You can’t stop a Woman on Fire!

Today I am introducing you to a Woman on Fire whose inspiring mid-career choice was one she might never have predicted or imagined.  It happened because she was just following her heart.

Pier Boutin, of Housatonic, Massachusetts, was hiking in a mountainous village in Morocco last year when her eye caught the tiny figures of a little boy stumbling and his five-year-old sister helping him up as he fell down with each step.

The little boy had a serious and debilitating case of “club feet” and Pier, a mother and an orthopedic surgeon, was drawn to this little boy and knew she had to do something.

Dr. Pier Boutin with “Little Amed” at home in the Berkshires; his legs are in casts from his groin to his toes; only 4, and far from his home in Morocco, he rarely cries and brings such love and presence to his American family!

In the village, she met the little boy’s family who speak Berber.  Through translators she explained that she could help him.  In his village, a deformity such as his would prevent him from receiving an education or being employed.

Pier did what a Woman on Fire does.  She returned to the United States and  put to work every skill she possessed to change the course of life for this captivating and beautiful little boy she could not leave behind.  Nothing would stop her then — or now.

She raised money, organized his many surgeries and medical care, made arrangements for travel (he and his father had never ridden in a car much less fly on a plane to the U.S.) and that’s just the beginning.

She and her husband Dr. Mark Hyman, who are already parents of four, prepared and opened their home to love, nurture and protect Little Amedduring his many months’-long stay and extensive medical care and recovery.

And, Pier has done it all with such gratitude for Little Amed’s parents, marveling that they would trust her with their precious child.

Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Pier Boutin and Little Amed
Drs. Mark Hyman and Pier Boutin joyfully playing with Little Amed who loves Superheroes especially Spiderman

These past few months since Little Amed has joined the Boutin-Hyman family Pier sends regular updates about the little boy who has changedtheir lives.

When I see her emails in my inbox (and especially after I got to meet the amazing Little Amed last June), I always prepare for happy tears at the latest happenings with this darling child.

Here is an excerpt from Pier’s most recent update:

Little Amed is blossoming. He looks forward to school every morning.  He chooses his clothes for school and helps me prepare his snack every night.  He is so proud to hobble to class pulling his little backpack on wheels. At night, we have to hang his new drawings by his bed.

His teachers have integrated him and welcomed him wholeheartedly.  The children, not only in his class, but in the entire school have followed suit.  For example, Little Amed cannot run and play with a ball like the others, so one day he started to roll in the grass.  The kids apparently thought this was so funny and fun!  They all started rolling in the grass kicking their feet up laughing!

Little Amed is thrilled to attend school.  I wish every child could attend class with the same enthusiasm.

And, here is what I mean about Pier living the life of a Woman on Fire. She is living full out and, in doing so, at every turn the universe has risen to help her:

The kindness and innate humanity always shines through hardships. Today, I mention one of so many people who have come forward to help Little Amed, Mohamed Zabian.

While in the mountains of Morocco, the “I love you” watch my husband gave me years ago fell apart.  Upon my return (to the Berkshires), I immediately took it to Mohamed Zabian Jewelers.

While completing the paperwork, I mentioned I had a little boy with the same name at my house.  I proceeded to explain how I came upon this wonderful little boy with clubfeet.  Mr. Zabian asked to be added to my mailing list.  As I left, I asked for directions to St. Mary’s School.  I thought Little Amed should go to school, play with kids his own age, and learn to speak English.

Mr. Zabian knew St. Mary’s school had already started and there was a waiting list.  Enrollment was complete and the school was expensive.  Despite this, I decided I would plead Little Amed’s case to the school. Perhaps St. Mary’s would let him go there one or two mornings a week.

 Mohamed Zabian instructed me to go home and he would call me about the school the next day. Well! He certainly followed through for Little Amed and me. The very next day, Little Amed enrolled at St. Mary’s full time with the tuition paid in full.  Doesn’t it make your heart sing to hear of such generosity!

Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Pier Boutin, Debbie Phillips and Little Amed
 Dinner at the Hyman-Boutin home is not only fresh from their garden as they promote good health for all but full of love and life with Little Amed in the house! (Photos by Rob Berkley)

You are welcome to read more inspiration and to follow Pier and Little Ahmed’s latest surgeries and adventures by going to these sites:

Facebook page:


Info/donation page:

Here I am with Little Amed…I, too, fell in love with this little angel boy who will undergo further major surgery September 27.  And, after his recovery, he will be able to run and play with all the other children!  

And, last…

A huge and warm welcome to the many of you who’ve joined the SPARK!this week after hearing Janette Barber interview me on her show on Sirius XM or you read the profile that Capital Style Magazine EditorKristy Eckert wrote about Woman on Fire. We are so happy you are here!

Also, in less than two weeks, 150 women will gather in Columbus, Ohio for Women on Fire Day featuring keynote speaker Janette Barber, the Women on Fire book co-authors, and a panel featuring Debi LillyLiz Lessner and Mary Ellen Jones.

The event has sold out.  I can’t wait to see all of you there!

I’d love to hear how the universe has risen to help you when you’ve lived your life “full out.” Please share your thoughts below in the comments section.

Paint By Camera

I’m off in Lenox, MA in the Berkshires today to meet with Dr. Mark Hyman and his amazing staff.  Many of you know him from his many books and television appearances.

Mark is a leader in a new movement called functional medicine, where medical practitioners search for root causes of illness or pain rather than simply treat the symptoms.  Because of my recent thyroid surgery, (Spark #3 “Terrible Scare”) I am making double-sure I am taking all the necessary steps for optimal health!

Before I left, I had the pleasure of selecting this week’s Woman on Fire — Melissa McClain.  I feel like the luckiest person in the world to know so many inspiring and dynamic women.

By day, Melissa works in the crisis management field. The rest of the time you can find her with her camera, or in her studio  at melissaAnne Photography and Design where she uses all of her creative talent full out. From “painting” with her camera, Melissa has created a line of wonderful fabrics and beautiful watercolor prints that both awe and inspire with their beauty.

She lives in Brooklyn, NY and having only been introduced to Women On Fire 9 months ago, she is already a regular at our New York tea parties. This weekend she launches her abstract photography in an exhibit at Linger Cafe and Lounge, 533 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, at 7PM Saturday.

I am so inspired by the way Melissa holds down a full-time job and makes time to express her deepest passion, and I believe you will be, too!

Much love,

This week’s Woman on Fire: Melissa McClain
Joined Women on Fire: 2009

How did you come to be a part of Women On Fire?

My undergrad professor and now friend Dave Neal grew up with Debbie Phillips and connected us on Facebook.

What would you like other Women On Fire to know about you, your work, and your life?

I have spent the last 12 years working in Crisis Management and becoming an industry leader in Survivor and Family Assistance program design and crisis response for the private sector.  I have created programs for and responded to mass casualty aviation accidents, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters.  It is a career where you hope you are never really needed, know some day you will be, and when you are feel fortunate to lend a helping hand and make a difference for someone who is impacted, yet wish it had never happened.

A few years ago, photography became my “self-care” practice of choice.  It soothes me and gives me an opportunity to create things of beauty and joy. Last year I took a business trip to Iceland and I took a very random picture of the bottom of an old wooden boat.

The image that started it all

The colors and textures intrigued me and there was a sense of making something new and beautiful out of something worn and weathered.  That one unexpected photo moment opened up a new world for me inspiring the melissaAnne Water Colors and Urban Colors Collections.

These abstract images, representing hidden beauty in things like boat bottoms and walls of graffiti, provide colors and textures that inspire me and others.  I didn’t know it a year ago, but this is my true passion and this is how my soul communicates.  I am now expanding the Water Colors and Urban Colors Collections to textile designs and recently began making pillows from my custom fabrics.

Which Women On Fire Aspiration speaks to you the most?

I dedicate myself to using my strengths, gifts, and talents to make a difference in the world.

I was able to do this in my Crisis Management profession and have many ideas for integrating my photography and designs to support organizations such as Women for Women International, creating a foundation for art therapy resources for kids and teens who have experienced disaster or crisis situations, and supporting Cystic Fibrosis causes through fundraiser prints and products.

What is the most rewarding connection you have made so far from Women On Fire?

Women on Fire Ann Graham, Debbie Phillips and Melissa McClain

I have been a part of the WOF group for less than a year.  In that time I have met so many amazing women who I am grateful to call my friends.  The support, encouragement, and positive energy I receive on a daily basis helps me get through the tough moments of juggling an established career while transitioning to a new passion and purpose.  The genuine championing of other women make the accomplishments, big and small, all that more exciting and joyful!  I love being inspired and being able to share inspiration with other women who want to make a difference in the world, in their own lives, and the lives of others.

Melissa McClain and Sandra Carlson at recent tea party

What does Women On Fire mean to you?

WOF is women being genuine, and caring, and compassionate.  It’s valued friendships.  Some days it’s a shelter in a storm.  It’s a team of people celebrating successes, supporting when struggles appear, and inspiring each other to keep moving forward every day.  Moving forward not just for ourselves but for all the  women who come together here with dreams and goals, because our individual movements propel each other.

What would you like to tell other Women on Fire about their own hopes and dreams?

I borrow this idea from Debbie on a daily basis, but I now realize that it all comes down to one simple sentence:  Don’t give up before the miracle.  Don’t stop being in action.  Don’t get discouraged.  Believe in yourself, push yourself, do things that scare you (I sure have!), make mistakes (I’ve done that, too!), and keep working on whatever it is you have in your heart and soul.  It’s who you are, it’s what you have to offer to the rest of us and we can’t wait to watch you and support you on your way!

Given that your pursuits are so artistic and creative, do you get stuck?  If so, what’s your favorite way to get “unstuck”?

Strangely enough, I don’t get “stuck” too often creatively.

I seem to get “stuck” in life when I’m not being creative and fulfilling my passions.

To get unstuck, well, I make a date with my camera.  When I have my camera in hand I feel complete and the world seems to speak to me in a different way.   Writing about a photography adventure and sharing my pictures with others helps, too.


melissaAnne Photography and Designs

Here is some of Melissa’s beautiful work that she has created through her business —  melissaAnne Photography and Designs

Garden of Angels

Water Colors 10

If you would like to see even more, please visit Melissa at her website:
or her blog:

Portrait of Melissa McClain by Rob Berkley

Women on Fire Tea Party photos by Shannon McCaffery