The second day of seventh grade

I was a certified tomboy by the time I reached the seventh grade. I had a brother, a step-brother and six step-cousins that were boys. I knew how to hold my own and lived in my corduroys and wallabees.

At thirteen, there was no doubt I was on the verge of womanhood and hello mom; “let’s put you in a dress and heels with a nice clutch purse for school.” Yes, I had the same look of horror a deer has when caught in the headlights of an oncoming semi-truck.

My mother is quite convincing and unrelenting when she has an idea. I stood no chance of clinging to my boy clothes. On the second day of seventh grade I dressed according to her vision. I donned the thick, wool, plaid, a-frame skirt wrapped around my chubby waist, a flowing long-sleeve butterick blouse with a tie collar, a macrame clutch purse and high-heeled, wedged shoes with far too many straps for my taste.

As I got out of my mom’s car and headed to class I had to concentrate on each step. I was not a good walker in high heels. Nor am I today. I was so focused on each step, trying to balance my school books in both hands while clinging to my fashionable clutch purse under my left arm that I didn’t notice my first period class was all wrong. I thought “All of these people look so different from yesterday. I guess this is how it goes down in Junior High.” Next thing I knew, I was singled out as being in the wrong class. My face, bright red, I quietly put my clunky high-heeled wedge shoes on the floor beside me and wobbled up until I was fully upright. I picked up my book, folder and ladylike clutch purse, put one foot in front of the other and moved toward the door in a slow methodical motion to make sure I didn’t fall. The trip between my desk and the door felt like it took an hour with all eyes on me.

Once outside the door, I breathed a sigh of relief and calmly looked at my papers to see where I needed to be. I thought “Ok, Michelle, it’s not that bad. You can do this. You got it. Only seven more periods to go.” Self-talk helped me through a lot but seven more periods until school was over seemed like two lifetimes away.

I took a deep breath and got to the right class. I made it through unscathed and alive. That was a big win.

Next, I moved on to second period English. Our teacher, Mrs. Morris, was either in her sixties or seventies, had Einstein big, white hair, spoke loudly because she couldn’t hear herself and handed out detentions like candy on Halloween. She immediately scared me, but again, I thought “I guess this is how it goes down in Junior High. It’s hardcore.”

The first few minutes of class were going well. I was sitting uncomfortably in my 1970′s constructed wraparound school desk designed strictly for right-handers doing my work. With my left-hand. I’m left-handed. In a right-handed world. Next thing I knew my pencil rolled off the right-hand side of my desk onto the floor. The only unrestricted passageway was to my left, but the last thing I wanted to do was to get back up and balance on those awful shoes, walk around my desk, bend down and pick up my pencil. That would cause way too much of a scene. Using the creative right side of my brain, I was convinced I could easily lean over my desk arm on the right and softly pick up my pencil. I was reaching, reaching, almost got it and then BAM! I completely fell over trapped in my chair with my legs straight up in the air and my skirt perfectly over my head. All I could think of was “Ok, Michelle, you can do this. Only five more periods to go.” Yeah, not helping. Through unrelenting laughter, Mrs. Morris screamed “Don’t just sit there, help her up!”

I got the help I needed and was back up in working order and my skirt was back down where it belonged. Leaning on past trauma, I knew it was my attitude that would decide everything else and I held fast to that and kept my head high. Was it easy? No, but when you believe it, everyone else around you starts to believe it too.

Eventually the day came to a close. There were a few other minor bumps in my day but nothing to spell out here. The lesson here is that I continued on even when it was hard and people laughed at me. The more confident I stayed in myself the more confident others became in me. I soon embraced the mantra if you’re expending all your energy on my failure, my success or my every movement, you’re wasting your life. But hey, I never said I don’t like the attention.

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Are you there God? It’s Me, Manire.

When I was five, Jesus would sit on the end of my bed and we’d have some good chats. He’d tell me I was his girl and stuff like that. We connected. We totally got each other.

Years later shortly after my 14th birthday, I was invited to go to a church youth group meeting. I went and I loved it. I immediately felt it was my home away from home since my real home wasn’t all that harmonious. I became a ‘born-again’ christian and could not wait to tell everyone I knew.

I went to church several times a week. If they had had more stuff going on, I would have gone even more. It’s a place I connected to. The church, the people, everything. I loved Jesus with all my heart. Sang the songs, held my hands up high, prayed with people, was absolutely filled with the holy spirit and spoke in tongues. I even held weekly bible studies on my public school campus and carried my bible to school every single day. Man, Jesus was totally right. I was his girl and stuff like that.

As college was rapidly approaching, I decided to go to a Christian College, Southern California College (SCC), now called Vanguard University, in Costa Mesa, CA.

Now, keep in mind, those of you who know me, know I have a lot of energy. If you knew me back in college, I would seem almost sleepy today. I was bouncing off the walls.

College was a great, new experience for me. I was free. I didn’t have rules or a curfew, per se. As I was signing the required paperwork to attended, I noticed two weird clauses that stuck out like a big, fat, eighties neon sign:

1) No dancing.

2) No drinking alcohol.

I thought that was strange. Then it was explained to me that dancing was too seductive and drinking alcohol is a sin. I was 18 years old, what did I know? I signed it and moved into the dorms.

Now, I know it’s hard to believe, but I have a bigger than life personality and God was generous with my curves and, um, shall we say, chest region. I didn’t realize men were so into that. In fact, still, to this day (I’m 46), I’m shocked when men hit on me. Don’t they know I’m taken? I mean really! I thought they all want(ed) to be friends. Andy still laughs at me. Combine this with creative dressing and different thinking and I was automatically a whore who slept with everyone, an alcoholic and a consistent drug user. Huh?

I’ll admit, the only thing anyone could actually state as a fact about me back then was that I was a bit mischievous. To be more specific, I was a harmless prankster on my dorm mates. All innocent stuff.

Since I had always struggled with my weight and am not naturally thin, I got into really good shape and felt good about myself and wore outfits that flattered my great accomplishment. I guess that made more even more of a whore. Wow. I have a mean fashion sense and liked being clever and forward-thinking with my clothes. It was always a way of expressing myself. I’m talking outfits like Gwen Stefani, not Coco.

I was still a virgin and was holding true to my belief that I wanted to wait until I was married to get to that “whoring” thing going, I guess.

It was too late. I was labeled. I immediately felt like I didn’t fit in. As time went on, I really didn’t care. Why would I want to spend time with so many small-minded, completely judgmental hypocrites? I can’t tell you how many girls on campus with 80′s perms, Texas beauty queen style make-up and covered up to their chin, flowered dresses were sneaking guys into their rooms and having regular sex. I think I just did. It was rampant. One of them even said to me, and I quote, “It’s so funny that everyone thinks you sleep around and you’re a virgin and no one thinks I do, but I do it all the time.” I wasn’t laughing. I was hurt.

I was getting more and more disgusted with religion. Me being me, I rebelled. Totally. I went dancing all the time, I drank alcohol, kissed some boys; I even tried drugs but that was about it. That didn’t stick nor did I want it to. Remember my brother?

I was angry. When my punk rock boyfriend and I started dating, I was so happy. We were anti-contradiction and our college was full of it.

Yes, we went to punk shows, but we also sat with homeless people on the corners outside of clubs and gave them our shoes and socks because they didn’t have any. We bought them food. We listened to their stories. We never told anyone (until now) because this is what Jesus would actually do and I don’t remember Him as a bragger and a judger of people who didn’t “fit in.” In fact, He favored those people and so did we.

We were young, we had our own issues to work out, that’s not untrue but we weren’t bad, whoring, drug addicts, that’s for sure.

I remember a specific incident with a girl I hung out with whose father was president of a large company (that I guarantee you’ve heard of); she was pretty simple and a plain, conservative dresser. One day I went over to her apartment and I was about to make dinner for us. She kept insisting that she wasn’t hungry. She was talking rather fast and licking her dry lips. I peered into her eyes and noticed that they were dilated. My next questions was “How long have you been using crystal meth?” She jumped back in shock. She denied it at first but then came clean. I gave her the biggest lecture that – that could absolutely kill her and if she had trouble getting off of it, I would go with her to get some help.

Next thing I knew, her parents flew out from Texas to meet with our college residence director and dean about concerns for their daughter. What the brilliant staff at SCC told her parents was that she was hanging out with me and I was the problem and the bad influence. They immediately instructed her to cut ties with me or they would cut her off financially. WTF!?

At this point, I was so disgusted with this school, christianity and it’s judgmental, hypocritical policies I could scream.

While I had a lot of energy, was mischievous and rebellious at times, I remained steadfast with good morals, integrity and loyalty. I would never hurt anyone or encourage reckless behavior. I never said anything about it though or tried to defend what was true. What’s the point? Making accusations about someone based on nothing but their own fear, insecurities and willful ignorance was my first run-in with what we refer to, today, as the Tea Party, I guess. Their judgement wasn’t based on any fact whatsoever.

Thankfully, I had a couple of great professors that were completely vested in my education and I did make a few ever-lasting friends who I love with all my heart. And, for that, I’m thankful.

Overall, this christian college put the worst taste in my mouth for formal religion and christianity. It’s sad because I was so into it but I refuse to be a part of something that separates people from each other because they’re not ok if you’re not doing it their way. Not God’s way; their way.

God and I still talk. We’re close. He tells me my brother is doing well. I appreciate that. I do ask him a lot, however, “Have we, as human beings, always misrepresented you?”

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My prom. My date. And my dad.

I was a horrible dancer. In fact, I still am. I cared about my lack of dancing skill when I was in Junior High and High School but I learned to embrace my disability like I embraced my dyslexia, left-handed-ness and klutzy demeanor and turned it into something endearing. To me anyway. Some may beg to differ.

In high school, I knew the subject of my prom would eventually come up. I was scared to go only because I knew I’d have to dance at some point and then I’d be discovered that I was no John Travolta. You know, because everyone totally thought I had his moves, I’m sure.

I was ok with skipping it but my mother pushed me to go. She said she never went to hers and regretted it ever since. So I decided I would go with my boyfriend.

My parents divorced with I was five. When I was seven, we moved out of Los Angeles’ west side to a tiny town of 2,000 called Corona. It was a bit of culture shock I’ll admit but we got used to it. Corona was about an hour outside of Los Angeles. My dad was dedicated to seeing us as much as possible and would make the hour car ride each way every other weekend. I never doubted that he loved me. Everywhere we went, he made sure he had his camera. It was a large camera, along with all his gear, stifling flashbulbs and tripod.

He clearly didn’t want to miss out on anything we did or experienced. As a teen it was just plain embarrassing. He would make us pose with the sales people at the store, pose in crowded areas where there were lots of other teenagers who didn’t have their dad fawning all over them like they were two. He was just so focused on us that I don’t think he ever thought about how horrified we were. Or did he? Dad?!

When I told my dad I was going to my prom, he was so excited and invited himself. At seventeen years old, I didn’t know how to tell him no. No dad. He wouldn’t have heard it anyway.

So he made the hour trip to our house in Corona along with his big camera, clunky accessories and gear. He arrived before I was awake. He couldn’t wait to capture my every movement on film. Lucky lucky me.

As I awoke, all I heard was *click *click. There was my dad taking pictures already. Oh god. He enthusiastically announced that he would be following me around all day to capture every inch of this special occasion. At that moment, I thought to myself “I’m so glad he was nowhere near me when I started my menstrual cycle.” I’m not sure I would have recovered from that one.

As I slowly came to life I was ready for my day. I had to pick up the boutineer, get my hair and makeup done and get my dress on. My dad followed my every step with his camera ready.

IMG_5605 First I picked up the boutineer. The huge smile you see was hiding my horror. It was my coping mechanism.
IMG_5606 Next, it was time for make up. I still don’t like people touching my eyes. It freaks me out and I continue to offer that same expression. It’s just claustrophobic.
IMG_5608 Hair. I have lots and lots of thick hair. That was next. The stylist managed her way through as did I while my dad was snapping pictures from every angle.
IMG_5609 Finally I was done. All the beauty 1985 had to offer.

Now it was time to go home and get dressed. There I was. Like a princess. From 1985.

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My date arrived. But wait, let’s capture every moment. Oh god!

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Ok, we’re ready to go. “Bye dad. Thanks.”

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No such luck. As we got into our car my dad promptly pulled up behind us and followed us all the way to Anaheim to join us for dinner before our prom. Oh. Ma. Gawd.

And there he is. The man of the hour. Dad.

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When the menus came out, I put my foot down and told dad it was time for him to go home. Please.

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He seemed disappointed and I felt a bad but I just couldn’t take my date AND my dad to my senior prom. It wasn’t gonna happen.

This was the night I learned two very important lessons. One, my father loves me and loving me too much is never too much. It’s just right. Second, boys will put up with anything in hopes for a good return on their investment.

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The coyote that almost ate me

Andy and I go on walks around our neighborhood pretty much every night. Last night was no different from any other night. There was a nice breeze, beautiful scenery and many people doing the same.

We catch up on our days’ events and engage in debates about various topics. We’re usually interrupted by my flailing arms and crooked saunter. Oh, I’m just fine but I usually catch Andy somewhere startling. Yes, my personality carries through every inch of my body. Like loose, live wires.

We walk anywhere from 2-3 miles. Sometimes more. I realize some people think we moved to the country where there are no stop lights and deer run wild. Keep in mind it’s Northridge. California. Los Angeles County. Not Wyoming’s Outback.

As we were cruising through paved streets with not a deer in sight, Andy briskly flings me to the other side of him. At first I thought it was my flailing arms payback but the next thing I know, we’re face to face with this: Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 4.43.18 PM

I screamed like a girl and clung to my big, strong man who was ready to fight to the death for me. He readied his sword and shouted “on guard!” I was so proud, yet fearful for his life.

I was sure that the king set this up as there as been much rivalry in the kingdom. It’s been especially hard on me because my ladies in waiting aren’t very nice to me. It hurts my feelings. It’s like they think they should be a princess, blah blah blah.

Anyhow, Andrew ran up a large, nearby tree, did a backflip and before he landed perfectly on his beautiful feet, he beheaded the creature.

The darkness turned to light, the munchkins came out to celebrate in song. Something about a yellow brick road. Doesn’t matter. It was all sparkly and fun.

When I woke up, I realized the creature was this:Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 5.02.29 PMWhile I was a little disheartened it wasn’t this: Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 5.04.11 PM

I was still in awe but ready to kill it with my bare hands. Doesn’t this coyote know that there are small animals running around the neighborhood. I mean seriously, how insensitive can he be?

Andy made a lot of noise and chased it off. Still, that was impressive to me that his instinct kicked in to protect me and handle the danger. And all this time I thought I only annoyed him. Andy loves me and the coyote did not eat me. I know this, because I could not write this. The end.

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I was not a face washer

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I feel pretty. . .Oh so pretty.

I’m simple. I’m not talking about my bigger than life personality. I’m speaking about my “beauty” regimen. I never had one. I was blessed with pretty good facial skin. People always thought I was younger than I was. Wash my face before I go to bed? Why? I don’t even wear makeup most days.

Why did I need beauty products? Not to mention, it was too much work and super expensive. Cleanser, $20, but wait, which one do I need? The comforting cream cleanser, wash-away gel cleanser, take the day off cleansing milk, cleansing balm, rinse-off foaming cleanser, redness solutions soothing cleaner? OMG! GET OUT! Ok, now that’s just the cleanser. To “properly” attend to my skin, I’ll also need correcting serum at about $45, a moisturizer lotion costing approximately $25, eye cream at $50, exfoliating cream because we need to exfoliate apparently, at $25, hand cream costing about thirty bucks, a moisture overnight mask-I’m sure is a must for $33, oh yes and the all important eye lift cream at around $40. I’m closing in on $300 here and I guarantee you there are many that I missed. Good god! Um, no thanks. I’ll age gracefully. I’m good.

About 9 months ago, my girlfriend Annie and I were catching up on the phone. I hadn’t seen her in, at least, a year. She runs a successful talent agency here in Los Angeles. She and I are similar. Neither of us were face washers nor did we wear much makeup if any at all.

As we were speaking she was all freakin’ jazzed up about some skin care cream called Nerium. I was like “WTF Annie! You don’t even wash your face.” My next question was: “Is this an MLM pyramid scheme thingy? I can’t believe you would do something like this. This IS SO NOT YOU!” Now I have a great deal of respect for Annie. She’s incredibly successful and I know this isn’t something she was looking for or even needed to do to earn income. But I sat back and listened to her. She’s a business woman, I’m a business woman. Maybe I should listen. A good opportunity is a good opportunity.

She starts telling me that Nerium was discovered by accident. Scientists from Nerium Biotechnology were trying to cure skin cancer. They didn’t cure the cancer but it was improving peoples’ skin by an average of 30%. Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 3.39.38 PMI didn’t know that – that was significant because what did I know about skin care? Nothing. I didn’t even realize how much money people spent on it. Turns out it’s an 80 million dollar business just in the United States alone.

As the conversation continued, she went on to tell me about the management team and about the CEO, Jeff Olson and how he is restructuring the bad stigma that people have with network marketing companies.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been involved with a couple of MLM businesses and I was never impressed. First off, it was too complicated, I had to buy too much inventory to stay qualified to get paid pennies. Plus it was really never about the product; instead it was about recruiting as many people as possible. The taste in my mouth was bad, as I think it is with many people. I’m not money motivated. I’m about what I’m offering. I have to believe in it to talk about it and share it. I’ve always believed that if you do what you love and the money will take care of itself.

I continued to listen when she told me that Nerium was so much more than that. The biotechnology company that discovered this is an exclusive partner with Nerium. This means they own it from seed to seal. I kept listening. I was intrigued. She continued, “more importantly this cannot be duplicated and there is a huge barrier of entry for anyone who wants to copy them.” That’s a big deal because anything that can be copied will be copied and soon you see it in big box stores and you’re out of business. My business head was kicking in. I get what she sees here.

She went on to add that there are over thirteen ways to get paid and the company is structured so anyone who puts in the extra 5 or so hours a week can make great extra income. Everything is transparent. There are no “power legs” (I just learned what that was) where people at the bottom are making nothing but money for people at the top. Actually, that sounds more like corporate America. . .Anyhoo. . . .On top of all this Nerium gives back. What this means is for every preferred customer and/or brand partner I sign up, Nerium sends me a free bottle. Who does that? NO OTHER networking marketing company has done this in the history of network marketing. Within the last year, Nerium has given back over $10 million in products back to their preferred customers and brand partners. I think that’s pretty cool.

I could go on an on here but, honestly, this isn’t meant to be any sort of sales pitch. Now who’s excited? Yeah, that would be me.

I thought, “Well, maybe I’ll check it out and try it. This all sounds great but I’ll believe it when I see it. If I see it.” For me, my face really wasn’t an issue. I didn’t have a lot of wrinkles but my arms, that’s a whole other problem all by itself. I [had] keratosis pilaris, also more commonly known as chicken skin, on my upper arms. I always felt self-conscience when people hugged me or touched my arms. I did try several things over the years to lessen it but nothing, and I mean nothing, worked. When I got a massage, the masseuse would ask me if I ever drank water and aptly remind me that my skin was sucking up all their oil. To answer, I replied “yes, I drink tons of water and sorry about the oil.”

So I got a bottle and put it on before I went to bed. Hey, I can do this. No regime. No drama. One and done. Manire likey. Went to bed and rinsed it off in the morning. I didn’t think much about it because I wasn’t expecting any kind of result. Three days later Andy was hugging me and said “Wow, your skin is so soft.” I jumped up in shock and thought he’s got to be kidding me. I felt my arms and could NOT believe the smoothness. To me, this was a game changer. Big time. I saw the business opportunity and the proven results.

I called Annie and said, “What is in this stuff!!??” Although she already told me, she kindly repeated herself that is was the, now patented antioxidant, NAE-8 extract from the Nerium Oleander plant. When she originally told me, I was only half listening because while I respected Annie, none of what she was telling me could actually be true, right? Wrong. Here’s a great short video. You’ll like it.

IMG_5475To push my belief way over the top, I finally met up with Annie face-to-face and when she walked into the room, I screamed. I could not believe how good her skin looked. Just look what it did to her eye here. She looked at least 10 years younger than the last time I saw her about a year earlier.

Now you can either purchase this product with a 30 day money back guarantee or do the business and become a brand partner. The product is for anyone with skin but the business isn’t for everyone and that’s exactly what she told me. I thought “Why is she blowing me off?” I pushed and pushed her so I could sign up. I understood what she meant that the business isn’t for everyone. People who are all sales-y (like me) and entrepreneurial (like me) have a little bit more of a difficult time because we think we know how to do everything better than how easy they lay it out for us and help us become successful. She was right and I’ll be honest (again), this is the first time I’ve actually plugged into a system and followed any sort of structure. Anyone can do this. And there you have it. My story of why I decided to launch this incredible side business and the best part? All I do is share it with people. I haven’t sold a thing. It sells itself. Truly. This is the first time I’ve ever been a part of a network marketing company where it’s actually about the product and not recruiting a gazillion people that you’ll never talk to again.

Now Andy has me rub it on his face and back every night AND in the morning with their new day cream before he goes to work. That’s saying a lot. Besides making Andy, the skeptic, a believer, the cost is only $80 for the night cream, it’s a one and done product and I totally get it free. They just keep shipping me bottles. For. Free.

If you have skin and want to try it, let me know and I’ll get you a bottle to try out. Think about how pretty you can look. Just like me.

Other references you may be interested in:

Nerium Safety

Nerium Clinical Trials

Nerium Research and Development

The Science Behind Nerium

Nerium Real Results Photo Gallery

Nerium AD

Nerium Compensation Plan

Relationship (or network) Marketing

Nerium Ingredients

P.S. I’m still not a “face washer” per se, but I rinse it off now and apply my Nerium every night and every day. I’m not sure I can live without this. That’s a big step.

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I was the #1 mortgage banker. At 14.

IMG_5581I would say that fourteen is probably the most awkward age. My body was going through a lot of changes on every level. It’s the year I never wanted to be seen with my parents but loved them. I was fourteen, after all; a full-fledged adult who knew everything.

My mom went from single-mom status and worked as a secretary all the way up to vice president of a mortgage banking firm, The Hammond Company, in the late 1970s. She never had anyone help her do anything. I always watched my mom and was in total awe of her ability at work. She and my father were on the same page about their belief that their kids could do anything they wanted as long as they put their mind to it.

During the summer, shortly after my fourteenth birthday, my mom thought it would be good for me to go to work. She took me into her office everyday. I started off filing mega amounts of paperwork in a cluttered, stuffy room with no windows. She was harder on me than anyone else so I guessed being the daughter of the boss never had any perks. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was being given the biggest perk of all.

The Hammond Company had more than a dozen branches across the state and my mom’s branch was the number one branch most of the time. I did notice, however, that she didn’t have any sales reps and she was the only woman as a branch manager. I used to ask her “Mom, all the other branches have sales reps working for their branch manager. Why don’t you have any? And why are you the only woman? Did other women not want the job?” I was sure there were many offers to women but they must have turned them down. Her reply was something I never forgot. “Sales reps are too much work for me. I can do it better on my own. I set myself a goal of one loan a day and I don’t stop until I get that loan.” She didn’t say too much about why there wasn’t other women in leadership only because I think she didn’t want to discourage me. What I did grasp was her simple goal of one loan a day. Something so simple made her hugely successful. This is where I learned to set small goals to do great things.

As I sat in her office having these enlightened conversations, I noticed the tremendous amount of award plaques [of her achievements] on the wall behind her. I would ask “Mom, when did you get all these awards? I don’t remember going to any ceremonies.” She confidently replied “There were no ceremonies. I get a call from our president and he would tell me I broke another record or that I’ve done something that has never been done before so I would make myself a plaque and hang it up. It’s not untrue. When customers come in here and see all those awards of achievement, they feel more confident about my abilities. People want to work with winners. You need to think different Michelle. That’s the key.” My mouth dropped open. I couldn’t believe she could be so ballsy, but, oh yes, yes I could. She always continued to surprise me.

Relax, it was like a strawberry slushy.

Relax, it was like a strawberry slushy.

Finally, my mom felt I was ready to go into the field. For years, when I would call her office, ask for my mom and they would tell me she’s out in the field. I always thought she was actually standing in a field for hours on end. She would come home and I would ask her why she was in a field all day. No matter how many times she tried to explain it to me, I never really understood, until she put ME out in the field.

My mother was tough and always had high expectations. (For those who’ve worked with me, now know where I got it from.) She would drive me up to real estate office after real estate office in her long, white Cadillac Deville, tell me to go inside and only meet with the president and hand them a flyer for my mom’s mortgage services. I was mortified and horrified so I guess I was mortihorrified? She looked me squarely in the eyes and was very specific when she said “If the receptionist won’t let you back, wait until she gets busy, walk back like you belong there, hold your head high, find the president, look him or her in the eye, shake their hand, introduce yourself and hand them a flyer. Presidents are always the loneliest and welcome the conversation.” I thought she was absolutely insane. But she was kind of scary and totally convincing so I did what she said.

Soon afterwards, I was listed in The Hammond Company’s weekly report as the number one sales rep of the entire Hammond Company. I was fourteen years old. Other managers and sales reps were calling ME to find out how I did it. Honestly, I had no idea. I just did what my mom told me to do and people gave her the loans.

I carried this kind of philosophy throughout my career. Show up. Do the activities and your success will happen. It’s not hard to do but it’s just as easy not to do and that small difference can give you tremendous success or tremendous failure. This doesn’t mean that I don’t fail. I fail all the time but the difference is – I don’t give up. I keep trying. I reinvent myself if needed. I keep going.

I now own a full-service marketing company, Manire. We specialize in design for web, print, events, branding, media buying and more. Within the last few years, I also launched my social media consulting business where I go in and train companies on how to make social media work for them. Contact me if you think I can help you. If you need accolades and references, I have a gazillion. Where do you think I learned it from?

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The day my brother died

As long as I can remember my brother, Walter, was troubled. Drugs and alcohol mostly. We were close. We understood each other on a deep level, however, his addiction ruled his behavior and pained our relationship.

IMG_5573He was a creative genius. He painted canvas like this when he was 5 years old and won first place in an art contest in Santa Monica. In the adult category. He could do anything. Anything he wanted. Unfortunately, his addictions chose for him.

IMG_5574When I was young, I followed my brother around. He was six years older than me and, to me, he was everything. He protected me, teased me and loved me.

Once he kissed me goodnight when I was six and I laughed so hard I started crying. I had no idea what I was feeling. I guess it was a contradiction of feeling love for him but not trusting him because of the trouble in his head. Although he was my half-brother, he was the one I felt closest to. He could communicate on a deep level with me and we always connected.

When I was a teenager, my brother was a full-blown drug dealer. Pot mostly. My poor mother worked full-time and always felt guilty about my brother as if it were her fault. She tried to encourage his interests and be there for him as much as possible. Like the time she would be out in the garden, my brother planted, hoeing and watering his “plants.” Even as a teenager, I knew what kind of plants those were but my mother didn’t. She was trying to be supportive. When the plants wickedly grew and began peering over our fence for all to see, we got a knock on the door from the police and my brother was off to jail. I wish I could say that this was the only time but it was just the beginning. There were plenty more arrests for drugs, robbery and more.  What was worse, several of my friends’ parents wouldn’t let them play with me because of my brother. While, as an adult, I can understand their thinking, I was deeply hurt, because I was a good girl with a good heart.

As if we didn’t have enough turmoil in our family, my brother got himself into a horrible car accident where he broke his neck and had to wear a halo brace for twelve weeks. This didn’t stop his extracurricular activities, unfortunately. Soon after this, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The feelings I felt where that of terror, sadness and relief. The relief I felt was ‘maybe he would be better off at rest.’ It’s something that I don’t think anyone would ever admit out loud but I did feel it only because I could see how much pain he was in all. the. time. Incredibly he recovered from all of this. There was hope but the hope I was hoping for was for him to get better as a human being, give up the drugs and alcohol and be a functioning member of society. There was no hope. None that I could see anyway.

Life continued. It was always difficult. I would save money to give to my church and he’d steal it to buy drugs and alcohol. I forgave him and often sat in his dark, smokey room filled with empty bottles, cigarette butts and read him the bible. He would tell me stories of waking up along side the freeway after a drug induced night. We’d talk about our love of animals, his love for me, his creativity, his pain and his addiction. He was lost. I would hold his hand and pray with him. A big part of me loved him so much and the other part of me hated him so much. He was destroying our family but after all, he was a human being in severe pain. I was empathetic but felt run over by his addictions. I wasn’t mature enough to understand boundaries and tough love. I was breaking inside.

My mom and I started going to Al-anon. It was helpful and scary at the same time because when you’re going through some serious darkness, you feel that you’re the only one and perhaps you should be ashamed and keep up appearances that everything is quite alright. That kind of thinking was wearing us out.

More years passed and as I was finishing up college, I got news that my brother was diagnosed with cancer of the saliva glands and that he had a 50/50 chance of survival. I secretly wept in my college library where no one could see me except for my boyfriend at the time. I decided that I would do everything I could to spend time with him. We went out to eat to his favorite restaurants, went to the movies to see See No Evil, Hear No Evil starring two of his favorite actors, Gene Hackman and Richard Pryor. Things seemed to be normal. As normal as our family could be. A few days later he had surgery to remove the tumor which took away half of his face. While he looked a little less human, his eyes were filled with love, sadness and confusion. I told him he looked handsome.

Weeks later, I was scheduled to be in my friends’ wedding. The night before the wedding I could not sleep. As I was always in tune with God, we chatted quite a bit. He said, “Michelle, you need to pray.” I was like “Um, I don’t feel like it but thanks anyway.” The night got later and later and still I could not sleep. God, again repeated Himself over and over. Finally I said ok. “You’re God and I’m sure you’re probably on to something here.” I got on my knees and prayed. I didn’t really know what I was praying for but went with it. Two seconds later, I was sound asleep.

In the morning I got a call from the handyman my mom hired to fix some things at my brother’s mobile home since my mom was out-of-town on business. He said “Hi Michelle, I’m here to fix some things around Walter’s place but no one is answering the door. His car is here and his porch light is on but no one is answering.” Immediately my heart sank and I thought “he’s dead.” He asked me what he should do and I told him to go ahead and break in and call me when he’s inside. Within a half hour, my phone rang. It was the handyman. He said “Hi Michelle. Let me put the Sheriff on the phone.” Right then I knew. Sure enough he got on the phone and said “Hi Michelle, Walter is deceased.” Feelings of complete shock, total relief and extreme sadness overtook me. To no one’s surprise my mother was screaming with pain and had to be put on Valium immediately. No parent should ever had to bury their child. Ever.

I cried, walked around in circles and tried to listen to soothing music. I was out of my head. Not sure what to do, I went to my girlfriends wedding and completed my role as one of her bridesmaids. I had to do something. I just couldn’t sit there.

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Weeks later the autopsy came back. My brother died of a cocaine overdose. He was found in his lazy boy chair holding a Pepsi and inside his wallet was a picture of my sister and me.

Weeks before this all went down, our family was at one of the lowest points I’d seen. My mom and I went out to dinner and out of nowhere she said she wanted to become a Christian. After all the years of me trying to get her to come to church and praying for her was coming to fruition. I prayed with her and it was done.

My brother dies. Oh no. Is she going to blame God? Now what. God said, “Don’t worry, I’m God. I got this.” I leaned on my faith. Next thing I knew my step-father wanted to become a Christian. I was like WTF??!!! Okie dokie. Prayed with him too. Next thing I knew he stopped smoking out of nowhere and he’s been a smoker since he was in his teens. He also stopped drinking. My head was spinning as if this was a trick being played. When is the rug going to be pulled out from under me? About a month later, I had the honor of baptizing both my mom and step-dad in church. While I’m not a regular church attendee and I sometimes swear, no one can ever tell me that there isn’t a God.

I wouldn’t say anyone is my family is a bad person. We’re all good people with different issues from our own experiences. Through everything, we’ve stuck it out, fought with each other and stood by each other no matter what. I would say we’re a great success. I did learn that everyone has their own struggles and no one is super-human. Being empathic to others, nonjudgemental and compassionate are some of the best keys you’ll ever hold. Through so much turmoil, I never doubted my family’s love for me. Yes, it was hard and as a kid, I didn’t understand, got hurt and grew up angry. I had to get to a point where I opened Pandora’s box, deal with it, forgive those around me and embrace me. After all, I am here for a reason. We all are. So before you think about judging someone, don’t.

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The Fart Heard Around The Classroom.

When I was young, I was shy. It’s true. I had a lot of anxiety and would go about my nine-year old life just to make it through each day hoping no one would notice me. No such luck.

IMG_5546smlr1For starters, I had a horrible 1970s shag haircut my mom thought was super awesome; mostly because my giant, thick, long mane got itself tangled on a consistent basis. Let’s not forget the several missing teeth and some extra fat on my body. Yeah, I was a sex-symbol even then.

My mother was a single mom of three. She worked her tail off to provide for us. At the time, I didn’t understand why she wasn’t at home baking cookies, hugging us and cleaning while singing Happy Working Song along with the local woodland creatures.

My mother isn’t naturally nurturing but I never doubted her love for me. She showed it in other ways. Like the day I was pretty sure I needed a bra at nine years old. She happily drove me to Mervyns department store in Corona, CA. Now, my mother is pretty embarrassing almost all the time, especially when you’re nine. She speaks loudly, doesn’t care what other people think, asks for what she wants (usually loudly), does things in, shall we say, unconventional ways, sometimes offense. . . . . I could go on but let me be clear, apparently I was a good Padawan because I’m not that different. Through her “embarrassment,” I learned quite a bit; so in that, I thank you mom. I know you’re reading this.

Anyhow, back to the bra my flat chest needed so terribly. On the way to Mervyns, I said “Now mom, please don’t make a big scene. Use your inside voice.” She assured me she would. I knew I should have clarified what she considered to be an inside voice. Oy. So inside we go. I keenly look around for any of my classmates, especially boys. “All clear,” I thought to myself, “let’s proceed to the bras.”

We make it to the bra section without incident. Whew. I start looking around like I knew what I was looking for. My mother, getting right to the point says, no, I mean, screams like a fire truck on its way to an inferno, “MY DAUGHTER NEEDS A BRA! IT’S HER FIRST BRA! I’M SO PROUD OF HER. WE NEED SOME HELP OVER HERE!” Before I had the chance to pass out, several older ladies come rushing over with their measuring tapes in hand helping themselves to my chest to get just the right size. I look away to pretend this isn’t happening only to see a boy from my class staring me dead in the eyes peering out from my tomato red face. This was absolutely not my plan to go unnoticed.

Clearly I made it through that horrible tragedy and got back to school with my new training bra. Training what exactly? I wasn’t sure but I felt like a woman. At nine.

Days and weeks went by and I slowly recovered. Fourth grade was a big step for me as a “woman.” I had my bra AND a boyfriend. His name was Todd. We never spoke or spent anytime together but we loved each other. My confidence was growing. I felt pretty good.

Everyday our teacher, Mrs. Homer, a homely, overweight, polyester dresser with a bad perm, had us read quietly to ourselves for an hour. I was reading and the day was coming along just fine. Half way through quiet reading time, I farted. Loudly. I couldn’t recover from this one. It was an accident, that I can guarantee. I was busted by everyone in class and sadly Todd broke it off with me. I was heartbroken.

Eventually I recovered from that too and moved on to fifth grade. This was the beginning of my understanding that circumstances are temporary and it’s my outlook and philosophy that will determine my future.

Do I have more stories like this? Yes. Yes I do.

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First comes love. . . .then comes marriage?

My view on marriage has never been good. I’m close to my family and I love them but within my immediate small dynasty, I’ve been a witness to over nine marriages, only two which have stuck. So you see, the thought of marriage was horrifying to me.

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Yes, I’ve been engaged before. Twice to be exact. The first time, I was more excited about the wedding than I was about the marriage. I was aware enough to know that – that wasn’t a good sign and called it off. The second time, was, well, me talking myself into it even though it never felt right. Again, I called it off.

I’ve never been one to do anything because “it was the right thing to do” or because it made other people happy. Believe me, I got a lot of s*** for being this way. But I’m resilient and no one’s opinion or judgement has ever changed the way I go about my life.

I am a firm believer of loving yourself; not to the point of conceit but truly caring about who you are and loving your goodness and your flaws. All of it. Until you get to that point, you can never truly love anyone else. I wasn’t born this way, this was something I had to work on to get to where I am today.

When Andy and I started dating, we were both on the same page about marriage. Neither of us wanted it. He had already been married and I was horrified by even the thought of it. I would literally start sweating and panicking like the walls were closing in to the point I was gasping for air anytime it was mentioned.

The best reasons (and when I say best, I mean worst) I’ve heard about why I should get married are:

1) “It’s the right thing to do.” According to who?

2) “It’s what God wants.” I did not get that memo.

3) “You get benefits from the government.” OMG, don’t EVEN get me started on this one.

4) “It would make me happy.” Ugh.

5) “You’re getting older. It’s harder to find a guy.” WTF? While true, most people, not just men, have no idea who they are until their 30 or 40s. Not all, but many.

I could go on but I think you get the gist. I don’t respond well when people make it about them instead of being with me, talking with me, hearing me, accepting that I might be afraid and maybe I’ll figure it out in my own time and maybe I won’t and them being ok with that.

Being Manire, I grab the bull by the horns on my own terms. A big part of me is traditional in so many ways. I love to cook, nurture and make a home a home. The other part of me doesn’t like “fitting in” or doing what society thinks I should be doing. I’ve always been different according to what people think is the norm. Once I embraced me, I was free. Deep down I did want to get married; I just didn’t know how to admit it and I only wanted to get married to the right person and if I never met that person, I was ok with being alone. Try having that conversation with anyone who thinks you should be married. You can’t. So I kept it under wraps. Way under wraps.

As Andy and I progressed in our relationship, we acted married on every level. We bought a house together, we loved each other, we fought with each other, we worked it out, we supported each other; we were fully committed to each other. Mention the word marriage and I almost fell apart.

My philosophy in life is that the only way out, is in. What I mean by this is when I feel anxious about something, human nature tells me to run away; which only makes me more anxious. Walking into my anxiety makes me less anxious. I would have never believed this worked until I gave it a try. I’ve done this many times over the last 15 years and have seen that it really does work so why was I not willing to do this about marriage; something I knew I wanted in the pit of my stomach but was completely terrified of it at the same time? The minute that light bulb came on, I was in.

About a year ago, I took a hard look about what I was so anxious about. I broke it down into buckets, dumped each bucket over and wrapped my head, arms and legs around it. I was determined to wrestle my anxiety to the ground. Now, granted, my anxiety was not happy about this and kept giving me vague answers or answers that weren’t realistic at all. I got it and realized that it’s ok to be afraid but when has that ever stopped me from doing anything? The only way out, is in. I’m in.

I announced my “in-ness” to Andy. He wasn’t in. This didn’t surprise me and honestly, I wasn’t offended by this because I knew this was not about me and I did not want to try to convince him he should marry me, have him do it and resent me. That’s worse. I’ll be honest, I did try a few juvenile things like pouting and whining. What I was missing was the why and I didn’t know how to break it down. I just knew I wasn’t afraid anymore.

So off to therapy we went. We’d walk in and sit down and I would say, “Ok, I want to get married, he doesn’t. Let’s go.” Yes, I’m still rough around the edges, but when I’m in, I’m in.

Me aside, I completely understood where Andy was coming from and I had to let him work out his process. I was hard for me but I reminded myself that this wasn’t about me at all.

My birthday is July 12. About a week before my birthday, Andy kept asking me what I wanted for my birthday. My response, “You know what I want.” This has been my response over the last year to every gift-giving occasion. He sighs and rolls his eyes. Still, I know he loves me. That has never been in question, but I have a campaign to run. This banter continued for several days. Two days before my birthday, we were sitting at a Baja Fresh waiting for our order. Again, he asks, “Michelle, what do you want for your birthday?” I’m sure by now, you know my response. He looks down at his phone, fiddles with it and says, “Michelle, here.” And hands me his phone. I look at the screen and see “Apply for your wedding license online.” I look at him and say “Is this a proposal?” He shrugs and responds “Ahuh, I figure we’re already married and I don’t want this to be a hinderance in our relationship any longer.” We both laughed and I accepted. I have to say that – that proposal was perfect for us.

Although I’m an optimist and he’s a cynic, we’re both realists. Marriage is something we came to an agreement on together. I didn’t need any skywriting with a proclamation of his love for me. It’s no ones business but ours. He totally digs me and I totally dig him.

IMG_5541aThe next thing Andy said was “I’m not very good at picking out rings.” Before he finished his sentence, I said “Oh don’t worry, I got this.” Two days later, on my birthday, we went and picked out a ring designed by yours truly. Hey, there are certain things that must be done with a bang and this is one of them. Plus, it seriously fends off men who try to love me. Go ahead, roll your eyes, Andy does.

The wedding. Yeah, we’re not big on weddings. Vendors hear you’re getting married and everything triples in price. No thanks. We’re having a tiny ceremony in our backyard with family. About a five-minute ceremony, then a big party with my husband and my giant ring. And I’m not afraid. I’m in. The End.

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Happy Left Handers Day To Me.

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 10.25.50 AMI’m a lefty. I didn’t know it was “bad” or “wrong” until I was in kindergarten and my teacher berated me in front of the class for being left-handed, swiftly walked over to me and grabbed the crayon out of my left hand and abruptly placed it into my right hand. She walked away with pride as if she’s done something good. I quickly placed the crayon back in my left hand and kept coloring. . . .outside of the lines.

That was my beginning. Not only am I left-handed, I’m also dyslexic and the way I compute things are not how most people do it. For instance, 1 + 1 never equaled 2 in my world. It was more like a 5 with rainbows, flowers and fireworks spewing from it. As a kid, I often felt alone. First of all, no one knew what dyslexia was and seeing things in a different way was never encouraged.

In Junior High (now they call it Middle School), the teacher would have each of us read a paragraph out loud. Since my last name started with an M, I was usually seated in the middle of the class. This gave me time to memorize my paragraph before I had to read it out loud. Reading things out loud without practice was always a huge fear because I knew the probability of misreading something, reading it backwards or missing something entirely was sure to happen. I taught myself how to survive and tried to keep a low profile.

I always thought something was wrong with me but I persevered. It’s what I do. I usually hid behind my great sense of humor and used that as a deter to my “disability.”

I never got great grades and struggled my way through school, especially math. Teachers mocked me in class because they thought I was kidding most of the time or that I couldn’t possibly be that dense. It tore me up inside, but I thought to myself “I’m not going to let you beat me. Just like I didn’t let my kindergarten teacher beat me.” I got tutors along the way and gave school everything I had. I got through. Somehow I made it all the way to college.

I naturally gravitated to marketing as a major. As a freshman, my academic counselor put me in a marketing class that was way too advanced for me and I tried to avoid it like the plague. I’d skip class, make up answers and so forth. My professor sought me out on campus, cornered me and said “Michelle, you are going to fail my class.” “This is unnecessary because you’re the smartest student in my class.” I was stunned. How was I the smartest student in his class? I’ve always been treated like the dumbest student for most of my life. I failed his class but his words resonated with me. I went back to my counselor and had him recommend a class that wasn’t so advanced, something I could have success in and that could make up for this fail. I did and I made it up with a better success rate.

Being a marketing major meant I still had to take math, accounting, economics, business law and so forth. Ugh. Although I felt a bit more confident in college, I still struggled. I took a required finance class and failed with a big, fat F. The teacher made fun of me in class while everyone laughed along. I retook the class with a teacher who understood the way I needed to learn and I got an A. I soon began to realize that I’m not disabled, I’m awesome.

Learning things differently, being left-handed and dyslexic has great benefits. Embracing those things has even greater benefits. Anytime a teacher would ask if anyone had questions, I would usually raise my hand because I didn’t process information the same way everyone else did. At first people would laugh at me or make fun of me and I would look them in the eye and say “I still don’t get it. I want my answer. I’m paying to learn here and you need to get out of my way.” Soon, people took me more seriously and I really tapped into my creativity, colorful process and looked at every failure along the way as a closer step to my success.

Granted, I still fail and I will fail until the day I die. That’s a good thing because if I don’t fail, I will never win. So thank you kindergarten teacher. Thank you for bringing to light the awesomeness of being left-handed and all the colorful things that go along with it.

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Today I celebrate International Left-Handers Day.

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