Resolution Solutions

Peter Vegso Patti Gilman Jim Copeland Ron Cooper Carolyn Roberts Dr. Norm Anderson Phillip Leppert Narvella Haynes

By Amy Mangan • Photos By Steve Floethe

This is the time of year when we think about new beginnings. A perfect place to start is with a New Year’s resolution. Many of us have made them, yet how successful are we at keeping them?

So, we posed this question to a few Marion County residents: What’s the best resolution you’ve ever kept? Here’s what they had to say.

1. ‘An Accidental Dream’

Peter Vegso

Driving past a picturesque farm in Canada was all a young Peter Vegso needed to see to know that’s what he wanted one day. As a young boy who would later grow up to be the publisher of the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Peter dreamed about owning a farm like the one of his childhood memories. So, he made a resolution to do just that and ended up in Ocala of all places.

“I guess this dream was more accidental than deliberate, but I love how it’s come together quite nicely,” says Peter, who continues to work on the finishing touches of his 160-acre Ocala Thoroughbred breeding and training facility. His home even sports classic white-board fencing similar to the Canadian farm of his dreams.

“When living in Canada, I can remember driving by this well-manicured farm with a beautiful house and white fences. I asked my folks ‘Who lives there?’” adds Peter, “I said ‘I think I’d like to have something like that one day.’”

Although he also resides in south Florida, Peter says his Ocala home has become the perfect place to ‘let down’ and enjoy his horses, nature, family, and friends. Just as he had always dreamed of.

2. ‘Drawing Changed My Life’

Patti Gilman

As the mother of five children and grandmother to 18 grandchildren, Patti Gilman found little spare time for hobbies. In addition to her family obligations, there was also her longtime career as a local social worker. However, a persistent desire to pick up a paintbrush kept tugging at Patti and, at the age of 65, she made a resolution to finally do it.

“In my heart, I always wanted to be an artist,” says Patti, “so, after I retired, I signed up for a drawing class at CFCC with Jack Thursby, which completely changed my life.”

Patti laughs thinking about her first day as a “non-traditional aged” student walking into a classroom of young faces. Undeterred, she didn’t let age or inexperience keep her from learning everything she could from Thursby, who she calls a “great encourager.”

One class led to another until Patti had taken all of Thursby’s art courses. And that led to her becoming a recognized acrylics artist. Patti’s love of children resonates in her artwork as she specializes in children’s portraits. She is also known for her local landscapes and recently received an art award at the Fine Arts for Ocala Art Festival.

And to think it all began with a promise to paint.

3. ‘The Best Resolution I Ever Made’

Jim Copeland

As public affairs manager for Embarq, relationships are integral to Jim Copeland’s job. But, for Jim, the husband, father, and friend, the most important relationship is with his wife, Nancy.

“The older I get the more I realize that the best resolution I ever made was to marry Nancy,” says Jim. “Increasingly, I’m reminded of all the things I’ve done in my life, nothing has impacted me more positively than my marriage vow.”

Married for 44 years, Nancy and Jim have enjoyed raising their two children and being doting grandparents to six grandchildren. Jim’s extensive community service in Marion County has given him many opportunities for personal and professional growth. But none of this comes near to the satisfaction of being with his wife.

“Things come and go, but my marriage is always a constant,” adds Jim. “This is one resolution I’m glad I’ve kept.”

4. ‘To Complete The Novel’

Ron Cooper

For many years, Ron Cooper had an idea for a novel, and he made a New Year’s resolution to put pen to paper. Turns out, writing the story, which became his novel Hume’s Fork, was just half the challenge; getting the book published was another feat. So, Ron had good reason to add a second resolution – get his novel published.

“I wrote Hume’s Fork in 2003 and my resolution for 2004 was to court and win an agent,” says Ron, “I watched that resolution flatten under a mountain of ‘interesting, but no thanks’ letters. On the other hand, all that time between sprints to the mailbox was spent revising the beast and researching publishers. By the end of that year, I decided to submit the manuscript to a handful of independent presses whose titles showed some kinship with mine.”

In early fall of 2005, Ron’s resolution came true when Bancroft Press, one of Ron’s first choices, offered him a publishing contract with a book release date in March 2007.

“My new resolution is to complete the new novel I’m working on,” adds Ron, “and spend the summer at readings and book signings for Hume’s Fork.”

5. ‘Family As My Top Priority’

Carolyn Roberts

When the Chancellor of Education scheduled a board meeting on Halloween, Carolyn Roberts reminded him of a very important prior commitment she had made — trick or treating with her children. The Chancellor changed the meeting. Carolyn, who owns Roberts Real Estate and is also a prominent public official, says her priority has always been her family.

“My number one new year’s resolution is always the same — to keep my family as my top priority,” says Carolyn.

Tapped initially by the governor to serve on the Board of Regents, Carolyn has been in continuous public service ever since. She is now chairwoman of the Board of Governors, which oversees the State of Florida University System. Whether running a state board meeting or her business, everyone knows her family comes first.

“If my family is calling me,” she says, “I take that call.”

6. ‘The Promise I Made To Him’

Dr. Norm Anderson

A childhood friendship inspired a lifelong resolution that Dr. Norm Anderson continues to keep every day of the year.

Robert “Rusty” Boissoneault and Norm were instant buddies when they met in junior high school. “He was like a brother to me,” says Norm.

The close friendship lasted through high school and college until their junior year when Rusty was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. Although Norm had already decided to become a doctor, on the day that Rusty died, Norm knew that his work would be dedicated in Rusty’s memory.

“I made a promise to never lose a patient to the disease that took Rusty’s life,” says Norm. “And I am proud to say that thanks to the team whom I work with, I haven’t.”

Each day, Norm drives into his office that bears Rusty’s name: The Robert Boissoneault Oncology Center, a literal reminder of his special resolution.

“Every day I drive into the office,” says Norm, “I see Rusty’s name and remind myself of the promise I made to him.”

7. ‘An Unhealthy Situation’

Philip Leppert

A hike up Stone Mountain convinced Philip Leppert he needed to change his life and get in shape. After years of struggling with his weight, a pivotal moment during his family vacation led Philip to make a life changing resolution.

“I could barely make it up the mountain and my family was leaving me behind,” says Philip, who is the Coordinator of Employment Services Division of the Marion County Public School System. “I realized I was getting myself in an unhealthy situation. I wanted to be around for my wife and three kids.”

Philip began working out with a group of friends and the pounds started peeling away. He’s now 80 pounds slimmer, his cholesterol is markedly lower, he has more energy, and most importantly, Stone Mountain is no longer his nemesis.

“Last year when my family went camping, I was the one pulling them up the mountain,” he says, smiling.

8. ‘To Help The Youth In Our Community’

Narvella Haynes

When Narvella saw her young son at a critical crossroads in his life, she knew she had to do something. And, in typical Narvella fashion, she decided to do something not only for her son, but also for the community.

“I made a New Year’s resolution to try to help the youth in our community,” says Narvella, who is the community development director for the Ocala/Marion County YMCA, “I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but knew I had to do something.”

A visit with her pastor at New Zion Missionary Church led her to work with their youth group. At the time, Narvella was working as a telephone operator for Bell South, never dreaming she’d end up in a career working with young people.

“I didn’t see myself in this job. I used to be in a shell,” says Narvella. “But making a difference for our youth has become my passion.”

Tips for Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

Making a resolution is only half the battle. The other half is keeping the promise for change. Success lies in seeing your goal as a series of steps according to Dr. Violet D. Poetter, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist who is in private practice with her husband at Poetter & Poetter, PA, here in Ocala.

“Most of us are not good at prioritizing. We don’t always do the things that are most important to our well-being,” says Violet. “It’s no wonder then that once the New Year finally arrives, we are happy to make resolutions. This is the time to take all those disappointments and motivate ourselves to do better next year.”

Violet says resolutions are coping strategies. Her rule of thumb is to limit your resolutions to no more than three.

“Remember,” she adds, “when you have more to do than you can possibly do, maybe you just need to feel good about your choices.”

1. Identify the item that needs to be changed.

2. Break it down into small steps.

3. Begin each step.

4. Evaluate and revise.

5. In order to stay disciplined and maintain momentum, provide short-term reinforcements.

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