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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!

 

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Happy New Year to all!

Many of us will be gathering with friends and family tonight, celebrating the beginning of 2016, and toasting to a fresh slate of health and happiness in the year ahead.

I am fortunate to be with friends at a home in northern Wisconsin. That has led me to thinking about socializing in the frozen areas of the United States. Hosts have challenges throwing parties in winter that our milder climate friends may not have to think about.

For one thing, where do you put all your guests’ coats? And not just coats. If it is cold outside, each guest has a big, warm coat, boots, a hat, scarf and mittens. If it snowing out, all of those items are full of ice and snow, which will melt in the warmth indoors. Yikes! Where to put them all?  And there could be more than outdoor gear to come inside. One friend remembers attending winter party long ago when it was so cold that she and her husband took their car’s battery out of the car and brought it indoors so it would start later.

That brings up another challenge. Cars in wintertime can get into all kinds of trouble, from sliding into a snowbank on an icy road to trying to find elusive parking spots. But we are a hardy, friendly group of people in bad weather conditions. I have no doubt that people who otherwise would be at odds (Trump vs. Clinton supporters, say) will happily work together to get somebody’s car out of an eight-foot-high snowdrift, wishing each other well at the successful conclusion of helping a motorist on their way.

When there has been a recent substantial snowfall, you might find yourself dealing with specific parking instructions mandated by Snow Emergency rules. Sometimes you don’t know where to park because each city can announce a Snow Emergency with its own rules. So, when you travel to another city for a party, you have to figure out if you are free to park on the right or left hand side of the street!

Of course one of the good things about winter parties is the abundant cooling space outdoors. No room in refrigerator? No problem! Beer twelve-packs line up outside the front door, on the unheated porch, or on the deck. These outdoor spaces can also be used to keep party snacks or leftovers cold. (Tip: Keep them in a place that outdoor animals can’t access.) If the temperature is well below freezing, you may need to put the beer or food outdoors in a cooler, which might keep them from freezing quite so fast!

Even on the coldest days, many northern dwellers love to get outdoors. Today most of our group is going cross-country skiing. There are plans for an outdoor bonfire later or tomorrow, which brings up another benefit of being outdoors in the winter: NO MOSQUITOES!

Wherever you are and whatever your climate is like, best wishes for enjoyable winter celebrations.

We like to think we are in control of our own time and energy, but sometimes life’s unexpected events cause us to shift priorities and put our own pursuits on the back shelf.

In the past couple years, the illness and passing of some of my family members have taken precedence in my own life. It was a gift to be a caregiver (along with my sisters) for my mother before her death last winter. I mourn Mom every day, and also smile at the good memories we built over the many years we shared.

I have gradually taken back the reigns of control over my own being. In the past couple months, my Realize Your Dreams book-in-progress made it back to my writing desk. I updated it per suggestions made by my editor long ago, added some content, and sent the manuscript back to her for a final editing. I plan to self-publish it as an electronic and print-on-demand book within the next few months.

I am more aware than ever how important it is for me to take writing classes to keep me moving forward.  This summer, I attended a “Writing in the Garden” workshop taught by Angela Foster and Candace Simar. I have since completed one class and just started another one, an online class, at The Loft Literary Center, a marvelous resource for writers.

In order to keep motivated and productive, I will continue to take classes – to stay committed to doing what I want to do – write books!

Photo of Devil's Island Sea Caves in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore by Cliff Odendahl.

Devils Island Sea Caves in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore – Photo by Cliff Odendahl, Copyright 2013

A few months ago I sent a book draft to my editor and wrote a short story for a local writing contest — my first work of fiction since I was a child. I was in the writing groove.

Then, suddenly, somebody close to me died and I suspended my regular activities while I helped take care of other matters. As time passed and I got back on track with other work and activities, I still didn’t write. Of course, the longer you are away from something, the more difficult it is to pick it up again. I doubt I am the first writer to lose my momentum for a period of time.

The spark to write again came from a workshop I attended at Madeline Island School of the Arts last week. I can’t say enough good things about Catherine Watson and Jane O’Reilly, who guided the class in writing personal stories with descriptive detail and emotion, and my fellow participants who supported each other’s efforts and results.

The school itself is a warm and friendly operation, located on an idyllic setting on an island in Lake Superior. My husband, Cliff, was enrolled in another workshop going on at the same time, Craig Blacklock’s photography class. For months I had been telling people that Cliff and I were going to “art camp” together this summer. We shared a cabin at the school, but with wildly divergent schedules we rarely saw each other except for occasional meals. Cliff loved his opportunity to photograph the beauty of the island and the majesty of Lake Superior.

I was on a high, living in a bubble where writing and learning about writing was my focus morning, noon and night. I am motivated to keeping the spark alive at home by writing in my blog and in my work-in-progress book, Realize Your Dreams: Create an Action Plan for Life Transformation, along with a couple other projects.

The creation of art can be a solitary activity. We can all benefit from opportunities to meet with others, expand our perspectives, learn from great teachers, exchange knowledge and share our own personal work with like-minded people. If you are a writer or an artist who could use a spark of your own – seek out a workshop, class, or conference – anything that will stimulate you and your passion for your work.

Thatched Cottages at Cordeville, 1890

Thatched Cottages at Cordeville, 1890

One hundred and thirty years ago today, Vincent Van Gogh spent his thirtieth birthday re-reading Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables. How do I know this? It is one of the many, many details about the artist revealed in a comprehensive and compelling book, Van Gogh: The Life, by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, which I am currently reading. Its revelations and insights are a must for those who want a better understanding of the artist.

Vincent Van Gogh has been my favorite artist since I was a child. I don’t remember when he came into my consciousness; perhaps it was the first time I saw and was awed by Starry Night. As evidence that both home and school play a part in imparting the appreciation of art in a child, I remember poring over a Time-Life book, The World of Van Gogh 1853-1890, that my mother bought our family when I was a teenager (Thanks, Mom!) As a high school student, I painted a copy of Van Gogh’s Thatched Cottages at Cordeville, 1890, for an assignment. It was a study in shades of green and blue with an abundance of Vincent’s trademark brushstrokes. Imagine my pleasure when, as an adult, I came upon the original in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.

I celebrate Vincent’s birthday today on behalf of myself, and all whose lives were made infinitely richer because he lived and created the kind of art that lives forever in our hearts.

You know how it is when you sit in a waiting room at a doctor’s office? Everybody just keeps to their own little space. Sometimes there is a nod of the head, or handing over of a newspaper, but mostly there’s just silence.

Yesterday I was part of a friendly group that kicked the silence model right out the door. It started when two retirement-aged women started talking and comparing notes on something. I put down my Kindle and joined in. A man came in and he participated in the conversation too. One of the woman’s husband and adult daughter entered, so we all introduced ourselves. (Yes, we actually shared names in the doctor’s waiting room…unheard of!) A couple of people noted how much fun we were having, and one called it a party. It was almost sad when the nurse came to call somebody into the examination room and they had to leave. While her mother saw the doctor, the daughter and I had a nice conversation about retailing. After they left, one of the woman who had been telling us about her frustrating medical condition popped her head in before she left to let me know she was doing much better. Then I was alone in the room.

Before long, an elderly man came in, preparing to sit in the usual silence. I wasn’t ready to let the conversation end, so I asked him a question. Before long, he was telling me about his life – he was in his nineties and was upset he couldn’t do all the things he used to be able to do. He had a lot of physical complaints and didn’t seem to have much companionship in his life. I am hoping that maybe a brief show of interest from a stranger may have given him just a little comfort. I wished him well.

When I went back to college a few years ago, I chose to major in Communication Studies. I became passionate about the power of honest communication and authentic interactions to change the world. Yesterday we might not have made any big, outright changes, but together a small group of people helped make a positive impact on each other’s day. That has to be a contribution to what is right in the world.

This morning I got out of bed and looked out the window with the delight and wonder of a child.
Snowscape 2013
An overnight snowfall covered all surfaces in a fluffy pure white blanket. Snow gathered in smooth clusters on the outstretched limbs of pine trees and delicately coated every twig of the deciduous trees, creating a lacy pattern. It mounded up in little domes on top of the outdoor grill and birdfeeder. The world outdoors at my home, surrounded by nature, away from traffic and snowplows, was perfectly peaceful and beautiful.

I am a Minnesota snow-lover from the tips of my heavy winter boots to the top of the fur-trimmed hood on my parka. Even the fact that it is now March and spring is within sight doesn’t stop my swoon at the sight of a falling mist of white crystals.

My love of snow has also been revealed in the artwork I have been creating lately. Above is an example of a recent snowscape I painted in watercolor. I posted a couple more paintings on my Artwork Page.

Later today I’ll do some shoveling. The snow won’t last long this time of year, but right now I keep looking out the window and smiling.