Nothing happens unless first a dream

I just arrived home from New York City where I celebrated with a number of you at a Women on Fire Tea and appeared on Janette Barber’s radio show on Sirius XM.

The trip was filled with many delicious surprises.
Women on Fire Tea in New York City on Friday — Front row: Lara Licharowicz, Jolie Solomon, Renee Schmidt; second row: Darlene Wade, Ann Graham, Janette Barber, Mary Ann Donatelli-Reilly, Holly Getty, Ellen Wingard, Debbie Phillips, Jenifer Madson, Kim Anderson, Sandra Carlson, Heike Vogel, Janina Sebesky and Muffy Vrana (Photos by Rob Berkley)

My birthday is June 25 so my husband came along to New York and treated me to an early birthday dinner with friends and a spa afternoon with Woman on Fire Holly Getty!

And, Woman on Fire Sarah Elizabeth Greer hosted an extraordinary brunch complete with a handsome bassist playing some of my favorite tunes.

So sliding into my actual birthday (a day I share with Woman on Fire Sandra Carlson!) I already feel very loved and blessed!

I love having the same birthday as Sandra Carlson of Washington, DC. Happy birthday to us on June 25! Do you share a birthday with anyone you know?

During my many discussions in New York, we talked a lot about going for our dreams.  And, one of you asked me: how do I even figure out my dreams?

Great question!

So before we talk about that today …

I want to welcome many of you who are here for the very first time.

Quite a few of you found us when you heard Janette Barber interviewing me on her radio show about the power of Women on Fire — women supporting and cheering each other to go for our dreams.

On the air with the fabulous Janette Barber, talking about the inspiration, strategies and support that make Women on Fire such an uplifting community!

As the American writer, editor and poet Carl Sandburg said: “Nothing happens unless first a dream.”

Fascinating to consider, isn’t it?

Here are some of the questions I’ve personally used and asked of many coaching clients over the years to help them figure out dreams worth pursuing.

Answer with as much candor as you can and this is also a good exercise to journal:

1) Who do you enjoy helping and what problems can you solve for them?

2) What wrong in the world do you want to make right?

3) When you were a child or teen-ager, what did you dream of doing?

4) What do people come to you for?

5) If money or making a living were not a consideration, what would you do with your precious life?

Your answers to one or more of these questions will give you clues to dreams you may want to follow. Your answers also can unearth long-held dreams that you’ve forgotten.

In my own life, my answer to Question #1 led me to my dream that eventually became Women on Fire!

The people I wanted to help were my women coaching clients.  Successful in many ways, they were often isolated and feeling alone in their struggles.

My dream was to connect them in a fun and inspiring way so they could have the experience of being surrounded and empowered by other women cheering on their successes.

It was started out with a handful of women at a tea party — and voila nearly a decade later we are more than 3,000 women strong!

Cheering each other on — here I am at last week’s tea party in New York City with Janina Sebesky, Mary Ann Donatelli-Reilly and Janette Barber — amazing, supportive Women on Fire.

Indeed, nothing happens unless first a dream!

May your life be filled with inspiring dreams and the inspiration, strategies and support to pursue them.

Are You Smelling The Roses?

It’s a holiday so I will be short and sweet!

On this Memorial Day weekend,  I was honored to be invited to celebrate the baptism of our neighbors’ darling baby granddaughter.

Cora with her mother Rebecca Barclay

Following 13-month-old Cora’s christening, the minister gave a sermon entitled “Stop and Smell The Roses.”  And, he asked us, “What are your joys today?”

This was just the question I needed today to remind myself to stop and smell the roses.

As the sun filtered through the upper story windows and into the sanctuary of this 17th century whitewashed New England church, I could feel myself relax and breathe in that I felt so much joy this holiday weekend for:

  • Having neighbors who treat my husband and me as family
  • Being in the company of Women on Fire Holly Getty, Melissa McClain, Sandra Carlson and Jamie Eslinger (and a surprise hug and visit from Jan Orosz, a Women on Fire coaching group member from Columbus, Ohio!) who came from far and wide and shared their lives and talents with us
  • Living in the beauty of Martha’s Vineyard and feeling a sense of belonging
  • Being clear about my life’s work
  • Having the world’s best big, white cat who provides endless hours of love and enjoyment!

Our bundle of joy ...Wilber Philber

So, on this holiday weekend I invite you to reflect on your own life.  “What are your joys today?”  Do you stop each day to know?  You are most welcome to share the happiness that fills your soul by making a comment below.

May this holiday weekend spill over into a joy-filled week for you.



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