Amy walks around with sunshine beaming from her. It is infectious. Not only is she the very essence of California beauty with her radiant gold hair (now red) and beautiful green doe eyes, but her infectious smile, engaging laugh, and her endlessly open heart immediately suck you in to the amazing humor, charm, and happiness she exudes in life, as a woman, and as a mom. Amy is the first to admit the balance of mom-hood and everything else is not always a pretty matter, but she handles it with as much grace as she can muster and always finds ways to laugh about the madness and connect with others more deeply because of it. Her work as a life coach is passionate and inspiring, and she even helped me to lose my last 7 lbs after Harley through an amazing program Happy Body. Read on.
Amy…I am a life coach. I work with all types of individuals to achieve whatever they want and with they idea that they will have a better life because of it. It can be something tangible (e.g. “I want a new job in six months,” or “I want to lose 20 pounds”) or subjective (e.g. “I want to be happier,” or “I want to be more loving and patient with my kids”), or personal growth oriented (e.g. “I want to be more spiritual or feel more connected to others”). The name of my practice is “Always on Purpose” because the basis of my work is rooted in the philosophy that there is no way things should be, they just are.
Coming from the perspective that there is purposefulness in the way things unfold allows for an exciting and vibrant grace in living. Coming from this foundation, I work with others to get clear on what they want and how to make the seemingly impossible become possible. Big shifts happen in powerful conversations. It’s incredibly exciting and fulfilling to play a part in my clients’ transformations. Truth be told, it’s an honor.
I will celebrate anything and everything. I love finding the joy in both big and small stuff. Having married a restaurateur, I am very passionate about good food, wine, and facilitating good times for those close to us. We entertain all the time – our home having been named “Wongderland” – and friends and family are with us almost every weekend in service to celebrating something. (Many times, it’s for the sake of simply being together!)
I’m very passionate about personal growth. Once a month I strive to “do” at least one thing that stretches the edges of my consciousness, whether it’s a new book, program, conference, seminar, class, or experience. I’m currently fascinated with neuropsychology and the developments in the field as it pertains to my work as a coach, a dedicated mom, wife, and all other roles I play.
I am also very passionate about health. I practice (and teach) the Happy Body and am dedicated to living this way of being. Rather than strive for an ideal image (weight, appearance, size, etc) as most health regimes do, I practice happy body to attain youthfulness – speed, strength, flexibility, good posture, leanness, ideal body weight. I feel more vibrant, energetic, and alive than I did at age 18. My passion for health in this way has influenced many in my life to take it on as well. We only have one life, one body, and one mind this go-around – why not make it the best and joyous it could possibly be?!
As a mom, I bring compassion, joy and understanding. And my children bring to me, wonder and presence. My parents are my best friends and role models. They did an incredible job of guiding me, giving me opportunities to grow, and feel safe, secure and loved all at the same time. I work to do the same for my kids.
By far, the biggest lesson for me as a mother has provided the most awe-inspiring and humbling experience with my kids (and honestly – my whole life). By learning how to be PRESENT and MINDFUL I have taken the statement “hurry up” out of my vocabulary and it has completely transformed how I relate to my kids. And it allows me to see their awe, wonder and joy as they experience life with their fresh and unadulterated eyes.
By slowing down a bit and not forcing my “shoulds” on them, I am present with them through their ups and downs and am a stable, grounded, and loving force. I am less apt to get swept up into a reactionary state when “things” happen and instead am calm and peaceful through tumultuous waters. Additionally, I am tickled and delighted most of the time while with them because of the wonder they’re constantly experiencing. Something about being present allows me to see the humor and the joy in the littlest things – the way Aila babbles and reaches for things, the questions Aidan asks and the statements he makes, the precious interactions between my two kids and the facial expressions they both make. While not mindful these opportunities can slip by making my life seem exhausting. But by relinquishing my ideas of how things should be and simply just being with my kids, my life seems so bright and happy and there is plenty of vibrant energy to go around. Yes, the days are long – but in the most delightful way and not much is a chore. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy my wine at the end of the night!
I’m really lucky – my husband is my best friend and we partner on everything. Because we have two small kids, he has taking on the brunt of breadwinning so that I may be home with our children (which is very important to us and I am extremely grateful!) But we don’t have traditional roles in our family, he takes on cooking and cleaning as much as I do. We are devoted to maintaining a “couples” life for ourselves as well and get out for date nights as often as possible. Arnold and I are very similar but also very different. We share very similar views on how the world works, and same basic values in raising our kids (we’ve chosen Waldorf education and couldn’t be happier). The way we show up in the world is very different, though we hold the same principles and my way of being complements his and vice versa. We learn a lot from each other both by inspiration and frustration.
I wake multiple times at night and breastfeed Aila (usually 1-2 but upwards of 4 times!) a night, I’m up with both kids around 6am, start breakfast, take care of the chickens, and get Aidan off to school in the morning. I spend the next four hours with Aila outside in the backyard with the chickens, on walks, playing or whatever. We pick Aidan up in the afternoon and depending on the day it’s either piano or Taekwondo, home to play all afternoon, or something like a walk or the library. I or Arnold will make dinner for our family and we’ll eat outside (as long as the weather allows). After bedtime routine I’ll get a few moments to decompress with Arnold over a movie but most nights I’m too tired to exert that much attention! I have about three clients at a time so depending on my coaching schedule, I work in time during my day to work with my clients.
My kids…Aidan(5), Aila (10 months). Aidan was madly obsessed with keys and locks for the first 4 years of his life. Now at age five he’s obsessed with security systems and anything of perceived value (from documents, currencies, treasures/jewelry). Aila, we have yet to see what “things” she will gravitate towards but she is a pure joy, a happy bundle of love and giggles. She’s extremely attached to me and is a complete love bug. She has yet to crawl (at 10 months, crazy!) but is an extremely advanced eater and communicator.
Our favorite retailers for Aila are Zulily and Red Fish Clothing out of Vancouver. For Aidan, we love Chasing Fireflies. And for anyone with an infant, Magificent Baby, magnetic snaps that help dress your infant quickly after feedings and night changes. Saved me.
Other books and readings for moms and inspiration…The Whole Brained Child, Mindsight, The One Thing Holding You Back, The Emotional Life of Your Brain, Creating Innovators, and Gaia TV.
Amy, you are an inspiration. Happy birthday lady and thanks for the wonderful share. xx
Metallic beaded dress, Intermix.
It seemed absolutely perfect to feature my next mom, Mary Gonsalves Kinney, stylist and creative extraordinaire on the day of the Fashion’s Night Out hosted around the world and in the last final hours before this unbelievably talented lady dresses sixty (yes 60!) of Sacramento’s Finest at Pavilion’s Night Out Fashion Show. Not only is Mary stylish, gorgeous, smart, funny, successful, and loving…she is my partner-in-crime (Style Army-whoop whoop!) and an amazing mom to three of the sweetest, most beautiful, and talented children. And yes, she opened her home this September to a fourth, Donatella, a high school exchange student from Italy. Every day, I am in awe of this woman’s energy, drive, creativity, and humor. And I think one child and a business (or two) is crazy…Read this, you will be inspired.
My name is Mary Gonsalves Kinney. I am 35 year old mother of three, wife of Jason Kinney and fashion stylist, editor and co-owner of the Style Army. I am a ball of energy – probably, though not entirely, due to the large amounts of caffeine I consume. A girl’s gotta get through a day…
I am a fashion stylist, editor, and co-owner of the Style Army (formerly Sister Brother Style). Since I was a child, I have loved fashion. I love the creativity behind piecing together a look. I love the anticipation of not knowing what you’re going to wear until the last minute and having to rise to that challenge. I love to push the envelope.
I went to UC Berkeley and graduated in Political Science. I deferred law school for a year and pounded the pavement as a lobbyist for 7 years before I decided it wasn’t my cup of tea. After my son was born, I decided it was time to follow my real passion. It took having three babies to figure out what that passion really was and how to get there.
I started in this business with a couple of contacts, 100 dollars in a business account and some pipe dreams. There were loads of folks who were supportive – pumping me up and encouraging me to follow my dream. There were others who were less excited for me, but I think it’s natural for someone to have reservations in this business. It’s not everyday a mom of three from Sacramento ventures out into the world of fashion without the proper credentials…
This job, this passion of mine, has taken me down so many roads that I couldn’t possibly have imagined. I am so lucky to be able to dress people for a living. I am blessed to know designers, retailers, photographers, editors, models from all over the world now. People who have seen my work and believe in my talent and my skill. I pinch myself when I think of where I started and where I have come.
To be able to create a concept and watch it come to life in front of a lens. I get excited at the mere thought of wardrobe tape and metal racks. It’s in my veins. Editorial and lifestyle styling has helped me become a better stylist in my everyday life. It has given me the gift of ultimate creativity. To see something in my dreams come to fruition. It’s truly amazing- the whole process.
Transforming someone and their confidence through something so material seems shallow and irrelevant, but it’s not. How one portrays one’s self through their wardrobe defines how they feel about who they are on the inside. I don’t care who you are or what you wear, you are choosing that wardrobe for a reason. It is who you are – for that one moment in time. Not to say that your style can’t change because mine does constantly, but someone who wears black everyday wears black because it makes them feel good. Period. Clothing, jewelry, shoes, it all translates into something bigger.
I am raising three children – Stella (7), Violet (5 1/2) and Dashiell (3 1/2). I have always taken my family life very seriously. I am passionate about being a good mother, a good wife, a good sister and daughter. I make my dad lunch everyday and when I’m working I am sure to have something prepared for him in my absence. I like taking care of my parents, taking them with us on trips, going to family dinners together. It’s important. I make sure that my three brothers and I and their families are together as often as possible.
I love having a close knit family and I think that it is incredibly important that my children learn from my relationships with my own siblings and parents. It helps them in understanding that family is forever and should always be respected and loved unconditionally.
My work ethic is a direct reflection of how I was raised. My parents are hard working people – always have been. I am never too tired or too busy. It’s just the way we work– you fill your plate to the point where it’s spilling over, but you manage and you do it with a big smile.
What do you bring to the table? I bring positive energy, creativity, excitement. I mean, hell, I bring a rolling rack full of designer clothing to every shoot — who doesn’t think that’s exciting? Ha.
And my kids have taught me everything, I have learned patience and understanding, to appreciate all of the little things, and to move a LOT slower. To take it all in because in a blink of an eye, they will be adults and I will be alone with my husband (who I adore)… but boy, that sounds lonely.
I’ve learned that no matter how frustrating motherhood can be, that I am so amazingly blessed to have three healthy, beautiful children to spend my life with…they are perfection.
My parents are amazing. They have always been there for me. They are my cheering squad, my spiritual counselors, my best friends. Really. I had the happiest childhood. Sure, there were hard times, but my family stuck together and laughed through it all. Financial hardships, illnesses (my dad had a massive stroke that paralyzed his left side at 46 years old), these things took a toll on all of us, but we made it through them stronger and even more loyal to one another. My brothers are the light in my life. They are all so different and so hilarious in their own way. They make me a better woman because they taught me at a young age to understand the male psyche. To realize that they just think differently than we females. I think I’m exceptionally good at styling men and I credit my brothers for that. I was constantly dressing them as a kid.
I would classify myself as urban chic with a touch of glam and a touch of bohemian. I like edgy pieces that are somewhat androgynous, but with just enough femininity to be pretty. I like things to stand out and to draw attention, but not in a “hey, look how sexy I am” way. I like to know the trends, but I don’t necessarily want to wear them. I see so much as a stylist that I kind of get burned out by the revolving door of what’s haute and what’s not. I like what I like and I go with it. Right now, my favorite designers are Isabel Marant, Stella McCartney, Alexander Wang, Prada, Rag & Bone, Opening Ceremony, Marni and the Row.
I am a total chameleon when it comes to my beauty regime. I like product. A lot. I will buy ice from an eskimo so don’t trust me when it comes to keeping to a budget on these items. At the end of the day, I could not live without my retina-A, my Skinceuticals Vitamin C serum, or my Clarsonic. I also love those YES cleansing towels from Target (they’re amazing!). As far as makeup goes, I’m sort of a YSL junkie. I own the entire line from foundation to mascara to lip stains and all of their eye shadows and liners. I just recently discovered Benefit’s “I Can’t Believe They’re Real” mascara in black and I’m seriously obsessed. I use Latisse once a week to keep my lashes long and my brows thick and bushy. I believe in Microdermabrasion and Dermaplaning facials and do them once a month. And for the sake of open disclosure, I love Botox. I don’t do it ALL of the time, but a little smidge here and there is worth its weight in gold. Women in my age group who claim they’re wrinkle fee naturally, well, they’re lying. I like it to look natural and to be able to move my forehead and I think I’ve found the perfect doctor for that.
Hair is VERY important to me. Color is crucial, which is why I travel to Los Angeles every 8 weeks for touch ups by Denis De Souza at Andy Le Compte (he’s the best!). I’ve been seeing him since my first child was born and I’m a loyal customer. He makes my color natural and yet exciting. Very hard to do! I also love my Keratin treatments there – they keep my hair silky and damage free looking. Paige McGillvray at Deeda Salon in Sacramento gave me my most recent haircut and bang chop and I love, love, love it. This is coming from a girl who NEVER thought she’d cut her hair again.
My husband is my partner in crime. He’s hilarious, charming, handsome and big and burly, which gets me all hot and bothered. No, really, he is one of the greatest men I’ve ever met and not because he’s perfect… it’s because he’s not and he never pretends to be. He’s real, he’s honest, he’s self-deprecating and humble and yet wicked smart. Like, he might be the smartest person I’ve ever known and that is very sexy to me. I like that he can command a room with his booming laugh and his penchant for spouting out random facts and pop culture references. I like the way he throws my son in the air and wrestles him on the couch and five minutes later, cuddles him and lets him cry when he gets scared or has a moment of sweet sensitivity. Or how he tells our two girls daily how beautiful and smart they are…just in case they forget.
He’s the perfect balance to my crazy, often anxious and uber bossy tendencies. He puts up with me and not in a “we’ve been married for so long I have to,” but in a “I really like her” kind of way. I truly can’t imagine my life without him. Like, ever.
Stella is 7 and is my first born in every sense of the title. She’s mature, responsible, smart as a whip, passionate and driven and at times, super sensitive. She cares for her siblings like a mother does. She’s beautiful and has so many wonderful possibilities ahead of her. She always has her nose in a book and loves to sing, do ballet and, well, read. She’s a true performer and will most likely, if I could put money on it, end up famous. For real.
Violet is 5 1/2 and is feisty, fierce and a pint sized comedian. She’s got the most amazing blue eyes and hair that most girls would kill for, yet she thinks it is “crazy.” Girlfriend has her hair in a ponytail on the top of her head everyday (a phase I hope she quickly grows out of). She’s adorable and gets away with a lot of mischief because she’s so cute. Just when I think I might lock her in a room because she turned the oven on and melted an entire jar of Playdough, she always manages to bring a smile to my face with a “Sorry, dude” (her newest saying) or a “I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I love you, I love you!” She loves her “lamby” and being in the middle where she can look up to her sister and boss her brother around.
Dashiell is 3 1/2 and is my charming baby boy. He is sweet and funny and kind. He loves hugs, kisses and snuggles and I honestly hope that never changes. His superheroes consume him and everyday he transforms into one of his favorite Marvel characters. He’s very special and will always be his Mommy’s boy. He sleeps with his big Teddy and two blankets and no matter how big he gets (and he’s big), he always looks like a baby to me. His chubby cheeks and his perfect little boy haircut. I could just eat him up.
My kids have their own sense of style and are very opinionated. I would never hinder their fashion decisions unless I felt they were inappropriate for their age (no crop tops or bustiers or heels!). I let them mix color and prints and pick their hair accessories, hats, nail polish colors…. I even let them wear lip gloss at times (dash, too!). I really allow them to be themselves when they’re not at school since they’re in a uniform during the school week. I love Crewcuts for kids (JCrew Kids), Tala Bee, Luna Leggings, Stella McCartney kids, Splendid, Kitson Kids Beverly Hills, Lisa Kline kids, Puddles, It’s a Small World and Koukla Kids in Sacramento. I love Petit Tresor, Trumpette and Lanvin for kids (amazing!).
We recently redecorated their rooms. We picked a rather mature color palette for the girls’ room. I was surprised they wanted it. It’s very French inspired. We selected the most beautiful metallic wallpaper and soft pinks and grays for their bedding. Of course, there is ballet decor everywhere since they both love to dance.
Dash’s room is chalked full of superheroes and cars/trucks, usual boy things. He’s all boy. Since birth. I love his room – albeit tiny – because it is such a puppy dog tail type of room. It even smells like a boy. You know, that sweaty, baseball like scent that exists even right after you’ve bathed them in lavender soap.
Our favorite activities are usually centered around dinner time. The kids and I usually eat together as Jason works late during the week. We review the day, read together, do flash cards (these don’t last long), and laugh about silly stories. I try to do a “story” time in my bed right before bedtime, too. It’s so sweet to smell their clean hair after baths and snuggle in our jammies.
We also like to go for walks or swim at the local club down the street. Some of our best talks happen on our 2 block radius to and from the pool. Their interactions with one another crack me up. Nothing makes me happier than catching them holding hands out of nowhere or kissing each other on the cheek.
My day is crazy. No matter what time of the year, school or no school. There is never a moment of stillness. We are shuttling from art and theater camps to lessons to dance classes to violin and piano to swimming to school. My kids are miniature versions of myself. They get bored when they’re idle so they are always doing something. I think it is helping them develop into smart, well rounded little people. They’ve done so much in such a short amount of time and I’m so proud at how well they handle balancing it all. They go to an accelerated school, which can be demanding at times (especially on me at homework time!), but they don’t even realize all that they’re doing. It’s really quite amazing and really goes to show we often don’t give our kids enough credit for all that they’re capable of if given the resources.
The most exciting moment as a mom… giving birth to each of them. Nothing trumps that. It never gets old and it’s always equally emotional and amazing. The most humbling would have to be when my oldest daughter tells me to put my phone down and listen to her. Sometimes I need that moment of reckoning. She can tell if I’m not fully focused on her and nothing breaks my heart more than her thinking work is more important than her or her sister and brother. It will never be more important.
The best advice I received…To take mental snapshots of my kids during those “first” moments. To close my eyes and make it a permanent photo memory in my head. I think I actually heard that in a movie, but I can’t quite remember. The other thing is to remember that they’re just kids and that they’ll do really frustrating things, but that you need to breathe through it and teach them how to be better. It’s our job as their mother.
My advice…To make time for yourself and your girlfriends. To make it a point to block out even five minutes a day to read or take a bath, chat on the phone with a friend or have a glass of wine. Your sanity depends on it. It’s okay for your kids to see you’re busy and to ignore them once in a while. It’s healthy and part of life. They need to learn to be patient and to leave mommy alone once in a while.
Lady, as I always tell you…you have it down. Thanks for being such a beautiful lady and inspiration in my life. You are one in a million. x
On the very stressful, painful, and joyous week of a dear friend’s healing from a double mastectomy (thankfully, her test came back and her nodes are negative!), I wanted to share the amazing story of another close friend and client Anngi Sieger Strick who 3 years ago was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer. Anngi… a mother, a wife, a jewelry designer, an artist,a traveler, a health fanatic, friend, a happy and blessed woman, AND a survivor… chronicles the journey of her diagnosis and her uphill battle back as a survivor. When I read Anngi’s story, I was in tears. Her words filled me with horror, hope, inspiration, sadness, and love. It is unthinkable and unimaginable to picture oneself in Anngi’s situation and shoes, and yet, 1 out of 8 women will be touched in some way by cancer at some time in their life. Thankfully, we have beautiful and courageous SUPER-women like Anngi to share their experiences and pass on their stories so we can hold on to them. This is Anngi’s story…
Anngi…“I am sorry….but it’s cancer.” Anyone who has ever heard that 6-letter word spoken to them will remember the exact day, time, and place. Confusion, fear and shock poured into my soul. I couldn’t feel my body anymore and my head weighed 50 pounds. Within a second my world as I knew it, changed. Changed forever. I would never, ever be the same person after September 17, 2010. Everything the doctor said to me after the “C” word sounded like the teachers on the Peanuts cartoons, “WA WA WA WA WAAAA….” I couldn’t hear words anymore—only noise.
My life up until this point was pretty blessed and fortunate. At 38, I had a lot to be thankful for: I had a loving husband, a sweet precious 1 year old son, my own jewelry business, exotic travels under my belt, fun-loving family friends, a lively social calendar, fabulous girlfriends—too many to keep up with and never enough time. I cherished my supportive parents, brother, sister and her family. I adored my in-laws and my husband’s siblings too. We were all one big happy family.
We were trying to get pregnant with a second child but I was having “stomach issues” for about a year that increasingly got worse. Bloating, cramps and now there was adnominal pain. Things were just “not right.” My OB wanted me to figure it out before we tried to get pregnant. It took close to a year for the doctors to diagnose me because I was not a risk factor for anything serious. “It’s probably just IBS,” they kept telling me. I thought maybe I am just getting older; I can’t eat all the spicy foods I want anymore. After dozens of answerless blood tests and exams, I was ready to chalk it up as a “fickle stomach” and just deal with it. But my husband, thank God, pushed me to challenge the doctors for more tests and exams. I credit my husband for being a large part in saving my life. This was also a lesson to truly listen to what your body is telling you, and don’t let anyone persuade you differently.
Finally, and long overdue, a CT scan was ordered. This scan not only showed an ovarian cyst the size of an orange (which explained the pain) but also showed a large inflamed section in my colon. “You need to do the colon prep tomorrow and have a colonoscopy the next day,” a concerned voice told me over the phone. “What could it be?” I asked carefully. The seconds of silence dragged on before he quietly said, “Well, it could be a tumor.”
“A TUMOR?” I exclaimed. But I was not even 40, I workout 5 times a week,I don’t eat red meat, I eat a lot of salads and I don’t smoke. I kept on rambling to the doctor. I don’t have any history of ANY TYPE OF CANCER on EITHER SIDE of my family! I could think of a hundred reasons why I should not have cancer. I eventually learned that I fall into the 1% random chance of getting colon cancer as a female under 50 with no family history of cancer. It was just a random cell mutation that went amuck. Great, pass the tequila shots. What amuck luck.
It was a whirlwind of events after my diagnosis of colon cancer. Within weeks I had surgery to remove the tumor. I had such an intelligent and talented team at Stanford Hospital and Clinics from surgery through oncology. We are lucky to live in the Bay area with world-class doctors and cutting edge treatment at our fingertips. After my surgery there was a long and anxiety ridden week of waiting for my pathology results. Like most things in life, being in limbo and not knowing where you stand is more frightening than knowing the path ahead of you—even if that path is dark, scary and difficult to climb. You just want to know where you are going, even if you need a flashlight.
Finally the surgeon called. The good news was he believed he removed the entire tumor, which he considered quite large. “Large tumor” mentioned in any sentence didn’t sound like good news to me but he noted that from my CT scan and my surgery it looked like the tumor did not spread to any other organs. The bad news was a few of my lymph nodes around the tumor did test positive for cancer. I was told I needed 6 months of chemo—as an extra “insurance”, he said. The idea was to make sure we’re wiping out any leftover undetectable cancer cells.
So the wait was over and I had my answer: I had Stage III colon cancer. I was told that I had somewhere in the 60s percent range of beating this. Yikes. I know that’s not the worst diagnosis but it certainly wasn’t the best. The 60s range is a little too close to 50% and 50% is a little too close to the feeling of flipping a coin. I was petrified and all I could think about was the possibility of not being here for my son and family.
Being a jewelry designer (her beautiful jewels can be found at anngi alyn) and having a passion for wearing jewelry, I didn’t opt for the lower maintenance and more popular port to receive my chemotherapy treatment because it was surgically placed around your collarbone. I still wanted to wear my big chunky necklaces and try to salvage some of “me” and my identity so I opted for a PICC line–a permanent IV surgically placed in your upper arm to receive intravenous chemo treatment. It was easy to cover with baggy shirts and I could still wear all of my jewelry. It sounds silly, to be concerned about wearing jewelry, but during times like this, I grasped at anything that involved maintaining my feminine identity; to keep some sense of normalcy. I didn’t want chemo to change what I usually wear or look like. It was already taking enough of my spirit and energy. But the PICC line ended up being very high maintenance and clunky—it couldn’t get wet and needed weekly upkeep and cleaning. Still, I am happy I did it. I was able to dress like “me.” I looked like the Bionic Woman with the awkward wiring and bulky IV contraption in my tricep. Now if only I could channel her superpowers….
With colon cancer chemo, you typically don’t lose your hair. As a woman, I was so grateful for this.It’s a frivolous concern when battling cancer, but a cruel effect of the medicine that is trying to help us get better. As women, our hair is a feminine extension of our identity and expression of our style. Luckily, I didn’t have to deal with this emotional and physical loss. Acknowledging this small act of victory, and trying to feel even more feminine, I didn’t cut my hair that year and let it grow past the middle of my back.
They say it “takes a village” to help during times like this. My primary roles as a mother and wife were severely compromised. I had to relinquish control to my village for help with my life and my family. I often felt like vapor slipping through the halls of my house—barely existing; floating. Thank God for my village: my husband, parents, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, family and friends who helped with our son, brought home cooked meals, tidied the house, did laundry, visited me at home, took me to the hospital, and stayed with me during my treatments. Thank God for my son who brought me giggles and hugs. My husband worked miracles as he picked up so many shattered pieces of our life. Partners unfairly never get much attention or sympathy during a time like this. I was in my own little cancer world but didn’t realize that those closest to me are sitting right there, riding shotgun, on this emotional rollercoaster too.
My village also consisted of our overzealous puggle and neurotic cat. Their unconditional, quiet love was a strong force in my healing.
The nurses at the hospital who administered my chemo—bless their souls—were caring, heartfelt people. How they do their job day in and day out I will never understand. They must be angels from above. After the first few anxiety ridden chemo treatments the routine became more familiar and I was able to relax a bit more. I got to know the nurses and they helped make my long days a little brighter. I often wore my black motorcycle boots to these sessions. At the time, I felt like wearing them would toughen me up, give me some attitude and help kick some cancer butt. I still have them and wear them on days where I don’t feel like a strong woman and need a little reminder of where my boots have walked.
I tried so many things to support my cancer treatment and recovery. I wanted my village to grow and be as well rounded and strong as possible. I consistently consulted with a renowned traditional Chinese practitioner who specialized in cancer treatment. I took dozens of daily bizarre Chinese medicine supplements and strange herbs. I had weekly acupuncture sessions. I hired a nutritionist who specializes in cancer treatment and became vegan. I chugged gallons of wheatgrass and kale juice. I learned about all the “anti-cancer” foods like broccoli and celery and garlic. Educating myself about nutrition and maintaining an alkaline body, I became an expert on veggie smoothies and healing foods. Somehow all of this helped me feel a little more in control in a very uncertain world. I am proud to say most of my uber healthy eating habits still exist today (OK, aside from my vice of Chardonnay and the occasional slice of Wisconsin cheese). Our entire extended family is more intelligent, healthier, and wiser about food choices, which is one very positive outcome from all of this.
The mind/body connection is a powerful force. It’s important to pay attention to emotional health during cancer. I decided I needed some help in this department and sought a therapist to add to my village. She reminded me that I am not defined by this cancer and told me to write down all of the positive things I am. As a woman, I own many roles and cancer patient is only one very small—and hopefully temporary —part.
Days drag by when you are in treatment, always looking at the calendar and inching toward the (hopeful) last treatment finish line. I learned to enjoy the simple things since I didn’t feel well or have much energy for much else: visits from my family, my husband’s arms holding me tight or the giggles and kisses from our son who was just over one year’s old. Thankfully, he didn’t understand what was going on. He thought there was a constant party at the house because there were so many people coming, going, visiting and dropping off food. Not feeling well, I could easily sit on the carpet and just listen to my son’s innocent giggle and watch him play with his toys. There was nowhere to be and I had many, many moments when time was slooooow and we just sat there playing. I will cherish that time always. Being his mother, watching him grow, praising his learning, and having time to absorb his joy gave me so much joy. He reminded me how fast and precious life is and how something as simple as your child’s giggle can make you smile. Laughing with him and spending so much slow time with him helped me find my sense of humor again; helped me get through some very dark days. Laughter with your child is truly the best medicine.
I am asked all the time what I learned from cancer. And that I dealt with the experience gracefully. First of all, let me say that my journey with colon cancer is not officially over. I am proud to say that I am going on over 2 years remission but anyone who knows the familiar knock of cancer knows all too well you are not “cured” until you hit the 5 year mark. I still do colonoscopies, blood work and CT scans. I feel optimistic and hopeful, but my journey is not over yet. My go to answer in response to people who ask how I am doing is “so far, so good” and I am at peace with that.
Second, it’s easy to walk gracefully if you have a village holding you up. Even so, I do not feel I handled this smoothly or any differently than anyone else. You just do the best you can do and some days are good and some days are bad. But that truth applies to any wife, mother or human being who has cancer or does not have cancer. There were many times that I just burst into tears in the grocery line or melted onto our cold hardwood floor. I had moments where I shouted, screamed and freaked out. I have a lot of energy and emotion and that can swing both ways. But remarkably, there was also a lot of laughter, gratitude and appreciation during this time because there was often someone in our home visiting, helping, cooking or cheering us up. There were many gifts, blankets, stuffed animals, food, flowers, books, prayer cloths and care packages given as gifts of love and they helped bring a little smile to my face.
One of my most inspiring gifts was from my mother-in-law’s friend who visited a chapel in New Mexico for her own health problems. She shared some holy dirt from El Santuario de Chimayo. It’s widely believed that the soil is blessed, and can bring miraculous results to ailing believers who brew and drink the dirt or rub it on diseased parts of their body. Before every chemo treatment I would rub this special dirt on my wrist, right on my pulse. It sounds crazy but what did I have to lose? It was a reminder to believe in miracles and have some faith.
There is one big silver lining that really shines through this journey. I learned how much I love—and am loved by– my husband, son, family, friends and caretakers. You think you know this, and assume it, but until you actually hear exact words spoken from someone or see the words written on paper, you don’t really know exactly what someone thinks of you and your relationship with them. During that fretful time, when I (and everyone else) was scared, anxious, and wondered if my cancer would stay away and if I would live through this, I got to tell everyone I care about how much I love them. And they got to tell me how much they love me—as a mother, as a friend, as a daughter, as a wife. I received dozens of wonderful words—or cards—to which this day I still keep in a big box on my dresser to remind me everyday of the love I have. What a gift: true communication and reciprocation of love. Some of the people I hadn’t heard from in years, but there they were, spilling their heart and appreciation for our relationship. Unlike our society’s world of text, email and Facebook, these were real and genuine face-to-face interactions and thoughtful letters.
I am grateful and humbled to have so many wonderful, strong, loving people in my life. I am blessed that we had a chance to tell each other how we feel. We have all heard this before: you should never waste a moment to tell someone how you feel because you just never know what tomorrow may bring. Life happens quickly and tragedies occur. Be sure to tell your husband, child, family and friends how much you love them TODAY.
My last day of chemo was April 5, 2011. About a month later, I went to NYC on a little vacation with my sister-in-law. After a perfect day of strolling SOHO and brunching at Pastis, we passed the fabulous Christian Louboutin store—my favorite place to window shop in New York. We drooled over the shoes and I felt too guilty to buy a pair. But then a sparkly pair caught my eye—a 5-inch heel pump covered in rose glitter. They seemed to be whispering my name. They were the antithesis of my dark, tough motorcycle boots that I wore during my chemotherapy. They were too expensive but they were oh-so-delicate-and-pretty and as decadent as a double chocolate mousse cake. I couldn’t resist and bought them. They were my gift to myself and they shined like the sun that I would hopefully see more of in the days ahead. Those glittery heels remind me to stand tall, remain hopeful, and sparkle as I walk through each new day.
And Anngi, your words and love of life…give us inspiration and appreciation for each day we have, how to live gracefully, and how to build, nurture, appreciate, and love our own “villages” each and every day that we are here to do so. Love you lady!
Today is a super treat! I am not only highlighting an amazing client, Jennie Hearing of the fabulous, organic kids brand Luna Leggings, but a dear friend. A mother of three, a designer, and an entrepreneur…Jennie is someone I greatly admire for her vision, clarity, balance, harmony, and intelligence. I don’t know how she does it but Jennie not only balances her own family with such grace and care, but her community and the world around her as well. Stay here for an amazing read on creativity, sustainability, fashion, and love. And if you ever thought finding chic, eco-friendly, sustainable products a chore, you will be so pleasantly surprised with Jennie’s laundry list of incredible resources to share.
Jennie… I am a mom to 3 amazing little buddhas, Sienna (6), Amber (almost 3), Sage (4 months) and loving wife to my truly supportive, awesome husband Arden. I am also the designer + founder of Luna Leggings.
Luna Leggings are hip, fun, fashionable organic cotton tights for girls. Launched a year ago, we are now in over 75 boutiques and department stores worldwide, and on track to expand into children’s apparel (including boys!) in 2014. Running Luna Leggings is part business, part fun! which I try to always keep in mind. Inspired by my girl’s need to wear cute + comfy tights, the business was created quite organically with my role as ‘mom’ always remaining the priority. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is ultimately important to me, and I focus to not let work interfere with family needs.
An organic, environmentally-friendly, healthy lifestyle has always been a passion of mine as well. The foods we choose, the products we use, and the activities we engage in and share with our children are all important to feeling good about ourselves + as productive members of society. Living in the Bay Area we are so fortunate to have access to such amazing natural, local, sustainable food options. I’m constantly seeking greater education and resources to support a healthy environment, and try to bring these changes to our family.
I’m also passionate about travel. Although having kids has slowed down our ability to get too crazy, Arden + I are heading to Tokyo this summer for our first international children’s apparel tradeshow Playtime. A local mom, raised in Tokyo, has recently expanded our presence in this uber-cool fashion-hub. This fall Luna Leggings will be hitting the Japanese market in the high-end department store Isetan, as well as the prestigious Sakura marketplace. We are super excited to visit this amazing country to experience the amazing food + culture.
Where do you live…We found Rockridge in Oakland 6 years ago and we have never been happier. It is the perfect balance between urban + suburban. We now walk to school, the nearby lake-park, as well as our main street of shops, restaurants, and best local market ever- wild, line caught fish, local marin sun farms meats+eggs, highwire coffee roasters serving the best cappuccinos ever. It is also walkable to Bart train, just a 20 min ride into SF. You can’t beat it!
A few of our favorite things…For newborns, nothing beats my fav eco-friendly Speeses. Super cute, all organic rompers and comfy throw on basic pieces with darling little screenprinted designs. Friend + founder Rachel has expanded creativity to a variety of outlets including new pieces now come from Under the Nile and Kate Quinn Organics. Also, all-wood Haba teethers and baby toys are staples, and I don’t leave home without Sage’s Sophie the Giraffe, who we’ve nicknamed ‘Gigi’. This rubber squeak toy is made of natural rubber and food grade paints.
Amber has inherited my shoe fetish! I adore the locally-based Livie+Luca with their cute styles and function rubber soles. Fashionable + functional is sometimes hard to find- Livie + Luca has both. Another staple are Natives- their color choices are gorgeous!
Sienna is our artist, sitting for hours engrossed in sketching and coloring. Croquis sketchpads are a must for designing garmets, with pages of figure templates to adorn. I’m constantly inspired by the unique styles she creates! And, of course, Roominate creative design kits, created by 3 women engineers from Stanford, are the perfect tool to build 3-dimensional dollhouses that you can add your own personal style to. And last, indoor/outdoor kitchen play is an all-time fav in our family and Green Toys eco-friendly tea + chef sets are a must.
My girls are a definite mix of glitz+glam and tomboy- every day is different depending on the mood. Sienna loves to get creative, often layering Crewcut simple pieces with frilly skirts, Naartjie flowy jackets, and Luna Leggings. Amber fixates on a particular outfit- often comfy Luna Leggings and tunic tops from Tea Collection. I’m sometimes forced to wash items daily until she’s ready for a change.
We love everything Pink Chicken. Don’t miss Pink Chicken’s Fall ’13 Collection- we’re collaborating with them this fall on 3 fun, colorful fall + holiday Luna Leggings! Their ethnic-inspired prints and darling dresses, tunics, and tees are a staple for my girls!
Our girls will soon share a room so we’ve recently had bunk beds built. All our new linens come from Serena & Lily. I cannot sleep on any other sheets! The indian-inspired colorblock are my favorite.
The most important beauty regime is sleep! I find I’m choosing sleep over work more often these days. When I sleep, I can tackle even the most stressful of days. Sick kids, work deadlines, busy days- all can be handled with greater composure and patience if I’m well rested. Sleep isn’t just for feeling good, looking good, it’s important for my kids to have well rested mama.
I only use organic, chemical-free hair + body products- knowing that your skin absorbs everything I cannot imagine using anything but wholesome products on a daily basis. I love all Lush soaps, almond, coconut, and olive oils for the skin. Ecco-Bella’s Vanilla moisturizer is a staple. I won’t wear any scent with young babies at home and this provides a light fragrance that’s a perfect substitute. As my skin ages I do find I’m seeking more intensive care for face, so I will sacrifice a little ‘naturalness’ with more enhanced facial products and make-up! There are a few staples- lip gloss, bronzer, mascara.. I’m not that strict!
I opt for more casual, sensible fashion, adding a touch of polish and funk when I can….favorite designers: Dolce & Gabbana, Trish Westcoat-Pound of Haute Hippie (formally with Michael Kors and Theory), Jade Jagger for jewels. I can’t have too many skinny jeans, tees and (preferably wrinkle-free) blazers. Low-heel booties and ballet flats are also necessities. Throw on a statement piece of jewelry-dangly earrings or a pendant necklace-or a fun, print scarf, and I’m ready!
Being a good parent includes patience, respect, discipline, and fun. Again, finding a balance in this is key. I love introducing my kids to new things- new experiences, activities, knowledge. We have endless opportunities to do this in the Bay Area with the enormous array of classes, learning centers, kid-focused adventures. However, what I truly value is simplicity. I yearn to instill a belief in them that happiness + enjoyment can come from what’s already around us. We don’t always need something new, unique + ‘fun’ to do, but can appreciate and get so much from what we have right around us- pens + paper, glue, glitter, nature, time together, laughter…
My husband, my best friend, my soul mate, has always been so supportive of my interests + needs. Aside from encouraging me to dive into the business, he is always right by my side to attend industry events, support travel to India, trade-shows, promote sales, and abe a trusted business advisor! He is my biggest fan, and I love that I can always truly count on him for giving me time when I need it.
At our core, we are totally in sync- lifestyle, passions, values, desires. Though we are quite different in how we handle things. I learn and I am inspired by him. He’s always taught me that we’re not victim to our natural tendencies, but that we can create our own reactions and thought processes to affect change in our lives.
After 11 years together, I now understand that relationships really take hard work. We cycle and grow as individuals. But as long as we maintain love, communication, respect, and trust, and make time to really be with one another, we remain close. Not always easy! But so important to keep our connection strong so we can manage everything else in life.
Best advice you have been given as a mom?…People always tell you to enjoy this time as it goes so fast! It sounds so generic but now with my oldest graduating from kindergarten and my youngest 4 months old, I truly feel this is sage advice. I remind myself of this, esp. in harder more stressful times, and it let’s me appreciate the chaos of our day a bit more.
It’s all about perspective and where you choose to focus your energy. When you focus on the positive, surround yourself with positive, inspiring people, you can create your own reality. Luna Leggings would not have survived without my connections to and inspiration from such high-energy, super-positive people like Lauri (Awww!!), for example, among others. Seek these people out whenever possible, and weed out others that don’t add to this path.
This is the type of wedding I love. An amazing couple, beautiful love story, exquisite details, and a stunning venue / superb coordinator. Life couldn’t get better when all of these elements mix so wonderfully together. And now Style Me Pretty has topped off the cake with their perfect post of this perfect day. Thank you to the incredible Jen+Jay and their magical team of vendors: Tina Reikes of Bear Flag Farm, Grace Lee Events, Zephyr Tents, Marie Crist of Vis a V Salon, Lenore Harrington for Makeup and my right hand woman and second photographer Jessica Epstein for her stunning efforts and images. Cheers to the beautiful couple and this fantastic press.
It was so great to see this lovely family again in February. Edgar, Michelle, and Evah traveled down from Sacramento to the Sutro Baths to meet me for what turned out to be the most gorgeous afternoon. We really lucked out. And Michelle was amazing bringing along all sorts of fun props for Evah to play with. We had a blast with the balloons, the signs, the frames, etc, but what I loved in the end was the real moments: the emotion, the action, and the love of a family playing together amongst the beauty of our coastline and trees. I just adore the images we got.
Rachel+Garret were an absolute joy to work with! An amazing wedding filled with love, emotion, beauty, and enthusiasm. We are so honored to have this stunning wedding featured today on Style Me Pretty. Incredible thanks to SMP, Rachel and Garret, the Rossen Family, and team of vendors who worked so incredibly hard to execute the incredible vision of one very energetic and talented MOB, Linda Rossen.