problem is not solved within a comfortable timeframe, then it is time to try another option.

3.      Be open. When seeking help from an outside source, you must first be honest with yourself and then with them. By showing your true self and communicating candidly, you are allowing the person who is trying to help see the entire picture, not just the movie trailer. Be open to ideas and solutions. Be willing to walk down a new path to find the answers.

4.      Learn from the challenge. What is your positive takeaway from this challenge? Could you have prevented it from happening? If so, how? If the challenge was unpreventable, determine one lesson you can extract from the experience that will help you become a better person. Remember, in every experience—good or bad—there is something to learn.

5.      Look forward, not back. It is easy to continually reflect on our most challenging moments, especially when they were negative. But when we are always looking back, it doesn’t allow us to see the beauty in front of us. Chalk up your challenge to a valuable life lesson and, as quickly as you can, do your best to move on.

Working through life’s challenges can be … well … challenging. Following these five steps will help guide you out of the snowstorm and to embracing the message behind the challenge, realizing a newfound resilience, and finding your way back to the road that leads to achieving all your goals.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at


Living His Passion – Evan Ludes

 Evan Ludes while on a storm chase near Red Cloud, Nebraska (July 2015).

Evan Ludes while on a storm chase near Red Cloud, Nebraska (July 2015).

Evan Ludes has always had a keen interest in the weather as far back as he can remember. While a little boy growing up in the heartland, Evan clearly remembers once scrambling to his family’s basement during a tornado warning and later emerging to see an incredibly vibrant rainbow. His connection with the camera began soon after he began capturing photos of various subjects around the house with his mother’s cell phone. But when his parents gifted him with a point-and-shoot camera for his birthday, the sky quickly became his favorite subject. Driven to capture the sky’s incredibly diverse palette of colors and textures, it was not long before young Evan began sharing his photos online and drawing an appreciative audience.

Although he was largely self-taught, Evan also drew inspiration from others photographers like Blair, Nebraska-based, Mike Hollingshead, who is undeniably one of the best weather photographers in the world. But it was not until fellow photographer, Chris Allington, invited Evan along (with his parents’ approval) on a storm chasing adventure that his interest in weather photography was escalated to a new level. His first chase was a high risk event in Oklahoma that quickly became a crash course in what to observe when chasing and photographing weather and thunderstorms. As his life’s journey led him from high school to attend college with a major in graphic design, Evan continued to pursue his passion of capturing one exciting weather event after the other.

Evan says his favorite part about weather photography is the challenge of finding the ideal location to take the best photos and videos. He says, “There are few things more satisfying than blasting towards a storm, setting up in front of it, documenting its most beautiful stages, and re-positioning ahead of it before it overtakes you.” Still, he emphasizes, weather photography and videography requires him to maintain situational awareness to avoid the risk of putting himself in harm’s way. He adds, “You always have to have an escape option to avoid the storm if something changes or goes wrong.”

His two most exciting shoots occurred first in July 2010 in South Dakota as he and a storm chasing crew headed west in an SUV with a glass sunroof for what looked like storm with a typical moderate risk for large hail and a marginal risk of tornados. But as Evan already knows, Mother Nature loves surprising humanity. What Evan and the rest ended up witnessing was the storm structure of a supercell that produced the largest hailstone on record near Vivian, South Dakota—nearly the size of a bowling ball. The second shoot occurred in Mapleton, Iowa, during a tornado outbreak in April 2011. Evan states, “The chase was significantly different than most as it occurred mainly after dark. I’ll never forget standing several miles south of a tornadic supercell, hearing nothing but crickets and grass blowing as lightning illuminated the silhouette of several tornados in the distance.”

 Evan's photograph of the world-record hailstorm in Vivian, South Dakota (July 2010).

Evan's photograph of the world-record hailstorm in Vivian, South Dakota (July 2010).

Evan’s hard work and talents have not gone unrecognized. To date, his work has appeared on most major networks and shows including ABC’s Good Morning America, the CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, NBC’s The Today Show, The Weather Channel, Weather Nation, and several local news stations. His first television debut was when he was just sixteen and interviewed by The Weather Channel’s Carl Parker about his photography. His work has also been featured on a handful of book covers, albums, and most recently, on the cover of Robert Oldshue’s November Storm.

In pursuing his passions of storm chasing and weather photography, Evan has gained a great sense of humility. He says, “There’s nothing that makes you feel smaller than watching the stars above a departing thunderstorm, and there’s no better reality-check than a lightning bolt crashing less than a hundred yards away from you.”

He advises anyone wishing to pursue their own passion in life to seek out others who share that same passion and grow together. Evan adds, “Find someone who motivates you to push the envelope.” He says that if it hadn’t been for other photographers like Chris and Mike, he may never have chased storms, traveled, eventually moved to Rapid City, South Dakota, or met his wife through an online photography forum.

Dorothea Lange once said, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” Every time Evan Ludes chases and ultimately captures an exciting weather event, he inspires all of us to take a moment out of our busy lives, look to the sky, and respect its amazing power and beauty.

For more about Evan and his work, visit:

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at

Living His Passion - Mark Ervin

 Mark Ervin hard at work in his home office.

Mark Ervin hard at work in his home office.

Mark Ervin first became passionate about art and drawing when he was five years old. He remembers lying on the floor of the bedroom he shared with three of his older brothers and watching his brother Bill copy, not trace, a profoundly authentic recreation of panels from his Peanuts paperback book. After grabbing a pencil and paper, Mark didn’t draw cartoons, but instead the back view of a Camaro and Mustang racing on a track. At that moment, Mark’s fiery passion for cars, racing, and drawing was born.

Years later, Mark decided he wanted to be a syndicated cartoonist and cartoon satirist and had already developed a five-year plan to learn the craft in a highly creative environment and then bring it home to Nebraska to become a freelance illustrator. On the last day of visiting his sister in Los Angeles in the spring of 1989, Mark and his wife, Jennifer, stumbled onto the California Institute of the Arts, a school founded by the Walt Disney Company that focuses on developing fully rounded artists, animators, and filmmakers. After meeting with the dean and showing his portfolio, Mark was accepted. That winter, just before semester break, The Simpsons premiered on the FOX network. By April, the studio was calling and inviting students to test for positions on the show. Mark quickly jumped at the opportunity.

After passing several challenging tests, Mark landed a gig as a background artist and quickly began working on proving himself to the director as he set up the scenes for the character animators. During the first hiatus, Mark worked as a character animator on the first season of Rugrats, and worked as a storyboard artist on their second season. In 1992, he returned to The Simpsons and worked as a character layout artist, drawing and animating up to twenty scenes a week. In 1994, he was asked to assist directing a show and in 1999, he was promoted to director. One year later, he hired on at another studio to direct episodes of Futurama where he remained until July 2001 when he and his family decided to return to his wife’s hometown of Neligh, Nebraska. Mark says, “I was ready to leave my 80-hour-a-week job and be closer to family again.” The Simpsons hired him as a freelancer until 2012 when studio budget cuts prompted them to release all artists working remotely.

During his final years with The Simpsons and beyond, Mark began rendering cars again. “I missed it and knew I had learned a lot of skills as well as a different approach on how to not just draw cars, but also to tell a story with the car as a main character,” adds Mark. As an automotive artist, he has created a brand, built clientele through social media, and developed a reputation for creating stories that contain memories and details that tell more about the car’s owner than the car itself. Today when Mark is not drawing cars, he is storyboarding for an animated show being developed for Netflix. His current goals as an artist are to one day publish two books in development, create calendars and coloring books, and write and illustrate a children’s book.

 A Mark Ervin original, "Dart in the Dark"

A Mark Ervin original, "Dart in the Dark"

Mark’s biggest supporters are his large family and his closest friends. Pursuing his passion has provided him the opportunity to use his God-given talent to enrich, entertain, and mentor others with similar dreams. His advice to anyone interested in pursuing their passion is simple yet profound. “We do what we love for ourselves, but what we do influences others. We have a huge responsibility to make sure that what we do is edifying to others.” As an artist, Mark believes no one has to shock in order to be relevant. “There are far more people out there who appreciate the beautiful than there are those who enjoy the edgy. Artists should explore the edgy, but pursue the beautiful.”

Through his art, faith, and love for his family, Mark is a shining example of the message Lailah Gifty Akita once shared, “Find your purpose and passionately live it.” Every time Mark creates art and shares it with the world, he is an inspiration to others to do the same.

For more about Mark and to view his work, visit:

 Another Mark Ervin original, "61 Special"

Another Mark Ervin original, "61 Special"

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at


From Pain to Forgiveness: A Personal Journey


Forgiveness can be one of the toughest—and most freeing—acts we can perform in life. But finding forgiveness is not as easy as it sounds. I once knew a woman I will call Susan. She suffered greatly regarding her relationship with her mother. The relationship had not been easy ever since she could remember. Her mother suffered from depression and alcoholism, and often took out her anger on Susan throughout her childhood. Sadly, Susan quickly became an expert at covering up what was really going on inside her family home in front of her friends, co-workers, and acquaintances.

After Susan left home at age eighteen, her mother’s downward spiral continued. The relationship was agonizing for Susan. Her mother would call her at all hours of the night, threatening suicide and sobbing into the phone. The reality was that Susan’s mother was simply incapable of living up to her title. Finally after Susan married and had her own children, one day she just didn’t pick up the phone to call her mother. Her mother never called either. There was never an argument or a cross word. Everything just stopped.

As a day turned into two and then many more, Susan focused on creating healthy relationships with her children and raising them the way she wished she had been raised. As time ticked away, Susan found it was easier to be angry with her mother than to be burdened by the sadness that accompanied the loss of what was always an unhealthy relationship. Well-meaning people suggested that Susan forgive her mother. But Susan was not ready. She knew forgiveness was a personal decision. She also realized that she did not make a conscious choice to terminate the relationship and still held out hope that her mother would one day evaluate her behavior and reach out to make amends.

Eighteen years passed. Through family connections, Susan learned her mother had moved to another state where she seemed to finally find happiness. Although the rejection hurt deeply, Susan had come to accept that this was the reality of her life. Then one day last November, Susan received a phone call that her mother had passed away without warning. And with that phone call, all hope was erased for reconciliation or a heartfelt apology. As Susan attempted to grapple with her pain, she set out on a lonely journey of grief. While the heartache came in waves, the anger visited less often. After months passed, Susan finally decided she was ready. She wrote her mother a heartfelt letter. Then she headed to a remote cabin with her husband. One night as dusk was falling and a fire roared in the fire pit outside the cabin, Susan read the letter aloud. She would say later that she felt her mother by her side. In the letter, she told her mother she had forgiven her. That she understood. And that she was sorry that they couldn’t have had the mother/daughter relationship they both deserved. Then she tossed the letter into the fire and let it all go.

Today as Susan looks back, she doesn’t have any regrets. She found a way to forgive and heal in her own way and in her own time. She feels at peace.

I know because Susan is me.

Forgiveness comes in its own time. It also comes with the valuable lesson that our world is full of imperfect people—even family members—who sometimes hurt us deeply. But it is possible to move past the pain and anger and find a place where you feel compassion for the person who has hurt you, just as I did. For years I wished I had a different mother. But now I realize that because of her, I am who I am today. And for that, I am truly grateful.

“True forgiveness is when you can say, 'Thank you for that experience.'" —Oprah Winfrey

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at


Living Her Passion – Brenda Herrod

 Brenda Herrod, IPE Masters Figure Pro Card winner, 2017.

Brenda Herrod, IPE Masters Figure Pro Card winner, 2017.

As Brenda Herrod neared her fortieth birthday nine years ago, she was deeply entrenched in the darkness of grief after losing her mother, her brother, and father—all to cancer and within an eighteen-year timeframe. While standing at a crossroads and uncertain where to go next, Brenda began relying on exercise as a natural antidepressant. A wife, mother of two, nurse for fifteen years, and in graduate school to attain her nurse practitioner in women’s health care and Master of Science in Nursing, Brenda was certainly busy but determined to do whatever it took to decrease her risks of dying of the same horrible disease.

Although she lifted some weights, Brenda mostly focused on cardio, until a friend told her about Buffmother, an online group of women focused on healthier lifestyles. After joining and losing thirty-five pounds in a “Superstar Success” contest through Buffmother, Brenda became intrigued by the weight training transformation process. “I realized life was short and decided I wanted to get healthier and in better shape,” says Brenda. “My passion and love for bodybuilding, competing, health, and fitness has only grown stronger since.”

Brenda started competing in 2009 and won second place in Master’s Figure for ages 40 and up in her first natural figure competition. Since then, she has competed in six additional contests and won several awards (including first place wins in several categories). Still, Brenda wasn’t satisfied and set a goal for herself to earn her Pro Card in the International Professional Elite for the NANBF Federation. On October 21, 2017, she competed in her seventh natural figure competition and won first place in the GONC Figure Masters class. Even better yet, she finally attained IPE Figure PRO status. A thrilled and proud Brenda says, “Age is just a number, just like the number on the scale.” She feels blessed beyond belief to be healthy, fit, and able to pursue her passion.

Fitness, weight training, and healthy eating has become her way of life and has even influenced her career. Brenda is a nurse practitioner practicing as the coordinator of the Better Living Program (a weight management program) for the employees of the Nebraska Methodist Health System. “Bodybuilding has become my way of life. I live it, breathe it, and love it!” she adds. “It gives me such a sense of pride to know that I have sculpted my body into an entirely different look. Weight training, cardio, and keeping a positive mindset combined with good nutrition is the greatest thing we all can do to stay young and healthy.”

A typical workout includes a warm-up on the stepmill or elliptical followed by free weights. Brenda always switches up the exercises to keep variety in her routine, work different muscle groups, and prevent injury. She occasionally uses machines, but also enjoys kettlebells, box jumps, band workouts, sliders, pushing the sled, and jump roping to achieve high intensity interval training. Brenda loyally follows a precise diet, especially prior to a competition, which helps her lose fat and build and retain muscle.

Her support group is large, and Brenda swears by the positive influence they all have on her, in one way or another. She is overwhelmed with support from her competition team under the direction of Matt Jackson, as well as from her husband, two adult children, other family members, fellow co-workers, Better Living clients, friends, and trainers at two gyms.

Brenda is passionate about sharing her healthy lifestyle with others. In her full-time role as nurse practitioner/wellness coach at Nebraska Methodist Health Systems, she encourages employees to believe in themselves, keep a positive mindset, and change habits to keep weight off for good. Brenda says it is very rewarding for her to see the progressive changes in her clients. “By losing weight and changing their body composition, every single part of their life and health is improved,” she proudly states.

 Brenda (front and center) with her Lift Like A Girl weight training class at Methodist Health Systems.

Brenda (front and center) with her Lift Like A Girl weight training class at Methodist Health Systems.

It is obvious when talking to Brenda that she is most happy when making a difference, not just in her own life, but in the lives of everyone she meets. “It is the best thing in the world when someone tells you that you inspire them,” she adds, “and even better to see them get off their medications and become healthier and more confident.”

She advises anyone who wants to pursue their passion in life to go for their dreams. “You only live once and you never know how much longer you have. Don’t put it off. Your passion will show if you do what you love. You will make a difference.”

Laurence Shahlaei once said, "Your love for what you do and willingness to push yourself where others aren't prepared to go is what will make you great." Brenda is a living example of what it means to emerge from the darkness of heartbreak and transform into a positive influencer who passionately encourages others to achieve their greatest potential through healthy eating, consistent exercise, and, most importantly, by believing they can do it too.

Yes, Brenda Herrod is strong. But the difference is that she is strong not just on the outside, but on the inside as well.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at

Living His Passion - Miles Moore

 Miles stands next to his plane with his dogs by his side.

Miles stands next to his plane with his dogs by his side.

Miles Moore first began nurturing an interest in flying when he was a boy. His father, a World War II pilot who flew a B29 bomber in the Pacific Rim, captured Miles’ attention early-on with his fascinating stories about flying airplanes. As Miles grew up in Omaha and learned about entrepreneurship through managing a paper route for the Omaha World-Herald, he had no idea that he was already building the foundation to carry out two future dreams: one as a business owner and the second as a pilot.

Following graduation from Iowa State where he majored in Finance, Miles moved to Chicago where he began a career as a financial advisor. After raising children and building his own firm, Moore Financial, Miles and his wife, Joanne, moved from Chicago to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, in 2014 to pursue their lifestyle interests. For Miles, the move meant more opportunities to ski, hike, and ultimately continue the journey to attain his private pilot certificate.

Miles says that earning a pilot certificate is both a demanding and rewarding process. Only forty percent of registered student pilots complete the certificate. The training process, which typically takes about one year, consists of completing curriculum related to aerodynamics, regulations, airport procedures, navigation, flight planning, etc.) and hands-on flight training. Students must also pass both a FAA written exam and a flight test/check-ride with an FAA examiner. Once the certificate is obtained, pilots frequently work to complete advanced ratings such as Instrument Rating, Multi-engine rating, Commercial Rating, and Certified Flight Instructor.

Ask any pilot what they like most about flying and they will probably say it is both challenging and fun. Miles is no exception. He adds, “There are limitless learning opportunities and it opens a world of possibilities. For me, the independence and flexibility that comes with flying is a huge draw.”

Miles began researching how to purchase a plane after his first flight lesson. After determining which models would deliver the performance necessary for a demanding mountain/high altitude environment plus provide the speed and capacity appropriate for regional business and personal travel, he purchased a turbo-charged, six-seat Beechcraft Bonanza in February 2017. His plan is to fly the plane for three years, further advance his skills, and then purchase a jet-engine-powered Piper Meridian.

 Miles pilots his plane above the clouds.

Miles pilots his plane above the clouds.

Miles credits his father’s influence for instilling his spirit of adventure and passion for aviation. When he hangs up his entrepreneurial hat one day, he plans to serve as a flight instructor so he can inspire other adults and teach them how to fly.

Flying provides a great outlet for Miles as he receives great satisfaction from setting and accomplishing goals. He advises anyone who wants to pursue their passion in life to create a written plan with action steps and deadlines. He adds, “Recognize that change is challenging for everyone and generally only happens when you’re uncomfortable. When the pain of not pursuing your passion and goals exceeds the pain associated with change, you know you’re ready to move forward.”

Miles’ passion for flying is a testament to an inspiring quote from Leonardo da Vinci, “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

There is no question that when Miles steps into his airplane, pulls back the throttle, and soars into the sky, he is relishing in every bit of the freedom his father valiantly fought for some seventy years ago. And from somewhere even higher in the sky, his father is smiling down on him.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at