Sometimes I wonder how I ever had the courage to start again.
Through Christ, and the help of others, I have overcome insecurity, poor self-image, and fear. I've lost sixty pounds and regained my health. I've experienced financial, emotional and spiritual victory. I've watched men and women accept Christ and have seen their lives transformed by the Power of the Lord.
I've had the honor to speak to thousands of people and encourage them to pursue their life dreams, the financial goals and their spiritual truth. I've built strong vibrant businesses. I've worked with women all over the United States, and have been recognized as top in my field by more than one company.
Yet, in 2012, just when our lives should have been free-wheeling and kicking into high gear to live the good life, my husband was diagnosed with two types of cancer. I found myself starting all over again. This time, I knew it had to be different. This time it called for ReInvention.
I've had more training than I can count on two hands that has told me my "about" page should be a long list of "credentials" and "why you should buy" information. It's all been from great marketing experts, and I'm sure that for a lot of people it works. When I realized I was starting over and could be anyone I wanted to be, I decided to be all-the-way-Donna. When I ran across Brandon Gaille and his training on how to create a real "about me" page, I finally breathed a sigh of relief. Here is a guy who says "tell the truth of who you are."
So, here's my truth. It's long and raw. Probably a lot like yours. If you want the credentials and stuff, they are down at the bottom of the page. You can zip down there and see if I meet your qualifcations. I hope you'll take some time to read this though. And, I hope you'll share your story with me.
Courage Isn't Just for Lions
Do you remember the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz? You could have dressed me in that suit, put a baseball mitt on my hand, and called it good.
All of that outward bluster covered up insecurity and paralyzing fear. The screwy part is that I WANTED to be brave, and confident, and out in front. And starting out as a baby girl, green-eyed, blonde in Amarillo, Texas I was. But life got complicated. Like most families, ours was picture-perfect on the outside and a bit of a challenge on the inside. Let me say right here that my mom, dad, brothers and sister are wonderful people. We just struggled.
Mom and Dad were hard-working, children of the Dust-Bowl Depression straight out of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. They worked hard - had nearly nothing - and wanted better. Dad was a veteran, serving in the European theater of World War II. Mom was a girl who dreamed of writing, singing and living in the city.
They taught us to work hard. And we did. They taught of the importance of family. Mom taught us "Jesus loves me, this I know." And my brothers, well - they are 10 and 12 years older than my sister and me. They were my heroes. I am the oldest daughter, a middle child that was more like an eldest child. So, I am bossy, invisible, and greatly loved. Somehow I missed recognizing the greatly loved part, which led to a whole host of misguided thoughts that led to some pretty dangerous behaviors later on. I could go on and on about all that, but I've written the blood and guts in my book, Breathtaking! Discover and Release Your Greatness.
The Mask of Acceptance
Let's just say that because I missed that understanding, I found myself wearing any and every mask I could find. Those masks covered my insecurity and fears. Unfortunately, they also put me into situations that no preteen or teen girl should ever find herself in.
My ability to ReInvent myself actually began as the ability to hide myself. Whatever the situation called for - that was me. I think about that little girl now and I wonder how I survived.
When I was 4 years old, my Dad saw me walking down a major street when he was coming home from work. He stopped to pick me up and asked me where I was going. "To Levine's." - a neighborhood clothing store. WOW - did my brother Jess get in trouble THAT day. He was babysitting.
Starting at age 5, I began to run away from home. I just wanted to be anywhere but there. I had some idea that the "good life" was somewhere other than my house. I can vividly remember standing in the kitchen with my mom. She was ironing clothes and I told her I was leaving home. I asked for a kiss and she said, "well, if you're leaving home, why would you want a kiss." Out the door I went. Naturally she watched me out the back door and sent my brothers after me.
In elementary school, all I wanted was to go to my girlfriend's house. If Mom said no - well, you get the picture - up and over the chain link fence.
Of course in the early 70's everyone still smoked, so I stole my parents cigarettes and smoked them with the neighbor girls in a vacant back yard. My mom usually had a bottle of cooking wine around, and I grabbed the bottles when they were empty. At 11/12 years old, I was walking up and down the street, in front of the elementary school and our pastor's home, acting like I was drunk. I became a mega-school-skipper in high school and found myself dating a 24-year old man when I was 17.
I sound like a nightmare kid, right! But get this, I was also a very good student, played violin (top chair most years) for nine years, won music scholarships, and had the reputation of being a really good girl. Masks were my friend. I thought.
I married my darling, Richard and a year later Dustin was born. Eighteen months later, Monty joined our happy little family.
But we weren't a happy little family. Our lifestyle was running with criminals and drug addicts. Too much booze - too many drugs - and too little restraint developed into a lifestyle that sucked the life out of our happy home. I became deeply depressed and lived most of my time in the middle of our pull-out bed in the living room, watching daytime TV and feeding my boys cheap finger food. Four years in and I was walking out the door. I thought it would be forever. I loaded our two baby boys into our brown Mercury station wagon and didn't even wave goodbye. I drove to my parents' home, had a good cry, talked to my Daddy and the next day loaded up and drove back. Things didn't get better, but it was a wake up call.
Just like we did every time things got hard, we packed up and moved and eventually landed in Lampasas, Texas near my in-laws. I decided that instead of just hanging on, I'd get a job. Little by little, I began to pick myself esteem out of the gutter. I returned to church and took our baby boys with me. I remembered the songs about Jesus Loves Me and I thought maybe I would check it out. We were doing better, but then some health issues called us back to Amarillo. It was there that I had a turn-around experience with Jesus and within a short time, Richard did, too. Ten years in and finally our marriage had a chance of succeeding because we weren't in the battle alone.
When I was 28, I contracted chicken pox in my lungs. I wound up in the hospital on a respirator. I died twice.
During that time, I had an encounter with the Lord that made me know more powerfully than any other thing that the Love of God is not just a story. It is a fragrance, and atmosphere - an entirely different world. When I recovered, all I could do was talk about the Love of God and cry at His goodness. It changed everything for me. For us.
It wasn't long before we found ourselves attending Bible School in Midland, Texas. Our plan was to graduate and become church planters, but, well - our plans didn't work out. We felt betrayed by our leaders and when an opportunity opened for us to move and eventually pastor a rural church in the Permian Basin, we took that leap.
Business As Usual - NOT
We wound up back in Midland, Texas. One day at work, I remember thinking, "I wish I had a job that would pay my expenses."
Well, Lovelies I'm a firm believer that when your heart has a need - God has an answer.
Within a few short weeks, I was introduced to the world of Direct Sales at home decor party. I met Debbie Fox that day, and she has been a friend since.
I discovered an entire world where women get together, share tips on home decor, jewelry, cooking - just about anything - have some fun and you MAKE MONEY! AND...you get a tax write-off for your business expenses.
I was SO HOOKED! And, I found out that I enjoyed standing in front of a group of people, laughing, teaching and sharing information. I also became passionate about helping other women learn about the possibilities of earning extra income, or even earning a ridiculously obscene amount of money.
You see, all those times I was running away - I was running toward a better life. And in Direct Sales I found it.
I got to wear a crown for being a top seller and sponsor. I earned trips to exotic locations. I was given the opportunity to teach and train hundreds of women. I earned awards and was given special recognition. I wasn't invisible. And, I got to be bossy!
I discovered it was okay to be ambitious and want more. And that there was a way for an ordinary good girl to do that. For the next ten years, I was able to share my love of Christ, my belief in the excellence of women, my skills and talents as a teacher and trainer, and make a really nice income. I became known as a woman who knew how to empower other women and teach them how to be successful on their own terms.
You know how you can walk along and trip on nothing? That's what happened to us.
July 7, 2012 will live in my memory forever. The day my husband - my Richard - was diagnosed with cancer.
The doctors told us he Multiple Myeloma. Multiple Myeloma is a blood cancer that attacks the bone marrow by cloning plasma cells. It eats holes in the bones, cases low red and white blood counts and creates immune weakness. As if that wasn't enough, a few weeks later we learned he had a secondary cancer - renal cell carcinoma, in his right kidney.
My strong, vibrant, hard-working, loving husband was suffering from a broken right arm due to a tumor, extramedullary plasmacytomas (tumors) in his chest wall, excruciating pain and weakness that made him barely able to walk through the house. And it all showed up in a period of about three weeks.
Many cancers have four stages. Multiple Myeloma has three. Richard had the worst of the three stages. The doctors didn't have much hope he could even withstand the tests to find out how sick he really was.
And that was only the beginning.
Over the next two and a half years Richard suffered a stroke in his right eye, kidney failure that required dialysis for six weeks, a severe toxic reaction to the chemotherapy, surgery to remove the right kidney, continuing immune problems requiring multiple treatments, a rare mycobacterium lung infection, short term infection-induced delirium that I thought was Alzheimer's and more.
We left our home of over twenty years to move to the Dallas area. Sold most of our possessions, gave away treasured family heirlooms and moved into a 520 square foot apartment. After more than thirty years of marriage we were starting over.
As you can imagine - I wasn't able to work. My entire life was watching my husband breathe - just to make sure he continued to breathe. I lived in his hospital room for weeks at a time - eight weeks during the stem-cell transplant. No family around. No friends close by except my darling friend, Debbie. Scared and alone - but not abandoned.
The faithfulness of God surrounded us. Financial miracles were all around us - through insurance and support of friends and family. Doctors who initially thought Richard was too ill to survive treatment changed their mind. A place to live we could comfortably afford, "just happened" to open up. And our eldest son and his family were able to move to within an hour of us. As I think of all the ways God provided, I am in tears. Thankful. I am thankful.
Remission is a miracle word.
But then, now I had to figure out how to live again. And like I said at the beginning. I had to do some real changing.
I managed to eat all of my feelings in real calories. So, not only did I find myself with a need to create a new life and business plan, but I also had sixty extra pounds. When you turn your attention to others, you forget to take care of yourself. I took myself in hand and began to lose the weight and get healthy again.
Just as I was starting to really kick off my new venture - down 50 pounds and looking forward to the first year in the past three when Richard was well - I fell at the grocery store. I didn't just fall. I broke my left wrist. And, of course, I'm left handed. And even though I had the time to pursue my dreams, I got to spend eight weeks in a cast after surgery to put pins in the wrist. If you've ever had a broken limb, you know it doesn't hop out of the cast ready to go. Even to this day - over a year later, I still battle pain and stiffness in that silly wrist and arm. Such a minor inconvenience compared to everything else, but a reminder that you just never know when you might fall down flat.
You have two choices when you face the loss of everything you've known and hoped for.
You can give up or you can start again. Whatever you decide, once you face the loss of almost everything, you can't go back to living like everything is just the same. I was different. All of the confidence I had built up; all of our big dreams for the future; all of the ideas of how I thought life would play out just weren't there.
But I knew that I had learned some things along the way that would help others. And, I knew that if I could just put it all together, I would be able to help women who also found themselves wondering, "What Now and How?"
ReClaim Your Hope - ReIgnite Your Dreams - ReInvent Your World. A Belief Revolution
- All the years of trying to figure out how to be Authentic and Mask-less
- How to express the belief that I was ENOUGH
- How to help women create an income outside of sources that can disappear due to economics or health, divorce or death.
- How to speak hope into the corners of a woman's heart when she doesn't know how to hope.
I reached back and opened up the world of Living At My Best - LAMB. It was a motto I had created when I was in the Direct Sales world. It was a way of life I taught that, we can create a definition of success that is authentic.
I want to help women have the tools and the support to realize that who they are is ENOUGH. It's not about a mask. It's about Authenticity. It's about taking all of the things that are meant to break us, and create a platform to stand on.
Because I had learned how to discover who I was at my core. When I finally stripped down all the masks and pretense - I realized I was ENOUGH. And I want women everywhere to know that truth for themselves.
I used so many tools to peel off the layers of masks:
- Core beliefs and character strengths tests to get to the heart of what is important to me.
- Personality Profiles to value my bossiness and appreciate the personalities of the people around me.
- Spiritual Gifts tests to learn how to walk in the woman God has made me to be.
I returned to coaching women with business and life skills strategies to help them create a life they can love.
I began to speak to anyone who would listen that in this world, you only have one time through - make sure you are Living At Your Best and showing up as the real you.
I'm not nearly done living this life that God has given me. I don't know how much time I have left here. I don't even know what next week will bring, much less next year.
Once cancer taps you on the shoulder, it lurks around the corners. All I know, is that whatever is in my future, God is there. And I intend to live and share all that He has given me.
My heart's desire and passion is to help you know this truth...
YOU ARE ENOUGH!
Whatever bright dream fills your sleep; whatever picture of the future you hold; however you want to show up in the world, don't wait.
I know what it's like to have doubt and fear. I know what it's like to have people doubt you. I know what it's like to have to face yourself in the mirror and start again - and then start again.
Thought Vandals show up to steal our hopes and dreams. Self-image and the media-driven idea of what is successful, attractive and worthy scream in our ears. We speak negative, dark things to ourselves that we would never say to others. We fight traditional education beliefs about what it is to be a woman, ambitious, and Christian. Maybe I'm too old? Maybe I'm too young? Maybe I'm from the wrong culture? Maybe, maybe, maybe.
Marketing and social media keeps us off balance as we try to stay relevant.
When we search for help, timeline ads, online gurus, and mega-meeting multi-speaker events target us with a promise of THE answer to help us build a life and business that is profitable. We throw our hard-earned dollars at them, but too often feel like we've wasted our time and money,.
We read and hear about people who have become overnight 6-figure earners and we wonder what is wrong with us. Why can't WE do that, too?
We ache with disappointment and yearn for success. Who hears us? Who gets us? Who cares?
I know these questions, fears and frustrations because they have been my own. I know them because the women I work with tell me they struggle with the same things.
Not The End
Well, I warned you - long. But, I thought if I was vulnerable about my journey, maybe you would believe me when I say I want to be a Dream Advocate for women. And, maybe it will give you courage to be vulnerable, too.
I am determined that to the last day I have on earth, I will seek to serve and strengthen the women I am privileged to partner with in their journey. In these days, I've had the honor to speak with so many women who from the outside look like everything is a Leave-It-To-Beaver world, when on the inside it's more like Mad Max.
Darling One, Take Off Your Mask. Live Your Truth. Live At Your Best.
Because of our journey, we became supporters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Their financial help rescued us more than once. If you or someone you know is battling a blood cancer, or blood disorder, please visit their website. Or, perhaps you might want to support them financially, as well. You can find their site here.
When I'm not writing a new book, creating a Life Mastery Academy course, or speaking at a conference, seminar or group meeting, or fiddling around with my blog or podcast, I can be found hanging out with my husband of 38 years, Richard, and our spoiled little Chorkie - Lily.
Our handsome, intelligent, incredible sons don't live near us, or I would probably drive them crazy, dropping by their place of work or asking them to come over all the time. And since my eldest son isn't nearby - that also means my beautiful and talented daughter-in-love (my fitness guru partner) and my GRANDchildren aren't either. *Insert sad face here.*
You would probably find me on the beach or out whale watching if I lived close to the beach. Whales are one of God's creatures that show me how big our God is. My first experience of seeing a whale in the ocean was near Cabo San Lucas - a place that is on my list of 'must see again soon.' As it is, I live in the big city of Fort Worth, so I do a lot of driving from one place to the other. It is a beautiful, quirky city that I enjoy more and more every day.
I love to dig in the dirt, even though most of the things I plant don't grow well. I definitely did not inherit my Mom's green thumb. That woman can make anything grow! Even rebellious green-eyed daughters.
I cherish every minute I get to spend with my sister and girlfriends. I'm thankful for every new girlfriend I meet.
And, more than anything, I love the transformation that comes from knowing Jesus.
Living At My Best isn't about more money or status. It is about living to the fullest as the woman you have been created to be. Living At My Best is to know, value, cultivate and share the unique gifts, talents and skills you possess. No one else is like you. You don't need to be like anyone else.
I create products for women who crave a life filled with meaning and who want to learn how God helps them be successful.
I give them the tools to get exactly what they want, which is a life of freedom from their own destructive thoughts and fears. I remind women to resolve - once and for all - they are WONDERFUL JUST THEY WAY THEY ARE.
Why Do I Do This?
The mind battle that women fight, is fueled by our modern media. It works to destroy every aspect of our self-esteem and confidence in order to drive us to buy whatever product they say will make us a better version of ourselves: makeup, clothing, possessions, even surgery.
You are not your size, your shape, your color, your degree or pedigree, your background, your education or your history.
Those things influence you, but they AREN'T what defines if you are valuable and worthwhile.
Your value is because you exist. You are loved by the Creator of the Universe, and He has a plan for your life.
I get this question all the time, "What do you do?"
My answer? "I assist women create a life of Purpose, Passion and Clarity, so they can invest their time on the things that truly matter to them."
My life purpose and passion?
To assist women to experience a Living At My Best™ kind of life: connected, passion-fueled, purpose-filled, and living in the Grace of God every day.
When people ask you how YOU are, my goal is to help you honestly say, “I’m living at my best!”
- I've worked with thousands of women from all walks of life and all sections of the country.
- I have built multiple successful national sales organizations.
- My experience and training is in both the sacred and secular worlds.
- I have real life, hand's on experience AND extensive professional training.
- I am a published author on the subjects of personal development and business leadership.
- I am a public speaker.
- I am an educator.
- I am a trained minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- I am a Certified Professional Coach
- I am a certified Career Speaker Trainer