Wrap up in a Piece of Art!

Hello, everyone! Continuing my series on women who are in business, entrepreneurs or just doing something cool, today I’m featuring Kansas City fiber artist Lauri Davidson. I had the privilege of working with Lauri for a short while, and I can tell you she creates fabulous pieces – I’m especially partial to her unique and colorful scarves.

First, tell us a little about your job/activity. What is your role/position?

I am an artist who creates with fabric and raw fibers like wool and silk. I tend to look for new ways to manipulate and create wearable works of art which I sell through a wonderful little art gallery called Eclectics Gift Gallery in Kansas City’s Waldo area. I became a member in January 2014. This is a co-op of 10-12 member artists who work together to run the shop. Each artist takes on a specific job to operate and maintain the shop and works in the shop several times a month. It’s the perfect opportunity to have time to create but also interact with customers and the other members about art.

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IMG_8989What’s a typical day look like? 

Well, every day is a new adventure lately. Generally, I get moving to purrs and meows from our little family of kitties who require some morning chores. Usually by mid morning, I get to my studio with my fuzzy helpers to create or research how to make an idea I have in my head. It’s all about taking the pictures from my head to reality.

On days I spend at Eclectics, I usually prepare the night before tagging products, or organizing projects that I might work on in the shop. At the shop, it is a combination of greeting customers and getting things done around the shop. It could be restocking, checking for holes in displays or just cleaning up.

What do you love about it? 

I love working with customers who love art. It doesn’t need to be my art, but they love art and appreciate the creative process. Next, I love the creating process although sometimes I get too many ideas, and I just have to make a list so that I don’t forgetter things I want to try. Last, I enjoy working with a group of creative talented women whose creativity is amazing and inspiring. 

Tell us about your journey. Did you always want to do this?

I taught high school English, yearbook, newspaper and video for 27 years at Raytown High School. I loved working with the kids to develop the creative ideas especially in the publication classes. When I retired in 2013, it was my turn to create. I grew up with a mother who was always creating and is an incredible quilter, so working with fabric and sewing came naturally. I joined the Kansas City Fiber Guild and participated in their yearly show Creative Hand. While working with the KC Fiber Guild, I discovered Eclectics.

What do you wish people knew about your business?

This business has endured so many changes and challenges since its inception in 1991, and it has continued to survive and offer Kansas City a place to find the most unique gifts and art. Next year, Eclectics will celebrate 30 years. It has allowed many artists a place to share their artwork.

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What do you bring to your field/job that you think is special?

I think I have a creative eye especially for color. I love playing with different tones and color combinations. Also, I love to take found items and redirect their purpose. I often upcycle fabric from thrift store clothing. At the store, I enjoy helping customers find that perfect gift solution or art piece that makes them smile.

What is your favorite book/movie/quote?

I always loved teaching Romeo and Juliet. For 27 years, I taught freshman English, and one of my favorite units was Romeo and Juliet. In his day, Shakespeare wrote for the masses and spoke to all the classes of society. The themes in Romeo and Juliet reached kids at all levels. At times, my struggling students would identify with the characters’ difficult situations. I loved watching a student light up because he/she/they suddenly “got” it and discovered they could relate to the character’s struggle.

Where can we find/follow you on social media?

https://www.eclecticskc.com

https://www.facebook.com/EclecticsGallery

Your website: https://www.milostoes.com

Thanks for sharing with us today, Lauri! If you have questions for Lauri, ask them here then be sure to check out her amazing wearable art on her social media sites. #supportsmallbusiness

As always, happy reading to all!

Darlene

Singing brings Joy

Hello, friends! Here’s another spotlight in my series on women who are in business, entrepreneurs, or doing something cool!

Today I’d like to introduce you to Kansas City singer/songwriter and all-around fabulous musician Joy Zimmerman! I’ve seen Joy perform numerous times, and it’s always uplifting, motivating and just plain fun! Her music is an extension of her generous and joyful spirit. Welcome, Joy!

First, tell us a little about your job/activity. What is your role/position?

I’m a touring (in usual times) Singer/songwriter and Creative Director at Joy Zimmerman Music. Although eclectic, most of my music falls into the Acoustic/Folk/Americana camp. I love playing solo or with other musicians, and it’s mighty fun telling stories with my original songs and favorite cover tunes

Joy Sinclair's

What’s a typical day look like?

Not surprisingly, there are no typical days. My activities include songwriting, booking and playing gigs, practicing, designing set lists, taking lessons, creating videos and social media content, writing blogs and newsletters, recording songs, marketing, attending webinars and music conferences, formulating workshops and retreats, volunteering, updating my website, creating “Cultivate Joy” merchandise, and filling orders.  

What do you love about it?

I absolutely love sharing the gift of music and community with audiences. It’s gratifying to hear that a song you’ve written is meaningful to others.

Some of Joy’s favorite lyrics:

Well, my friend, the chasm is o’er us

Echoes sing when quiet the night

Let us whisper of simple and hopeful

To carry us into time

Tell us about your journey. Did you always want to do this?

Beginning with lessons at age five, I played violin seriously through college but ultimately chose to pursue social work. While my sons were young, I reinvented myself by deciding to learn to play guitar, join my first band, take singing lessons, and try songwriting. All roads have led here.

What do you wish people knew about your business?

In addition to everything music, being a singer/songwriter means running a small business. 

Joy Zimmerman Live in Kansas City
Joy Zimmerman live CD recording at Carl Butler’s Gospel Lounge in Kansas City, MO

What do you bring to your field/job that you think is special?

Many of my social work skills translate well to performing and creating community. I have lots of life experiences to write about, and I’m curious and adventurous.  

What is your favorite book/movie/quote?

I love this quote: “Make connections; let rip; and dance where you can.” ~Annie Dillard

I love this current movie: “Enola Holmes”

I love this book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Where can we find/follow you on social media?

Let’s stay connected! You can find me on Facebook (Joy Zimmerman Music and a personal page) and on Instagram. I’m currently posting a weekly “What’s Up Wednesday” video series on Facebook, and I have a YouTube Channel. Follows and likes are always appreciated 🙂 

website: joyzimmermanmusic.com

Thanks for joining us today, Joy! Best wishes with your new release. Hope to see you on tour next year! Dear readers, if you haven’t already, I encourage you all to visit Joy’s website and tune in to Joy’s Facebook video series or have a listen on her YouTube. Come back here and let us know which tune gets stuck in your head! Have a question for Joy? Ask it here!

Happy listening and reading to all!

Darlene

 

 

Bringing talent to the table

Hello, everyone! Hope you are enjoying a nice fall! I’m starting a new blog feature today. In this series, I spotlight a woman in business or running an entrepreneurial enterprise, or doing something just plain cool! Today, please welcome my favorite travel agent, Janet McLaren!

Standing shot from Valerie

  1. Tell us a little about your job.

Hi Darlene! Thanks for the opportunity to talk about my travel business – there is so much a person can gain by experiencing the world that I just think everyone should get out there, and I’m thrilled to help them do it! So that’s what I do – take care of the practicalities of the getting there, the bookings, the experiences they want, the must-dos and don’t bothers, and all the little things that make a trip a success.

I’ve been doing it professionally for over 16 years, mostly as a franchisee with Cruise Planners, which I chose because it has the prestige of affiliation with American Express. I’ve traveled myself extensively throughout the Unites States, including Alaska and Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, and Canada. But the most thrilling trip of all, so far, has been a safari in Tanzania and Kenya!

  1. What does a typical day look like?

I start off with a bunch of coffee going through emails and news, then organizing what’s on my calendar and errands and such. Usually by the afternoon I’m in “research mode” on client projects, then it’s call-backs and follow-up, and answering emails again. It’s surprisingly exhausting, so I take several breaks, including one about 3:30 to feed a very hungry and persistent furry cat!

  1. What do you love about it?

Since I work from an office in my house the commute is very short, and I can drink coffee all day if I want, haha! I have great resources to work with, so I can almost always find just what a client wants and it’s very satisfying to put a plan together from beginning to end. Then when they come back from their trip and tell me what an amazing time they had it’s like frosting on the cake.

  1. Tell us about your journey. Did you always want to do this?

Before I bought my Cruise Planners franchise, I was a refugee from the restaurant business! My husband and I owned four fast-food places in small towns in Oklahoma, but he didn’t love it like I did, so after seven years we sold out. Then we moved to Dallas for the educational opportunities for our two sons (one graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas, and the other became a surgical technician after joining the Navy). Steve returned to sales in the food industry, which he had a more natural talent for and enjoyed.

I sold furniture for a while, which I also liked, but when the economic downtown slowed the furniture industry after 9-11, it wasn’t so lucrative to be working all those nights and weekends. Then a friend told me he knew someone managing a travel agency who needed a trainee, so I interviewed for that and got hired! I had planned most of our trips by myself so I knew I could do it for others; but I had also used travel agents for our more elaborate vacations and was aware of the value and expertise they could add.

But before I took the job, I tried out some do-it-yourself travel websites to see if there was still a viable market for travel agents. As I soon found myself befuddled and overwhelmed on the internet, I said to myself, “Oh yes, people will definitely be looking for help with this stuff!” We then went on a cruise, so I could be sure I had the “heart” for it (I book all kinds of travel but cruising is the major focus), and I absolutely loved it.

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  1. What do you bring to your field that you think is special?

Turns out I have many talents! The main goal is to match the right vacation/supplier/destination to the client’s wishes, and I am first of all very good at figuring that out and researching the best options. Next, I would say having a high tolerance for frustration and problem-solving; not because there are that many “problems,” but because each client is unique in their needs. Mostly it’s things like: cruise cabins tend to allow up to four people, but the family has three kids – how to best arrange accommodation for five. Or a tour they like is 12 days but they can only take 10 days off – how to customize the trip just for them. And then I’d say there is general knowledge of the best times to go places, how far out to book in order to get the best fares, and that sort of thing.

  1. What do you wish people knew about your business?

Great question – I would say, I wish they knew that I am not a “middleman.” There’s no upcharge for my services and payments go directly to the supplier, not to me. I’m paid by the supplier after the travel is completed. People have been sold on the idea that somehow “buying direct” would save them money, which I suppose could be true for home goods and such, but that’s just a marketing gimmick not applicable to travel. Travelers are better off with their own agent who can be their advocate and who can offer an assortment of options besides just the supplier’s – for example if you book a cruise direct, then their call-center clerks can only tell you about the products of their company.

  1. And just for fun: What is your favorite movie?

Haha, you’ll be (not) surprised to hear I love all movies that feature some kind of travel! Movies like A Room with a View, Roman Holiday, and The English Patient get me going every time.

Thanks for joining me today, Janet. I’d love to hear more about your adventures sometime! Hoping Covid-19 is a thing of the past soon and people can start to travel again. I’ve got so many places on my list!

Darlene

Find Janet at www.cruiseplanforyou.com

Have a travel question for Janet? Ask it here!

Catching the Color of Fall

For years, my husband and I have gone to the Pikes Peak region of Colorado for summer vacations. It’s a great place to escape hot, humid summers filled with mosquitoes and hazy days.

This year, with a little more time on our hands, we decided to make a trip out to see the aspens turn. I’m not a cold weather person, so this was only marginally appealing to me. But the forecast looked pretty good, so off we went. I’m so glad we did!

Yes, we had cool nights and had to run the heater in our little cabin, but the days were warm and sunny. We had beautiful, crisp blue skies and hardly saw even a wisp of a cloud in five days! The pop of orange and gold against a bright blue sky was stunning!

That said, I hope the region gets the rain it needs and can shut down the  wildfires that have taken a toll this year. Our area was a little dry and dusty, but the colors were spectacular, and we were able to walk, hike and dine outside every day. Enjoy a peek at the change of seasons in “Colorful Colorado!”

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Hope you are having a lovely fall and can take time to enjoy it. I know it’s unfortunately allergy season for some. Maybe you can curl up inside with a book and still enjoy a view!

Stay safe, friends! And happy reading to all!

Darlene

Coronavirus and the Next Meal

Greetings, friends! Hope you all are safe and well during this crazy, difficult time.

Here at my house in the days of Covid-19, it’s all about the next meal. I feel like I no sooner finish the cleanup from one and I’m to thinking about the next! What is it? When is it? What’s needed? How long to cook? How much prep? Is it thawed? Do we have all the ingredients? Is there anything in the fridge about to go bad? Didn’t we just make that?

And the biggest question: are we capable of doing this? I am not a cook. Before social distancing and the coronavirus occurred, my husband and I ate out almost every night. Exceptions were made for nasty weather or scheduling conflicts, but we are regulars at a lot of local eateries. And eating out accounted for a good chunk of our social life as well. I miss it so much!

What a difference a month can make. My 37-year-old crock pot and slightly newer dishwasher are getting a workout like never before. Both my kitchen freezer/fridge and the spare in the garage are at max capacity. That never happens unless we’re having a party! Sadly, that is not the case.

I’ve become a fan of meals that can cover two days, at least a dinner and next day’s lunch. Crock-pot turkey breasts are great. Easy tacos and soups. Lots of fresh veggies!

We’ve tried carryout a few times because we really want our favorite restaurants to make it through this difficult time. Unfortunately, it’s been kind of hit-and-miss and not all foods are ideal for take-out. For now, thanks to grocery stores and delivery peeps, we’re managing to feed ourselves. Though the repertoire is limited, we’re making it work!

How’s the cooking/eating going at your house?

Darlene

Let’s talk cookies (the sugar kind)!

Hey, friends, who’s looking for something fun to do on a shut-in Friday afternoon? Tomorrow I’m taking a little break from writing to host a group chat about making cookies! Specifically – making sugar cookies. If you’ve known me long or follow me on social media, you’ve probably seen a number of cookie posts. At 2 p.m. (central time) tomorrow, join me on my author page, and we can share tips and tricks on making and frosting these sweet treats! #socialdistancing
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I’m not a baking professional by any means, but I’ve been doing this a few years and people often ask me questions about my recipe, the process and my frosting techniques. Thought it might be a fun thing to do while we’re all hanging out at home! 🙂

Hope to “see” you there!

Darlene

A little spring cheer!

Well, March Madness didn’t happen, and neither did a spring break trip. For me, this time of year is normally heavy in the sports department. Often, we’re in California watching tennis at Indian Wells. At the same time, we’re frantically searching for a place  to watch the basketball games, KU Jayhawks in particular. We’re checking our brackets, enthusiastically circling our wins and sadly crossing through the teams that didn’t make it. Not this year. We’re doing our part to social distance, stay home, and get through the coronavirus crisis.

But, before everything went crazy, I did have the opportunity to make a quick dash to Dallas and enjoy a little splash of spring. The flowers are already blooming there! I can always count on a nice day and flowers to bring some cheer. Here’s a peek at some of the sights at the Dallas Arboretum. Enjoy!

Wishing you all a safe and healthy spring.

Darlene

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In Review: a Decade of New Direction

Wow! What a decade!

As I pondered a New Year’s post last night, it occurred to me that my entire career as a fiction writer has happened in this decade. My first novel, Unexpected Legacy, hit the market in January 2013. For me, the decade began in flux as I left a 21-year corporate position that, over the years, included a combination of writing and art direction.

It took a while, but I finally decided to try my hand at fiction and put on paper a few story ideas that had been bouncing around in my head for several years. I spent the first couple of years of the 2010s learning the craft of fiction writing, working with other aspiring authors, attending writing groups and conferences, and attempting to understand the publishing industry, which for the entire decade has been in a state of change. Have to say, it’s been a challenge to bull’s eye a moving target!

IMG_6646Happily, I’m ending the decade with seven published books, an essay in an anthology, a new romance in the queue with The Wild Rose Press publishing house, and works in progress that include a women’s fiction story, a general romance, and a Christmas romance.

Though the decade has had its challenging moments, I learned a lot about marketing and social media, and I met some fabulous people! Here’s a shout out to all the industry professionals, especially librarians and bookstore staff, who value and help promote local authors and reader events. Another shout out to the authors, both struggling and on the bestseller lists, who take time to make connections with other authors, to lend a hand (or a Facebook share) to help others succeed.

In 2020, I’m hoping to become a hybrid author – with books published both through the independent route and also the traditional track. I hope for time – time to write all the words and finish works in progress. And I hope for new opportunities and meaningful connections.

On a personal level, it was also a momentous decade. Both kids graduated from college – one also earning an advanced degree. Both are employed in their chosen fields and pretty much paying their own way in the world. They’re happy and healthy, and I feel I can take a mother’s proud bow for a job well done! 🙂

I’m imagining the next ten years will be some of the most exciting years yet – bringing perhaps weddings and grandchildren and more completed and published books! Goals, as usual, include spending quality time with family and friends, a little traveling, and reading more books.

Wishing all my friends, fans and followers peace, good health, and the happiest of new years!

Darlene

What are your hopes or goals as we head into the 2020s?

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Happy-Thanksgiving-2018Whether you call it counting your blessings or having an attitude of gratitude, it’s always good to take time out of our busy schedules to reflect on and give thanks for the good in our lives.

Whether you’re traveling, staying home, gathering with a large group or hunkering in with a good book and throw blanket, I hope this Thanksgiving gives you a cornucopia of good things to celebrate – friends, family, jobs, shelter, and anything else that enriches your life!

Best wishes for a lovely day!

Darlene

Fabulous Fall in the Finger Lakes

The good thing is we had nice weather and were able to be outside enjoying the vineyards, orchards and state parks. But the books I loaded on my Kindle? The contest entries I need to read and judge? Those works-in-progress waiting on my computer? Nah. Didn’t write or read a word!

Fall in central New York was just too pretty!

After checking the weather forecast almost every hour for a few days before we left (yes, it changed by the hour!), we expected some rain and chilly temps. Lucky for us, it… changed!

My husband and daughter and I visited a lot of great places where I could’ve spent all day on a bench with a book. What could be better than a book and a pretty perch on a sunny day with the sound of a waterfall in the background? Had I been alone, that most definitely would’ve happened. Instead, we hopped from one beautiful venue to another for four days. We walked leaf-carpeted paths, hiked alongside stunning waterfalls, and sampled the local cider and wines. And couldn’t stop taking pictures! The colors were amazing.

Hope you enjoy these select few.

 

Happy Fall to all!

Darlene