Friday, July 20, 2018

Shayla: "Our Furry Child"

I had to include a picture with today's blog, so that you would be able to appreciate this beautiful lady who is so much a part of our daily lives: our black labrador, Shayla.

We rescued her from a county shelter about eight years ago. She was three then. There has never been a time in our married life that we have not had at least two dogs in our family; at one time we had four! (That proved to be a bit much.) When we got Shayla, we had recently lost Rascal, a male Karelian Bear Dog who lived a full life for 17 years. We got him as a puppy, so it was the worst canine sadness of all for R.J. and me.

The other dog who shared Rascal's life was Molly Brown (a beagle/hound mix) and when Rascal died, she literally pined for him. He had been like a dad to her since the day we'd brought her home as a puppy from the pound. (We've always had rescue dogs.) Molly immediately accepted Shayla into the family, and I guess the feeling was mutual, because when Molly left this world, Shayla pined for her as well.

Thinking about a blog topic today, I passed our sleeping ball of fur in the living room, and decided that she need to be introduced to you all. She's almost 12 now, and the vet says she is very healthy for her age. We could have told him that. I sometimes think she is smarter than either of us, and, just for the record, she is also spoiled rotten. We have always spoiled our dogs with treats and lots of love, and they have all had long, healthy times here on earth.

Shayla is our only dog since Molly's passing. We talked about getting a friend for her again, but she seems to enjoy being our only canine, and we see no reason to upset that balance.

From the time I was born, dogs have been part of my life. My parents always had them, and R.J. and I got our first puppy in our first year of marriage. There are many stories about them all, and I think I'll feature different "furry children" in upcoming blogs. I've always believed that having them has added a unique richness to our home life. They've also constantly reminded me of the one-of-a-kind devotion they give to their human parents. That's a gift like no other.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Remembrance For A Friend

I've spent the better part of an hour trying to begin this post. All my words have been carefully thought about, but eventually deleted, because they all seemed to pale and wane when I read them.

I lost a special friend recently; a woman I cherished in my life for over twenty years. She was older than me, but I never thought of her that way. From the day we first met, there was a connection, enforced by mutual respect, and a love for life, that bonded us.

The struggle I'm having with writing about my sadness over this loss speaks to what a unique woman she was, and that's why just stringing together adoring adjectives fail miserably. She was a giving individual, both to her community, her family, and her friends. All commendable attributes, but many deserving people can be described that way.

She and her husband were welcomed into our home numerous times, as I was to hers, and we shared so many fun and rewarding moments together while we lived near each other. After I moved away, we would have regular visits by phone, keeping in touch with each other's lives, and commenting on a host of topics. 

I learned much from her. She was educated, worldly, and had a delightful sense of humor (and a laugh that never failed to make my day). I'd like to hope that a small part of what she taught me I have succeeded to emulate.

Our last visit in person was about a year ago, and a treasured memory. My husband and I were back in the town, where she still lived, for a book signing, and I loved being able to present her with my novel, which I lovingly inscribed to her. A few weeks later, she sent me a note praising my writing, and sharing specific ways in which the book had touched her. Her words were so beautifully crafted; I read that note over and over.

I've given you just a few of the many ways this woman influenced my life. I'm sure, if I'd expressed these to her during her lifetime, she would have deflected them. That was another reason I loved her; she was gracious and unassuming.

I guess the best thing to do is just to say, I was definitely lucky she chose to be my friend. And my tears will continue for some time, because I will miss her voice, her hugs, and her never-ending love of life.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Love Being A Wordsmith

My title today is sincere; there is nothing I enjoy more than weaving words in a way that keeps readers reading. I don't pretend to be the best at it, but since the definition of wordsmith, according to Webster, is "a person who works with words", I can honestly call myself one.

Last week, R.J. and I announced the title of our next Walt Disney World book: Imagination And Dreams Are Forever. It occurred to me, as I was deciding on a topic for this blog, that our followers might be curious about why we chose it.

It is a reference to a quote attributed to Walt Disney, and those two words, Imagination and Dreams are ones that relate to 1) what Walt wanted his theme park to be about, and 2) what our lives have been as a result of our inclusion into his World.

Looking up the two words in my most used text, Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus, I discovered those two words have many, many different meanings. That makes our title even more perfect, I think. Let me list a few of the varied definitions.

Imagination: creativity, vision, resourcefulness, originality, innovation, curiosity, passion, interest, fascination. (I also keep hearing the song Figment sings in The Journey To Imagination attraction at Epcot - I'm not certain I have the lyric totally correct, but it goes something like: "Imagination. A dream can be a dream come true; it all starts with me and you.")

Dream: fantasy, daze, aspiration, hope, aim, objective, intention, desire, wish, yearning, contemplate, create, romantic, ideal. (Another lyric enters my head - from Walt Disney's Cinderella: "A dream is a wish your heart makes.")

Our work-in-progress not only covers many of those descriptive synonyms; our life together has, and will always be filled with examples of them all. We don't plan to ever stop dreaming, or imagining, and we've adopted another line from a more recent song lyric - from the award-winning, film, La La Land: "Here's to the ones who dream, foolish though they may seem." That's us to a "T" - and we wouldn't want it any other way!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Fun Challenge - If You're Interested!

For those of our Disney followers who saw me, with my husband R.J., on his FB video log today, you already know about the "contest challenge" I'm going to address in my blog.

As I've mentioned in past months, R.J. and I are writing our third book on the early decades of Walt Disney World, and our work there.  We have chosen a title for the book: Imagination And Dreams Are Forever.  However, we need a sub-title to make it clear to readers what we're writing about. That's where the challenge for you comes in.

The sub-title has to encompass the following: 1) that this is about Walt Disney World in its first years, and 2) that we did work there then and these are our personal reflections. In addition, we will begin the book with a brief look at how Walt envisioned the property, and how it came to be following his untimely death. WDW was Walt's dream, his legacy, and for us it will always be "WALT Disney World".

So, that should give you enough info to spur your thinking, and submit your idea. Remember that this sub-title cannot be too long and wordy.

If you do want to give it a try, simply messenger your submission to R.J. on Facebook, on his site Randy Jack Ogren. You have until July 31st to submit.

The winner will be chosen by us and our publisher at Theme Park Press. You will receive a personally autographed copy of the book, and your efforts will be mentioned in either the introduction or the acknowledgements section.

We're looking forward to reading all the ideas, and selecting one that will truly compliment our title! 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Family First

I am not unique; everyone has priority issues to deal with every day - and most of those involve family.

This week, R.J. had successful cataract surgery, and is recovering nicely. However, this has required me to be his nurse, in a way, and spend lot of time taking care of his needs, and assisting him more than usual with work and household duties.

It is a temporary thing, and by next week at this time, I may go into further detail in my blog about just what is involved. For now, I need to focus on him, and the rest of my family responsibilities as well.

Thanks for your understanding, and I'll be back here next Friday.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Putting It Together

Combining all the elements involved to present live theatre to an audience is never easy, but always rewarding. Since mid-February, when my son Sean and I held auditions for "Much Ado About Nothing", a large portion of my time - especially evenings - has been focused on that goal.

When we formed this thespian endeavor a couple of years ago, we knew we wanted to bring to the stage new, edited versions of Shakespeare's works, to rival the notion that his plays are long and difficult to understand. For example, our script of this play is one hour and forty minutes, has no intermission, and we delight in watching the audience happily involved in the characters and plot. We have been successful in changing minds about the Bard, winning new audience members to classic theatre.

We've also been lucky to welcome many actors who are eager to be in Shakespeare plays, and love our unique way of presenting them.  Our budget is small, our space to perform is an open black box style theatre, and we design sets and costumes that offer the audiences imaginative backdrops for the story that unfolds.

As co-director with my son on this production, and three others prior, I have delighted in being his second. He and I each have individual strengths when it comes to knowing how to motivate and instruct. His creativity as well as his definitive knowledge of Shakespeare, coupled with his mantra to the cast and crew that "we're all here to play and enjoy" make for a happy atmosphere where everyone works at bringing their best.

Going from first rehearsal to opening night takes hours and hours of concentrated honing of ideas and technique, of changes and growth that eventually bring us to that first night before an audience. I can never say enough about the work our actors never cease to give us.

Presenting quality theatre is a collaborative effort, from auditions to final bows, and it is a passion that gives me never-ending joy.     

Friday, May 4, 2018

"Another Opening - Another Show"

No real blog today, because the production of "Much Ado About Nothing", (which I have co-driected with our son, Sean) is opening this evening.

I have spent the afternoon writing personal notes to all the cast and crew members of the show, and now I'm dealing with last-minute emergencies that always arrive on opening nights.

Next week, I'll tell you all just what details are involved in getting to a first night performance. Have a great weekend!

Friday, April 27, 2018

My Best Post About Birthdays - "A Special Birthday Cake"

We celebrate three birthdays in our family in the last week of April and the second week in May. Birthdays are always special for us, but even more so this year.

On April 24th, our son, Sean, turned 44; a unique birthday since he was born in April (the fourth month), on the 24th day, in the year 1974. He marked his celebration with a clever costume party. On April 30th, our middle grandson, Christopher, will celebrate his 21st birthday. Then, on May 12th, my beloved R.J. will once again be older than me by 7 months. That's a distinction I love reminding him of until I become the same age next January!

To help explain our family's reverence for birthdays, I wanted to refer you to a post I did nine years ago, on January 7, 2009. Sadly, however, I have realized that it doesn't appear in my list of past posts.
The next best thing, then, is to recreate it here. I'd love to receive your comments about it, including your own memories of birthday moments.

He climbed the dark stairwell slowly, his back and arms weary from a hard day's work, a day that marked his 26th birthday, but that fact did not enter his mind. He thought only of his new bride, waiting for him on the other side of the apartment door. She had greeted him every night these past two months since their wedding, with a smile and a hug, and always neatly groomed and dressed.

His key clicked in the lock, and her voice called to him, "I'm in the kitchen!" His coat and keys found their way to the living room chair as he closed the door, then followed her voice. He certainly didn't expect the scene he found before him.

On the tiny kitchen table was a birthday cake, candles lit, and his wife behind the table, beaming at him, as she exclaimed, "Happy Birthday honey!" He didn't move or speak for several long seconds. His wife's expression changed to one of puzzlement. "It's coconut - your favorite," she explained in a quiet tone. Her words elicited no response. He continued to stare at the cake. Did you forget it was your birthday?" she asked, walking over and giving him an extra long hug. His arms wrapped tightly around her, he pressed his face next to hers, and she was aware of his cold skin against her warm cheek. And then, she felt his tears. His body trembled as he confessed, "This is the first birthday cake I've ever had."

That is a true story I think of ever time a member of our family has a birthday. The man was my father who grew up in a most dysfunctional household. He told me often that he never knew familial love or affection until he married my mother.

He would tell the story about that birthday cake over and over to anyone who would listen. It never failed to make me cry. I believe that is why birthdays in our family, as long as I can remember, have always been marked with special dinners, gifts, congratulatory songs, hugs, cards, and always, always a cake.

Mine, this year was lemon with lemon icing - at my request. When I was growing up, my mom would always bake me a three-layer cake: pink, white and blue with white boiled icing (a confection rarely seen on cakes anymore). I remember my ninth birthday when my dad decorated my cake with a beautiful carousel he had made out of paper and cardboard.

My husband bakes my cakes for me now, and delights in decorating them with special sayings or pictures. He would take his decorating skills to new heights every year with our children's cakes, usually fashioned in the shape of a favorite Disney character. We have pictures of all of them, and our now grown children remember them with fondness. It's our grandsons who are the recipients of his special cakes now, the most recent being a purple dinosaur.

The year my mother passed away, I attempted to make my dad's favorite coconut cake on his first birthday without her. I cooked the icing, made the lemon pudding filling, and baked and frosted the cake with care. He was touched by my efforts, but we both knew it wasn't as good as hers. I made the attempt, though, and that's what counted.

Some people might think it's silly to make such a big deal about a sweet reminder that you're one year older. But, to me, it is also a reminder of how much we are loved in our family because, whenever I blow out my candles, I'm reminded of that story my dad used to tell about how much it meant to him to have that cake.



 

Friday, April 20, 2018

One of Those "Never A Dull Moment" Times

I will begin today's blog asking you to re-read my post of March 9th, titled "Never A Dull Moment". By doing so, you will understand why I've gone two weeks without a post, and the reasons that such a vacuum will happen from time to time.

R.J. and I were out of town last week, attending a family wedding. It was a break from our work that was welcomed, and we were so happy to be a part of this once in a lifetime moment for a truly special couple.

The week before had us involved with a plethora (love that word!) of things, which don't need to be detailed. Suffice it to say, we were happily working on quite a few creative projects. On a serious note, that was also the week that our son had outpatient surgery, so our focus was again on family. He is recovering nicely, I'm happy to say.

R.J. is doing a video log today, and, I think showing off his latest commission painting; one that is visible in black light as well as regular light. It's definitely one to view, AND he is doing it at his new time on Fridays - 5 p.m. Central Time. The change came about due to a survey he did with his current followers, asking what day and time worked best for them.

So, today's post is really just to let you know that I haven't ceased writing - and I do not anticipate any upcoming conflicts that will prevent my composing. Still deciding what I'll write about next week. Hope you'll check back to find out. Have a great week!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Another Look Back

If you read my post from last week, you already know that the new book R.J. and I are working on (which will be published late this year) focuses on relating Walt Disney's legacy and how it is reflected in Walt Disney World.

We are finalizing our chapters and an outline for our publisher, and for those who have read our earlier books about WDW, R.J. and I will alternate chapters, with new personal stories about our years working there, as we've done before.

In addition, we will begin each chapter with a quote by Walt that relates to the content of that particular chapter. That is an important part of this work because we think it will introduce the genius of the man.  Although his name is a household word, many people do not know about his visions, his love of nostalgia and his life.

Choosing a title for a book is always difficult, and more so when the book is still being written. In our minds, we know what we want to convey with the title, but for now, not even a working title has been agreed upon. I'll let you know when we have it. Keep in mind that our other "final titles" went through several changes before publication.

We're delighted that readers are asking for more of our remembrances about the past at Walt Disney World, and each week, I'll give you a small peek at our progress.

A program note: R.J. will not be doing a vlog today, as he is working to finish a painting that requires all his attention. Look for him next Friday.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Loving the Nostalgic

 The title of my post today refers to two things: my own reflective self, and a quote by a man I am still learning from - Walt Disney: "I love the nostalgic myself. I hope we never lose some of the things of the past."

I've been researching and gathering many Walt quotes for our new book, because the theme of that book, as with our first two, is recreating for our readers what Walt Disney World was like in it first few decades. Since my husband, R.J. and I are aware that many who are now followers of all things Disney were not even alive when Walt was, we've decided to begin each chapter with a quote by the man whose legacy still lives on.

I'll be sharing more about our in-progress writing next week, but, for now, I just wanted to explain how important we feel it is to not only learn from the present, but revere what came before us, and never lose sight of our sentimental remembrances. Walt never did, and we don't plan to, either.

Nostalgia, sentimentality, wistfulness are all words that express a longing to remember our past, and, by doing that and sharing our memories and stories, we have been buoyed by the responses of our readers who want to hear more. It is what spurs us to keep writing, knowing others want to experience those times with us.

We really can't imagine doing this newest book without making Walt the center of it all. Check back next week for a more complete description of our newest draft.


Friday, March 9, 2018

"Never A Dull Moment In This House"

Oops! Must apologize for missing two weeks of Friday blog posts - but I have good excuses.

Actually, I should use the title for this blog as my defense. There really is never a dull moment in this house, and no day is the same. Of course, R.J. is always working on paintings and keeping up with all his social media contacts and followers, and I am always at the computer or my desk with a wide range of regular tasks. And, we also have our writing projects.

However! We both have calendars, and a third is in the kitchen, to keep track of the myriad of commitments, family responsibilities, interviews, podcasts, theatre rehearsals, social dates, trip plans, etc., etc., etc. The list is endless.

It is the life we thrive on, and would definitely not want to change, but it does mean there will also always be glitches, last-minute surprises and "too much to do in one day" happenings! The best part about all this chaos is that we are constantly challenged, both mentally and physically, and that keeps us young and involved, no matter how "mature" we get. We recommend it to anyone with a creative bent, who is not interested in ever being rich - because that is never guaranteed when you are "self-employed".

In the past two weeks, we had a trip into Chicago that made me miss my blog time, and an unexpected family situation that took precedence over writing. Let me just say, I wasn't idle. I just had to rework my priorities, and there weren't enough hours.

So, if you look for a future entry here and see only the previous week's post, trust that I am attending to an equally important something, and I will be back. It's not my plan to miss my weekly session, but I'm certain there will be unavoidable weeks when it just might happen.



Friday, February 16, 2018

Spur Your Creativity By Not Working

If you read my blog last week, which was a bit "involved", (but I hope it gave you some great ideas for your own creative pursuits), this week's - not at all "involved" - should help even more.

I find that so many people today get totally caught up in their working lives, and claim they have no time to pursue social interaction of any kind. Personally, I cannot imagine wanting to work all the time.

Looking forward to having a friend or two over for the evening, going to a movie or a play, travelling to both new places and familiar ones, or even just spending time with my best friend, R.J.; these are just some of the ways I choose to buoy my spirits, and give me renewed ambition.

It's a proven fact that allowing yourself down time makes for a healthier, longer life, but that isn't the main reason I make sure that those times are just as important to me as my working hours. I know that, without them, my creativity would suffer.

To be truly creative, you have to open yourselves up to discovering new things, sustaining friendships and family connections, reading books that challenge you, give you new insight and understanding, or simply feed your imagination or your dreams.

No complicated plot here: to be good at creating, you just have to relax enough to re-energize. I know it will result in your being much better in your work. Simple, fun, and makes me always look forward to each day because there's going to definitely be some personal, fun time that's a part of it.

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Fun Way We Achieve Creativity - And Productivity As Well

I am often asked what "secrets" my husband and I have to being creative, and productive. A quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson appears on the bottom of all my emails: "Success is living life on your own terms." Now that saying always gives me focus, but I'm never sure if it resonates or speaks to everyone on the question of how we get things accomplished.

That said, I saw an interview with James Clear the other day on CBS This Morning that R.J. and I both identified with.  I realized he gave a perfect description of just what we continue to do in our creative lives. Clear has just written a book titled "The Physics of Productivity" - now that's quite a scientific title, but stay with me. This is actually a fun - as well as useful - concept.

He explains that most people set a goal for themselves that, by its nature, can become overwhelming to achieve. He advocates starting with "two minutes" of investment toward that goal. For example, if you want to take a run each day, just focus on tying your running shoes. Just start. That will set you off on your run because small wins make you want to keep going or, as Clear puts it; tiny habits lead to productivity.

While mastering this idea, you must remember that habits matter. Habits, he says, help you embody what you want to be. By reducing the amount of time you spend doing mindless things, you increase your productivity. Small wins make you want to continue. Just do something! He claims that if you reduce your unproductive habits by 1%, you will be 37% more productive in a year.

I'll give you some examples of how I've changed work habits, and seen the results he talks about. I make lists each week of the things I need to accomplish. Each day, I choose 2 or 3 and begin to take small advances to eventually accomplish them by the end of the week. I'm able to focus more because I've changed habits that resulted in frustration at not "getting things done".

One of the most important habits I curbed was waiting until 9 a.m. to turn on my mobile phone, and I  turn it off at 5 p.m.  Family members and close friends know to reach us by our landline phone outside of business hours. In addition, I do not check emails, except at the beginning and end of the standard work day. I learned that I can still function if I do this, and my productive and creative sides  concentrate more on the goals I'm determined to achieve.

These are just two of many ways R.J. and I have updated our "mindless habits", and I can assure you  it definitely makes it easier for us to be what we want to be, and with a much more positive outlook. Author James Clear calls it "mico-progress". I encourage you to check out his online newletter (he has over 400,000 subscribers), or search "CBS This Morning James Clear interview" to listen to his workable ideas.

For next week's blog, I'm going to talk about how the "social side" of our lives enriches our creativity as well. 

   

Friday, February 2, 2018

Sharing Our Stories in a New Way - We Hope

Dedicated readers of this blog (thank you!), and followers of R.J. on Facebook, especially his videos each Friday afternoon, are all people whose interest, enthusiasm and opinions about our creative endeavors are much appreciated.

We both experienced happy evidence of those loyalties this past Sunday at the Santini Library in Aurora, Illinois. It was a scheduled presentation, with the two of us sharing our career memories of Walt Disney World's early years, coupled with projected images of same.

The library set up a fantastic venue for us in their 3-story glass atrium, and provided ample screens, mics and seating (as well as having done wonderful publicity for the event). We had twice as many people as were expected - that was gratifying - and all were attentive and engaged.

Our favorite part of the afternoon occurred after our presentation when we got to meet, talk to, pose for pictures with, and autograph our books for so many of our followers and guests, who ranged in age from pre-teens to the seasoned mature. It's nice to have a chance to hear about their experiences and memories of Disney encounters.

Such gatherings require a good deal of planning and preparation, and we have to do the "legwork" to interest venues in these types of events. This library was welcoming, and went above and beyond to make sure all went perfectly; that is not always the case.

So, R.J. and I have been thinking about an alternative, and more intimate, way to spend time with Disney fans and devoted followers. We would like hosts to provide their private homes as venues, inviting a small number of people, who would pay a nominal amount for an evening with us presenting our 45-minute words with pictures, and then enjoying social time with the guests, which could include a meal or drinks and snacks, whatever the host would like to do.

These gatherings would have to be within a few hours of our Chicago area home, and we would only do a few each year. All of this is still in the planning stages, of course, but we are excited about this idea, and will keep you updated. If you have any ideas of your own, or would like to consider hosting one of this events, please send me an email at srogren@gmail.com or leave a comment on this blog site.

2018 will not only see us publish (in the fall) another WDW book, but we hope it will launch a fun way for us to meet, greet and enjoy spending time with Disneyphiles!


Friday, January 26, 2018

Blatant Self-Promotion Today

For those of you who saw R.J.'s Facebook vlog last Friday, you know that I was on it with him, and that's why I didn't do a blog. The Friday before that, R.J. explained that we were busy setting up a display at the local library, advertising our upcoming live presentation this coming Sunday - so neither of us posted on social media and no blog from me. But, I'm back!

The live presentation at the Santini Library in Aurora, IL, is taking place on January 28th from 1:30 to 3 p.m.  RJ and I will talk about our careers at Walt Disney World, in conjunction with photos projected on a big screen. We've done these types of appearances several times, and really enjoy them. We answer questions from the audience after the presentation, and then personally sign any of our books that guests purchase. Great fun!

In today's publishing world, it is definitely incumbent on authors to constantly use any viable method possible to promote their work. Indie publishers often don't have the staff or the budget for such things, and, besides, readers like to hear from the writers themselves. We are happy to oblige.

If you're in the area this weekend, please come join us. It's free, and the venue is beautiful - even the mid-winter weather is cooperating, with sunny skies.

Thanks for enduring this shameless "ad", and come back next week for something of substance.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Back To Work - With Time Off for Renewal

My husband and I reveled in the non-working days we spent between Christmas and New Years. Even though we did have some much needed time off the first week of December, we had come back to face a stressful two weeks of work and obligations.

We love what we do, but even so, we have learned that it's really crucial to reward ourselves with renewal time on a regular basis. Whether that means taking a trip, as we did a month ago, or just spending a week with no agenda, no commitments (other than a relaxing evening with a friend or two), and just enjoying doing fun things together.

This past Tuesday, we returned to our respective work spaces; R.J. to his sunlit studio, his easel and laptop, and me to my cozy little study upstairs, surrounded by so many visual reminders of friends and family, my accomplishments, and my goals - all of it never fails to rekindle my positive spirit, and make me smile. Being self-employed requires one to be self-motivated as well, and being in my study always achieves that.

So, even though we have a full agenda for 2018, R.J. and I have a strong resolve to "give ourselves a break" on a regular timetable. That can mean not working weekends, for example, but it can be as simple as spending a day together doing something just for us.

Tomorrow will be one of those days: it is my birthday, and I can't think of a better time to be with my best friend - my husband.  My suggestions for the day are not scheduled; we'll just enjoy being together, wherever we happen to be.

I guess what I'm try to say is that I highly recommend giving yourself permission to "escape". Whether that involves a planned trip, a relaxing way to celebrate, or just a spur of the moment thing, you won't regret it - and I guarantee you'll be better for it - truly.