Monday, April 29, 2013

An Arena. A Skeptic. A Paradigm Shift.

The arena is humming with energy, pulsing with camaraderie, entrepreneurship and hope.

I feel a little bewildered, like a six year old going into her first candy shop.

Eight weeks ago Arbonne was a product I used and loved, and there I was sitting in Las Vegas at their annual conference.

How did that happen?

"You are not defined by your setbacks, but rather by your comebacks." says the inspiring keynote speaker, Cecilia Stoll, who came from quite literally nothing to become the top income earner at Arbonne.  The crowd explodes, 14,000 people leaping to their feet to thunderous applause.

I think about network marketing, as I clap and cheer right along with everyone else.  Prior to the past seven weeks to say network marketing made me skeptical would have been an understatement.  I just didn't get it, and nor did I want to.

It's got to be too good to be true, I thought.  There has got to be a catch.

All the promises of earning thousands of dollars a month or earning a brand new Mercedes just seemed - I don't know - seedy somehow.

I was very, very wrong.

What I witnessed at this conference was women (and men, too) that were empowered, self-confident, and helping each other succeed.   I love that I'm part of a company where a woman can stand on stage and announce to an arena full of her colleagues that her goal is to be the number one income earner and have everyone - and I mean everyone - explode into applause.

That never happens in Corporate America. Or Retail. Or Entertainment.  Pick any other business structure, and the only way to the top is to step on the heads of the people in front of you.

In network marketing - and especially at Arbonne - the more successful you are personally and financially, the more your colleagues benefit.  Not just financially but emotionally, and - this part surprised me - spiritually.

I expected the speakers at this conference to tell us how to sell, sell, sell.  They must be consummate salespeople, I thought before I arrived, to make that much money. 

I was wrong again.  They are storytellers, like me.

They shared their adversities, their challenges - each speaker told  very personal stories about their hardships, and their whyWhy they finally dropped the skepticism (because we're all skeptics when we start - nobody says as a child 'when I grow up I want to be in network marketing') and joined Arbonne.  Their why is what motivates them to each and every day.  They talked about how their self-esteem blossomed as their incomes did, too. And not just because they are making more money - or any money - but because they are introducing clients to products that improve health inside and out, all while stretching and growing themselves as they face fears and do it anyway.

Women, in particular, are sheepish about talking about money when it comes to working, I think.  Or about advocating to make more money, or something.  Not all women, of course, but many women. I know I am.

But here is my reality: both my kids are in school, my jewelry business helps to support my non-profit endeavors, but I need to make money. I want more financial independence, but I don't want to go back to an office job.

And I'm SO not a salesperson.  SO. NOT.

I've been chasing heart dreams so long that I worried I'd never find something that could increase my income AND blend with my heart song of empowering women, sharing story, and improving the world.

I never, ever,  thought that would come in the form of a network marketing company.  EVER.  I've learned a lot about it in seven short weeks, though, and it IS the wave of the future.  I want my efforts - my talents - to benefit me and my clients.  Not some Corporate Muckity-Muck in a corner office.

I want to choose when I work and how I work. I want to be surrounded by interesting, funny, talented and compassionate people. I want to make a difference in the world.  I want to make more money.

I get ALL of that - literally EVERYTHING on my list - with Arbonne.

These women are not ashamed of their success.  They give so much back in the form of charitable donations and in helping other women succeed - whatever their definition of success may be.

I don't need to make thousands of dollars more per month, but at Arbonne that is a possibility.  I'm only limited if my own vision for myself is limited.

One thing is very true - that first Arbonne check I received felt pretty damn good, considering I feel like I'm just out having a ton of fun.

"There is no illusion greater than fear".  Cecilia Stoll quoted Lao Tzu during her speech.

I had to overcome fear to join Arbonne. Fear of asking people to host workshops, to consider buying product, to consider joining Arbonne with me.  The only reason I can do it is I believe in this with my whole heart.

My body looks and feels great.  My skin looks and feels great.  I am having so much fun.  These products are incredible - safe, pure, beneficial - they are revolutionizing skin care and health and wellness.

It's not hard to ask someone if they want to be a part of that.

And, surprisingly, I'm okay with "no".  This doesn't have to be for everyone.  Networking marketing people used to scare me with their pop-eyed zeal.  I get it, now. I'm trying not to be too pop-eyed, but it's hard, because I feel part of something bigger than me, something that is putting control back into peoples' lives - how they spend their time, when they work, how they work, and even how much money they make - this business can shrink and expand to fit into your life, instead of you shrinking or expanding to fit into working life.

What's not to love?

"Courageous people get outrageous rewards", Cecilia said toward the end of her keynote.

I feel outrageous, sitting there in a huge arena in Vegas.  I feel the ground shake underneath me, a paradigm shift in my life.  Anything is possible.  Anything.

Everyone - and I do mean everyone - I have approached about this opportunity starts with the 'why-nots'.  We are so quick to do that - at least I am - to come up with all the "can'ts".  And they don't hesitate because they don't like the product, or because they don't like Arbonne.

They hesitate - like I did - because they don't think they can.

"I'm not a salesperson".  "I don't know very many people."  "I can't speak in front of people".  "I can't be out a lot".

I'm not interested in what you're not, or what you can't do.  Because you can.  The beauty of controlling your own working life is you play to your strengths, you do this in the way that suits you the best.

Courageous people DO get outrageous rewards.  You learn more from your comebacks than your setbacks.  When you stretch yourself - just a little - the world is yours.

You can.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

All The Things*

The bus rumbles away and I walk into my house and stand there in a daze.

I have so much to do I don't even know where to start.

My life is very full at the moment, brimming over with amazing endeavors, and every minute of every day is jam packed.  I'm loving my new Arbonne business; it is connecting me to old friends and making me new ones at the same time.  My jewelry business is thriving, which in turn raises funds for Shining Strong, the new non-profit I launched last week.  I realized recently that I'm running four websites along with my three businesses.  Add the hectic schedule of two school aged kids, running a household and trying to maintain my self-care regime to the mix, and it gets overwhelming. 

Someone I just met the other day asked me what I do for a living and I just stood there, open mouthed, unsure of where exactly to start.

"I'm a Mom," I said, because it seemed simplest.  As the words left my mouth I felt a tug of guilt in my gut. These days parenting is crammed into my schedule between the cracks of All The Things.

I'm happy - almost deliriously so. This, of course, makes my inner Panic Monkey nervous, waiting for the other shoe to fall.  Another inner tug of guilt: can't you just sit back and enjoy the moment? What is wrong with you? 

There is the undercurrent of anxiety of waiting for the follow-up procedure of removing more tissue around the site of Greta's suspicious mole.  She is an emotional roller coaster these days - up, then down - giddy with happiness and then crying for "no reason". 

I'm leaving tomorrow morning at 3am for a very early flight for a whirlwind trip to Las Vegas for an Arbonne conference, coming back on the red eye Saturday night. Tonight is a Book Club event with a local organization to talk about Let Me Get This Straight.

I'm not packed. I have orders to fill, schedules to button up for the kids and a mountain of laundry to fold.

I feel the stress well up inside me, threaten to burst through at any moment.  I want to curl up in a ball, but instead I find a quiet corner and focus on my breath.

Sitting still, I breathe in and out, and watch my thoughts float by.  All The Things tumble around in my consciousness: logistics, emotions, images of Greta's face crumpled with worry. 

Breathe, I think, even as my diaphragm tightens with anxiety.

My mind reaches back, mulling over where I was this time last year, weak from the cancer treatments that hadn't yet released their grip on me.  The stubborn lump in my neck was still there, more operations were needed.

A day like today was unfathomable back then.  A busy day last year at this time entailed mustering the strength to see my kids off on the bus.

I'm hit with the odd sensation that I kind of miss those days of forced rest.  I have such a hard time with enough.  Then, of course, guilt for even thinking this way.

Should I be doing this much? I ponder this thought for a while.  I realize the dreaded "s" word, should, has come back into my life.  Should took a hiatus during my illness, when the center of my universe was Healing.

The answer, I realize, is I don't know.  I don't how much is too much.  Is it because I'm an alcoholic?  Am I overdosing on busy?  Perhaps.  But All The Things are important, and I don't want to let go of a single one.

Just do the next right thing, my Recovery Voice tells me.   But they are all Right Things, my Panic Monkey protests.  Laundry? Orders? Dishes? Email? Meditation? Exercise?  Packing? How on earth do I know what to do?

I sit a while longer and wait for my mind to quiet. Eventually it slows, and I think:  write.


*All The Things concept credited to Hyperbole and A Half and her post "This Is Why I'll Never Be An Adult" - one of the funniest and most poignant blog posts ever.

Monday, April 22, 2013

I'm on AMAZON! Help Support Shining Strong, Please!

More exciting news!

My book, Let Me Get This Straight, is now available on!

There is a softcover, black & white edition available for only $12.00!  Up until this point I have only been able to offer a full color softcover, and because the independent publisher sets the price, the color addition costs $29.00.  I am working on getting a new publisher for the color edition so I can make it more affordable.

Color edition pictured here - black & white version has no color photographs

The eBook (for Apple products) and pdf (for PCs) versions are also available for $9.99 by clicking this link here.

No matter which version you purchase, ALL proceeds from book sales go to support my new non-profit Shining Strong, Inc. - funds go directly to Shining Strong.  So you'll get the book AND be helping women who are struggling with drinking or recovery at the same time. 

You can click here to purchase the black and white version (color version also available), or see the link on my right-hand sidebar.

If you've already read the book (first of all, THANK YOU!) and if you could leave a review (she says, nervously) I would greatly appreciate it!

Any way to help me spread the word about the book would be great, and supports such a worthy cause.

As always, I gratefully appreciate all your support.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


I am so excited - what has been a heart project of mine for years is finally here!

I'm proud to announce that Shining Strong is officially a Non-Profit Corporation!

Shining Strong is named for (and inspired by) my Dad, who dedicated much of his life to giving back to the communities he served.

It is my honor to be part of the recovery community, and it has always been a heart song of mine to break through stigma and denial and help women see break free of the chains of alcoholism and addiction, which are so often rooted in shame.

I carry no shame about being an alcoholic in recovery.  Recovery has given me more gifts than I could ever repay in a thousand lifetimes.  The people I have met, the support, love and encouragement we give each other - both in person and online - is like nothing I've ever seen or experienced.

Everyone has a picture in their head about what an active alcoholic looks like.  The stigma surrounding addiction and the popular (but misinformed) thought that addiction is a matter of will power (or lack thereof) keeps so many people stuck and alone.

You want to know what recovery looks like?  THIS:

Compassionate. Graceful. Introspective. Dedicated. Hard Working. Funny. Smart. Creative. FREE.

These are the words I use to describe alcoholics in recovery.  Yep - we're still alcoholics, but we have faced harder truths about ourselves than most people have to face in a lifetime. Day by day we beat back a disease of the mind and body that killed the majority of people who had it only decades ago.  It stills kills more people than it spares.

How do we fix that?


Together we link arms - those in recovery and those who haven't been personally touched by addiction but want to help us break down this damn stigma and spread light and understanding.

THIS is Shining Strong's mission, and I have two lovely, smart, funny, talented recovering women of grace and honor helping me run it.  I am so blessed.

So will you do us a favor? Will you share this post? Will you ask people to watch the video below to see firsthand the heartache, and then the freedom of addiction?  Will you ask them to look into the faces of real recovering women so they can see for themselves that the stigma is WRONG.

You never know who you may be helping. Your neighbor, a friend, perhaps even a family member or total stranger who is living in the silence, darkness and pain of addiction.

Let's show them there is hope.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Zombie Cells and An Old Soul

I struggle with how much I can write about my kids.  They are 10 and 7 now, and while they don't object to me talking about them on the blog, yet, when something scary or sensitive comes up I don't really know where the line is.

When Greta was grappling with anxiety I posted about it, once, and received so much support and helpful advice, that my heart-gut wants to post about what is going on with her now.  But my heart-gut also says it's not my story to tell.

My mind has gone around and around and I've decided to write about it, because it's on my heart and I need to share.

Greta had a suspicious mole removed from her back a couple of weeks ago, and now it's come back as "abnormal cells with moderate to severe indication of melanoma".


We're getting lots of advice from her dermatologist and friends about exactly what this means, how concerned we should be.  We know for sure she'll have to go back and have more removed, the usual procedure for anything suspicious.

But the "M" word? For my 10 year old girl?  It makes me want to curl up in a ball and ask someone else to be the parent.

Apparently this is genetic - not sun exposure. When she was 3 days old she developed a large mole and the pediatrician looked at me gravely and said "you're going to have to watch her skin closely ... this isn't usual for such a young baby".

So I'm crazy about sunscreen, sun shirts, doing everything in my limited power to protect her.

But DAMMIT. There is only so much I can do, of course.

Hopefully the silver lining will be that she will checked regularly, her whole life, and this will mean nothing scary can get out of hand.

But I don't WANT that for my kid, Universe.  We've spent the past year and a half in Cancer Land. I'm always going to be a denizen of that realm, and it's taking me a long time and a lot of hard work to come to terms with it for myself.

Please, please, may my daughter never have to live there, too.

This doesn't mean she has cancer or she'll ever get cancer.  My Mom heart soars into terror, knowing how aggressive melanoma is, even as I realize I'm overlaying my own traumatic past year and a half over her. She's not me. I know this.  But if I could jump in front of this bullet for her - even it's a rubber bullet that will only bruise her - I would.

This doesn't help her anxiety, either.  She's too intuitive, too nuanced, to believe my reasonably voiced assurances.  "This could be bad, right, Momma?" she asks, tears flowing down her cheeks.

"It's not anything right now, sweetie," I answer.  She asks more about cancer, and I try to make it simple.  "Cancer is a really scary word, I know," I say. "But all cancer really means is cells that change, and cells change for all different reasons.  And you have strong cells in your body that fight off that bad cells, too.  You are young and healthy and you don't need to be afraid", I say, convincing myself as much as her.

She is quiet a moment, and then she says, "Like Plants vs. Zombies?  The video game? I have some Zombie cells and the Good Plant Cells are fighting them off but sometimes they can't get them all and then they have to take the Zombie cells out?"

After my own stunned silence I say, pushing back tears, "Yes.  It's exactly like that".  Oh, my wise old soul little girl, I don't say.

Some prayers our way would be appreciated. I'm working on keeping my feet planted firmly on the earth, not letting the awfulizing cycle of bad-scenarios take up too much space in my head. 

This morning I watched her sprint like a gazelle down the soccer field, brown ponytail flying behind her, a big smile planted on her face as she lined up a seemingly impossible shot and BAM! -- she scored.   She high fived and hugged her team mates and looked over at us with a grin. There she is. I think.  My girl.  So vibrant and strong and full of life.

And today?  Today things are good.  If we stay in today step by step we'll work through this, like we always do.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

This IS a post about recovery. Of mind, body and spirit. Why I'm so happy.

I'm trying - really I am - to not deluge you with what has been happening to my body - inside and out - since joining Arbonne.  So if you are a closed person who only wants to hear about alcoholism, kids and cancer, skip this post.

On second thought - if you come here to read about alcoholism, kids and cancer ...READ ON. 

I started, officially, as an Arbonne consultant about three weeks ago, and as I posted before my life changed within the first week. I'd been using their skin care products and raving about them and my friend convinced me to sign up for real. 

I am having a BALL.  So, yeah, I'm gonna post about it, because so much is moving so fast for me I don't really have anything else to say anyway.

My skin was ravaged by cancer, and last year Arbonne's RE9 line fixed it in a WEEK.  

Since having cancer I know all about the toxins in the personal care products we put on our body - the number is STAGGERING.  Here's a few things you may not know:

NIOSH (National Safety Institute of Occupational Safety & Health) conducted a study of 2,893 chemicals used in personal care products. Did you know chemicals applied to your skin are in every organ in your body in 26 seconds? The results of this study are terrifying: 778 of these studied chemicals caused acute toxicity. 218 caused reproductive complications. 148 caused TUMORS

What do you put on your face/body/hair every day? Since having cancer I don't mess around anymore, and I certainly don't mess around with what my kids use, either. Deodorant, toothpaste and shampoo are some of the worst offenders. This is not a sales pitch - this is a message that can save your health and the health of your kids. Seriously.

So yeah, if you come here to read about cancer, that's pretty relevant.

Now we come to the inside of my body. I hadn't tried any of Arbonne's fitness products. I did know they reduced the acidity in your system, and acidity is a KNOWN link to cancer, diabetes and MANY other chronic diseases. Even before signing up for Arbonne, my oncologist told me an Alkaline (the opposite of acidity) diet gives me the best chances of staying in remission. Or if you've never had cancer or other chronic illness- of not getting it at all.

The fitness essentials program is gluten, dairy, soy, processed sugar free (all toxins) and the cornerstone to the 30 day fit program is a VEGAN protein shake (NOT SOY or WHEY) that builds muscle mass, eliminates toxins (toxins are anything your body can't convert to energy), gives you energy and balances your blood sugar and metabolism. It's not a fad diet - those DO NOT work.   By eliminating so many of the toxins we eat without even thinking, and giving you a simple program to make your body as healthy as possible, what is there to lose?  OH YEAH. WEIGHT.

Check out where I am only 18 days into the 30 day fit program: 

I have said I'm not a salesperson, and I'm not. I'm a storyteller.  This is my story, what's going on with me right now.  

If you come here to read about kids, motherhood, etc. - this is for you, too.  The stuff we put on our kids' bodies is shocking and we don't even know we're doing it. We're not bad people - we're just uninformed. Shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant and sunscreens are some of the worst, and Arbonne has products safe for your children to use, too.

I haven't even started on how much fun I've having as a consultant, improving peoples' health, mental well being - helping them feel back in control of their body inside and out.  So if you come here to read about alcoholism and recovery?  THIS is about self-love, clearing up your body after years of toxins and not loving it or yourself very much.  I know - I've been there.   Being in recovery is an inside job, both mentally and physically, and stopping harming my body.  I don't put crap IN or ON my body any more.  

And I'm saving money by not buying the latest rage of a diet fad, or diet pill (STAY AWAY FROM THOSE) or every-other skin cream so I can look like the Clinique model.   I want to look and feel like the best me.

Best yet - being a consultant is the best thing I've ever done. I've done a lot of cool things. But this beats it all hands-down.

So, yeah. There you have it.  I have some tough stuff going on now, too, that I'm not ready to blog about.  But I'm giving my mind and body the best shot possible to deal with adversity because I feel FREAKING GREAT. 

If you want to learn more - and I say this as a story teller not a sales person - send me an email to   People email me all the time about drinking or cancer after reading something that is working for me.  This is no different.   If you unsubscribe because this feels all salesy and weird to you - well, I'll miss you.  


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

20% off ONE DAY ONLY at Two Little Birds Studio!! April 10, 2013

I'm hosting my first-ever Open House Coffee & Jewelry event tomorrow (Wed. 4/10 from 10am - 2pm).

The last one I tried to host my Dad died three days before.  Then I tried again but was diagnosed with cancer.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little superstitious about tomorrow, but I'm going for it!

So if you're local, stop on by (send me and email to if you don't know where I live).  

Here's the kicker - everything in my Two Little Birds Studio store is 20% off for ONE DAY only!  This is THE time to get your Mother's Day, Graduation, First Communion, Teacher of Birthday gifts  Or heck - get something for yourself!

To take advantage of this sale, go to my shop Two Little Birds Studio, put your item(s) in the cart, and DO NOT press "go to checkout".  Instead, select "View Cart" and you'll see a place to put a coupon code.  Enter this code: OPENHOUSE20.  20% will automatically deduct from your entire order.   If for some reason the code doesn't work, just send me an email and I'll send you the 20% off over paypal.

These are hand stamped pieces you can customize any way you'd like to create that perfect, personalized gift at an amazingly low price!!

Will you help me spread the word, too?  I'm only going to have this deep a discount for ONE day, starting at midnight tonight (EST) and ending midnight tomorrow night (EST).

These are all sterling silver (unless there is also brass or copper in the piece) and you can choose from many styles of fonts and colored crystals or pearls.

Don't miss out! 

Thank you so much!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Faces In The Waiting Room

The doors to the elevator whoosh open, and the familiar scents and sounds of the 11th floor Head & Neck Surgical Oncology ward assault my senses. The piney-sweet smell of hospital cleaning fluids, tinged with something vaguely rotten, make me crinkle my nose.

Next to me a woman about my age lies on a stretcher, her neck swathed in bandages and a large surgical drain dangles out of a hole near her collarbone. I unconsciously finger the small white round scar left from my own drain, many months ago.

I tick back in my head and think: how long ago was that me lying there on a stretcher? A few minutes of pondering and I realize it is one year to the day - to the minute, actually - that I had completed the neck surgery that removed a stubborn lump of what we hoped were dead cancer cells and 23 of my lymph nodes.

I shudder, remembering the crippling fear and pain of those days. Waiting anxiously to hear if they got it all, lying helpless in the hospital moaning in discomfort.

One year. Whoa.

The orderly pushes the woman towards me, and I see soft tears quietly streaming down her cheeks. I yearn to grab her hand and tell her this is the worst part.  But maybe it isn't. Maybe she won't be lucky like I was and they couldn't get all her cancer.  I shoot a silent prayer her way, and turn the corner into the head & neck surgical oncology waiting room.  I'm here for a routine check-up, but my stomach is flip-flopping with butterflies. I haven't been here since Christmas, and have been having odd twinges of pain, some difficulty swallowing and increasing dryness in the back of my throat.  I don't know if this is normal or not.

The waiting room is a stark reminder of the ravages of head &  neck cancer. A man with most of his lower jaw missing writes a note to his wife on a little whiteboard. A woman struggles to speak to the receptionist through the hole in her throat.  All around me are people covered in bandages - over eyes, ears, necks and even entire heads.

I look down at my hands, wishing with all my heart I could be somewhere else.  I read yesterday that Roger Ebert's throat cancer came back, and I'm a nervous wreck.

I've been feeling good lately - physically, emotionally and spiritually.  I'm building my new Arbonne business, alongside my thriving jewelry business, and I wake up with a spring in my step every morning, eager to tackle the day.  If you had shown me a picture of my life today when it was me on that stretcher, I would not have believed what I saw.

I have gained all my weight back, and then some, but am working it down again with exercise, yoga and a 30 day fit kit program from Arbonne.  My veins course with healthy vitamins, supplements and proteins.  I have more energy than I can ever remember having.  I feel like I don't belong here, but I do.  I'm still a Cancer Person.

At the end of my treatment I remember thinking: I can't wait until cancer is firmly in my rear view mirror. Here I am, a year later, and I've learned something: cancer is never truly in your rear view mirror.  It's more like a shadow passenger in the back seat, mostly quiet and I think it may have gone, and then I'll hear a faint cough or shuffling of feet and I'll think:  oh yeah.  Cancer's back there.

I'm finally called into the exam room, and the doctor cheerfully asks me how I'm doing. My feet swing madly back and forth as he peers down into my throat, feels around with his gloved fingers, and mutters things like hmmmmm.

Hmmmmm is officially my least favorite sound.

I'm too scared to ask what he sees, and silently let him complete his exam.  He scribbles notes in my folder for what seems like ages, then snaps it shut and turns to me with a smile and says looks good!

A follow-up appointment that will include a CT Scan is scheduled for the end of May.

I rush out of the hospital and into the fresh spring air, feeling like a prisoner on a 10 week reprieve.

Driving home, I think of the faces in the waiting room, wondering what news they are getting today.  I realize I'm always going to be a face in that waiting room - my doctor says he'll follow-up with me "until he retires". He's in his late 40s.

I turn up the radio, roll down the windows and sing along as I drive down the highway.  Cancer settles into the back seat, hunkers down and goes quiet. At least for now.