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Behind Every Cloud is a Silver Lining

Phantom Screens 25 years

Of all the books and speeches I’ve read and heard on leadership and professional development, there is one author/speaker who consistently is my game changer.

Meet Dr. Henry Cloud, writer of such good reads as Integrity, Boundaries for Leaders, Necessary Endings and many more.

Dr. Henry Cloud, Esther De Wolde, CEO Phantom Screens, Niagara Falls

Trying to keep it together next to Dr. Henry Cloud

I’m a huge fan of his work. His ability to inspire grounded thinking and action within my own leadership makes him one of my 25 Persons of Influence to celebrate our 25 years in business. When we were planning for our 25th Celebration for our customers in Niagara Falls, Canada this week, it made perfect sense to me to have Dr. Cloud come speak to us all.

And speak he did.

He is one gifted fella. I tried to be mature, and act all business-like while sharing the stage with him. But before I could stop myself, I publicly admitted I was like a stalker fan and, if he didn’t mind, could I please just touch the hem of his robe?

True story, there’s a picture to prove it.

r. Henry Cloud, Phantom Screens, Niagara Falls

Thankfully, he took it all in his stride. His microphone produced a nasty screeching noise from feedback when I came on stage to thank him, but he just laughed and explained it was a built-in police protection radar.

Seriously though, as a clinical psychologist, he excels at breaking down the seemingly complex into bite-sized chunks of advice to help you move forward in pursuit of making life better for yourself, others and your company.

One of the best pieces of advice I have learned from Dr. Cloud is found in his book Integrity. It is to consider the “wake” one leaves behind them-self while plowing through the waters of life.

He points out it doesn’t matter how great a person is if they are leaving injured or dead soldiers in their “wake”.

Dr. Henry Cloud, Esther De Wolde, CEO Phantom Screens

Applied in a work setting, when you have a staff member who does the task side of their job incredibly well, but fails to handle their people with respect and care, then no matter how good that person is, they need to be invited off the team to save your culture from the poison.

Heeding this advice can be extremely hard, but I have seen its benefits many times over and Dr. Cloud is right. The long-term gain always exceeds the short-term pain.

Are you struggling with something in your own life but don’t like to read self-help books?

I get it – but you don’t have to miss out. There are plenty of clips by Dr. Cloud on YouTube for you to watch and be inspired to make a leap of faith or next step to change your situation.

Thank you Dr. Cloud for changing so many lives … including mine.




A twist on outdoor living

They call him homeless.Phantom Screens 25 years

It’s almost said with disdain. Not overtly because that goes against some unwritten social moral code but it’s there. I recognize the undertone because I used to emanate the same one.  It’s crazy if you think of it.

How the lack of a door on his home or running water and electricity puts one human being in a lesser category.

We don’t mean to judge others, but our world is wired to compare – who’s more famous, who drives a newer car, lives in a bigger house, wears more expensive labels, has more likes and shares and followers…

Let me introduce you to my friend John.

Actually, he lets me call him Treehouse John – you know, when you give someone a nickname, it means you love them and he knows that. John is in my top 25 people who have influenced my life. Because of getting to know him, my eyes have been opened.

Treehouse John, Phantom Screens, Esther De Wolde, 25 People of InfluenceWell, actually I should say my heart has been opened.

Suddenly John is no longer “that homeless guy who lives in the bush behind the Phantom plant”.  John and I share the same age. He has a full name and he’s told me about his sister and family who desperately want to help him.

John can point to a specific time in his younger life when he made some poor decisions, which led to him not having a fixed address. Well, until he moved to our neck of the woods.

Treehouse John as you guessed, has a treehouse dwelling that he’s built. It is impressive. Constructed out of neighboring businesses scrap pallets and other odds and sods. It has a bedroom, sitting room/kitchen, and a bit of a storage room. Yes it’s crammed full of things we would toss due to being stained, bent or torn but he makes do with it. His treehouse is built on top of a forested ravine, on protected city property because of a creek that runs through on the bottom.

For the most part Treehouse John minds his own business.

Sometimes he has a bad day and causes a bit of stir with his cohorts but only when he feels threatened or violated.  We would be no different except we can safely drive our car into the garage and push the button to close the automatic garage door, enter our home and lock the door behinds us, draw the blinds and escape from the madness of society. For some of us we’ll plug in the kettle for a cup of tea, or run a bath, or turn on the TV for white noise to soothe us.

John can’t do any of that to refresh and restore his soul but he tries.

We have a deal him and me.

He gets to use our exterior outlets for power to charge his cell phone (yes, even homeless folks are wired into the digital age) and the outside tap for water. In turn he watches our place. He runs off kids up to no good in our parking lot late at night and other unwanted visitors.

I like our arrangement and it makes John happy.

I personally can’t force John to make different decisions so that he becomes mentally well or choose to live under a permanent roof or go to a paying job lunch box in hand.

But what I can do is love him. And make sure he feels loved and valued.

Embarrassingly, I’ve learned he and I are no different. We serve the same God who gave us life. We both had a mom and dad who loved us. We both made decisions which led us to our present realities.

I now realize when I was 15 if I hadn’t stubbornly refused to join kids in my class to smoke pot or do the drug of choice back then, I too could be camped out beside Treehouse John. I keep thinking “wow, we are all one decision away from living under a bridge”.

I don’t pity John (nor does he want to be pitied). He is choosing to remain where he is at. I am however, beyond thankful, for whatever reason God gave me the capacity to make the choices I did, when it comes to my living conditions.

But just like John, there are some choices I made that I too wish I could take back.

Phantom: the cat’s meow.

Phantom Screens 25 years If this blogpost makes it to your eyes it means our Marketing department has cut me slack for not following their edict. Specifically, I am supposed to be writing about Persons who have influenced me but for this post I have to bend the rules and change “person” to “animal”.

Yes you read that correctly.

You see for over 15 of Phantom Screens’ 25 years in business, I had a trusty office sidekick named… Phantom. She was a tortoise-multi coloured short hair feline who I fell in love with at the SPCA in 1997. She was just a year old and her sad little face said “pick me”.

I couldn’t resist.

Plus, my husband always said we couldn’t get another cat, so this was my way of getting me a pet cat. As for bringing her to the office, I used the excuse that we needed to keep the mice under control. Never mind that I found out later she was petrified of rodents and cried like a baby when I trapped her in the bathroom with a mouse encouraging her to dispose of it.

If you’re wondering where the influence part came in, it was more in the office dynamic she created and what a great HR recruiter she was.

Potential applicants for hire would sit down in the office foyer waiting for their interview and unbeknownst to them, Phantom would stroll on by and give her opinion.

If she ignored them it meant ‘don’t hire him’. If she jumped on their lap, bingo! We had our next employee selected.

As for existing staff, it became apparent very quickly who the soft touches were – those who gave her treats and bought her toys, and those who begged to take her home on weekends. Over the years though, she began to get fat, and fatter, until finally I had to put my foot down and find out who was supplementing her diet causing extreme obesity.

To my surprise, there was a large number of staff throughout the building who had fallen prey to Phantom’s wily ways as she would strut into their office each morning pretending they were the one and only in her life.

Silly putty tat.

She brought sincere joy to the office and especially to the Finance department. Soon after we moved into our new two-floored office building in 2001, Phantom found her home with the numbers people in the downstairs east wing.

It wasn’t uncommon to find Phantom sprawled over their arms while they were trying to work on their computers. Especially with Jolanta, our Controller who spoiled her rotten on all fronts.

To this day, Jolanta is our cat, bird and dog whisperer in the office. She has her own private show of hummingbirds all day long thanks to the feeders outside her office window.

We might have been one of a few companies with the question: “Are you allergic to cats?” in our interviewing process when hiring Finance staff. Yes, the cat ruled over allergy-ridden bookkeepers.

Sadly, Thanksgiving Day 2012, we had to say our final goodbyes to Phantom, whose health was deteriorating rapidly. And five years later, those of us who were fond of her, still miss her presence in the office. If you own a cat you will agree nothing rings truer than this …

If you own a cat you will agree nothing rings truer than this … “in ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.” – Terry Pratchett 




Does business coaching really work?

Phantom Screens 25 yearsWho…

There are some people in life who have extraordinary abilities.

Not in the able-to-paint-the-Sistine-Chapel or wrestle-a-polar-bear-and-win sense. More in the subtle art of people skills. Take my friend Karen Thrall for example.

Karen ThrallShe’s best known to me for her insane ability to see right through me.

I first met her through Nathan Rooke, son of my business partner Ken Rooke. They all attended the same church and asked Phantom to sponsor a fundraising event for the Vancouver Burns Unit (if I recall correctly). Karen’s best friend had survived a horrible fire and was passionate about the cause for sure.

There was something about her that just made me like her. An instant feeling of ‘hey, I want her to be my friend’.

And that’s exactly what happened. Friends we became.

Although for complete transparency, after that I found out she was a leadership and team coach I paid her to hang out with me. She did a number of team building events for us at Phantom too.

She is terrific at coaching. But soon after we met she joined the team of John Fluevog, those $500 for a pair of shoes company. She headed up his store expansions, flying hither and yon and sadly we lost touch.

That is, until just a few years ago.

But she lives in San Diego now so our face to face visits are rare and special. Oh and she’s back to using her amazing skills and is coaching again – check her out at:

Greatest Lessons I learned from her…

There are many lessons I’ve learned from her. I guess that’s why she’s a coach.

But in the spirit of choosing just one, it dates back to 1999. We were having one of our infamous Starbuck dates where we dipped from friendship to giving each other business advice.

This time it was her turn and I was in the hot seat sharing about my anxiety over some public speaking event I agreed to. I was probably also worrying about not being perfect or something.

Karen went into speed demon coach mode, grabbing the nearest napkin she could find and a pen, and started firing off questions at me. Who were my three Bible heroes? Give me 3 reasons why? What was I scared of?

And on and on.

Before I knew what was happening, those big blue piercing eyes of hers were bouncing with glee, so eager to show the correlation between who I admired and why they resonated with my heart so much.

And what it said about my God-given destiny. The napkin looked like a treasure hunting map gone bad.

But here’s the thing.

The gift Karen gave me that day in building up my confidence to be able to say to myself: “Yes! I can do this!” was beyond earthly value.

I still carry that “treasure map” napkin in my purse, tucked in my travel Bible, right next to my folded up Bucket List.

It is that special to me.

If I could talk to her this very second, I would say…

Go get your clubs, so we can play a round of golf!

It’s been awhile. And while playing there’d be a high probability I would remind her of that infamous coffee date where she infused life into me. I would profusely thank her for being that heaven-sent angel to my rescue.

And she would don her genuine humble response of acting like her gift was just another day at the office. Her amazing gift of being able to see through people, draw them out and having such amazing knowledge of what makes them tick.

Then I’d make sure I’d win at golf. I may love her, but I still have to win, right?

But Why Does It Have to Hurt So Much?

Phantom Screens 25 years

At the risk of my Senior Marketing Manager giving me heck for too long of a word count in this blog post, I want you to know that I’m combining five People of Influence into one. 

When you read the post, you’ll understand why. It’s not that I haven’t got things to write – I just want to restrict myself! You are welcome Paul.

Sunrise Phantom Screens


His name is Mr. Adversity.

I know for a fact that everyone who reads my “Person” of Influence blogpost this time has met him before too. Regretfully, he is alive and well with no fixed address.

I say “him” but sometimes he shows up in a dress and is a “her”.

Although I don’t camp with the feminists and am not a woman’s rights bra-burning type of gal, I’m going to have to stick with calling him a man in this blog. That’s because it seems to be the gender he has shown up in when I recall the four serious times I hung out with him.

I mean seriously hung out with him, like in longer term business-type relationships lasting a minimum of three years.

If it annoys you that I am protecting the guilty by not stating their real names, then think again.

One, it would be cruel to publicize them. Two, I don’t want to air forgiven laundry even if some haven’t repented. And three, I may have forgiven them, but I don’t need to feed their narcissistic selves with credit for being an influence on me or risk giving them permission to justify their actions.

When I originally created my list of 25 People of Influence, my first instinct was to think of people who positively influenced me – like the five previous posts. It was hard to come up with 25 names of positiveness. But at the same time it occurred to me that I have endured some pretty negative influencers in my life and they should really make the cut too.

Because really, they have shaped my thinking and actions hugely too, in fact maybe even more in some cases, and led me down life-giving journeys of learning in each encounter.

And that my friends, leads me to my Greatest Lessons learned from Mr. Adversity.

Greatest Lessons I learned from him…

Read plural form – Lessons.

The first and hardest lesson learned was to forgive someone when you’d rather scratch their eyes out. 

I’m not gonna lie – in each of Mr. Adversity’s arrival in my life the time together started out wonderfully, fun, engaging, bursting with fresh ideas that abundantly flowed in hopes of a brighter future.

Then slowly, oh so slowly, right under my oblivious nose, the relationship unveiled the ugly truth – that my trust of them was being used to self-serve their needs and wants – as they slithered around me like a snake in the grass. And not a cute Gardener Snake either. Think snake like the-snake-in-the-Garden-of-Eden snake tempting Eve to bite the apple.

Besides recognizing I own my own part in having allowed things to go unchecked, the richest lesson I learned was I was only hurting myself when I withheld forgiveness from Mr. Adversity.

I don’t mean to get preachy here, but for me, if I didn’t live with a faith in Someone Bigger Than Me, I really couldn’t have forgiven him each time. Being reminded over and over that God loves them as much as He loves me gave me the ability to see Mr. Adversity’s heart separate from his actions.

It’s no different than us parent’s love for our kids – no matter how badly our kids could hurt us or screw up, we would never take their school picture off the wall in the family room. Never. Ever.

The second lesson learned was to think bigger, wider, deeper and in a contrary manner. 

Not that all of Mr. Adversity’s ideas brought forward were right for me or the business, but it helped me get out of a “groupthink” mentality.

It forced me to walk a day in his dress shoes. I’m not talking being able to empathize with him, I am referring to considering business strategy or contextual interpretations from a non-natural position for me.

I am loathed to use examples as it would give away identities but here’s a generic version.

Let’s say I want to drive to Lethbridge, Alberta. I’ve done it often and I have my usual route mapped out in my head – head east on the Trans-Canada Highway all the way to Calgary and then head south on Highway 2 and twelve hours later I will arrive, Lord willing, in Lethbridge.

Twenty minutes into my road trip I pick up a hitch-hiker whose raggedy cardboard sign has Lethbridge scrawled on it. He gets in and won’t stop talking about a different way to drive to Lethbridge, explaining why they are all better than my usual route.

I am tempted and intrigued by the excitement of a new road with steeper hills and curvier curves so I risk it and turn off the #1 in Hope to take Highway 3 East via the Crow’s Nest Pass genuinely enjoying the new sights and sounds until…..

I’m stopping the analogy now.

It’s getting too long and is ripe for interjecting more lessons like running out of gas, crashing, getting knifed by the hitchhiker and I am trying to stick to the point of the lesson that is: there are more ways to achieve a goal then the ones I alone know of.

And for those of you who I lost at the point of picking up a hitch-hiker, don’t worry, as much as I always want to, I never have and I probably never will.

The third of my Top Three lessons I learned really bites my apple.

I believe that everyone is born with the ability to trust and be trusted and that is how I treat people.

It’s the Golden rule played out: “do unto others what you would have them do unto you”. Our business alliance partner JeldWen even has that written as their company Mission Statement.  Well, it used to … before they went public. Interesting.

What I have learned though is that I need to be much more discerning of giving out blanket trust.

Actually more discerning as to my expectation in return.

Just because I trusted them, doesn’t mean they have the capability to trust me back. I have learned the hard way – I cannot MAKE anyone trust me no matter how trustworthy I actually am or try to be.

At the end of the relationship, when I dissect the demise of it as I can do so well, for so long, until I am sick of myself thinking about it, I realize that, for whatever reason, Mr. Adversity never had the capacity to trust in the first place.

Nine out of ten times if Mr. Adversity laid down on a shrink’s couch we would will likely discover the root of their trust issues link all the way back to their own trust bank being emptied out, usually during their formative years when they were still an innocent wide-eyed child.

It is sad really.

Before, when I wrote: “at the end of the relationship”, I meant that. There always is a final end to the relationship in my experience with Mr. Adversity.

It’s the entire premise of Phantom Screens’ first corporate value “To Speak the Truth”. Kind of like the restaurant sign on the door: ‘No Truth, No Trust, No Relationship’.

The only exception for me to this rule could be when marriage vows are involved but let’s leave that topic to the side for now, shall we?

If I could talk to him this very second, I would say…

“Dear Mr. Adversity, here’s what my brain wants to say to you… ^+%*()*&^%^#$)!!!!”

But I will intentionally choose to follow my Mom’s advice and “try and be the bigger of the two” despite my human weakness to want to be spiteful.

So, let me try this again.

“Dear Mr. Adversity. I wouldn’t have chosen to have you in my life nor am I going to thank you.

However, since we mortals do our best learning in the valleys of life, as opposed to the peaks, let it be known I am thankful to God for having guided me through the rough spots and for giving me a capacity to learn, develop and grow from it.

You know, that whole Phoenix thing, a sun out of the ashes.

And although the chances of you reading my blog are slim, I will say this much to you.

I hope for your sake that one day, you too will find the real joy in life from learning to trust others and serve something bigger than yourself. You have so many incredible gifts to use for good on this earth if given with no strings attached.

It is my prayer for you.”

All because two people fell in love…

An Anniversary Series: 25 People Who Have Influenced Me, My Career & Phantom


The man who started it all (Phantom Screens, that is), Dr. Ernest Rooke.

He was always just Mr. Rooke to me though, as I met him far past his chiropractic days. When I started working for him and his two sons at the Panago Pizza Franchises as their inside accountant in 1988, it was to help Mr. Rooke do the books. Their businesses and number of them were beginning to create more work than he could handle.

Although it took many years after that before he would trust me with the payroll. That was his baby!

Dr. Ernest & Mrs. Doris Rooke

Although I worked closely in the office with Mr. Rooke, his dear sweet wife, Mrs. Doris Rooke would pop in to say “hello” once in a while – which is when I got to know her too. Fast forward close to 30 years later and life finds me having said a final good-bye to my business partner Mr. Rooke, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 86. But happily Mrs. Rooke, 94 is still living on her own in the same house, driving the same car and looking like 64 when I first met her.

Greatest Lesson I learned from him…

Maybe it was more the fact that working under him actually was a continuation of how I had been raised – just trade cows for pizza.

It was the same biblical principles which influenced ALL business principles – doing an honest day’s work and living within your means to name a few.

Just like my Dad, Mr. Rooke despised debt and late payments. But here was another aspect of Mr. Rooke I came to appreciate – it was the grace he would show when I messed up.

The first Rooke family enterprise was Abbotsford’s favourite restaurant – started in the early 70’s – Brownie’s Fried Chicken. If you lived around here, that was the place to take your family or hang out with your friends.

Along with the restaurant, they owned a significant portion of commercial land surrounding the building in mid-Abbotsford, where today’s Corporate Office for Panago resides. Yours truly forgot one year to pay the property tax bill on time to the city.

To say I was petrified to admit my mistake to Mr. Rooke was putting it mildly.

Not only because our payment to the city was going to be tardy but there also was a late penalty of over $4,000. Back then, it would’ve been very acceptable to be fired over this one costly mistake, but when I got the nerve up to admit my wrong to Mr. Rooke, he lavished me with his grace and never held it against me.

Did he give me a talking to?

You bet he did but then he let it go. Pure sweet forgiveness. And just to close off the story, I managed to write a convincing enough letter to the city based on the Rooke family’s impeccable reputation to please reverse the penalty.

If I could talk to him this very second, I would tell him…

“Thank you for instilling your faith values in me from a business perspective, and that your legacy lives on in Phantom Screens – honest hard work, paying bills on time and extending grace. And I miss our chats and being entertained by your remarkable story-telling gift, punctuated by your roar of laughter before you delivered your punch line.”

Long after he retired, he would come in to visit me at Phantom Screens in between Board meetings and sure shootin’, an hour or two would pass before we knew it.

And tomorrow, in his honour, Mrs. Rooke will stand with her son Brian and me, as we are joined by the Mayor of Abbotsford, Mr. Henry Braun, to cut the ribbon at our grand-opening ceremony of our newly expanded manufacturing plant and office.

Good thing we’ve been paying our property tax bill on time, eh?

We have winners! Congratulations to Peter, Mike, Jeret & Dana who have all won a Starbucks gift card for guessing Mr. Rooke was on my list!


What servant leadership really looks like

An Anniversary Series: 25 People Who Have Influenced Me, My Career & Phantom

I first met this man of influence on my life when I was nominated to serve on World Vision Canada’s Corporation Board ( Dave Toycen was at that time, the much-loved President and CEO of World Vision Canada and an author – among many other esteemed positions.

All his roles focused on making life better for those who cannot help themselves. He has since retired but continues to leave an indelible impression on those he comes in contact with – including me. And just last week, he celebrated his 70th birthday – congratulations, Dave!

Greatest lesson I learned from him?

At first glance you might think it was his undying desire to fulfill the vision of World Vision, the world’s largest humanitarian organization being

Our vision for every child, life in all its fullness.

Our prayer for every heart, the will to make it so.”

I mean, can there be a more admirable pursuit in life then this? Not much surpasses it, so of course this was part of why he is an influence on me. But really it was more about watching him live out his personal faith and leading with his honorable character as he led World Vision, a very large organization.

In fact, back in in 2004 when I first met Dave – it was him who was my first real live leader who put the word “servant” into Servant Leadership. It was a pure delight to watch him demonstrate humility and strong leadership simultaneously, serving his team and the children for whom World Vision exists to make their lives better.

He is also the individual who through his book “The Power of Generosity”, taught me exactly that.

To quote Dave: “The generosity journey is looking for more travelers to address the challenges of our world”.

That message pierced me to my core. It spurred me to action by officially choosing a charity that as a corporation and each of us as staff could and would support. Which is why I selected World Vision as our corporate charity.

Years later, at the request of our staff to not only think globally, but address needs right here in our own town of Abbotsford BC, we added a locally-based charity too: The Cyrus Centre. It provides support and accommodation for homeless teenagers.

And this year, we’ve added Habitat for Humanity.

It’s living proof of Dave Toycen’s legacy to make a difference and it’s still happening in our lives at Phantom – even up to today.

Phantom Screens Corporate Charity Launch Event 2004

If I could talk to him this very second, I would say…

Thank you for being a shining example to the next generation of how to be a servant leader and teach us the power of generosity.

And of course, on behalf of the millions of children’s lives you have touched through World Vision efforts – well done good and faithful servant.

We have a winner! Congratulations to Jeret who has won a Starbucks gift card for guessing Dave was on my list!

It all started at a roller-skating party. In grade 12.

An Anniversary Series: 25 People Who Have Influenced Me, My Career & Phantom

In light of our 25th anniversary, my Marketing team suggested this Blog Series. I guess I am getting sentimental in my older years because I actually began looking forward to forcing myself to slow down and reflect on the “who” of the past 25 years has impacted me, my career and ultimately Phantom as its Chief Executive Officer. You can expect 25 blogs, introducing 25 People over the next 12 months.

And don’t forget the on-going contest – if you can guess who is on my list before I introduce them, I’ll treat you to a Starbucks! Three names have been released, each with winners by the way, so 22 names left to guess!


My first husband, John. He also happens to be the only husband I have ever had.

Thirty years later, two daughters and a soon-to-be son-in-law, our life is rich with blessings. We met through our church’s Young People’s group that met monthly with all the other Young People’s groups in the Fraser Valley.

And to date ourselves, it was at a roller-skating party.  Do those even exist anymore? Anyways, we began dating right away in our grade 12 year of high school and married five years later.


Some people call their husband their best friend. Their lover. Their confidant.

Sure okay, but I would have to say as our relationship has blossomed over the years, so have our careers and our companies.

There is definitely no coincidence in that – it’s like God knew what He was doing when He put us together. Imagine that!

As a person of influence in my life and career, John is not just my husband – he is my professional support network.

You know how if you play any game against someone who is better than you, your game will improve? That’s exactly how I feel influenced by John.

His wisdom, discernment, and grounding strengths have made Phantom Screens and me better.

If I could tell him something this very second I would tell him…

Quit snoring.

I know you think I’m joking, but I’m not as I’m actually composing this blog during a sleepless night thanks to being in a time zone across the

Let me be serious and loving simultaneously. 

There is a pile of reasons I could thank my husband, but since this blog post is about his influence on me, my career and Phantom, what I would want to tell John is simply, “thank you.”

Thank you for letting me be me – even if it was at times different from how you imagined a traditional marriage might look like. For stepping in with the kids when I had to travel for business whether it was making their lunch for school or going on a field trip.

And now being empty-nesters, for feeding my cat when I am not home. I know that goes against every bone in your body.

Thank you for the other million little details you take care of, that have given me the space to be a CEO of a growing company and most importantly a mom.

It goes without saying but I’ll say it anyways, thank you too for your ever-flowing wisdom, and sharing it when asked and not before.

Unless of course my idea is really stupid, then I know you will spew forth your wisdom unsolicited… and nine out of ten times you are right.

But that tenth time I get away with is so sweet.

We have winners too. Congratulations to Frank and Peter who have both won Starbucks gift cards for guessing John was on my list!

“I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right.”

An Anniversary Series: 25 People Who Have Influenced Me, My Career & Phantom


So many of you who know me already guessed my person of influence today – maybe even from the quote in this blog post’s title.

Hailing from the deep South in Montreat, North Carolina it is none other than the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham.

I have an unabashed love for this man (code for star-struck) almost bordering on stalkerville (especially when I attended an Executive Conference at The Cove in Montreat – aka Billy Graham Training Center – but that’s a whole other story I’ll keep between myself and my friend).

Truth is, I attended the same conference the year before and Dr. Graham was supposed to make an appearance but – wouldn’t you know it – the night we arrived he had fallen and was bed-ridden.

So close but yet so far.


I’ve since met a number of people who have actually gotten to sit and talk with him at length. And yes, I attended one of his last crusade’s in San Diego up in the nosebleeds. The closest for me was sitting beside Will Graham, his grandson, at dinner last year for a planning meeting for this week’s Festival in Vancouver, BC.

Well actually my husband John got that seat but I managed to sneak in some conversation with him, surprise, surprise! Sigh.

My only chance now will be in heaven. But I guess that’s pretty cool too. Imagine the line-up to talk to him though!


Why the infatuation? Here’s the thing. Like all of us, we are faced with decisions every day.

Some are easy – Starbucks or Tim Hortons. Some are harder – cook or go out to eat. OK that’s not so hard either.

Some hard decisions are often more about doing the right thing or not. And I’m not going to tell a lie. I wouldn’t want some of my past choices hanging on a billboard.

But here’s a man, no different than you or I who was gifted with an extra-ordinary task of travelling to hundreds of countries bringing a Christian-faith-filled message to millions and millions, year after year, causing him to give up his own family time for his wife and children, his own privacy, his own time, and on and on.

And yet.

He remained entirely humble. He still lives in the log cabin where they raised their family. His book profits go back into his ministry. Of all the public evangelist figures in our lifetime, he remained scandal-free.

And in his own words this was because he set boundaries. Intentional practices or disciplines of what he would be okay with or not okay with. Here are just a couple of examples he imposed on himself: he never travelled or met with the opposite gender alone. He never abused his own power for political purposes even though he was a confidant to the past seven presidents.

Don’t get me wrong – I am certain he was human which makes him not perfect but the extent to which he worked at keeping himself upright is beyond admirable and I have tried to learn from that.

If I could talk with him this very second, what would I ask him?

Honestly? I don’t think I’d have anything to ask him – his autobiography pretty much answers it all.

Rather I think I’d just sit quietly in his presence and soak up the spill-over splashes of glorious radiance that surely the Lord pours on him day after day for being such a faithful servant for God.

I used to joke: “if only I could just touch the hem of his garment”, but I knew I had to be careful who to say that to or people would really think that I thought he was Jesus himself.

I know he isn’t.

This week our City of Vancouver will be hosting what used to be known as a Billy Graham crusade.

Of course Dr. Billy Graham himself can no longer attend due to his health, but it is awesome to see his legacy carried on.

Now don’t be sending me political hate mail about the fact his son is not his father. I’m staying away from that one with a ten-foot pole.

I am focusing on the purpose of the festival to bring a message of hope to a dark world.

And although I am unable to attend the festival myself, I pray it be a remarkable event for those who attend. Here are the details!

We have winners too. Congratulations to Jeret and Lorraine who have both won Starbucks gift cards for guessing Billy Graham was on my list! 

A Happy Childhood Makes a Happy CEO

An Anniversary Series: 25 People Who Have Influenced Me, My Career & Phantom

A25th-anniversary-phantom-screens-logo-300dpi-300pxlthough I have had business partners during Phantom Screens 25 years in existence, for the last 12 years I am the only one who shows up for work every day. Obviously, my partners are much wiser than I as they wholeheartedly enjoy their time elsewhere! Well, okay, truth be told they are also a lot older than me and have earned their retirement years.

So, in light of our 25th anniversary, my Marketing team suggested this Blog Series. I guess I’m getting sentimental in my older years because I actually began looking forward to forcing myself to slow down and reflect on the “who” of the past 25 years has impacted me, my career and ultimately Phantom as its Chief Executive Officer.

You can expect 25 blogs, introducing 25 People over the next twelve months.

And there’s an on-going contest – if you can guess who is on my list before I introduce them, I’ll treat you to a Starbucks! There’s already been two winners, by the way, so 23 names left to guess!


Although it would seem predictable, I’m starting with my Mom and Dad. Yes, they were amazing parents and created a home that for me always felt safe, comfortable, and fun. And yes, I love my sister and brothers very much, but you’ve got to stop and realize how come I am so extra grateful. estherweddingblog

It’s because neither my siblings nor I were “born” to Mom and Dad.

Being the sure and steady folks that they were, it still confounds me that back in the 1950’s they were trail-blazing by adopting children. Thank the dear Lord they did, as I was divinely placed as the last sheep of their herd of four in 1965.

People always ask “don’t you want to find your birth parents”? And I always answer “Nope! Don’t need to. I had the idyllic childhood many kids only dream of!”

It always felt like I would seem ungrateful and that I wasn’t content if I pursued “The Search”. And so, to this day, in honour of Mom and Dad, I feel that way even more.

But that’s just me. No judgement against anyone if you see it differently for yourself.

Greatest lesson and/or ‘aha’ moment from them?

There are too many huge ones to choose from, but in light of the Millennial age we find ourselves in, I’d have to say one of the top ones is that we were taught how to shovel manure out of stalls, how to clean behind the fridge every week, and how to buck bales in the summer heat.

Hard work, gross work, repetitive work.

But it nurtured within us a work ethic that helped us respect our employers, give it our all, and put the company’s needs before our own. To sum it up, I would call it servant leadership with a dash of the School of Hard Knocks.

If I could talk with them this very second, what would I tell them?

Just the sheer thought of getting to talk with them makes my eyes all misty and leaky.

But if I could have one more tea time with them, I would say:

Mom, Dad, sorry for having a smart mouth and always talking back to you. In my journey, life has taught me that every one of your lessons was spot on. And those I chose not to listen to, I learned the hard way. If only I had listened more to you.

And then I’d hug and kiss my Mom one last time like we always did. And to Dad a hug said it all – and maybe just this once I’d let him give me one of his famous whisker-burns as our cheeks touched.

I’ve always said the Bible is the best business book there ever was. Here’s proof:

“Children, honour your father and your mother that it may go well with you” – Ephesians 6:2

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