A new vision

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

My spiritual mentor has told me this on numerous occasions. The saying proved true in my journey to finding my spiritual mentor, and it proved true when finding my career mentor, too.

467039_10151664152983185_896591402_oIn 2005, I attended the Arkansas Association of Colleges and Employers conference. In addition to meeting other fabulous speakers—people who would be key to my success and landmarks in my career journey—I met Samantha Hartley, Founder and President of Enlightened Marketing. Her story and vision inspired me. A few months later, after relocating to central Arkansas, I decided to go beyond the typical follow-up after a conference (a LinkedIn invitation and message stating how much I enjoyed her presentation) and contact her to invite her to lunch. She said yes.

I held back the first time we met even though I probably wanted to beg for assistance. I didn’t want to scare the poor woman off! I’m sure I still sounded like a wayward child (I was). I truly had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go in life. In addition, my personal life was in shambles. I could find no peace and stability in my career until I found personal and spiritual peace and stability; Samantha recognized this and even pointed this out at the time. Samantha offered some ideas and suggestions, but our initial meeting was more about getting to know one another, as it should have been.

Over the next few years, we kept in touch and met a few times face to face. Samantha’s guidance was crucial. My career goals ran the gamut. I was good at everything, highly adaptable, a quick study, and stuck at a certain salary range. I kept leaving jobs in hopes of greener grass, and finding similar stubble. I couldn’t figure out my missteps until one morning over pancakes when Samantha encouraged me to create what I call my vision card. I lacked vision—and I kept accepting positions that weren’t aligned with my passion, my values, or my goals. As soon as I fixed the problems that presented themselves, I became bored, and I moved on.

vision cardSamantha asked me to create a vision board. However, I’m not really into pictures as much as I am into words, and she said that was okay. So my board because a card, and when I pictured a big display of images, the images were just words. So I wrote down all the words I envisioned.

Something beautiful is happening in my life right now. On this journey of life, I’m finding that each time I look back at my vision card, my current position aligns even more closely with the words written on it.

I don’t believe in coincidences.

I believe this is a direct result of planned and thoughtful decision-making, of saying no to interviews, of listening to my gut, of stepping away from situations that feel wrong or incomplete and stepping closer to situations and people that feel right and that align more closely with my values and goals.

If Samantha were not in my life, and were not willing to thoughtfully consider each question I ask her before responding and provide such excellent mentorship—without asking anything in return, except that I give to others—I might still feel like an aimless soul rather than a purpose-driven woman.

Day 17: Chère Madame Douglas

*Day 17 comes to us from my friend, role model, and mentor Samantha Hartley, Founder/President of Enlightened Marketing. I’m thankful for her letter today and even more for her willingness to spend time with me and to share her insights and experience. Samantha, the answer to the question you ask in your letter is a resounding, “Yes.”*

Chère Madame Douglas,

I’ve thought of you often over the years, but never so much as this year when I turned the age you were when you died. I wonder if I’ve had on anyone the impact you had on me. I wonder if I’d only been given this many years and not another day, if I could look back on my life as complete.

I believe that people come in and out of our lives, and each of them gives us a piece of the puzzle, or maybe they plant a seed. Sometimes they’re disguised as beggars or abusers or fools, so it isn’t obvious when they’ve blessed us. Certainly anyone who is a teacher is expected to give to their students.

Yes, you taught me literally, and taught me so much. But your impact came in the form of modeling a certain way of being: cultural immersion, passionate pursuit.

As a French teacher you moonlighted as a hostess at the French restaurant to perfect your language skills. You pursued your own career development (when?) and moved from the classroom to leadership in gifted programs. I was sorry that you left teaching but loved the dedication I saw in you. You even modeled the pursuit of unexpected hobbies, like belly dancing of all things.

Your intellectual diversity influenced me greatly. It’s amazing how much of my life can be traced back to seeds planted by you:

  • Gifted education and all the creative pursuits it opened up. I can’t imagine where I’d be had you not plucked me from the main stream and identified me as different.
  • French language and culture. Although my French is probably the worst of the languages I speak, I adore it. France has been a magical place to me and I trace my love of it all, including cuisine (which I actually studied formally in Paris) back to you.  Our visit with you to Restaurant Jacques et Suzanne created a little foodie-monster!
  • Metaphysics. No one in my life had ever talked about ideas, abstractions and philosophy as you did. It’s my whole life now, seeded by you.
  • Gandhi. You took us on a field trip to see the movie, which is my all-time favorite. Again, how is it that you are the one connected to something that changed my life? It’s uncanny.
  • Russia. Five years before I moved to Russia, a place of such transformation for me, you came to our classroom. I hadn’t seen you in ages and you were just back from Russia, full of wonder for the place and all its enchantment. Was that just to reinforce for me that I would go there?

What stands out to me about our relationship is that, as a teacher who nurtured and shaped my path more than any other, there are no gushing bursts of praise or affection. I always felt from you a kind of matter-of-fact endorsement of me as the best.  I wouldn’t be surprised if others felt that from you too.

You appeared in my life at pivotal moments with those seeds. Knowing this gives me such a strong sense of meaning and design, as if life isn’t random; as if there is a support system for me that swoops in just when I need it.

I saw you the last time just a year before your death. When I think of you there, acknowledging me with your quiet smile, I imagine you knew our exchange was completed. That you’d given all you had for me in this lifetime.

I believe we’ll meet again, Mrs. Douglas, and when we do, I’ll share my amazement at the complexity of your role in my life. You’ll laugh at how long it took me to realize how interwoven you were into the tiniest yet most significant details of my journey.

And I’ll thank you so much for launching me. I will thank you for blessing me with your warmth and confidence. And for whispering clues about what was to come.

Merci, Mme. Douglas. Thank you.

Merci et au revoir – until we meet again,


Sunshine award

Thank you, Truthlets & Thoughtbits, for nominating me for the Sunshine Award!

The Rules are as follows:

1.  Thank the person who gave you this award and write a post about it.

2.  Answer the questions below or write 7 interesting things about yourself.

3.  Pass on the award to 7 fabulous bloggers, link their blogs and let them know you awarded them.

The Sunshine Award honors bloggers who bring a little bit of positivity and sunshine into the lives of others. I’m honored to get the award and pleased to pass it on to a few others whose blogs inspire me.

So before I list the seven interesting things about myself, here are the Sunshiny bloggers I’d like to recognize:

1) Lesley Carter of Bucket List Publications. Always inspiring and urges me to think about ways I can live a more adventurous life.

2) Henry Petty, a long time friend and fellow blogger, who guest writes for me frequently. I’m very grateful for him!

3) Planting Potatoes, a great blog by someone who is thoughtful and encouraging to others.

4) Teresa Burns Murphy, who is not actually a blogger, but who is an amazing writer who occasionally posts on Daily Dose of Gratitude.

5) Sarah Klesko of Truthlets & Thoughtbits, who nominated me, but who is also always inspiring me by things she writes.

6) Paul Mark Sutherland of GYA today. His blog is highly motivational and always positive.

7) All the friends, loved ones, and wonderful people who’ve stepped in as guest writers for me when asked and have shared their gratitude with others via Daily Dose of Gratitude.

And now, seven interesting facts about myself:

1) I started blogging at the suggestion of my friend Samantha Hartley, who owns Enlightened Marketing. She suggested I start a personal blog, and that someday I might find myself returning to a common theme. Then I’d know what to focus on. For me, it was gratitude.

2) I will be having my first baby in November.

3) I love taking photographs of nature, particularly of small things and tiny miracles we often overlook.

4) I’m a graduate student pursuing my Master’s degree in English.

5) I was the first ever bus girl at a local fish house back in the 90s.

6) I have nine siblings.

7) I’m completely in love with Jesus Christ.