Inside the Pages of a Book, Hope Hides

By Samantha McKenzie

hopegrowsI am an avid reader.

I grew up watching my father read books, magazines and the newspaper everyday of his life. He would read for hours and hours and it showed. He was a walking book of knowledge and could speak intelligently on almost every subject. As a child I thought he was the smartest person I would ever meet. This made an impression on me. It actually rubbed off on all of the children. My siblings and I would read to master our school work, read for pleasure, and read some more to feed into the on-going, sibling rivalry.

Today, I read to stay inspired, to grow my understanding on a subject or just to learn something new. I could write a long list of the benefits of reading a good book, but instead, I’ll offer you just one reason: Hope hides in the pages of a book.

Go find it and enjoy!




Fabulously You. Walk In It.


By Dawn Onley

Pssst. Pssst. You. Yes, you.

Do you realize how amazing you are? Do you have any idea what you are capable of?

I sure hope you do. I hope you grasp it, hold onto it, and live in it — all of it. Your worth.

It saddens me that there are so many people who I come across that just don’t see it. They struggle to get it. They brag about their kids, their spouse, their family and friends, even their dog, but when the conversation shifts to them, they avoid eye contact, they belittle their accomplishments, and they cut the conversation short to divert attention away from them.

These awesomely talented people, with big, loving hearts, sell themselves short – both personally and professionally. Deep down inside, I wonder, if they have a hunch that there’s got to be more to life than the drudgery they’re experiencing. There is! For these selfless spirits, I wish that it weren’t easier to remain part of the status quo than to blaze a new trail. I wish the beliefs that others have in them were enough to make them believe in themselves. I wish they saw what I see — an entire world of possibilities.

They have made me realize that talent is not enough, nothing is actually, if a person doesn’t believe in his or her own abilities. Talent, confidence, good self-esteem, drive – these combined attributes are what it takes to reach new heights. This is what will propel us forward. If they are missing, we’ll continue to get more of the same.

Iyanla Vanzant, the TV personality, speaker, author and life coach, says what we believe about ourselves is reflected back in what we attract to ourselves. “We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.”

There’s so much life out there, just waiting to be lived. Secretly they know it. I believe they feel it as well. They see others living the life they want to live. They don’t truly believe that they can live this life. They’re wrong. They can.

Cayman Botanical Garden     Create your reality

Whatever it is you want to pursue, pursue it. Life rewards those who take bold steps – and it’s not always monetarily. Sometimes the reward is a new-found belief in yourself.

Go get your bliss.

Make an Impact, Leave an Impression

By Samantha McKenzie

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Dr. Maya Angelou

I walked into a cafe for lunch this week and saw this excerpt, written by the late Dr. Maya Angelou, nicely framed and mounted on the brick wall.

20160125_140154I read it over and over again, allowing the words to soak in and time to stand still on behalf of my starving soul. In hindsight, I realized that time was actually ticking away and hasty customers were maneuvering around me to get to the front of the line and onto their intended business.

I continued dissecting the short paragraph, realizing that the majority of its sentences began with the words, “I’ve learned.” What a privilege it is to learn something and to realize you still have a lot more to learn. Each sentence opened me up further.

What impressions are we leaving on others? In the midst of our busy days, long commutes and chatter, are we leaving anything behind? Are we connecting with our fellow man? Are we learning? Are we sharing more pain than hugs?

Long after I vacated the cafe, I thought about this message, its impact, and its incredible wisdom.

I want to take more time to congratulate others for their accomplishments. I want to press pause on the day and tell a friend how much their phone call meant to me or how the text they sent the other night left me encouraged …and hopeful. I want to give more hugs, more pats on the back, make stronger memories. I want, like the author said, to be that kind of person who makes you feel better, even the best.

I hope, for now and forever more, we make long-lasting impacts and life-long impressions on others.

Those framed words.

Hung on the exposed brick wall.

Gave me a feeling.

I’ll never forget.

How clever.

Let’s Engage Life

Always Remember.png

By Dawn Onley

This year, add something behind your name that isn’t there now.

Hiker. Reader. Dancer. Runner. Mom. Author. Cook. Swimmer. Investor. World traveler. Designer. Trainer. Potter. Scuba diver. Coach. Painter. Marksman. Wine connoisseur. Entrepreneur. Mrs.

This year, let’s engage our full selves in something we’ve wanted to do for awhile but never quite got around to doing. Let’s study it, learn it, throw ourselves into it. Let’s become good at it, even master it. Whatever it is.


But here are the rules: You can’t cheat and choose something you’re already doing. This should be something completely new; something that you’ve been interested in trying but up until now, you haven’t done anything tangible with this interest – perhaps out of fear, lack of time, money, or other resources, or just plain apathy. It’s easy to talk about things we’d like to try. Some of us have been doing that for years.

Stop making excuses. Do it! Finally. Delve deeper. These interests may spark some excitement in our lives. It may lead us to our passion. It could give us that push to try even more things. It may lead to a new job. How cool would it be to meet a love interest doing something you mutually both decided to try and found out you loved?

Let’s give it a chance. What do we really have to lose?

This is a great time. It’s just a few weeks into a brand new year. We are still feeling all hopey and happy, like we’re ready for a new adventure, so why not take full advantage of that feeling?


Whatever it is, research it. Save for it. Plan for it. But as Steve Harvey pointed out in a talk to his Family Feud audience after a recent show, don’t wait too long before you jump. Life rewards those who do, not those who talk about doing. As Steve said, we never fully experience life from the edge of the cliff. We must jump.

Don’t worry about being vulnerable. We all are. Don’t worry that you won’t like it. Chances are, if you think you will, there’s a good shot you will.

Let’s focus on some e’s this year – experiences, expeditions, endeavors, exercise, enlightenment.

Let’s be ebullient and effervescent, eager and energetic.

Let’s engage life, and let’s expect excitement in return.


The Many Blessings of Women

By Samantha McKenzie

I find it interesting how women form relationships around things they have in common. How we build friendships and bonds over obvious similarities, like race or religion, or kinship. How we corral around adventures and hobbies, like hiking or running, quilting or painting. And interestingly enough, how we form some of our deepest bonds around our pain.

No matter where I have lived on this Earth, I have met countless women who fascinate me. From grandmothers, to sisters, to aunties, to best friends, cousins, classmates, colleagues and more – they have inspired my growth to no end.

parishioners-worship-at-a-predominantly-african-american-church-in-this-file-photoWomen have a unique and special nature. An enigma, you may say. We possess a beauty that can’t be defined. Every time you think we’ve given our all, we find a deeper repository of treasures within. We are givers, nurturers, restorers and builders of the new. We console an entire world and possess resumes filled with some brand of kindness.

I have needed my friends some days to show me extra support, to allow me to cry for no particular reason, to encourage me to go after my dreams, and to force me, yes literally force me, to get out of the rut that I had cemented myself in. Through them, I have discovered myself, and for that I feel truly blessed.

elderlywomenThis didn’t mean it’s all been pleasant. I remember days when I’d ignore several phone calls, because I didn’t want to hear her advice or when the chatter and unsolicited opinions from the girls was way too overwhelming. But through it all, I could never say I didn’t get what I needed.

If you have these types of friendships, you should cherish them. If you don’t, you should invest in them.

Thank you for your many blessings.

Capture the Moment


By Dawn Onley

I’ve been going through old photo albums, as one often does after a loved one dies, and reminiscing on so many wonderful memories. Photographs give us an instant visual reminder. They help us to remember, to fill in the gaps when our memories start to fail us. They help us to document our family’s history.

Take plenty of pictures. Of your children. Of your parents. Of your cousins. Of your aunts and uncles, grandparents and friends. You will be so thankful later. When you’re sad, photographs will help to comfort you and ease your sorrow. I’m so glad my family, at every family gathering, always took a lot of photos. And, we still do.


Photos are treasures that we don’t fully uncover and appreciate until many years later. Take plenty of pictures. Some day, you’ll be so glad you did.

New Wine, New Wineskin

By Samantha McKenzie

“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”         (Bible, Mark 2:22)

Have you ever shared a new idea with someone who responded in a negative way? Instead of meeting your excitement with encouragement, they tell you exactly why it won’t work.

Instead of seeing your vision or trying to understand the big picture, they call you crazy, criticize you for even trying, and leave you feeling deflated?

wineThere’s nothing more exhilarating than bringing a dream into reality. For those of you who have taken a small idea and turned it into something big, you know exactly what I mean. It’s a living, breathing thing. It gives you energy and every step towards it, makes you feel more alive!

Ideas should be nurtured like newborns. From conception to birth, you are protective through the entire process. You bear the load without complaining and along the way you discover the depth and determination that lives inside of you.

Your ideas are like new wine. They should be guarded. It’s natural to want to share your goals with others. It’s hard to contain good news. But you can’t share with everyone. Not everyone can look at a seed and see the fruit it will bear.

Some people are hardwired to point out the flaws. They are quick to identify the pitfalls and insist they have your best interests at heart. Sometimes it’s a parent or a close friend who want to spare you from failure. Sometimes it’s your boss or someone you look up to who tries to deter you from wasting your time. It won’t work, they all say.

They represent old wineskin. Even unintentionally, they chip away at your vision and take the steam right out of you.

Protect your dreams from these naysayers.

When you’re building something great you have to limit who you pour your ideas into. It’s not necessary to get a large consensus to move forward. Most groundbreaking ideas get birthed in someone’s garage or an incubated space.

sharingidea2Be selective with your inner circle. Find a risk taker in your bunch. Look for an expert to consult with. Share your idea with people who can guide you or will provide feedback that will enhance your idea. Find people who have the spirit of a cheerleader and the viewpoint of a good cornerman.

Share your vision with people who — after witnessing your multiple failed attempts — still believe it can be done.

Be careful. Pour your new wine in new wineskin, only.