Tag Archives: creativity

It’s Not Just About the Destination

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“It’s not just about the destination” sums up my thoughts while traveling to escape the noise and fast pace of the city and my work-business life. It is not to escape who I am or what I love to do… my passion and commitment are firm, although, at times, I doubt the strength I have to continue on certain paths. Plagued by self-assessment, as anyone might be while trying to navigate the rough roads of every day, I often wonder if I should just run off on some other trail–change my direction–change my destination. Then, I remind myself… it’s not just about the destination because, in fact, we all end up the same place anyway. It is all about how you see your journey there and I am constantly reminding myself to stay in the moment without worry about what happens in the end. Therefore, I do realize that I see things somewhat differently depending upon my situation and location. This trip was about certain goals, but everything in between, before, and after is up to fate and fortune. What you make of a day is really what thought you put into it and the effort afforded to enjoy every moment. It will all be there when you return, so to worry about “what to do” or “what about” or “what if” is a waste of such a beautiful surrounding.

I am happy I am able to reflect on the time I take away–this time we were really tired at the end of the day and barely had supper and did a few mundane tasks before sleep claimed us. There is something about the mountain air and being out in the beauty of nature that fills you with enough that you are pleasantly exhausted. My knees couldn’t help but remind me that I did more than usual even though I try to do it on purpose, whenever I can, in order to claim every minute of the day in action. To bed early–one would think we’d stay up late writing… however, a tired body won out over a determined mind this week.

Day One arrival was nice and early and we could even check into our hotel room and then go exploring on Wednesday. We took a trip to the Beaver Boardwalk–my daughter recommended it last trip, but we didn’t make it there. Going this time was a treat. What a beautiful nature spot in Hinton! Yes, we have our ponds and walkways here at home, but sorry, Sherwood Park, the most obvious thing missing is setting… I sometimes (well, often) wonder why I still live here with so much soul/spirit connection to the mountains. This park was the perfect way to spend a couple of hours, wandering the boardwalk through the marshes and beaver habitat, traipsing some closer-in trails, and taking a look-out post in the tower to admire the view. I say closer-in because I am not one to wander onto the forest trails–hiking was a younger days sport for me due to my limitations, ones I have accepted, and am able to push to some extent enjoyment of the activities. Also, there’s the fact that we are in wildlife territory and bears and cougars just don’t excite me up close and personal. From the truck window, I am a brave soul – not on foot, however.

Trips away with my dear friend, Mandy, make me appreciate her even more because of the similarities we have –I don’t have to try to keep up and do things I feel out of my comfort zone with… we match in many ways–our appreciation for nature and its fragility to human invasion; yet, the strength and majesty and power of it awes us in the same breath. I could travel the same roads and see the same sights each day or weekend or whatever, and still be in wonder at the amazing embrace of nature–the bold colors of plants, the cuteness of a baby animal, the calming peace of water and wind, the warmth of sun–even if it only peaked through clouds throughout most of our mid-week trip.

We never lost sight of the reason for our trip, although it was in the back of our minds as we connected with the precious moments of each opportunity. The Beaver Boardwalk was more than just walking through a nature setting–it was about stopping and appreciating the finer details of plants, trees, the view, the colors, the sounds, smells, and feel of it all on your soul. Nature caresses one’s spirit with renewing qualities to create a mood of relaxation and connection. There was no sign of any wildlife–other than a couple of birds and fish in the ponds. I wondered about the lack of waterfowl on the ponds… Mr. and Mrs. Beaver must have been relaxing in the shade of their studious home–we saw signs of them being around, of course, but no chance sighting of the animals.

Impressions of the place are best in point form, because that is how they hit you when you are in the moment:

  • The song of the red-wing blackbird
  • The amazing arrangement of wooden walkways over water
  • The variety of flora with bursts of color that stand out so vivid against the greenery
  • The sound and tempo of the wind through the trees as it rises and falls
  • Sun peeking through the overhead canopy in an otherwise dull cloudy sky
  • The man who looked at me funny for taking an overhead picture… yes, look up, too!
  • Wire mesh protecting perimeter trees from industrious beaver clearing crews
  • Signs giving information about the place: make less noise to see more wildlife or be aware and cautious and informed of bears, cougars, wolves… :O
  • Picking up a couple of interesting stones from the rock pathway to commemorate
  • The lookout tower and amazing view of the nearby mountains through the trees
  • Patterns in nature–ripples on the water, long grass blowing in the wind, piles of drift-water-worn limbs

My thoughts may not match anyone else except for those who have the same appreciation for the beauty and magnificence of nature. But, even in that similarity, there are personal differences. The photos I take are not ones that another may take as I look for the shot that appeals to me; I don’t take people pictures; I don’t do selfies. I want the essence of the place where I am–what attracts me, what speaks to me. To each their own.

The take-away for this activity–always invest in the time to enjoy “every precious moment,” as a friend posted. The emotions that grab me in the mountains are awe-inspiring, captivating, yet overwhelming, at the same time. The thought that this glorious world we live in surrounds us for so short a time in comparison to its own life span is one for self-contemplation. No matter what you believe, it’s what adds to a beautiful life–it’s not just about the destination.

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Retreat Goals

Despite the turmoil of the months leading up to this weekend, my goal in going is to get away from the overwhelming every day – to focus on some of my own writing. I brought with me several projects to follow up on, which will include editing, designing, formatting. I hope to finish a few things so that I might move past this block that haunts me. Another novel to be done – An Italian Son – and my first kid’s picture book needs drawings. Can I determine the style I want to use for the illustrations?

I have also a company project in tow that I want to finish editing – it is in layout format so working through the reading achieves more than one end.

I am also hoping there’s a poem or two to be had – I will try to force the stoppage in order to free some words into a composition I will be happy with – I used to be so connected to poetry. What happened? Did it abandon me or did I abandon it? I know it’s not lost forever… just temporarily misplaced.

My camera is also my constant companion – there is always visual inspiration around, especially here: the birds are welcome subjects, trees and greenery, wood structures and pathways, squirrels and other wildlife supposedly around out there somewhere. If only the rain would let up. I will go out for walks to get some fresh air and connect with nature. It’s cooler, though, and cool, wet weather is not my friend.

Sidebar…

I wrote my goals at the beginning of the weekend – it was gloomy when we arrived but soon gave way to rain for the past couple of days. We definitely need the rain and would happily send it up north to the forests. In truth, we couldn’t have a fire inside in the fireplace the first couple of nights because of the dryness here at the Creek. Finally, the rain gauge showed enough moisture accumulation and sharing alongside the fire was a possibility the last two nights of our stay. I love warm spring weather, though… Sunshine – the one from the sky – why have you abandoned us this weekend?

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Strawberry Creek Lodge – Writing Retreat – Spring 2016

Blog 1 – The Retreat

Anticipation.

It’s been building since the day we left last year, brought on and encouraged by the positive results and the lasting effects of concentrating for days with one’s own muse. More time! So in answer to that request, we extended the trip one more night on the long weekend, which gave us one more full day of retreating to write. It’s funny that we need to retreat in order to bond or reconnect with our inner creativity. It’s the way life is, though – fast paced and loud, demanding and insistent. Surely a retreat is not always necessary – it’s a mini vacation for the mind and soul. If one truly takes the time to focus on “self”, while appreciating others’ need to do the same, the results are amazing and the argument for retreating is unarguably natural medicine for the ailing spirit.

Commitment.

Planning and soliciting attendance isn’t necessarily difficult or anxiety building until you get closer to the day and unanticipated events happen to cause holes to appear in your apparent flawless and effortless planning. Life happens – things come up that you cannot possibly foresee over the course of a year. The need to have minimum numbers causes the added pressure to ensure all the seats are filled. We are all thankful that a distress call put out there attracted the attention of like-minded individuals who could make the weekend getaway. Financial strains this year had me even questioning my spending; however, the benefit to my mental well-being far outweighed any other argument. It just means more work upon returning home.

Benefits.  

Nature. Focus. Amazing surroundings. Like-minded souls sharing your love for words. Ability to socialize, materialize, compromise – or just disappear into your own world, as needed. As a writer, the solitude is a blessing and it is made even more inspiring by the beautiful setting and lodge.

No – you don’t have to go away to write, but a retreat is an experience every writer should try during their writing journey. Most will go back for more – year after year. Others will savor the experience and move on, knowing they can always go again when warranted. For me, it is a place I could imagine retiring to in order to write to my heart’s content for the rest of my life… the whole working for a living thing-money and paying bills- thing that stops me for now. Every trip produces more work and creates memories shared with writing colleagues. Fellowships are forged – friendships are solidified. The wonderful thing about Strawberry Creek Lodge is the myriad of delightful nooks and crannies where one can hole up for a time or stake out for the duration; the rooms are wonderful sleeping and private working quarters to spread out your tools and prepare to produce; the meals… the meals are marvelous. Imagine being called to the table by the cowbell at set times to enjoy amazing meals with your retreat pals. No cooking. No dishes. No cleaning.

Pitfalls.

None. Unless, of course, you count the fact that you won’t want to go home and you might attempt to kidnap Brenda, our awesome host/cook, because you never want to have to cook again… ever…

As a dedicated writer, invested in your passion – you will utilize every moment possible to focus on your words; be kind to yourself with rest and relaxation; socialize at appropriate times; connect with your inner creativity and nature. For those who couldn’t go – there is sadness in what life brings – but there is always next year.

A Writing Retreat. It is not something that is necessary – but it is something life-altering to those with a serious passion for word creativity. The retreat is a great way to immerse yourself in the beauty of solitude away from every day distractions to focus specifically on writing. It’s a recharge for the creative battery.

See you next year – keep on writing!

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Photo Blog Challenge Wrap Up

January 2015 – 30 Day Photo Blog Challenge Wrap Up

So it is now going on into the early morning hours of February 1st and I am contemplating the grand finale for this challenge. I found that trying to focus on my own work allowed me a chance to express a little bit of suppressed creativity. I love my words. I love my camera. And to combine them into compositions in answer to the prompts in whatever manner happened was worth the time invested. I found as I went along, the challenge was something that I love do anyway – I am always watching for that perfect shot, that one time chance, that image that evokes a feeling and can be related by words, as well. Although this is a “wrap up” there will be no real end to this for me as it is as natural and as inevitable as sun rise. There are a few prompts on the list that I will admit to passing over, either because they deluded me in attempt or they didn’t spark an interest. Prompts are like that – they either “speak” to you or they are silent. I like to think that I can respond to anything, and I guess I can if I don’t really care what I “say” – however, I enjoyed the posts that happened when least expected. It’s like the moments in life that you either catch on “film” or you commit to eternal memory. So I always look up to the sky for inspiration and light or down to the ground for that unusual shadow or circumstance. I think as I go and realize an offering when it is handed to me. Like spaghetti falling onto the counter, tempting a game of pickup sticks. Synchronicity at work is the greatest compliment to my creative impulse.

Day 26 – Close Up Blog - Jan 26 - image close up>>> The rocks lie below and if you don’t pay attention to them, take a look next time. What do you see? Perhaps, it is just a haphazard arrangement of sizes and colors with no apparent pattern? Do you question the missing spots and wonder if you’ve “left no stone unturned” in your evaluation? Or is it just there, tempting those who might glance down to see something in what is apparently nothing more than a rock gravel parking lot… Interpretation is, after all, up to you and your muse.

Day 25 – Strangers >>> have nothing of note for this prompt so I pass on this one. I have mentioned before that I am not a portrait photographer and think less of imposing upon others around me. I am okay with people watching in order to study habits and characteristics for my writing, but taking pictures of people without their permission would be just creepy. That would be how you would interpret this as “strangers” the noun. Pass.

Horses

Day 24 – Animal >>> Well we all know where this might go given the opportunity… which happened to present itself on a recent drive. Horses will always warrant a stop along the road. It brings back April memories of seeking the wild horses that run west of Sundre.

But, if I keep close to home, the little pest that is poking at my leg to pet him is always around even though he might not be the most willing photo participant at times. He is quick and takes to looking away just as you click the pic. I am going to wrap up Day 20 – In My Bag – by saying that if I had it open on the floor like this box, I can tell you I would have a cat in the bag right quick. So, although I did not really fulfill the Day 20 prompt as best as I think I could, it is another one that gets a pass. So here’s my animal… Squishy in a box ready to ship off. Any takers?Squish

That only leaves Day 21 – Faceless Self Portrait and Day 30 Self Portrait… really nothing has changed enough from Day 1 to insert any other self-portrait here. I embrace creativity, yet have specific things I stay away from – particularly me in a photo. The Day 1 photo was one of those – ah ha moments – it was there on a day out to Elk Island Park and was something to recognize in the moment. It spoke to the challenge and to me and to what I would attempt to accomplish. It really addressed Day 21 as well because with that camera up in front you are, in essence, faceless. What I am going to finish up with, however, is my beautiful Sunshine – it usually makes it into all my photo days because without it I wouldn’t be traipsing all over snow-covered back country roads. The truck is a blessing and has helped to fulfill many adventures already. Memories that will stay with me forever; and isn’t that what life’s all about. This challenge has given me some great opportunity to share, to explore, to create… and for that I am truly thankful.

Sunshine makes winter tolerable

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Too soon for a Celebration…

I am posting this in celebration of my attempt to complete this 30-day challenge – how’s that for stretching it! But, really, I do celebrate “sunshine” in many ways and pay tribute to the sun and its many creative aspects. I used it to silhouette, highlight, shadow, brighten, distort, cause to shine… and on and on…

Day 27 of the Challenge = Celebration 

Blog - Jan 27 - image celebration

You just have to click on the pic to see it in a bigger size 🙂

Oh, yes… and the day is what you make it, but so is sundown.

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Oh, ya… PRESSURE

Nothing like a little bit of pressure to get you motivated. Why is it that pushing up against a deadline, self-imposed or otherwise, sparks a need to produce? I should be going to bed now and trying to get some sleep (last night did not fare well in that category)… It’s not that I lack desire, passion, or inspiration. Creativity is abound – I am reek with it (lol… is that what that smells like…) I thought for a little break from the challenge I would look up something that might not have been posted just for comic relief. I found the following in “My Writing” file on the lap top and promptly began to read since it was exactly one year to date that I wrote it. I know that I am possessed by the same routine ink demons who dry up every once in a while only to resurface in a coagulation of words on the page. Eventually, I pull it all together. I just have to wait it out sometimes, all the while making little sense to anyone but myself. Unless, of course, you are a writer – then you might find this amusing, interesting, or slightly disturbed.


Dream – Awakening on January 29th 2014

There was a room where we (not sure all who was there) but a group of people coming in as if to meet. There was a door with a light switch to the right of it, an ornate looking carving with the mechanism for turning the light on and off in the centre of it. I remember commenting about how cool it was, liking it for the different look, but adjusting it allowed a whole panel of switches and choices to open up beside it. It took away from the ornate look and added a functional panel. I remember there being an adjustment for the lighting in the room, which was off to the left past a small alcove where this panel now was – I don’t know why I was in this room, but it just occurred to me as I write that this was the ending of the dream as I was leaving somewhere with bags of stuff and my cat(?) who actually came to me without chase. Back to the panel. There was an adjustment for lights in the room with a “health or illness” setting so you could brighten or dim the lights as required depending upon the use of the room.

I remember others crowding around to view the panel and poking at the functions, changing things rapidly and without reason. Just for fun. There was an opening at the top of the wall, almost like the wall didn’t meet the ceiling. I felt warm air, like a breath exhaled. I commented on it. Then I say a big hand at the top of the wall, its big fingers with long, pointed nails curled over the top of the wall panel.

Screaming ensued as there was now an opening that led behind the wall compartment. The creature (a very large man) attacked a woman. Someone said it was their aunt, don’t know whose. I remember a friend’s girlfriend was attacked, but she came running out, alive (Robin?). The large man then came out carrying the “aunt” on a rack like carrier, saying, “now I have to walk with the dead,” or something to that effect. He came back and approached me – I was not fearful of him, he knelt before me and I caressed the sides of his face, concerned for the reasons he might have had to become a murderer, why he lived behind the wall, and how the use of the panel perturbed him to the point of discovery and destruction.


WELL, that was different! Being a visual person, this dream really stood out and the intensity of the emotions was real. I am not sure what it means, or if, in fact, it means anything. Often I look for patterns in things that might not otherwise reflect a necessary order. I am consumed by my desire to take on more and more, yet continue to become overwhelmed and blocked up, awaiting the creative purge. It must be this pattern in me that is inevitably inspirational. So happy for the yellow pills. They make everything just a little less alarming.

So you might have noticed I threw in Day 22 (Inspirational) and Day 23 (Patterns) without even a warning. I will follow-up with some awesome pictures from last weekend – I am intrigued by the rhythm of nature.

Air currents create patterns in clouds as they streak across a soft blue winter sky.

Air currents create patterns in clouds as they streak across a soft blue winter sky.

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A fluffy cotton ball texture dots the AB blue sky.

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The most amazing inspiration in nature – sunset filtered through a frosty January sky.

 

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Challenge – Day 11 and Day 12 – Creative License

January 30-day Photography / Blog Word / Freeing the Creative Spirit Challenge

Day 11 and 12 – Something Blue and Sunset

Day 11 and 12 Blog image - Blue and Sunset

The sky was the hue of winter Alberta blue…
If we are fortunate enough during the winter in Alberta, we have many of these days where the sky is crisp, clear, and blue – when sunshine is always a welcome addition, and a highway drive is warranted on a weekend afternoon. By contrast, I shot some pictures on January 1st at Elk Island Park and you will notice the grey winter day where sky and horizon blend where air and ground meet. The kind of day that dawned bright on Sunday was opportunity to obtain clear shots of the Alberta blue skies to fulfill that day’s challenge. The vantage point shifted from the apartment catching one of 3 jet contrails tracking across the sky in a short time span, to the countryside as the sun made its way beyond the day, and back again, to capture similar shots the next evening. The amazing properties of working with light are the shadows cast and the deep blue of snow in the sheltered areas; it’s the background it provides to many objects silhouetted; it’s the variance of color that reflects on sky, trees, snow, and other objects. Something blue… The thing about winter afternoons in early January is that no matter how bright they are they begin to fade by 4:30 with dusk bringing its own lingering beauty to the countryside.

To close out any day, the sky is my view and it paints magnificent scenery for me to appreciate from my 4th floor apartment. This vantage gives me a clear shot of the sky and its many colors as I witness many a sunset. Combining the prompts made sense but would have certainly created a huge challenge had the sky been overcast and grey, or if it had been white with snow. Treasures along our sightseeing journey:

  • Jets with contrails streaking across a clear blue sky always remind me of my mother and I feel her watching with me, commenting on their intrusion.
  • Horses pawing the snow-covered field searching for frozen shoots.
  • A companionable silence while driving a snow-covered country road.
  • Millions of stars in a dark velvet sky.
  • Using GPS and a little bit of intuition to connect with the right secondary road.
  • Arriving home with a loved one after a memorable day.

The day is what you make it… so, remember to always appreciate the little things along the way.

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Challenge – Day 10 on 11 – I will catch up…

January 30-day Photography / Blog Word / Freeing the Creative Spirit Challenge

Day 10 – Childhood Memory

Typically, this is not a place I venture unless invited by something that spurs a memory. I have pleasant and memorable times stored inside to do with my childhood. But what would I take a photo of today? The thought of this challenge sparked many ideas and ‘what ifs’ throughout the day. I was on an early trek with a friend and stopped on my way home to review the prompt for the day so it would be in my mind as I drove home – perhaps, something would come up that would suit the assignment. I thought of a lot of things.

As I drove through the country, where it was quiet, I thought about coyotes. Today was the ignorant and cruel coyote hunt and I just happened to be driving in the county where this would be happening. I am not a fan of hunting – sport hunting or food hunting when unnecessary. The Alberta market produces plenty of food for us and by buying it we support the market. I understand hunting for necessity and if I were living in the back woods I may concede…. maybe…. Then again, I could be a vegetarian, too. The sport of killing off as many of anything as you can turns my stomach. I thought of coyotes and thought of my on farm experiences. Now as most of you know, I was born in Edmonton and, by rights, am a city girl with a country heart. I remembered with a smile the time I squealed at my mom to roll up the truck windows because there was a coyote in the field…. way … over… there… Needless to say, no coyote ever threatened us in an enclosed vehicle, and none came out to humor me with their picture.

I talked with my dad today, too, and the conversation involved cousins. I don’t really know my cousins and mostly hold the feeling that just because we are related, it doesn’t mean we have to be friends. The talk wasn’t about anything to do with childhood memories, specifically, but related wholly to memories as it involved the passing of my dear mother and the thoughtlessness of sharing information among st family members. Again, it was something that just happened – how was I to take a picture of that?

As a family, we don’t have a childhood home that I could drive by. I don’t have a doll or teddy bear or other memorabilia that I packed around with me all these years. In fact, most memories just stay in the treasure trove safe and sound. It was coming down to a find “another archive” moment, or “just make an excuse moment.” Then it happened.

I was making supper – spaghetti and sauce with meatballs. Ray was on his way over. I put the desired amount of pasta in the large pan to boil and tucked the rest of the package back into the cupboard. I was not diligent in replacing it flat or with the closed side to the back. As I let the package go, the spaghetti noodles started sliding out onto the counter, spread haphazardly in front of me. Despite my yelling “stop it” they continued to pour out (stupid noodles). There they were in front of me and there was my answer. I just shook my head and laughed at the absurdity.

Day 10 challenge - pick up sticks 2 Day 10 challenge - pick up sticks 1

If you never played Pick Up Sticks as a child, I believe the game is still around. If you cannot find it, just make do with some renegade pasta. The day is what you make it, despite being waylaid, delayed, off course, and late…

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Day 8 – Routine, routine, routine…

January 30-day Photography / Blog Word / Freeing the Creative Spirit Challenge

Routine… sometimes I am consumed by it and others times it allows me to breathe easier… Day 8 blog image - Routine

The concept of routine can be diametrically opposed to a creative mind although it guides our everyday life. The familiarity keeps us in a place where we feel at home. We can feel confidence in that knowing. On the other hand, the repetition can be a detriment to free thinking. After doing something for a number of days, it has become routine, habit, the norm… but it also drains on the thought processes, to a degree, forcing me beyond what I expected to be easy, comfortable, and second nature. That expectation can cause disappointment and frustration until an idea bleeds through, prompting an attempt. It does not matter with a challenge to what extent you push yourself, it just means that you are at least making an effort. I appreciate routine. I loathe routine.

For the photo today, I decided to go for the #TBThursday and posted a find from another day – one that I found while taking a break from routine. And I added the special effects that I love to do to alter the already interesting shot. A throwback adheres to the routine of collecting favorites and remembering them when times are strained. A throwback is a tribute to something that was while you are considering in the moment what is. It is a comparison. It is unique. The directional finders above are indicative of my journey, which can go in any direction depending on the wind, with precision or precariousness. As long as I move forward, routine is fine.

The day is what you make it… follow along or change it up if you don’t like routine.

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January 7th, 2015 – 30 day Photo / Blog Word / Freeing the Creative Spirit Challenge

January 30-day Photography / Blog Word / Freeing the Creative Spirit Challenge

Day 7 – Change to Come

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of…” ~ Jim Rohn

When I checked the list today to confirm my challenge, I just accepted the words as I would any other normality in my life. As I look ahead, I see 2015 as one of increasing magnitude in all areas of my life; hence change to come is inevitable and so appropriate. I have claimed over the years that I am not afraid of change… but, as I grow older the ability to implement some changes just takes a little more time. I know that moving ahead and leadership involve change all the time, whether in life, love, or business. Again, as with the other challenges that were not so obvious (i.e. clouds) I was moved to think of the options during the day. I came up with a couple of choices while assessing my own life – move to a bigger residence, move to sharing a residence, perhaps own instead of renting… hoping to focus more on my own writing while still coordinating the publishing dreams of my authors and valued clients.

Then! Oh, the humor hit me. Change to come. Change the channel. Change one’s attitude. And as I counted change for the set up shot, there in front of me was the pile of paper on my desk that might be change for everyone in Alberta. And the weather changed… swirling and blowing to just hit everyone. There are many changes in the works and I hope this little composition finds my readers well and entertained, sympathetic and supportive.

The day is what you make it… embrace the changes.

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