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“Recovering Senses of Connection and Strength”

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Relationships are always dynamic. Especially the ones we have with ourselves. I think that is important to remember as we move through life. We often have fond memories of times past and great expectations of times ahead. But in reality, all we really have time for is now.

And now, a pattern seems to be emerging. I seem to be getting stronger. Better able to balance. Day by day, habits emerge. My relationship with myself is growing. There has been a lot of work to do. Resting. Nourishing. Grieving. It has been a wonderful experience to have the blog as a mode of connection. Even more, the unyielding support I receive from friends, family, and readings.

The past weeks of Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way have focused on Recovering a Sense of Connection and Recovering a Sense of Strength. My relationship with this particular reading has changed. It’s not so much on the page now. It’s part of my life now. Life happens in ways that I then connect to Cameron’s writing and say, “Hey, that sounds familiar!”

Senses of connection emerge in friendships and professional relationships, through my writings, and within my physical being. The prerequisite for connections is receptivity. Or simply listening. I’ve been listening to myself. Not just my heart and soul, but my body as well. I attribute this awareness to my yoga practices. I have begun to feel and amend the unsteadiness that resides in my hips. I have begun to feel the burdens that I allow to ride on my shoulders. I set free the frustrations and anxieties of a 13-year-old girl who was stuck in beginner gymnastics due to her inability to do a cartwheel.  My courage to do the upward bow pose brought me closer to my physical being.

Upward bow pose. Note this is NOT me!

Being more connected to my physical being has allowed me to be more in tune to myself. Less and less am I finding myself feel as though my experience is becoming victim to my physical ailments. Instead I notice patterns. Patterns I can be part of.

This morning I took the time to do a few yoga poses and stretches to some wonderful and powerful tunes (Pistachio by Lisa Hannigan and 9 Crimes by Damien Rice). I found myself connected to my heart and smiling, just because. That is the beginning of habits emerging. That is building strength, day by day. The mantra Julia Cameron provides for the week is, “Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong.”

In addition to listening, risk taking is a integral element of building connections. The question arises, “What would I do if I didn’t have to do it perfectly?” The answer is, “A great deal more than I am now.” Taking risks and eschewing perfectionism are difficult tasks for me. It’s all too easy to get stuck in habits that prevent chance. I tried to explore such difficulties in an earlier post on the excuses I am making in setting up my Etsy shop. Then, yesterday I beat those excuses, and took a chance and set up shop. Its not perfect. But it now exists. I can build it. It can grow.

Cameron provided some wonderful insight to this phenomenon.

Indulging ourselves in a frantic fantasy of what our life would look like if we were real artists, we fail to see the many small creative changes that we could make at this very moment. This kind of look-at-the-big-picture thinking ignores the fact that a creative life is grounded on many, many small steps and very, very few large leaps.

Baby steps. Oh yes, baby steps. Remember how far they can take us.This morning I have a meeting scheduled. A meeting in which I can be myself: an artist, a professional, a creative human being. These affirmations from The Artists Way will be my reminder.

I am a talented person.

I have a right to be an artist.

I am a good person and a good artist.

Creativity is a blessing I accept.

My creativity blesses others.

My creativity is appreciated.

I now treat myself and my creativity more gently.

I now treat myself and my creativity more generously.

I now share my creativity more openly. I now accept hope.

I now act affirmatively. I now accept creative recovery.

I now allow myself to heal.

I now accept God’s help unfolding my life.

I now believe God loves artists.


setting up shop… someday

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Excuses, excuses. Aren’t they convenient?  They seem to pop up just in time to save us—or harm us.

I find that I am making excuses. Becoming aware of them as barriers is quite interesting.

I want to open my Etsy shop. It’s been several weeks now, but I keep making excuses.  These excuses grow exponentially. Here they are in the order of their eruption.

  • I’m not ready. First, I need to make some more jewelry.DSCN7834
  • Before I can set up shop, I need to photograph my designs.
  • I need better photographs. I will wait for a good day with natural light .
  • I’ll go buy a full spectrum light bulb.
  • Now, I need to find my lamp.
  • Ok, so maybe I could post the pictures I have. But, I need shipping supplies.
  • I need cute shipping supplies, afterall—this is an Etsy shop.DSCN8066
  • I need to order more supplies to have on hand to meet orders in time.
  • I need to pay my bills before I order supplies.
  • I need to sort through that pile of paper before I pay my bills.
  • I need to catch up on my chores before this weekend. (Its our anniversary.)
  • I don’t want to set up the shop before or during our anniversary weekend. We might go out of town.
  • I need to wait until I order and receive my supplies, to make new designs and to take pictures, because I have worn all my “new” designs and they don’t look “fresh.”
  • I should sort the feathers I have first, just to see what I have.
  • I could write a blog about all the things that are keeping me from doing what’s good for me and my business.
  • What if I mess this whole thing up?

Why is it we come up with excuses to keep us from doing the things we want? Do you find yourself doing the same thing? Doesn’t it just seem silly?

And then we remember “If it is worth doing at all, then it is worth doing wrong.” Then I panic, I don’t want to be a bad shopkeeper! I want to look like I know what I am doing!

Don’t we all…

Ready. Set. Goal!

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So I spent the last days of 2012 drafting a “portrait” of a balanced life for myself. I mapped out the foundation of my life, the interface of my relationships, and the assets I have to offer and benefit from. Here I expand the details of these goals—after all, there is much power the written word.

Give myself 20 minutes of meditation daily. And it is important to note, that if one is meditating properly, they should not be snoring! I have come to learn a bit about tuning into this process over the past year. But, there is always more. I’m looking forward to becoming more aware in the moment and more conscious of my life. I gave myself a gift, that I hope to use every morning. Yesterday and today, I awoke to read a page from Shakti Gawain’s Awakening: A Daily Guide to Conscious Living. A short, inspiring passage and a daily affirmation should give me a place to start with meditating each day.

Attend yoga class at least 26 times this year. New Rockford is fortunate enough to have an instructor who offers classes in yoga and Pilates twice a week. In doing the math, I realize that I’ll be only utilizing only a quarter of my opportunity. But, I’ll start with what works for me. And well some nights, and some weeks, I expect it just won’t work out. It really is a first and big step for me to begin nurturing my physical self. Rather than just paying attention to my health when something goes wrong.

 Maintain and refine Pages of Paradigm blog. I started this blog in November this year and cannot begin to explain the impact it has had on my well-being. I’d like to continue posting at the rate I have been, keep my material fresh, and build networks within the blogosphere.

Submit articles to 6 publication sources. I’ve been told I have a gift for writing, I enjoy doing it, and am beginning to believe that I can say something to the world. I have a variety of topics I can write about and could submit articles to publications such as On Second Thought, Hobby Farm Home, and Mother Earth News. Whether my writings get published or not, I’ll never know if I don’t try.

Write 10 applications for grant projects. This is a professional goal that would hopefully help bring some financial enhancement. Grant writing is what I decided I would rely on when I left my previous position. I specialize in projects related to community development, sustainable agriculture, and environmental education. Until this point, I haven’t done much to market myself. In many ways, I needed to dedicate my energy and attention elsewhere. Now though, I feel like I have made some great progress in understanding some of my workaholic tendencies that drove me to push myself too hard. I am prepared to offer my services and am confident that I will be able to maintain a sense of balance, even under the pressure of deadlines.

Have 5 opportunities for teaching and training. I am preparing my resume and gaining insight to what topics I could provide training and teaching on. I’ve taught many classes at the college level. The course topics include ethnobotany, sustainable agriculture, wildlife biology, environmental science, natural resources, water resources, environmental research, and cultural studies. What I am looking at now is opportunities to lead workshops or events. A weekend workshop on fermenting pickles, gardening, identifying birds or edible plant species, wildlife sketching, cooking wild game, or even hunter education. Those are all topics I could teach without a second thought.

Become engaged with other birders. I like my birds. I can’t really help it. Whether it is waxwings or robins that have come to the crabapple tree, I find delight in seeing them flit from branch to branch. And in the unfortunate incident that our cat brings a dead bird into the house, I take the opportunity to show my boys how to identify it. At this point, that is as far as my birding goes. So, I’d like to meet and go out with some other bird-brains, uh I mean folks interested in birds. I’d like to look into local groups or organization that I could be a part of.

Complete 12 pieces of art. I sometimes forget to call myself an artist. I was drawing as early as I can remember. I won a coloring contest at the McDonald’s on the St. Louis Riverfront when I was four. I had a piece featured at a regional art show when I was in kindergarten (it was just cotton balls glued to construction paper to make a snowman, but apparently people liked it.) I  always took art classes every chance I got. Art was my rock all through high school. I even thought about applying to the School of Visual Arts in New York City. I took drawing and photography classes in community college and had a published archaeological illustration in Illinois Antiquities. After that high point, I kinda slowed down. Maybe it was the pressures of college courses. Maybe it was that I didn’t feel like a real artist. But, I know that art is still in me. I can still draw! I will still draw! And paint! And decoupage! And whatever else strikes me!

Photograph of the Baumer phase dog burial from the Kincaid site (a) in situ and (b) with a drawing superimposed over it (Illustration credit: Rachel Pepper).

Make 3 pieces of jewelry a week. It was last year for Christmas that my husband got me books, beads, and supplies. I’ve been learning and having such fun. There was for a long time that I didn’t even wear jewelry. It was when I started working with an amazing beading artist at the tribal college that the inspiration began. She was generous to hand me down her seconds and I soon realized the power that resides in a beautiful pair of handmade earrings. The jewelry I’ve been making in the past months displays some of the Native influence from that was so present in her work, but it also holds aspects of nature, expressed with beautiful feathers from pheasants and waterfowl.

My jewelry designs are inspired by natural elements as well as some Native aesthetic.

My jewelry designs are inspired by natural elements as well as some Native aesthetic.

Post 2 new pieces a week on the Pages of Paradigm Etsy Storefront. If you’ve never taken the time to check out the delightful works on Etsy, I suggest you do. It is an amazing online marketplace for gifts, vintage items, and inspiration. I’ve got my Etsy storefront set up. But, I need to take the time to stock it, so to speak. If I can post 2 of the 3 jewelry items I make each week, I should have a growing storefront.

Improve home organization and management Gah! This is a difficult, but important one. I’m not a very good housekeeper. (Of course, writing this blog is keeping me from cleaning something.) It’s not so much about having a clean house as it is a comfortable home. When I first started working from home, I seriously had to peruse the internet for resources on how to be a domestic manager. Tsh Oxenreider knew there were mom’s like me out there and runs a site called But more importantly, she wrote a wonderful book called Organized Simplicity that really helps families to create a haven out of their home in a way that is beneficial to their unique purpose in life.

It is time to simplify. This year, many of dad’s things became part of our household. In addition, many of our older things no longer have a place in our life.  I’ll say it again, it is time to simply the home.

Learn about taxidermy. Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with animal bones. I began collecting them. Then, I began drawing them. Then, in an undergraduate assistantship at Southern Illinois University, I began cleaning them. I made friends with the guy who sold antler chandeliers on the roadside in Grand County, Colorado. I worked for the Colorado Division of Wildlife testing deer, elk, and moose for Chronic Wasting Disease. I found that one can learn a lot about life through death. I thought seriously about learning taxidermy. It was my back up plan for if I didn’t get into graduate school. It is time to check back with those interests. This year, I’d like to at least talk to local taxidermists about their hobbies and get a sense of how the process works… especially for birds!

Me and Harvey, talking hides, horns, and bones.

Me and Harvey, talking hides, horns, and bones.

Hunt, fish, and gather. It has been too long. Way too long.  This year I hope to go fishing six times, go hunting four times, and gather wild asparagus, berries, or other edibles 3 times.

Me, with a fish in Spring 2008. I told you it's been too long...

Me, with a fish in Spring 2008. I told you it’s been too long…

Traveling. There is so much of North Dakota I have not yet seen or have not seen enough.  I know there are plenty of folks who can’t imagine what there is to see in this state. But when you have an aesthetic eye and an appreciation for the moment, beauty abounds.

Cultivating Vibrant Relationships. I’ve been learning to make healthy friendships. They are a wonderful thing. This year I’d like to host a dinner party for friends at least three times, meet other parents and arrange playdates for the boys, and even just “hang out” with friends six times.

Get involved in community gardens and farmers markets. At my previous job I developed and oversaw a community agriculture program on the Spirit Lake Nation. I loved this aspect of my job. LOVED helping folks plan their gardens, teach them how to preserve their harvest, and organize a farmers market. Come this past August, I was plenty busy enough with my own garden and was delighted at the opportunity to sell herbs, jams, and sunflowers at the Sheyenne Farmers Market. This year, I am looking forward to joining the activities with the New Rockford Community Garden and the Sheyenne Farmers Market.

Tomatoes from our garden this summer!

Tomatoes from our garden this summer!

Continue to garden and build a greenhouse. In the obvious spirit of the previous aspect. I feel alive in the garden. The smell of green on my clothes. The feel of dirt under my fingernails. This is the glory of living. A small greenhouse will do. Just enough to start plants in the spring and continue the season for greens in the fall.

Preserve, bake, and charcuterie. Food is such an amazing source of energy for me. Cooking is the best way in which I can share my love. I make a variety of jams and jellies from garden produce. Jalapeño jelly is just the start. Basil-Pepper, Chokecherry-Crabapple, Apple-Basil, Yellow Tomato, Spiced Tomato, Lemon-Tomato—those are a few of last year’s preserves. In 2013, I’d like to make and share 12 varieties of jams. I’d like to get in the habit of baking four times a week or so: bread, pastry dough, rolls, bagels, and so on.

And what is charcuterie, you ask? It is the art of curing meat. Salamis, procuittos, bacons, dried, smoked, fermented, or confitted. These are wonderful methods that my husband and I have been learning over the past six years. We have a half a beef and a whole pig to work with this year. In addition, we have the wild game in the freezer. Plus, some phenomenal resources to support our endeavors. Our most relied upon authority when it comes to wild game charcuterie and other recipes: Hank Shaw’s Hunter-Angler-Gardener-Cook. Check it out, if you ever come to a dinner party at our house, you’ll likely be served something derived from his blog.

My husband with a new favorite book. Salumi by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.

Create and share a food blog. Finally, we’ve come full circle. Most of my cooking is seasonal. The only “problem” with that is that with the changes of the season comes the point at which my husband and I look at each other and say, “How did we do that last year?”  So this holiday season, we began documenting our recipes on a blog. For now it is listed as “private” but someday soon, it will make its debut.

So that’s about it… it seems like a lot. But then again, it doesn’t. These goals are interconnected. Even better, they are productive. They have the potential to give back and make a stronger foundation.

transforming vision to reality

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Sometimes writing about a vision helps it along on its path to material existence.  Today I am putting my vision for a retail space in New Rockford, North Dakota in words. Part of my effort is to help give me a jump start on the process of writing a business plan to take to the bank. But also, my effort is an attempt to elicit feedback. So, I need your help. Share this blog with and folks you might know in North Dakota and encourage them to share their thoughts with me. The good or the bad. It is time to get this fantasy a little closer to reality.

I live in a small town of about 1,500 people in North Dakota. We are about two hours from any “major” cities. I have lived here for just over two years and have appreciated the openness in which we’ve been greeted and welcomed to the community. The summers are radiant here. Warm, but rarely HOT. My plants flourish in the garden from May to September. We use the tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and green beans to make a variety of pickles and preserves. I have been introduced as the “lady with the big garden.” We also have several chickens. They just started laying eggs. So, we are also known as “the people with chickens.” Those titles are just fine with me. But, I am also a woman with a vision.

I am glad to say that home has become where the heart is. In the past several months I have taken some time to heal this heart. After tragic loss, physical pain, and emotional turmoil, my heart definitely needed the rest. Finally, I am beginning to feel nourished and whole. I feel that I am able to share myself with others in a unique and genuine way.

I envision an eclectic shop, a inviting space that encourages creativity, solace, and inspiration. This place is clean and spirited, refreshing and true. A variety of nonfiction books, specializing in natural sciences, arts, and hobbies line the walls.

UntitledThese are resources to enrich the daily experiences of individuals. Individuals who would like to know how to identify birds, animal tracks, insects, or plants. Curious folks who would like to explore or improve their skills in writing, journaling, drawing, painting, knitting, scrapbooking, sculpture, and the like. I imagine people selecting books to reconnect with pieces of themselves they had put on hold years ago. Who doesn’t have a long lost hobby that is just waiting to be revived? Fly-tying anyone?

Books are just one aspect of the shop— the ones that line the walls. To continue the theme of creative inspiration, the storefront would feature art and craft supplies. Many of the artists and crafters I know in the area specialize in beading, jewelry making, knitting, crocheted, quilting, or scrapbooking. To me, drawing and painting are inextricable parts of my well being. I expect many artists feel the same about their talent. Unfortunately, I find it difficult to keep inspiration going when there aren’t many places for me to stop in and get supplies, books, advice, inspiration, or finished products. I either order my supplies online, make d0 with what I have, or wait until I make the drive to Bismarck, Fargo, or Grand Forks. I imagine others must face the same predicament.welcome

The shop I envision would solve this creative dilemma. I envision an open space with a long centerpiece displaying beads, cordage, clasps, and jewelry making accessories.  I find inspiration for this design from Von’s Shop in West Lafayette, Indiana.

This space in Von's Shop in West Lafayette, Indiana was the site of a creative epiphany. Photo by Pamela Sari.

This space in Von’s Shop in West Lafayette, Indiana was the site of a creative epiphany. Photo by Pamela Sari.

Earlier this year, a best friend and I spent hours finding peace by amid tiny pieces of beauty.  Building a piece of display furniture similar to this seems like an honorable way to utilize the load of walnut lumber I inherited from my grandfather. The beads and jewelry supplies would be of high quality and reflect the nature theme in the shop. But would offer enough variety for a diversity of tastes in creativity.



The high quality of supplies would be a characteristic found in yard, fabric, paper, and other supplies, making an effort whenever possible to purchase materials from local or handcrafted sources.

Handspun yarn from Lollyarn.

Handspun yarn from Lollyarn.

Areas of the shop would be dedicated to fiber arts. Others to scrapbooking. Blank journals and sketchbooks, along with pencils, charcoal, conte, and watercolor would be featured in another section for fine arts. General supplies such as scissors, fixatives, glues, and adhesives would be available as well.



The third segment of inventory for the shop would include finished hand-made items that would be of interest to the shop’s clientele. Last week I wrote about my impressions of the Pride of Dakota Holiday Showcase and how amazed I was at the talent that goes into wonderfully handcrafted items.

I find it an amazing opportunity to feature the work of artisans throughout the state. There are talented hands at work, crafting beautiful gift items as we speak. I have been able to find many of them through Etsy, an online selling site for artistans.

The folks at Bear Creek Design, of Fort Ransom, create unique, detailed needle felted art.  To me, nothing quite says North Dakota art like needle felted waterfowl. Seeing that Ruddy Ducks are one my favorite aquatic quackers, with their blue bill and all, I couldn’t help but fall in love with this sculpture.

Upcycled wallhangings have an impressive floral quality about them.

Upcycled wallhangings have an impressive floral quality about them.

Another North Dakotan artist, Bobbie creates beautiful upcycled wall-art from vintage books. I find them absolutely stunning and think they would have a perfect place in the bookstore and craft shop I envision.


Making this metal daisy necklace takes a certain skill and specialized tools. The artist at Stellar Fusion does great work.

Unique finished jewelry items would be a must for the shop’s inventory. Even the most talented jewelry makers like to wear something made by someone else.

This hand stitched felt squirrel melts by Hill Critters just melts my heart with cuteness.

This hand stitched felt squirrel melts by Hill Critters just melts my heart with cuteness.

The Fargo artist at Hill Critters has a wonderful way of imbuing a sense of play into her unique woodland creatures. This slightly albino squirrel may have stolen my heart.

Nature inspired gift items, vintage or handmade would certainly have a place in my vision.

Nature inspired gift items, vintage or handmade would certainly have a place in my vision

The owner of Its Still Life in Bismarck, restores and enhances vintage housewares, toys, tools, glassware, and paper from the Northern Plains. She says, “anything that can be saved, cleaned, upcycled and treasured.” Many of her items would be of interest to folks who love sketching still life. But some items, such as this coaster set and tray would make lovely gift items.

There is so much talk these days about shopping locally, but sadly sometimes that means buying imported goods at local shops. Why not buy locally produced goods at locally owned storefronts? The artists are there and the market is there, they just need to be put together in a dynamic setting. That’s what I hope Pages of Paradigm to be. A place for being, inspired.

So there it is… my vision, my dream. To open and run a retail space that features books, craft supplies, and handcrafted gift items. I want to hear what others have to say. Do you think it’s a good idea? Would you shop there? Would you have items you would want to consign for sale there? Or is it just a place that me and my imaginary friends would hang out at all day?