Taking stock

by Jan on March 3, 2012

Dearest readers of Hope on Hope. We’ve recently reached some milestones that would have seemed pretty lofty when this journey began almost exactly one year ago. In that time we’ve created 136 posts illuminating many diverse aspects of hope. We’re creating more of our own, original content including some new videos that help us better tell the true stories of real Heroes on Hope.

Our content must be resonating as we’ve attracted thousands of readers to the blog as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Who could have imagined reaching people from places as diverse as Egypt, India, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates. Hope really is a universal concept.

We’re honored and humbled by the hundreds of inspired bloggers, Facebook and Twitter users who’ve helped share our message over this year. This really is a community of hope.

I sincerely hope my team of collaborators and I have provided you with some useful insight or inspiration over the last 12-months. I can honestly say that building this has been inspirational and fulfilling for me.

I often write about the value of stepping out of day-to-day routines to open our minds and gain perspective. Well, I’m going to do just that for a few weeks. Hope on Hope will be on hiatus while I take stock, recharge and ponder the next chapter of this fascinating journey. In the meantime please continue to share the inspiration of hope. Also feel free to share your ideas for the future of Hope on Hope in the comments below.



Standing up for those without a voice.

by Jan on February 23, 2012

This week we have the opportunity to delve deeper into what I discovered visiting Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard on Long Island.  Our focus will be on Sharon Levine and her work to help save beautiful horses from slaughter through the vineyard’s horse rescue operation.  The horses and the story are both quite moving.  Meet our next Hero on Hope.

To learn more about this horse rescue operation and Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard go here.

Romance. Love. It starts with us.

by Jan on February 13, 2012

You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

Antique valentine card

(Image from Wikipedia)

My Valentine’s Day memories began with the following three words–Be My Love, sung by the great Italian tenor, Mario Lanza. It was the way my best girl friends* and I first learned to think about romance and love.

The song goes on to say—for no one else can end this yearningone kiss is all I need to seal my fate. We played this song over and over again and the song became our anthem and expectation.

Now please don’t laugh, I actually believed that “romance” stuff—until the next lesson came–“You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.” The learning here is that it is only in fairy tales that frogs turn into princes—in real life they stay frogs.

Undoing the expectations, the dreams of the flowery words, sentimental songs and expensive gifts—or of the “knight” galloping past my front door and swooping me off to a challenge free life, took a long time.

Real love is more than a Valentine

I learned that love is not just about hearts and flowers.

The Valentine began in the 13th Century France, and was about the joyful time when springtime was about to arrive and the birds were choosing their mates. Perhaps that is what learning about the birds and bees means. Oh la’ la’ –those French and love!

In fact the word Valentine comes from the word valance, an old French word for love that means “strength, capacity.” And don’t those words, strength and capacity, tell us what real love is about.

Real love is not the King or Queen For a Day kind of thing. It looks nothing like the movies or TV portray it, because it takes patience and courage to slog though the tough times so that we can come to the good times again.

Real love is an attitude and perspective that adds a quality of joy in the moments together and delight to be with whom we love. It grows deeper over time.

That love can be with a child, a grandchild, and a best friend–even your pet. It is about comfort in being with that person, and most important it can’t be found in the card shop, or the box of chocolate. It is found in the every day simple acts of connection, comfort, expressing gratitude and seeing the best in those we love.

When I look around at the friends and families that have found lasting love, the root of it is always that they LIKE each other, they laugh with each other and they remain steadfast in that love. They create a partnership in the values that are important to them. They have found a way to look in the same direction and finding that perspective can enhance their lives together.

It starts with us.

Then I wonder…doesn’t it really start with liking ourselves, too? And can we really accept love if we don’t love some of things about ourselves?

So today, Valentine’s Day, 2012, might be just the day to start putting ourselves toward the top of the list – seeing what is loveable in us, not just the ones we love.

*P.S. Those best girl friends are still my best friends, though we live thousands of miles apart.  They are the women I count on to tell me their truth, to laugh at our foibles, and tear-up with each of our problems.  They know who we are at our core, when we were still untested and innocent, with hopes and dreams yet to be unfolded, vulnerable yet resilient, playful and earnest. We remind each other what is most loveable in us.

Isn’t it ironic that we found the friendships of a lifetime over a love song?

And now for something completely different.

by Jan on February 9, 2012

Our first Heroes on Hope profile took us to the battlefront of pediatric cancer.  Today, we’re visiting a well-manicured vineyard on Long Island.  That leap may sound preposterous but the relevance to hope is real.

In our Dr. Burke story we saw the dramatic hope of life and death in the cancer ward.  There’s another kind of hope that’s less dramatic but potentially even more powerful – the long-term hope required to pursue one’s dream.

Our next Hero on Hope started out a man of modest means, driving a newspaper delivery truck in New York City.  Who knew he would end up the owner of a successful winery in the country?  Certainly there was no one back in the city telling him he could do this.  Sam did it by following his passion and sticking with it.  I think we can all learn a little from this special man.

Visit the Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard website here.

A not so silent film.

by Jan on February 3, 2012

There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.
Dr. Kurt Hahn, Outward Bound Schools Founder

It was on a recent Sunday afternoon that I arrived early to see the new silent black and white Oscar nominated film THE ARTIST.  It was there that I encountered the reminder of a big lesson.

I hesitated in picking a seat in the almost empty theatre because two women took the center seats that I wanted. Then unexpectedly they moved over and made the seat available for me—with a space between us.  I had waited and gotten the seat I wanted, and I was pleased.

As the theatre began to fill, people asked if the seat between us was taken. The women always replied that the seat was broken. Always the people moved on and looked for another seat.  As the time arrived for the film to begin, every seat in the theatre was taken except for the one next to me.  The show had been oversold.

In walked a man who again asked if the seat was occupied. The women once again said the seat was broken.  But he did something different.  He said in his loudest voice—“Broken? Who says it’s broken?”

He then asked the people in our aisle if we minded him climbing over us to the seat—just to see if was really broken.  He arrived and with great ceremony sat down. He tested it out, and we all waited for what he would do next.

“THIS SEAT IS NOT BROKEN! THIS IS THE BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE,” he shouted with glee to everyone in the theatre.  He began to question the women about why they thought it was broken, and their weak reply was that someone told them that it was, which, I, as an observer knew was not true.

The movie began and ended. I asked him if he liked the film.  His answer was that he hated it.  There was only “one line” in this silent film that he liked.

About fed up with him at this point, I was about to turn away when he said, “By the way, this was a great lesson for me, you know.”

Ah, I thought, now there might be a redeeming quality to the man. So I asked him what the lesson was. And this is what he told me:

Just that morning he had been given advice by a friend to look for a signal, an opening of any kind, and to look at it in a new way–to see what he might create from that “space.” His friend told him to never take no for an answer, and to never give up on himself. This newly jobless man took the advice to heart.

When he saw that the seat next to me was open, he decided to test his friend’s advice. And he did what had never done before.  He demanded proof, and found that indeed he could find the “best seat in the house.”

This man had looked at an opportunity and said to himself “why not, and why not now.” About twenty people accepted the fact of a broken seat.  One man did not.

Granted, finding a seat in a crowed theatre is not what we might call magical or vital in our lives, but what is magical and vital is seeing something with new attention and a new attitude.  Seeing what others think as impossible is really only an opportunity to do the impossible and prove that it is all how we look at things that makes a difference.

And our anonymous man in the theatre had a new choice—not to settle for less than the “right” seat—or the right life.

“And that is the lesson I need to be reminded of on a regular basis.

~Peter Nivio Zarlanga, author and businessman

We need heroes.

by Jan on January 26, 2012

I’m thrilled to share a new feature devoted to telling the stories of real people living on the front lines of hope. We’re calling this series, “Heroes on Hope.” I believe you’ll find this and future installments to be truly inspirational.

To learn more about Dr. Burke’s research and to help support this vital cause, please visit The Children’s Cancer Research Fund here.

This could be your leap year.

by Jan on January 23, 2012

When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
~ Alexander Graham Bell

Mr. Bell, inventor of the telephone, wanted the world to communicate across vast spaces. He also realized that the spaces within us are just as important. His simple words are a “call” to look at what needs to be put in the closed file and to relish the opening of new doors, which have the promise of opportunity and fewer struggles.

It is a little like spring-cleaning—when we look at what needs revision, deleting. This means taking an inventory of what we are holding onto that prevents us from opening the new door.

Sometimes we keep our foot in both doors; keeping our foot in the old while reaching for something new. It is not possible to span the gap between that old way and the new way without actually taking our foot out and letting the door close completely; stand in the dark for a moment (this is the scary part) before we can go forward through the door that is opening. Take my friend Michele for example.

Facing Facts.

Michele hated the facing the fact that she HAD to leave the beautiful house that she had poured so much love into. But the time had come. Facing foreclosure she put her house on market. But it didn’t sell.

Then, after months of struggling to let go of her “dream,” she went to a yoga-like class. It was the instructor ‘s intention for everyone in the class to RELEASE everything that was not needed anymore. Michelle decided to let go of the dream of her house. By noon that day she had a buyer!

Panic set in. Where she was going to live? Would she be homeless? She almost gave up hope that she would find the right space for the right money. But Michelle let go of the panic, and began to trust that it would work out.

That is when an old friend connected her with someone who provides alternative funding for housing. He accepts clients based on intuition rather than financials. It was possible for her to open a new door.

A space that had been empty for months showed up. It was drab and unappealing. Michele, a caterer, could see that by transforming the kitchen she could do cooking classes. There would be more space for the big meals with her family on holidays, and a place to share with the man who had proposed to her on Thanksgiving.

By the time the holidays hit, she had closed on her new home.

Her circle of friends includes an interior designer who created a color palette she would NEVER have used. She became truly enchanted. Another friend came to paint the whole house for her. It all started to work out better than here first dream.

All of us experience challenges and difficulties at one time or another. It’s part of being human. Russell Bishop, psychologist and executive coach, who’s had his share of challenges, believes “life is really more like a trust walk than anything else….that your ability to trust actually becomes a source of freedom and creativity.“ His business failed 3 times, his wife left him and he lost his house. These closed doors actually created an opening for a new job and a new love.

“Sometimes a whole lot of things have to be removed in order to make way for the next level of opening. Whether it’s a house or a spouse.

Bishop’s practice of hope during difficult times:

1. Keep your eye on what’s possible
2. Keep your spirit up
3. Trust that whatever has befallen you is actually going to turn out OK
4. Stay open
5. Let go of what’s in the way
6. Never give-up on yourself

Good luck—and let me know what door you open!

The shadow of our past and the hope for our future

by Jan on January 16, 2012

40th Anniversary Of King's "I Have A Dream" Speech Remembered

40th Anniversary Of King's "I Have A Dream" Speech Remembered

In August of 1963 I heard someone say for the first time in my life, that I, too, can have a dream. That man was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In those days I was a young mother with a newborn baby and two very small children, barely getting by. I was still recovering from a near death experience a few months earlier. Life was very challenging. I yearned for something more.

As I listened to Dr. King say “I have a dream…” I was amazed. Something deep inside me began to stir, awakened to a new possibility. The poetry of his words, his passion and his eloquence struck a cord in me that I had never felt before. It was what I needed to hear.

Eight times Dr. King said, “I have a dream…” Each time I asked myself, “What is my dream?” I had no answer. At the time I could not have dreamed of the life I have had the privilege to live. However, the idea that I was entitled to a dream, or that there could even be a dream for me, was being born.

It is unclear if his dream for a better America and its citizens was the “seed” for my current life.  What I do know is that his speech left me wanting to stand up for my rights and the rights of others who were not treated with dignity and acceptance. What I eventually recognized as hope and possibility took root, but it was a gradual change. It took a long time for life to evolve–so that I could become the hopeful woman I am now.

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The Ripple Effect

by Jan on January 13, 2012

You don’t pay love back; you pay it forward.” ~ Lily Hardy Hammond (1916)

Sophia Elise, "Ripple Effect"

"Ripple Effect" by Sophia Elise

Have you ever done a good deed, thinking it was no big thing, only to find yourself surprised by the huge impact it had on another?

We often take our good deeds for granted. We never can know ahead of time which tiny drop, which small deed, will ripple out and eventually create a wave.

When Joe Mornini, a high school teacher, started sharing his kayaking skills as  a form of physical therapy, he had no idea of the ripple effect he would create. With the increasing number of wounded veterans returning to their lives back home,  it didn’t take long to expand his organization, Team River Runner. Kayaking rushing river rapids not only provides these veterans physical therapy, but also gives them back a sense of adventure, accomplishment and independence that they may have lost. In this video you’ll see that through the process of learning and doing the participants, their community and family, the teachers and volunteers, all experience healing and hope.

Team River Runner is expanding rapidly, with plans to open chapters in every state — spreading a positive model for recovery and life long health after serious injury.

This is why the idea of paying it forward has so much impact. One kindness spreads to another, just like a smile spreads. We are connected to each other through these acts of kindness, through our human goodness.

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Cracking open

by Jan on January 10, 2012

Of all the wonderful things in the wonderful universe…….nothing seems to me more surprising than the planting of a seed in the blank earth and the result thereof. Take that Poppy seed, for instance: it lies in your palm, the merest atom of matter, hardly visible, a speck, a pin’s point in bulk, but within it is imprisoned a spirit of beauty ineffable, which will break its bonds and emerge from the dark ground and blossom in a splendor so dazzling as to baffle all powers of description.” ~ Celia Thaxter


I’ve been thinking, and talking, a lot about seeds lately. In my research I came across a wonderful post about the journey that a seed goes through in it’s transformation. It talks about how difficult it is for the seed to crack open, to transform into the thing that it was meant to be. In that journey there is darkness, pain, uncertainty. The seed knows what it will become. It knows if it will be a mighty oak, or a peony with its riot of color at the height of summer. It is our challenge to trust in that darkness that the seeds we have planted for ourselves will find their nourishment, grow and flourish.

The author of this post has wonderful, positive thoughts. Her blog, The Peaceful Journey, has many kernels of insight. I hope it gives you much to think about in this coming year. I am reminded of the journey that I am on, and how the seed of hope is opening in this wonderful world.



by Karen Mead

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” ~Lao Tzu

At lunch the other day, a new friend and I were discussing changes in our lives and how everything feels very new and different.

I remembered the most beautiful description Mark Nepo wrote in The Book of Awakening. Mark is a poet, and he sees the world through such a lovely light. His work opens my heart to images I’ve never thought about that are so compelling.

I can see the way Mark describes the process of change in my own life. He compares change to the immense bravery of a seed being forced into the ground. He describes the painful experience he imagines the seed must endure, as it splits apart and becomes something entirely different.

Still deeply under the earth, the seedling struggles to find light, water, and nutrients for life. And one day, it emerges, not recognizable to those who only knew it as a seed. Yet it remembers the journey—the journey to something larger, but unknown.

I, like the seed, have felt the darkness of the unknown, the claustrophobia of being in a space I did not understand, the anxiety of being in a place I did not feel I had chosen.

Without a job, without my identity in the world of business, I felt I might disappear, like the seed deep in the soil of my life. I struggled to trust my eventual transformation, feeling alone and yet filled with expectations for the future.

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