A Path of Love and Passion


By Dawn Onley

What should I do with my life?

That is both the name of the book and the million-dollar question best-selling author Po Bronson posed to more than 900 ordinary Americans who had one thing in common: the desire to dust off their hidden passions long stored away in the china cabinets of their lives so that their true love could shine for all to see.

Bronson scoured the country in search of people of all ages and professions who pondered this very question and struggled to answer it. The struggle was intense because the answers involved deep soul searching. What was their calling in life? And, what were they willing to sacrifice to pursue their dreams?

Many quit lucrative jobs: as doctors, lawyers, stock brokers, to answer the question that poet and short story writer Raymond Carver uttered in his last words:


And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself

beloved on the earth.


The introspection wasn’t easy. Then again, nothing worth anything ever is.

But it was absolutely paramount; it meant the difference in living a lie or being true to what we are all called to do.

In many cases, people told Bronson they had to find what it was that brought them joy. Some spent time unemployed in search of their passion. In other cases, people knew all along but were fearful to take the leap, to leave years of hard work and fat salaries for the unknown.


Dreams are gambles. Many business owners have dreamed of being self-sufficient and opened up shop only to see that dream wash away under mounds of debt.

But at least they tried. At least they were true to themselves. Bronson has more respect for those willing to pursue their love than people who slave away at a job to earn a paycheck without any love for what they do.

But isn’t that life? Who says work has to be blissful? What’s love got to do with it when there are bills to pay and mouths to feed?

Turns out, love has a lot to do with it.

I read the book years ago and still draw from its wisdom today. I’ve always loved the allure, the excitement — and as weird as it may sound — even the stress of journalism, and have ever since I walked into my college newsroom and felt the adrenaline rush of rookies chasing breaking news stories. In fact, I love all forms of writing. Writing is my lifeline.

But I’m still plagued with the idealism of my college years. I want to make the world a better place. I want to use my time, my resources and whatever little influence I have putting out as much positivity into the universe as I possibly can.

That’s what I’m trying to do with my life. The most good.


Leaders are Born Every Day

By Samantha McKenzie

There’s a leader born every day.

I’m not talking about people you’ve read about in history books or the ones you’ve seen posted up in current magazine articles. I’m not even referring to the recognizable names of those who have won tons of awards, increased profit margins, built empires or left some sort of legacy behind.


The leader is you.

Put aside the familiar leaders you know for now, like your boss, your pastor and your local politician – those we come in contact with daily and admire from a distance. For today’s discussion, let us take the focus off of “external” leadership and take a look at the leader within.

The leadership of self, lives inside each and every one of us. From the time we take flight, all of the signs, the road maps, the directions, the messages, zoom in on the success of other people. But we all have a leader within. This self-leader guides, thinks and negotiates on our behalf. This self-leader asks questions, keeps tally of what it has seen and makes strides to learn new things about itself with you in mind.

Ask one of your parents. When you were young you were more willing to be self-guided. You knew how to make a decision, even if it landed you in a puddle of mess. You knew what you wanted and you went after it. Every healthy baby, at some point in time, demands of its family what it so desires.

You and I are no different. We are all endowed with an inner leader that screams out to participate in our livelihood. If we listen closely, we will hear it pounding away from within. It never stops awakening us and it will never, ever go away. Even when we are not interested, our inner leader waits for our return.

It’s important that we discover our very own personal relationship with our leader within. It is the voice that connects us to our creation and works patiently for us to discover our path.

We are all born leaders. Lead first from within.


Actions Trump All


By Dawn Onley

A wordsmith by profession and calling, I understand the significance of the written and spoken word. I’m a big proponent of vision boards and have purposefully practiced writing down my goals, in various formats, for over a decade.

Words are powerful. I need no convincing of this. When President Obama was campaigning for the White House, I loved his response to Hillary Clinton’s comment that although his speeches were eloquent, they were just words. “Don’t tell me words don’t matter. I have a dream – just words. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal – just words. We have nothing to fear but fear itself – just words, just speeches. It’s true that speeches don’t solve all problems, but what is also true is that if we can’t inspire our country to believe again, then it doesn’t matter how many policies and plans we have, and that is why I’m running for president of the United States of America.”

That’s precisely why what I’m about to say next may sound tantamount to treason for other word loyalists who espouse lofty ideals on their journal pages and Word documents, and whose creations cause others to reflect and reexamine their lives. Words aren’t enough. Just as faith without works is dead, dear scribes, words without actions can’t go anywhere. They simply remain on the page.

Actions over Words

One in five children in America is at risk of hunger; for blacks and Latinos, it’s one in three. Those are the words. What are we going to do about that? That is the action.

We need to start moving beyond words. We need to stop writing down our goals if we won’t implement the necessary steps to take it to the next level. We need to stop talking ad nauseum about what we’re going to do and start actually doing it.

Do you know someone who has been telling you what they are going to do for at least several years now, and yet – year after year – nothing changes? They are no further along.

Are you that person?

I think if we’re honest, many of us have once been that person — at least in one area of our lives.

There’s a phrase I use often to describe this phenomenon, where words never progress to actions: The never-ending conversation. The perpetual talk.

“Fittin’ to’ is a thief and a robber. It stops you from using your time wisely. You have delayed so long, that your will has lost respect for your word. So, you’re lying to yourself,” Bishop T.D. Jakes explained during one sermon.

Nothing can be accomplished until we move from lip service to action. There is something so powerful about taking action. It is such a powerful force. I find that when I take action in one area of my life, like dominoes, things start to shift in other areas.

Essentially the difference between what we say and what we do boils down to how bad we want something; how significantly we are being pulled to change. And the answer to that is always proven by our actions, not our words.

Find the River that Connects You

By Samantha McKenzie

We have more in common than we can ever imagine.

As I flip through the channels, I am bombarded with news stories of controversy, conflict and an extraordinary amounts of harsh criticism. Every day feels like a battle of some sort.


We spend entirely too many man hours picking sides, placing blame and getting lost in the melancholy lifestyle of divide and conquer. Democrats vs. Republicans. Police departments vs. community protesters. Blacks vs. whites. Heterosexuals vs. homosexuals. Christians vs. Muslims. Where does it end?

Let’s not forget the side battles on immigration, who should stay and who should go. Or the ones about our healthcare system, abortion rights, civil liberty violations, and whether or not our social security benefits will soon run out. We fight about legalizing marijuana, spending on education, and whether gays should be able to get married…or not. We draw lines upon lines so deeply in the sand that we eventually bury our sight.

When I was a reporter, I sat through dozens of zoning commission meetings with people who could wrangle for hours over renaming streets and other mind-numbing topics. We stand tall in disagreement and stronger in dissension, it always seemed.

While I am a true supporter of freedom of speech, my humanity is in direct conflict with dialogue that leaves people damaged or communities fractured. Listen painfully to us. We are constantly judging each other and comparing notes to see if we can accept another member into our imaginary club.

Why can’t we embrace the things that connect us? There are endless possibilities to building on common ground and capitalizing on a shared goal that brings value to the whole.

Our time can be better spent. It certainly should be.

Create new dialogue that unites. Mirror behaviors that are inclusive. Indulge in appreciative and opposing views. Accept that we are all unique and valuable. Search for the road that carries us to the source.

Be the river that connects us all.

When Did We Get So Busy?



By Dawn Onley

I can’t ever recall being this busy. In. My. Life.

In my “spare” time, I’m planning a wedding, still adjusting to a temporary move while slowly beginning the process of looking for a permanent one, co-writing this blog, and being mommy to a toddler boy, to name a few items.

I’ve always been busy. It’s in my DNA professionally, and even personally. I have to always have my hands in the pot, cooking up something. But even for an active person like me, this year has loaded every carb, veggie, meat and dessert on my plate – sometimes at the same time.

I talk to my friends and they are super busy too. Everyone is consumed with work-related and family-related busyness. We have all become overloaded with obligations and are finding it increasingly tough to eke out some time to relax and unwind.

My heart is palpitating just thinking about it all.

When did we get so busy? And where did this mound of dirty clothes come from? As soon as I finish one load, I turn around, and like Whac-a-Mole, there’s another load, and another one.

I remember going bowling, frequent dinner dates, enjoying trips to the theater, yoga at least twice a week, once-a-month massages. I recall three-hour-long phone conversations with friends to get caught up, even sleep-overs where me and my girls literally laughed ourselves to sleep.

The last book I read was in June.

Now everything seems so rushed. We have the latest technology gadgets and apps, but none of it seems to be helping us maintain saner lives. If anything, it’s creating more things to juggle. I now decompress by scrolling social media sites and catching up on newspaper and magazine articles I’ve bookmarked to read. Not to mention the stack of magazines lying near my bed. So much to do, so little time.

I know I sound like I’m complaining, but I’m really not. I love my life – even when I’m insanely busy. I’m a card carrying member of the “I’ll slow down when I’m dead” club. I’m not sure I’d even know what to do with bountiful free time, I’ve grown so accustomed to my busy life.

Busy mom

Still, it doesn’t have to be so black and white. I need to strive for a happy medium. A nice start would be better managing my time in the mornings so I can get back to morning meditation; add 15 minutes to my walk and to time it so that when I come back from the walk, I have time to shower and drink my morning cup of coffee before logging in to work; to schedule a massage; to go and see a play or concert. I miss doing these things on a regular basis.

I know that in order to manage my mornings better, I need to start going to bed much earlier. I’ve always been a morning person, but it’s funny how going to bed a few hours later in the evening changes all of that.

At times I feel like a machine. I wonder if I could completely shut down for a week or so with no access to any type of technology to refocus – like taking a vacation away from my routine.

I’m going to give it a shot very soon.

I Am Because of Who You Are

By Samantha McKenzie

“It is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong.”

Bishop Desmond Tutu

The African people have a philosophy known as “Ubuntu” (pronounced uu-boon-too) which loosely means, I am because of who you are. The term describes our connection to other human beings and the powerful bond that we have as the living. The power of “we” is a unifying concept that electrifies my soul. We are never alone.

I could write all day long of the many individuals who have impacted my life and have made my journey much more purposeful. This list, I declare, could never end.

But today I pay special homage to my sister, Allison.

As youngsters, I tried to mimic everything my older sibling did. I combed my hair like her. I tried to dress like her. I even learned to pop my gum the same way that she did (until mom made us both stop). When I finally made it to high school, I was enamored by her popularity. She introduced me to all of the cool girls and cute boys and didn’t seem too embarrassed by my arrival. I was so proud to be Allison’s little sister.


I’m sure if she told this story it would sound more like, I was a pain-in-the-butt copycat little sister, who used to steal her clothes and never put them back in the proper place. I kept my part of the room so sloppy that she was forced to sweep her side only. And so she did.

Although we sometimes fought and I was the bane of her existence most of our childhood, I still believed that everything about her was beautiful, smart and perfect. In my eyes, she was the person I most wanted to be like.

As we grew into womanhood, our bond grew stronger. We both got married, had children and lovingly witnessed our sisterhood flourish into a meaningful friendship. To this day, no one knows me like she does. And to this day, she knows that I will seek her advice on many things and only implement a fraction of her sound guidance.

But I credit her so much for the foundation I stand on. I learned about unconditional love through her example. She knows what I need before I tell her. She listens in humility and holds back on criticisms when she knows I need a helping hand. She is a warm, caring, giving person to all who know her. When I’m in pain, there is no one more accepting than she. I have asked her on several occasions how and why she has such a heart for me. When I squeeze my eyes shut, she is to me what heaven would be.7ba55b2c372adb82e095fa4e60eb4a9b

I am a part of her life and she is a part of mine. I am connected to the “all” and revel in the “us.”

I am because of who you are.

Reliving Memories and Creating New Ones

Great Frederick Fair 2015

By Dawn Onley 

Funnel cake. Pizza. Italian sausage. Rides. Blue Ribbons. Fun.

A few days ago, I took my son to the Great Frederick Fair. If you are outside of western Maryland, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of it, but it is a true country fair, complete with an assortment of rides, games, food, animals, tractors, country singers, baking contests for such categories as best cookies and best apple pie, and on the day we went, a monster truck event that still has my son mimicking the loud, revved up noise the trucks made as they took off to the thrill of the crowd.

He looked every bit as mesmerized as I had always been, going to the fair each year.

Growing up, the fair was always such a big deal. The local schools shut down one day during the week the fair comes to town (the day is known as ‘Fair Day’) and on this day, school kids get in free. As a high schooler, I would meet my friends at the fair and we would walk around together until our boyfriends came and then we would couple up, stopping to take Polaroid pictures in the booth with the wicker chairs. I would usually come home with a stuffed animal that he won for me by shooting baskets or tossing rings around bottles. We could feel grown for a little bit, ordering and paying for our own food and getting on rides. Sometimes, we would even get bold enough to hold hands or kiss out there in all of that openness, but Frederick is a small town, so inevitably, I would bump into a family member, one of my parent’s friends or someone I knew from my church, and they would look at me and him as if to say ‘don’t be having too much fun.’

Pony ride at Frederick Fair 2015

I couldn’t wait to take my 2-year-old son to the fair and to see the wonderment in his eyes and on his face as he experienced it. I couldn’t wait to see whether he would enjoy the pony ride, going to the stalls to see the pigs, cows, sheep and horses. I wanted to see his face when he took his first bite of funnel cake and when he tasted one of my favorite fair crab cake sandwiches, made by one of the local fire halls.

He is still talking about the monster truck event and riding the pony. Yesterday, I asked him if he wanted to go back to the fair and he exclaimed “yay, funnel cake!”

Some experiences are transferrable. It brought me so much joy watching him take it all in. He had so much fun. He walked in between his dad and I, holding both of our hands, and jumping.

It had been quite a few years since I last went to my hometown fair. I’m so glad I did. I got to relive some of the memories of my beautiful childhood and to experience new ones through the eyes of my son.

It was such a great feeling.