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The Instrument of the Body

Nikki Balsamo enables dancers to understand their own power and find kindness within.

From the Editor

Shari Hegland, Editor

During a recent yoga class, I was struck by a phrase used often in these classes: open your heart. I’ve enjoyed casual yoga classes for years, loving the opportunity to pause, refocus and center myself, even if just for an hour. But for some reason, on this particular night, that phrase caught in my mind. Open your heart.
Physically, it is a reminder to put our shoulders back, lift up our heads, take a deep breath and assume a posture that is the opposite of how so many of us spend our days—hunched over a keyboard or cell phone or even the steering wheel. Head down, shoulders rounded, caved in on ourselves.  Opening your heart provides room to breathe, a wider view of the world and a feeling of expansion.

But when Laura shared those words on the night in question, I felt a greater meaning to “open your heart,” in part because of the stories I had been entrenched in as we planned this issue. It became less about physical posture and more about mental and spiritual posture. Opening your heart to receive gifts and compliments, which we women can find so difficult to do. Opening your heart to explore new possibilities. Opening your heart to accept what is around you and let it fill you, rather than closing it off.

Grace can be viewed through both a physical and a spiritual lens as well, as shown beautifully in the life and philosophy of Nikki Balsamo. Through La Crosse Dance Centre and its annual presentation of The Nutcracker, Balsamo teaches dancers not only steps and positions that flow with the beauty of movement, but also how to find the beauty of the spirit within each of them.

Dance is hard work, as are so many things that bring beauty into our world. A quotation from poet Alice Abrams shares the connection between hard work or hardship and its results. 

“In life as in dance, grace glides on blistered feet.” — Alice Abrams
Blistered feet, broken hearts and broken bodies are among the challenges women in our stories today have overcome, exhibiting grace to those around them as they move forward in their lives with hope. The stories of Tara Herbst Kopp and Shelly Linskey illustrate how finding grace—for ourselves, as well as others—helps us move forward in times of trial.

Their stories and others in this issue—including how Natalia Breuer is sending support across borders and the women of Hope Restores seek to break down boundaries in the community—are a fitting close to our year. 
You may not have noticed, but our themes for these last six issues come together to acknowledge a great truth about our community:



Our region is full of strong women who work together to raise each other up, to overcome challenges, provide those around them with the necessities of life and share the grace that they have developed through diverse journeys in life.
You are a part of this tradition of STRONG women. Pass it on to everyone around you and keep the strength and grace flowing.

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What is inside this month's issue:


Finding Grace in All Things - Jean Pagliaro and the Franciscan Spirituality Center invite participants to grow in wholeness.

Her Saving Grace - Tara Herbst Kopp credits her husband’s love and prison with a second chance in life.

Strength in Sharing - Shelly Linskey shares her lessons in acknowledging struggles and learning to receive.

Aging in Place, Aging with Grace - How to adapt homes and habits to fit changing needs.

Repaying a Debt - Natalia Breuer’s project for Ukrainian refugees reflects family connection.

A Room of Her Own - Coulee Region women create space for peace.

Taste of the Holidays - Traditional family recipes link celebrations across the years.

Building Community Through Connection - Hope Restores engages all to create a world as it should be.

Sweater Weather - Show your style in cozy knitwear all winter long.

Ride the Rails to Chicago - Enjoy a winter weekend in the Windy City—no driving necessary.

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