Karen Schaar grew up in the safety-net of Chicago suburbs. She went to college at Gustavas Adoplphs in Minnesota and studied abroad in New Zealand where she started climbing. “My first experiences climbing were exhilarating,” she explains.

After college, she climbed for a couple of years in Flagstaff, Arizona, a place that Karen says “has some amazing outdoor climbing.” While climbing, she met people from around the world who inspired her sense
of adventure. 


So much of climbing is about overcoming our own mental obstacles: Fear of heights, fear of falling, even fear of failing. Rising out of our own self doubt was the first lesson we learned when we decided to take on the adventure of indoor rock climbing.


The daunting walls at Roca Climbing and Fitness in Rochester stretch up to 39 feet high, with the competition wall standing at 48 feet. The holds and connecting ropes are color coordinated and labeled with numbers that correspond to the levels of difficulty. This allows for easy navigation and puts a novice climber more at ease. 


When you hear the words, “financial health” used in a sentence, does it make you feel just a tad queasy? Does your stomach do a tiny flip-flop and make you want to think more pleasant thoughts? If so, you’re not alone. Most people would rather have a molar extracted than think about their financial situation.


Most of us stress about money to a certain extent, depending on where we fall on the socioeconomic scale. Some of us may worry about big expenses such as the next family vacation you dream of taking, how we will pay for our kids’ college educations or if we are saving enough money for retirement.

Things get even more stressful when your financial uncertainties include wondering how you will be able to pay the rent, feed your family or pay for daycare, while praying that your car doesn't break down again, so you can keep getting back and fourth to work. Financial stress of this magnitude is a soul crusher. When you don't know how your basic survival needs will be met, it's difficult to think about anything else. When your back is to the wall and you don't have enough income to meet your expenses, you can feel trapped and hopelessness.


It started with a quiet, stirred excitement. Appetizers and drinks were ordered, and as we sat around the table at Stumble Inn 2 in Plainview, there was a mixture of elements—small, low chatter interspersed with laughter, sometimes two or three conversations layered and overlapping and colored Sharpies being shared among us all. 

“Who has the purple marker?” someone asks, glancing up from her coloring.


The objects we colored were a bit unusual from what might normally be used at a coloring party. They are not the typical pages from the adult coloring books seen in bookstores. Instead, we attended a Thirty-One Gifts party led by independent consultant, Amy Kastler. Our project for the party was a small, canvas container or tote called an Oh Snap Bin. 



The Male Perspective: Life, Love, and Relationships

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Written by Pam Whitfield

Name: John Edmonds

Hometown: New York City, New York

Age: 68

Relationship: Married to Karen

Teenagers Living at Home: Kira, Jaeden and Kalia

Adult Children: Rachel, Dane, and Nor

Job: Supervisor of Family Support Programs, Olmsted County Child & Family Services


HOMETOWN: Rushford, Minnesota

AGE: 90

FAMILY: Wed in 1946, Gladys and Marvin Manion were married for 62 years. The couple had three children—Stephen, Peggy and Gerald. Gladys now has five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, with another due in February 2016.

EARLY DAYS: I was born in 1925 in Hart, Minnesota. My earliest memory is when I was about 3 years old. Someone came to our house taking pictures. That was unusual. I have a picture of myself then. I got to sit on my little red chair in the front yard, and my sister let me wear her beads. They were a long, long string. I remember how proud I was to wear my sister Lucille's beads for that picture.



Recycled Creations: Glass Jar Luminaries

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Written by Melissa Eggler Photography By Melissa Eggler

n the dark of winter, after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is over, and after the glitz of holiday decor has been packed away, there seems to be a gloomy stillness that comes over us. We definitely need some bright spots. 

One of my favorite recycled creations to make, especially at this time of the year, is a glass jar luminary. These luminaries are so easy to make and help those dark, chilly nights seem a bit brighter. Repurposing the many glass jars we toss into the recycling bin every week is a great way to keep them out of the landfill, and it is easy to repurpose them into this beautiful and easy home decor project. 



Recycled Creations: Beaded Silverware and Serving Pieces

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Written by By Melissa Eggler, Photography By Melissa Eggler

The entertaining season is upon us and with it comes thoughts of decorating. Decorate your dining room table with a touch of holiday charm, right down to the silverware and serving utensils.   

Unique beaded flatware is a wonderful party favor or hostess gift during the holidays; it adds a bit of whimsy to your holiday dinner or cocktail party. They are very easy to make, look classy and will be a cherished memory of the holiday season. The recipient will feel like a queen as she dines with these beauties. They’re even dishwasher safe!

You can usually find sets of flatware and serving utensils at thrift stores. I found a large set of mismatched ones at our local Goodwill, which was perfect, as I’m planning on giving them to different people. No matched set needed.  


Contrary to many stereotypes, not all attorneys spend their days arguing in court. But what do they really do? And when you need one, how do you pick the right one? We sat down with several lawyers in town to get the answers.

Practicing Law 

After attending three years of law school and passing the bar exam, lawyers tend to practice law in one of two categories: those who go to court (litigators) and those who do not (transactional attorneys). They typically work for the government, in a private law firm or business or for nonprofit organizations. 

Unlike their glamorous television counterparts, most litigators spend the bulk of their time in offices and conference rooms gathering and preparing evidence and witnesses, doing legal research and counseling clients. Transactional attorneys also counsel clients, in addition to a myriad of tasks such as drafting contracts, wills, articles of incorporation and business plans, registering trademarks and patents and assisting families with various issues, including adoption.



The Male Perspective: (The Real) Santa Claus

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Written by By Pam Whitfield

Name: (The Real) Santa Claus

Hometown: The Hearts of Children

Age: 742 years old (original St. Nicholas)

Family: Mrs. Claus, no biological children, but lots of elves 

Profession: Toymaker and Hope-amplifier

PAM: When did Santa first fall in love?

SANTA: There have been moments of puppy love or infatuation, but that was before I met my present Mrs. Claus. I believe in love at first sight, at least with Mrs. Claus.

PAM: How did Santa meet Mrs. Claus? How did you know that she was the one?

SANTA: I met Mrs. Claus in Barnes & Noble in the children’s section. We were both looking for the same children’s book, “The Nutcracker.” She saw it first, and there was only one copy, so I said she could have it. That struck up our conversation, and I knew then and there that we had chemistry. She is the lady whom I choose not to live without.

PAM: Does Mrs. Claus ever get jealous of the reindeer? 

SANTA: Mrs. Claus doesn’t get jealous of the reindeer. The issue is when the reindeer sneak into the kitchen to get a fresh cookie or two and then dash out. But Mrs. Claus knows who they are by the hoof prints. Plus, it’s really hard to train a reindeer to run a mop or a Swiffer.

PAM: Do you take her on sleigh rides?

SANTA: I do take her on sleigh rides in the off season. We plan rides together. Sometimes we take the 11th reindeer out for a ride—our warm-weather reindeer. His name is Thunder, as in Harley Thunder.

PAM: You’re a very busy man. How do you balance your work in the workshop and your marriage?

SANTA: Santa is just as busy as the elves at the North Pole. We all work 26 hours a day, and since the workshop is at the top of the world, we can take advantage of the polar rotation, time shift, date line, longitude and telepresence. This helps me work longer hours and still have the energy to do a good job. But I have to remember that being really busy, as in too busy, puts one into the situation of being what the letters b-u-s-y stand for: being under Satan’s yoke.

PAM: When you and Mrs. Claus have issues or miscommunication, how do you resolve them?

SANTA: Miscommunication usually means that Santa was only listening with his ears and not with my eyes. I need to listen with both ears and with both eyes. I do the same thing when there is a child on my lap. I’m within a few inches of the child’s face. All my attention and my hearing is for the child, and I think the child knows they’re at the center of the universe. I’m here to provide the most magical experience I can.

PAM: What’s one thing you’ve learned from being in relationships? 

SANTA: You never take the relationship for granted. You must always keep focused on what is best for the relationship for both individuals. With Mrs. Claus, if I put her as number one in my life, then any problems and issues I have myself will be greatly diminished. It’s the same when I’m dealing with the elves. I try to be heart-centered and treat everyone with sincerity and respect. 

Santa has a lot of opportunities to be the best he can be, not only for Mrs. Claus, but for all the elves as well. E-l-f stands for extra lovable friend. When you get a present from Santa, it usually says “Love, Santa.” That meaning of l-o-v-e? Labor of various elves.

Pam Whitfield is a teacher, writer, horse show judge and spoken word artist. In 2011, she won the Minnesota professor of the year award from Carnegie Foundation.


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