Are you a woman at a crossroads? Feeling stuck or frozen with fear and indecision?

How to Move a MOUNTAIN . . . and other important things to know inspires you to step forward, discover solutions, and plow through life’s obstacles with confidence.

Mountain-mover Joanne Jolee—author, composer, businesswoman, master certified leadership coach, mother of five, and grandmother of six—takes you on a revealing soul-nudging journey of life lessons:

  • her near-perilous ocean adventures
  • her challenges battling nature, legal issues, and threats during the lengthy construction of her and her husband’s mountaintop dream home
  • the family heartaches and disappointments

Joanne’s storytelling flows with wisdom and compelling insights. No fudging. No donning a red cape. Real stories, real feelings, real challenges, real lessons—all sure to strike a chord in women of all ages . . .

When trials are seen as opportunities for growth, we can welcome them because they can’t keep us down for long. They may be taxing work. They may seem impossible. But we can take a shovel to a mountain and dig away at it little by little. We can bore a tunnel through that mountain. Or we can climb and conquer it.

How to Move a Mountain is a timely book that will stir you on many levels—spiritually, emotionally, musically—sparking ideas so you can refocus, gain new strength, and make choices that ensure you’re living a life filled with purpose, value, and a biblical perspective.

A life that will stand firm, tall, and bright like gold, in a fallen world.

Chapter One

   Breaking Ground

A One-Hundred-Year Event – Hell Freezes Over


Problem One: A One-Hundred-Year Event

“You’d better come see for yourself!” our dirt-guy said. He wasn’t much of a talker but was a master at moving the earth.

Wide-eyed, I’d been watching him dig and grade, whipping around his fifty-thousand-pound excavator at the edge of the steep ravine. After thirty-five years on the job, he knew his trade.

My husband, Bill, and I had been planning the construction of our mountaintop dream home for the past two years and were still pinching ourselves to believe we’d broken ground and had the project underway.

“Overnight, that hundred-year monsoon rolled in like I told ’em it would and come right straight down the mountain.” Our dirt-guy pointed to the disaster.

We stared silently at the devastation. It had been no small task—or expense—getting hundreds of truckloads of fill dirt to the building site as we prepared for the first of many massive retaining walls.

Back when we first considered purchasing the property, it’d appeared to be a deep wash down a ravine, so our first call was to the subdivision’s community manager to learn if it was even buildable.

No problem: we discovered the legal wash was well to the north of the property line.

Too bad: nature does things the way it wants and had simply wiped out all our hard work.

We had a big problem—and needed to call an emergency meeting. Within an hour, our team gathered on site: the construction consultant, foreman, architects, home designer, engineers, and more dirt-guys. All of them ready to put their knowledgeable heads together to devise a solution.

They debated various scenarios and put forward re-engineering options—all were expensive and with no guarantees. The final analysis was to order a new delivery of dirt and rebuild the footings.

The weather forecast called for another round of heavy rain, so I asked, “What’s the sense in repeating this procedure and setting ourselves up for another washout? And where’s the line-item washout in the budget?”

We soon understood that the word budget is a loose term for we spend your money until you have no more money to spend.

The consultant weighed in. “Well then, we’ll just have to pause construction until the rainy season passes.” But postponing wasn’t an option. Deposits were made, the project was set in motion, and we were on a domino-effect timetable.

I pulled myself away from the conversation, stepped back, and snapped an image of the meeting with my iPhone. Sometimes distance can provide a new perspective on how to approach a problem. A maxim of mine: “There is a solution. Where is it?”

I looked up at the steep terrain, scrunched my eyebrows, and cocked my head.

Then I turned to Earl—my dirt-guy and new friend whose name I now knew. “Hey, could you push some of that earth over here and along there, then build a diversion for the water flow? What if we create dirt runoff channels along the perimeter of the building envelope . . . do you think that would work? How long would it take to do, and what would it cost?”

“Um, I get ya . . . so ’bout two hours. No additional charge.”

“Perfect. Let’s give it a go!”

A few nights later, another beauty of a storm bore down on the area. We lived only a few miles from the property, and I’d suspected it was also pouring at the building site. I couldn’t wait to get back there in the morning to see if the plan had worked.

It had. The runoff had been diverted into the temporary channels with no further damage. This simple solution meant we could move forward.

The ordeal was the first of many bumps in the road that we’d encounter on our journey to what Tribune Magazine would later dub The Giant White Fortress. For me, it was the culmination of a whole lot of life lessons.

Sometimes the most carefully laid plans fail, and it’s a wipeout. That’s where we assess and move forward with the additional knowledge we’ve gained. We find solutions and work it out. There’s always an answer—and it’s often crazy simple.


Problem Two: Hell Freezes Over

Not long after Bill and I married, a second for both of us, we ran into another type of problem. First, we couldn’t believe we’d found each other and, in our exuberance, married quickly. We agreed: “Yes, this is fast, but we’re not spring chickens, and we’re not idiots—we know what we’re doing.”

What we didn’t know was that roughly 75% of sequential marriages end in divorce. It didn’t take long to learn the reasons for the unhappy statistic. Topping that miserable list were our children—my five (two still minors) and his three. We naively had imagined they’d be happy for us.

Instead, we had eight upset children, ranging from stone-cold denial of our existence to all-out rage. One day we pulled off the freeway for another brutal “talk” and concluded by asking ourselves, “What did we do?”

Neither of us could see how the marriage was going to work. Our problems seemed insurmountable—and we didn’t want to be the cause of our children’s pain any longer. They had already suffered through the collapse of their respective biological family units, and now we had further complicated their lives by thrusting them into new dramas that they didn’t need and couldn’t handle.

We agreed that we’d made a mistake. As we discussed the impending end, we kept returning to a plain truth: we loved each other and wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.

So we put our minds to the problem and came up with an unconventional solution. We would remain married but live separately until my daughters reached adulthood, then wait patiently for the kids to come around. Hopefully.

I sat my girls down and told them the news. “You won’t have to see Bill again until you’re ready.”

One of them said, “I’ll be ready when hell freezes over!”

That was fine. I had an entrance to the master suite of my house. At night, after the girls went to bed, Bill would slip in and leave before they got up in the morning.

But one time, I got busted, and they piled on me. “We know that man is staying the night, Mother!”

“Well, he’s my lawful husband, joined by God in holy matrimony, and you don’t have to see him, so cut me some slack. Please!”

In time, things settled down and currently six-eighths of the children are happily engaged in our blended family. One special day, Bill’s eyes welled up with tears when the “hell freezes over” daughter announced her engagement and asked him to walk her down the aisle.

We make horrible mistakes, but God takes pleasure bringing loveliness out of big, ugly messes.


Problem Three: Force Majeure

You can read more about this story in chapter 2, but for now, let’s skip to the end: I’m in a violent storm, in peril on the ocean. Our yacht is about to be smashed to bits on hull-splintering rocks. It was a beyond-our-control problem where all I could do was brace myself, hold on for dear life, and pray: “God help us.”

Problems are events that set the gears of creativity and faith into motion. Difficulties in business, with our health, and with our interpersonal relationships can be solved when we don’t allow them to paralyze us, when we set our minds to understanding and working them out, and when we pray. Life is a series of challenges to be met head-on, beginning with our first wobbly steps where we crash to the ground—having a good cry if needed—then getting up and back to it.

Trials put us to the test, and faith teaches us that a better way can be found. We gain insight and become leaders—first and most importantly, learning to lead and manage ourselves. The business of self is the most important measure of success or failure.

I observed examples of moving mountains from my parents. I watched my mother go from a high school dropout to one of New Zealand’s top criminal defense attorneys. My father started an electronics venture in the basement and grew the business to one of the leading firms in his field that occupied a city block when he’d retired and sold the company. So it was natural for me to follow their models of resourcefulness in my businesses.

Today, Bill and I work together in our consulting and investment company where he brings decades of high-level skills working with billion-dollar enterprises in business, accounting, tax, and investments. We founded a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides free music education to underprivileged children in our community and music therapy for seniors suffering from neurological disorders.

It’s a privilege for us to help others move their mountains. Because learning to move those metaphorical mountains that block our way engages us in life. But other important things can allow us to go beyond moving and growing to thriving and living life abundantly.


Music for Health and Wellbeing

As a teenager and after my brother’s suicide, I discovered the healing power of music (more on that in chapter 7). Daily music-making elevates your mood, stimulates good feelings, and awakens creativity. If you’re mildly depressed, a practice session at your instrument can virtually eliminate the depression or prevent it from deepening. Playing music reduces chronic pain by refocusing attention and providing a distraction.

During my years as a private music teacher, many of my adult students were referrals from psychotherapists who had recommended a course of music instruction as part of their treatment plans. Music therapists often prescribe lessons to their patients. I wonder, if they’d had lessons during childhood, would that have prevented their need for therapy now?

Neurologists are on the cutting edge of exciting new research documenting the power of music to fire up the brain in a way nothing else can. New music therapies are succeeding where traditional treatments have been ineffective, helping stroke patients to speak again and stirring emotions and memories in Alzheimer’s patients. A recent scientific study concluded that playing music every day may significantly delay the onset and impact of many chronic diseases—perhaps even preventing them from developing.

Albert Einstein, known for his scientific breakthroughs, was also a musician who played the piano and violin. He said something very interesting when asked about his theory of relativity. “It occurred to me by intuition, and music was the driving force behind that intuition. My discovery was the result of musical perception.”

Music is a vehicle by which inspiration can move through us in mysterious ways that science struggles to understand. We enter a meditative state when we play music where our minds are cleared. We can tune out pain and destructive thoughts and become open to new and better ideas. It’s in this place that we can experience breakthroughs and gain insight to solve problems.

Whoever you are, whatever your age, you can benefit now from playing music every day.  It’s a medicine with no pills, no shots, no side effects, and minimal expense. Wow! What kind of health product can make those claims?

As I’ve lived out my life with its joys, heartaches, failures, and challenges, music has been my therapy. And I believe in good measure, it has allowed me to live a life of robust health, free from depression and disorders that plague our society.

Above all, daily music-making brings joy—the great healer.

A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing. (Proverbs 17:22)



Faith to Move Mountains

When trials are seen as opportunities for growth, we can welcome them because they can’t keep us down for long. They may be taxing work. They may seem impossible. But we can take a shovel to a mountain and dig away at it little by little. We can bore a tunnel through that mountain. Or we can climb and conquer it.

Any mountain can be moved with faith.

Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. (Mark 11:23)

Fear of a mountain facing you can be paralyzing, but faith stands in opposition to fear. God has “set eternity in the human heart,” per Ecclesiastes 3:11.

We say, “This can’t be all there is.” We have a sense that there’s more to life than just the material world. Nothing this world has to offer can fully satisfy our deep eternal longings. Some religions preach a meaningless existence—that our vapor of a life ends in nothing. But God will hold us accountable and judge us for suppressing the truth and ignoring the obvious.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” —Sir Isaac Newton


Final Thoughts

Is there a mountain blocking your way? Have you tried conquering your mountain but a hundred-year event washed you back to start? There’s a solution to your problem, and finding it will position you to be more decisive, more creative, and stronger for the next challenge.

That’s why throughout this book I share more impactful stories from my life along with insights and takeaways. And I include lyrics from songs that I’ve written, inspired by those moments.

I also refer to data and scientific research but more often reference the Judeo-Christian Bible—God’s infallible words to us. Sir Isaac Newton, one of the world’s greatest scientific minds, did more research on theology than science and said, “We account the Scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatever.”

I hope and pray that as you read this book, you’ll find encouragement and inspiration for wherever you are on life’s journey.



The Disaster

 The Meeting


Listen to the audiobook version.


1. Breaking Ground  A One-Hundred-Year EventHell Freezes Over

2. Tarkus  Leadership Lessons from the Ocean – Captain Self             

3. Tenacious Anna New Trajectories – Course Corrections   

4. Mizpah Cultivating Joy – The Battlefield                                               

5. Stay on the TrailWhen the Dream Becomes a Nightmare         

6. Ladies and Castles The New Renaissance Woman                  

7. Music Lessons Rebirth of an Ancient Philosophy

8. Your Time to Play Tools for Your Best Game

9. A Tale of Two Grandpas Sins of the FathersLove and Covering

10. Faith Power to Move Mountains

HOW TO MOVE A MOUNTAIN, and other important things to know

Copyright © 2022 Joanne Jolee

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher, except brief passages for review purposes.

Published by
Pinnacle American Records, LLC

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ISBN (paperback): 979-8-9855743-0-2
ISBN (EPUB): 979-8-9855743-1-9
ISBN (audio):  979-8-9855743-2-6