Life Coaching

Living Her Passion – Hannah Olson Nodskov

 Hannah Olson Nodskov

Hannah Olson Nodskov

Hannah Olson Nodskov has been passionate about fashion and entrepreneurship ever since she was a little girl who loved sketching outfits, drawing realistic figures, and creating a small flip-flop business with her mother. But it wasn’t until she was a junior in high school that Hannah decided to stop complaining about a lack of trendy clothes that fit her curvy body and taught herself to sew using Pinterest, YouTube, and Google. It wasn’t long before she was designing outfits that caught the attention of other plus-size teenagers and women.

Boosted by encouragement from friends and family, she debuted Hannah Caroline Couture a year later with a self-produced show in her high school auditorium. After twenty-five friends modeled outfits and other friends stepped in to DJ, emcee, and photograph the event, orders for her custom garments began pouring in. As her interest in business and fashion led her to pursue a business degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Hannah began to feel the love from Omaha’s vibrant, helpful startup community. In 2014, Hannah won a business plan competition at her college that she says pushed her out of her comfort zone to create a unique business plan, present it to a large audience, and then manage the subsequent press coverage.

After attending Full Figured Fashion Week in 2015 where she showcased her designs in the same runway show as such mega brands as Lane Bryant, the door opened for Hannah to transform her hobby business into a sustainable business that grew from a few local orders throughout the year to multiple orders per month from women nationwide as well as in other countries.

 Hannah on the runway with one of her models at Full Figured Fashion Week, 2018

Hannah on the runway with one of her models at Full Figured Fashion Week, 2018

Although she currently designs for women of all sizes, Hannah especially focuses her designs and ready-made collections for plus-size women using a larger standard production size than the industry uses. She is passionate about serving a niche of women who struggle with shopping for fashionable clothes that fit well, are comfortable, and take into consideration factors like bigger arms, large busts, nonstandard hourglass shapes, and differently proportioned shapes. “I believe my ability to understand these factors is crucial to the success of my business,” Hannah adds. She draws inspiration for her designs from architecture, interesting juxtapositions, and most often, the fabrics and materials themselves. Her business role model is Christian Siriano, one of the most successful winners of the television show, Project Runway and a vocal supporter of and designer for plus-size women.

Since inception, Hannah Caroline Couture has matured into offering what brings her the most joy: designing evening and bridal wear for the plus-size woman. During the day, Hannah works full-time in her dream role as Marketing Manager at a local sports technology startup, ScoreVision. At night and on weekends, she sews orders, plans social media posts, manages business finances, orders materials, and packs and ships orders to her loyal clientele.

Hannah says her favorite part about owning a business is the opportunity to make a difference in her customers’ lives and the opportunities that have opened up to her because of her business that include learning new skills and traveling to exciting places. Her challenges include balancing her perfectionism tendencies with personal relationships, a social life, and a solid self-care routine. Hannah states that the best piece of advice she ever received is to continuously gather feedback and never stop doing so. “Every time I want to expand or pivot my business, I make sure to ask for feedback from my target market(s) before investing time and resources in the idea,” she adds. “Paying customers guide businesses down the paths they’re supposed to follow.”

Being an entrepreneur has allowed Hannah to gain confidence in herself and her purpose. She advises other entrepreneurs to work on finding the balance between passion, ideas, and solving the problems of a target market. Hannah states, “Passion for something is great, but when things get tough, it isn’t always enough. Having a sustainable market is the best way to enable yourself to continue pursuing your passion.”

Renowned fashion photographer Bill Cunningham once said, “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” Every time Hannah Olson Nodskov sits in front of her sketch pad or sewing machine, she focuses on bringing light, hope, and love through creative designs that help her customers remember that we are all beautiful, no matter what our size or shape.

For more about Hannah Caroline Couture, visit https://hccdesign.co/.

Living Her Passion – Chelsey Erpelding

 Chelsey Erpelding in her garden.

Chelsey Erpelding in her garden.

Chelsey Erpelding was a busy mother of two little ones, Edith and Bette, when she first began receiving Reiki, a Japanese technique that uses touch to activate the natural healing processes of the body and restore physical and emotional well-being. From that point on, Chelsey, who had become frustrated with the lack of support for mothers post-birth, was hooked on the nourishing effects of Reiki. Six months later, she began training to become a Reiki Master. It wasn’t long before her passion for healing, gardening, and creating natural products led her to open an online shop, Other Magic, LLC.

Chelsey, who holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in public health, always yearned to own a business. But it wasn’t until her path led her to healing work that Chelsey discovered her true passion. After her love of vegetable gardening inspired her to grow more herbs and medicinal plants and contemplate how she could incorporate them into her healing work, Chelsey’s backyard transformed into an organic oasis for roses, mint, lemon balm, yarrow, bee balm, valerian, lavender, sage, thyme, red raspberries, blueberries, goldenrod, anise hyssop, chamomile, and other flowers and vegetables.

In 2017, she began researching how to infuse her garden plants in oils. Soon she was creating nontoxic products to sell through Other Magic, LLC, that include Rose Oil made with yarrow, rose petals, and rosehips; Face Magic Oil made with chamomile, rose hips, and hibiscus that are all high in Vitamin C and great for skin; Magic Salve created with yarrow and plantain that is tailored to help heal deep dryness, burns, scrapes, and bites; and Lemon Balm made to use as a protective coating for hands and lips. Today she is studying herbalism and is excited to grow new plants and create more natural products to sell in her online shop.

Chelsey’s favorite part of owning a business is that she is doing what she loves. When she is not fulfilling the duties of motherhood or performing Reiki for her loyal clientele, Chelsey is busy harvesting her garden and developing products in her kitchen. She says, “Some products can take weeks to prepare, so some days I am creating and other days I am bottling or shipping.” By pursuing her passion, Chelsey claims she has gained a sense of calm about her life. She adds, “I spent most of my twenties trying to find my purpose. I can now happily say that I am finally doing what I feel I am meant to do. I also know now that finding purpose doesn’t always look like a nine-to-five job. Finding purpose means digging into the things you love.”

Supported by her husband Brent, her family, and an incredible group of female friends who are always cheering her on, Chelsey encourages others to find the courage to put themselves out there and pursue their passion, even if it causes them to feel vulnerable. “Sometimes it takes a while to connect all of the dots when thinking about a passion,” she says, “but stick with it. Spend time with people who inspire you, do the things you love as often as you can, and keep your mind open to creative solutions.”

Vincent Norman Peale once said, “The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.” When Chelsey Erpelding uses her hands to heal through touch or to plant medicinal herbs in her garden that will eventually be turned into natural products, there is no question she is investing in something much bigger than herself: helping others find happiness and inner-peace through healing.

For more about Chelsey and her products, visit her at https://www.othermagic.org/.

Learn to Let Go and Live Minimally

Photo credit: Christopher_Flynn

George Carlin, the now deceased comedian known for his sarcastic wit, once said, “A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.” It’s true. Whether we want to admit it or not, many of us have accumulated enough stuff throughout our lifetime to fill a house. Then when we think we have too much stuff, we don’t declutter, but instead buy a bigger house so we have more room for all our stuff!

Having a lot of stuff weighs us down. When we spend money on things we want, but don’t really need, we need to take a step back and evaluate why we are buying each item. If we are really honest with ourselves, are we buying a new dress or couch or phone because we’re lonely? Bored? Stressed? Trying to keep up with everyone else around us? Although this way of thinking forces us to look inward every time we reach for our credit or debit card, it is an excellent exercise that helps curb spending and forces us to focus on what we really need in our lives. If you’re always spending money on material items you don’t really need, how will you afford to travel to places you’ve always wanted to see?

If you feel weighed down by clutter, it’s never too late to begin removing it from your life. It’s easiest to break the project down into small pieces and accept that it will take you more than a day to complete. Think in terms of rooms instead of an entire house or apartment. Start with your bathroom. What can you remove from your medicine cabinet? For information on safely discarding medications, visit https://www.fda.gov. Do you have old shampoo bottles under your sink? Expired makeup or lotions? Toss anything older than six months old. Do you really need 20 bottles of nail polish or five different brands of hair gel?

Next, move to your bedroom closet. While going through items one-by-one, determine if you have worn the item in the last year. If you haven’t, toss it in a bin to take to a thrift store. If you have been holding onto your old concert t-shirts, evaluate if you wear them at least once every two weeks. If not, then either have a quilt made from them or take a photo of each one and create a wall collage. Recycle old hangars. Give away all shoes that are too painful to wear. And from this point on, pledge that for every new item you buy and place in your closet, you give another one away.

When decluttering your kitchen, start with your spices first. Check expiration dates and toss any that are past their prime. Look at all your small gadgets and appliances. Do you need five spatulas or just two? Do you use your immersion blender every week or just once every two years? Toss any dishes that are chipped or cracked and nonstick pots and pans that are scratched. Move to your pantry and refrigerator and toss any expired food items or leftovers in your freezer that have been there since cell phones were invented. Tackle your junk drawer and discard all of those refrigerator magnets you've been saving, old pencils and pens, and receipts.

Once you have decluttered your entire space, sit back and enjoy the feeling that comes with removing items that have been weighing you down. Then vow to take another pass at all your material items again in three months. You’ll be surprised at how much more you’ll toss again.

When we focus on making memories instead of accumulating stuff, we are happier, less stressed, and able to look forward into a future that does not overwhelm us but instead frees us to live in the moment and embrace the happiness that comes with living more minimally.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

How to Write a Happy Story Every Day

It can be a seemingly daunting request to write a happy story in just four words. But a recent Twitter hashtag prompted many around the world to take a stab at it. What resulted was an inspiring list of posts that included:

Had courage to change.

Passionately living my dream.

Love makes a family.

No one’s truly alone.

Sometimes even a creative hashtag can become a gentle reminder of how we should be mindfully living on a daily basis. When the sun rises each morning, we all face an important choice whether to write a happy story or a negative one.

Contemplating how to write our own happy story forces us to look inward and find gratitude for love, kindness, or friendship—not things—and also to embrace awareness for our purpose in life. Asking introspective questions of ourselves is a wonderful way to grow personally while making a positive contribution to the world.

Tomorrow, before your feet hit the floor, close your eyes and think about how you want your story to be written. Tap into your emotions and then recognize all you are feeling. Then think about how you want to conduct yourself despite your challenges. How do you want people to remember their interactions with you? What do you want to accomplish that will make you happy?

Keep a journal next to your bed. After you have identified your story for the day, write it down. Some examples might be:

Today I am going to:

Make a positive difference in someone’s life.

Show confidence in all I do.

Treat myself like I would a friend.

Practice positive self-talk.

Believe in myself and my abilities.

Take one step toward making my dreams come true.

Tell my children I love them no matter what.

Remember, you are the only one who can tell your story. Although you may not have the power over unforeseen events or hurdles that may occur along the way, you do have the power over your attitude and how you choose to impact those around you.

Writing your own happy story every day allows you to live in the moment and create the life you deserve. With every sunrise comes a new beginning. Get busy writing.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

Living Her Passion - Jean Thares

 Jean Thares, Owner Mainstream Boutique of Northfield

Jean Thares, Owner Mainstream Boutique of Northfield

As a busy Minneapolis mother and wife, Jean Thares always enjoyed her career outside the home that allowed her the flexibility to be there for her family. Still, she recognized the nagging feeling inside that she needed more. After raising her son and daughter, Jean stood at a crossroads, uncertain of where to go next. With help from her husband, she began brainstorming.

A self-professed lover of clothes and unique pieces, Jean had been a long-time loyal customer of Mainstream Boutique, a Minnesota-based women's clothing retailer built to empower, strengthen, and celebrate women through fashion. While researching franchise opportunities, Jean completed several assessments to discover what would make her happy. After each assessment pointed to working with women, Jean decided to take the plunge and open her own Mainstream Boutique.

Jean confesses she was afraid to own a business. “It was definitely easier to keep working for someone else.” While coming to grips with the fact that many new businesses fail, Jean says that weighing the pros and cons became an extremely important part of her research and decision to start a business. She adds, “It’s easy to be inspired by the stories of successful businesses instead of failed businesses. But studying failures is an essential part of the analysis before investing in a business.”

Once Jean made the decision, her opening came together quickly. Four months from the time she decided on the location, signed the franchise and leasing agreements, and hired a contractor to perform the build-out, Jean opened her boutique. Supported by her family and friends as well as other franchise owners, Jean soon realized how much she loved meeting people and helping her clientele find their own unique style and feel good about themselves.

Just like any business, there are challenges that come with the joys. Jean says that hiring and keeping excellent staff is her greatest challenge. “It takes the right person to help a woman find what she looks good in,” she adds. “I have had to adjust my schedule to work nearly every Saturday so I can be there for my customers. Being a present owner, rather than an absent owner, does make a difference to your business, sales, customers, and employees.”

Jean loves the variety that comes with owning a boutique for over two years now. She switches gears a lot between answering emails, posting on social media, working with vendors, directing employees, helping customers, paying bills, and attending networking functions. It is clear she has gained much since opening the boutique. “I’ve grown as a person and have met so many fabulous women. I also have a better understanding and appreciation for challenges in women’s lives.” Although Jean is careful not to focus on the success of the business all the time, she does feel a sense of accomplishment and pride when she looks back and sees how far she’s come as a business owner.

 Mainstream Boutique of Northfield

Mainstream Boutique of Northfield

Her advice for someone who wants to open a business is sound. “Research and try to work in the business before signing any agreements. Decide what you are willing and able to sacrifice in your personal life. Find a good bookkeeper. Partner with people who know how to do things you don’t know how to do.”

Mark Twain once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” There is no question that Jean Thares is a sailor at heart who waited for the right wind to carry her to achieving her dream. And every day when she walks into her boutique, she inspires other women to do the same.

For more about Mainstream Boutique of Northfield, visit: https://www.facebook.com/mainstreamboutiquenorthfield/

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

Five Ways to Work through Life’s Challenges

 Photo by Koushik Chowdavarapu

Photo by Koushik Chowdavarapu

Life has a way of throwing challenges our way when we least expect them. One day we’re motoring along on our journey through life without major bumps in the road. But then when we least expect it, life throws a curve in the road that sends us in a direction we never anticipated. Oftentimes, an unexpected turn of events causes us to wonder if we are expected to overcome obstacle alone.

Navigating through challenges is like driving in a snowstorm. Even though you are a cautious driver, your car suddenly hits a patch of ice and, in just a few seconds, lands in a ditch. As you assess the situation, you realize you are the only car on the road. Suddenly you begin to panic. You have two choices: to attempt to shovel yourself out or to call for help. It’s hard to know what to do.

Unfortunately we will all face our own snowstorm at one point or another in life—and the same two choices. So, how do we know when to shovel ourselves out of a situation or ask for help? Here are five ways to work through a challenge and determine whether you need help from an expert:

1.      Assess the situation objectively. If your car is stuck in a ditch during a snowstorm, you’re going to get out and look at how bad it is, right? Then you’re going to determine if you can shovel your way out or if you need a tow truck. When assessing the situation, view the challenge as a stranger would. What is the worst possible outcome? Can I solve this challenge on my own and remain safe? What are the ways I can solve this challenge?

2.      Try a few solutions on your own first. Stay calm and go into problem solving mode. Mentally go over solutions or list them out on paper. Work through the problem one step at a time, just like a math student would. Select one of the options and try it. If it doesn’t work, try another. If your problem is not solved within a comfortable timeframe, then it is time to try another option.

3.      Be open. When seeking help from an outside source, you must first be honest with yourself and then with them. By showing your true self and communicating candidly, you are allowing the person who is trying to help see the entire picture, not just the movie trailer. Be open to ideas and solutions. Be willing to walk down a new path to find the answers.

4.      Learn from the challenge. What is your positive takeaway from this challenge? Could you have prevented it from happening? If so, how? If the challenge was unpreventable, determine one lesson you can extract from the experience that will help you become a better person. Remember, in every experience—good or bad—there is something to learn.

5.      Look forward, not back. It is easy to continually reflect on our most challenging moments, especially when they were negative. But when we are always looking back, it doesn’t allow us to see the beauty in front of us. Chalk up your challenge to a valuable life lesson and, as quickly as you can, do your best to move on.

Working through life’s challenges can be … well … challenging. Following these five steps will help guide you out of the snowstorm and to embracing the message behind the challenge, realizing a newfound resilience, and finding your way back to the road that leads to achieving all your goals.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

Three Ways to Become a Better Listener

Be-a-Better-Listener

At some point or another in life, we all want to be heard. When someone really listens to us, we feel appreciated, loved, and inspired. Unfortunately, there are times when we have all felt like no one hears us when we are speaking. In today’s world filled with distractions, it is becoming increasingly challenging to capture someone’s attention for longer than thirty seconds. The good news is that it is possible to become a better listener by following three easy steps.

1.      Put away all distractions and don’t interrupt. No matter how tempting it is, it is important to remember how you feel when you are interrupted while speaking, whether with words or a ringing cell phone. Does it make you want to shut down? Stop talking? Give up expressing your feelings? By putting yourself in the speaker’s shoes, you will remember how valued you feel when someone really listens to you. Actively listening does not mean you have to agree with the speaker. It simply means you are showing respect for a fellow human being and their freedom to voice their views and feelings. Silence your cell phone and stash it in your pocket or purse until the conversation has concluded.

2.      Make eye contact, smile, nod, and take notes if necessary. Show you are interested. If you feel your mind begin to wander, slowly bring yourself back to the present. Keeping eye contact shows the speaker you are focused and interested. Smiling and nodding are also two indicators that you are engaged in the conversation. If you need extra help in paying attention, take notes. Write down highlights of the conversation and then circle key points. Studies have shown that taking notes by hand improves learning and retention. More importantly, it demonstrates to the speaker that you are attentive and care about what they are saying. Finally, try not plan what you will say when they are done speaking.

3.      Repeat what the speaker is saying. Once the speaker has finished, it is okay to ask for clarification to ensure you’ve understood. You might say, “I want to make sure I’ve heard you correctly. You want me to know that …” Leave yourself open to correction as we often hear what we want to hear, not what is actually being said. This technique also leaves the speaker open to hearing what they’ve said and to emphasize a point or rectify an assumption.

Listening is one of the kindest things you can do for another person. By putting ourselves in the speaker’s shoes, we can embrace the skill of really listening—not just to the words, but to the power behind the words. After all, as the wise already know, great leaders always listen more than they talk.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

Living His Passion – Evan Ludes

 Evan Ludes while on a storm chase near Red Cloud, Nebraska (July 2015).

Evan Ludes while on a storm chase near Red Cloud, Nebraska (July 2015).

Evan Ludes has always had a keen interest in the weather as far back as he can remember. While a little boy growing up in the heartland, Evan clearly remembers once scrambling to his family’s basement during a tornado warning and later emerging to see an incredibly vibrant rainbow. His connection with the camera began soon after he began capturing photos of various subjects around the house with his mother’s cell phone. But when his parents gifted him with a point-and-shoot camera for his birthday, the sky quickly became his favorite subject. Driven to capture the sky’s incredibly diverse palette of colors and textures, it was not long before young Evan began sharing his photos online and drawing an appreciative audience.

Although he was largely self-taught, Evan also drew inspiration from others photographers like Blair, Nebraska-based, Mike Hollingshead, who is undeniably one of the best weather photographers in the world. But it was not until fellow photographer, Chris Allington, invited Evan along (with his parents’ approval) on a storm chasing adventure that his interest in weather photography was escalated to a new level. His first chase was a high risk event in Oklahoma that quickly became a crash course in what to observe when chasing and photographing weather and thunderstorms. As his life’s journey led him from high school to attend college with a major in graphic design, Evan continued to pursue his passion of capturing one exciting weather event after the other.

Evan says his favorite part about weather photography is the challenge of finding the ideal location to take the best photos and videos. He says, “There are few things more satisfying than blasting towards a storm, setting up in front of it, documenting its most beautiful stages, and re-positioning ahead of it before it overtakes you.” Still, he emphasizes, weather photography and videography requires him to maintain situational awareness to avoid the risk of putting himself in harm’s way. He adds, “You always have to have an escape option to avoid the storm if something changes or goes wrong.”

His two most exciting shoots occurred first in July 2010 in South Dakota as he and a storm chasing crew headed west in an SUV with a glass sunroof for what looked like storm with a typical moderate risk for large hail and a marginal risk of tornados. But as Evan already knows, Mother Nature loves surprising humanity. What Evan and the rest ended up witnessing was the storm structure of a supercell that produced the largest hailstone on record near Vivian, South Dakota—nearly the size of a bowling ball. The second shoot occurred in Mapleton, Iowa, during a tornado outbreak in April 2011. Evan states, “The chase was significantly different than most as it occurred mainly after dark. I’ll never forget standing several miles south of a tornadic supercell, hearing nothing but crickets and grass blowing as lightning illuminated the silhouette of several tornados in the distance.”

 Evan's photograph of the world-record hailstorm in Vivian, South Dakota (July 2010).

Evan's photograph of the world-record hailstorm in Vivian, South Dakota (July 2010).

Evan’s hard work and talents have not gone unrecognized. To date, his work has appeared on most major networks and shows including ABC’s Good Morning America, the CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, NBC’s The Today Show, The Weather Channel, Weather Nation, and several local news stations. His first television debut was when he was just sixteen and interviewed by The Weather Channel’s Carl Parker about his photography. His work has also been featured on a handful of book covers, albums, and most recently, on the cover of Robert Oldshue’s November Storm.

In pursuing his passions of storm chasing and weather photography, Evan has gained a great sense of humility. He says, “There’s nothing that makes you feel smaller than watching the stars above a departing thunderstorm, and there’s no better reality-check than a lightning bolt crashing less than a hundred yards away from you.”

He advises anyone wishing to pursue their own passion in life to seek out others who share that same passion and grow together. Evan adds, “Find someone who motivates you to push the envelope.” He says that if it hadn’t been for other photographers like Chris and Mike, he may never have chased storms, traveled, eventually moved to Rapid City, South Dakota, or met his wife through an online photography forum.

Dorothea Lange once said, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” Every time Evan Ludes chases and ultimately captures an exciting weather event, he inspires all of us to take a moment out of our busy lives, look to the sky, and respect its amazing power and beauty.

For more about Evan and his work, visit:

https://www.facebook.com/FramedByNature/

http://www.blurb.com/b/6092519-weather-spotting

http://www.framedbynature.net/

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

Living His Passion - Mark Ervin

 Mark Ervin hard at work in his home office.

Mark Ervin hard at work in his home office.

Mark Ervin first became passionate about art and drawing when he was five years old. He remembers lying on the floor of the bedroom he shared with three of his older brothers and watching his brother Bill copy, not trace, a profoundly authentic recreation of panels from his Peanuts paperback book. After grabbing a pencil and paper, Mark didn’t draw cartoons, but instead the back view of a Camaro and Mustang racing on a track. At that moment, Mark’s fiery passion for cars, racing, and drawing was born.

Years later, Mark decided he wanted to be a syndicated cartoonist and cartoon satirist and had already developed a five-year plan to learn the craft in a highly creative environment and then bring it home to Nebraska to become a freelance illustrator. On the last day of visiting his sister in Los Angeles in the spring of 1989, Mark and his wife, Jennifer, stumbled onto the California Institute of the Arts, a school founded by the Walt Disney Company that focuses on developing fully rounded artists, animators, and filmmakers. After meeting with the dean and showing his portfolio, Mark was accepted. That winter, just before semester break, The Simpsons premiered on the FOX network. By April, the studio was calling and inviting students to test for positions on the show. Mark quickly jumped at the opportunity.

After passing several challenging tests, Mark landed a gig as a background artist and quickly began working on proving himself to the director as he set up the scenes for the character animators. During the first hiatus, Mark worked as a character animator on the first season of Rugrats, and worked as a storyboard artist on their second season. In 1992, he returned to The Simpsons and worked as a character layout artist, drawing and animating up to twenty scenes a week. In 1994, he was asked to assist directing a show and in 1999, he was promoted to director. One year later, he hired on at another studio to direct episodes of Futurama where he remained until July 2001 when he and his family decided to return to his wife’s hometown of Neligh, Nebraska. Mark says, “I was ready to leave my 80-hour-a-week job and be closer to family again.” The Simpsons hired him as a freelancer until 2012 when studio budget cuts prompted them to release all artists working remotely.

During his final years with The Simpsons and beyond, Mark began rendering cars again. “I missed it and knew I had learned a lot of skills as well as a different approach on how to not just draw cars, but also to tell a story with the car as a main character,” adds Mark. As an automotive artist, he has created a brand, built clientele through social media, and developed a reputation for creating stories that contain memories and details that tell more about the car’s owner than the car itself. Today when Mark is not drawing cars, he is storyboarding for an animated show being developed for Netflix. His current goals as an artist are to one day publish two books in development, create calendars and coloring books, and write and illustrate a children’s book.

 A Mark Ervin original, "Dart in the Dark"

A Mark Ervin original, "Dart in the Dark"

Mark’s biggest supporters are his large family and his closest friends. Pursuing his passion has provided him the opportunity to use his God-given talent to enrich, entertain, and mentor others with similar dreams. His advice to anyone interested in pursuing their passion is simple yet profound. “We do what we love for ourselves, but what we do influences others. We have a huge responsibility to make sure that what we do is edifying to others.” As an artist, Mark believes no one has to shock in order to be relevant. “There are far more people out there who appreciate the beautiful than there are those who enjoy the edgy. Artists should explore the edgy, but pursue the beautiful.”

Through his art, faith, and love for his family, Mark is a shining example of the message Lailah Gifty Akita once shared, “Find your purpose and passionately live it.” Every time Mark creates art and shares it with the world, he is an inspiration to others to do the same.

For more about Mark and to view his work, visit:

http://blog.hemmings.com/index.php/2015/04/28/mark-ervin/

http://markervin327.wix.com/-art-n-motion

https://www.facebook.com/MarkErvinArtNMotion/timeline

 Another Mark Ervin original, "61 Special"

Another Mark Ervin original, "61 Special"

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

From Pain to Forgiveness: A Personal Journey

Vicky-DeCoster-life-coach

Forgiveness can be one of the toughest—and most freeing—acts we can perform in life. But finding forgiveness is not as easy as it sounds. I once knew a woman I will call Susan. She suffered greatly regarding her relationship with her mother. The relationship had not been easy ever since she could remember. Her mother suffered from depression and alcoholism, and often took out her anger on Susan throughout her childhood. Sadly, Susan quickly became an expert at covering up what was really going on inside her family home in front of her friends, co-workers, and acquaintances.

After Susan left home at age eighteen, her mother’s downward spiral continued. The relationship was agonizing for Susan. Her mother would call her at all hours of the night, threatening suicide and sobbing into the phone. The reality was that Susan’s mother was simply incapable of living up to her title. Finally after Susan married and had her own children, one day she just didn’t pick up the phone to call her mother. Her mother never called either. There was never an argument or a cross word. Everything just stopped.

As a day turned into two and then many more, Susan focused on creating healthy relationships with her children and raising them the way she wished she had been raised. As time ticked away, Susan found it was easier to be angry with her mother than to be burdened by the sadness that accompanied the loss of what was always an unhealthy relationship. Well-meaning people suggested that Susan forgive her mother. But Susan was not ready. She knew forgiveness was a personal decision. She also realized that she did not make a conscious choice to terminate the relationship and still held out hope that her mother would one day evaluate her behavior and reach out to make amends.

Eighteen years passed. Through family connections, Susan learned her mother had moved to another state where she seemed to finally find happiness. Although the rejection hurt deeply, Susan had come to accept that this was the reality of her life. Then one day last November, Susan received a phone call that her mother had passed away without warning. And with that phone call, all hope was erased for reconciliation or a heartfelt apology. As Susan attempted to grapple with her pain, she set out on a lonely journey of grief. While the heartache came in waves, the anger visited less often. After months passed, Susan finally decided she was ready. She wrote her mother a heartfelt letter. Then she headed to a remote cabin with her husband. One night as dusk was falling and a fire roared in the fire pit outside the cabin, Susan read the letter aloud. She would say later that she felt her mother by her side. In the letter, she told her mother she had forgiven her. That she understood. And that she was sorry that they couldn’t have had the mother/daughter relationship they both deserved. Then she tossed the letter into the fire and let it all go.

Today as Susan looks back, she doesn’t have any regrets. She found a way to forgive and heal in her own way and in her own time. She feels at peace.

I know because Susan is me.

Forgiveness comes in its own time. It also comes with the valuable lesson that our world is full of imperfect people—even family members—who sometimes hurt us deeply. But it is possible to move past the pain and anger and find a place where you feel compassion for the person who has hurt you, just as I did. For years I wished I had a different mother. But now I realize that because of her, I am who I am today. And for that, I am truly grateful.

“True forgiveness is when you can say, 'Thank you for that experience.'" —Oprah Winfrey

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.