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And I’m back! Dreaming bigger again, only this time my focus is on joy. Kind of appropriate since the subtitle of my book is Reclaiming a Life of Joy and Ease!

I’m writing a new blog now at Jules for Joy. It’s my journey toward joy, through creativity, play and beauty. I’m exploring what brings joy into my life, and then sharing it.

I’d love to hear where you find joy. Perhaps we can inspire each other!

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Xmas 2010 004

May the blessings of the season be yours!

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Hurricane Sandy recently cause widespread damage and power outages across the East Coast of the United States. It also caused strangers to come together in support of each other.

Here are some heart-warming stories.

With the arrival of the hurricane, the New York City Marathon was cancelled. Suddenly 50,000 runners who had come to New York City from 125 countries had no race to run. So, many of them put their time and energy to good use.

They ran back and forth, carrying bags, backpacks, supplies and provisions to area residents. In some cases, they were even moving furniture.

As one of the runners pointed out, the reason they come to New York City for the marathon is the people and the energy that the crowds provide as they run. They felt that this was one way they could give back to the people who have supported them over the years.

In other areas of the city, those with power were doing everything they could to help those who had no hydro. Residents were running extension cords out their front windows to power bars on the sidewalk or front stairs. They posted signs offering free hydro for charging cell phones and other electronic devices.

Remember the Occupy Wall Street movement? Members have self-organized through social media to help bring food, medicine and other supplies to New York City. As well, hundreds of veterans have been removing debris and rehabilitating homes in the Rockaway neighbourhood in Queens, New York.

This week, 2 enormous cargo planes from Russia landed at JFK International airport carrying over 50 tons of supplies and aid including much needed items like blankets. According to reports, there are still over 20,000 people without power, two weeks after Sandy made landfall.

Perhaps the most compelling story, however, came from NYU Medical Centre. When the hurricane hit the coast, more than ten feet of water flooded seven of the Medical Centre buildings and they completely lost power. During the night, doctors, nurses and staff had to evacuate 300 patients to area hospitals, including 20 newborn babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Nurses carried these tiny prematurely-born infants plus their oxygen tanks down many flights of wet stairs in the dark. One father described trying to get in to see his 3-week old son who had just had heart surgery. He waited outside in the rain for two hours until a doctor finally let him in. They raced up fifteen flights in the dark to his son’s room. They found him and raced back down the stairs, driving to another hospital through the darkened streets. All the babies are apparently doing well.

These are just a few of many examples of people going the extra mile under challenging circumstances to help each other out.

We all have this capacity for compassion and generosity. What if we tapped into that strength every day? Imagine the impact on our families, our communities … our world!

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You just never know.

Yesterday, I attended a Company of Women lunch event. I enjoy these events because I get to meet amazing women business owners and listen to inspiring speakers. At this one, Chala Dincoy of CoachTactics discussed how to get five new clients this month doing what you love. As a coach and small business owner, naturally the topic caught my interest.

I went without expectations, but filled with curiousity. And my curiousity was well satisfied. I love it when that happens. She offered an intriguing approach, one that really spoke to me and helped me recognize what I can do to tweak my business direction.

One of her ideas involved seeing your brand as a human being with a personality. Once I can identify the main qualities of my brand’s personality, the next step is the fun one – what celebrity embodies those qualities?

Hmm, if my brand is wise, spiritual and serene, then the Dalai Lama comes to mind. If it’s fun and funky, then perhaps Carol Burnett (or Lucille Ball). Or if it’s bold, daring and adventurous, it might be Harrison Ford or Sean Connery.

I can see this is going to take some time!!

According to Chala, the character of your brand influences every other aspect of what you do, so it’s key to understand this before you move forward. I’m now curious to see where it takes me.

Yesterday’s event didn’t end there, however. There were some draw prizes and … I won two of them!

Chala and I with my doorprizes. Don’t you love the background?

It was definitely a win-win day on all accounts.

I bought a lottery ticket on the way home. Always dreaming bigger … 🙂

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Be Grateful

I am often inspired by the writing of others. Here’s a poem that really speaks to me and, I hope, to you.

To An English Friend in Africa

by Ben Okri

Be grateful for the freedom to see other dreams. Bless your loneliness as much as you drank of your former companionships. All that you are experiencing now will become moods of future joys. So bless it all.

Do not think your way superior to another’s. Do not venture to judge, but see things with fresh and open eyes. Do not condemn, but praise when you can, and when you can’t, be silent.

Time now is a gift for you. A gift of freedom to think and remember and understand the ever perplexing past and to recreate yourself anew in order to transform time.

Live while you are alive. Learn the ways of silence and wisdom. Learn to act, learn a new speech. Learn to be what you are in the seed of your spirit. Learn to free yourself from all the things that have moulded you and which limit your secret and undiscovered road.

Remember that all things which happen to you are raw materials. Endlessly fertile. Endlessly yielding of thoughts that could change your life and go on doing so forever.

Never forget to pray and be thankful for all things good or bad on the rich road; for everything is changeable so long as you live while you are alive.

Fear not, but be full of light and love. Fear not, but be alert and receptive. Fear not, but act decisively when you should. Fear not, but know when to stop. Fear not, for you are loved by me. Fear not, for death is not the real terror, but life magically is.

Be joyful in your silence, be strong in your patience. Do not try to wrestle with the universe, but be sometimes like water or air, sometimes like fire, and constant like the earth.

Live slowly, think slowly, for time is a mystery. Never forget that love requires always that you be the greatest person you are capable of being, self-regenerating and strong and gentle–your own hero and star.

Love demands the best in us. To always and in time overcome the worst and lowest in our souls. Love the world wisely.  It is love alone that is the greatest weapon and the deepest and hardest secret.

So fear not, my friend. The darkness is gentler than you think. Be grateful for the manifold, dreams of creation, and the many ways of the unnumbered peoples.

Be grateful for life as you live it. And may a wonderful light always guide you on the unfolding road.


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Last week, I had the privilege of finally meeting Marie Ens. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, although I’d written about her in my book, and we’d had a series of email and skype conversations from her home in Cambodia over the past couple of years, we had never actually met.

It was like meeting a good friend, someone you’ve known for years. Her face lit up when I introduced myself and we had the first of many hugs. As I watched her that evening, chatting with people before and after her presentation, I could see why she’s been able to move mountains and transform lives for hundreds of Cambodian orphans, families with AIDS and aging grandmothers.

Yes, her faith is strong. She not only believes wholeheartedly that God is working through her, she trusts that guidance completely. She is also a genuinely loving human being who is living from her heart. Every thought, word and prayer is for the children and families she works with. I don’t think I have ever met anyone who embodies grace, love and faith in every cell of her being the way Marie does.

As she told the stories of the children and families who come to Place of Rescue, I felt chilled. Cambodia has a very high rate of AIDS. Women are unknowingly infected by their husbands who visit prostitutes (an accepted social practice), and children are also born with the virus. The husbands die or abandon their wives and children, leaving them to fend for themselves.

Children as young as five are sold into prostitution by impoverished family members. Or living in small quarters with male family members, young women are raped and become pregnant. Children who are born handicapped are also abandoned.

Then there’s the legacy of the Pol Pot regime. Marie spoke of over 2 million people who were executed during that time, particularly those who had more than a grade three education. Needless to say, this left families decimated, with children and the elderly having nowhere to live.

Marie also mentioned several groups of children who had recently come to Rescue after witnessing their fathers murder their mothers.

And yet, she’s the one who feels blessed – to be surrounded by so many children at this stage of her life, to see their glowing smiles and happy faces, to watch their transformation from the horrific events of their past to a solid future with a good education and strong self-esteem.

As she told me, she can now look back and see how every experience in her life was preparing her for the work she is now doing. She’s the first to admit that she never would have anticipated what has happened since her retirement at sixty-six. The original dream she had for a few houses where families with AIDS could live together now encompasses three communities. Antiviral drugs mean that those with AIDS are able to work in the organic gardens. Children who would have had no opportunity for education are now graduating from highschool and going to university or technical school with dreams of their own. And they have a strong sense of family and community.

And now at 77, Marie has new dreams – of finding jobs for the children who are graduating. One of her visions is to open a maternity clinic where some of Rescue’s graduates could return as medics, doctors and midwives to help the next generation of Rescue’s residents create a better future for themselves.

She plans to carry on until she’s called “home” as she puts it. Her legacy will live on because she has established a strong support system – a Cambodian-registered non-governmental organization formed with Cambodian friends, and the Canadian-based Place of Rescue Foundation that provides financial support.

And having seen the love in the faces of the children, families and staff at Rescue, I believe the heart of the endeavour will continue too, thanks to the dreams and determination of a former farm girl from Saskatchewan.

*****

While back in Canada, Marie was interviewed on 100 Huntley Street. To view her 2-part interview, click here and here.

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When you start out on the journey toward a dream, you’re filled with mixed feelings. There’s excitement at the thought of bringing something new and wonderful into your life. And anxiety because the actual outcome remains unknown. And sometimes, even though you create the vision, say all the affirmations, take every step and persevere through the challenges, the path doesn’t end up taking you where you wanted to go.

It can be discouraging and disheartening, to say the least.

I’ve had this experience numerous times in my life, and have just gone through it again.

Remember that house that I was so excited about in a blog before Christmas? Well, our offer on it was conditional upon selling my condo. And, in spite of countless open houses (including two on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve!) and endless showings (and very positive comments from viewers), and keeping the place constantly immaculate, there was only one offer and it was very, very low.

So my condo is now off the market, we’ve let the offer on the house lapse, and we’re readjusting our focus.

Do I know why it happened this way? Nope. At the time, finding that house seemed like serendipity. However, I do know from experience that serendipity involves flow. It’s recognized by the surprising ease with which puzzle pieces come together. Challenges are met with little effort and support comes from unexpected places.

That wasn’t the case this time. Something was off and although we all tried our hardest to make it work, in the end, it didn’t.

It helps that I’ve been through this before, so that makes this turn of events easier to accept. We may never know why things didn’t work out. Or, perhaps in six months, we’ll look back and think, “Aha! I’m so glad the condo didn’t sell and we didn’t buy that house.”

I do know that life has a way of working out and that, for now, staying in this condo is the solution that’s in our best interest. I also know that there’s something even better, a bigger dream, waiting for us. We may not be ready to dream bigger just yet, and that’s okay because what is for us will come to us, when the time is right.

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