Essence of Laurel

Essence of Laurel - inspirational art and writings by Laurel D. Rund

Finding My Path Back to the Peace Corps by Barbara Joe


Finding My Path Back to the Peace Corps

-a Gateway to a Useful Life

Contributed by Barbara E. Joe 

As a newly minted college graduate, I realized that if I lived long enough, I would meet many challenges while finding my path and a gateway to a useful life.  Finishing my master’s degree was the first step; raising four children and facing head-on the time when my husband left while the kids were still young, proved to be another.  So who could blame me when I thought that the only way from there would be up – surely I had “paid my dues.”

But I was wrong!  In 1994 Andrew, my older son, died after a work accident. It was my darkest hour, the before and after of my entire existence – a divide never to be breached – seeming totally contrary to the natural order. I faced a problem without any remedy or redeeming rationale, no lessons to be learned, only that a child lovingly raised and nurtured could suddenly disappear forever. Then, my Cuban foster son, Alex, an unaccompanied minor who’d arrived during the 1980 Mariel boatlift, died of AIDS one year later.

For many months, all I could do was put one foot in front of the other, going to work, coming home alone to my empty house, feeling thirsty from so much crying, almost reveling in my grief, perhaps punishing myself for having let my boys die. Other parents’ announcements of their kids’ graduations, marriages, new babies, and promotions only rubbed salt in the wounds.  I joined a support group for bereaved parents, The Compassionate Friends, which made me feel less alone and for that I am grateful.

I became hyper-protective of my remaining kids and little granddaughter, anxious about every late arrival and missed phone call. After all, lightning had already struck twice. I envied other parents their innocent belief that their children would always be there to carry on their legacy. I knew otherwise – kids’ lives could actually disappear in a nanosecond, as is the case for each and every one of us.

My awareness that every life is finite, including my own, revived a dream I’d had since 1961 when President Kennedy first established the Peace Corps.  Although I hadn’t been able to join the Peace Corps in my youth, I revisited that dream.  In the year 2000 at the age of 62, I became a health volunteer in Honduras.  This was a homecoming to both my dream and to Honduras, because I was there in 1941 while my father did archeological work in the Mayan ruins of Copán.

How a 62 year old woman revisits her dream of joining the Peace CorpsMy surviving kids were skeptical; I’d often talked about Peace Corps but never followed through. They were surprised that this time I really meant it. Before I left, a man my own age warned that I was making a big mistake, that Peace Corps was only for young people, “Mark my words, you’ll be home by Christmas at the latest.” I followed my passion and stayed beyond the usual 27 months for “three Christmases!” I even started a support group for “over-50” volunteers, OAKS, standing for Older And Knowing Souls.

In the first town where I lived, two of my landlady’s young grandsons died of AIDS, along with the female partner of one of them. At that time, no AIDS remedies existed in Honduras, so my efforts focused on education and prevention. I also trained midwives and helped with deliveries, once participating in a breech birth where the baby died; the young mother should have gone to a hospital, but with the infant’s feet already emerging, it was too late to get her there. To reduce childhood deaths from a common killer—intestinal illnesses—I encouraged women to keep babies with diarrhea well hydrated with breast milk and a rehydration formula made of boiled water, salt, and sugar, consulting their local health center if the illness continued.

I had hoped to leave death behind, but it soon caught up with me. Honduran children died, as did some mothers in childbirth, and AIDS, the illness that had killed my foster son, was rampant.  Those deaths helped guide my work as a health volunteer. Fortunately, thanks to many collective efforts during my time in Honduras, child and maternal survival increased and AIDS decreased. The two Honduran towns where I lived and worked, El Triunfo (The Triumph) and La Esperanza (The Hope), memorialized in my book’s title, Triumph & Hope, reflected the true spirit of their inhabitants and my own frame of mind.

In 2003 I left Honduras after receiving an urgent plea from my 90-year-old mother who had learned to use e-mail to communicate with me.  I was already conversant in Spanish before going to Honduras, but it had become second nature to me there. Thus my new career as an on-call Spanish interpreter in hospitals and schools began, something I’m still doing at age 74. As an interpreter, I’ve helped families with children undergoing painful organ and bone marrow transplants, mothers with preemie babies small enough to fit into your hand, and kids with congenital anomalies such as eye tumors and missing intestines, as well as a pregnant woman with terminal brain cancer, patients with end-stage kidney and liver disease, and roofers permanently paralyzed in falls.

My work has proved helpful to others and my part-time schedule allowed me to spend time with my mother before her death in 2006. It was then that I got down to finishing my Honduras memoir, based on letters I’d posted monthly on a website while in service. After it received positive reviews, I was invited to give talks about Peace Corps service at libraries and continuing education centers. I also started going back to Honduras, volunteering with a medical brigade ( and organizing other humanitarian projects partly funded by my book proceeds. I’ve returned eight times so far, most recently in February.

Nothing can bring back my son and foster son, who are never far from my thoughts. But my experience of finding my path back to the Peace Corps offered me a healing experience and opened a brand new gateway to a useful life.

Metamorphosis - Your Stories of transformation and self-realization

 “It is well to be prepared for life as it is,

but it is better to be prepared to make life better than it is.” Sargent Shriver

A gateway to a useful life - finding my path back to the Peace Corps Contributed by Barbara E. JoeBio – Barbara E. Joe, MA   Metamorphosis - Your Stories

“Barbara Joe,” people ask, “What’s your last name?” Well, “Joe” is my last name, thanks to my late Korean father-in-law who chose that spelling. In solidarity with my kids, I kept that name after becoming divorced. A native of Boston, an alumna of the University of California, Berkeley, I’m now 74 with a lively five-year-old great-grandson. From my century-old house on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, I work as a freelance writer, Spanish interpreter, and translator.

I belong to The Compassionate Friends, a support group of bereaved parents. I’ve also joined a local Catholic community, Communitas, a few dozen people meeting for weekly Mass at a neighborhood center for gay Catholics. Most members are not gay, just people of all ages, races, ethnicities, orientations, and abilities, with priests from Catholic University taking turns presiding. As a volunteer with Amnesty International (AI) since 1981, I was a founding member of local Group 211 and have held various national leadership positions, including the last eight years as volunteer coordinator for the Caribbean for AI USA, and also serve as a board member of three non-profit organizations working internationally. From 2000-20003, I was a Peace Corps health volunteer in Honduras and wrote a memoir, Triumph & Hope: Golden Years in the Peace Corps in Honduras (,Kindle, and Nook), winner of three literary awards, including “Best Peace Corps Memoir of 2009” from Peace Corps Writers.

A powerful, inspiring personal story that offers an intimate look inside Peace Corps service, showing that no matter what your age and circumstances, you can always forge a new direction.

I’ve also written several articles about the Peace Corps and my missions to Romania, Sudan, Cuba, and other countries. I speak frequently at libraries and educational centers about Peace Corps service and my book.   In April 2011 I was featured in Woman’s Day and in August 2011 appeared in a video distributed worldwide by Voice of America News.


How to submit a story to Metamorphosis - Your Stories


Woman in the Wind – It is written in stone!

Aging Gracefully 

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” Betty Friedan

Antelope Canyon - Woman in the Wind

Woman in the Wind – It is written in stone!

It is written in stone that I will encounter
storms and rainbows during this journey called Life.

Breathing in new thoughts and perspectives,
I eagerly discover more about the spirit within me.
And bless the earthly form I was born into decades ago.

Time has gifted me with many challenging and exquisite moments
which have been woven into my Being.

I honor and embrace that which is sacred.
And am grateful for the eternal spirit that is my Essence.
Yes … I Am the Woman in the Wind!

Laurel D. Rund

Awareness - Antelope Canyon - Quote Art


I am opening my consciousness to my true self.  I choose to be here to grow, to free myself from conflict and to discover who I really am.  I let go of the world of illusion and imitation that the material world imposes on me.  I seek to improve myself as I explore the world of infinite possibilities.

“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm”

Henry David Thoreau

The Gift of Age

The Gift of Age by Laurel D. Rund

As a gift to myself just before my 70th birthday in October 2015, I attended the Hay House Orlando “I Can Do It” conference. For me, it was a meaningful and inspirational time, which included a poignant memorial service for Dr. Wayne Dyer who had just passed away – he was scheduled to be the opening night keynote speaker.

I have wanted to write about one particular experience I had at the conference for quite some time, but felt stuck, unable to put into words a description of my transformative soul retrieval journey led by Dr. Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D.*

Dr. Villoldo explained to the audience that a soul retrieval journey is a time where one enters into a sacred space to heal the past and chart a new destiny. After conducting some rituals with the audience, it was time for us to quiet down and go into a meditative state.

With my eyes closed and in response to the guided meditation, I was led to a path in the woods, where at the entry of the path, we were told that a power animal would meet us. A large buck greeted me, and as I focused my eyes on this strong, superb animal – it suddenly morphed into a hawk who spread his wings and guided me through the woods to a clearing. I was asked to sit down on a rock in the center of the clearing and wait.

Dr. Villoldo said that a spirit would appear behind me, and to feel its presence. I slowly turned around to greet this entity. When I turned, I saw an elderly Native American woman with braids; her face glowing with kindness, crinkled, caring eyes, and a gentle smile. Her loving energy enveloped me and entered my heart. I reached over and felt compelled to trace my fingers across the wrinkles on her face and around her eyes, which felt like I was following a map of her life.

The shaman asked us to walk away from the clearing with our spirit and to return home through the forest path. But, before leaving the forest, he directed the participants on this soul retrieval journey to transmute and absorb our power animals and spirit into our beings. The hawk, the buck, and the Wise Old Woman morphed into my human form and spirit. I then left the forest and was guided back to the present moment – the soul retrieval was over.

I felt peaceful, calm and wondered what did this all mean? My intuition told me that I had retrieved my “wise old woman” – my WOW as a lesson about recognizing  the strength, wisdom, gentleness and grace that lies within me. It was about honoring my age.

 The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.”   Robert Frost

When I returned home from the conference, there was urgency within me to create an image of what I had seen, and then to write about the experience. The soul retrieval journey was emblazoned in my head and heart, and set a tone of acceptance and joy for me as I stepped into my seventh decade with gratitude.  Below is My Wise Old Woman (WOW) and Power Animals, as I experienced them.

The Gift of Age by Laurel D. Rund

I felt exhilarated when the recreation of what I saw during the soul retrieval journey came to life.  It hangs on a wall in my house and has great meaning to me.   But, each time I put pen to paper to write about the experience, I felt blocked.     Somehow I knew that there was an unseen purpose for this story and that I needed to be patient until it showed itself to me.

The Epiphany

One morning, at least three months after the conference, while driving my car through an area that is populated with lush moss-filled oak trees, I had an epiphany.

I slowed my car down – as I always do when passing under the arch of these glorious trees – and greeted them tenderly with a “hello trees!” There is something about this particular street which has “talked to me” since I first drove through it several years ago.   I never fail to purposefully slow my car down and greet the trees, taking time to be present with them and to honor their magnificence.  It always leaves me with a sense of peacefulness and gratitude.  It makes my heart feel good.

As I drove on,  I began to think about the dicotomy between how we see trees and “see” our elders.  The purpose for this piece had finally percolated up;  it literally showed itself to me and my writing block was lifted!  

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.” Hermann Hesse

It’s interesting how many people have come to love and honor trees.   I know several devoted tree huggers. People have sat in trees for months to protect them from destruction.

As they get older, trees reach across to each other and their branches touch – intertwine. They share their energy, their power and offer a place for humans to be shaded and rest under their glorious limbs. They build a community. And, there are many stories held within each tree – what it encountered as it grew into maturity.

When we pass a tree that has become glorious in its old age, we look at that tree in awe as we revere its strength and beauty whether or not its bark is missing or cracked, or its branches broken off.

Here’s the epiphany — I believe we humans are very much like trees. We show our age with wrinkles, changes in our bodies and its imperfections. And yet, as we grow older we, too, have a community to build and a story to share.

Our culture, however, has often stated that when people get older they are “past their prime” and become invisible. Maybe it makes some people uncomfortable with their own aging process, or maybe heartlessness has replaced caring.

Here is what Gabriel Garci-a-Marquez, author of “Love in the Time of Cholera” had to say about the essence of aging:

Age has no reality except in the physical world. The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom.”

There are many lessons to be shared and taught by our elders. Our society all too often disregards the journeys and stories of the aged, and places its attention on youthfulness. Yes, life is about hope, youth and building a life, but it is also about the wisdom one has gained throughout the years.

Being an elder, a Woman of Wisdom, a WOW, has given me a new perspective about aging. I’ve learned as I’ve moved into my seventies that what you feel like inside your human form has nothing to do with the date of your birth. My spiritual being is ageless.

Just like my gray hair, wrinkles, aches and pains, life is filled with joy, growth, challenges, heartaches and bumps in the road. These are the things that build our character, wisdom and courage.  This is how we learn and grow.

Each day, year and decade should be honored. Very much like the rings within the trunk of a tree, they represent and record the events which we have experienced on this journey called life.

“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”
(unknown author)

Today, go hug a tree and then talk with and hug an Elder.   For all of us – being talked with, touched and hugged is a heartfelt and essential part of life.  

My very best,   Laurel

Time to fly, time to soar by Laurel D. Rund

*Dr. Villoldo is a renowned psychologist and medical anthropologist, who has studied the healing practices of the Amazon and Andean shamans for more than 25 years.  Founder of The Four Winds Society, Dr. Villoldo instructs individuals throughout the world in the practice of energy medicine.

The Soul Never Thinks Without a Picture

The Soul Never Thinks Without a PictureAristotle

Whether it be naming a new piece of art, or finding a quote to go with it – the pairing of words and images energizes my spirit.   I then, with intent, share my work with others to kindle inspiration.

It’s been a busy year for me. I’ve joined several business-networking groups as an entrepreneurial woman; and I’ve participated in women’s spiritual groups to feed my soul.   It all boils down to building special relationships that have genuine meaning to me.

I have always gravitated to people that I can share conversation with in a profound way. Sure, I can make “small talk” and have lots of fun kibitzing.   I love to laugh and to play – that brings joyfilled moments into my life.   But I must admit, I most treasure the time when I get to know someone in a thoughtful and authentic way.   Ahh – a very important word was just used here. Authentic. After many decades, being “me” in an authentic way is what brings a smile to my eyes and opens my heart to others.  I’ve taken down the mask of what I thought I was supposed to be, and found my ‘I AM’.

And, because I tend to think and hear in pictures, many of these open-hearted conversations create beautiful images in my mind.   As Aristotle said The Soul Never Thinks Without a Picture.   My soul is made up of a tapestry of images.

Here’s a challenge – why not share a few minutes today with someone you only know on a casual level.   Go beneath the surface, be present, be authentic, listen and learn.   Perhaps you will be gifted with something unexpected and delicious. And, it may be the beginning of a new, important relationship.  What do you have to lose?

Have a great day- may it be filled with exquisite moments.   Laurel

Art from the Heart quote card by Laurel D. Rund

I went to the beach last weekend with a notebook and pen in hand.  The poem below opened the door to my writing, which had been closed and dormant for awhile.  Again, pairing an image with words!  Ain’t life just grand…. Laurel

Poem by Laurel D. Rund about writing

A Metamorphic Life by Chrystal Kubis

A Metamorphic Life

Contributed by Chrystal Kubis

From a young girl to my early thirties I was riddled with fear in its many guised shapes and sizes. Life, most of the time, felt confusing and heavy.  This fear came in lack of love for myself and lack of trust, both in timing and forces greater than I could see.  I lived an existence always seeking a false ideal of perfection because I didn’t believe I was already good enough.  I had to come to an understanding that I am a powerful creator to my life, not a powerless human victim to circumstance.

Most of my life I had an incredibly hard time embracing the unknown, so I had to learn how to let go and embrace big change over and over again. I used to think I was born without the muscles capable of making decisions, nor the ones to trust and love myself.  The only passion and vision I had was that I wanted to stand tall as a light that inspired others to live brightly and boldly, and yet I couldn’t even get out of my own way.

Every time I felt deep emotion or crumbled in pain, I misunderstood it as ‘bad.’  I didn’t know that the crumbling was my soul letting go, shedding and breaking free. I didn’t have the faith to know that when I was praying for a better life, I could deeply feel but not see that change was happening.  I didn’t quite realize that, through it all,  I was growing into this radical, radiant woman who’d someday be proud of making it through her trials. What I didn’t grasp was that part of the journey for all of us is to unbury and release the human density, pain and emotional weight within.  I now understand this quest to be the journey of a hero, the journey of a teacher, healer and guide. This was my metamorphosis.

Buddha’s Light by Laurel D. Rund - Art from the Heart

We all go through times where the unknown is so overwhelming that we may feel lost before we can find ourselves.   It happens often at that moment when we can no longer deny that the lives we’ve built in our aim for ‘success’ are void of something.  But, then, all the responsibility we’ve taken on can cause a paralyzing hold from moving towards discovering and actualizing personal happiness.

The trick, I believe, is to never doubt that metamorphosis is happening all the time. The more we dive in to examine and excavate the fear and pain that weighs us down, the quicker we heal back into peace and wholeness. The more we step out of lack and fear of what’s to come and take responsibility to let go of the old ~ the more wind we can feel on our face, the more depth is added to our breath, and joy simply begins to shine out of our hearts.

I believe the map of answers is etched within the thing that’s been beating on its own our entire existence… our Heart. Some of us have access to this map very easily. It may be covered with healed scars, but we know it well. We know what routes to take when we are feeling lost or hungry for something more in life and we are well on our way to experiencing a life filled with freedom.  This path back to seeing and knowing ourselves to one of higher heart self-love is our true metamorphosis.


Metamorphosis - Your Stories contribution by Chrystal Kubis

Bio – Chrystal Kubis

Chrystal Kubis is a life navigation specialist, passion igniter and master empowerment coach. “Because we’re not given a handbook in how to comfortably be human, having the right tools and strategies to navigate our lives can make all the difference.”

Utilizing her wide toolbox of modalities gathered over 18 years of training and experience Chrystal serves as a facilitator of freedom who has led trainings on personal transformation and empowerment across the country.

Alongside a degree in Holistic Healthcare, Chrystal’s training is extensive in the fields of mind, body and spirit wellness including certifications as a: Transformational Life Coach, Massage Therapist, Yoga Instructor, Ordained Minister, Qi Gong Healer, Reiki Master and International Women’s Circle Leader.

Teaching and traveling internationally Chrystal worked with The Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY (2004-Present).  Changing roles over the years, she served as on-site faculty, campus life coach, ceremonial leader and faculty coordinator between the institute and famous educators such as Dr. Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Gregg Braden, Caroline Myss, Byron Katie, Seane Corne, and James Van Praagh.

Chrystal is passionate about working with people who are hungry for shifts in their lives, and ready to transform both challenges and emotions into strength, flow, confidence and inner freedom. Her greatest gift and greatest joy is in helping others ignite their power and step into their highest potential.

Chrystal’s passions include outdoor adventures, channeling, writing, savoring green tea, being a life-long learner, dancing like a fool, wrenching cars and enjoying life as much as humanly possible.


Contact Chrystal:

Facebook Page:

Contact page for the Essence of Laurel website

Click here to learn how to submit your narrative

Read more stories

Mother’s Day-the Vortex

Mother’s Day – the Vortex

“When a daughter loses a mother, the intervals between grief responses lengthen over time, but her longing never disappears. It always hovers at the edge of her awareness, prepared to surface at any time, in any place, in the least expected ways.” ― Hope EdelmanMotherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss

Mother’s Day is a day to honor and be honored.  It is also a day which I have struggled with my whole life; having lost my mother when I was 13 months of age.  Some holidays, which are celebrated by most with joy and happiness, are triggers of sadness for others.  Perhaps this piece will touch someone else’s heart who struggles with the day as I do.

“a mother’s death also means the loss of the consistent, supportive family system that once supplied her with a secure home base, she then has to develop her self-confidence and self-esteem through alternate means. Without a mother or mother-figure to guide her, a daughter also has to piece together a female self-image of her own.” ― Hope EdelmanMotherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss

The vortex of feelings which swirl around me on Mother’s Day are painful, and yet I am grateful.  I take comfort that I am a mother who has loved her sons and they are forever woven into my heart.  I also remind myself that I am a child of God, which takes the sting out of the day and makes me feel less separate and alone.

The piece below is made up of images taken throughout the years which swirl within my heart.   I remember that today is a new day!   I am present and emerge as who I was meant to be – a spiritual being who has embraced life.

an article written about how a woman feels on Mother's Day because of the loss of her mother as an infant.

When a mother dies, a daughter’s mourning never completely ends.” ― Hope EdelmanMotherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss, 20th Anniversary Edition


Why handwrite a note of thanks or gratitude?

Why would you take the time to handwrite a note of thanks and gratitude in today’s busy world? 

People want to be appreciated. When you take the time to choose a special Art from the Heart card, handwrite a note of thanks and gratitude, and then place the ‘elusive’ stamp on the envelope, address and mail it … that gesture will make a lasting impression on the recipient.

How to write the perfect thank you note

Today, a note penned by hand is making a resurgence. It is one of the things considered to be tangible, beautiful and valued.  When you give the gift of handwritten words that say thank you and/or I am grateful to another human being, it is an act of grace – a touch point.

Many treasured pieces of Pony Express mail have become family heirlooms, or are on display in museums as reminders of a time gone by … they are keepsakes!  Can you imagine what it felt like in the 1800’s when men riding horses carrying saddlebags of mail across a 2000-mile trail delivered letters or notes to family, friends and business acquaintances?

In the cyberspace world of today, we connect with each other through email, text or through social media … Facebook, Linked-In, Pinterest, Twitter, et al.  The messages between us flash by in a nano-second and disappear just as quickly.  Do you want your message of thanks or appreciation to end up in an electronic trash or junk file?   Wasn’t your intent to leave a “lasting” impression with your words?

It is rare to receive or send out something that has been handwritten.  Your Art from the Heart notecard will get attention from the moment the recipient sees the envelope, interspersed among the pile of bills and junk mail they receive, until the time they open it.  And, if you’ve chosen carefully and found something which has a beautiful image,  it more than likely will be placed on display on a shelf, refrigerator door or tabletop.

Just think about this …   isn’t there something about a handwritten card that stops time for a moment and  makes you want to hang on to it?  Hand-penned cards have become a valued gift and are making a comeback!

That’s why you should take the time to handwrite a note of thanks or gratitude to family, friends, loved ones, clients or potential clients.  It will be the gift that keeps on giving.  Just do it!

fountain pen

To purchase Laurel’s ‘Art from the Heart’ notecards, click here!

Art from the Heart - unique art for home and heart

Art from the Heart - unique art for home and heart

To purchase my Fine ‘Art from the Heart’ notecards, click here

Change the Dance!

Over six years ago, the rebel in me emerged after leaving a  30-plus year career in the corporate world.  I vowed to never again set goals or make resolutions on New Year’s Eve.   I moved away from being a structured, goal-driven businesswoman to a creative, freedom-driven and unique spiritual being.

The transformation I experienced in my personal life after the death of my husband changed me and the world as I knew it.  My belief system shifted from worrying about the future and fretting about the past ~ to one of being grateful for the day that I am in.  I appreciate my unique and creative energy, and have become a woman who chooses to laugh and smile from the inside out. 

I have learned that the only life story I can live is my own, and have let go of trying to control or figure out someone else’s life path or choices.  I’m not perfect about any of this, sometimes it is very hard not to be judgmental, or to put on my old managerial hat and tell another human being what to do, but I’ve learned to check my words at the door before they leave my mouth.   I am grateful for the journey that I am on.

Today, on January 8th, 2015, I am a writer and an artist who treasures her freedom to be authentic…a woman who is a purpose-filled spiritual being and a creative entrepreneur.  Did I say entrepreneur?   Yes, I did ~ even though I believed I would never be able to work outside of the corporate world.  And surprise, surprise; I love the freedom being an entrepreneur offers me!

This year I have put into writing my purpose, intentions and goals. The word faith (which is my chosen word for 2015)  is about hopetrust, and belief.  In order to continue moving forward, I choose to put aside my fears and doubts. And, as an empowered entrepreneurial woman,  I am planning with audacity and executing with vigor!

By creating a vision and having faith – I am embracing success, am optimistic and am courageous.  I have learned “never to say never!”   My new mantra is “why not?”  YESI have changed the dance!

Happy 2015 everyone.   May your dreams come true!   ♥♥♥ Laurel D. Rund 

Quote art by Laurel D. Rund called “Change the Dance!"

“And let us believe in a long year that is given to us — new, untouched, full of things that have never been.” Rainer Maria Rike

Labor Of Love by Ann Goldstein

Labor Of Love

Contributed by Ann Goldstein of Crann Coaching

It’s November 2011 and I am standing at the island in my kitchen overlooking New York City as I tell my husband, with tears in my eyes, that we are pregnant! Just days prior, I took a voluntary severance package to leave my executive position at a large pharmaceutical company to follow my passion in health and wellness. And, now,  I was being paid to have a baby!

The journey of becoming a mom and an entrepreneur where my husband and I worked from home to create time with our children started as a dream in July 2010, became a reality a year later, and has continued to the present.  I have been blessed to raise my son, Gabriel, from home and to also create my business, CRANN Coaching along the way.

It was not without personal challenges because my ego was holding onto the “Madison Avenue, fame, and fortune” of New York City corporate sales along with the societal and family programming of “go to college, get a good job, climb the corporate ladder, and save for retirement.”  However, that life did not fill me up or make my heart sing. It just fed my ego’s drive to earn more, accomplish more, and ultimately tire me out.

When I found out I was pregnant it was a time to let go of ego’s grip, lead with my heart and surrender to love. I went with the flow of life and listened to what my soul was calling me to do.  Prior to giving birth, I took a prenatal/postnatal yoga certification, I rested, and I got to know myself in a whole new way.

Mother’s HeartAfter an amazing 9 months and 21 hours of labor, our son Gabriel was born on July 20th, 2012. Labor led to the most beautiful miracle and my life was transformed. I was back in my pre-pregnancy clothes within six weeks after birth. People stopped me on the street to ask how I did it. My ObGyn praised me. It was great that I accomplished something most women yearned for. The thing was, I just transformed the outside of my body. My inner body, mind, and spirit were not healed and not balanced six weeks after giving birth. For me, that time wasn’t enough to heal my inner body, my mind and spirit – or bring them back into alignment.

I watched many other women head back to work six weeks post-partum and wondered if there was something wrong with me. I questio
ned everything about myself as I watched the sunrise over the Hudson River and New York City at 5 am day in and day out. As I breast-fed Gabriel in the same white rocking chair, I’m thinking, “but I’m Ann, the coach that teaches people how to balance their mind, body, and spirit, and I’m supposed to have it all together, especially in the happiest moments of my life, and I’m crying every time I think about going back to work.”

I was out of balance and wasn’t living from a whole heart,  so I couldn’t teach or love others until I took actions to balance my own mind, body, and spirit.

Once I went to work on myself, I realized that I was comparing myself to the masses of other women that were doing it the way my ego wanted me to do it. My ego wanted me to go back to the “Madison Avenue, fame, and fortune” of New York City corporate sales along with societal and family programming of “go to college, get a good job, climb the corporate ladder, and save for retirement.”  I was wondering why I felt out of sync and different. But different was what I wanted in order to balance the time of being with my family and creating a coaching business.

Now three years later, I have found a way to have it all. I call this the ‘labor of love’ because motherhood and entrepreneurship are about constantly birthing new ideas. In every phase of Gabriel’s life, I go through ‘the labor of love’ to find my new balance. Currently, Gabriel is starting a two-day a week pre-school program and once again I am transitioning. I’m finding a new balance of mind, body, and spirit so that Gabriel, my husband, and I can all have what each one of us needs and wants to create.

Life is about cycles and how we surrender to them. I’m here to help women find the balance in motherhood and business so that they can express themselves exactly as they want to be. When we balance our mind, body, and spirit and live from our heart’s calling we can give and receive love. We move out of our heads and move into our hearts and everything transforms. Life is about living our heart’s calling…not the calling of society.

The choice to leave corporate America and then finding out I was pregnant with Gabriel was the start of following my heart’s calling in a whole way – my metamorphosis.  It started with surrender and a belief that there is a higher force and power guiding my path.

It was the best gift I gave to myself and my family.

Metamorphosis Your Stories

Contact page for the Essence of Laurel website


Ann Goldstein Bio – Ann Goldstein

Ann Goldstein is the Founder of CRANN Coaching and a leader in the medical community with a mission to transform our healthcare system from one of a “sickcare” system to one of a “wellcare” system.  She is committed to transforming people’s mind, body, and spirit so the three are aligned allowing people to live from a whole heart.

Ann brings her 12 years of pharmaceutical sales and management experience to her current mind, body, and spirit coaching business where she creates customizable programs and workshops to individuals, groups, and organizations.  Go to for more details on Ann, CRANN Coaching programs, CRANN Coaching’s blog, and much more.



Click here to learn how to submit your narrative

Laurel’s Kitchen by Laurel D. Rund

Laurel’s Kitchen

Sometimes it’s fun and intriguing to bring back an oldie but goodie.   The  poem and artwork titled Laurel’s Kitchen is in my book Emerging Voices-Living On.

It surfaced and peeked its head out today and said – “remember me”?   The words and art are as important to me now as they were when created.   Please enjoy this old and proven recipe!

Poem and artwork about the book Laurel's Kitchen

By chance, a friend found a cookbook named “Laurel’s Kitchen”.

The serendipity of this discovery gave me pause to reflect about my life.

Just what are the ingredients, when put together,

that will create a delectable and scrumptious dish?

What ought to be added and what are the exact measurements?

How does it all get kneaded together?

Should I let the mixture sit undisturbed so that everything blends and finds its balance?

How long will it take to cook up this perfect dish?

And, when tasting my concoction, will I remember to stop and

relish what feeds my heart and enriches my spirit.

I have come to appreciate that life does not come with a cookbook.

When in a place of stillness and gratitude, I remember that being alive

brings the possibility of a new recipe each and every day.

That’s when I know for sure that I am in “Laurel’s Kitchen”!

Laurel D. Rund (c) 2011


Buy Emerging Voices-Living On!

The $50,000 Question by Jane Barr

The $50,000 Question

Contributed by Jane Barr, CPC, ELI-MP

Metamorphosis-Your StoriesIt’s November, 2011. I’ve had health problems for months and now that I am not traveling for work I have the time to see a Dr.  OK, let’s admit the truth. I’ve been putting off going to the Dr., afraid to hear any bad news. And now the Dr. has said it… “Jane, you have a pre-cancerous condition. “Pre-cancerous? What is that? Is that like being a little bit pregnant? And you want me to have a $50,000 dollar operation with no guarantees? And if I don’t then I’m probably dead in 4-5 years?  The $50,000 question!

And what causes this condition? The Dr. says that no one really knows.

And does it ever just disappear on its own? And the Dr. says, sometimes but we don’t know why. Riiiggghhhttt! And I walk out the door.

That is the beginning of my journey. At first it’s a journey of just holding on to my sanity. First stop is the hypnotist. The purpose of hypnosis is to help relax my mind so that I don’t stay in fight or flight syndrome and can heal faster.

One big problem with cancer is that when a person is told they have the dreaded big C they generally go into fight or flight syndrome. Our bodies don’t know the difference between being chased by a lion in a jungle and being frightened by a Dr.’s diagnosis. Our brain instantly starts dumping 33 hormones into our bodies. The purpose of the hormones is to give us the strength to fight or flee.  Unfortunately in our modern society most of us aren’t physically running anywhere so those hormones don’t get used up and they literally tear down our bodies making us even sicker.

Next stop is a holistic Dr. who has me fill out a 48 page form. His determination is that the first Dr. diagnosed the external symptoms correctly but missed the cause. I  most likely have Celiac. I have my choice. I can have a biopsy to verify this new diagnosis or I can just see what happens if I eliminate all gluten from my diet. If I have the biopsy and it is positive then I still will have to change my diet. I choose to make the radical change in diet now. No meat, no fat, no sugar, no dairy, no processed foods and of course no gluten which means no wheat, no rye, no barley.  My husband (bless him) goes on the diet with me. We eat beans and greens and a little fruit 7 days a week. Plus I can’t count how many vitamins.

Final stop is an acupuncturist and a massage therapist who work to clear my system of the toxins.  Weekly treatments start to take hold and within about 6 months I’m starting to see a big improvement. A year later the problem which was diagnosed as cancer is almost gone. Yes, gone.

Here is the thing about being Celiac. It’s like being allergic to peanuts or addicted to alcohol. I can’t have even a tiny bit or my body starts to break down again. Nothing means nothing.  I have to make a life decision, a full out commitment to change my life. Or perhaps I should say a commitment to live.

I’m telling you this not because I want you to feel sorry for me. I’m telling you this story in order to share how this experience has become my metaphor for life in general.  When something isn’t working in my life I check-in with the questions that I discovered in working my way back to health and happiness.

Art from the Heart by Laurel D Rund

  1. Is there something that I am avoiding dealing with in my life? Building a barrier against a problem, walking away from it or trying to avoid it works for a while. But in the end if we don’t deal directly with the problem it will get worse. We have to face our concerns, see the doctor, or talk out the problem in order for it to start to improve.
  2. What am I pushing against? When we hear bad news most people react from a place of fear, or frustration. It’s normal and natural to react negatively. But all that does is make the problem bigger. It’s like pushing against swinging door and then not moving out of the way and getting hit with it. We have to learn to go with life and work with life in order for life to work with us.
  3. How can I make a good decision? The key to making a good decision is to stay calm and allow our intuition to guide us. A pastor suggested that when we are not able to make a decision that we should say “Spirit speak to me” and then turn on the radio and the answer will be in the first words we hear. Recently I was trying to make a decision between two important options and I tried her suggestion. When I turned on my car so I could hear the radio, the dashboard lit up with “Hybrid System Indicator” LOL – guess I got my answer.
  4. How committed am I to my decision? When we make a decision we have to commit to sticking with it long enough so that we can see the results coming to fruition. Prosperity coach Marilyn Jennet says that if we say we are committed one day but back away the next day it is like giving two different directions to a cab driver and expecting him to know where to take us. Commitment is the courage to make radical changes in our lives, to go against the norm and be OK with not being the same as everyone else, to be willing to ask for what we need.
  5. Do I believe it is possible? Psychologist Linda Wells once said to me, it’s not enough to know something intellectually. We have to “know, know” in our heart and mind that it is possible in order for it to come into our lives. If we believe or “know” that what we want is possible and we are patient and committed to whatever it is we want to show up in our lives then it will happen for us. We can think about it like this. If we want to build a chair we first have to get the picture of the chair in our mind. Once we are really clear and believe it can be built then all we have to do is pull together the materials, any support we might need from other people, and then build the chair. But first we have to be able to see the chair and believe that it’s possible to build it.
  6. What is getting in my way? What is going on for us on the outside is only an indicator of what is going on for us on the inside. As Paul and Layne Cutright taught me, we are never upset for the reason we think we are.  In order to cure the outside we first have to get to the underlying cause and cure it. If we are upset, overwhelmed, frustrated, etc. it is common to think that it is because of what is happening around us or to us. The truth however, is that it’s not what is happening to us but how we are responding to or thinking about the situation or person. Our underlying thoughts are what we have to shift or cure in order for our situation to get better.
  7. Have I said yes to life? Finally the metaphor means to me that we have to say yes to life, saying yes to health and yes to happiness. It means to be joyful in the morning, to be at peace at night, to live each moment as though we want to live. It means to be alive with enthusiasm, energy confidence, authenticity, and to love life so much that we will do whatever it takes to stay alive.


Bio ~ Jane Barr, CPC, ELI-MP        Jane Barr, CPC, ELI-MP

Jane Barr is CEO of Kinnexion and a certified Energy Leadership Coach.

Jane has worked for 30 years as a consultant to national retailers such as CVS, GAP and Vera Bradley   with oversight responsibility for system re-engineering projects.  Jane knows what it takes to deliver a project on time and on budget, to build strong teams and to generate add-on business worth millions of dollars.

She also know what it means to have a successful career and then, at mid-career, to find yourself exhausted and wondering; “Is this all there is to life?” or “How can I get off this treadmill?” or simply “Now what?”

As a coach, Jane specializes in helping smart, savvy business-women to reengineer and reenergize their careers so they can stop feeling like they are pushing boulders up mountains and start moving their careers forward in a way that is fun, fulfilling and financially rewarding.

Jane’s coaching certifications include: iPEC Energy Leadership, High Power Presentations, Relationship Savvy, Dale Carnegie Leadership and Communications, and Perfect Customers.

Website: /

Click here to learn how to submit your narrative

Read more stories




Soul-Filled Gathering by Laurel D Rund

exerpt from DailyOM …

“Our bodies are living, breathing expressions of our consciousness.

We are dual beings by nature, soul-filled spirits bound to earth by physical bodies. In our lifetimes, we are charged with the duty of nurturing and tending both with equal devotion and love. 

If the soul is the inward manifestation of our consciousness, the body is the living, breathing expression of that consciousness. The physical self provides the home in which the spiritual self takes root and flourishes. Just as we must tend to the seed of the soul to ensure that it grows strong, so, too, must we care for the protective shell that is the body to make certain it is capable of playing its role in our development.  Both facets of the human experience play a vital role in our well-being.

The body and the soul are the yin and yang of our current reality. They are, at this point of human evolution, irreparably bound together, and many spiritual teachers agree that the body is one of the greatest vehicles through which to access the soul. In fact, many believe that our spirit has chosen to be embodied as an essential part of our spiritual development. Consequently, it is the responsibility of each person to forge a marriage between the two, so that these disparate aspects bring out the best in each other, creating a vibrant, dynamic, and workable whole.”

In my words – we are all a work in progress.  Namaste,  Laurel

Let’s go fly a kite!

So….Let’s go fly a kite! 

I see children as kites.  You spend a lifetime trying to get them off the ground. You run with them until you’re both breathless. They crash . . . you add a longer tail . . . you patch and comfort, adjust and teach.  You watch them lifted by the wind and assure them that someday they’ll fly.”  Erma Bombeck

Art from the Heart - unique art for home and heart



Few would argue even the perceived benefits of spending time outdoors.  In a time where it has become easier and easier to spend more time inside than out, kite flying provides the perfect excuse to get up and get outside.

Whether going to the beach or just a local park, it is a great way to experience the outdoors.  Although often assumed to be only a warm-weather activity, kites can be a perfect way to get out of the house in the winter as well.  Just make sure to avoid stormy weather or dangerously high winds.


Although it is widely assumed that running is a key factor to flight, quality kites flown in their recommended wind conditions do not require running.

Despite this fact, flying kites is an active experience – stunt kites and power kites even more-so.  Whether you achieve a high-end workout from flying a kite or not, once you are outside and active, you are more likely to stay outside and active.


It is true that flying a kite is a solo activity, but that does not mean you have to be out there alone.  Bring a friend and test your stunt kite skills against one-another or grab some beginner kites for the whole family and compete for highest flight or quickest ascent.

Next time you go to a local kite festival, you are likely to see stunt kite fliers performing amazing aerial feats with a group of friends.  Spending time flying a kite with other only enhances an already exciting experience.


Flying any kite requires a high degree of concentration and focus.  As it begins to take flight, you adjust to the changing conditions and work to get it soaring high above.  This will energize your mind and tends to alleviate stress.  Flying a quality kite high in the clouds can provide an overwhelming sense of relaxation.

Looking to engage even more actively in your flight?  Grab a stunt or power kite and work towards perfecting precision maneuvers and tricks.  Either way, once your flight is completed, you are likely going to feel better than when you began!


Any child standing outside holding the string to a kite soaring above is likely to be overcome with a sense of joy and accomplishment.  The feeling of happiness and excitement is not exclusive to children though.  Hold the string yourself and you are likely to feel a rush of childhood memories and a great sense of relaxation.

It is a wonderful feeling to have lifted an object yourself hundreds of feet in the air.  So get up, get out and fly a kite!

Let’s Go Fly a Kite”

 (from Mary Poppins)

Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height
Let’s go fly a kite
And send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!


Coming Full Circle

In honor of this coming Mother’s Day – I am sharing one of the most meaningful pieces (for me) that I have written.

♥ ♥ ♥

Many of us carry within us words that define our life stories.  I have several words, and for a long time the predominant one was “loss.”  I spent many years feeling deprived of the love of my mother, her presence and her story.

Ina, my mother, died 13 months after I was born.  For most of my life, I felt like a “motherless child.”  She became a ghost-like fantasy to me, which is probably why I liked fairytales so much as a kid. Maybe I was wishing for a happy ending.

My father remarried when I was four (not a fairytale ending by any means) and the stories and pictures of my mother were buried in the vault of the past.  Because Ina did not have an extended family, she got lost in the ether.  It felt to me that the only evidence of her being here on this earth was the existence of my two older brothers and myself.  I wondered about this woman who gave birth to me, and questioned whether I would have turned out differently if she had lived.  Loss became the prevailing theme in telling my life story.

Ina Fleisig


After experiencing the loss of my husband in 2009, and gaining a new perspective on death, I have come to understand that I did get to be with and know my mother during that nine-month gestation period in her womb.  Ina left her loving imprint on me, providing the fertile ground that has nurtured my spirit and helped grow me into the person I am today.

The vision I have always “seen” of my mother’s hands gently protecting and guiding me throughout my life, and this ephiphany, has shifted me.  I have come “full circle” to a place of belief and love for what time we had together.  Laurel


COMING FULL CIRCLE .. a letter from a daughter to her mother


Coming Full Circle by Laurel D. Rund

When I picked you from afar, I knew that you would gift me with life. With intention and purpose, I floated into your womb… absorbing your molecules and making them mine.

While tethered to you, I was cared for and fearless as you willingly provided nourishment, safety and unconditional love.  I was enveloped by the sounds in the depths of your belly, and your heart and mine beat together in a life-forming synchronistic rhythm.  Within the sanctuary of your womb, I grew from a seedling into a tiny being … swimming, kicking and moving about unabashedly.

The nine months I spent inside your belly strengthened and prepared me for what was to come in the “outside world.”  As the time of gestation was  coming to an end, I tried to hold on, to resist the next part of my journey ~ I must have  a known that our time together on earth would be cut short. 

Nonetheless, you pushed me forward. Your body urged me to move into the world, like an ocean wave crashing towards the shore.   As I gulped in my first breathe of air and cried out, you breathed a sigh of relief, knowing with certainty that I would survive.

And then, as a sign of your enternal love,  you bestowed upon me the unique and beautiful name to which I answer.  I am and always will be your Laurel Diane.

Not until the afternoon of my life have I come to appreciate and be grateful for the the bonds that were built during those first nine months we spent together.   Although you had only one precious year left on earth to be with me,  your loving imprint is permanently affixed to my heart.

  Laurel Diane Rund- 9/2013

Mother’s Song by Kathy Zavada

Just Be

Today is a celebration.  On May 5th 2010,  four years ago,  I met the man who has gently and unconditionally taught me how to love again.   Here, in honor of our 4th anniversary, is the story of Philip and Laurel.

JUST BE!   by Laurel D. Rund

It’s funny about how you meet that special someone in your life at the most unexpected time.   I was getting my hair cut and colored one day without any thought other than, I really, really need to have my roots colored.   Picture this, a woman sitting in the hair salon chair with her hair sticking up as if she had stuck her finger in an electrical socket.  Now come on, this is supposed to be a place where you can look your worst so that you can look your best ~ right?

The woman who does my hair was also working with a gentlemen sitting to the left of me (he was preoccupied with his iPhone.)   I paid him little mind, why would I – this was my personal space to relax and be pampered.  Out of the blue, my “hair dresser” introduced me to the man sitting to the left of me, her next customer. After squirming with internal protest (I was thinking … HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME,)  I put on a smile and politely said hello.    Then I quickly turned my head to back to her and said “ARE YOU CRAZY!”

Well, the rest is history, as they say. This man and I began to talk. He liked my name, Laurel, and asked what color flower it was (clever pick-up line if I say so myself).  I carefreely said, “if you really want to know who I am, go to, my website”… knowing that it truly represented the woman I am today, including a picture of me without my hair standing up at all angles.   (Thank goodness I also wasn’t having my eyebrows colored, because then I would have looked like a combination of the Marx brothers being electrocuted.)

It took a few seconds for this guy to go to my website (thank you iPhone.)  I watched in amazement, once he found the site, as to how he reacted to my art and poetry.  It seemed to startle him in a good way, and it was then that we actually began to talk.   We could have been at a coffee shop or having a glass of wine together, the imagery of where we were quickly faded away. It was what we were “seeing” in each that piqued our mutual interest.

The long and the short of it is that we did meet for dinner, then a movie, and then on and on and on.   What I was experiencing and feeling started to make me nervous because I wasn’t, repeat wasn’t looking for someone and there didn’t seem to be any any red flags which said danger ahead.  Having spent the last year plus getting back on my feet after losing my husband, and building a new life for myself, I didn’t want to “lose my freedom.”  You know ~ I am Woman Hear Me Roar!

What did this mean to me?  I was re-emerging and discovering the woman I am today, and didn’t want to go into a relationship that would sidetrack me on this journey. I had made new friends, discovered my creative spirit and spirituality, and was bringing joy back into my life.

When I told the story of my fears about this newfound relationship to someone very important in my life, she said to me “Laurel, if you are afraid of losing your freedom, you are not truly free. SoJust Be.”    Yikes, those words said it all – and I got it!  

 I thought I would be invisible after my husband’s death. What I didn’t realize is that I just needed to look into the mirror of life and really “see” me. The rest has been falling into place – one day, one hour, one minute at a time.

Can we will we? by Laurel D. Rund and Philip W. LeberSo, I released my fears and decided to let our partnership form itself as it was meant to be.   This man, whom I care very deeply about, has been united with me in a wondrous way because he understands my need to keep true to my “Essence” ~ the woman who emerged after the storm of loss and grief. And I, too, understand that he needs to do the same for himself.

Somehow through a mysterious force, we found one another.  Slowly, tentatively, but with intention, we each told the story of our life’s journey. Sharing what lies beneath our outer facades, revealing long-felt feelings, fears, hopes and dreams. Whether by fate or by plan, a synchronistic encounter offered each of us a beautiful and healing balm ~ the gift of renewal and love.

Romance in my 60’s has come with many unexpected gifts.   Time compresses, wisdom is stored within and called upon, and I have finally learned to “Just Be.”