April Book to Live By

“Only Love is Real” by Brian Weiss M.D.

This beautiful book portrays two strangers, Elizabeth and Pedro, who are unaware they have been lovers throughout centuries until fate brings them together again, demonstrating how each of us has a soul mate waiting to reunite with us.

She’s a Woman on Fire! Meet Allison Barry

Say hello to…

Allison Barry- Woman on Fire

Allison Barry

Boston, Massachusetts

Member number: #00009

Member since: October 13, 2011

Please tell us about YOU, your family, your work, and what you are “on fire” about. 

I recently turned 50, and I feel that I’m starting a whole second life. I grew up in Orchard Park, New York, a suburb of Buffalo. I am the oldest of three, and aunt to six nieces and nephews ranging in age from four to 23. They bring so much joy and energy to all of our family gatherings.

My family is about to grow, but more about that in a minute. I have enjoyed a long career in the world of enterprise software, which has provided me with the means to travel and to buy a house on Cape Cod—perfect for those family gatherings.

I am on fire about the adventure that awaits me, as I am now engaged! I have never been married, and I am experiencing the dream of a lifetime with this engagement, the gaining of step-daughters and my moving in with someone.

I had faith that the day would come when I could say, “He was worth the wait!”—and that day is here with Kevin. This brilliant, fun-loving man has brought so much joy and passion to my world. Now I can’t imagine my life without him.

How did you originally connect to Women on Fire?

Years ago, a former co-worker and friend, Laurie Forster, introduced me to Holly Getty. (They’re both Women on Fire.) Holly gave me a coaching session with Debbie Phillips as a thank-you, and the rest is history! I was living in New Jersey at the time, so I have been a frequent, enthusiastic participant of the teas in New York City. I’ve attended the annual retreats, including the very first one in Columbus, Ohio, and teas in Boston, too!

What’s your favorite component of the Women on Fire membership?

I love the chats when I can make them and certainly the interviews. But one of my favorites is the weekly Spark! Every Sunday, I look forward to the words of wisdom, updates and thoughts from Debbie.

What is your favorite part of the day?

My favorite part of the day is now the end of the workday, when I transition into fiancée and enjoy a date night or a simple dinner at home.

What is the last book you read that you would recommend to other Women on Fire?

I just read the first two books of Ken Follett’s Century trilogy. I love long, involved novels that weave together historical fact with human triumph and tragedy.

What is the one thing you’re most proud of?

The relationships in my life—my friends and family and now a fiancé!

What is something that we might be surprised to learn about you?

I played rugby in college.

If you had an unexpected free day, how would you spend it? 

If alone, I would ease into the day, go for a brisk walk or do some Pilates, followed by lunch at a favorite spot and then some shopping. All that fun would be followed by dinner out with my date. I might throw in a movie, too.

What is your favorite city in the world?


Your favorite “pig-out” food?

Tortilla chips and guacamole.

Name the top three songs on your iPod right now?

For Good” from the soundtrack of Wicked,Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, and “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

Share a special Women on Fire moment or experience.

There are so many, but one that stands out was my first Women on Fire tea at Lady Mendl’s in New York. I was amazed at the immediate connections I made with these women. It felt like they’d been my friends for years. I had the great fortune of sitting next to the late, lovely and vivacious Jacqueline Pimentel, who left an enduring impression on me.

Name another Woman on Fire who has inspired you and tell why.

Oh, there are so many! My good friend Holly Getty continues to inspire me with her grace, compassion and strength. She cheered me through the ups and downs of dating and so many other things. She is a great listener and friend who lights up every room she enters.

What’s your big dream?

I feel that my big dream is coming true, which is sharing my life with someone I love, who loves me equally in return. I am gaining three daughters, and I look forward to the chaos, adventures and perhaps even grandparenting that will come as a result.

If you had the opportunity to teach a child one strategy that would help to guide her life, what would that be?

Make time to invest in friends who listen and encourage.

Name three women who have influenced your life, and tell what you’ve learned from each.

My mom showed me how to be socially graceful and compassionate and what a loving, supportive marriage should be.

My friend Julie has been a best friend since the first day of seventh grade. She taught me how to be a good friend and how to face adversity with grace and humor.

My friend and former boss Colleen taught me selling skills and how to be a successful woman in a man’s world.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced? How did you overcome it?

I think one of my biggest challenges was getting out of my own way to find love. When I was in my early 40s, I was stuck. I was going out on dates, but I was not attracting the right men—or any men at all, for that matter. I sought help through coaching and therapy and got myself on a much more positive path. Then, I was finally able to get the relationship I wanted.

What was the biggest surprise you’ve had in your life?

My 50th birthday last September held the biggest surprise of my life. After weeks of helping to care for my aunt who was in and out of the hospital, I was looking forward to being home and having a quiet birthday dinner with Kevin. We had talked about our future a few months before, but a lot had happened in August and September, so our future was not on my mind.

As I left his house in Hartford that Saturday morning to visit my aunt one more time, he confirmed that he could meet me in Boston that night for dinner. I was home in time to shower and get “girly” for my date. He arrived, changed, made us drinks, and said we had time for me to open my birthday gift before our reservation. We sat in the living room where a small gift bag was waiting.

As I opened the perfect little square box, he got down on one knee and proposed! I was shocked and said YES through tears as quickly as I could! I remember thinking, “This is the moment I’ve been waiting for, and it’s as great as I thought it would be!”

As if that weren’t enough, he whisked me off to my favorite restaurant in Boston, where a group of friends and family were waiting to surprise me for my birthday. Well, I had a bigger surprise for them! It was a perfect night that still makes me smile from ear to ear.

Allison Barry and her fiancé- Woman on Fire

The picture above is of Kevin and me from that night. So much love and joy! I couldn’t smile any bigger!

Who cheers you on?

I am so blessed to have a fiancé and a circle of friends and family that cheer me on. I also have cheerleaders at work who provide moral support and encouraging words when challenges arise.

What is your go-to self-care strategy?

A workout and a massage.

When you reflect on your life so far, what are the first words that come to mind?

Fortunate and Fun

More about Allison Barry…

Allison has a long history in the computer software industry, having worked in that field since she graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York. She manages a sales team that does product presentations and demonstrations—her favorite part of the job and what keeps her in the business. Allison wrote a chapter about an important phase of her work life for Women on Fire, Volume 1, titled “Stepping Off of the Corporate Ladder.”

Inspired by a family trip to Europe when she was 14, Allison loves to travel and is usually planning her next trip. She also loves skiing, especially with her fiancé, Kevin. She currently lives in Boston with her kitty, Bonnie, but will soon relocate to Hartford, Connecticut, for love!

She’s A Woman On Fire! feature is compiled by senior writer Becky Adams.

November Book Of The Month

This month’s Books To Live By choice highlights our November membership program theme — The Courage To Tell Your Story.

With Thanksgiving coming and the publication of powerful stories in Women on Fire book, Volume 2 only weeks away, our recommended book this month weaves together gratitude and collective storytelling.

From the creator of Story Corps, the popular radio project often heard on NPR, this book features vignettes of what it means to be grateful, to be in love with your life, and to be brave enough to share your story with others.


Our November selection is….

Ties That Bind: Stories of Love and Gratitude from the First Ten Years of Story Corps (amazon link) by Dave Isay

Story Corps is an oral history project started by Dave Isay to provide the opportunity for people of all backgrounds and ages to record, share and preserve the stories of their lives. Since its start, Story Corps has recorded more than 45,000 interviews with 90,000 people.

Ties That Bind is a collection of conversations from those recordings that will introduce you to a variety of everyday people who have faced incredible odds, lived through unspeakable acts, and stand to tell the tale of how they have survived and healed.

What I loved most about this book is the reaffirmation of just how freeing it is to tell your own truth. The vulnerability of each contributor is deeply moving and the book will touch your heart.

Ties That Bind is a perfect gift and a great read for your entire family over the holidays. It’s the kind of book you pass around the table to share a favorite story — or 10 in it!

Hope you get a chance to read it and, as always, let me know your thoughts when you do.

Mustering the courage to grieve

“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because dawn has come.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore

My brother died last week.

On, of all days, September 11.

The picture above was our last photo together taken six months after he was diagnosed with lung cancer.  Inside, my heart was breaking and when I look at his face I know his was too.

After more than a two-year battle, his death wasn’t unexpected.  But when it happened last week, I couldn’t have been more stunned.

He vigorously texted family members on September 10.  How could he just vanish from the earth a day later?

Four days later, I’m still tangled in that part of grief that is shock, sadness and denial.

Reading obituary pages, I’ve always imagined that every person listed leaves behind at least a dozen bereaved people.  That would mean millions of grieving people every day trying to carry on with their lives. How do they do it?

Now I am one of them. Again.

I’ve been in this aching, haunting, surreal spot before.  I was 10 when my beloved grandmother died, 32 when my mother-in-law died, and 49 when my father left this world.

Each of these devastating losses profoundly reshaped me.  I tuned into the spirit world when my grandmother died; my faith deepened and I started to live life on my own terms after Libby died; and I sharpened my focus on love and my life’s work after my Dad died.

With Steve’s death, I feel too sad, too raw, too guilty, too distraught to know what will come from losing this loved one.

So for now I just need to be sad.  Sad that our precious original family of seven, reduced to six when my Dad died, is now pared to five.  Sad that my mother should lose her child. Sad that my brother leaves a gravely ill wife and two daughters in their 20s. Sad that he is gone.

Our last family portrait of the six of us. My sisters Susan and Lori and my brothers Steve and Scott with my mother at Christmas.

Intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and from my experience, I know if I have the courage to lean into the grief, I will move through it.  I do believe, as awful as it feels, the nature of suffering is to develop compassion. I believe, too, that great and unexpected things will happen because of this loss.

At the moment though, I can do nothing but let my tears flow, ruminate over what I said or didn’t say, wonder if I did enough to ease his suffering.  I grab onto every new detail of his final days imagining I could have intervened and changed the outcome.

This is all part of the “magical thinking” of grief that comes with the loss of someone you love so dearly.

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.” ~ Joan Didion, Year of Magical Thinking

Rest in peace, my sweet brother. I love you forever.


Thank you so much for the tremendous outpouring of love and support I’ve received these past few days.  You are all so amazing and helps so much to move through this difficult time.

I know there are many of you grieving your own losses as well.  Let this powerfully loving and supportive community be there for you. I know I’m sure leaning into it.

Take good care and I’ll see you back here next week.

Celebrating Women on Fire

I’ve been on vacation these past few days and can’t wait to tell you some things I learned while taking time off.  (Funny how it works that way! When the vessel is empty …)

Also, I’m losing my mind NOT to tell you what I’m doing in Chicago on Monday.  🙂 But don’t worry, you’ll receive a full report next week!

And the best part of all is what YOU are up to!  Below is a quick catch-up with a number of Women on Fire.

*This week’s Pinspiration*

Pin to share the love

When one of us succeeds, it reminds us that we all have the power to succeed- Pinspiration from Women on Fire www.womenonfire.com

You know I believe a “rising tide lifts all boats” and when one of us shares a joy or an accomplishment, it can inspire us all.  So thank you to the women who shared your successes and congratulations to each of you.

Wendy DeSimone celebrating at the top of a high ropes course.

Wendy DeSimone of Northport, New York, recently celebrated her 50th birthday with her sister at the Miraval Resort and Spa in Arizona. During her five-day stay she opted into their adrenaline pumping challenges course of ropes and high wires that tested her limits and pushed her way beyond her comfort zone to 45 feet in the air to be exact!

Throughout her trip, she climbed up and ziplined off of a 45-foot telephone pole, balanced her way across a log 25 feet in the air, jumped from a 25-foot telephone pole.

Wendy “walking the plank” at the Miraval Spa in Arizona

After returning from Tucson, Wendy said “I truly felt like a Woman on Fire, from the top of my  head all the way down to my toes.”

Beth Rose of Redlands, California launched a long-awaited project recently as the Director of Hospitality Services for Loma Linda University. After a full year and a half of careful planning and analysis, she and her team have premiered their new volunteer management system. With more than 800 current volunteers, that’s a fantastic accomplishment.

Phoebe Lapine featured in Food & Wine Magazine

Our favorite food blogger Phoebe Lapine of New York City, was recently recognized for her oustanding talent in the kitchen! And this time by the prestigious Food & Wine Magazine which awared her blog Feed Me Phoebe, with one of their first digital awards. Many of you shared recently how much you recently loved Phoebe’s receipes in the Women on Fire membership package. I’m so glad to see that Food & Wine Magazine recognized what we already know 🙂 about one of the talented members!

A preview to Tandi Phillips Musuraca’s engagement announcement

Tandi Phillips Musuraca of Columbus, Ohio recently became engaged to her partner Ryan SquiresTandi is one of the most creative women I know, and her engagement announcement reflects the inspiring creativity of these two.  Check out the adorable engagement announcement. And, congratulations, Tandi and Ryan!

Sherrie Sokolowski and her new baby girl Elianna

Sherrie Sokolowski of York, Pennsylvania just had her first baby, an adorable baby girl named EliannaSherrie is an event planning genius and started her own company called SLS Event Planning & Consulting LLC. If you haven’t met this talented woman, you will soon at our upcoming winter Women on Fire event (details soon). Sending Sherrie, her husband Kyle and little Elianna tons of love!

Jen Milam pictured with her bridesmaids on the day of her wedding

Jen Milam of Minneapolis, Minnesota recently tied the knot with her college sweetheart Jay. Originally from West Chester, Ohio, the couple attended Miami University of Ohio. Jen now works as a business analyst for Target. What a beautiful bride! Congratulations on your big day :).

Mary Duafala of Columbus, Ohio has launched a brilliant initiative called the Abbey Rose Foundation. Her organization is dedicated to keeping pets and their people healthy!  The foundation promotes holistic education and if you have a pet, I hope you will check out the site and see what she’s up, too.

Mary’s long-time commitment to keeping our animals strong, healthy and happy is so inspiring and I am so proud she is a member of our community!

And I am thrilled you are part of Women on Fire, too!

Have great week and pleeeeeeze come back next week so I can tell you all about Chicago. 🙂


Ask Debbie Anything: “How do I find what my highest expression of love is?”

Do you ever wonder if you are tapping into your highest potential? Do you know what your greatest gifts are in this world? Are you ready to start putting your highest expression into practice?

Discover How To:

  • Tap into your highest expression of love
  • Find what your greatest gifts are with one simple step
  • Fine tune your passions into your purpose

In less than 3 min.

What is your highest expression of love?

Want to ask Debbie anything? Email your questions to meredith(at)womenonfire(dot)com.

P.S. Do you feel like your morning routine is driving you crazy? Learn how to start your mornings more smoothly with last week’s ‘Ask Debbie Anything’.

Practicing Extreme Love

I spent most of today feeling sad and I wondered if you might be, too.

Every time I feel we take a major step backward in our country – whether it has to do with women’s reproductive rights or a man acquitted for killing a young, unarmed boy – I feel so overwhelmingly disappointed and helpless.

Where is Martin Luther King Jr. when we need him?  It was my first thought this morning.

And, then I remembered that he is always here.  In the marvelous works that he left us.  In the powerful speeches he gave, in his deep respect of humankind, and in the non-violence he was a role model of.

So, I took the time to re-read his Letter From Birmingham Jail, nine pages that chart a course of understanding and have given me hope and strength through other difficult times of unrest, war and despair.

No matter how dim or dismal a situation is, no matter the setbacks, he reminds us that love triumphs over all.

*This Week’s Pinspiration*

Pin to pass the love

[pinit]Practice Extreme Love with Women On Fire ~ debbiephillips.com

In his famous letter, which was written on newspaper margins and scraps of paper while he was in jail for actions of civil disobedience, Dr. King addressed the accusation that the civil rights movement was “extreme.”

He argued that Jesus and other heroes were extremists and wrote: “So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?

In times like this, I want to burst through my fear and anger and be an extremist for love. And, today on the heels of sadness and outrage, I took great comfort in these inspiring extremists for love.

Thank you, Beyonce.

Upon hearing the news of George Zimmerman’s acquittal for killing Trayvon Martin, during her concert in Nashville, Beyonce called for a moment of silence and then sang the powerful “I Will Always Love You.”

Thank you, Maya Angelou.

Her words ring as true now as they did when she spoke them during the Sandy Hook School killings.

“Our country is grieving. Each child who has been slaughtered belongs to each of us and each slain adult is a member of our family. It is impossible to explain the horror to ourselves and to our survivors. We need to hold each other’s hands and look into each other’s eyes and say, “ I am sorry.”

Thank you, Dr. King.

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

“Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

So we go forward, as we always do.  Yet how can we do better?

Maybe today we smile at someone we normally wouldn’t.  Maybe today we take the time to understand another person’s point of view. Maybe today we examine and reconsider our own stereotypical views of anyone different from us.

Maybe today we join forces with others and do as Maya Angelou urges us in this video:

“Do right …try to be all you can be to be the best human being you can be. Do it because it’s right to do. Pick up the battle, take it up, it’s yours. This is your life and your world … make it a better world just where you are. Yes, it can be better. It must be better. But it is up to us.”

I dream of a world where we all step up, practicing extreme love to be the best human beings we possibly can. The world needs us to do better.

What to do about the Big O?

Sorry, if I got you excited about something other than what you might have hoped for from today’s headline.  😉

Not the big O herself — Oprah.  Or the Cosmopolitan Magazine “big O” either!

The Big O I’m talking about is the one that can knock you off the path toward your goals and dreams — or at least put a damper on your day — OVERWHELM.

I receive more emails from Women on Fire about this issue than any other topic.

We all have too, too much to do.

When our cups runneth over, and fear takes charge, a panicky overwhelm sets in.

In fact, this morning when I feared I wouldn’t be able to finish all I need to do today, anxiety and overwhelm struck me and I froze in my tracks…until I did the technique I’m going to show you.

But first…

Last week, I had the delightful experience of joining best-selling author Marci Shimoff on Woman on Fire Bonnie Marcus’s farewell radio program Head Over Heels.

During the interview, which you can listen to in its entirety here (look for the AudioAcrobat link under my photo), Marci shared an exercise for bringing more love into your life.

The exercise was developed by the Institute of HeartMath, a non-profit organization dedicated to lowering stress and building our resilience.  I have followed HeartMath’s work and incorporated it into my coaching practice for years.

Marci recommends this breathing exercise to build and to open to love.

But, I’ve used this surprisingly simple exercise successfully for years when I feel scared with overwhelm.  It works for both!

Here’s how I do it.  Feel free to try it.

Recipe to Vanquish Your Overwhelm

1)   Place your hand over your heart

2)   Close your eyes

3)   Inhale and exhale

4)   See and imagine your breath coming from your heart

5)   With each breath, you can say comforting words to yourself such as “I’m OK,” “I will be fine,” “everything important will get done.”

6)   Continue for a few minutes or until you feel ready to stop

7)  Experience the feeling of peace and calm

(Please let me know how this works for you in the comments section below.)

On the recording, Marci, whose latest book is Love For No Reason, does a beautiful job walking you through this exercise.

Have a great week, free and clear of any overwhelm!

Here’s to you staying connected, inspired and motivated!

Much love,


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