The Importance of Mindfulness

It started with a small book of poetry. One of my flying partners gave it to me-sharing that she met the author, Neville Cloleman on a flight and that she felt the book was meant to be  mine.

Fly with me, on the winds of time….Set yor Spirit free,  and I’ll paint rainbows in your eyes, for all …ee…ter…nity.”-Neville Coleman

This poet had touched my heart and I had to meet him. So I wrote him a letter and we became penpals.

Soon after, on the 4th of July, I called Australia so he could hear the firework celebration that we Americans have. A few weeks after that , I flew to his home in Brisbane.

What a leprechun of a man he was. There was something magical about him.

Yet when we arrived at his remote house, he told me that he was a hermit–a true loner.  And as I spent the few days with him, I realized that Neville had a very sad -almost haunting side to him and his life. He claimed to have no family, and his friends were the creatures of the world -especially those of the ocean. He was an avid scuba diver and published the first underwater photography magazine in Australia.

Neville took me to the Rain Forest and we had a delightful picnic amidst this land of giant trees. I have a photo somewhere of me looking so small standing next to one of them.  I was so grateful that this quiet, gentle man took time away from his love of diving to share a bit of his Australian world with me.

And yet, he may have been a bit dissappointed by some of my young American attitudes. (He was 20 years my senior) and when I departed, we lost touch.

Today I learned that Neville Coleman died last year on May 5th and as I googled his life, I was amazed at all that this kind man  had achieved. I had no idea what a precious gem he was to the scientific underwater community.

Neville Coleman has achieved excellence in many fields of self-taught expertise, including his career as an underwater explorer, naturalist and environmental photographer, photojournalist, educator, conservationist, philosopher, publisher and even as a poet, becoming to one of the most accomplished underwater natural history authors in the world. Recently (he was) awarded the Order of Australia Medal OAM- and in 2007 the naturalist Neville Coleman was inducted to the International Scuba Diving Hall Of Fame. He said on that occasion: “I realized that in the water it doesn’t matter what shaped peg you are……… round or square? UNDERWATER, everybody fits!”                –from the obit of Neville Coleman

How I wish I had been more mindful back then..more present when I was with him.

Loner that he was, he shared with me a part of himself that very few had ever known…

and  he could have taught me so much more about the meaning of life.–had I, the student been ready……

“Disguised it lies behind the eyes….. it’s there for all to find.                                    The secret source within yourself…….your magic power mind.”                                                                                                                  -Neville  Coleman


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How do you feed your soul?

This holiday season, I did something that fed my soul big time….I was a Doggie Santa.

It all started last Feb when my friend Karen had a birthday lunch and asked us all to donate money to Chainfree Asheville. Not knowing about this local nonprofit, and being such an animal lover, I was excited to learn more.

I found out that Peggy Irwin (the owner of a B & B) was the catalyst in helping dogs in the area to get off their chains and have a fenced- in area to run in.

Peggy heard of a meeting on chained dogs in 2008 , where the Asheville City Council announced it was reviewing its animal ordinances. So, within weeks she had made contacts and gathered a few kindred souls to hold an informal gathering at the North Asheville Library…and so the seed was planted.

In November 2008 CFA built their first fence for three dogs in West Asheville. They had a grateful owner and a large turnout for the Sunday build. Several other chained dogs got their freedom during the next few months. By Spring of 2009, Peggy had fought through all the red tape and had established CFA as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, had raised more money, and begun her strategy to change the City ordinance.

Fence building and the education of the general public about chaining continues as CFA works with animal control to help eligible people to be compliant with the new ordinance.

You and I  donate our time and money to causes that we identify with. As a child, my cousin had a german shepard that was always on a chain on the front stoop that was 5 steps high. One day during a severe thunderstorm, afraid of the lightening, the dog – still chained- jumped to her death-which affected me greatly.

So Chainfree Asheville has been getting monthly donations from me since I first heard about it at Karen’s birthday lunch.

And because I wanted to get up close and personal with some of the dogs that my funds helped build fences for, I spent a couple of days before Christmas- with Karen- visiting about a dozen houses that CFA built fences for. We checked on the area to make sure it was clean and had a doghouse with bedding and food and water. We brought toys and treats and spent time with the dogs and heard their stories from their owners.

It was the best Christmas gift I could have asked for.

CFA’s founder, Peggy Irwin developed cancer and made her transition on Oct 14th 2012- but her legacy – , lives on, and I am so glad to be part of it.

photo of peggy Irwin by



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The Gift that grew…..

Last October, my designer friend Barb and I were talking over dinner about the holiday season. And by the time we were done with dessert, we had created a way to bring the Spirit of Giving to Asheville in a big way.

photo from Career portfolio

The Concept: Invite the community to share the spirit of giving by writing a letter about  someone who has a big heart and touches the lives of others.

The Gift: A free room makeover for the recipient of the letter that touches us the most.

The How: We contacted the editor of WNC Women Magazine and she was excited to be involved. The invite was published in the Nov issue, the winning letter  with photos of the writer and recipient in the Dec issue and the big reveal would be in the Jan issue. (Until an unexpected twist)

Nominations came flooding in, sharing stories of wonderful friends, family members  and acquaintances -inspirational stories of people helping people. It was a difficult task to choose just one winner.  But in the end Gayle Sovinee- who spent the last 6 years developing the non profit Helios Warriors- a holistic treatment center for veterans , was chosen.

But when we called to notify Gayle that she won the free makeover for a room in her home, she asked if she could re-gift it to a new office space they were creating for Helios Warriors.

So our free room make-over became so much more:

More: Because of the generous sponsors that donated furniture, accessories, personalized artwork, paint for walls , handmade curtains, photography and videotography and even a mini vacation in a B&B for Gayle.

More- because we actually “made-over” 3 treatment rooms, a meditation room. the bathroom and the reception area.

Helios Warriors meditation room

Helios Warriors meditation room


More: In the number of volunteers that gave their talents , skills and labor in constructing and priming the walls and electrical work.

More: In meeting some of the veterans that Helios helps and hearing their stories..

More: because the big reveal also involved a ribbon cutting with the mayor

More: because the progress of the makeover was actually written up in WNC woman Magazine in Jan, Feb and March with the big reveal in the April issue.

More: because the other letters sent in were featured throughout the year in issues of WNC magazine

We never imagined how big  this spirit of giving would be!

You can read more about Gayle and Helios Warriors in my Jan 2012 post (

Gayle at the big reveal

Gayle at the Big Reveal


And you can read more about the room makeover at these links:


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The Magic of Gratitude

A few years ago, I  realized that what gives me the  most joy is helping others—even with just a simple random act of kindness.

helga weber-flicker photo

Helga Weber- flicker photo

And yet there were many moments when I would get impatient with people,  upset at drivers and grumble in other ways -keeping me away from my joy.

So one day I created a daily mantra “Open my heart completely that I may have true compassion and be of service to the world.”

And every morning since, I have made a ritual of saying that mantra and then listing my gratitudes -both in journals and  vocally while I was driving to my first destination of the day.  And I would find my days flowing smoothly.

And yet- I started to feel the rest of my days going back to the old habits of getting irritated by little things. .

…Until  a dream I had a few weeks ago, where I was shown by a dream guide how to FEEL completely thankful for EVERYTHING. .. by breathing  gratitude through my heart and visualizing everything with warmth and thanks..

And yesterday I was given affirmation of it’s worth:

I went out to my car to head out to the golf course to walk and then go to the grocery store. Yet my car wouldn’t start. My lights had not been on all night, there had been no indication that this would happen. Was it a bad battery, or my altinator?.

A new transmission was put in my car 17 months ago and it’s never been up to par since, but every day I had felt love and gratitude for it’s detemination to get me to my destinations. I call my car my velveteen rabbit–so loved by me, but so worn.

I called for a tow and realized that  I was NOT getting upset and overwrought because I was put out and I wasn’t worried about the money I would most likely need to spend to fix it.-

I was feeling  gratitude for it being a Sunday- and not needing to be somewhere and for being within walking distance of both the grocery store and  my mechanic. I knew I could reschedule my Monday with ease. I was comfortably at home and not 2 hours away where I had driven back and forth everyday last week.

My cat and I played  while I was waiting , and when “Red” showed up, he suggested we tow it to the auto supply store for a new battery. Oh- that’s a hopeful thought- but what if it’s not the battery? So “Red” had me pop my hood- then he moved a plug and asked me to start the car–and it did start!

I didn’t have to spend any money, I didn’t have to change my schedule on Monday…and as I headed to my walking spot an hour later, I ran into a friend I haven’t seen in a while. An added gift!

I came across this quote from Meister Eckhart and I now know how true it is:

If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice. –


kharied / photo on flickr



Have you felt the magic of gratitude in your life?







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Pay it Forward – again

NOTE:This post was originally published in  in 2009. I chaired a project that brought a dozen artists from around the country-to NOLA -many not knowing each other- to paint together in a Habitat House that financed.With the new hurricane affecting NOLA this month, I found mysef reminiscing…..


Do you remember the movie “Pay it Forward”?

I love its message: if you help someone in some way and ask only that that person  helps someone else (pay it forward), a beautiful flow of heartfelt energy will eventually circle the world.

Idealistic? Perhaps.

Yet when I asked Laine Discepoli and Jane Drew (my cohorts in The House That Faux Built, NOLA Habitat House project), what prompted them to step up to the plate and take on hours of phone calls, emails, meetings, brainstorm sessions and being ambassadors for this event – while still managing their business’ and families?  Lane simply said: “I want to pay it forward.”

While helping her husband battle a serious illness this past year, Laine was touched by the endless support and offerings shown to them by others. Even the simplest act of kindness was huge. So when Adrienne Vandooren put the word out that the proceeds of the book The House That Faux Built had raised enough money to build a Habitat House for a Katrina victim, Laine contacted her and said she wanted to help. After all, she just may be the biggest fan of the book. Since it’s been published, Laine has constantly used it to help get ideas for jobs, as well as to help educate her clients and students of the endless possibilities our craft has. Not sure if she could pull it off or not, Laine took the responsibility of Sponsor chair. Can you imagine asking for donations without knowing what materials are needed because the client has not made any decisions? And yet Laine did a remarkable job.


When Hurricane Katrina hit, Jane and her family had been living in New Orleans for 24 years and her Decorative Arts business Creative Finishes was well established.

I can only imagine the devastation she felt when the place she calls home was destroyed. Yet in the short time I’ve known her, Jane has been upbeat, positive and filled with gratitude for all the help and support others have shown in efforts to rebuild New Orleans. When she learned of the desire for the PDCA to come and create beautiful finishes in some New Orleans buildings last year, she volunteered to find some locations to do so, and became their project manager. Despite the long hours and hard work, Jane found this experience so rewarding, that she jumped on the chance to be the Local coordinator for the Habitat project. Her passion is to turn others on to the magic that New Orleans has, and without her energy and commitment, it would have been almost impossible to coordinate the finishes we will be doing in the house or to be prepared to do a mural in the SPCA. If it weren’t for Jane’s contacts and tenacity, we wouldn’t have been offered a charming historic B&B in which to stay for such an affordable rate – nor would we have tools, drop cloths, ladders, etc. ready to use when we arrive..

And so I acknowledge these two beautiful, amazing ladies who exude the energy of giving back.

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