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Painting in Between: Kim Rohrs

Kim_Rohrs

Kim Rohrs

Kim Rohrs is a mixed-media artist and mother of two who, when faced with the challenges of raising a family, learned to adjust her working style in order to continue creating. Rather than feeling like she was just making do, Kim’s new process actually facilitated her success and led her to reframe possibility and outcome; skills that are serving her beautifully in the face of a difficult medical diagnosis. If you need a hand on your back — or a motivational kick on the rear — Kim’s story will have you rushing to your creative work, that pile of tired excuses left behind like last week’s dirty laundry.


RockSlide

“Rock Slide,” by Kim Rohrs (24″x24″ acrylic on canvas)

My story begins fairly typically. In 2014, I was a stay-at-home mom to two incredible girls, ages four and one. We had busy lives full of playdates, errands, housework, and fun. But when my youngest daughter was almost two, I began to feel a sense of loss of my identity as an artist. I had not consistently made art since she was born. I was finding it difficult and frustrating to find any significant amount of time to build up my practice. On the rare occasion when I had over an hour to paint, I’d be frozen with doubt, anxious that this could be the only chance I’d have to make art for weeks. Inevitably, I would make nearly nothing and feel even more frustrated than when I started.

I finally decided that I was done with this cycle. I was done craving time to paint and then feeling too anxious to paint when I did have the time. Instead, I started looking at what I did have. I had small amounts of time here and there, and the times changed from day to day. I had the desire to have a brush in my hand. I had a creative voice that was ready to be heard.

Bursts of Opportunity

And so, I started with these positives and slowly developed a way to let these guide my work. I decided to put away the materials that required long set-up and clean-up times. I got out watercolors and ink pens, even though I never considered myself a watercolor artist, and painting with watercolors was not the end goal for me. I did know, however, that watercolors were the materials I needed to build the habit of painting because they are quick and easy to get out and put away. I usually paint in an abstract style and allow paintings to evolve over time and contemplation. Instead of this usual way of painting, I decided to find microscope slides and use these images as inspiration. That way, I could pick up my work, look at an image and get painting without much thought in deciding what to do next.

PC_2017_38

“Enough for Everyone 2,” by Kim Rohrs (24″x24″ acrylic on canvas)

This method began to work well for me, and I was finding five-minute breaks in the day to grab a brush, put down a few colors, and walk away. I tried painting at the dinner table while my children ate snacks or played with Play-Doh. I painted while they were playing on their own. I even grabbed my brush while walking by my materials and just added a few colors while still standing at our cabinet where my materials sat. Sometimes it went great, sometimes it was a huge challenge. I tried waking up early to paint, or staying up late to paint. I learned that all of these habits served good purposes for me at different times. Enjoying the variety was a new skill I was building.

As I persisted, a shift began to happen. I began to see other times in my day when I could be painting, and because I always knew what I was painting next, these chunks of time became very productive for me. With the unwavering support of my husband, I very gradually went from painting for 5 minutes at a time to consistently painting 10-15 hours a week. Once I had the habit of painting, I revisited my acrylics and my traditional way of abstract painting, which I loved. I even felt ready to experiment with new materials. I started applying for shows, and after a handful of rejections, my work began getting accepted. What started as my five-minute habit was becoming my part-time job, and I loved it.

Artist Statement: “I enjoy giving attention to the many parts that make a whole, specifically the way in which cells provide life for all living things and therefore allow for consciousness to occur. I do this by drawing inspiration from cellular forms. These forms flow, oscillate and intersect in my paintings. At times obsessively painted and at other times concealed or muted, the cellular form drives my paintings and allows me to explore themes through this most basic representation.”
—Kim Rohrs

Dealing with the Unexpected

Fast forward to April 2017. On Easter weekend, I began to develop neurological symptoms that grew and developed over the course of weeks. I entered the realm of medical tests, hypothesis, trying not to Google everything, and waiting. Between April and June I struggled with vision loss, numbness, a feeling of pins and needles over my body, and tremors. On some days, my tremors were extreme enough that I could not paint and on other days I could not trust my vision to help me mix the right colors I needed. I did not paint for a full two months.

“Horizon,” by Kim Rohrs (24"x24" acrylic on canvas)

“Horizon,” by Kim Rohrs (24″x24″ acrylic on canvas)

In many ways, this was a difficult two months of my life. I felt as though I did not know my body anymore, and each day presented with something different I needed to adjust to. My paint palettes dried up, canvases remained still and incomplete, and I stopped looking for shows to apply to. I was not sure what was happening to me, or how long it was going to last.

What surprised me the most in these months of sickness was that I was not upset about not being able to paint. Instead, I found myself filled with gratitude that when I was able to paint, I DID paint. I was so glad I did not wait until the circumstances were perfect. I did not wait until I was in the right mood. I did not wait until the entire house was spotless. I painted in small bursts when the opportunity arose, and I found ways to build a regular practice from there. I let my body feel sick without the added weight of guilt that comes with “what if.”

The official diagnosis came in: multiple sclerosis.

"Plant Cell Study One," by Kim Rohrs

“Plant Cell Study One,” by Kim Rohrs (8″x10″ watercolor and ink on paper); The first painting Kim completed after committing to painting for five minutes at a time in bursts.

The Current Condition

By the time I was diagnosed with MS, the episode was calming down and I was able to paint again. I have since had to adjust my expectations and cut back on deadlines until I get to know this new companion in my life. I am still so thankful for and so proud of the body of work I have completed, and it helps me to understand that change takes time. Developing this disease and not being able to paint as much as I used to does not necessarily feel like a step backward in my progress because now I know there isn’t a linear path to being an artist. It’s up, it’s down, it’s cyclical. It’s five minutes here, an hour or so there.

"Glacial Movement 2," by Kim Rohrs

“Glacial Movement 2,” by Kim Rohrs (12″x12″ acrylic suspended in polished resin)

For me, making art is not about waiting for the right time, the right mood, the right state of mind, or the right state of body. It’s about showing up over and over again with the only expectation of putting paint to canvas. I have found when I am focused on this simple goal, I can achieve it repeatedly. And really, isn’t that most artists’ goal anyway? Using tools to make marks and images over and over again.

Having limited time raising young children allowed me to see that building an art practice can be as simple as I need it to be. Developing MS allowed me to value this simplicity. And now, when I have the time but not the physical ability for the long hours in the studio, I am able to remind myself that five minutes at a time is enough, today.

 


About Kim Rohrs

While earning my art therapy degree at Bowling Green State University, I took as many art studio classes I could cram into my schedule, specifically painting and ceramics. Although I wanted to become a professional artist, I felt a stronger calling to help others discover the healing capacity of art making. After graduating, I moved to Colorado to pursue my master’s degree in art therapy at Naropa University. It was there that I learned to meditate, to listen, to be curious, and to open my heart to help others. I practiced as an art therapist and play therapist, focusing my attention on children and families. 

When my husband and I started having children, we felt the Midwest calling us back. We returned to Ohio and at that time I decided to commit my time to raising our children and making art. Today, I am a mixed-media artist. I work with acrylic and resin, encaustic, and watercolors. I am inspired by microscope slides, cycles found in nature, living mindfully, dreams, and art therapy. I paint whenever my kids are asleep. In other words, I am living my dream while my girls dream.

Connect with Kim

Facebook: Kim Rohrs Art
Instagram: @kimrohrsart
Email: kim@kimrohrs.com
Website: www.kimrohrs.com

To follow Kim’s MS journey, connect with her on Instagram: @ms_mindfulsimplicity.

My daughter and I painting together

Instagram: “My daughter and I painting together at the dining room table in 2015. This is when I was painting with watercolors and our dining room was my studio space.”

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How She Does It: Meet Becca Ellis

Photographer Becca Ellis lives in a small beachside community in Kitsap County, WA (right near me, we just figured out!) with her husband and three children. When she is not behind the lens, she enjoys running, gardening, writing, fine art modeling, exploring and hiking in the beautiful PNW, sharing a cup of coffee or tea, painting, and creating music. I hope to soon meet Becca in person for a cup of tea—but in the meantime, the following interview *feels* like having a cup of tea in person—which we can all share together. Enjoy!


PictureOfBecca

Becca Ellis

SM: Please introduce yourself and your family.
BE: I live in a sleepy little beachside community on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington state with my husband, three kids (ages 7, 5, and almost 1 year), and cat. I grew up a city girl, but after falling in love, getting married, and having kids, we moved back to where my husband grew up and have settled into a simpler, slower, rural lifestyle and absolutely love it. We spend much of our free time exploring different beaches and parks, gardening, and taking walks in our own community down to our local beach.

SM: Tell us about your artwork/creative endeavors.
BE: I am the owner of Soma Art Photography, based here on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State. I specialize in maternity, birth, and newborn photography. While I tend to have a documentary approach to photography, I am also heavily drawn to creating strong portraits of women, particularly mothers, acknowledging and celebrating the unique role they play in the world and memorializing the season they are currently in.

SomaArtBirth3

Soma Art Photography

I also love to capture the connection shared between family members, which is why I am so drawn to birth—the raw emotion and sacred bonding that takes place when a baby is born is unlike any other experience I know. I originally ventured into professional photography out of a desire to become a midwife. I was invited to attend births as a photographer for a local doula, and after a few births, I was hooked! After a year of attending births as an amateur and building my portfolio, I launched my business in spring of 2015.

I also run a personal blog, B.E. Blog, which began as a way to document and write about simplifying our family’s lifestyle in just about every aspect from our home to what we eat to parenting and more. Today the subjects are more broad and cover different interests and questions I find myself asking, but I still find myself centering on simplicity often.

My latest project is PenCraftLove, a shop I started on Etsy where I create and sell organizational templates, planners, and fun and inspiring wall art printables. I hope to expand as time goes on, but it has been a fun new outlet for my graphic artist aspirations.

SM: What goals do you have for your art? How would you define your “life’s work”?
BE: I am a maker and always have been since I was young. I have a tendency to jump from one project to another as I follow my interests—I have always had the mindset that if I want to make or do something myself, there is nothing stopping me (short of finances), other than devoting some time to education and practice. So, my art is fluid and changes with time, but I know I will always create. My “life’s work” feels hard to pin down, but I have enjoyed settling on photography these past few years and developing my craft and personal artistic style. My greatest hope for my photography is that I will create something that my clients cherish forever and that it will emotionally stir people and form a connection with them in some way.

SomaArtBirth

Soma Art Photography

SM: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
BE: Motherhood has helped me see the beauty in creating just to experience the process. With kids, the process is really the important part of exposing them to art and different mediums. Most of the time, they aren’t going to end up with a masterpiece (even if we feel sentimental about their preschool watercolor prints ourselves). I love devoting time to creating with my kids and it has always been important to me that they don’t become bogged down with worrying about creating something perfect—I want them to have fun and simply enjoy the process of experimenting and creating something uniquely theirs. Learning this has helped me loosen up and give myself permission to explore different ideas without worrying about the outcome being perfect. Sometimes I can devote hours to something that ends up feeling like a total “flop,” but what I learn from it is actually very valuable. Actually, many times I end up loving something that I created which happened completely by accident!

MyDaughter

Becca’s daughter

SM: Where do you do your creative work?
BE: We live in a small house without much of an office space. I used to work with my laptop in bed or on the living room floor with Netflix in the background. I still paint and draw in the kitchen, due to it being convenient and I can keep an eye on my kids, and I often will do my editing work with my laptop down there if it is the middle of the day. I also set up a desk in our loft where I can work at my computer and have my printer and other supplies handy. When I have a designated space it makes it much easier to sit and get more work done than if I feel like I have to pick up my work and put it away every time we have a meal or need the table for something.

Becca's Desk

Becca’s desk

SM: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
BE: Right now, with three young kids at home (two school aged, one under a year old) and a husband who works full time, I generally work when he is home in the evening after the kids go to bed or on the weekends. I am able to get some work done during the day when the kids are in school/napping. It has worked OK to just work when I have a moment without it planned out, but for the new school season, it feels important to schedule out some specific time that I can be uninterrupted on a regular basis. I really believe this will help me be more productive and present with everything I do, whether it be for work or family.

SM: What does creative success mean to you?
BE: In the past, I think it would have meant that I am busy all the time (high demand for my work) and I have many fans and admirers. Lately though, it has much more to do with being true to myself as an artist and individual and having my work mean something to the people who connect with it.

SM: What makes you feel successful as a mother?
BE: I think it is both important for my kids to see me work hard to achieve my goals and provide for my family, and also to be present and available to them. It doesn’t happen every day and we all extend a lot of grace to each other when we fail to pay attention to each other’s needs, but I can see the difference in everyone when we have settled into a daily rhythm that works for our family—life doesn’t feel so rushed and we have plenty of opportunities to connect throughout the day. There is a feeling of peace in our home. This is when I can rest easy knowing I have given them what they need from me as their mother.

MyYoungestSon

Becca’s youngest Son

SM: What do you struggle with most?
BE: Self-promotion and placing value on my work. I have always been a very self-conscious person. Each year, I get a little older and a little wiser and I care a little bit less about what others think about me—it has taken a long time to get to where I am today! Yet, I still doubt and overthink things and worry that I’m just not “that good” or that anyone will see any value in my art, or even care to see it. To be truthful, I get a lot of anxiety over sharing my work on social media sites, so I am constantly struggling with figuring out the balance in marketing/networking and what feels good to me.

SM: What inspires you?
BE: I draw inspiration from many sources. Books, nature, music, my kids. When I see or hear an authentic voice in another’s work, writing or art, it moves me. When I see someone share a photograph or piece of art that they created that you just KNOW they put their soul into, because you can feel it—this inspires me. People embracing and sharing the beauty they see makes me want to dig deeper and find those extra minutes that seem to be hiding from me to do more. I find a lot of inspiration on Instagram [you can find Becca on Insta here and here] and am mostly drawn to following accounts where I see this—people developing and sharing their craft with a passion that truly reflects who they are. I can always tell when I am not being authentic and am just trying to be more like someone else, because I think it will gain me popularity points. I try to stop myself in those moments and take some time to re-center and remind myself who I am and what unique perspective I have to bring to the world, even if it isn’t going to get the most “likes.” 

SomaArtBirth2

Soma Art Photography

SM: What do you want your life to look like in 10 years?
BE: When I dream of the future, I envision a small house on some acreage with rows of flowers dancing in the sun. I see myself waking up to the morning light seeping in through the slits of the curtains and sitting at my desk and writing and painting with my cup of tea or coffee. I see working with clients and families who appreciate and value my style and are eager to invest in my artwork. I see my husband and I working together for our own businesses, sharing the load of household and careers and embracing a simple and sustainable lifestyle, deciding our own schedules and investing in our values. I see creating a space of community and gathering with others. I don’t know exactly what my art might be in 10 years, because I hope it will always be evolving as I grow and learn more and go to the places life takes us, but my hope is that it will become richer with each passing year and give something back to the community I live in.

SM: What are you reading right now?
BE: I always have about 5 open books on my nightstand and can hardly help myself from picking up more every time I’m at the library with my kids. I just finished Jewel’s Never Broken and it was so inspiring and ribbed with truth. I am currently reading Writing Wild by Tina Welling and am learning so much about tuning into my own creative process from it.

PictureofBecca2

Becca and son

SM: What are your top 5 favorite blogs/online resources?
BE: For photography inspiration/eye candy I love LooksLikeFilm and the 5 Minute Project.

Click’n Moms also has some great articles and breakout classes all about photography, although I have yet to invest in taking one, I have heard great things about many of them.

I also tried out the SkillShare App for a few months and really enjoyed the online workshops I took—there are so many different subjects to learn directly from experts and artists from business to photo editing to social media skills.

SM: What do you wish you’d known a decade ago?
BE: That it’s okay to laugh hard and let tears fall, that you can’t live up to everyone’s expectations and you will always be too much or too little for someone—so just be you and do the things that are burning inside without worrying so much about what everyone thinks.

HandletteredPrintfromMyEtsyShop

SM: What advice would you offer to other artists/writers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
BE: Just start. Every day, even if it is only ten minutes or fewer, it is that much more than nothing. I have found that starting is the hardest part—once you get going, it will be easier each day to find the passion and motivation you need. Of course, there will always be slumps and days you don’t feel like doing it; don’t let that get you down forever. Take a break, re-center, and go at it again. Also, don’t be too worried if something doesn’t turn out. Chances are a lot of things aren’t going to, but the process is so important and you will grow from it until you really discover what it is you have been waiting to do all this time.

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Connect with Becca!
Blog: beccaellis.wordpress.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/soma_art_photography
Instagram: www.instagram.com/pencraftlove
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/somaartphoto
Facebook: www.facebook.com/somaartphotography
Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/pencraftlove

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Your Creative Intentions: The Monday Post ~ September 21, 2015

Emily Dickinson quote

A regular creative practice — a daily practice, if possible — is key to staying in touch with how you make meaning. Key to living, not postponing. (Let’s all agree to give up on “someday.”)

What are your plans for creative practice this week? Given the specifics of your schedule, decide on a realistic intention or practice plan — and ink that time in your calendar. The scheduling part is important, because as you know, if you try to “fit it in” around the edges, it generally won’t happen. An intention as simple as “I will write for 20 minutes every morning after breakfast” or “I will sketch a new still life on Wednesday evening” is what it’s all about. If appropriate, use time estimates to containerize your task, which can make a daunting project feel more accessible.

Share your intentions or goals as a comment to this post. We use a broad brush in defining creativity, so don’t be shy. We also often include well-being practices that support creativity, such as exercise and journaling.

Share your intentions or goals as a comment to this post. Putting your intentions on “paper” helps you get clear on what you want to do — and sharing those intentions with this community leverages the motivation of an accountability group. Join us!

The image used in this week’s Monday Post is courtesy Betsy Gitelman. Thank you, Betsy!

If you would like to contribute a nature image for a future Monday Post, please send an e-mail to creativereality [at] live.com !

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If you’re an artist or writer with little ones, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is the essential survival guide written just for you. Concrete strategies for becoming more creative without adding stress and guilt. Filled with the wisdom of 13 insightful creative mothers; written by a certified creativity coach and mother of five. “Highly recommended.” ~Eric Maisel. 35 pages/$11.98. Available for download here.

Your Creative Intentions: The Monday Post ~ August 17, 2015

Marianne Williamson quote

A regular creative practice — a daily practice, if possible — is key to staying in touch with how you make meaning. Key to living, not postponing. (Let’s all agree to give up on “someday.”)

What are your plans for creative practice this week? Given the specifics of your schedule, decide on a realistic intention or practice plan — and ink that time in your calendar. The scheduling part is important, because as you know, if you try to “fit it in” around the edges, it generally won’t happen. An intention as simple as “I will write for 20 minutes every morning after breakfast” or “I will sketch a new still life on Wednesday evening” is what it’s all about. If appropriate, use time estimates to containerize your task, which can make a daunting project feel more accessible.

Share your intentions or goals as a comment to this post. We use a broad brush in defining creativity, so don’t be shy. We also often include well-being practices that support creativity, such as exercise and journaling.

Share your intentions or goals as a comment to this post, and let us know how things went with your creative plans for last week, if you posted to last week’s Monday Post. Putting your intentions on “paper” helps you get clear on what you want to do — and sharing those intentions with this community leverages the motivation of an accountability group. Join us!

If you would like to contribute a nature image for a future Monday Post, please send an e-mail to creativereality [at] live.com !

:::::::

If you’re an artist or writer with little ones, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is the essential survival guide written just for you. Concrete strategies for becoming more creative without adding stress and guilt. Filled with the wisdom of 13 insightful creative mothers; written by a certified creativity coach and mother of five. “Highly recommended.” ~Eric Maisel. 35 pages/$11.98. Available for download here.

Your Creative Intentions: The Monday Post ~ August 10, 2015

Andy Warhol quote

A regular creative practice — a daily practice, if possible — is key to staying in touch with how you make meaning. Key to living, not postponing. (Let’s all agree to give up on “someday.”)

What are your plans for creative practice this week? Given the specifics of your schedule, decide on a realistic intention or practice plan — and ink that time in your calendar. The scheduling part is important, because as you know, if you try to “fit it in” around the edges, it generally won’t happen. An intention as simple as “I will write for 20 minutes every morning after breakfast” or “I will sketch a new still life on Wednesday evening” is what it’s all about. If appropriate, use time estimates to containerize your task, which can make a daunting project feel more accessible.

Share your intentions or goals as a comment to this post. We use a broad brush in defining creativity, so don’t be shy. We also often include well-being practices that support creativity, such as exercise and journaling.

Putting your intentions on “paper” helps you get clear on what you want to do — and sharing those intentions with this community leverages the motivation of an accountability group. Join us!

If you would like to contribute a nature image for a future Monday Post, please send an e-mail to creativereality [at] live.com !

:::::::

If you’re an artist or writer with little ones, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is the essential survival guide written just for you. Concrete strategies for becoming more creative without adding stress and guilt. Filled with the wisdom of 13 insightful creative mothers; written by a certified creativity coach and mother of five. “Highly recommended.” ~Eric Maisel. 35 pages/$11.98. Available for download here.

Your Creative Intentions: The Monday Post ~ June 29, 2015

Rumi quote

A regular creative practice — a daily practice, if possible — is key to staying in touch with how you make meaning. Key to living, not postponing. (Let’s all agree to give up on “someday.”)

What are your plans for creative practice this week? Given the specifics of your schedule, decide on a realistic intention or practice plan — and ink that time in your calendar. The scheduling part is important, because as you know, if you try to “fit it in” around the edges, it generally won’t happen. An intention as simple as “I will write for 20 minutes every morning after breakfast” or “I will sketch a new still life on Wednesday evening” is what it’s all about. If appropriate, use time estimates to containerize your task, which can make a daunting project feel more accessible.

Share your intentions or goals as a comment to this post, and let us know how things went with your creative plans for last week, if you posted to last week’s Monday Post. We use a broad brush in defining creativity, so don’t be shy. We also often include well-being practices that support creativity, such as exercise and journaling.

Putting your intentions on “paper” helps you get clear on what you want to do — and sharing those intentions with this community leverages the motivation of an accountability group. Join us!

If you would like to contribute a nature image for a future Monday Post, please send an e-mail to creativereality [at] live.com !

:::::::

If you’re an artist or writer with little ones, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is the essential survival guide written just for you. Concrete strategies for becoming more creative without adding stress and guilt. Filled with the wisdom of 13 insightful creative mothers; written by a certified creativity coach and mother of five. “Highly recommended.” ~Eric Maisel. 35 pages/$11.98. Available for download here.

Your Creative Intentions: The Monday Post ~ June 22, 2015

Wallace Stevens quote

A regular creative practice — a daily practice, if possible — is key to staying in touch with how you make meaning. Key to living, not postponing. (Let’s all agree to give up on “someday.”)

What are your plans for creative practice this week? Given the specifics of your schedule, decide on a realistic intention or practice plan — and ink that time in your calendar. The scheduling part is important, because as you know, if you try to “fit it in” around the edges, it generally won’t happen. An intention as simple as “I will write for 20 minutes every morning after breakfast” or “I will sketch a new still life on Wednesday evening” is what it’s all about. If appropriate, use time estimates to containerize your task, which can make a daunting project feel more accessible.

Share your intentions or goals as a comment to this post, and let us know how things went with your creative plans for last week, if you posted to last week’s Monday Post. We use a broad brush in defining creativity, so don’t be shy. We also often include well-being practices that support creativity, such as exercise and journaling.

Putting your intentions on “paper” helps you get clear on what you want to do — and sharing those intentions with this community leverages the motivation of an accountability group. Join us!

If you would like to contribute a nature image for a future Monday Post, please send an e-mail to creativereality [at] live.com !

:::::::

If you’re an artist or writer with little ones, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is the essential survival guide written just for you. Concrete strategies for becoming more creative without adding stress and guilt. Filled with the wisdom of 13 insightful creative mothers; written by a certified creativity coach and mother of five. “Highly recommended.” ~Eric Maisel. 35 pages/$11.98. Available for download here.

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