THE LIEBSTER AWARD – DISCOVERING NEW BLOGS

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1. What made you start your blog?  For many years, I worked as a free-lance writer and also as an artist so I decided to combine these skill sets into a blog. I’m also the mother of six children and was active in my community and church; and participated in my children’s schools as they were growing up. The name of my blog is: “The Art of Living — artwork and musings from my dancing heart.”

 2. What is your greatest achievement?  Overcoming many trials and tribulations, and like Job in the Bible, I’m still standing strong. I have a solid faith in God and in the basic goodness of people. The wisdom I’ve gained in “overcoming” may help someone else hang on just a little longer!

 3. Your favorite animal?  I’m a dog lover and have owned many over the years. I’ve also had a few cats, but dogs remain my favorite animal. Coming in second would be birds. I love to hear them, watch them, and paint them.

 4. Any specific goals for the rest of this year?  I’m doing some Bodoir paintings and a few belly dancers, too. I’m trying to keep them inexpensive and fun. I’ll be adding a few jewels to enhance their costumes, and give them a sparkly flair.

 5. Your favorite quote?  I’ve forgotten the photographer, but I loved his work and his quote: “Find beauty in imperfection.” Sometimes the plain, the broken, the ordinary can become magnificent if photographed or painted with the right emphasis and lighting. You don’t have to wait for something wonderful to come along. Paint passionately what’s right in front of you.

 6. What is your favorite style of cooking?  I’m the soup maker in our household. I love a good bowl of soup and a slice of homemade bread. I could live on this. You can be very creative and it can’t go wrong. Other than that the Mediterranean style of cooking is my favorite.

 7. Your favorite TV series?  “Downton Abby”  I was sad that Season V is over. I love Masterpiece Theater on PBS and the BBC. Excellent programming! I love to watch Shark Tank on CNBC and the new detective series on Fox 4 “Beckstrom.” He’s a pitiful character, but because of it we cheer him on. He embodies human weakness and that is why he’s a good detective.

 8. What’s in your bag (purse or briefcase)?  Make-up for quick repairs! breath enhancers, hand lotion, eye drops, pill box, pens, notebook, credit cards, little cash, sunglasses; nothing unusual, really! I have natural curly hair so I use my fingers rather than a comb.

 9. What do you prefer to use for social media? I spend time where it pays off: Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumbler, Facebook, Pinterest, Fine Art America, Red Bubble, Blog Catalog, and a few others.

10. Your favorite short joke?  I’m hooked on anything “Maxine.” I think she resonates what we all feel. I also like”Ole and Lena” jokes because my husband is Norwegian. I love to hear jokes, but I rarely tell them. I always screw-up the punch line so I won’t tell one here.

 11. What did you want to be when you were a child?  I wanted to be a ballet dancer, hence the title of my WordPress blog: “Musings from my Dancing Heart!” The movie “The Red Shoes” had a great impact on my life. I discovered early on that I had a talent for creative writing and so I pursued this as my parents couldn’t afford dance lessons.

My favorite bloggers are:
http://teagansbooks.wordpress.com/
http://abundantlifeandhealthblog.wordpress.com/
http://monique974.wordpress.com/
http://chinesefoodproblog.wordpress.com/
http://hair68.wordpress.com/
http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com/
http://doncharisma.org/
http://freeemployeenewsletter.wordpress.com/
http://www.playwithlife.org/
http://takingthemaskoff.wordpress.com/
http://kelzbelzphotography.wordpress.com/

The Questions I would like you to answer:

  1.  Where do you get ideas and inspiration for your blog?
  2.  How often do you blog? Once a week / 3 times?
  3.  What gets traffic to your blog? Is it subject matter or Tags?
  4.  What is your passion in life? What drives you?
  5.  Do you feel you have something to say to the world?
  6.  Do you blog to feel important or stroke your ego?
  7.  Do you blog to make a difference in the world?
  8.  What is your favorite subject? Does this inspire you?
  9.  Do you make time for friends and family?
  10.  Do you believe in God?  How does your faith assist you?
  11.  Will you still be blogging a year from now? Two years/ What is your long-term goal?

What Drives you to Distraction?

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How could you not look at this adorable face!

How could you not look at this adorable face!

Some things grab your attention more than others. The point at which you lose yourself may be different from mine. What slows you down and causes you to linger may depend on your ability or inability to focus on the task at hand. Whatever it is that beguiles you, deadlines are forgotten and appointments fade into obscurity. Once your thought process is disrupted, you’re hooked. You become like a cobra entranced by the magic flute swaying before your eyes.

This morning, my husband and I were shopping in “Fresh Market.” Similar to “Whole Foods,” Fresh Market is intoxicating; the brands and packaging alone could amuse me for hours. The sights and smells get my digestive juices flowing. The color of freshness awakens my taste buds. You simply cannot leave this store empty-handed.

My husband was content with a bottle of sparkling cider and some blueberries. I roamed the store hungering to buy. I could entertain myself for hours here savoring the samples, the freebies, and admiring the steaks and seafood I can’t afford. I vowed to come back alone so I could do just that!

"With These Hands -- Wonder" oil on canvas

“With These Hands — Wonder” oil on 16×20 canvas

My husband is a purposeful shopper. He doesn’t care to browse and admire. He knows what he wants and he goes in for the kill every time. We were in and out of there in 15 minutes leaving me feeling deflated and unfulfilled. Food is an all-consuming diversion, especially if you’re hungry.

You already know what a time sucker technology can be. Hours are consumed responding to comments and photos on Facebook, Pinterest, Trumblr and Instagram. As soon as you’ve mastered one program, there’s another one out there that promises even bigger results in accumulating friends and fans.

Many of these sites snag you in and then begin charging for their services. You play awhile. You stay awhile. And then they chew you up and spit you out!

My nephew, Kirk's family.

My nephew, Kirk’s, family.

Your friends and family can be a distraction unless they know the ground rules. Keep certain hours for yourself. No texting. No emails or phone calls. Nothing except what leads you to your desired goals. Reward your family and friends with shared time in the off hours. Respect their requests as well. Use their strength and yours to stay on target.

Television with its encroaching advertisements and enticing lead-ins pounces on your attention span like a rat catcher. You settle back for only a second, but once your rear-end sinks into that soft sofa you’re doomed. It’s obviously much more fun to watch a movie than buckle down to write or paint on an unresolved canvas.

Needy pets can spin circles at your feet and remind you of your neglect. By the time you play fetch or walk around the block, you’ve lost the thrust of your passion. Anything that weakens your drive paralyzes your mind. Writer’s and Painter’s block are real. They happen when you allow distractions to take over most of your day.

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“Bella Belissimo” 16×20 acrylic on canvas SOLD (prints available)

Demanding spouses can break your focus in one fell swoop!  Their interruptions and need for companionship can throw cold water on a hot idea. Wherever you are, and however you live, staying focused is a constant battle. You can either give in and lose your momentum, or you can set the ground rules and abide by them so others will take you seriously.

Find Your Passion — Make Your Mark, and Succeed!

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“With These Hands — Wonder”

We all need a purpose in life that stirs our passions. We need to feel useful. Personal fulfillment comes when we feel we’re making a contribution to our family, to society, and to the greater good. Our creator has given us gifts and talents to use in the service of our fellow men. Why? Because he loves us and wants us to be happy! He wants us to be joyful.

A few days ago, I was sorting through the books on my shelves and discovered a forgotten book called: “Discovering Your Purpose,” by Ivy Haley. It brought back memories as I thumbed through its pages. Part of the “SkillPath Publications” used in training seminars; I had purchased the book while attending another class on customer service and office management.

Haley points out there are “Certain key principles that have guided countless generations and remain relevant for us today; such values as honesty, integrity, respect, equality, excellence, kindness, faith, fair-play, accountability, quality, and unconditional love. These are universal values or truths.” The golden rule adapted from Christ’s teachings, which urges us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, falls into this category…”When you’re principle-centered, driven by and operating out of your values, you experience far greater life fulfillment.”

I read my personal scribbles in the blanks provided. Sadly, life conflicts and personal turbulence ended my completion of the book, but my notes are revealing. In the section: “Inventory of Values and Principles,” I answered the questions. Please answer them for yourself, along with me:

  1. What four things are most important to you? (My answers follow 🙂
    God, Family, Church, Friends.
  2. What are some things you’ve really wanted to do, but never dared go for? Professional Writer (although I did free-lance for awhile, guilt made me      hold back). Develop my artistic skills – illustrate my own children’s book.
  3. What, specifically, are you willing to give your life to? My God and Savior, My family, My talents: writing and painting
  4. In what areas of your life do you spend the most time and in what activities? Taking care of my family, Computers (a necessity in my work at the time.), developing web sites with an eye on developing my own.
  5. In what areas do you desire to spend more time than you’re spending?
    For me, it was writing and painting
  6. If you were to defend or support something you believe in, what would it be? My answer: The Gospel of Jesus Christ
  7. What character qualities do you find admirable in others?
    My answer: Goodness, helping others, a positive attitude
  8. What could you do that would be of most value to others?
    I try to write helpful, uplifting articles, stories; I like to help others; to cheer them, assist them, I like to get involved in causes I feel strongly about.

I can’t say I fulfilled these promises to the letter, but I gave it a good try. According to Haley, we usually feel passionate whenever our values are involved. In her book she uses the following exercise. A “values” grid is arranged like a checker-board. In each square is a “universal” value: those things you are willing to give your time and attention to; your life and your “passion” to.

Here are the universal values: (circle five that are important to you): accomplishment, adventure, affection, approval, challenge, competition, family, freedom, health, financial security, independence, integrity, loyalty, order, relationships, recognition, prestige, power, security, self-acceptance, spiritual, wealth, wisdom, pleasure, self-development.

These were my five choices: 1. Family, 2. health, 3. integrity, 4. spiritual, and 5. wisdom. The author then gives a scenario: “You’ve been diagnosed with an incurable disease and told you have six months to live. You spend the next several weeks searching for a cure. Each challenge presented, gives you a choice and asks you to place a value you are willing to give up in order to achieve that goal (either to be cured or remain healthy).

By the end of the exercise, the last value you are willing to give up becomes the first value of importance to you on the next list. Here are my values listed by importance, and why that value was and still is important to me:

  1. Integrity: If I am true to myself, I will be true to my God. If I am honest with myself, I will be open and honest with my God.
  2. Spiritual: God lends me breath. He is my reason for living. He sustains me. He is “my joy, and my song.”
  3. Family: My prayer every day (and still is) is that my children will recognize the “light which shines in darkness,” and that they will “hunger and thirst after righteousness” and put their trust in the Lord.
  4. Wisdom: All learning is not good unless eternal perspective and knowledge is applied. We become wise when we obey God’s commandments.
  5. Health: Health is of no value if the other four values are missing. Health is important if it keeps you vibrant and alive in standing for truth and honor.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: “The biggest tragedy in America is not the waste of natural resources, though this is tragic. The biggest tragedy is the waste of human resources.” And how do we waste those resources? We spend our lives doing the things we think we should do or the things that are “popular” or “smart” or “worldly” and “we go to our graves with our music (our passion) still in us.”