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I recently posted this on my Facebook page:

I thank you and appreciate you, my Facebook friends.
Like many other people, I tried to keep my Facebook postings mostly politics-free. It’s not easy to do that anymore, because there are so many things going on, so many perspectives to share, and so much passion involved. I know we don’t all agree on issues, but I still think that diversity of thoughts and beliefs, and the ability to compassionately express them, are some of our greatest strengths as a country.
Even though many of my Facebook friends see things from a totally different point of view than I do, you haven’t dropped me and I haven’t dropped you. I don’t plan to drop friends who think differently than me, and I hope we remain friends.

I received positive support on this posting from friends at all levels of the political spectrum (in the USA). Many of us realize we likely won’t be changing other peoples’ minds: even people we care for, even with ideas we vehemently support or oppose. But we are in this big boat together, and will need to make landings together along the journey. We can keep our own ideals, while being courteous and respectful to others, while delivering and receiving matter kindly, while listening to diverse thoughts and opinions. Along the way we might learn something that will help us find solutions to our current problems and impasses.

I believe in sharing as much or as little as we care to about our political beliefs on social media, while bringing our authentic selves to the conversation. (As I say this, I truly appreciate I can do so because of my right to freedom of speech, and I recognize that not all people have this privilege.) Most importantly, we can make the effort to be respectful, even when we don’t agree.

 

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The new year comes with hope. I don’t believe in a fresh slate exactly; most of us are in the same general circumstances as we were just a few days ago. But we do have an opportunity to take a deep breath of fresh air and reflect on our overall situation, with an open heart to new perspectives and a change in direction.

Here are three themes I chose for my own path in the new year:

Winter Joy_0002

A watercolor and new year’s poem I created a few years ago.

Live in a spirit of love and peace. I think many of us have this sort of mindset for 2017.  We look at the crises and challenges around us and wonder what we can do – how can we be an authentic force for creating the kind of world we want to live in? We may struggle to find our own solutions. I try to show my love to those close to me, and to support those I don’t know in different ways, such as donations, volunteering, and communication. I will provide more financial support this year for the organizations I believe in, those working to hold true to my values of peace, civil rights, personal freedoms, economic fairness, and environmental improvement.

Eat Healthier.  To me that means more organic vegetables, less sugar. I won’t go to extremes, but will take a more holistic view of adding food choices that support the needs of my family. I have gradually adopted this path for the last couple years, but I am ready to crank it up a notch with using my new spiralizer, shopping more at farmers’ markets and natural food stores, and integrating new healthy recipes into my repertoire.

Write my novel. While I have been working on this project for over a year now, I am excited to get more of what is in head and outlines into actual prose — words on the page. It is so easy to let other priorities and responsibilities in life come before my own personal passion. My intention is to make major strides in writing during the next few months, and to (hopefully, because I don’t believe in putting strong deadlines on my creative work) have my novel published in 2017.

How about you? What are your themes or objectives for this new year? If your intentions include eating healthier, losing weight, finding a new job, developing a passion or hobby, going back to school, or traveling more, my book, Realize Your Dreams: Create an Action Plan for Life Transformation has advice and inspiration for you. In fact, I intend to create a new action plan or two for myself.

Flowers bloom in parts of Minnesota this year, despite some nighttime frosts. The weather this November has been unusually balmy, at times shirt-sleeve weather. Today, November 10th, it reached 66 degrees Fahrenheit – a sunny, warm day.

begonia

Bright in the sunlight, a frost-tinged begonia, today at my Minnesota home.

This is not normal for us. In fact, when I was a child and heard about the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940, I could hardly believe the roses were still blooming (according to accounts I’ve heard) the morning of November 11th.

People were outdoors, ready to enjoy a lovely national holiday before winter came. Duck hunters were out in droves, perhaps with only a light jacket, if that. The weather started nice and then turned deadly.

Rain fell and temperatures plummeted. Throughout Minnesota and other Midwest states, the rain turned to sleet and snow, then into a raging blizzard, according to a National Weather Service account. It happened seventy-six years ago, and there are people among us who can tell their own stories of that storm. People like me, of the next generation, have heard about the Armistice Day Blizzard all our lives.

In North Dakota, my grandparents and their two young daughters (my mother and aunt) drove out of town and down a rustic road, so that my grandfather could walk into the countryside and hunt pheasants or partridge for supper. My grandmother stayed near the car, enjoying the outdoors with her two little girls. When the weather turned nasty, the three of them holed up in the car, nervously waiting for my grandfather to return. He eventually did, and they drove home through the blizzard.

Many stories didn’t end so well. Around 150 people died as a result of this storm. Today we live in a different era of weather forecasting, thanks in part to this event.

 

bell museum (2)I spent last Sunday doing in-person research for the novel I am writing.

My task for the day was to visit the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. My novel includes scenes that take place in that setting. The protagonist is a student at the U, and has a significant link to the Bell Museum of Natural History. So I went there in person to figure out answers to questions such as:

What path would she take from a class, to the museum, to her home – in a snowstorm?

Where would she live off campus?

In the museum, which dioramas would she see, and how would she react to them?

Not only did I receive more clarity to these topics, but I soaked up the atmosphere of campus life, allowing myself to imagine the life of a student at the U of M in 1972. By the way, I actually was a student there, but this is not my story. As a writer, I was able to see this environment with fresh eyes.

Because my novel is set in the past, I often read books and do online research to answer my questions. But there is nothing like putting yourself in the actual setting (even if the events of your novel took place in years past) to feel your character’s sense of place. It creates a personal connection to the place and people who inhabit it in your novel.

20160112_113459_resizedNew Year’s Resolutions involve commanding one’s self to reach a goal. Intentions are strong but momentum can putter away. I made resolutions when I was younger, usually to lose weight. They never really worked for me. Now if I want to reach a goal, I create an action plan with specific components to get from where I am to where I want to be. This strategy is not tied to a year, and it does work for me.

A few years ago I decided to switch from making resolutions to setting themes for a new year.

Themes are more fun. For example, once I decided to have a theme called “Vincent Van Gogh”. That’s it, no tasks or goals attached. I have learned more about Van Gogh, as a person and his art, ever since.

Last year I decided to find, prepare and master new recipes. Specifically, I wanted to learn how to make rich, savory and tender beef short ribs, a garlicky seafood soup, and cinnamon cardamom bread. They are all now a delicious part of my meal repertoire. This year I plan to continue to expand my recipes and cooking skills.

What other themes do I have for 2016? My main focus is writing. I have begun writing my first novel, which I will tell you more about soon. Also, decorating and organizing my office/studio into the beautiful and energizing space I know it can be. And, swans. Because they are so lovely. I am blessed with sightings of them as they fly over or swim in the river near my house. Who knows where my fascination with swans will take me this year?

What themes do you want to incorporate into your life in 2016?

 

My new inspirational book, Realize Your Dreams: image from sales pageCreate an Action Plan for Life Transformation, is FREE here, as a Kindle ebook, through Amazon.com today and tomorrow, January 16 & 17, 2016.

If you want to live a life that is more fulfilling to you, whether it be with a new career, weight loss, more travel, going back to college, pursuing your passions, speaking up, or more, this is the book that will help you get from where you are to where you want to be. This book will help with ideas, resources, and examples of  action plans, but it doesn’t tell you what to do.  You will learn how to create your own action plan.

Today is the day to give it a try for free if you have a Kindle or a Kindle app to read it on other devices. It is also available as a paperback, but not as a free book.

Please feel free to share with others. If you are interested in writing a book review, it will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

 

image from sales pageMy life has truly been an adventure during my journey of transformation in the past few years. In order to inspire and motivate others, I wrote Realize Your Dreams: Create an Action Plan for Life Transformation.

I am excited to announce that the book has now been written and published. It is available as an ebook for Kindles and as a paperback on Amazon.com. There are chapters on traveling, eating healthy and losing weight, going back to college, finding career success, discovering your passions, and more. I invite you to visit the book’s Amazon sales page to “Look Inside.”

FREE Kindle ebook version of Realize Your Dreams if purchased this upcoming Saturday or Sunday, January 16-17, 2016. Please feel free to pass the word!