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March 18, 2017
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October 12, 2018
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Live Your Dreams

     The irony of sitting and writing this on the exact day a year later is proof that there’s no better teacher than life and you are always learning. There are all types of dreams, we all have had nightmares at some point, where we’ve woken up paralyzed. Usually poised and positive, this day September 6, 2017, I was petrified and perplexed at the devastation caused by my nightmare, Hurricane Irma hitting my beautiful island home of Anguilla. As the roof peeled back and we cowered in the hallway waiting for the right moment to face this beast and run through the open roof (I always did want more light in the kitchen), each with a child covered by a blanket my husband and I just ran. In that moment, there was silence, at least in my mind because my only goal was to get us all to safety in the garage. I only heard the door slam and then I believe I began to breathe again. The children safe, secure and surprisingly sleeping; after this we listened and waited for four more hours until she had finished. We faced this nightmare with faith, as I chanted, prayed and thanked God for sparing us (I think my husband thought I had lost my mind) but in his eyes, I knew he simply could not utter a word. When the true silence was deafening we ventured outside, which was now inside our home. A family member out assessing the damage nearby came and asked, how was I doing, and for the first time in my life that I can remember, I answered “I’m not ok, I do not know”. From the road where we stood, the roof appeared to be intact, so she had no idea as I could not verbalize it. The children still secure in the garage in the car, she ran in to get them, they emerged just simply happy that their aunt had popped in to get them not understanding or seeing what the hurricane had did to the house on the other side. When the realization hit, the children were speechless the entire day as they looked at their home and as we navigated our way to find and make sure family members were ok. I had no answers on how we going to face this nightmare, I just knew this was going to take some fighting faith.

     I was not going to let this nightmare paralyze me with fear, I focused my faith, so I would not freeze and stay in that moment. In life we must face our nightmares, whatever they may be. What I thought I had lost; our home, belongings, our sacrifice and investment in the start of building part of our dream, the Branches Of Learning Multipurpose Center was really enough at that point to throw your hands up an go and start new somewhere else. But as I prayed and thought about it all, I knew we had to stay. We stayed and we faced it and it is not easy, as a year later we are all in some sense still trying to get back to normal. In focusing my faith, I realized the very thing I love, besides my family of course is teaching and the space that saved our lives. The lovely space you see as the BOL Lounge, is actually a garage (many great businesses started in garages); redesigned by my husband into a creative learning space, that launched my entrepreneurial journey in Anguilla just a few years ago. So, I like to say, “teaching literally saved our lives”. I took that realization as fuel of faith and a sign from God that I needed to refocus on my dream in the midst of this nightmare and I did just that.

     Facing your nightmares requires “Zoom Focus”, as one of my favorite motivational authors Jon Gordon coins it. We all have the desire to accomplish great things, to do something meaningful, to have an impact. Many times, the busyness of life clouds our vision and goals from becoming reality. Jon Gordon defines “Zoom Focus” as, “ helping you turn ideas and goals into reality and results. Zoom Focus helps you focus on your priorities, execute, and create success. Zoom Focus helps you take daily steps towards your big picture vision.” So despite the destruction and distractions of recovering form the hurricane, I had to clarify my big picture vision, my dream and decide, I was going to live it. Each year instead of a New Year’s resolution, I choose one word that will embody my vision for my year and it also becomes the driving force in everything that I do. So, no long list, just one word. Guess what word I chose for 2018? “DREAM!” Honestly, I was so over this Hurricane Irma nightmare.

     It was a time to tune out the distractions and the noise from the doomsdayers and the naysayers and focus on what truly mattered. Everything I had put on hold because of what some may still call “The Irma Effect”, was no longer going grip me. There were days it seemed we did not sleep. Actually, I’m not sure that we did. No dream works without a strong team. The support of my family in helping us to rebuild and return to our home on Christmas Eve, was a miracle. Salvaging every block or piece of wood that could reuse to rebuild and continue the BOL Multipurpose Center on weekends, was done. We focused on daily improvements each day trying to take the next best steps.

     Weeks prior to the hurricane, I was accepted to an international entrepreneurship exchange program after a lengthy process. I had the opportunity to choose my top four EU countries where I could study and work with another education business. We had to make some tough decisions as a family and I wish I could say the process was easy in finding a match, but that turned into a nightmare of its own. After fifteen to twenty offers from varying EU education businesses to collaborate and exchange, I simply did not find the desired match that aligned with my vision and goals that kept me zoom focused. Instead of waiting for companies to seek me out, I began my own zoom focus plan because I had my heart set on Finland. After researching, emailing, and calling countless businesses for months even their ministry of education, I finally started to make headway at least I thought. There were lots of no’s, but I always see no’s as my “next opportunity”. Though the top three companies I chose all shared interest in the exchange, as new businesses themselves, they were also in zoom focus mode and were unable to take on an intern at the time and I respected their decision but what they did next was amazing. Because collaboration is the new commodity; they began to call other companies and agencies that they collaborate with and shared my information until the day I got “the” response and that’s when more pieces of my dream began to come to life and I would be headed on my Finnish education journey (every teacher’s dream destination, right?). Fast forward and I’m finally here in Finland, but it has been the lessons in facing my nightmares that I have begun again to follow and live my dreams to the fullest.