So what is your plan for 2011?

January 10, 2011

Passions at Play Art & DesignHappy New Year Everyone!

Last year was filled with changes for many of us and to many people I talk to it feels like 2011 is going to be the year to manifest from all that change. This is the year that we can settle in and move forward. For me change has included moving to a small city from a big one, and that means moving my design and art business from a big city to a small one. Using the internet to keep connected to the outside world is key, however there is also a whole new audience and market to work with here in the high desert and that means adjusting my business vision to fit in this place as well.

So my first blog of the year is going to be about strategy and how you can use it to create the success you wish to achieve.

So what’s your plan and how do you go about making one?

I find that the best way to start off my year is to look back at what worked and what did not work over the last year. Honestly evaluating my performance, my accomplishments and my strategies really helps me to look at what I might continue using, what I need to get rid of and what I might want to just tweak and make work a little better.

Then I write a vision statement that is the picture of what I want in my life and my business. I do this in the present tense because then as I repeat it daily it becomes clearly what  “is” and not what I just wish for. It is funny how our brain does not really know the difference between reality and fantasy and it just assumes that if we keep talking about it, it must be the way things are! (thanks Penny Stephens)

So now that I know what I want to happen, I can go about creating the strategies that will actually make it happen. This is where my calendar comes in. I still need a day planner/calendar, even with my smart phone and my computer, I find that I need a book that I can write in and keep track of days, plans, projects all in one place. This works for me. Writing out a marketing plan- who is my target market, what are their needs and how do I reach them? These are the questions I need to answer to round out my plans. It tells me where I need to advertise, who I need to network with, and how can I be of service to my customers and my community. There will be the occasional client that just pops up out of the blue, but to build a consistent business requires working within a strategy, following through and being consistent. These are also key questions I use when helping my clients plan their marketing needs.

So what I know today is that Passions at Play is an art and graphic design business. What is my focus and what do I have to offer that other design businesses do not? I am an artist as well and so I bring a certain sense of creativity and artistry that is unique. Being an illustrator and photographer gives me the ability to create unique images that are specific to the needs of my clients. And knowing how to use internet and web design also gives them a full spectrum of ways to meet their clients needs. My goal this year is to hone all of this down into a more clear and concise message that shows the benefit that working with me can give. My tagline for the last couple of years has been- “Peace, Love and Prosperity require Creativity!” – This fits my goals and who I am and that is what a tagline should do. This is also a good tagline for my personal life and I find that creativity is required in every aspect of what I enjoy, and want to achieve. I find that building a business that is consistent with my personal values and desires is a huge asset when it comes to being consistent.

So what is your favorite way to plan your new year and how has it evolved over the years to help meet the needs of your clients and your life?

So the new year has begun and we are all in this together. Let’s go out and make it the best year ever!

Peace, Love and Prosperity REQUIRES Creativity!

Cheryl McDonald is the owner of Passions at Play Art & Design to see some of her work please go to

To see some of her photography, please go to


Karma works both ways- good and bad

January 2, 2011
Angels Abound by Cheryl McDonald copyright 2010

Angels Abound!

It often seems that we talk about karma as if it is only about bad stuff- you know- Somebody does something mean to us or someone we know and we say- Well he’ll get his, because ‘what goes around comes around’.

Well it has occurred to me today that it also works on good things we do.Why just today? Who knows, however a light bulb went on and so here goes another blog.

As you know if you read my blog that this has been a very eventful year for me. Lot’s of major changes- Last January 1st I was living in an apartment on a hill overlooking the San Francisco Bay. Today I am living in a beautiful home in the Mojave Desert. Last year I had 3 sisters, now I only have 2.  But what has not changed is that I am utterly and completely surrounded by love. Family, friends, I even find love arriving from perfect strangers on a daily basis.

I often get impatient with myself because I am not seeing enough progress forward, however when I look back over the path I have traveled I realize that I have had a very rich and beautiful life and that I have been able to share the gifts I have been given with many people in many places. I also see no reason why this will not continue and that is a very exciting prospect.

I have been thinking the last few days about the holidays, expectations, past experience, traditional and non-traditional, and all of this has led me to believe that there are planned blessings and then there are those that are completely spontaneous and can only be explained by angels and guides in my behalf. I think our traditions- the way we celebrate are more like planned blessings- we choose to create and bless ourselves and our families by including them in how we celebrate. Spontaneous blessings often not even acknowledged, because we do not realize their presence. We take them for granted.

For several days this week I was down taking care of a recovering from surgery daughter and 7 & 8 year old boys recovering from colds and on Christmas vacation with lot’s of rain. A bit challenging since i have never had boys and it has been awhile since I was around that much energy. This was certainly not the Christmas our family had planned. With all of the changes going on in all of our lives, we were all looking for a little bit of normal, traditional, relaxed holiday sharing. Money has been tight for all of us this year and we were doing few gifts, but lot’s of delicious foods from family traditions and just sharing the time together. So emergency surgery on Christmas day was not on the agenda and it really took the wind out of our more traditionally planned holiday.

This is where the spontaneous blessings started kicking in and the planned blessings took a pass. All of the plans we had made to share the holidays with friends and family dissolved into taking care of the family and making the best of the situation. Here is where some really amazing blessings arrived. For instance the chief of surgery being on call and doing my daughters surgery. A hospital full of amazing, caring, joyful individuals who were working on Christmas, but happy they could be there to take care of us. Or the next day when my son-in-law was driving through the rain on the freeway and was missed by a swerving car crossing several lanes out of control. There were so many blessings, I cannot tell them all. We also did manage to create a little bit of normal the day after Christmas which worked out just fine.

So now recovery is happening and life is going forward. I came home on Thursday with a very nasty cold. So once more the planned blessings- holiday parties and dinner with friends had to be canceled and New Year’s Eve I was feeling pretty down. But guess what- once again I am completely surrounded by love and spontaneous blessings abound! Like the cool gift from one sister of a remote for my camera- “so I would have something to play with while I was recovering” , or the huge bowl of fresh steaming bouillabaisse from neighbors across the street, or the man who was riding his bicycle down the street as my car came to a halt in the middle of the road. He stopped and helped me push it out of the street. And then last night as I was getting ready for bed, my throat so sore I could not speak- a phone call from my other sister and her friends who were helping her celebrate her birthday and they missed me. We had all been together last year for the occasion and this year I could not be. So they called and we all sang her happy birthday- even me in my very froggy voice. It was such a wonderful experience to be so loved.

So I guess what I know today is that the love we share with others weaves it’s way through life and comes right back and wraps itself right around us once again. And that is a joyous thing.

Happy New Year and may your year be filled with an abundance of spontaneous blessings and planned blessings as well!

Cheryl McDonald is an artist and photographer in Southern California at the base of the Eastern Sierras. To see more of her work please go to- and

The First Snow of the Season

November 22, 2010

A Light Layer of Snow by Cheryl McDonald

My sister Denise called- ” Looks like the mountains are covered with snow, thinking about going to shoot clouds, would you like to go along?”

It had been cold and windy all morning, I managed to get some wood in the back yard sorted and stacked just before the storm hit here. Rain and Hail. I looked out at the mountains and said “sure let’s go!”

We packed our cameras, picked up some hot tea and headed for Walker’s Pass. It has been a long time since I lived this close to snow and I had forgotten how beautiful a first snow can be. The desert was still in Fall wardrobe, some rust colored dried flowers and dried yellow sages mixed with the Joshua trees that stand like sentries watching over the land. The air was crisp and cold, fresh and the smell of snow was in the air.

Snow Covered Desert by Cheryl McDonald

Joshua's in the Snow by Cheryl McDonald

Joshua Bristles and Snow by Cheryl McDonald

We drove about half way up the pass and the snow was getting pretty heavy.  We did not have chains or four-wheel drive and we didn’t want to chance not making it back down the mountain. So we had to be satisfied with what we found. No problem! The snow covered desert, the clouds rolling fiercely across the deep blue sky. It was all magnificent.

Branches by Cheryl McDonald

On our way back to town I decided that a sunrise trip North was in order. Denise was otherwise engaged- it being Monday and all, so Georgia my chihuahua and I set off this morning at 4am to capture the sunrise on the face of Mount Whitney.

Moonset, Sunrise over the Sierras by Cheryl McDonald

A beautiful drive in the dark up 395, the full moon was hanging over the Sierras ,and I was getting very excited, as I realized the full moon would be setting over the mountains and the sunrise in the east would be happening at the same time. I was suddenly grateful for the clear skies as I anticipated the photo ops to come.

Red Stone by Cheryl McDonald

When we got to the Alabama Hills behind Lone Pine, CA, the pink cast of sunrise was edging it’s way across the landscape turning the already red rock to a brilliant orangey pink. I don’t think it had snowed this low yesterday as the hills were dry, but the snow on the mountains was beginning to sparkle as the sun came over the horizon.

Golden Monuments- Alabama Hills by Cheryl McDonald

Mount Whitney at Dawn by Cheryl McDonald

And then the magic began to happen. The sky was turning pink and mauve and lavender and the brilliant fullness of the moon, clear as if it was hanging right in front of me, began to shimmer in the sky as it cast a beautiful clear light on the pink face of the Stone mountains standing before me. It was an incredible gift and I felt honored to be in the presence of such magnificence.

First Snow by Cheryl McDonald

As the sun continued to rise, the light turned to golden and a little further up the road we found snow on the ground and again we stopped and enjoyed. Even Georgia got out of the car and played in the snow. It was so cute to see her romping and playing in snow!

Careful Steps by Cheryl McDonald

Georgia in the snow- by Cheryl McDonald

Dressed for the Cold by Cheryl McDonald

Once we had our fill of morning light and 24 degree temperatures, it was time to head back home.

Mount Whitney with a sprinkling of snow by Cheryl McDonald

But as we drove down 395, I looked to the west to see the next storm making it’s way over the mountain tops.  More snow is forecast and a significant chance for a freeze here at home is predicted. Who knows, maybe there will be another roadtrip at sunrise tomorrow!

Another Storm Coming by Cheryl McDonald

Cheryl McDonald is a artist living at the base of the Eastern Sierras. She works is watercolor and photography and gives workshops and travel workshops in both mediums. To see more of her photography please go to