After we opened our gifts last Christmas, my daughter said, “I was going to give you a Blackberry, but I didn’t want to feed your e-mail addiction.” Although I protested that it wasn’t that bad, she had evidence to the contrary.

What Jennie doesn’t understand is that my e-mail is usually full of interesting stuff. Reading it isn’t a chore at all. Here’s a sampler of a few things that have recently arrived.

The other morning, my handywoman sister Margaret sent this brief message: ”I must right a listing Christmas tree before a seafaring man comes home for the holidays.” The next message I opened was from Pat Peterson, a lively woman from Des Moines who had attended a Las Vegas event and Camp Jumpstart. Seems she had started a new business–or, to be more accurate, a new business had found her. It was such a delightful story that I asked her for permission to include it in the next Winning Ways.

Charla Swift, who just attended Compelling Storytelling, sent a message titled Still Reeling from Las Vegas. She began her update by writing, ” To say I’ve had idea overload is an understatement!  The first night my son Justin and I stayed up late talking about all the wonderful marketing ideas we came up with around the campfire. And the ideas just keep coming.” She went on to tell me about their exciting plans which are already in motion less than a week after the seminar. Charla ended her message by saying, “I cannot thank you enough for opening a whole new world for me to embrace. (Justin merely smiled as I told him of my revelation…do you suppose he already suspected???)  Sometimes, as the story goes, the mountains are much more visible from the plains. How true!  In addition to this new discovery, I have discovered more kindred spirits in my tribe.  Just when I think I can’t discover anything new, I find how little I know.” 

What’s more fun than hearing from an excited entrepreneur? Hearing from many excited entrepreneurs. Jay Hepner wrote to tell me he’d started a new blog. His first post called Taking My Own Advice is terrific.

Then there was this message from a complete stranger:

I don’t typically e-mail people who write newsletters but today is an exception!  Your latest newsletter will be forwarded in its entirety to many friends who are facing change in the hope that they will embrace the challenges positively.

My own story includes periods of time of purposeful disconnection from employment. Early on people couldn’t understand why I left very good job at the peak of my career and downsize at an age when the majority of people are focused on career and the accumulation of wealth.

My answer was complicated but the simple answer was “To live my life with integrity.” I had bought into the American Dream and was incredibly unhappy. I knew the process of connecting with my purpose in life would be challenging but I did not realize that the search would be as dramatic and enlightening as it has been. 

Over the last five years I have been a teacher at a high school in North Carolina where I taught Foods I and II (nutrition and cooking); a substitute teacher in WV and VA;  hiked miles of trails including the AT and other trails in the east;  visited with my children including my grandson who will be a year old in January; started a farmers market; grown a garden; met new people; and earned my personal trainer certification.  I am still not “employed” but I am happy making contributions to the communities were I live. 

As I write Good Morning America is airing interviews with people who have lost their jobs. My heart goes out for them as they are being jolted from the comfort of life as they knew it. Their paradigms are being imploded. People who have their identity defined by their employment and career no longer feel valuable. Self-esteem is challenged, ideas are challenged. Soul searching will begin. 

I gave up job hunting. Now I barter for what I need. Right now I am a professional domestic and personal chef and love it!   It is my hope that I can help people transition during these challenging times to see their value and to redefine what they need to be happy. 

Change is all we can count on.

Thank you for living your life with integrity and sharing your thoughts.

Ms. Harmony Leonard

Currently in Bradford PA but that could change next week!

Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.~Yeats