A Summer Escape by Jeanie Croope

It’s a quiet Monday morning at the cottage. The lake is draped with a haze of fog, the opposite shoreline barely visible, like a pencil drawing that had been badly erased and only a light shadow remains. The lake is still and gray, barely a ripple. Islands of foam rest without moving on its surface, like globs of whipped cream floating in a sink of dirty water.

The monochromatic palette is broken only by the brilliantly colored water floats tied to the neighbor’s dock. A bright pink flamingo, a yellow trampoline, a goldenrod inner tube, a floating island with a green palm tree protruding from the top. Their cheerful colors signal the lively activity of the day ahead.

The weekenders have returned home to their regular routine of work, appointments and obligations and it is quiet, oh so quiet. Only the well modulated voices of dulcet radio anchors on “Morning Edition” and the sound of the neighbor’s lawn sprinklers break the stillness.

Why, oh why, do people have lawns at the lake? This is where we come to escape the routines of the city and the suburbs. Mowing lawns. Street traffic. A faster pace.

On our morning walks we might encounter Mr. Bird and his dog, Snoopy; Karen and Lou, with their dazzling garden; Penny and John, who are laying in their own driveway; Steve, who is married to the Little Free Library lady; Paul, the painter, who has a smoker and who, if we are lucky, may offer a taste of delicious smoked meat; Josh and his dad, with Josh’s kids packed into a double-stroller and their blond German shepherd by their side.

We greet each other with a smile, maybe a bit of chat, swatting away a mosquito or two if the day is damp or humid. We note the flower pots with black eyed Susans in an otherwise neat little garden, tipped over the day before in the breeze, are now planted, straight and tall.

The occasional red-tipped leaf is a sign of days to come.

Our minds relax.

The solo walker will perhaps dream up plots for stories that may or may not be written or notice the way light hits a cluster of leaves, trying to determine how to capture that light in paint. Those traveling in the company of others will notice all about them as well, pointing out bunnies or birds, or simply share a morning conversation.

A car may go by, carrying its driver into town, perhaps for a day job, perhaps for groceries or a trip to a breakfast restaurant. They slow as they approach, giving the walkers plenty of room and all parties wave as they pass by. It’s part of the unwritten etiquette code.

And yes, there are different types of waves.

The open-handed royal wave, the windshield wiper wave and the wiggling finger wave. The two-handed steering wheel wave finds the driver wiggling the fingers on both hands as it holds the steering wheel at “ten” and “two,” the official drivers education position.

There is the open window arm-out wave and it’s not so pleasant cousin, the cigarette-out-the-open-window wave, leaving behind an after-fragrance of dubious quality.

Back on the porch, the radio has moved from news to classical. The black-and-white cat sits on the cushion of a faux-wicker chair, alternating naps with a careful perusal of the beach as she awaits the passage of a bird or chipmunk.

Yesterday’s swimsuits and towels hang from nails on the porch beams, drying out for today’s swim. A potted sunflower sits on the table, herb gardens and small begonia pots seem to thrive.

The lake is still clam, the white foam seemingly barely moving in the almost-non-existent current.

A long boat passes by and the fog, if one looks straight out, is moving gently to the north, like slow-moving smoke. Yes, it’s still there, that fog, but lifting now, the trees on the opposite side more visible than a half hour before.

In another hour the sun will break through the clouds and bring with it the warmth of another summer’s day.

There will be the sounds of more boats, a barking dog, perhaps the laughter of children or adults, enjoying the water.

A lone swimmer will stroke in the deep water along the shoreline, from one buoy to another, counting strokes and attempting to do more than the day before. And more than one fisherman will slowly move their boats boat down the lake, hoping for “the big one” and more likely later telling stories of the one that got away.

And, in due course, the sun will sink slowly beyond the horizon, leaving streaks of orange, pink and gold on the surface of the lake.

The sky will move to inky blue, then black and stars will emerge, perhaps the moon. The lake will again be calm, the stillness after a day of play will set in as it does for us. Time for rest.

There will be tomorrow in our little heaven on earth. And we will treasure it as much as today.

About the Author: Jeanie Croope

Jeanie Croope bioAfter a long career in public broadcasting, Jeanie Croope is now doing all the things she loves — art, photography, writing, cooking, reading wonderful books and discovering a multitude of new creative passions. You can find her blogging about life and all the things she loves at The Marmelade Gypsy.

Create an Escape in Your Home with Decor by Laura Pursley

Escape…. We all need to be able to escape, to relax and recharge from our busy lives. Actually doing it can be very challenging, especially in this day and age where everyone is connected 24/7. Information is at your fingertips at all times, and there are more and more demands put on us, or we put them on ourselves.

Summer is often a time when people slow down, spend time with family and friends, and enjoy the sometime short lived beautiful weather (depending on where you live). Some are able to take vacations to escape for a short time. The trick though, is finding that feeling of escape in your daily life so it’s not just a one-time thing.

One of my favorite artists/photographers that epitomizes the feeling of Escape is Gray Malin. So much so that his latest book is named “Escape” and is full of beautiful beach pictures. Even if you can’t go to all of these beaches, just looking at these beautiful beach pictures immediately gives you the feeling of escape.

Gray Malin Book Cover

Not everyone is able to take a beach vacation, and even if you do, it can be short lived. The secret is finding a way to escape on a regular basis to really be able to recharge.

If you can’t take a beach vacation, but still want that feeling of escape, here are a few ways you can do this.

One way is to create this same feeling of escape in your own home, in your daily life with your home décor. Adding décor to your home that reminds you of your travels with pictures or mementos, or decorating rooms in your home that evoke the feeling of your favorite places can create the escape that you need.

Here are some examples of what I’ve done to create an escape for myself in my own home.

The first way is to use pictures from vacation to create décor/art. You can either enlarge special pictures and frame them, or use some easy apps to create a unique piece of art. Here are a couple examples that I added to a gallery wall.

Gallery Wall with Family Memories Laura Pursley

Here is an up-close view of this dear moment captured with our son and his Papa on the beach, watching the Northern Michigan sunset, pondering life. It is now part of a gallery wall in my office, that I see every day.

Gallery Wall with Family Memories Photo Laura Pursley

Another example is a sweet moment between my two kids captured on the same vacation in Northern Michigan, and I turned into a watercolor (using an App called Waterlogue).

Family Moment Captured Laura Pursley

Here are a few more examples of how you can turn your family memories into artwork using an easy free app.

Turning Family Memories into Artwork

Turning Family Memories into Artwork Escape

Just looking at these images brings me right back to that specific vacation.

Another way to create an escape is to think about your ultimate vacation destination and what this might look like. For me, I love the beach, and my ultimate beach house (if I had one) would consist of a lot of white, some blues, some natural elements and have clean, wide open spaces. So, I have incorporated some of these elements into my home.

Here’s an example of our wet bar in our basement.

Home Décor: Create an Escape in Your Own Home Laura Pursley

Here, in our wet bar in the basement, I used a lot of white, clean simple lines, and natural elements in the beams to create a calm setting. Being in this area just makes me happy. You can also see that one of the items on the shelf is the framed picture from our beach trip this year.

Family Beach Trip Framed

Being in this room makes me feel relaxed and clam. If I choose to, I can escape from my responsibilities or I can do work in a calming atmosphere.

One of my favorite things that Oprah once said was “your home should rise up and meet you, it should be your sanctuary”. (I may be paraphrasing a bit). But, I couldn’t agree more. You should create spaces in your home that you love, that can be used as an escape and incorporating special things from your travels or just things that remind you of what you love is a great way to do this. Even if they are small, subtle things, they all add up to create a calm, relaxing space that you love.

We can all get caught up in our crazy busy lives, but if you can find your escape, it will do a lot for your happiness, and your sanity! Décor can be a powerful thing, and can create a feeling of escape, without even taking a vacation!

About the Author: Laura Pursley

Laura is a home decor blogger, marketing professional, mother of 2, living in Michigan. Laura has a passion for design that she uses to transform her home into a comfortable, livable, beautiful space for her family. Her design motto is that you don’t have to be a designer to have good design in your home. She believes that everyone deserves to be in a space that they love, whatever that means to you.

Laura likes to mix a little bit of modern with a little bit of farmhouse, and she likes textures, patterns, and in some instances, is not afraid of color. It is her hope with her design blog to inspire others to transform their own spaces into something they love.

Visit her blog at www.harperhomedesigns.com to get inspired, or follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest

Letting Go of Expectations by Anna Oginsky

It’s been over eight years since my dad slipped away and took my life as I knew it along with him. Of course, I was devastated when he died, and I have found that no matter how much time passes, there is always a part of me that misses him. At the same time, I have come to appreciate the outcomes of his death that have shaped my life for the better. The gifts he left behind weren’t gifts of conventional value; instead, he left me with the opportunity to rethink the ways I was choosing to live up to the time of his passing. Like so many women, I had completely lost myself in the midst of mothering and in all the roles I had taken on through adulthood. It was in the space I created to grieve after my dad’s death that I rediscovered my long-lost love for creativity.

At first, as I began to share my writing and art, I heard people say things like, “Oh, I would love to ______ (write, paint, craft…), but I just don’t have time.” I completely understood. Before my dad’s death, I wouldn’t have thought that I had the time either. What I quickly discovered though, was that if I didn’t make the time to create, there were parts of me, essential parts, that would surely perish. It was vital to my own well-being that I make time to create. The same is true today.

In grieving places, we are often told that grief comes in waves. Those waves we ride in grief are actually an appropriate metaphor for describing the journeys we take with most matters of the heart. “Riding the waves” is a saying that aptly describes the ways in which I am required to navigate the ebb and flow as I work to cultivate and sustain a creative life.

I tend to shy away from writing about how to do things; but, sharing what has worked for me seems essential in the realm of creativity. As humans, we ourselves are creations and as such, we were made to create.

We are creative beings.

We are all artists and we do best when we give ourselves the gifts of creativity. I have found that what I do to nurture my creativity is less important than how I do it. Much of my work around creativity involved some aspect of redefining what it meant to me to make things.

My first task was to let go of expectations about what it meant to create a piece of art.

I was drawn to ways of creating that were focused on the process rather than a specific outcome. In my grieving space, I took numerous online art classes in intuitive painting and in collage and mixed media. My goal was never to replicate something I had seen before.

It was always to play and to explore.

Mixed media art allowed me to incorporate my love for color and texture and layers into my creations. I worked with multiple mediums, just playing, never knowing where I was headed or what my piece would look like when it was complete. Abstract art gives an artist a lot of space to play and explore and I revel in that space. With each piece of paper I cut and glue to my canvas, I am in some way piecing myself back together. In that time and space, I am fully present and fully me. Not someone’s mom or wife or daughter or sister, just me.

The creative process is a moving meditation where the thinking brain can rest and where we can give ourselves permission to simply be. It took very little time in my practice of the creative process for me to realize how powerful it is to create without expectations, and an even shorter amount of time to feel the positive impact of cultivating my creativity. That was the flow.

The more time that passed after the day of my dad’s death, and the more my children grew and needed me, the less time I had to devote to my creativity. I had to find ways to keep creating that didn’t require as much of my time.

This was the ebb. This was when I let go of my expectations about what art actually was. It wasn’t just a painting, it could be a page in an art journal or even just a few strokes of paint. It could be a meal, a planter filled with flowers, or a carefully selected filter on an Instagram photo. It didn’t need to be an entire blog post, it could be a mere caption.

As long as I was creating something, big or small, the act of that making had the effect of a potent medicine.

Depending on what is happening in other areas of my life and where my work is currently focused, I can be in the ebb, the flow, or somewhere in between with my creativity. Yes, I sometimes dream about having unlimited days and days to paint and play with words and papers, and sometimes I can actually make those days happen.

Mostly though, I am okay with a few minutes here and there to engage with the creative process. It is all art. At the very least, the lives we create for ourselves are our art. As artists, we are obligated to nurture our creativity. By letting go of any predetermined expectations we carry about what the creative process should look like or lead to, we create more space for flow.

About the Author: Anna Oginsky

annbioAnna Oginsky is the founder of Heart Connected, LLC, a small Michigan-based workshop and retreat business that creates opportunities for guests to tune in to their hearts and connect with the truth, wisdom, and power held there. Her work is inspired by connections made between spirituality, creativity, and community. Anna’s first book, My New Friend, Grief, came as a result of years of learning to tune in to her own heart after the sudden loss of her father. In addition to writing, Anna uses healing tools like yoga, meditation, and making art in her offerings and in her own personal practice. She lives in Brighton, Michigan with her husband, their three children, and Johnny, the big yellow dog. Connect with her on her website; Twitter; Facebook; or Instagram.

Cultivate the Why by Molly Totoro

I am a personality test junkie. I love learning a bit more about myself in the hopes of discovering why I operate the way I do. Most recently I took a test sponsored by Personality Factors. The test confirmed that I am a serious planner. That is, I scored near zero percent for “gregariousness” and near 100% for organization.

But the test also revealed an area of surprise. I scored near 100% for dutifulness.

Now responsibility and independence are two of my core values. I strive to be a woman of my word. I think for myself and refuse to ask someone else to do a job I can handle. My parents joked that “me do” were my first words.

I consider these traits positive attributes – they show strength of character.

Dutifulness, on the other hand, appears weak. It is an act of surrender rather than autonomy. It is allowing others to dictate my life rather than taking control myself. And we all know when a toddler does his “duty” it is a stinky, messy business.

Shortly after taking this test I went for my daily walk with the basset. Since he sniffs every tree and blade of grass, our leisurely walks give me time to ponder. As I mulled over the daily calendar, I discovered a pattern of thought. Every potential activity was prefaced with the phrase “I should…”

  • I’d like to go the library and write, but I should stay home and do laundry.
  • I’d like to finish reading our book club selection, but I should grade papers.
  • I’d like to try my hand at painting but I should do a “real” artist date and get out of the house.

When I realized I was “should-ing” how to do take a personal Artist Date, I knew I was in trouble. The adage, “Don’t should on yourself” seems rather appropriate for someone who is so immersed in duty.

I decided to embark on a little experiment: brainstorm the perfect ordinary day.

While I am fond of carpe diem, I also know chores need to be done. My goal was to see if I could replace duty with a bit of fun.

I began with my morning routine. I quickly outlined the daily tasks. But without premeditative thought, I also included a why statement to each activity.

  • I wake up before 6:00am because I don’t want to be rushed. I like taking my time and slowly greeting the day.
  • The first cup of coffee makes the early alarm bearable. While I only drink coffee in the morning, that first cup is pure delight.
  • Reading email and checking social media is a fun way for this shy reserved introvert to connect with others.
  • I look forward to morning pages and discovering the thoughts rattling inside my brain. Oftentimes I surprise myself.

I continued this exercise for various activities throughout the day. In the end, I discovered the secret to a joyful schedule: cultivate the why and weed out the should.

Rather than saying I should do laundry or I should go the store, I rephrase that thought. I say I want to do laundry so I have clean clothes to wear. Or… I want to go grocery shopping so I can have healthy food in the house.

Of course, there may be times when should is unavoidable. For example, I should grade final papers because the academic year is coming to a close. But I find if I think about the task rather than rely on auto-pilot, there is a more valid reason than duty. I like teaching and a part of teaching is grading papers. In essence, I choose to grade papers because I want to teach.

Old habits die hard. Retraining the brain after fifty years of “should” is not going to happen overnight. But I continue to tend the garden. I pluck the weeds on a regular basis – giving myself a bit of grace when they grow out of control. And I cultivate the why by giving myself permission to nurture the desires of my heart.

About the Author: Molly Totoro

Molly Totoro is a Connecticut Yankee currently residing in the Midwest with her husband and trusty basset. While Molly retired from full-time teaching in 2014 to pursue her writing dreams, she continues to work with students to achieve their writing potential. Molly recently published her first book, Journaling Toward Wholeness: A 28-Day Plan to Develop a Journaling Practice with the hope of inspiring others to experience the health benefits of writing their inner thoughts.

Connect with Molly at her blog, My Cozy Book Nook and on social media: FaceBookTwitterInstagramPinterest

The Power of Design Can Change How You Feel About Your Home by Laura Pursley

Every space in your home evokes a feeling. It can either evoke a good feeling, or a bad feeling. Consider this; if you walk into a room, and it is filled with clutter, your eyes don’t know where to land, you are overwhelmed with all of the images that your brain is trying to process, and eventually you are going to have a feeling of anxiety. On the other hand, if you walk into a well-organized space, that has function and is aesthetically pleasing, you may get a feeling of calm or a sense of happy. I feel both of these feelings when I walk into my kids playroom, depending on the state of chaos in the room at the time. Either a feeling of anxiety if there are toys all over the floor, or a feeling of calm if it’s clean and organized. Using design to change up the function or look of a space can also help to evoke the feeling that you want for a space.

The difference between just existing in your space, without considering your surroundings, and thoughtfully creating a sanctuary, a space you love, is astounding. Even making small changes in a space can have a big impact.

Here is a space in my home at the bottom of the stairs in the basement. The “before” is basically a blank wall.

A blank space does nothing to inspire, or evoke a happy feeling.

With some fairly easy changes and some décor, it now looks like this:

The nook, after. With a little focus, some texture on the wall, and some accessories, it’ now a focal point when walking down the stairs! Talk about a mood changer!

Now, the feeling that I get when I walk down the stairs is a pleasing, happy feeling. I am sure everyone has spaces like this in their home, and you probably aren’t even aware of how a space like the “before” affects how you feel.  We get so used to our surroundings and don’t think that we have the power to cultivate a more beautiful space, but really even small changes can have a big impact!

Your home should be your safe haven, your happy place. You spend a lot of time in your home, you deserve to love it. Using design or decorating your home can have an impact on how you live, your mood, your attitude, and your lifestyle. It doesn’t have to take a lot of money or time to create a space that you love. And, you don’t have to be a designer to have a great space.

What this looks like will be different for everyone, and you have the power to cultivate the space that’s right for you. In other words, you do what’s right for you, and don’t feel intimidated or feel that you have to do anything to please others. If all you do is buy things to follow the trends, you are decorating for other people, not yourself, and ultimately you may end up not liking the changes.

I talk to a lot of people that want to have a warm, welcoming, pleasing home, but just don’t know where to start or what to do. They also may think that it takes a lot of money, but I have seen people transform their spaces with small changes, adding old vintage finds, repurposing items, or tweaking a space with small changes. Adding texture (with wood or wallpaper), or color (paint or accessories) is another easy way to transform your space and make it feel more welcoming. You would be amazed what one small change can make.

Here’s an example.

Here is what my shelves previously looked like. I liked what I had on the shelves and was happy with how they looked, but felt I wanted to jazz them up a bit.

Here are the shelves after a quick makeover of adding wallpaper to the back of the shelf

All I did was add some temporary wallpaper and now they have a whole new feeling. It only cost $30 and a couple hours of work. And, in case you were wondering, I am definitely not a DIY person. If I can do it, anyone can.

It’s not about having more “things”. Randomly buying things to fill your home is not going to give you a feeling of peace, or satisfaction. It’s better if you buy things that have meaning for you, or speak to you in some way, or give you that feeling that you want your home to have, whatever that is. And even better is doing this over time, so it’s a true reflection of you.

Sometimes you may make a wrong choice. It’s ok. It’s going to happen. One example of making a wrong choice, was when we were building our new home. We used a builder that had a certain number of floor plans to choose from, and you have to make all of your design choices in two meetings. Talk about daunting! There are good things about doing it this way and not so good things. What’s hard about this is that you are making choices without seeing how they will look together. It’s much better if you can build your home’s story over time and let your space evolve, but we didn’t have this luxury during this process.

One of the choices that we had to make was to choose all of the lighting fixtures. Choosing those were also at the end of the process, so by that time, I was burned out from making choices, so I just picked from the catalog simple fixtures that I “kind of liked”, but in hindsight, didn’t really love.

Here’s an example of two lights that we originally picked for our Dining Room, and Entry Way:




After living with both lights for about a year, I decided that they just weren’t me, or what I wanted for my space, so I switched them out for these:

In hindsight, I know that I shouldn’t have settled for something when I knew it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. (Later, I realized that I should have told the builder to give us a credit and I would choose my own lighting elsewhere… one of the many lessons we learned from building our first house… I will save the rest of those stores for another day). The moral here is, don’t pressure yourself to make choices if you are not ready.

I talk to a lot of people that say they really just don’t know where to begin in decorating their home. So, what usually ends up happening is that they do nothing, and never truly experience the feeling of joy that can come from creating the space that is right for you.

Here is some advice that I give to people that want to love their home but don’t know where to begin:

  1. Make a list of the top 3 spaces that you want to change, update, or decorate
  2. Think about what feeling you want the space to have (calming, fun, functional, etc) – see it’s not even about a design style at this point
  3. Think about what things that you currently have that give you these feelings – move things around in your home and they will take on a whole new look/feel
  4. Slowly over time, come up with a plan to change one space, one element at a time, then another

In the end, it comes down to what makes you happy, and layer those items in your home, to work with you, and your lifestyle. Just start small, and over time, you will cultivate a space that you love.

About the Author: Laura Pursley

Laura is a home decor blogger, marketing professional, mother of 2, living in Michigan. Laura has a passion for design that she uses to transform her home into a comfortable, livable, beautiful space for her family. Her design motto is that you don’t have to be a designer to have good design in your home. She believes that everyone deserves to be in a space that they love, whatever that means to you.

Laura likes to mix a little bit of modern with a little bit of farmhouse, and she likes textures, patterns, and in some instances, is not afraid of color. It is her hope with her design blog to inspire others to transform their own spaces into something they love.

Visit her blog at www.harperhomedesigns.com to get inspired, or follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest

Are Selfies Selfish? by Molly Totoro

The idea for this post came in the middle of a back-to-school meeting. As part of our professional development, we seek to understand students in order to teach effectively. We read relevant articles and then share as a group.

One such article identified today’s Generation Z as “intimate exhibitionists” – an interesting label that fostered discussion. One fellow colleague used this as an opportunity to voice her frustration with selfies. She interprets them as narcissistic. Why must they post every meal they eat?

While many agreed with her observation, I wasn’t so sure.

First of all, I’m not convinced this obsession with sharing selfies is limited to the younger generation. My newsfeed is filled with images of Baby Boomers sharing their latest adventure, or Millennials taking part in local political protests. While some of these pictures are frivolous and perhaps place too much emphasis on self, I enjoy this sneak-peak into the lives of others. And often, they inspire me.

For example, my high school friend posts pictures of her before-and-after weight loss of 80 pounds! She has maintained a healthy weight for three years and wants to encourage others they can do the same. Her self-discipline and honesty (she still occasionally gives in to her sweet-tooth) motivate me to take the necessary steps to ensure a healthy retirement.

Another example is my co-worker who recently learned her cancer returned after a three-year remission. Her gaunt face and scarfed head demonstrate a different kind of beauty. She faces this deadly disease with courage and bravery. I do not view her selfies as narcissistic. I applaud her vulnerability and willingness to show us true authenticity.

Unlike my teaching colleague, I enjoy mealtime selfies. From a practical standpoint, I find new restaurants to visit or recipes to try. These posts help me get out of my rut and experiment. But more than that, these everyday photos show me how to celebrate ordinary moments.

I spend too much of my life on autopilot. I can’t tell you what I had for dinner last night. I just know I didn’t go to bed hungry. I can’t tell you what I did all day, but I know I was exhausted when I got home.

Taking the selfie forces me to slow down. Setting up the food shot before taking the picture increases the anticipation of that first bite. I am more likely to savor the flavor and appreciate the texture. I learn to eat with my eyes as well as my mouth. I taste rather than gobble. I sip rather than guzzle. A simple meal becomes a memorable experience.

Selfies are also important because they draw us out of the shadows and into the light. As someone who suffers from low self-esteem and Impostor Syndrome, my comfort zone is behind the camera. But as I sort through boxes of family photos, I realize how few images I have of my mother and grandmother. And what I would give to have more tangible memories of them.

This “intimate exhibitionist” generation is teaching me to ignore what others think. Instead, I need to embrace who I am and share what I have to offer with the world around me. If I’m not willing to do that, I become invisible and ineffective.

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown discusses the difference between fitting in and belonging. She defines fitting in as assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, does not require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.

Selfies help us learn to accept ourselves. They force us to slow down and live in the moment. And they reconnect us with our past and inspire us toward a brighter future.

About the Author: Molly Totoro

Molly Totoro is a Connecticut Yankee currently residing in the Midwest with her husband and trusty basset. While Molly retired from full-time teaching in 2014 to pursue her writing dreams, she continues to work with students to achieve their writing potential. Molly recently published her first book, Journaling Toward Wholeness: A 28-Day Plan to Develop a Journaling Practice with the hope of inspiring others to experience the health benefits of writing their inner thoughts.

Connect with Molly at her blog, My Cozy Book Nook and on social media: FaceBookTwitterInstagramPinterest

Eyes on the Enter-Prize by Theresa Reed

Although I hire people for various tasks, my business is a one-woman show. I manage all the main details myself. Partly because I like being in control, but also, because of the nature of my work, strict client confidentiality is a must. Which means: I cannot have someone poking around in my inbox.

I do a pretty good job at managing all the different aspects of my work but over time, I began to feel overwhelmed. It’s a lot to handle and made even harder by my tendency to be an idea machine – cranking out posts, podcasts, and new offerings in record time. When you add that aspect on top of the daily grind, you can guess how tough it is to maintain at that output level for long.

This winter, I did myself a little favor. I took a short weekend break in the middle of January to attend the CEO Retreat, hosted by Rachael Cook, a business coach that I admire. This was a big leap for me – I never travel in winter due to weather fears but also: it’s the heart of my busy season. That being said, the stars were aligned (yes, I always check what’s happening in the cosmos before making a business decision) so off I went.

It turned out to be just what my business needed.

For one, I was able to spend time with successful female entrepreneurs, something I crave. Also, that time-out from work was a much needed break in a jam-packed schedule. But the most important thing for me was getting someone else’s eyes on what I was doing in my business.

The exercises that Racheal lead us through revealed something that I needed to see: I was doing too many things and my calendar for 2018 was beyond ambitious. It was outrageously full with too many ideas that I wanted to pursue. The risk of shiny object syndrome, or in my case, shiny idea syndrome, threatened to take me down a path that would have left little time for breathing room – or work that paid. This was no good.

I ended up scrapping 90% of my ideas.

I’m not kidding. They went back into the vault, where I could check back on them perhaps at a much later date.

This simple act freed me up more than I could imagine. No more wasting my time or energy on situations, products, or services that didn’t make sense or pay well. I’m crystal clear on my right audience and perfect offerings.

Better yet? I have time to do things that I haven’t been able to do in a while. Like finish a stack of books on my shelf. Take more cooking classes with my buddy, Jackie. Talk on the phone with friends that I haven’t spoken to in a decade. This is essential stuff that I often neglect due to work.

Sometimes you need to get other eyes on your business because you can’t always see what is plain as the nose on your own face. I’m happy that I took the weekend to look under the hood of my business with the support of someone who knows how to see the forest though the entrepreneurial trees. If you’re running a business and  perhaps running yourself into the ground, you may also benefit from getting an expert opinion on your business.

Another pair of eyes sees clear.

About the Author: Theresa Reed

theresareedTheresa Reed (aka “The Tarot Lady”) is a full time professional tarot reader. She’s also the author of The Tarot Coloring Book an illustrated romp through the tarot cards, and The Astro-Biz Digest, a weekly astrology forecast subscription service for entrepreneurs.

In addition to doing private Tarot readings, teaching Tarot classes, and speaking at Tarot conferences, Theresa also runs a popular website—TheTarotLady.com—where she dishes out advice, inspiration and tips for Tarot lovers of all experience levels.

Follow Theresa on Twitter and Instagram for her daily “Six Second Tarot Reading”—plus photos of her extremely handsome cats, TaoZen and Monkey.

Top and bottom photos by Danielle Cohen. Middle photo by Theresa Reed

Hope is Never Lost by Dona Murphy

I had a client who was very anxious about the development of a relationship say to me, “I know you’re always honest with me. I just don’t want to have false hope.” That set me back a little – to me, hope is never “false” at least not as I define hope. Hope is dynamic and evolving.

Hope is not an attachment to a specific outcome to the exclusion of all other possibilities.

I watched a beloved relative of mine battle cancer for several years. His hopes and ours – our desires – changed form and expression as circumstances changed. Life happened. First we hoped for his disease to go into full remission. Then we hoped for a good quality of life for as long as possible, and finally we hoped for a peaceful death with dignity.

None of those hopes were false.

The false belief that only one person, situation or outcome is the best and most desirable leads us to give up hope. The belief that only one specific thing will make us happy can render a situation hopeless.  We mistake our preferences which are temporary and mutable as the absolute best thing for us.

We forget that our conscious, ego-minds operate from a limited perspective. We lack objectivity. Our conscious minds see through a narrow filter. We have the power to create and influence our circumstances. We define our own experiences.  But we forget that we are neither all-knowing nor all-powerful. Our ego-minds need and want control. We forget that we are co-creators. The divine spark of creative power within us doesn’t guarantee lives free of pain and loss. Pain and pleasure, gain and loss, happiness and sadness are the birthright of every life.

The Universe (the All-Mind) contains and resolves our experiences through unity, oneness, wholeness.

Another way we fall into error is that sometimes we don’t realize all the possibilities that are open to us. If anything most of us make the mistake of dreaming too small; we don’t ask for or expect too much, but too little. We cheat ourselves by fixating on something that might represent a fraction of all that could be ours. What we long for may not serve our highest good. It might disappoint us rather than bringing us the joy and fulfillment we desire. Having hope allows us to receive in ways that can far exceed our expectations.

It’s not hope that is false, it’s the limits we impose either on ourselves or on the Universe. There are limits not to what we can desire or hope for but to what we can control. The Universe is limitless. All we need is to gratefully and graciously receive. Falsehoods eliminated.

I know these things: “What is yours will not pass you by” (anonymous) and “What you’re seeking is seeking you” (Wayne Dyer).

You will hope. If you claim your desire knowing that its own fulfillment is contained within it, you will not hope in vain. Hope is asking for what you desire and then opening yourself to receive what the Universe gives you. If you will hope, you will find your desires fulfilled. Hope is an invitation to believe and trust. Believe that you are part of a limitless, loving Universe. Trust that the Universe always provides exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.

If you will, hope.

About the Author: Dona Murphy

Dona Murphy is the owner of Destiny Tarot. She lives and works in Lake Bluff Illinois as a Tarot reader, Intuitive Counselor and Life Coach. Dona combines her metaphysical and spiritual studies, natural gifts and real-world experience to help her clients solve problems and live their best lives. As she says, “The cards don’t predict your future, they help you create it”.

Pivot to Hope & Wonder by Keva Bartnick

When I saw the theme was “Hope & Wonder”, I wasn’t sure how to write about hope and wonder because lately it seems that I have been short on both. I don’t know if you believe in God, or Spirit, or the Universe stepping in with a helping hand every once in a while, but I sure do.

Though this sounds like the strangest gift ever, when my mother-in-law got me a subscription to ‘Prevention’ magazine, I was thrilled. I love this about her, she seems to know what people need in their lives. She reminds me of Spirit in this way.  I had received the December issue in the mail sometime last week and have been too busy to open it. Seems to be that my editor and Spirit were on the same page, not that that should surprise you.

Sometimes waiting for a serendipitous moment takes some patience and a little luck.

Today I want to talk about ”the pivot.” The Pivot can be described as a mental transformation from a desire into an expectation, and life will sometimes deliver what you hope for. As described, it’s the process of stopping destructive thoughts and consciously exchanging them for the best possible outlook. This outlook had been influenced by Esther Hicks, inspirational speaker and author. I ask myself:

“How can I use the Pivot to influence my outlook with the upcoming holiday season? To bring hope and wonder back into a season that has notoriously seemed to lack these sentiments for me?”

I have three young daughters. You’d think that these three minions would bring me all the hope and wonder that I could ever need in my life. They remind me of three hurricanes, smack dab in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle. Life is never boring. It feels like I meet myself coming and going. It’s always windy.

I’m always trying to find my “wanna.” My wanna to NOT do anything besides sitting on a beach somewhere with a drink in my hand, and my toes in the sand.

The last time I clearly remember feeling hope and wonder was the day they were born. Hoping that I don’t screw this up, and wondering if I was going to be the best mom for them. Every day after that has been a blur. But having to write about hope and wonder has got me thinking about how far I’ve come. How using the pivot in my everyday life would make my simple everyday experiences better.

More meaningful moments are the bees knees, right?!

I am a person that believes that when I set my mind to changing the direction I am going nothing will stop me. The universe hears me and conspires in my favor. I truly believe that with my heart and soul. Maybe, just like the Grinch, my heart can grow three sizes bigger this holiday season.

Maybe, I can look on every rough moment and embrace my inner child, sticky fingers and all.

I believe that God, Spirit, the Universe gave me our three beautiful daughters to help me FIND my hope and wonder. To help me embrace the moments fully, to help me work on my pivoting skills. To help me feel young again, to make me a better person. I am blessed beyond measure. I find my hope and wonder in the little moments, looking at them look at the world with such a big light in their eyes. They are my hope and wonder expressed in human form.

About the Author: Keva Bartnick

Keva Bartnick is an artist, writer, and lightworker. Happily married mother of three; she’s been inspiring people to be their most courageous selves since 2015.

She can be found at Taleoftwofeathers.com

Rays of Sunshine through a Glass filled with Amber by Clay Robeson

Photo by Clay Robeson

The neighborhood in San Francisco called “The Bayview” is the part of the city where you don’t really believe you’re actually in San Francisco until you catch sight of the skyline between buildings, or see the Bay Bridge peeking over a warehouse.  It’s industrial.  It’s relatively flat. It’s mostly a grid, at least to the east of 3rd Street, where the street names cycle alphabetically from Amador to Yosemite and start again at Armstrong and make their way to Meade. I’m not quite sure why Z gets no love, but much like Z, Bayview gets very little love in the grander scheme of San Francisco.

Home to Candlestick Point (and the formerly Candlestick Park), Bayview was at one time known as South San Francisco, until South San Francisco incorporated and took that name in 1908.  It has seen its share of coal power plants, sprawling meat processing facilities, ship yards, and violent crime throughout it’s history, and is still widely considered the most dangerous neighborhood in San Francisco by some.

Revitalization of Bayview started ten years ago with the opening of the T – Third Street Muni line, connecting Bayview (and beyond) with the rest of San Francisco.  In the intervening years, the “Third Street Corridor” has seen an explosion of restaurants, housing, and general overall awesomeness: warehouses replaced by apartments, shuttered storefronts reopening with new shops and restaurants, and areas rezoned to allow for new industries to get a foothold in an otherwise inaccessible city.

Seven Stills Brewery & Distillery, Bayview, San Francisco, CA

But even with all this revitalization, at dusk Bayview can be a little forbidding.  And that was why, on a cold (for San Francisco) February evening, I felt a little nervous as I was walking from a MUNI stop in Bayview towards a place I had never been before.  A friend had recently written an article around this business’ struggles getting their block rezoned so they could actually sell their wares.  The business themselves had recently taken over the Instagram feed of one of the community newsletters I followed and proved to be quite entertaining. And so, when they announced they were having their first “First Friday” event, I decided I needed to support a community business and show up.

Photo by Clay Robeson Beer making equipment.

I wandered in through the big, roll-up, loading dock door, eschewing the actual front door mostly because I didn’t notice it thanks to the music coming out of the big door.  At the far end of the large warehouse space, I could see the fermentation vats and the mash tun. Closer to me was a bar with several taps and a sign that said “Beer Bar.” Closer still, were several tables with padded barrels for chairs.  And finally, to my right, was what had piqued my curiosity.  The Whiskey Bar.

Photo by Clay Robeson The still where dreams are made.

I had arrived much earlier than my friends, so I decided to start gently.  I ordered a beer, and sat down at one of the long tables.  A younger man with his dog sat at the other end, also enjoying a glass.  He asked me if it was my first time here, and I nodded and started in on my raison d’être for the evening.  You see, in my youth I had been an avid homebrewer.  The art and science of brewing had fascinated me (and still does).  One of the things I had always wanted to try was distilling the beers I made into liquor, but I was never able to thanks to those pesky laws that prevent home distilling.  So, when I read about Seven Stills, and the fact that they made their own beer, and then turned those beers into whiskey, I got really excited, and that spark of wonder from my youth returned.

The young man smiled and introduced himself as Tim, one of the owners of Seven Stills.  It was the start of a beautiful friendship.

Photo by Clay RobesonLiquid Amber

That was February 3, 2017.  Prior to that date, I had very limited experience with Whiskey. Most of it was from my father’s Scotch cabinet, and to be frank, I was particularly nonplussed. So, when my friend James arrived, we sat down at the Whiskey Bar and ordered a flight from Christine.  That was the start of the second and third beautiful friendships of the evening.  The second being with Christine, who was delighted to spend some extra time elaborating on what she was placing before us despite the growing First Friday crowd.

Photo by Clay RobesonA flight.

The third friendship is more of an obsession.  And that one is with the Whiskey that Seven Stills creates.  It’s not your 15 to 20 year barrel aged, peat tinged, smoky, oaky, or any other-y liquor.  Tim and his partner Clint start with a very specific craft beer, and distill that down into a whiskey with a very specific flavor profile.

Now, this is the point in my raving about Seven Stills where my friends usually stop me and say, “Wait, you can make whiskey out of beer?”

Photo by Clay RobesonWhiskey, aging in barrels.

All whiskey is made from beer, actually.  It’s just that most distillers don’t call the first part of the process “making beer.”  But that is what they’re doing.  Extracting the sugars from grains and adding yeast to ferment those sugars into alcohol.  Most distillers have their own “mash” recipe that the rest of the world never sees, nor likely even hears about unless they go on a distillery tour.  They distill the alcohol from the wort that is fermented after the grain is strained off from the mash. It’s the aging process and type of barrel that gives typical whiskey the unique flavors and colors of a specific label.

Photo by Clay Robeson Barrels provide whiskey its color, and some of its sweetness.

What Tim and Clint are doing is starting the whiskey making process with marketable beers first, giving the resulting distillations interesting flavor profiles before they even hit the barrel.  Aging still gives the whiskey it’s color and adds to those flavor profiles, but each Seven Stills release is complex and robust, without the 5+ year aging process.

Photo by Clay Robeson There are moments when the sunlight hits the bottles just right…

The Seven Stills team doesn’t limit themselves to their own beers, either.  Along with their core releases, there have been a few collaborations and several “Experimental Series” releases with other breweries, too. So, as I sat there, making my way through my first Seven Stills flight, I discovered this whole new world of flavor that I didn’t realize was out there. The fact that these two guys had tapped into something I had been fantasizing about for years, and were not only doing it, but doing it well, gave me hope that that maybe some of my OTHER ideas weren’t so bad, either. It was inspiring.

Photo by Clay Robeson “Sea Farmer” – Seven Stills 2017 collaboration using Fieldwork Brewing’s Sea Farmer IPA.

Half way through that first flight, I stopped Christine and demanded that she sign me up for the Seven Stills Founder’s Club, so I had premium access to EVERYTHING they did from that point forward.  And let me tell you, I have not regretted that decision for a moment.

Photo by Clay RobesonEvery flight is different, depending on which of their releases are available.

In the ten months since, I have stepped out of my alcohol comfort zone and tasted the world beyond what I thought I knew.  And I get it now.  And every time I sit at a counter and try a new whiskey, I hold the glass up to the light and laugh a little at January me, who had no idea at the wonder he had been missing for so long. I hope I keep on finding new things to challenge me and open my mind like Seven Stills did.

About the author: Clay Robeson

Clay RobesonClay is an improvisor, photographer, puppeteer and part-time goat herd living in San Francisco. He likes to make things.

To learn more about Clay, or find his social media links, go here: https://about.me/ClayR.

To learn more about Seven Stills visit www.SevenStillsOfSF.com.