What’s On Your Bucket List, Some Sweet Ladies, and some ‘healing’ books

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Kelly and me, at the PEO luncheon

Last Friday I had the opportunity to speak to the PEO (Philanthropic Educational Organization) women’s group at a church in Ferguson, Missouri. I was invited by author and friend, Deb Marshall and event organizer, Kelly Mazzacavallo.

After a lovely lunch of chicken and ham salad, the women gathered in a cozy lounge and settled in comfortable chairs to listen to me talk about “What’s on Your Bucket List” and the story behind my ‘healing’ coffee table book, Folly Beach Dances.

I shared with the ladies, that in preparation for the talk, hubby handed me a paper I gifted him a few years ago. The paper’s first words were “Do you remember when?” and reflected on all the crazy and unexpected bucket list items achieved in our travel adventures…like seeing the excitement in my husband’s eyes when we dove Bloody Bay Wall in the Cayman Islands, sailing a hobie cat from Sandals Negril to a deserted island, or even observing a ten-foot pregnant black tip reef shark on a dive in the Abacos.

Aptly named for the definition as well as the movie, The Bucket List, stars Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Complete strangers, fate lands the two men in a hospital room together. The men discover they have things in common – their desire for adventure, and a need to come to terms with their lives. After they are released from the hospital, they set out to check items off both their bucket lists.

At the end of the movie, Edward (the billionaire), living to age 81, has his ashes carried to the top of the Himalayas by his assistant Matthew. As Matthew gently places the container of ashes alongside Carter’s can of ashes, he takes a pen and crosses the last item off the Bucket List (which is to ‘witness something truly majestic’). Finally, Carter (Morgan) states, “I’m pretty sure he (Edward) was happy with his final resting place. Because he was buried on the mountain, and that was against the law.”

So, someone’s idea of a bucket list item, may be totally different than someone else’s.

That’s how it was for me when Folly Beach Dances was just an idea. In 2014, my idea came to fruition. I was able to cross ‘publishing a book’ off my bucket list.

As I spoke about the book’s mission of self-care, healing and positivity, the women listened intently.

I selected some of my favorite poems to read.

“Circle Dog Dance” written by Pat Wahler, reflects on three dogs laying in a circle on a beach relaxing, not a worry in the world.

“The Drifter” penned and photographed by me, reminisces about memories of days gone by and lazy days spent on the beach.

“The Fandango” – An old seagull (sporting grey hair on this wings, face, and body) who lives to fly, soar and dive, is penned by Marcia Gaye.

“The Twist”, about how often times life seems to be a mess of knots and twisted rigging (by Marcia Gaye). The Twist brought tears to the women’s eyes.

After time had run out, the women stepped forward to purchase books. I quickly ran out of Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits, my newest release, and Folly Beach Dances.

One woman stepped forward and shared how “The Twist” touched her heart, reminding her of a family member going through tribulations. We spoke for awhile, and I offered hopeful suggestions on how to make things better. Our conversation ended with a hug.

I thanked Kelly and Deb for allowing me to take part in this quiet gathering. The women where particularly sweet and seemed genuinely interested in my writing. My wish for the day was to stir some emotions, touch some hearts, and be positive.

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Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

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Sheree K. Nielsen is the author of 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner, Folly Beach Dances; coauthor of Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat, and Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets.

 

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A Writer’s Conference, Some New Ideas, and Several Awards

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the All Write Now Conference in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

The conference was held at the University Center on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University.  Perusing the schedule, I circled the workshops I wished to attend.

First hour, Brian Klems, Senior Online Editor from Writer’s Digest spoke on “25 Questions You Need Answered Before you Seek an Agent or Self-Publish a Book”.  His handout included information on the ‘how’s, whats, and where’s’ of resources on getting your book published and building social media platforms. Along the way, he gave personal examples of his road to publication, and humorous stories living with three daughters.

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Second hour, Robert Yehling presented a workshop on “Keys to Writing Conversational Dialogue: The Driving Force of Your Fiction and Nonfiction”.  His workshop explained how the right dialogue is so vital in writing, because the reader directly relates and ‘hears’ what humanize characters. He gave personal experiences of meeting autistic surfing great, Clay Marzo, which served as the anchor for Robert’s biography on Clay, Just Add Water.

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After lunch, literary agent at Speilburg Literary agency, Alice Speilburg, held a workshop on “Narrative Pull: How to Keep Agents and Editors Reading”.  Alice’s suggestions included starting with a gripping opening, follow with an inciting incident, rising action, tension, climax, falling action, and finally, resolution in your story. Other steps to ‘build a tight rope’ included placing your main character in an eye-opening situation, keep your character looking forward, among others.

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The last workshop of the day, Karen Sargent, debut author of “Waiting for Butterflies”, presented “Marketing Strategies: Extending Your Reach and Preparing for a Book Launch”. Karen went over topics such as Who’s Going to Buy Your Book, The Truth Is, Hanging out Online, Building Book Buzz, Social Media Graphics, Book Launch, and Resources. This lady has such a plethora of information, it made my head spin! Her suggestions and resources could keep you busy 24×7!

After taking a break to grab a cappuccino and tea with co-author and friend, Pat Wahler, (Midnight the One-Eyed Cat) at a local coffeehouse, we returned to attend the awards ceremony for the contest winners.

I walked away with four awards – First Place for Nonfiction, Honorable Memorable for Nonfiction, and Second and Third Place for Poetry.  I snagged the Grand Prize drawing (free registration next year), and the main door prize drawing (a $50 Southern Writers Business Ad), as well. I believe I wore a path in the carpet walking up to receive the awards, which proved a bit embarrassing.

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All in all, it was a great day, and rejuvenated my creative juices! Once home, I submitted a query to a publisher, and received a request for a full manuscript.

You never know what life has in store for you. Be ready for surprises!

Peace out and keep writing,

And check out my inspirational book of photography and poetry, Folly Beach Dances, which includes contributions from five-award winning Missouri women authors, including myself and husband.

xoxoxo

Sheree

 

Awards, Booksignings, and Libraries

Sorry I haven’t blogged in awhile, but my life has been all about taking care of Miss Adeline and her kitten babies. And I promise to post pics real soon, as three have already been adopted out to wonderful families. Here’s a pic of all six with momma.

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But for now, I’d like to give you updates on my writing.

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Hubby attended a lovely author event and booksigning at the Schlafy Branch of the St. Louis Public Library while I was away at the Missouri Writer’s Conference Guild on April 30, in Kansas City. I received two writing awards that weekend — Third Place for Best Magazine Article published in AAA Southern Traveler, “How Sweet It Is”, and Second Place for Best Poem published in Well Versed Literary Works 2015 for my poem, “Steadfast”, about my mom.

When I returned home from the conference, I was pleased to find that Kenneth Hardcastle emailed a pic of FOLLY BEACH DANCES being integrated into the library.

This past Sunday, I attended the Well Versed Literary Works 2016 booksigning event in Columbia, Missouri, and received Second Place for Nonfiction for my essay titled “The Stranger” about an incident where a stranger lurked in my parent’s basement when I was a young child. It came with a cash award, which made me smile.

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Finally, we’re doing a FOLLY BEACH DANCES booksigning event at the Roasted Bean, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturday June 18, at 441 Main Street, Troy, Missouri. Roasted Bean only serves Blue Print roasters coffee (from U City loop) — the best espresso around. So stop by, learn about our sea-inspired coffee table book of photography and poetry, and sip a great cup of java!

If you can’t make it to the signing you can order books on Amazon, or purchase in South Carolina or Missouri. Just check the book’s website for availability.

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Troy Buchanan Writer’s Week – 7 days of inspiration

On March 16, hubby and I had the great pleasure of presenting two talks to students at Troy Buchanan High School Writer’s Week.

Writer’s Week is an annual event where authors come from all around to talk about their books, their journey, and the craft of writing – a full week of back-to-back sessions for the students.

As my husband, Russell and I stepped into the library, we noticed a photo of our book propped on an easel. Upon closer inspection, it was actually a ceiling tile painting, and realistic depiction of our book cover, Folly Beach Dances. So excited, I asked April Elliott, the Art teacher who painted the tile, to pose for a photo next to her creative masterpiece.

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Book covers from visiting authors hung as ceiling tiles in the space overhead, such as The Hate List by bestselling author Jennifer Brown.

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The session commenced as a few students read their works to fellow students before our presentation. One young writer from our church, Tyler Tippett, shared a poignant and touching essay about a family member.

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DSC_0874 Russell copyrAfterwards, Russell and I proceeded to tell the story of Folly Beach Dances in words and pictures. We hoped the students took away with them the purpose and mission of our ‘healing’ coffee table book.

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Georganna Krumlinde, Library Media Specialist, (yellow t-shirt) graciously provided us with lunch and a surprise basket of gifts from the school once our session ended.

In the process, I discovered Annie England Noblin, NYT bestselling author of Sit! Stay! Speak! was a presenter at Troy Buchanan. Later in the week, writer friend Pat Wahler and I, attended her session. During Annie’s break, we chatted about writing, our fur babies, and life in Missouri.

 

Booksignings, Southern Authors, Beaches, and New Friends

The first week in March, hubby and I set out on a two-city booksigning event for FOLLY BEACH DANCES.

First stop was the Tides Folly Beach Hotel. I’d stayed there last September when my long time friend and author, Tina Solomon, visited Folly Beach to market our ‘healing’ coffee table book FOLLY BEACH DANCES. Recognizing familiar hotel faces, I was happy to be back.

The view from our hotel balcony was the ocean. (Sigh)

In our spare time, Russell and I made it a point to enjoy leisurely strolls on the beach. The first morning, we met a twenty-something Lizzie on the pier. As the three of us walked, we conversed. She spoke fondly of her boyfriend in the military. Browsing through the pier’s gift shop, we noticed FOLLY BEACH DANCES on display. Picking up a copy, Lizzie flipped through the pages of the book, and ended up buying a copy.

Lizzie and me, at FB pier

Lizzie and me, at FB pier

That afternoon we headed to The Preservation Society of Charleston for a booksigning. At first, sales were slow, but by late afternoon we’d hit our stride. What the customers didn’t buy, Evan, the event coordinator, ended up purchasing for the store. A successful event!

The next day, we drove to the end of the island to visit the Folly Beach County Park. As I stepped foot on the sand, I felt transported to a Caribbean oasis. The white sand and muted landscape hues, drew me closer to the water’s edge. And the crisp air beckoned windsurfers to ride the ocean’s waves.

Walking the shoreline, I followed the island’s natural curves. With unbridled anticipation, I was anxious to uncover visual treasures with my camera’s lens. A weathered tree with branches that mimicked windblown hair, awaited me around the next bend.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe bid our goodbye to Folly Beach the next morning, but not before stopping at Bert’s Market – an eclectic hipster produce store. Speaking with Julia, the store’s owner, I was happy when she said she’d carry FOLLY BEACH DANCES!

Next stop – Columbia, South Carolina. After checking into Homewood Suites, we met fellow writer C. Hope Clark and husband, Gary, for dinner at Mr. Friendly’s. The time passed quickly as we spoke of writing, publishing, conferences, the beach, and the lake. I thought the waiter was going to kill us for lingering at her table for more than 2 ½ hours!

Hope and Matt

Hope and Matt

The following day we headed to Irmo Branch Library for a 15-author event. Matt Matthews, author of Mercy Creek, and the First Carolina Novel Prize sat to our right. Hope sat to our left. With her Low Country mysteries, there was a constant stream of visitors to her table. I felt comfortable wedged between these wonderful writers. At the end of the event, I took inventory of our book sales, and realized we did okay.

I told hubby, I’d be back, and took some time to find Southern writer, Tom Poland’s table. Co-author of Reflections of South Carolina. I’d seen his book everywhere – even in Missouri. Along with Robert Clarke, Tom created a wonderful journey of photography and essays, weaving personality and character into the book’s colorful pages.DSC_1220 Tom Poland crop copyr

Tom and I chatted for awhile, and I learned of his humble beginnings in writing. Back in the 70’s, he had a wild idea to take to the road with Robert. With no plan in mind, they’d write and photograph whatever they found interesting. And they never looked back. We shook hands, exchanged business cards, and agreed to meet again whenever in the South.

The car loaded with suitcases, we set course for our next destination – Sunset Beach, North Carolina. Three hours later, we pulled into the parking space of our beach rental, the Graham Sporting Goods house.

Friend and fellow author, Jacqueline DeGroot, stopped by for a visit the following night to talk, watch the sun set below the horizon, and drop off her recent book releases – The Cemetery Kids series. I snapped a photograph of Jack for an upcoming story.

The next three days were bliss. Lazy days spent walking the beach – in the morning, the afternoon, and at sunset. Oh, the sunsets. The sunsets were divine.DSC_1452 birds under pier sunset copyrWhen not on the beach, we’d hop in the car and putter along Shoreline Drive, gazing at the gorgeous homes, with the intercoastal waterway in the distance. We’d stop at our favorite coffee shop, or just shoot photos of flowers, birds, or landscapes.

Oh how I love Sunset Beach.

We made some new furry friends along the way. Sassy and Libby, whose owners live in Little River, came down for a beach visit. We met Emmy, a sweet golden, who lives a short five minute walk from the beach.

Emmy

Emmy

Libby

Libby

Needless to say, we’ll be back in Sunset in May with our fur babies. They’ll get to meet Sassy and Libby, and maybe even Emmy. I know they’ll see their friend Mosa, a boxer, who vacations the same week every year.

Oh yeah, the first day of our trip, FOLLY BEACH DANCES was nominated for the Eric Hoffer Award, including a finalist for the da Vinci Eye Award, for excellence in book cover design.

So, all in all, I’d have to say, we had a great trip.

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Proud to Be in Proud to Be: Volume 3

Last week I received my contributor’s copy of PROUD TO BE: Writing by American Warriors, Volume 3. 20141202_110742 cover volume 3

I am so proud to be included in this volume, edited by Susan Swartwout of Southeast Missouri State University Press in collaboration with the Missouri Humanities Council and Warrior Arts Alliance.

Proud to Be is a way for veterans, and families of veterans to share their personal experiences through essays, warrior interviews, fiction, and even photographs.

Apparently, this year there were a record number of submissions for the Warrior Arts Anthology.

The anthology is dedicated to the writing veterans, military-service personnel and family members.

My First Place win for Photography graces pages 66 and is titled “jimmie (pier). My photo was judged by Bradley Phillips, professor of photography, Southeast Missouri State University. A second photo and an interview with Jimmie was accepted for inclusion into the anthology, as well. I was extremely blessed to win this award, for the second year in a row.

jimmie (pier)

jimmie (pier)

But more than that, all the contributions in this book touch on raw accounts of life, war, warriors, emotions, and more. And deserve to be read, and noticed.

So if you get the chance, pick up a copy of Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, volume 3 for a veteran, a family member, or a friend for Christmas. It’s a great gift.

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Videos from FOLLY BEACH DANCES book launch

Hi everyone,

Sorry this took so long, but here are the two videos from the FOLLY BEACH DANCES book launch from May 4, 2014.

Debbie Kersting, Gateway Chapter Director for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society speaks in the first video about Sheree’s cancer journey and her new normal.  YouTube Video

In the second video, Sheree talks about how important it is to stay positive, take care of yourself, and remember to dance.  YouTube Video

If you like the video, please share on facebook and twitter. And please support your local charity, whatever it may be.

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Updates on FOLLY BEACH DANCES, our ‘healing’ coffee table book

Good morning everyone,

Pop on over to the FOLLY BEACH DANCES official book website at http://www.beachdances.com to see “What’s Happening’ with our’healing’ coffee table book.

While there, feel free to leave a comment, or follow us at Folly Beach Dances on facebook or twitter.

Here’s the link to the latest updates (and giveaways)

http://www.beachdances.com/uncategorized/a-folly-beach-dances-booksigning-giveaways-the-south-carolina-aquarium/

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Things I’ve Seen Before, but Never Noticed

Since returning home from our South Carolina book tour, I’ve felt less than inspired to write. Blame it on the hectic schedule, blame it on ‘beach’ withdrawals, blame it on being tired and rundown. I’ve used countless excuses for the last 2 weeks.

I needed a jolt of energy to jump start my creative inner-self.

So rather than hop on social media, as I often do after breakfast, I slipped into my Sorrel boots, grabbed my trusty Olympic camera, a jacket, and the dogs for a pre-winter walk-about on our three acres.

Rural suburbia (an oxymoron, in itself) provides all kinds of photo ops in the Midwest and I set out to find them.

Normally, when I go for walks with our Aussie and Bernese Mountain Dog, we don’t take time to enjoy the little things — we’re just walking to walk.

Today was different. Dogs do what dogs like to do. Sniff. Scratch at the ground. Sniff. Explore.

Today was as much their day, as it was mine. They had free reign.

As I ambled, I observed.

I found…..

Knarled leafless trees, reaching skyward, like those in a Tim Burton movie

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A shiny, crisp brown maple leaf reflecting the sun’s rays

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Majestic pines and hickorys bathed in white light

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The cottony fuzz of a wild grass, against the warm sienna hue of dog’s fur

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A petrified permisson hanging on for dear life

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A forest clearing. Untreaded.

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Acorns in mulch, mud, and wood dust, scattered about by squirrels or other forragers

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Fungus sprouting on cut worn wood, reminding me of barnacles under the sea

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And as the three of us trudged through the red berry bushes hugging the property boundary, we found ourselves in a pasture of wet, tall grass.  In the distance, sat a century-old barn — white washed — the foundation of our neighbors farm.

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These things I’ve seen before, but never considered, and maybe took for granted.

Sometimes all it takes is a little visual stimulation and a walk in the woods to be inspired and to clear your head.

Live your passion. Whatever it may be.

LIFE IS PASSING YOU BY!

Beautiful by Nature – Turks and Caicos

This spring I had the good fortune to travel to the Turks and Caicos Islands for a feature story for AAA Midwest and AAA Southern Traveler Magazine.

During my assignment, I met so many lovely people, including Lindsey Mensen, manager of Blue Horizon Resort and Mudjin Harbor Grill on Middle Caicos; Hunter Viator, an expat from Florida that’s living the dream as a certified instructor at Kite Provo on Long Bay Beach, the oh-so-hip employees of Da Conch Shack in the Blue Hills region, and the employees of Beaches in Providenciales.

Each area I visited was vibrant and alive. By far my favorite was Mudjin Harbor. It’s untouched exquisiteness blew my mind.

Anyway, here’s the 3-page feature article titled “BEAUTIFUL BY NATURE”.  The lead in photo of fetching Pumpkin Bluff Pond beach was captured by my husband, Russell Nielsen.

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A Photography Award, a Warrior Veteran, and Proud to Be

Last week I spent traveling through Arkansas for an upcoming story for AAA Southern Traveler and AAA Midwest Traveler. Along the way, I tasted food of all kinds – BBQ, pancakes, the most tender porkchops I’d ever eaten, and some good old-fashioned German chocolate pie with pecans (pronounced pe-cons not pee-cans according to Arkansonians) (did I say that right?).

But nothing surprised me as much as the letter that I received from the Missouri Humanities Council when I arrived home after a week of being on the road.

As I opened the envelope, I thought that it might be the contract for my November 8 workshop with veterans titled “Using Photographs to Tell a Story” at the Central Library in downtown St. Louis. I was mistaken.

Unfolding the letter, a rush of adrenalin overcome me. I let out a shrill scream. I think I scared my husband!

I was awarded First Place from the Missouri Humanities Council for my winning photograph of Jimmie, a Vietnam Vet, fishing on the pier at Sunset Beach, North Carolina. The photograph will be featured in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors; Volume 3. The judge was Bradley Phillips, professor of photography at Southeast Missouri State University.

This is the second time I’ve won First Place in this category from the Council. Last year I received the award for my inspirational photograph of Russell, my husband, penning his thoughts in a journal located at the Kindred Spirit Bench in North Carolina. The judge last year was Destinee Oitzinger, Art Director of the National Veterans Art Museum.

I am honored and thankful for this wonderful opportunity. I’ve also discovered that Sunset Beach is soon becoming MY Kindred Spirit….a peaceful respite….a quiet oasis….my love affair and good luck charm….

Below are the two award-winning photographs….

James “Jimmie” McInnis is a three-time Vietnam Vet, and recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart who I met at the Sunset Beach pier in North Carolina. As a hero in action, he unthinkingly pulled four men from an ammo dump that was blown up by a v-device in Vung Tau. Jimmie is a testament to all people everywhere that love this country.

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Contributing Writer to FOLLY BEACH DANCES – Patt Hollinger Pickett

Patt and I go back about five years.  We met through Saturday Writers, St. Peters, Missouri. I immediately liked her great sense of humor, and her matter-of-fact personality.

When I was looking for poets and writers to contribute to my ‘healing’ coffee table book, FOLLY BEACH DANCES, Patt was one of my first picks.  Actually, all of the women in my writer’s critique group were first ’round’ picks.

Here are Patt’s reflections on one of the poems in the book titled “Pole Dance.”

Hope you enjoy!

15 DSC_0438 Pole dance darker copyr“The messages in the verses I wrote for Folly Beach Dances are rooted in my decades of experience as a professional writer, life coach, and therapist.

However, my imagination was instantly ignited by the crisp unique quality of Sheree and Russell’s photos.

I do not have a favorite of the five I contributed, but the life lesson in Pole Dance on page 30 is one to which all can relate. The stark angularity and tangled crisscrossing of the poles reminded me that life is never simple or running in a straight line.

And that while savoring success is important, embracing lessons from mistakes and crosses in our life is an enriching process that leads to newness and growth.”

Patt Hollinger Pickett, LMFT, M.Ed., Ph.D.
Author of The Marriage Whisperer
TheMarriageWhisperer.net

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