Winner of the Summer Dream Contest!

betty ming liu Inspiration 19 Comments

What would it take for you to share — and chase — your dreams? Three weeks ago, we started exploring that question with the launch of this blog’s Summer Dream Contest. Now I want to thank all of you who honored this blog by sharing your dreams with us. And of course, we’re here to announce the winner of that $300 American Express gift card.

As promised, I convened a distinguished panel of judges. It consisted of me and my two neighborhood girlfriends, Jan and Angela. They are my suburban partners in crime. What makes them such great judges? Beyond the fact that they are both stellar human beings, neither of them cares about blogging or social media. Since they’re relatively unplugged, sometimes I find them to be more sane, more real.  :-)

The three of us found it rather challenging to agree on just eight finalists but we did it! And then, just a few minutes ago, I wrote all the names down on little pieces of scrap paper and put them into a basket.

According to my contest rules, contestants had to be subscribers to this blog. For every contestant who also follows me on Twitter and/or my Facebook page, I threw in extra scraps of paper with their names on it.

Then I swished the entries around. And then, I started getting nervous about not having control of what would happen next. What will you all think about our choices and the winner? Well, there’s only one way to find out.


The winner is….

Stephanie Chen

My summer dream is to travel to the Middle East to meet with diplomats, soldiers, and everyday citizens to learn about the Israeli-Palestine conflict. I didn’t grow up in a very religious family and have not had many opportunities to learn about these ongoing conflicts. The Olive Tree Initiative is a group at my University bringing together Jewish, Muslim, and several other students from various religious backgrounds. Their goal is to bring about open discussion and spread knowledge on the both perspectives of the conflict. I would love to travel to the region, learn about the conflict first-hand, and help spread awareness, which will in turn spread tolerance and peace.


Stephanie, you have two days to claim your prize! I hope you’ll comment below by 11:30 p.m. EST. If we don’t hear from you, I will swish around the names in the basket again and pick another winner. (Updates on developments will be added at the end of this post.)

Now it’s time to meet the other seven finalists:


So, for this entry, my dream is personal. This summer I want to take my family to do a family camping weekend at the NY YMCA camp in upstate NY so we can commune with nature and try some new sports my 5 year old city-slicker son has become obsessed with on Wii like archery, kayaking and zipline-ing (is that what you’d call it?).


My dream is fairly simple. I got married 10+ years ago but had a civil service. I really want a church wedding with a choir, lots of flowers and yeah…I’ll be marrying the same person :)

Laura Madden

My dream is to have stable work as a photographer, writer and video/multimedia producer who gets to tell the stories that inspire me. The stories of everyday people who change the world one person at a time are my greatest inspiration. Those people who simply get up and go to work, but their work has an enormous impact on others, are so cool to me. Maybe their work is a drop in the bucket – like providing microfinance for beekeepers so they can harvest honey in a remote village of Pakistan. It’s not like that changes the whole world, but it certainly changes the world for some of those villagers. And I think that’s pretty friggin’ cool. My dream is that my life’s work would be to shine a spotlight on them.

Megan McGowan

My dream is to be brave enough to put love above everything else. My boyfriend and I are planning to get married (someday) and we are both facing opposition to the point of disownment by our families. He is Bengali and a Muslim and I’m Irish and Catholic. These things shouldnt be an issue in modern day America, but guess what; our families both feel like they’re still living in their old countries. We are trying so hard to make everyone happy that we are both bending under the stress of obligation. We are concocting elaborate schemes of illusion and this balancing act is starting to give me motion sickness. But, I can’t give up on who I love right?
My dream is to be with my boyfriend forever and to somehow convince both of our familes that it’s right. I don’t want this to end in some Romeo and Juilet type drama. I just want everyone to accept us and to get along with us. I don’t want a parade. I don’t want drama. I just want him and to keep my family too. My dream is for a happy life, and it has become clear that I can’t have that without him. Where can I draw the line? Where can he draw it? How could we function without the people who have raised us, the families that we love? Could our relationship withstand rejection and isolation from our families? Would we blame each other? I dream of harmony and acceptance and loyalty and love, not of isolation and shame, fear and abandonment. I dream that it is possible to have both- to have both families and your lover be yours.

Christina Lam

I dream of having a seaside cottage somewhere nice and warm. My house would have large bay windows that face the ocean and let in lots of light every morning. The front room would be nice and messy,( but not insane creative space ) with an easel and lots of supplies — paints, brushes, magazines, etc. And, of course, there would be books everywhere. I’d have lots of comfy reading chairs and blankies, and a fireplace. And, since this is my fantasy, all my favorite people would live within shouting distance where they could come for visits and hang out in our little sanctuary. There’d also be a gourmet kitchen with a large center island and awesome cooking utensils and Jack would suddenly develop a need to cook amazing things every day. :) heh. heh.

Alan Carter

My dream is a simple, albeit nerdy one. At this advanced age in life, and requiring not much (but maybe a new car, a man, wealth and better abs) I’d like to help others. Simple but hard at the same time. I’d like to help the hungry get food. I’d like to help the downtrodden get up. I’d like to make the angry happy. I’d like to educate the stupid and charm the charmless and maybe help Jason Bay learn to hit a curveball so that the METS might actually have a chance to have a winning season. Basically, I wanna be Oprah without the TV show.


When I was a young girl I didn’t think I was good enough to be a writer. So I never tried.
Now I’m sixty-four and I’m thinking about becoming a writer again. I have more confidence and a lot more to say! When I worked in community mental health I had my hands full writing one obligatory case study after another. Now I can just let the creative juices flow! I have my own practice where I see patients and I still have time and energy for writing. I’d put the money into organizing a retreat for writers. I would invite people to come for a few uninterrupted days to develop new or old pieces of work. In a peaceful country sanctuary you would have both quiet and companionship as you work on your project.

If you’d like to read more about each of these contestants or see the full range of entries, please visit the original contest blog post.

For those of you who didn’t win the $300 gift card, I hope you’re not mad at me. In fact, I’m actually wondering how you feel now. Did articulating your dream on this blog lead to anything?

Meanwhile, I’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting on my dreams that have come true and the ones that await me this summer. More on that another time. This post belongs to the winner, the finalists and to you.

Thanks so much for dreaming with me. Let’s do more of this. If you have ideas for other contests, let me know. Running this one was fun.


Comments 19

  1. Thanks for running this competition. I loved reading the entries. It was proof positive that in our most cherished dreams, we’re more the same than different. It fact, was darn near impossible to guess anyone’s race, religion or age unless they specifically shared that information. This was a wonderful way to connect. Thanks… Jenni

  2. i was busy working and did not get to write about my dreams. I am hoping to realize a few dreams. I dream of owning a dog and cat sanctuary someday soon and I want to finish my degree and donate some of my time to The Innocence Project and learn more about Restorative Justice.

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    jenni, thank you so much for being part of this experience! if i did this right, this next link should bring us straight to the dream you shared on the original contest post:

    you raise a great point about this setup being color- gender- everything-blind. one of the things about my two judges is that they had no clue as to who the contestants were. i know some of you, but i never said a word during our review process. the dreams stood for themselves. and they were all so fabulous. i also like the fact that the winner is someone i’ve never met before. congrats again to stephanie!

    watching the dream comments roll in was rather magical for me. blogging can be very serendipitous. i never know what’s gonna happen next. i used to think of that as loss of control and a reason to worry. now i think of it as a form of faith in the unknown.

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    lori, never too late to share a dream. it’s really not about the money or winning. it’s a huge win just to put your ideas out there in the cyber-universe — and get people thinking. :-)

  5. Betty – my dream was to have a church wedding since we had a civil ceremony 10+ year ago. I actually forgot about the fact that I entered the contest. After reading a lot of the entries, I realized how blessed I was. I do belong to a church and I actually can afford to have a small ceremony.
    As we both know, marriage has its ups and downs. I think having a church wedding might be a nice way to start of the next decade of this marriage journey. I have not made any concrete plans yet but think it is likely we will be working on this “dream” soon.
    Congrats to Stephanie and thank you Betty for spreading some joy in the cyber-universe

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    ann, how sweet of you to drop by and leave this comment. and what a romantic idea — to remarry your husband in a festive ceremony. congratulations!

  7. Actually, I’m relieved I didn’t win. Unexpected wealth invariably leads me into scandleous temptations -which at my age could be dangerous. Who knows? you may have saved me from a heart attack, a morals charge or at least a cautionary from my Doctor about cholesterol.

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  9. First of all I would like to congratulate Stephanie on winning the contest. I hope you are able to further your dream. I am particularly interested as my daughter Geneva, who is a graduate student in anthropology, just came back from an eleven day tour of the West Bank and Palestine with the Middle East Children’s Alliance. As part of her study of the area she also interviewed some elderly Zionists who had once settled in what is now Israel. Yes, there are so many points of view and perspectives.
    Secondly, I procrastinated for days before I entered Betty’s contest. After I blogged my dream I felt very exposed. It is challenging to have so many people read about your dreams. But if I really want to be a writer I should get used to people reading what I have to say.
    When Betty told me I was one of the semi-finalists of this contest I got very excited. I had never before been a semi-finalist on anything. When I told my ninety-two year old mother that I made it to semi-finalist her comment was “it’s about time you won something!” So I consider that we are all winners. Thanks Betty and I look forward to your next contest.

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    rosa, i love that story about your mom! and rosa, it takes guts to post anything publicly online. once you do that, what you’ve written is out there forever. but think of it….i have readers who visit here from all over the world. your words have touched people around the planet — people you’ve never met. that’s pretty cool. congratulations on your gigantic win!!

    meanwhile, i’m wondering how i can craft a better contest next time. i loved getting people to share. but i hated the process of picking one “winner” when all the dreams are winners. is there a better way to do this? hmmm, something to think about this summer. as always, your ideas are both valued and welcomed. :-)

  11. OMG!!!!!! :D

    I WON?!?! Eeeeek!! I didn’t think I would actually win! Lol! :)

    Thank you so much for this opportunity Betty!!

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    you’re welcome stephanie and glad you checked in. now i’m wondering who you are; would love to hear a bit more about you. (just being nosy.) :)

  13. Hey Everyone!!

    I’m so very honored to have been chosen as a finalist, and ecstatic that I was lucky enough to have my name drawn from the basket!! :) I’ve read everyone’s dreams and feel so very inspired, I trust we will all bring them to reality someday. At Rosa, I’m glad you finally found your voice and happy to know that even if it takes many many years it’s never to late to live out our dreams… If your daughter has any advice for me I would love to know all about her experience and what to expect! :)

    For a little bit about myself, I’m 22 years old and I’m a double major in Communication and Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I found Betty’s blog by chance one day, when I was exploring a Wall Street Journal article in regards to Chinese mothers and their strict parenting techniques –> this led me to her blog post “Amy chua can’t be trusted” — I loved what she had to say and have personally been fighting a constant internal battle between what my parents want from me and what I want from myself. After reading Betty’s post, I explored her blog a little more, fell in love, and have been following her ever since!

    In regards to the Summer Dream Contest, I definitely think publicly articulating my dream helped put my thoughts into perspective. I’m about to graduate from University and my future is an open road. My parents are urging me to attend law school, and while that is part of my future plans there are still many things I want do and places I want to see. Writing down my dream to travel to the Middle East, made me put travel and exploration as a top priority.

    Starting my career is important, but living a fulfilling life is most important.

    Thank you so much Betty! This was all so fun and inspiring!

    Stephanie Chen ^.^V

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    aw, your welcome. thanks for sharing about yourself. so now you get a little graduation present from us — along with good wishes for your future. <3

  15. In the spirit of going after our DREAMS! :)

    My very good friend MICHELLE BATRES is putting herself out there and reaching for her dream to become a clothing designer! Her sketches are beautiful and have been entered into a contest to create her own line!

    It would be wonderful if those of you with a Facebook account would go to this website:

    And vote for design!! Let’s support the social media community!

    Please and Thank you!

    Steph :D

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