Now Available!

Shear Murder, book four in the Melanie Hogan Mysteries, is now available on Kindle! Paperback soon to follow.

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When beauty salon owner Melanie Hogan joins six of her pals from beauty college for a reunion in Pinewood Village, Minnesota, one of the gang turns up dead the morning after the party. With Melanie’s shears as the murder weapon, she’s the prime suspect in the investigation. As Melanie launches an investigation of her own to clear her name and to eliminate each of her friends as the murderer, she uncovers secrets of the victim that rocks her world.
As Melanie digs into her old friends’ histories, her own past comes back to haunt her. With someone working overtime to set her up as the killer, Melanie enlists the help of her beauty salon cohorts to find the real Shears Slayer before she’s next.

Book comes complete with two delicious recipes at the end, submitted by Minnesotan Kerri Keprios.

Happy New Year to all of you. May your new year be filled with love, joy, peace, good health, and many blessings.

The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals. –Melody Beattie

Each year’s regret are envelopes in which messages of hope are found for the new year.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson 

 

Gratitude

I’ve written plenty of posts over the years on gratitude. I’ve even authored a book called Finding Peace Through Gratitude: The Secret to Healing From Trauma and Discovering Joy in Every Moment, written under pen name Alexandra Benn.

Finding Peace Through Gratitude: The Secret to Healing From Trauma and Discovering Joy in Every Moment by [Benn, Alexandra]It’s in large part because of gratitude that I have the life I have today. It’s gotten me through everything from monumental life events to seemingly infinitesimal daily matters. It’s gratitude that has lifted me from the depths of despair and painful moments I couldn’t see my way thorough. It’s gratitude that has carried me through the death of loved ones and fully appreciating my loved ones still with me. It’s gratitude that makes me focus on all that I have instead of desiring that which I don’t.

Gratitude is a state of mind, a decision, a choice. It’s choosing to look at the glass as half full instead of half empty. It’s choosing to look at what you have with appreciation and thanks instead of pining for that which you don’t. It doesn’t mean you have to be grateful for pain that hurts beyond anything you’ve ever felt, but I promise you there’s something in that painful mess that you can be grateful for.

Death of a loved one? You can be grateful for the time you had with him/her. For the experiences you shared. For the memories you can cherish.

Victim of a crime? Help other victims of crime and feel gratitude that you’re able to use it for good. It transforms you from victim to victor.

Passed up for the job promotion you worked so hard for? Reach deep to find gratitude that you have a job and that you have the opportunity to try again. In fact, express your happiness for the person who did get it, and you will feel like the winner.

Chronic illness? There’s always someone who’s worse off. I’m not suggesting your illness/pain isn’t real and I’m not diminishing it in any way. (I, too, had a long run with chronic pain in my past with fibromyalgia.) But if you choose to focus on and be grateful for the health you have in other areas, it makes it so much easier to bear.

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So all of this being said, it’s this time of year that I love to reflect on the past year(s) and swell with gratitude for all that I have and all that I have accomplished. Every New Year’s Eve I journal these things as a permanent visual reminder of how blessed I am. On those days life is especially hard, when I’m tired and worn, and when it’s hard to see the blessings, I pull that journal page out and review it. And then I’m so grateful for the practice that I’ve cultivated.

What from this past year are you grateful for? 

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. John Milton

 

 

Christmas Truths

Christmas Wisdom

I’ve found two short quotes that speak volumes about the Christmas season. Thought I would share.

How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!
― Benjamin Franklin

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!
― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Christmas

 

I Found It!

Woo Hoo!

For years I have searched high and low for the perfect planner, as well as the perfect handbag.  I’ve found the planner, the handbag I’m still on the hunt for. As you can probably tell, I’m huge into organization and these two tools are all about making my life so much easier and, well, organized. Sometimes I’ve gone through several planners in a year, unable to find that perfect fit. This one I’ve invested some time in, making sure it’s what I’m looking for. It is, and so much more than I’d hoped for!

What is it?

The Passion Planner!

One of my writer friends introduced me to it. And let me tell you, this is a writer’s dream for planning, organizing, and even writing. IMG_0493

There are pages to jot down immediate, short-term, and long-term goals and space to explore and expand upon game-changers to make your year the best it can be. At the end of each month are pages to reflect upon the month, in journal format, what you’ve accomplished and several questions to help you make the best of the new month, like:

  • What was the most memorable part of t his past month? Describe it.
  • What or who are you especially grateful for this past month?
  • Name three things you can improve on this upcoming month. What concrete actions can you take to work towards these improvements?

There are questions that make you think about what you want to accomplish, such as:

  • What is the biggest goal you would like to accomplish this year?
  • Who or what motivates you most?
  • Write some words of encouragement for yourself to read during hard times.

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There is space to create your passion roadmap, your passion plan, and tips on how to best make it a success. Each weekly layout contains:

  • This Week’s Focus
  • Good Things That Happened
  • Personal To-Do List
  • Work To-Do List, and
  • Space of Infinite Possibility.

There are motivational quotes throughout. And there are plenty of blank pages in the back for notes, story-ideas, plot planning, or to write whatever your heart desires.

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So I can be reminded of the important things daily, the inside cover of mine includes two special reminders, “Right Here. Right Now,” and “Be Someone You Look Up To.” It also includes my Life Verse (Philippians 4:6-8), and My One Word for 2019 (to be revealed later).

Thrilled with my discovery? I couldn’t be more so! I’ve always enjoyed spending time in December to plan the following year. It gives me time to really think things through instead of making rash, off-the-cuff goals that I can’t (and don’t) follow through with. This planner has just made my planning so much easier and more fun!

Do you spend time planning the upcoming year? What is your best/favorite planning tool?

A goal without a plan is just a wish.
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. 
― Benjamin Franklin

 

What is Minimalism–Really?

The Things You Own

The past couple of years have brought with it a desire to live fully by minimizing not only my possessions, but other areas of my life as well. With that desire came the discovery of The Minimalists. I’ve listened to numerous podcasts and read articles galore and always come out on the other side with a better, deeper understanding of life, happiness and contentment, these leading to a better life.

I’ve learned that minimalism isn’t about depriving oneself of any “thing” or it’s not about getting rid of everything except one utensil, one pair of pants, one shirt, one book…you get the idea. It’s not even about buying the cheapest of something or spending a minimal amount of money. It’s about only buying–or doing–what adds value to yours or someone else’s life. Minimalism keeps me aware of what I’m buying and why I’m buying it; what I’m doing and why I’m doing it; who I’m spending my time with and why.

For me, minimalism has never been about deprivation. Rather, minimalism is about getting rid of life’s excess in favor of the essential.
― Joshua Fields Millburn, A Day in the Life of a Minimalist

New things are always fun, but will it still be fun and add value to your life once the newness wears off? It’s not wrong to buy that new dress, that new car, or even that ATV, just know why you’re buying it. If the reason for the purchase is because so-and-so has one or because you want to look good, there are deeper questions to ask yourself. Such as:

  • Why does it take a new dress (or whatever the purchase would be for you) to make you feel better about yourself? Maybe some time for self-reflection would be a better option.
  • A week from now, a month, or even a year, whatever length of time it takes for the newness to wear off, will the item still add value to your life or just become another useless item on the shelf?

By cutting out the things that don’t add value to your life, you’re making room for those things that do, whether it’s “things,” people, time, etc.

Minimalists don’t focus on having less, less, less. Rather, we focus on making room for more, more, more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth, more contribution, more contentment—and more freedom. It just so happens that clearing the clutter from life’s path helps us make that room.
― Joshua Fields Millburn, Minimalism: Essential Essays

One of the men from The Minimalists team packed up all of his things into boxes and for the next several months only unpacked those items he needed for that day. Only a small percentage of things were unpacked at the end of those months. Take some time to ponder what you really use–what things, friendships, activities, etc, you have/do that truly add to your life rather than take away from that which does add value. Take some time to explore minimalism and see what it looks like for you. I believe it looks different for everyone.

Minimalism

Fabulous Fall, Amazing Autumn

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ― Albert Camus

I’m back after a week off. Not “off,” really, but last week all of my spare time went into getting my manuscript, Shear Murder, book four in the Melanie Hogan mystery series, finished and off to the editor.

And now for this week’s post…

Whether you call it “Fall” or “Autumn,” the message is the same…

Beyond Beautiful!

When I first moved to Colorado from Minnesota 22 years ago, I’d heard so many exclaim about the beauty of the Golden Aspens of Colorado. I have to admit, I was sorely disappointed. The autumn colors in Minnesota (yellow, purple, red, fire orange, pink, browns that are beautiful, gold…you name it) are unlike anything else I’ve experienced.

However, I now see the beauty of the Golden Aspens and, yes, it takes my breath away. And there are other colors, as well. But I think the real beauty comes from the bluest skies I’ve ever seen and the majestic mountains along with the Golden Aspens. The beauty in Colorado has captivated and caught me in its grasp. Below are some photos of Colorado’s beauty. Enjoy!

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Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.
― Lauren DeStefano, Wither

Remembering 9-11

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The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom. —Rudy Giuliani

Go forth in Love.