Friday, December 27, 2013

A Christmas I will NEVER Forget

Gosh.... this has been quite a holiday season and New Year's has not even hit yet, I am trying to stay grounded and focused as I prepare for all 2014 has in store for me. Before I share something that I feel is pretty amazing, I want to give some back story for those of you who may not understand without it.

Rewinding to December 1980, I was living in my hometown of Ware, Massachusetts and my life was a very happy one. I was a little girl surrounded by a loving family had many friends and relatives nearby. Our immediate family consisted of my newborn brother Aaron, born on December 18th, 1980, my brother Keith who was 7 years older than me, my sister Teresa who was 9 years older and my foster sister Lisa who was 11 years older; and of course my mom and dad. We were truly one big happy family and everyone knew that. We lived a Christian life and even attended Christian school; it was simply how we were. Back then, I was taught that if you did what God said in the bible and lived as he wanted us to, that all would be good in your life, so to me it made complete sense.

July 31st, 1981... my sister Teresa was involved in a drunk driving accident leaving her in a coma for 5 days before she passed away on August 5th due to severe head injuries. It was sudden, it was tragic... and indeed a terrible accident that tore my family and my faith to shreds. The man who was driving the vehicle that was ultimately responsible for my sister's death was only 19... he was being 19. Many of us (including me) have gotten behind a wheel we should have called a cab, his fate just brought him to a place many of us have luckily never been. He lived...

For years I did not know the whole story of what happened... I  overheard bits and clips as my family talked about it here and there but one thing I always felt was an emptiness inside... I wanted to know more about what happened that night.

I stopped believing in God as I got older, and by the time I was in middle school, God was merely a "Holy Santa Claus" to me... non existent, just some made up dude that was supposed to make you feel safe when you were feeling not. What I am saying is that I was an atheist for most of my adult life. I struggled... a lot. My life was always two steps forward and three steps back and because of that for many years I was constantly frustrated and confused at what I did to "deserve" this kind of life.

Then in 2005 when I was faced with a situation that I could not handle alone, my mom told me in a hotel room out n California to "surrender it to God". I remember chuckling and mocking her saying "yeah... right I have been "praying" all week and God has done NOTHING for me." She would not be swayed and insisted that I "Give this to God." I had been angry at this invisible entity for years and actually blamed Him for everything that had gone wrong in my life. However, that day I had exhausted all of my efforts and had nothing left so I fell to my knees sobbing at the situation I was in and yelled out and said, "Okay GOD, if you are real then SHOW ME! You have done NOTHING for me in life but give me crap that I did not deserve, and caused me a bunch of pain so if you want to prove to me that YOU exist and that you CARE then take this... I got nothing left, take it and FIX IT and I will praise you forever and tell the world you are real."

Although I was not a " believer" anymore, I suppose it was my time to see a miracle because less than 24 hours later, what I had been trying to solve for 9 days "my way" was solved so effortlessly that I barley believed it myself.

That day changed my life and over the next several years I started learning more about this "great man" in a way that was real, not altered or changed to "fit" a religious mold. I learned the truth about God and his son Jesus. That too changed my life in a way I cannot describe, it was so eye opening to learn that what I had learned as a kid was not true. Just because you are a Christian does not mean that you will not struggle, it does not mean you won't feel pain or have grief, it just means that when you are in these moments you can truly call on Him and he will get you through it. Look, I am no holy-rolling Bible-thumper... that would turn you off, just as it does me. I am just sharing my story in hopes that if you are down and out that you will maybe do what I did and be lucky enough to experience what I have since that day.

Now fast forward to July 2010...  I started writing my book when I was at my lowest... by far the toughest year of my life at that point; and writing was all I had to do to stay positive and in forward motion. For the first time since 1981 I reached out and asked my mom to tell me play by play what happened that night and she shared the story in tears. It was the first time I had ever heard it. Over the next few days I could not help but wonder what ever happened to the guy who was driving so I searched his name and found one man with that name on Facebook and it was in a nearby town of where I grew up. At the time I wanted to send a message but I was not sure what to say or if it was even him, so I refrained. The book was finished and released on what would have been my sister's 47th birthday... October 19th, 2012. On April 27th, 2013, I was going to be traveling to Massachusetts for a book signing in my hometown and I had an uncontrollable urge to send a message to that guy on Facebook who I had found in hopes that it was him. Something inside my heart wanted him to know that something good came out of that tragic event, an inspirational book that began with losing my sister. I wanted him to know that I forgave him and that I knew that it was an accident. I assumed that this man had lived with an unbelievable guilt for all of these years because he never served any time for what he did and something inside of me wanted to relieve him of that.

So... I sent a message to that man telling him who I was looking for and gave him a link to my website for the book. About a week later he emailed me through the website and told me that I had the right guy. He sent me a very brief " I live with that guilt every single day." And that was it. I replied inviting him to the book signing and said I would like to meet him if he could make it... I never heard from him again. Later I found that his Facebook was set as private and I took it as he wanted to be left alone. I was sad, but understanding. I somehow thought he would be the key to finding out more about what happened in the last moments of my sister's living life, it was a connection to answers, to my past... to my sister that I wanted so deeply.

Since then my faith in God has grown even stronger and wonderful things are happening in my life left and right. I have prayed for that man and had hopes that he would somehow find that "Big Guy" himself because I know that He can give you peace like no other. So Christmas Eve Night/ wee hours of Christmas morning actually, I was writing my last blog post... feeling very spiritual and wanted to shout out to the big guy above on the day we celebrate His life... this was about 1:30 a.m. Christmas morning. As I always do... after finishing my blog post, I immediately open Facebook to post it to all my pages and groups that I belong to. I saw at that moment that I had 3 Facebook messages. I posted my blog links and then checked my messages. When I opened my box... I saw his name first. The man who drove the vehicle had sent me a message and had been simultaneously typing it as I was typing my Christmas blog... WAY later than I had originally planned. I trembled and came to tears as I opened that email and this is what it said:

Hello Shelley, I am so sorry that I could not attend the event at the library in Ware in April. I am also sorry that I was not able to talk to you more about what happened. For personal reasons I was unable to contact you or email you back. That being said... I must tell you that I feel compelled on this Christmas Eve contact you and tell you how much I regret what happened on that night...I did not mean for it to happen. It was simply an accident and I pay for it everyday of my life.. I live with the guilt of taking her life everyday...I wish that I was the one who passed. The holidays make me think of family and at this time of year..I ALWAYS think of your sister and your family. The thought of your family having to deal with the loss of your sister must be devastating...the hopes and aspirations of a beautiful, intelligent, vibrant young woman were taken away by my selfish decision to drink and drive. That night will forever haunt my memory and will forever be etched in my mind. I can only imagine what she would have done with her life if I had not chosen to drink and drive. Words will never express the pain I feel and I am sure that they will never express the loss that you r family felt that night. I am truly sorry for what happened. Maybe it's divine intervention that is making me contact you or maybe the spirit of Christmas...I just could not sleep thinking about it and I had to contact you. I hope your family has a very Merry Christmas and I hope that you all know that I am TRULY SORRY for what happened that night. If you have any questions or if you would like to contact me please feel free to email me.

And he gave me his email address. 

I emailed him back and said:

Hearing back from you was the most emotional Christmas gift ever. I have so much more to say but will have to wait until these tears dry up. Thank you SO much... and yes, divine intervention indeed, I call Him God. Merry Christmas I will write soon. ~Shelley~

He replied once more:

Yes...god is a big part of my life... I look forward to hearing from you...

It was honestly the best Christmas gift ever. A chance to connect with my past... a painful part of it and to forgive someone selflessly that probably deserves that forgiveness, for we are ALL worthy of being forgiven. THAT is what you learn when you learn about the one TRUE GOD; we are all worthy.

As I end this blog tonight I hope you get the message... I hope you take something from it that you may not have thought about before because that is all I want. One last thing I will share that is kind of funny... and ironic and well.... kind of perfect for this post. When you "say" you are a Christian, you actually have to act like one and many that I know do not. They judge, ridicule, make fun of and exclude people just because of something they are, are not or something they did. I am here to say that if you want to live as Jesus did, you have to love ALL forgive ALL and be a good person to every person no matter who they are or what they choose. I have found that as I have done this my life has turned around and I am blessed more and more each day. 

Several months ago I was in a gift shop delivering a book to the owner in hopes of her carrying my book there and she told me that I had a "presence". I have heard that so many times in the past few years and it's kind of weird to hear it because I am not always sure if it's a compliment or an insult. She asked me to find my name in a collection of name cards in this binder that she had and said I could have one. I laughed and said... "my name is not spelled traditionally, it is spelled S-H-E-L-L-E-Y... my name is NEVER in any of the gift shop goodies with names... never a pencil, a key chain or anything growing up." She said, "Well just look and if you find it take the card." I flipped through and low and behold there it was... only one card and I almost fell over when I read it. I now carry it in my wallet everywhere I go along with another card that I wrote one word on at a training I went to this year and well... these are the only reminders of my purpose that I will ever need.

Have a great night guys and gals! I love you all and THANKS for reading!



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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

On This Special Christmas Day

This has been a stressful one for me... I am not going to lie. December seemed so short and so busy that time got away which left me speed shopping for gifts and groceries two days before the big day. I was not able to make my "from scratch" Christmas cookies for all of my clients as I have for several years now, and I found that my obsessive compulsiveness was getting the best of me. Our tree was finally finished tonight as I was prepping the food for tomorrows family feast, and if it were not for my two special elves, my wrapping would have never been done. This year, more hustle and bustle consumed me than my brain and body could handle and if you know me, I typically handle a lot. As I watched photos of family and friends being posted as the holidays approached I could not help but feel I was missing out.

Although as I sit here my intent was to write a Christmas Eve blog, as time would have it, it is now officially Christmas morning. The gifts are ready to be placed under the tree, my homemade spaghetti sauce for my "Italian" Christmas is brewing, and it finally smells like Christmas as a Christmas bundt cake for tomorrow's dessert just came out of the oven all warm and yummy. I am finally feeling like normalcy has set in... I am trying to calm my mind in order to enjoy what tomorrow brings; I have allowed the craziness to overcome me up until now. I was busy... it's my life and I am quickly realizing that I let it get too far this month.


T'was Christmas morning and all through my head,
feelings of craziness danced around so I said;
Not a single moment more, this is not how it"ll be,
Just enjoy spending time with your family.
Stop worrying about the things that don't matter... you have what you need,
God has made sure for you've done some good deeds.
He is the reason we celebrate this day, yes.. a father gave a son and our sins washed away.
As we are busy shopping and stressing over what it's not,
God watches and hopes we'll remember what we're taught.
Many of you may feel you don't deserve this kind of care,
But rest assured my dear friend, God is always there.
We can't do life alone...  we need that great man
I learned this through struggles, and now I'm a fan.
I didn't feel worthy, for I made many mistakes,
But He loved me the most as my heart filled with aches.
And now as I sit here in awe of His love
I am honored to celebrate our great God above.





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Friday, December 20, 2013

What Makes You Smile?

I am starting tonight's post off as originally intended... a post about what makes people smile. The idea spun off of asking that very question on one of my Facebook pages yesterday. I was feeling kind of overwhelmed and frustrated with the lack of time I had to finish all that I have to do this week. (Can you say near breakdown? YEP ME!) Bottom line is that I needed to smile so I quickly posted "What makes you smile?" on my personal page and the comments began pouring in. My initial reason for posting was because any time I can make someone else smile and think positive, I cheer up... it's a win win. Weird perhaps, but it's how I am wired. I am the same way with shopping. I can shop for myself but the feeling I have at the end  is not that great.

I mean sure... I may like the shirt I bought or feel sassy in the new heels I own, but I actually end up feeling guilty for buying something for myself when I did not really need it. I am insanely practical which is a blessing AND a curse.

Now, flip the scenario and give me a reason to shop for someone else? I get excited, empowered and can shop until I am broke and not even blink. (Been there, done that, have the bank statements to prove it.) So, as the day went on, my mood changed as people posted what made them happy. It was awesome... because not one person said "things" or "gadgets" or nice cars or buying fancy clothes. In fact many people said kindness... small gestures, kind words, family, their children. It made me smile because when we dig deep down we KNOW that material things don't make us smile, they merely help us feel like we fit in. We give up time with the things that make us smile for things that have no real value... how crazy is that?

It's Christmas,  a lot of people have very little... some have nothing, but when you still have things that make you smile isn't THAT what matters? Don't worry so much about buying gifts people in your life don't need or want, don't stress over things that don't matter. Focus on time with family, loving and supporting others and perhaps helping someone in need... a complete stranger even, because THAT is what Christmas is all about.

It brings me back to just a few years ago.. Christmas 2009 when I literally had $100 left for Christmas after paying my bills. I had 4 children, one who was only 2 months old. I was a single mom feeling defeated by the holiday stress. I sent my youngest three to their Dad's and told him to do "Santa" because I could not. My oldest and I had no plans for Christmas Eve and it was looking like bologna sandwiches for Christmas dinner. On Christmas Eve morning as I sulked in my sadness I said to my daughter "hey... we have $100 dollars and that will buy a ton for homeless people, lets go shopping and collect stuff out of the house and garage and go deliver gifts to the homeless tomorrow" ... that is exactly what we did. We only spent $10 of that money on ourselves for a lunch at Five Guys. We bought toiletries at the Dollar Tree and went Goodwill hunting for gloves, hats and warm jackets. We collected unused items and clothing from our own garage and I filled up the back of a friend's Suburban as if it were Santa's sleigh. We had a BLAST! On Christmas morning I made pancakes and we set out on our journey to find homeless people in need and gave them a Merry Christmas. It was honestly THE BEST Christmas I EVER had and my daughter agrees.

Now for my detour which fits in perfectly here... this morning I woke up to a private post from a fairly new friend who lost her home and everything in it yesterday after it burned to the ground just days before Christmas. She is a hard working single mother who has two teen boys and who also takes care of her mother. She was not asking for money or anything... she simply told us the news and said that  "I know there has to be a bright side to this. I know God doesn't let things happen to you that you can't handle." I was truly CRUSHED and recalled that Christmas when I felt that I had nothing.

I immediately started a relief fund for her and am hoping to give her some hope and cheer this Christmas season. When you lose everything material you really cling onto and appreciate what you do have; and that is hope, love, support, family and friends. I am hoping that you can find it in your heart to help a stranger tonight... you don't have to have a lot of money because every dollar counts as well as every share, tweet, and pin. There are still many good people in this crazy, corrupt world, and it is up to us to show others that being nice and generous is NOT weird, it's COOL and maybe by doing this we do our part to fix humanity. No... I can't save the world but I can sure die trying and so can you.

Here is the link to the relief fund I have set up. PLEASE help me raise as MUCH as possible.You may not have any money to give but the time it takes to click "share" counts too! All of YOU can be a part of true Christmas giving. MERRY CHRISTMAS!



Congratulations to Robert Dodd... one of the ones who posted a response to my post "What makes you happy?"  His name was picked and he has won an amazon gift card and a signed copy of my book.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Embracing the Winds of Change

"There comes a time in many situations when you have to ask yourself... Is this really for me? Have I had or endured enough? Am I ready for something more, something different? Or perhaps you just need to take a moment to be silent and alone in order to think straight in order to be happy with what is going on. These are the moments when change happens, it is moments like this when we reflect on the things that are going on in our lives that our future truly unfolds. The most important thing in these moments is to be REAL with ourselves... to be honest and get in check; no excuses, no judgments, just absolute positive change for the better."
©Shelley Giard

So this is how it starts... a random thought that crosses my mind when I am quiet enough to listen for a moment in this crazy, busy life that I lead and so I write it down; a blog post is born. It is no secret to me why this thought is running through my head, it is actually not random at all. In fact as this year quickly reaches it's demise, I am both anxious and nervous in what the new year has to bring. The winds of dramatic change are in my very near future and although I am terribly excited, it is honestly a bit unnerving; (Just ask my trapezius muscles who are screaming as the tension builds.) I should be used to change... for it has been the only constant in my life for many years; but oh how I wish to just sit still for some time and just be... my time will come.

I have learned to embrace the moments when I sense a shift because it is when the most miraculous things have happened in my life, it is when growth has become the inevitable and that thought is always in the forefront of my mind. I am not scared, nor fearful or rebellious, but accepting, mindful and know that with change often comes a promise of bigger, better things. THAT makes it worth the growing pains and learning curves that are also part of the process.

Are you experiencing change? Do you feel a shift in your life or are you stuck right where you are due to fear or uncertainty? I know, it is easy to hang out in comfort... it's warm and cozy and familiar, but when you KNOW that things are evolving DON'T stifle it... latch on and run in the direction of freedom and leave behind whatever it is that holds you back. I promise the only regret you will ever have is not taking that leap of faith... I remind myself of this all of the time when I question that little voice inside my head that says "Just GO, and don't ever look back."

This blog isn't that "Christmassy", or maybe to you it is. Maybe all you want for Christmas is for things to change... for circumstances to be different and well in that case, here is your chance to open up this great big gift of CHANGE, it's got your name on it and a big giant bow that you can stick to your head afterwards. (that's what I do) Inside is just the hope you need to carry on and accept what is ahead of you. I know for me the moments that I held my breath also led to the very moments that took it away.





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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A little Holiday Cheer

Happy Tuesday! I am sorry for the delayed blog post; busy season is among us and I am like a chicken with my head cut off this time of year. (Losing a week did not help!) Now, I am not sure what or even if you celebrate this time of year, but the simple fact that you clicked this link tells me that you may need some holiday cheer, (whoa unintentional rhyme) Anyway... my goal is to deliver that something special that you may need.

If you like sunshine, then Florida is definitely the place to be during Christmas. Even after living here for nearly 15 years, I still find it REALLY hard to get into the holiday spirit wearing tank tops and flip flops. In fact, when I saw this weather map on Facebook I laughed out loud and could not help but wish that I could simply wear a fluffy sweater and snow boots this year. (I suppose I could but would likely die of heat exhaustion, not to mention look a bit strange.) So... I will live vicariously through those who post pictures of  beautiful snow covered trees, icicles and snowmen and allow it to bring me back to when I was just a little girl in Massachusetts.

 My holidays were surrounded by the seasons, I loved jumping in piles of raked leaves in the fall, but winter was my favorite season of all. The barren trees were always covered in that glistening white magic and the calm quiet of winter was always so peaceful. One of my favorite things was the way the light hit the snow on a moonlit night outside the huge front windows of the A-frame tudor home that my dad built; I could see the lawn from my room because it was the loft which faced that window.We always had a fire going during this time of year and because of that, I still love the smell of a wood burning fireplace. I loved popping popcorn over the fire in an old fashioned popper (Little house on the Prairie style) while Mom and Dad sang Christmas songs like O Holy Night I to the strums of his guitar. That is how I remember my childhood Christmases, they were awesome and the memories of those times are something I hold very dear. I had hoped that I would give those kind of memories to my kids however felt as if I had failed to do that in this season-less state, until my beautiful daughter Baleigh reminded me that I was wrong.

This year, we decided to get a huge real tree, and because real trees are a little more challenging to hang heavy ornaments on, I decided to just do a "show tree" and not my traditional tree with all the "special" ornaments. I whipped it together thinking nothing of it even though I had initially thought we would do what we always do and decorate it together. It just seemed to be the "easiest" thing to do considering time was of the essence and it was hard to tell them where to stuff raffia. On Sunday, Baleigh and I went to church and on our way back she asked, "Mom, when are we going to decorate the tree?" I explained that I decided to do a themed tree this year and that it was already done, still thinking nothing of it. Until... she got quiet and when I looked over I saw tears forming in her eyes.

When I asked her what was wrong, she tried to say that her allergies were bothering her... (man, that kid is just like me!) but because of this I knew that she was not being truthful.After several minutes I finally managed to pull out of her that she loved decorating the tree and putting all those special ornaments on that I have collected over the years; she honestly could hardly stop the tears from falling.

It was in that moment that I realized that despite the fact that I feel I was unable to create special holiday traditions in this ridiculous heat... for her, the time we took remembering the moments when we made these ornaments together... and how amazing it always is to pull them out year after year realizing how quickly time really does fly. My heart was warmed and I was so proud of her. So in honor of our Christmas tradition, next week when my oldest daughter Cierra comes home, we will re-decorate the tree. Me and all my little munchkins... the ones who give me so much joy and so many smiles because THAT is what truly means the most and we will do it while wearing tank tops and flip flops!




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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Holy Moley Shells is 40!!!!!!!!

Yep, today is my 40th birthday. This creative square-pegged girl arrived on December 5th, 1973. It's kinda hard to believe I have been around that long until I start thinking about all of the things I have experienced in my life; when I do that it seems that I should be turning 90... it's pretty crazy actually. Hey... I survived, I made it out of my 20's, through my 30's and the best years of my life are ahead (or so I hear.) I sure hope "they" are right about that whoever "they" are!

God has toughened me up over the tears to survive most anything and I am truly thankful for that. Although I have a peace inside my heart, it does not mean I do not struggle just as everyone does with emotions, circumstances, feelings, ambitions and dreams that I hope to make come true. (Key word in that sentence is "hope".) One thing that I have learned that I could not unlearn even if I wanted to, is that you have to take everything that comes your way for what it is and realize that it is part of the journey you are destined to travel. Yes... I believe we all have a destiny, we all have a purpose and for the first time in my 40 years of life, I feel like I am living mine and must say it feels pretty darn amazing despite the struggles that still come my way in life. I know now beyond the shadow of doubt they are there for a reason, a lesson is to be learned, another brick is given to build my castle. Just as soon as I get confused, hurt, angry or sad, I talk myself out of it as quickly as I can by listening to the peace in my heart which always cleanses my negative thoughts and replaces it with hope and reminds me.... "you have been here before, it's going to be okay." So as I sit here on the eve of my 40th birthday tapping my thoughts out so that I can post this hopeful inspiring message by midnight's strike, I am content with all that is happening even if I don't like some of it. I have SO much to be thankful for, I have lived out SO many things in life that many told me I never would and at moments I almost thought they were right; but that didn't stop me and because of that I know that the best is yet to come. I found my original "LIFE GOALS" list a few weeks ago and I was able to check everything off. WOW... it was a shocking surprise to me but I am not a lucky girl... I am simply a girl who is loved.

I want to say thanks to all of you for the continued support, for sharing these blogs with others which has helped me grow to over 33,000 readers; I could NEVER have done that without you. YOU are the inspiration to the one whose mission is to inspire; for without you my only audience would be an empty computer screen ( In that case I would rather watch paint dry.)

The next decade will be amazing because I will do everything I can to make it that way for my family and hopefully even for you. (I have some things up my sleeve, just WAIT!) It is because of that and the big man upstairs who is holding me tight in his arms that I will start today with a smile and end it with peaceful thoughts. I will continue giving of myself, my time and my resources in order to make other people's lives better because that is what makes me happiest. I will never allow the negative things to overcome the positives and always keep that peace in my heart. I am not perfect in my own eyes, I make mistakes every single day but I know there is one set of eyes that sees no flaws in me but merely the road I travel each day leading me to my destiny and that keeps happy in my heart with all that I do and experience even when my exterior shows frustration and pain.

I will end this post with something funny because I am NOT serious all of the time, ANYONE who knows me in person or online knows that and I am feeling a bit too Hallmark right now. I found this a few months ago and decided to save it for this post. Andy Rooney sure was a funny guy!


"As I grow in age, I value women over 40 most of all. Here are just a few reasons why:

A woman over 40 will never wake you in the middle of the night and ask, 'What are you thinking?' She doesn't care what you think. If a woman over 40 doesn't want to watch the game, she doesn't sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do, and it's usually more interesting. Women over 40 are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won't hesitate to shoot you if they think they can get away with it. Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it's like to be unappreciated. Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over 40. Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over 40 is far sexier than her younger counterpart. Older women are forthright and honest. They'll tell you right off if you are a jerk if you are acting like one. You don't ever have to wonder where you stand with her. Yes, we praise women over 40 for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it's not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed, hot woman over 40, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of his self with some 22-year old waitress. Ladies, I apologize.

I love you all, thank you for reading and thank you for all of the birthday love. 



For my birthday all I want is for you to smile, share this in order to make someone else smile and go hug a tree or something ;)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Change Is Necessary To Fulfill Dreams; Sharing a "PINCH ME" Moment

Many years ago as I was climbing the ladder of my initial dream of becoming an influential hairstylist, I would thumb through hair industry magazines such as Modern Salon and American Salon looking for inspiration for creating looks through haircuts, color and makeup that would get me noticed. Through this I became familiar with the NAHA competition and in the year 2000 I decided to enter the makeover competition and asked an aspiring photographer friend of mine to shoot the entry photos for me. It was truly the beginning of a future that not even I saw unfolding right before me. At the time, I was laser beam focused on becoming a top hairstylist/platform artist and had become an educator for two hair care companies trying to do just that. I was very pleased at what I had created for the competition as far as the makeovers themselves, but what I did not quite grasp, was how important the photography was until it was over and the winners were announced and published. I realized then that it was not simply a competition on how creative you could get with color or haircuts, or even makeup... but more of a collaboration from a team of artists coming together to create something amazing, beautiful and a bit funky.

The more I looked at magazines and studied the winners of this competition as well as the photos that were in the print ads on every page, the more I realized I was in love with the photographs and how beautiful of an art form they were. Although I climbed that ladder all the way to being a platform assistant for ARTec Wordlwide and the lead American educator for Grazette of Sweden, I quickly realized that perhaps I was chasing the wrong dream. My passion had begun to change as I started studying the work of the photographers instead of the hairstylists. I began thumbing through magazines looking at the lighting, the makeup, the clothing, the hair and how it all came together and became more inspired than I had ever been. There was one photographer whose images jumped out at me like no others had... his images were so unique, and out there, and beautiful. I folded the corners of the pages I saw his work on and even tore some of them out. The day I realized his images were smeared all over the NAHA competition I remember saying to myself "I will work with him someday."  That may not seem too far fetched until I give you the detail that this photographer, Frank Doorhof  lived in the Netherlands; far from where I was in Tampa Florida; not to mention that I didn't even have a passport. Shortly after that I started networking with photographers and began creating a portfolio of everything that I loved; hair, makeup and wardrobe.

Fast forward to 7 years later when my portfolio got noticed by a guy named Scott Kelby whose business assistant called and booked me for a photo shoot the very next day. (This is a crazy story in itself which I shared in a previous blog; I will post that link) So... I began working with Scott and his company Kelby Media as well as his many photographer friends who happened to be the best in their field and who also happen to spend their days training their fans all over the world how to create beautiful images. It was truly that "lucky break" that people talk about but even I did not know the magnitude of what this gig would mean to my life when it happened. After working with Scott for a few years, and even filming my own makeup course on Kelby training, I was with Scott one day and he told me about a new "super cool photographer" that was going to come and shoot a course for them. The next words out of his mouth as he showed me some of "this guys" photos were "His name is Frank Doorhof." I almost fell over... no joke. I tried to not be the fan girl that I truly was and simply shared with Scott that I was VERY familiar with Frank's work. I seriously remember crying on my way home that day. A dream was coming true... I was going to work with this amazing photographer that I had been following for years long before photo-shoots became part of my every day.

This is Frank taking a photo of the video team and I in an elevator on location for Kelby Training

Now that you know the back story, I can share the current story. Since that day, I have worked with Frank many times on several shoots and through creating amazing images together we have become great friends. Working with him has been a thrill ride every time and I think that by being familiar with his funky out-of-the-box style long before I met him, the connection was already there. Just when I thought we had reached a beautiful plateau, Frank asked me if he could interview me for his online show "The DOORhof is Always Open" over lunch at Photoshop World in Las Vegas this year. Although it was unexpected and totally improv, I was so honored to say yes and admit that it was a total "pinch me" moment. That interview took place in September but because of a book deadline he had not posted it on his site yet (I was impatiently waiting patiently.) In the meantime, I found out that many images that Frank and I have created together now grace the pages of that book he was writing "Mastering The Model Shoot" which became a best seller and #1 on Amazon in that category within days of hitting the marketplace. It's really surreal... and quite honestly makes me want to cry again.

Some of the images we have created together over the past few years

So..... when Frank tagged me on Facebook today, announcing that our episode of his show was finally up on his site my initial reaction was to immediately share it on all of my social media pages but then I thought... 
WAIT WOMAN!!!! This is a VERY special moment that deserves it's own blog telling the whole story; it is meant to inspire people... it is meant for more than what it seems on the surface, (just a cool moment for me) 
So I waited to write about it and post it today in the Monday blog to start off YOUR week.

Guys and Gals... I truly want you to be inspired, I want this story to help you realize that EVERY single moment is on purpose and nothing you do can change that. You should wake up every day knowing that your life is predetermined, your purpose is already defined, you just have to accept that and live life one play at a time in order to experience it. Realizing this takes the stress away, I promise. Stop hating moments that you think are stupid and meaningless, the ones that may seem to have no point always do! Stop thinking that your dreams and wishes will never come true because by doing that you are missing the moments that will bring you to them. I talk about this all of the time... it has become sort of my mantra... so if you read my blogs, get used to hearing it! (I even share it in my interview with Frank.)

BE REAL, BE TRUE and BE ON PURPOSE every single day and you too will have amazing 
moments that will make you want to cry in a good way.

Love, Hugs and Inspiration

I hope you watch the video below... 

The first interview is with 
Tamara Lackey, a child and editorial photographer who I have the privilege of working with for the next three days.  
(My interview with Frank starts at 16:32)

here is the link to the blog post I spoke of about Scott finding me 
(ultimately leading me to Frank)



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Saturday, November 30, 2013

It's Time to Push Through...

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us and you Black Friday shoppers are happy, broke and lucky to be alive, let the Christmas Holiday officially commence! My house sits quiet today since my kids are away at their grandparent's for the weekend and that allows my mind time to think; which in this case is a good thing. My thoughts of the upcoming month and all that will take place leaves me excited, joyous and warm and fuzzy on the inside. My mind quickly wanders to a time when I was always stressed this time of year. A time when I wore myself out working 70-80 hours a week getting my salon clients in... not only to make them look beautiful for the holiday season, but having the need to make as much money as I possibly could in order to pay my bills and still give my kids a suitable Christmas. I actually get a bit teary-eyed remembering how hard that was at times as a single mom, but I always did it because I do what I have to do without complaining or using excuses of why I can't.  Deep down I always felt blessed that there was always one more client that had to get in before I closed my salon doors on Christmas Eve each year that always helped me make Christmas happen. For years I did all my shopping on Christmas Eve as soon as I left the salon. It was hard... but I always did it and got through the holidays by the fur of a Santa hat. I remember my need to be close to family even when they all lived far away, so I would forfeit something each year in order to have the gas money to travel up to ring in the new year with them by my side because being with my family is what always made the holidays meaningful to me. I remember that sacrifice being my electric bill one year, knowing I would come home to an apartment with no power, but that did not stop me. It's funny how that year I had a client booked the day I got back so I told my kids that something was wrong with our power and paid my bill as soon as I finished my client's hair; I was always doing what I had to do in order to get what I wanted while staying ethical and honest, and I still do.

As I sit here today knowing those days are gone for me, at least momentarily, I think of the many people who are in that place right now... maybe you are one of them. Perhaps you lost your job, got demoted, lost a spouse or family member that caused financial devastation in your life, or maybe it's just how life is for you, just like it was for me. I want you to know that there is ALWAYS HOPE, don't ever give up trying to create a better situation than what you have now even if you are just fine, because maybe that will mean you can help someone who is struggling when you have more than enough.  I never thought I would see myself out of the woods, but that did not stop me from running through the trees; THAT perseverance is what ultimately got me out of them. I still have the same mentality though; I still go through stores and load a cart up with stuff only to put half the things back before I get to the register because they are not necessities, simply because I have been wired by hard times and a fluctuating income. I feel that this makes me smart, educated, wise and thankful for all that I have today; I don't look at any of it as unfortunate and neither should you. I will never forget the times when I had to make choices that nobody should have to make... "Groceries or rent?" I simply realize those times are what allow me to appreciate today with my whole heart and that is how you find the positive light in the negative clouds that hover.

If you are struggling... I encourage you to keep pushing through, we are right around the corner from a BRAND NEW year... and who knows, maybe THIS will be YOUR year to shine. I love you all to the moon and back and look forward to sharing this holiday season with all of you!


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Monday, November 25, 2013

Being Thankful For Bad Times Too

I was struggling with how to write my "start of the week" blog last night. One reason being that I still have so much on my brain after speaking last week because it truly changed my life in a positive and profound way. The second reason is that I wanted to write something with a lot of meaning... even though ALL of my blog posts have a lot of meaning, being that this is the last post before Thanksgiving, I wanted it to be extra special; so here I sit digging into my complex brain... a brain that's much deeper than most trying to be sure I don't freak you out with my philosophical nerdy way of thinking. My earphones are on... yes, I am a creature of habitual behavior and when I find my happy zones I tend to make them repetitive... hence the earphones with classical piano as I write. (It's a winner!)

What does that word truly mean? Is it simply a momentary internal feeling on the surface of our thoughts for something or someone; a moment in time that gives us "that feeling"? Or is it defined by a feeling that runs deep into our souls that we cannot get over even if we wanted to? Is it defined by an out-loud obvious action that we must demonstrate to show how we feel; or is it something that can be implied by small gestures or things we may do for someone without having to say a word?

In a world where people; (including myself at times) feel unappreciated, I think that this poses something to really think about, and what better time than the very week we are reminded to be thankful. The answer is as complex as any human emotion is as it truly depends on what a person needs to feel thankful and how much it takes for someone or something to feel appreciation from thankfulness. As I sit here typing whatever comes to my mind, I think of the things that help me know people are thankful for the things that I do, for the things that I say, type and share. I think about people in my life who have felt unappreciated by me at some time or another and how I can and have made sure they never feel that way again. I think of how much I have changed in the past several years, how my heart has been reborn and has been opened up to a whole new world now that I have shared the "not so good" times I have had in my life; raw and real and how I have found a way to be thankful for them more than any of the good times in my life... it makes me smile.

I never thought that I would ever be thankful for the bad things that have happened; for all the struggles, pain, hurt, sadness, confusion and disappointment that I have experienced. At times I am shocked that my heart did not grow cold and bitter. I also know that had my heart continued down the lonely, broken path it was once on, that I would not know what being thankful really means. I am now thankful for the hurt, the people that I lost unexpectedly, the hard times, the burdens and disappointments and even the anger that resulted from it all, because it taught me what I need and deserve in order to keep happiness in my life. It helped me not only to recognize, but to appreciate the many blessings that are right in front of my face and accept that the moments that smacked me down were all blessings in disguise presented to teach me what I did not want to relive. I know that if I want to stay true to who I am, I had to learn those lessons and now strive to allow only the blessings to bring out the emotions within me. Everything else just has to roll... I know that every painful, hurtful, confused moment is there for a good reason and I hope you get to that point too.

I hope that all of you have a wonderful day of thanks with your family and friends. I encourage you to sit, if only for a few moments alone and think about all of the things you can be thankful for. Be sure that you dig deep into those bad things that when you are honest with yourself, you can truly say taught you something... hopefully it will be something that will allow you to let go of bottled up anger or pain. We carry around a lot of baggage from our past, we don't always let go of the things that have torn at our flesh, but once we let go and begin to heal, something happens. Sure... I still get disappointed, I still experience pain, sadness, confusion and hurt... but what I have realized is that if I can immediately find a reason to be thankful for what is happening anger never sets in... peace does.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

You Never Know What Will Change Your Life

So... I must say that I don't even know where to begin. As I sit here with my headphones on... piano in my ears I am reflecting on the last two days and I am in awe. I gave up a day of work yesterday to speak at the Great American Teach In at my daughter's school of the Arts located in the inner city of Tampa and although I did it to influence lives, I too was changed; my purpose was defined even clearer than it already was and I am truly speechless tonight, so forgive me if the words do not flow as I hope they will.

For those of you who are not familiar with magnet schools and how they work, it is basically a school that is located in a "bad" area of town that is given a specific category of study such as the arts so that kids from the suburbs will want to attend; therefore giving the inner city kids a better opportunity for getting out of the inner city and to be offered a better education because they will receive more funding from the government. I sent my oldest daughter Cierra to a Magnet middle school as well because I wanted my kids to be diverse... to love all colors, all social economic classes. Yes, I sent them to the "ghetto" to a school that catered to their strengths so they could mingle with kids that did not have what they had ON PURPOSE.

Normally, you go talk to one class... and typically it is your child's class. However, when they found out that I was an inspirational/ motivational writer and speaker they were EXCITED and asked me to stay all day. I happily gave up whatever it was I could have made monetarily to hopefully help a child who needed to hear what I had to say. I spoke to 8 periods of 6th, 7th and 8th graders... 7:40 am-3:30 pm without lunch, or bathroom breaks because I was on a mission to influence troubled youth with my stories of overcoming all that I have endured. I never felt hungry or tired.... it was an amazing day. I brought teachers, principals and many, many students to tears. I brought out emotions that therapists need months to bring out in one single hour with each class, I was blown away more than they were at times. I had never really spoken in this way before... it was kind of my first "formal" gig where I told my story outside of my book signings that were totally off the cuff. I planned... a little but knew I had to cater to each class individually by asking some questions or my message would never be heard.

I brought SO many kids through grief they were dealing with of losing a loved one, I talked to them about bullying... and when I asked every class who had been "the bully" I told them to be honest... I would not judge them; they raised their hands and admitted it. I thanked them for their courage and told them that admitting it was the first step  to ending it; I understand abuse and the steps it takes to stop due to people who have been in my life. I made these bullies want to change. I had one of the "TOUGHEST" kids of the day who was loud and proud about being a bully ask to walk me to my next class. I had asked her why she was mean in front of everyone because she was so proud of it... and gave her permission to hold the answer to herself... that I just wanted her to think about it. When she walked me to my next class she told me she wanted to answer my question. She said people had been mean to her and that she has lost 6 people VERY close to her, one was a brother to cancer in the past 3 years. I hugged her as she cried and told her that she needed to change that anger into love... I told her to become the person who helps someone up who falls down or who is being bullied or being disrespected and had her promise that to me. Today the Vice principal told me that at breakfast this morning when everyone was disrespecting the teachers by not listening that she stood up and said "stop it... be quiet and listen." I felt like a proud mom.

I had another girl who admitted to being a bully tell her story in front of all of her classmates as if it were only she and I in the room. She said that she was once a bully and stopped when her mother lost a baby. She told me that she was so sad and knew that kids killed themselves because of bullying and did not want anyone to feel the sadness that she felt when she lost that possible sibling; she was balling... I called her up and held her as she wept in front of the whole entire class. Another beautiful young man gave me a piece of yarn from his pocket and said maybe I could make something out of it and later brought me a picture that he drew which I will be framing. It was surreal bringing these emotions out... they were so raw and real but I know that by doing this they are on the right path to healing and changing if they stick with it and THAT was my purpose.

Now... I want to share how I was changed. After telling a small portion of my story I showed a slideshow I created that you will see at the end of this post. It was presented to each class. I spoke during certain slides to explain what they were seeing... and afterwards we had a Q&A and a little more of me sharing and caring with and for them. One young man who to me was one of the most courageous of the day, was a seventh grade boy in the front row. After showing the slideshow which includes before and after's of models that I work with as I spoke about true beauty and self image telling the story of how models are every day people who have someone like me make them 'look the part" and that even THEY need to feel beautiful. I told the boys to not expect their future wives to look like that when they wake up and I told the girls that they are only a few brush strokes away from the outside beauty that they don't feel they possess but that all of them needed to focus on the inside instead.  So, this 7th grade boy Xavier Pellot raises his hand and asks me... "Do you ever feel like what you do for a living affects people negatively?" I sat there for a minute and thought... I had already explained that I chose to do what I do to make people feel good about who they were on the outside; so I said, "Honestly, no but I am really curious to hear your process of thought, will you share it?" So he did ... he said, "You make people who are "ordinary" look beautiful and that might make an ordinary person feel ugly." A tear came to my eye as I stood silent... AMAZED at this PROFOUND comment coming from this young man! I said... "Xavier, can I share that YOU just changed MY life? That was amazing, brave and seriously gave me something to think about as I move forward.

All night I thought of what he said and I now have a change in my path... out of this was birthed an idea and a mission and I WILL dedicate my life to as well as this beautiful soul... this amazing young man who kept me from sleeping last night. I will say again, THANK YOU XAVIER! I will NEVER forget you. It's people like you and me who speak their mind and ruffle feathers that change the world... but I already told him that.

Today I went back to that school. It just keeps getting better!!!! I was asked by the assistant principal to come back today to help spearhead a program for a group of girls at the school who call themselves G.A.B. "girls against bullying". I sat with the girls in a conference room for 2 hours; lots of tears hearing their stories and I gave them a lesson on the definition of bullying, how to be a friend and much, much more. I cannot even share what happened in that room due to confidentiality but at the end of my two hours I promised these 7th grade girls to help them take this national... and I will simultaneously create B.A.B. (boys against bullying) so they feel included too. The Vice Principal also wants me to be a speaker for teachers and administration and make my book mandatory reading material in our county and beyond and knows how to make that happen. He said that I touched him with my story and brought back memories he had tucked away and that the feedback from my presentation from the teachers and students was incredible. He told me he believed in what I was trying to do and wanted to help me. As we stood on the fun-day field today three more kids that heard me speak yesterday came up and told me their painful stories and cried with me and thanked me for sharing mine; he witnessed that.

I could keep talking about all that happened as a result of my decision to go speak for two days but you will just have to watch this story unfold; I think that will be way more inspirational and motivational and well... that is why I write. I hope you continue to follow my journey. I am dumbfounded and high on life... even as I still cough like crazy from this cold I cannot kick. I know that the sky is the limit for me; the "Big Guy" has my back because I have truly given Him the wheel. WOW... just WOW! Have an amazing weekend.. and I hope you enjoy this video.



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