Inspiration: Music

by Lance Ekum on August 28, 2011

Andrew Zuckerman Music Trailer from Andrew Zuckerman Studio on Vimeo.

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“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu

The Preface

During the fall of 2009, I attended a week-long leadership workshop in North Carolina.  This was a wonderful learning and growth experience, and one I still hold close to me today.  The day I arrived, I sat next to a young woman, unknown to me at the time.  Our group that week was small – 7 participants.  And our time together was also, very much a "getting to know you at a deep level" experience. Good, good stuff.

Back to that young woman, though.  Her name…Angie Kenny.   A soul-filled person, supporting the growth of a  local hotel in neighboring Greensboro.  We connected over that week together, and have continued our friendship and support of each other since that time.

A few months after this workshop, Angie shared with me that her real passion was baking.  Not only that, she was going to give it a shot – going after her dream (awesome, isn't it!).  And that's exactly what she did – and today, nearly two years later, she has a thriving business, Zen Cat Gluten-Free Bakery, servicing the Greensboro area and the world!

Her motto:  Gluten-Free + Vegan + All Love (so, so fitting for this lovely soul!)

Read below as Angie shares a part of this journey toward her true peak.

Angie and Zen Cat Gluten-Free Bakery

I am a dreamer.  I’m also a Gemini, so I like to do a lot of things and dream up a lot of ideas.  I like to learn things to help me grow and to just have an experience with life.  I’ve moved away from the thought that you “choose one thing to do and do it”, career-wise.  I wasn’t conscious about this philosophy until I looked at my job history.  I’ve had experience in interior design, farming, filmmaking, serving afternoon tea, assisting a brilliant CEO and now working in a bakery.

This is not a status list; it’s from where I’ve traveled so I value it as a snapshot of my life.  I also see the trajectory of my choices.  One decision to learn a new skill set (read: overcome fear or reservation) became a stepping stone to the next learning experience.  I only had to apply (basically) one thing:  my heart.

Most of the “adult” career or job choices I’ve made were led by my heart and not by social pressures or a dollar sign.  Sure I wrote down the pros and cons of each move (I am an arduous list maker), weighed options, took a deep breath and took a dive…

My current position in life is no exception.  I am a baker.  I own Zen Cat Gluten-Free Bakery, and I started this business from my heart and with a few business skills picked up from my previous – full-time, salaried, with benefits! –  job at a very successful hotel and restaurant company.

My heart and my tummy moved me!  I had to go gluten-free a few years ago, which is not an easy lifestyle change.  I was hungry!  I couldn’t find any good cookie to eat and worse, I wasn’t able to eat my grandmother’s most delicious pumpkin cake.  I knew that if I was looking for something good to eat, then there were others out there looking for the same thing.

I realized that in helping myself to a good cookie, I could help others.  I would help others in opening a bakery business.  AND, I wanted to touch everyone, not just those who are gluten-free and vegan.   

This became part of Zen Cat’s mission statement:  to create great desserts and bakery products that are gluten-free and vegan (did I mention vegan??), that are more healthful and that appeal to everyone.  I want to bake with mindfulness, with love.  I want love and well-being to be the ingredients, along with organic sugar and fair trade cocoa.  You don’t have to be gluten-free or vegan to enjoy Zen Cat Bakery’s Oh Snap! Triple Ginger Cookie…you just have to love a good cookie! 

What this experience has brought me thus far:  joy, sweat, tears, happiness, fear, surprise, fatigue, discipline, determination, many friendly faces and love.  All those things you get when you are following your path of heart.

There are 2 things that keep me going

1 – When I ask myself “Can I do it, can I run a bakery business?”  I remember my husband’s reply when I asked him this question early on:  “You are doing it”.  Present moment lesson for me.

2 – Curiosity.  My CEO friend emphasized the act of being curious in life.  Ask questions, find answers.  This helps in figuring out new recipes, new markets, business strategies, and of course what makes me tick, what makes others tick.   

For good measure, there’s a 3rd – My dreams and ideas keep me going:  What’s next?  How can I grow the bakery?  What new healthful creation will people love to eat?  And the inevitable:  what comes after the bakery, what’s next on my life’s journey?

Angie has recently began selling her delicious baked goods through Etsy, opening the world up to her yummy treats!! (check them out – they are a delight!)

I've tried several of her products, and have JUST received my second batch of brownies (my favorite!!).   From the packaging, to the personal note of thanks, to  the care and love I know goes into everything she bakes – Angie has created amazing and delicious baked goods that satisfy a gluten-free diet, while not sacrificing taste that some might expect from gluten-free food.  I eat these just because they taste great!!

Keep up with Angie by visiting Zen Cat Gluten-Free Bakery, liking her Facebook page, and buying her deliciousness on Etsy!

Just A Drop

by Lance Ekum on August 17, 2011 · 79 comments

wHEre the wiND bLoWS haRd
Creative Commons License photo credit: 27147

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” ~ Mother Teresa

What are you doing right now? 

Does it feel small and insignificant?  Does if feel like you are really doing (being) something worthwhile, worthy?


Or…perhaps not.

Sometimes you're on your game, and firing on all cylinders.  You stand tall, you plow forward with determination, you're "on".

Sometimes, though – your moments are really very ordinary moments.  And, in those moments, you may not feel like that droplet of your being – that moment in time…that it matters all that much.

Have you ever felt that way?

Just A Drop

In the ocean of this thing called life – and everything going on in it (just think of every thing going on, at this very moment!) – does your little drop really make a difference?  And, especially, when it's just an ordinary moment of your day?

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” ~ Ryunosuke Satoro

You matter.

Your moments matter.  Every one of them.

Every single one.

No Ordinary Drop

"I've seen a jillion miracles. They're all around. Every green leaf is a miracle. Not long ago, I noticed a leaf falling. It floated down on the porch, and it was brown and kind of wrinkled. I thought, Boy, that's a shame. It was once beautifully green and now it's all over and gone. Then I got to thinking. It beautified the world, then it fell off and will go back into the earth and fertilize and grow many more green leaves. And I thought, I hope I can contribute like that." ~ Jimmy Dean

Every drop that is your life – the biggest of drops that make big splashes all the way down to the smallest of drops that seemingly are unnoticed…they feed the ocean of you, the ocean of humanity. 

No drop is just an ordinary drop.  Your life is extraordinary.  Your life…is amazing. 

You are here – HERE – on earth, in human form!  How amazing is that!  How breathtakingly amazing – that you are here, having this human experience!

Every drop that is you – every one is part of something much bigger…part of this thing we call life (and more than just your life – part of the greater life of this whole cosmos!)

May the drops that are you bring meaning into your life…every single one of those amazing and extraordinary drops…

The Path to Success

by Lance Ekum on August 9, 2011 · 82 comments

“Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.” ~ Zig Ziglar

It's a warm Sunday afternoon.  The breeze by the lake quickly disappears as we wander into the forest.  Under the canopy of trees, it's cool though.  With a bounce in our step, we begin our ascent toward the most picturesque view in the park. 

{…the easy moments on our path toward success…}

Some rocks to climb on, a large hawk flying overhead, a few other fellow journeyer's on this hike.

The Climb

A turn and we are moving upward.  The forest begins to give way to a steep upward climb – a climb highlighted by large boulders and open skies.  A narrow path leads upward, large stone steps.  We curve back and forth, slowly getting higher and higher.

{…the success journey often has moments where it becomes an uphill climb…}

We pause, replenish our bodies with water.  We pause, and reflect back down to where we have come.  We pause, and take in that moment – seeing where we have reached to.  A look forward, and we see continued steps, no end in sight.

{…when we stop on our success journey, we give ourselves time to reflect and re-focus…}

The climb continues.  We are hot, our legs not wanting to take that next step.  We continue on.  It's easy to think about what the view will look like once we've reached the top.  What about each step along the way, though?  We notice the trees growing out of the rocks.  We notice a chipmunk near another tree.  We see that hawk again, this time much closer.  We see the rocks – all these rocks….

{…success is in the whole journey, not just some perceived peak…}

We reach the top.  Surrounded now by foliage, and no majestic view in sight – there is still this sense of joy, of accomplishment, of bliss.  Even though we fully expect that our journey (on this path) is not reached, we still savor the accomplishment of the climb we have made.  A glance back, at these steps we've just climbed…a smile…a knowing that we have persevered, a knowing that we did not back down from the challenge of this climb.

{…take time to savor the path you have traveled, and the steps you have taken to get where you are…}

The Summit

We continue on, the path now much easier.  Soon we reach a gorgeous rocky overlook.  For many minutes, we just explore the area…climbing, sitting, walking.  Others are here also – a stopping place to take in the amazing views. 

{…soak in the success that you have created…}

The Journey Continues

Our journey doesn't end, though.  We cannot stay here forever.  We move on, working our way back down a different path.  Many people are coming up, to see that view we saw.  We offer encouraging words here and there. 

{…share your knowledge with others, so they may too experience their own success…}

We reach the trail head, our bodies sill warmed up from this hike.  The nearby lake is calling out.  It's time to play, to splash, to have some unstructured fun! 

{…take time to rejuvenate and have some extra fun…}

Later on that day, we again explore another trail.  This time, we take a wrong turn, and soon find ourselves in the middle of the forest, no trail in sight.  We wander, looking for the trail we had started on.  Eventually we find that trail.

{…sometimes you will get off track.  That's okay.  Take time to adjust your bearings.  And remember, also, that these off-track adventures often lead to new discoveries…}

We return home, our day filled with memories, and with all sorts of moments we'll treasure.

{…wherever your journey takes you, remember that this is YOUR journey.  Savor what you are creating…}

Note:  This story was developed from actual moments spent together as a family at one of Wisconsin's true treasures – Devil's Lake State Park.  If your journey ever brings you through central Wisconsin, a day (or longer) at this park is joy and fun all wrapped up together!

The Funeral

by Lance Ekum

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