Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reframe your thinking...Improve your planet

Ashley Brown

The office environment is a microcosm of real life – a not-so-distant planet of its own, inhabited by individuals whom you may or may not have chosen to be your neighbor.  Nonetheless, these earthlings with their diverse personalities, beliefs and perceptions are sharing your space for a large portion of the day; and for the sake of the greater good, you must learn to work effectively with them.

Success depends on the outcome. 

If you are or seek to be a leader within your team, it’s reasonable to say that you’ve faced your share of challenges in dealing with one or more of your co-workers or employees.  Based on my 20-plus years of experience within both the private and public sector, as both an employee and a manager, personalities and perceptions can be either the greatest architects of - or the biggest obstacles to - the success of an organization. 

Leaders get a successful outcome based on the approach taken with an individual or towards a situation. Leaders know this. Leaders also understand that true leadership is learned, practiced and polished.

Leaders are learners. 

I believe I am a leader, and I am also a dedicated student of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).   NLP is an internal and external communication model of how we send and receive verbal and nonverbal messages, process that information and how that information puts us in a particular state (i.e., frame of mind). As an adjunct in undergraduate Public Speaking, NLP has helped me become a better facilitator to my students.

NLP has also taught me a valuable exercise called reframing,” which means to change the meaning of something by putting it in a different context or perspective.  It allows me to view or “reframe” an experience that may be unpleasant as a “not-the-end-of-the-world” event when put into a long-term, big picture view of life.

Reframing is often referred to as a way to stop self-limiting beliefs.  It is frequently used with those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and is one of the most useful techniques I have found in dealing with circumstances that are less than ideal. In an office environment, reframing would be useful in finding positive intention that will help you refocus when you are faced with challenges and/or difficulties on your team.

                              “You can’t see change,
               until you change the way you see.”
                                                                                                     Raimy Diaz

For example, “We’ve always done it this way,” is one of the most frustrating statements ever heard by those of us who consider ourselves creative thinkers and leaders.  With reframing, instead of just accepting this statement, we ask the question, “why,” and begin to drill down towards an alternative and, ultimately, better outcome.

Mastering the ability to reframe not only helps reach solutions more quickly, it unlocks and improves upon many team-building skills including creative thinking, innovation and empathy.

By taking action to intentionally stop and consider other avenues, we immediately begin to look at things “in a different light,” which translates challenges into opportunities to learn, and transfers focus away from problems and onto solutions.  With practice, reframing becomes second nature.

Intention and action are the nutrients with which you grow your planet into a place of productivity.  I intend to live on a planet where my work is rewarding and teammates work together for the common purpose of organizational success. 

So, I ask you, “What planet are you on?”

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Solutions magazine, published by The Center for Management and Professional Development. To view the entire magazine, click here.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

#ThursdayThought - Life Is What You Make It

Life Is What You Make It

The urban dictionary says this is a "cliche of debatable validity" - but, I find it to be true. Peter Buffett, son of Warren Buffett, also holds this "cliche" as his lifelong creed.

In his review of Buffett's book, Bill Gates said, "Contrary to what many people might assume, Peter won’t inherit great wealth from his father."

Buffett is an accomplished, Emmy-award-winning musician, who follows this creed:
  • Trust in the belief that the world is fundamentally a good place and that all people, however, flawed, are—at the core—well-intentioned
  • Tolerance for other people’s viewpoints and perspectives
  • A passion for education—not in the traditional sense but as a way to approach life with curiosity and an openness to what others have to teach us
  • A personal work ethic grounded in self-discovery and a commitment to finding something that you wake up every morning looking forward to

If you believe this creed, then you believe it's up to you to make your life as good as you are able. 
Additionally, if you believe this creed, you then believe it's up to you to make sure you're not making life unbearable or burdensome for others.

Life is short. 
Life is what you make it! 
Make it GREAT!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Simplicity

About a year ago, a woman whom I can honestly say I didn't know very well, made a point to say to me, "You know, you and I are very different. I prefer a life of Godly simplicity over material things and money."

Clearly, her statement had more to do with her than me; and clearly, she didn't know me or even know my God - but, because we were brought together over a few months for a common purpose and she became a short-term Facebook friend, she mistakenly perceived that this gave her license to share and, possibly but erroneously, that this was something I would want to know. Her statement gave me pause, but had no immediate or long-term affect on me, and I felt no need to respond or defend myself to her, nor am I doing that now. :)

Unfortunately, there are some people who can (and will) judge you by what they "perceive" you have, and what they "perceive" you are without really getting to know you as a person or caring to know your truth. This is that individual's problem, not yours, and can be partially attributed to our ability to create a picture perfect public life through Social Media.

I'll admit to being a willing participant, as I love to share pictures and videos of my life on Facebook, Twitter @Momediachica, Instagram @ABrownBag66, and this blog - and I tend to only share the positive, pretty, fun or uplifting points and forego any postings about the many moments that aren't so proud or shiny.

It's my opinion that we all go through so much that isn't perfectly polished and shiny that it's nice to share good news, or share ideas on ways to get the most enjoyment from life. It is always my intention to share thoughts and words or provide something that might help to lift and inspire others.

Sometimes, it's a fine line between sharing and boasting, but would you agree that it's nice to see schoolmates and friends enjoying a beach vacation or a graduation or a wedding or even just a good meal with the people who make them happiest?

THOSE are the moments that make life worthwhile.

So, since we're talking about sharing, let me provide one of my favorite things from a small piece of my own practiced simplicity for which I truly thank God...Sunday and Sunday breakfast!

Each week, I look forward to sharing Sunday breakfast with my husband (and Beagle!). Never ever fussy; just a nice, simple breakfast that we share in a moment that is just ours.

One of my favorites is scrambled eggs and salami, which I only learned about in 2008 while vacationing in Cabo San Lucas (of all places) with my in-laws. My MIL has been making this for my husband since he was a child, and I am happy to be able to make him one of his faves.

All you have to do is cut up some hard salami and throw it in with your eggs as you are scrambling. The salty salami flavors the eggs and it is truly a treat!

Now THAT'S something worth sharing!

Have a splendid Sunday, enjoy the true gift of your own simple abundance, live your life the way you choose and on your own terms. Thank you for reading!



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Trip to Tuscany via Kansas City

In 2011, I had the opportunity to travel to Italy with my husband. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip that I shall never forget.

Even though I may never get to go back to Italy, I am able to enjoy Italian wines quite frequently through my husband's wine import business, Venezia Imports. Through Venezia, I've met several wonderful Italian vintners, including Mr. Matteo Cantoni, whose family owns and operates Fattoria Fibbiano in Tuscany.

The Fattoria Fibbiano estate looks like something out of a fairytale. Matteo's family farms the land, tends to the estate and are active participants in the agricultural and hospitality movement that is so uniquely Tuscan. 

Matteo will be joining us in Kansas City on Tuesday, Sept. 16th, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at

Mike Garozzo has prepared a fabulous menu to pair with Matteo's wines and, given the fact that you follow my blog, I can guarantee that you would enjoy the evening!

In case you're interested, here's a link to the information along with how you can reserve your spot at our table that night.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Garden therapy

I think it's fair to say that a lot of us look back on our lives and think about those things we wish we would have done differently. We all reflect on the things, experiences or people we wish we would have taken the time to appreciate. Although I try not to ruminate about the past in this way, I will admit that there is one regret I have that I am attempting to learn from in my present.

I wish I would have appreciated my Grandpa's green thumb while he was alive. Grandpa Ted could grow anything from even the tiniest seed.

I took for granted those lush grapevines, overflowing with healthy clusters of fruit. Because of my grandpa's incredible dedication to that backyard garden in 1970's Poplar Bluff, Missouri, there were so many vegetables, my grandmother spent hours/days carefully canning and pickling only to proudly put them on the table and have my siblings and me vehemently refuse to take part. Ah...youth!

What I wouldn't give for one more bite of those Bread and Butter pickles!

After my Grandpa's passing in 2002, my mom and I found an old video that my sister had taken of my Grandpa Ted in the early to mid-90's.  He was talking about the beautiful fruit trees he had grown in his backyard in Florida, most of which he had grown from seed. I'm grateful to my sister for capturing him doing what he absolutely loved and was so great at.

Last year, I made a promise to myself (and to Grandpa Ted) that I was going to honor his memory by creating a beautiful garden in my new-to-me home, and although it is physically hard work, it's by far the most therapeutic activity I've ever attempted - yet another reason to "wish-I-knew-then."

The result from last year's planting is pictured above; Blue Salvia and a thriving Plum tree that started as a twig in 2013.
 This year, I added a small pear tree, and you can see in this picture that the Heather I planted last year is now bursting up and out in this small space.

Things are blooming well so far, so I'm pretty sure I'm getting a little green thumb assistance from the after life!

Thanks, Grandpa!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Starting all over again...

It's something that many of us have had to do in order to survive the wretched recession that began in 2008 and swallowed so many of our small businesses whole.

In 2011, my business was swallowed up by a personal illness that required nearly one year of convalescing. While starting over personally as a healthy person, my business took a hit because I couldn't lift, stand for long periods of time or even get anyone in the Lake area to work or show up to work - regardless of the pay.

Additionally, my husband and I moved 40 minutes from the Lake, back to my hometown of Jefferson City to scoop up an amazing home while unloading a less comfortable condo located in a development full of unfortunately unhappy, mean and miserable people so that we could get a positively fresh start. (Plus, it's where my family resides and there's a new, beautiful great niece in the mix and a wedding on the horizon!)

Thankfully, I've had a few years to regroup, rethink life, and refocus my efforts on what makes me happy - and I'm lucky to have been given the opportunity to do so - and for that, I'm grateful!

During this time, I've traveled, taught, volunteered, wined, dined and carefully considered my next moves.  I've come to the conclusion that I must continue to cook for people who enjoy having me do for them what I honestly, authentically enjoy.

So, I'm back in business! Starting small with a handful of wonderful requests for luncheons, bridal showers, anniversaries and in-home dinners. Tomorrow, I get to assist the Mo Wine Girl with her wine class at the Missouri State Fair - only because she said I could - and I'm looking forward to spending time with her!

With my Kahlua Creme Tiramisu Trifle!

The only dilemma remaining is that the former email address I used: was hacked a couple of years ago, so I'm not able to use that anymore.

For now, I'm using to receive inquiries in the Jefferson City area.

It's an exciting new chapter in a book that I thought was closed. I've got another chance to do what I truly love - cook and plan parties for people who love it! Can't wait!

Let me share one of my fave songs from the 70's that is apropos to my sitch, enjoy!

"Starting all over again is gonna be tough, so rough, but we're gonna make it!" - Mel & Tim

Friday, March 2, 2012

My Children, Too...sort of

Prior to getting married, my husband and I had lengthy discussions about whether or not we truly wanted to have/adopt/foster children. Both of us are the first born of three, he with two brothers and me with a bro and a sis. Life as the first born is both delightful and frustrating for various reasons, but suffice it to say, we ultimately decided we were not going to have children.

Not that I owe anyone other myself and my hubby an explanation, but for the mere fact that I appreciate full disclosure - we both like children. However, the decision has more to do with the fact that we are avid world travelers, entrepreneurs - yeah..we're kinda selfish of our time together, and we're both a bit over 30.

Fortunately for me, I am uber close to my siblings, each of whom have adorable children. Subsequently, and because I am an AMAZING AUNT, my brother and sister have allowed me to have a close relationship with my nephews and nieces. To be honest, as much as I like to portray myself as professional...nothing reduces me to a giggling pile of girly than hearing:

"Aunt Ash is a gooberhead!"  

Blurted out in melodious burst of laughter from the back seat of my car lets me know that my love of Andy Gibb is not only NOT shared by 14, 13 and 11-year-olds...and that I am NOT COOL. I will always prefer The Bee Gees to Bieber and I will always, always crave these moments!

So it's no surprise that, last weekend, when I received a call from my sister asking if my youngest niece could come for a visit...I was thrilled. My niece is now 11, but I nicknamed her "Pookie" when she was still making my tiny little sister look like an olive on a toothpick!

A visit from Pookie includes several activities including crafts, cooking, swimming, shopping, eating and chatting (lots of eating and chatting!) and walking our Beagle, Puddin' Pie. I am always exhausted, but exhiliarated after a Pookie visit. This visit was no different. Pookie was on a make a very special cake for her mommy's milestone Birthday.

Pookie and I went from store to store to find the perfect decorations, food coloring and flavor. We talked about the flavor and that the cake should be gluten free. I listened to her chatter about how she wanted to make the actual cake purple and the icing should be lavender and how pretty the sugar sheets would look on the side. Having those moments with her, planning and creating her mommy's cake, were absolutely priceless and I can never savor those moments enough. Luckily, I know there will be other moments, even though  I can see her becoming a teenager before my eyes.

No matter how old she gets, I hope to still be the Aunt Ash she misses and wants to spend time with.

Although I am in that moment, I can't help remember another little girl who spent a lot of time with me when I lived in Nashville during the 1990's. That little girl, my very first niece, whom I took on rollercoaster rides at Opryland in the Summers when she was only six or seven is now 23...a grown woman. I relished those moments with her as a little girl and appreciate the relationship I still have with the strong young woman she has become. Yes, Britty-Boo, I mean you!

Interestingly, after posting this blog, I found a picture of Britty-Boo and me from back in either 1992 or 1993 and I am going to scan and post it if I can ever stop bawling every time I pull it out of the drawer!

It often occurs to me that I am fortunate to be able to spend the one-on-one time with each of my nieces...and nephews. Although, the boys are now teens and have infinitely more interests than being around me!

I have 'Uncle Mark' to thank for allowing me a lifestyle that gives me flexibility to have time with these precious little people. 

Even though Mark and I don't have our own, we feel blessed that we are able to experience the love of these children and the moments we get to share in their wonderful life adventures. I may not be cool, but I am loved.

I have my sister and brother to thank for including us in that...and I am grateful.

May you be lucky enough to share in a little person's life. It's truly a blessing.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chickpeas have UBER fiber!

If you are looking for a way to bring optimum fiber into your diet, Chickpeas are an amazing and easy way to do this. They taste great, and they can be made into the best hummus you've ever tasted. I know this for a fact, so here is a great, quick hummus recipe and all you need are the ingredients and a food processor:

1 can Chickpeas (drained)
1/2 tspn dry Mustard
1/4 cup GOOD Olive Oil (it may take a little more, be prepared)
1 Clove Garlic (crushed)
Fresh Basil
Dash of Sea Salt

Pour drained chickpeas into food processor , put the lid on and give three or four pulses to rough chop. I like to turn my food processor off when I add mustard, garlic, a few pieces of fresh basil (maybe three) - but, you do not have to if you are a Processing Pro!

Add your olive oil, let it run for just a couple of seconds then check the consistency. Continue to add oil until creamy, then stir in your dash of salt.


If you choose to make your own hummus for a party, whether it's in your home or in another home and you are the invited guest...substitute chickpeas for Canellini beans.

Consuming chickpeas is great, but since they are so fibrous, they can also cause a bit of public discomfort. Either take Beano prior to consuming or do the substitution...if you get my drift.

Happy, Healthy Eating from A Brown Bag Gourmet!