Baking My Way Back to Hope


Molasses spice cookies

By Dawn Onley

Can you remember when you decided to hope?

Can you recall the moment? The day? The situation? How it felt to surrender the pain and angst and helplessness, against logic and reality, to believe in a better outcome? How absolutely senseless it felt to hang onto hope, when everything seemed so hopeless?

But then the tree grew from the concrete and the baby came from the prayer and other miracles were born from tears and sleepless nights and finally … hope. And, faith.

I started baking after a tragedy. I always loved to bake, here and there, but then I became singularly focused on it. I found it therapeutic to knead the dough and season the apples and measure exact proportions, creating something beautiful and delicious and definite. If I followed the recipe, I would get exact results. No guesswork. I could control the outcome.


Lucious Lemon

It became restorative, a healing to my senses. It gave me something to focus on and a way to quiet the thoughts raging through my mind. It brought me a soothing calm. It became my refuge.

As I watched the pie bake and the smell waft through the room, I resolved to trust the process. I concentrated on each breath and with every exhale, I released my strangle hold on what I could not control, and eventually, the knot came undone.

I now recognize the surrender as hope. It didn’t come easily. It never does when you are used to fighting and you’d rather stew in anger and frustration, even if you convince yourself otherwise.

But it came.


Chocolate cake

As I watched the cake rise, I started mumbling how this too shall pass. And something miraculous happened: it did. And just like the icing, what I got was sweet deliverance!

It was a winter day, cold and miserable. I was undone until I decided to hope.

And that changed everything.

Reclaiming Your Time

By Samantha McKenzie

U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters is one of my heroes. She’s intelligent and fearless. She’s a woman who isn’t afraid to speak truth to power and she won’t back down from a tough challenge. This doesn’t mean she’s perfect. Over the years, we’ve seen her take some losses. But her bounce back is impeccable. She’s wise enough to speak the truth, yet humble enough to understand there is still so much to learn.


It was no surprise when she shut down Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin at a House Financial Services Committee hearing last month for side stepping her question and derailing the meeting with a bunch of empty words and bogus compliments.

Auntie Maxine showed the world that day that she’s taken down more formidable opponents than him. On that day, she taught us all a very valuable lesson. With three simple words, she showed us how to reclaim our time.

Her words, “I’m reclaiming my time” lit up the social media community. It inspired witty hashtags, video memes and even a gospel-styled song written by Mykal Kilgore, titled “Reclaiming My Time.” The internet is swift and equally hilarious.

Related imageSo why did her words resonate with so many of us? She really made me ask myself, what do I do with my time that I feel like I have to reclaim it. Do I squander it? Do I give it away? Do I use it to reinvest in myself? My answer: I give it away too freely, to almost anyone who asks for it. I knew I needed to reevaluate my use of my time and start thinking about ways to reclaim it. So for all of you out there that heard the congresswoman staking claim to her valuable minutes, here’s a quick list to help you start reclaiming yours:

  1. Say no and say it so often that it feels natural rolling off your tongue. I know you’ve heard this before, but I won’t stop saying it until we all learn how to do it without regret. Men are great at it. Learn from them. We have to relearn how to help, but with limits. We don’t owe anyone or everyone all of our time. Reclaim your voice and see how it will also free up your time.
  2. Decide how you’d like to spend your time. That’s right. You have to decide how you’d like your day to go. If not, it will be quite easy for others to use it up for you. Do this daily or plan for the week if you’re the “to-do” list kind of person. It’s easy for us to get sidetracked in doing things for other people when we don’t have anything planned for ourselves. Make a date with you. Spend quality time with you. Do the things you love to do on a regular basis. Reclaim your joy and spend your time wisely.
  3. Make your life revolve around you. Trust me, as narcissistic as this sounds, everyone around you (including your spouse, your boss and your children) thinks about their needs first. It’s human nature. And then those people look around to find others, like you, to help them with what they need. Give up the idea that you have to be all things to all people. Be all things to you because you deserve it. Reclaim your mind and put yourself first.

Start with little things until you can build up to reclaiming all of your time. It starts by reclaiming you. Thank you, Auntie Maxine. Thank you, Congresswoman Waters. You have taught us so much through your example.



It’s Time We Got Honest About Our Nation’s History

 Lee Statute Protestors (Photo Taken by NBC 29)

By Dawn Onley

Remember when things use to be right or wrong? Like stealing a piece of candy at the grocery store when you were little, and your mom marched you right back to that store, candy in hand, to confess what you had done and made you return it?

Remember when things like good and evil were taught in Sunday School? When we learned to help our fellow man and to stand up for injustices?

Well, what the hell happened? When did things become so grey? Why have we become so hardened and intolerant as a nation? Is history repeating itself?

Why do we choose silence as our brother and sister scream in agony? Who are we?!

Over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly dismayed by what people justify as being right or acceptable. What they condone. What people make excuses for. What they deny.

Like proudly flying the Confederate flag, more than 150 years after the war – a war that the South lost, by the way. Or Colin Kaepernick being ostracized by the NFL for his silent protest. Or Donald Trump’s weekly, sometimes daily, offenses via tweet, or his refusal to completely disavow the institution of white supremacy – downplaying its significance and reach while seeking to lump the very people who bravely protest against this scourge to our society as “just as bad.”


Yesterday, I commented on several Facebook posts that raised the question of whether the Confederate monuments should stay or go. I told my friends that I felt it was time to remove these symbols from our parks and government buildings and agreed with suggestions to relocate them in a museum of Confederate history. I also said it was time for the unsanitized version of history to be told to our children. They need to know how devastatingly cruel the institution of slavery was to the slave and his and her offspring. They need to be taught in school that slaves helped to build this country – from the railroads to Wall Street and from the U.S. Capitol Building to the White House.

When First Lady Michelle Obama mentioned last summer during the Democratic Convention that slaves built the White House, many people publicly denied her claims. The fact that they didn’t know this – or refuse to believe this – hearkens back to what our schools are failing to teach our kids. It hearkens back to how distorted our history has become.

Our children need to know about the U.S. presidents who owned slaves. It’s the truth and just another painful part of our country’s history. They should learn the history behind the Confederate flag – the one that most of us recognize and other versions that all symbolized the heart of the Confederacy, the 11 southern states that sought to secede from the United States after President Lincoln was elected so they could preserve their right to own slaves. That’s why they did it. That’s why they fought. Our children need to know what the flag symbolizes to the offspring of the Confederate soldier and the offspring of the slave.

The problem is the unsanitized version of history is not being taught in school – or at least it wasn’t when I was in school. It’s not fully taught in our historical institutions either. When I visited Monticello more than a decade ago, I asked about Sally Hemings. I was curious to see what the tour guide would say about her. She was visibly uneasy with the question and spoke of Hemings as if she were an old friend of Jefferson’s, and not his property.

This is a problem. We need to be honest about this stuff. We need to have these conversations. We need to really listen to each other and seek to learn and to heal.

If we don’t face our history, we will never truly live as brothers and sisters in these United States of America. If you’re ok with that, do nothing. If you’re not, it’s time to change the direction that we’re headed as a nation.

Pick Up the Pieces and Get Back Up

By Samantha McKenzie

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”  Walt Whitman

It’s simple. When we fall, we get back up. When we stumble, we correct our steps and try it again. When it doesn’t work out, we dig in until we get it right.

Screenshot_20170814-223501The truth is, we will fall more times than we can count. From the time we are tots, we have someone there, trying to catch us from falling. It’s normal to want to avoid pitfalls, to find the easier, the less costly route to a destination. But it’s the furthest thing from reality. We actually fall down pretty often. There’s hardly any time to brace ourselves. We spend time pretending it won’t ever happen to us, and when it does, we are ill-prepared.

The real lesson is in the number of times we must get back up. What happens after we fall? After the shock, the dismay, the embarrassment?  How do we pick up the pieces? Getting back up on our feet is a necessary part of living.


We should share our getting back up stories. Try putting aside the shame and the need for perfection and tell others what it cost you to start over or to give life another fighting chance.

I fell down and I got back up.

Got pushed down and got back up.

Got the rug swept from under my feet and I still got back up.

Got swindled and lost everything, but back up I got.

Was hard-headed and didn’t want to listen and got back up eventually.

Got skipped over for that promotion and got back up.

Missed another opportunity, and got back up.

We all fall down and we must get back up. Get back up. Get back up….


Intuition. Our Inner Compass.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs

 Clouds 2

By Dawn Onley

There are people in your shoes right this second, pondering the same life dilemmas as you.

They are moving into a new season in life but haven’t yet adjusted their mental wardrobe.

They are considering quitting their job to pursue their dreams, or adding a second job to better pay their bills.

They are contemplating downsizing their dwelling or adding space to accommodate their growing family.

They have thoughts of relocating to a new city or country – or perhaps moving back home.

They are weighing whether to have another child or to leave well enough alone.

They are considering whether to stay in an unhappy relationship or cut ties.

They are changing careers or determining whether to go back to school.

They are deciding which battles to fight and which ones to walk away from.

They are mulling their options over a glass of wine with a friend. They are having deep-hearted conversation in bed with their spouse. They are working out their muscles and a solution on the treadmill with their trainer.

They are listening to the divine within.

Intuition. Our inner compass.

There is a voice inside of you that whispers all day long, ‘I feel that this is right for me, I know that this is wrong.’ No teacher, preacher, parent, friend or wise man can decide what’s right for you – just listen to the voice that speaks inside. — Shel Silverstein


Today is the Perfect Day to Take Action


“If you want to know your past, look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future, look into your present actions.” – Padmasambhava

By Dawn Onley

It’s so easy to get into a rut. The routines of family life, the drudgery of unfulfilling work, the comfort of familiarity, the predictability of each day, all have the power to suck us in like a tornado. It takes effort to go beyond what is there now, to whirl our way out of our present conditions and arrive on the doorstep of our dreams.

It’s not impossible, but it’s tough work. It doesn’t surprise me at all that many choose to remain in this mundane existence. It’s easier. It’s safer. There’s less room for disappointment or error. There is a certain contentment in what is known and commonplace.

The road less traveled has always been just that. While few brave souls venture out to live their passion and create their destiny, everyone else is stuck in a logjam with tons of other motorists, with hopes of at least maneuvering into the HOV lane to get to our daily existence, albeit a bit quicker.


Getting started

It can be terrifying to take a chance — on the unknown, on love, on creating a path that we customize for ourselves, learning along the way. So instead, we create outlandish goals like winning the Powerball, because it’s too hard and too hurtful to set realistic goals and not reach them. Instead, we backpedal on the things that we initially said we wanted, insisting that we never wanted them to begin with. We resign ourselves to an ordinary life and try to silence our extraordinary dreams.

We do this out of fear.

But for those who possess a radical courage and a trailblazing spirit, those who want to venture out to see what’s out there in the great beyond, I wish you a million dandelions to cast your wish and the bright trail of a shooting star. I wish you God winks and open doors. I hope you make the right connections and find the right opportunities. I pray you have the Biblical faith of Daniel and the resolve of Ruth.


“Everything we have done up to this point in our lives has brought us EXACTLY to where we are now in our lives, and everything we do from this point on will take us to the next place in our lives: Every move forward or backwards commits us to some place in the future. If you want to be someplace different in the future than where you are right now, begin by moving in that direction today,” said my dear friend, Adisa Ajamu, an esteemed psychologist, author and scholar.

Today is the perfect day to take action. One year from now, you’ll be glad you did.