Thursday, August 28, 2003


definition: The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.

To date this is definitely my favourite word.... has such a meaning to me. Life has been a series of serendipitous events which shaped what I'm living today...more by people than events.

Years ago I used to speak to this incredibly courageous young man by the name of Tom. He had Muscular Dystrophy and in his short life, lived each moment as fully as possible. He told me the only thing he could do unassisted was type on the computer and so looked forward to our short chats in the evening. I had never met him in person. He lived in the US in a privately run home for the severely disabled. He liked it there and had made many friends. Still he loved to hear the antics of the Karlin family, especially what my son was up to and mischief our Golden Retriever Indy (Indiana Jones) got into each day. My son named the dog that because he said our house became the 'Temple of Doom' the moment he walked into it (or should I say bounded : )

Through this courageous young man, I met someone who would shape my life forever....who would encourage me to be the best I could be and open my mind and heart to what the world had to offer. And if I'd even mention in passing that I couldn't do something, he'd almost be offended at the thought that there was anything I couldn't do. And through his eyes and encouragement, I reached so far beyond my comfort zone. Every day I'd stretch in some way and could almost see his smile and nod, silently saying to me "Told ya so!".

I share all my victories with him, because if it weren't for this force in my life, there is no way I would have accomplished a fraction of what I have.

I believe everything happens for a reason, though I'm not always sure what that reason is. It's enough to know it was supposed to have been. Serendipity at its best.....a gift of magic, an inner smile...... absolutely by accident. Or was it?


Donna Karlin

Saturday, August 23, 2003


For a long time now, I've been fascinated with the concept of being 'mindful'.....awareness without judgement....a perfect place for an ontological or observational coach to be. So now and then I do small experiments to test it out. One evening while going with a friend from a movie theatre to a restaurant, I decided to be mindful. While having a conversation with my friend as we walked, I made eye contact with everyone walking in the opposite direction, towards the theatre. I never slowed my stride, but would acknowledge those passing me with a subtle smile and almost a nod as I observed them, either alone or walking with companions. Some would smile back and others, would be taken so aback that they'd stop, almost asking themselves if they knew me from somewhere, then would give themselves a mental shake, nod or smile back and continue on their way. My friend asked me why it was so many people seemed to 'know me', because she couldn't understand why they would acknowledge my existence for any other reason.

I explained the concept of mindfulness to her, which she didn't really grasp. She's the type of person who doesn't "waste time" as she calls it, with anyone she doesn't know.

And then I recounted a story about the first time I realised how small a gesture could mean the world to someone else. Years back when I was doing a workshop on inter-personal and communication skills for Health Canada, I took my break by going outside and sitting by the Parkway, overlooking the water. While I was sitting there quietly, absorbing the scene before me, getting ready to go back inside, a homeless man walked by me with all his possessions in the cart he was pushing, his head bent, looking at the path, almost afraid to look into the eyes of anyone he passed. I could see by the way he was walking that he was very sad....almost as if he had the weight of his world on his shoulders. As he passed, I waved, catching his eye. As I gathered my things to go back into the group, I wished him a wonderful day and told him I hoped he would find something to give him a smile and cheer him up.

He told me I already did...that no one ever spoke to him....would rather he didn't exist, and just the fact that I did speak to him, especially in such a nice way was the best thing that happened to him in months. He in turn wished me a wonderful day with a nod and genuine thanks. That exchange took all of a minute... but made a difference to us both.

Last weekend while we were in Norfolk, Virginia, I did the same at a restaurant my son and I were at. As he went to the buffet, I stayed back at the table, just watching people as they went by, making eye contact and smiling back as they instantly smiled at the silent hello and it felt so good to connect to them in some way. And as we stood up to leave, many wished us a good night...people I'd never met before, but with whom I shared a special moment. Felt really good.

Wishing you a wonderful and mindful weekend : )


Donna Karlin

Monday, August 18, 2003


This past weekend, we flew to Norfolk, Virginia for my son's post operative assessment. That's nothing unusual in itself as we've been going for almost 20 years. What was different was the gamut of emotion we both experienced throughout the weekend.

I'm still processing it and realising that many things have changed over the years, the least of which is the city itself. From a decaying deserted downtown core it's become a vibrant hub of activity..... restaurants, pubs and shops.....many of our favourite restaurants no longer in existence, and even in the short time since we've been there, stores and old haunts have replaced by newcomers.

Even Ronald McDonald House....our home away from home for many stays, has changed, almost doubling in size. The manager, Miss Ellie, still welcoming those who walk through the front door with a welcome and a hug, has been the heart and soul of the House for years. When we walked across the threshold....she was instantly there, arms open, waiting to give us a hug.

And then moments later, she did the same to a very young mother whose daughter has leukemia and had just experienced a seizure. In what seemed like seconds, she went from being a sick child knowing her mother's love, concern and support to not being aware at all.....the results of the seizure. Her mother wanting reassuring words of hope that she wouldn't lose her "baby"....words no one could give her because that couldn't be promised.

Emotions ran rampant.....thoughts of how could I help her through this? How is Michael feeling as he watched this? The first thing that came to mind was that I am SO blessed. As much as we have dealt with many challenges over the years, none have been life threatening and for that we are very very grateful. Watching my son silently fighting back tears because he felt what she was going through on an emotional scale of his own.....wanting things to be better for her....for others going through the same or similar circumstances.... a woman husband to rely on and share the hell she was going through....having to figure it out on her own with the people she'd come to know in the "house" that love built (the motto of Ronald McDonald House and one I heartily agree with).

I wish I could have waved a magic wand over them to make everything better....but I couldn't. The paramedics came in mere minutes and with their reassuring soft voices spoke to the child and her mother, giving them some semblance of calm, at least for the moment while they readied the small girl for the ambulance. All I could do is listen and hope that some how......some way, everything would turn out well for both of them....for the little girl so she wouldn't know suffering and strength for her mother to handle whatever it was that she would have to deal with.

We left that night both thinking our own thoughts......leaving them to share later the next day. In the meantime we still had to process everything the surgeon told Michael, possibilities she could foresee for his future.

And as we sat in the airport, waiting for the bad weather to pass so we could fly home, again we talked about our intense weekend. Amazing how much one can experience in a few short days, starting with a province-wide power failure, trauma, storms, drastic change of a city we once thought we knew like the back of our hand, once again delayed flights and storms and, in the centre of it all a kind of a calm, not sure if it's exhaustion, overriding the emotions simmering under the surface or if indeed I have processed it all.

Today back to and running......schedules and responsibilities. Will it all fade? Most probably to some extent, though, whenever I speak to Miss Ellie at the "House" I'll be told the latest update, asked what I think might be the best way to deal with "this and that" instigating new insights and ideas. One constant is always wondering at how I can work to change the system to give help to those who need it desperately…..until the next visit or call for help.

Puts everything in perspective……

Best to all of you...

Donna Karlin

Thursday, August 07, 2003


"Sometimes, when people don't fit into an existing mold, it's because they belong to something larger than the present....something they will never find because they will someday build it for themselves and others."

That was a quote I picked up some time, somewhere, by an unknown author. It remained with me because it so perfectly describes who I am.

That's been my place for years.....'different'. In University, going into the music faculty set me apart from my high school friends. I was 'different'. And then, studying percussion as a female, especially in the early 70's, again made me 'different'. I never did quite fit into the mold, either with my peers or family.

And then due to life circumstances and challenges....when I took what life gave me and worked toward becoming a Trainer and then eventually Executive Coach, my career choice in a world which wasn't too familiar with Coaches outside of sports, again didn't fit into any mold.....especially when it came to how a Coach looks at and approaches life.

But you see, the thing is, it's not so much as looking at yourself as different. It's when it no longer matters. There's a joy, an energy in thinking "outside the box". By expanding my comfort zone there are far fewer problems, and instead, I look at life from a better perspective, with infinite possibilities. For me, at any rate, 'different' is the only place to be.

I never know what the next day will bring. I do know in some way it'll bring me a challenge I'm equal to....a great learning experience, the interaction of wonderful people and new things....experiences and tidbits of knowledge..... to store away for another time. This is what will strengthen my future. I plan to invent mine, not just let it happen.


Donna Karlin

Friday, August 01, 2003

Three Powerful Words

...words they've made movies about. Words spoken out loud when you sit down at your computer and eagerly log on to hear 'You've Got Mail". Bet you thought they were going to be three different words : ) Actually, for many, they're almost one and the same. Many of us have separate e-mail accounts for work and personal use (and if you don't, you should, because they're different priorities, and I'll leave it up to you to figure out which I think is most important). Every day as I wade through my 200 or so work related e-mails that come throughout the day, it's the personal ones I can't wait to get to....when it's quiet and I can read through them leisurely and respond the way I want to. There's something about turning the computer on, anticipating whether or not that gem will be waiting for to give you an inner smile that just won't go away.

Last month, when there was a threat of a mail strike and I watched some of my clients scramble to get every possible contingency plan ready, the first thing that occurred to me was "I wouldn't be able to send out that birthday card".....and "they'll never get it on time if there is a strike!" Oh there are incredibly beautiful e-cards that one can send and I love using those as well, but nothing compares going to your mail box and seeing a hand-written address in that special envelope knowing that someone took the time, where time is so precious these days, to go pick a card that speaks the words that are in your mind, whether birthday or a 'just because' or, never mind a card, a know, one of those old fashioned kind of letters where you take pen to paper, using special stationery to touch someone in some way....

OK....I was found out. I'm a romantic. So no mail strike and the cards are on their way. And maybe I'll send a letter or two....the old fashioned kind that will slow my mind down, and the rest of me least for a short time.

I just wish I could be there on the other end when they're opened, just to see the smile.


Donna Karlin