Sunday, June 12, 2016

Faith, Hope and My Kind of Courage.

I am touched by the kinds words of support and excitement after the announcement that Derek and I are expecting twins! My heart is overjoyed at how kind and well received this news has been by so many. I am almost 10 weeks pregnant and finally seeing it in black and white and hearing from so many of you, has really made it feel real

I often have delayed emotional reactions to both good and bad things that happen – and finding out that I'm pregnant has proved to be no different. At the age of almost 44, I can’t believe I am going to be a mother, after so many years of waiting, wondering and believing it likely wasn’t even possible?! But I am here to testify that no matter what your circumstances in life or how difficult things are, the Lord does consecrate our afflictions for our good. Yes, even when our pain and suffering seem endless and pointless, there is always a way for us to ultimately find the gift in our suffering.

No, it certainly didn’t feel like a "gift" when I found myself divorced at the age of 29, as I was climbing out of the depression that hit and a mountain of debt to pay off from my marriage. And it didn’t feel like something the Lord could consecrate for my good when I was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer tumor at the age of 38. As a single woman, trying to attract a good man and facing the new reality that I was going to lose a good chunk of my female anatomy as well as my hair, with very little hope for being able to have children, I was devastated.  And as I have experienced the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur, with fears of not being able to pay rent or make payroll, or fix things with an upset customer -  and more sleepless nights than I care to admit – NO, it certainly didn’t appear that anything good could come from my challenges!

But you know what? Every blessing I have received has come because of or in spite of my challenges!

It has been said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Many of you out there may be feeling like your journey is much too long, too tiring and too overwhelming to keep going. I feel your pain. I know what that’s like and I know the hopelessness that comes when we are in the moment of despair and nothing seems to make sense, when we see no end to our suffering. 

But I also know the great joy of not giving up, doubting our doubts and clinging to the truths we hold dear and true. I rarely feel God in the moments when I think I need Him most. For me it is usually in hindsight that I realize He let me go through the grief, pain and loneliness for His own wise purposes – perhaps so that I can learn patience, empathy, compassion and become more like Him in the process. 

Remembering that He did not spare His only begotten son from the greatest suffering of all, helps me feel less picked on and more trusted that He really does have my back and knows better than I, what I need. He also knows what I want and at times He grants the desire of my heart, after I do what I can to help bring about His miracles.

Being an older mom, brings unique opportunities along with a few challenges. I’m grateful for the many friends and family who have children old enough to babysit my future kids J. And I’m thrilled to represent the women in my age group who are wondering if this blessing is still possible. In the coming months, I hope to share my journey of being a 44-year-old expectant mom of twins, with a mission to bring hope, renewed faith and increased courage to those who can benefit.

I’ve never been the most adventurous type to bungee jump, sky dive or back pack across Europe - and I’m deathly afraid of spiders and most dogs. But I know how to look a trial square in the eye and say, “game on, you’re not going to stand in my way of going after my dreams”. 

Even as a shy, awkward, 8th grader, I found the strength to put my insecurities aside and go after my goals of having friends and being involved in school activities. It wasn’t easy, but I kept going because I knew that the kind of courage I had was to feel the fear and do it anyway. Being able to keep going and face the adversity that comes during those quiet hours when I’m alone with my thoughts, wondering if God is really listening – that’s my kind of courage.

I’m not saying that having courage means you get everything you want, when you want it or that life will be easy – in fact it might even be more difficult at times. But I do know that life is better with faith, hope and courage. It is my prayer that you will come to realize and embrace the hope and faith to discover whatever your kind of courage might be and allow it to guide you to what your true potential can be.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

My Own Love Story

For those of you who want to know the inside scoop about how Derek and I met . . . 
Since my last post in January 2013 so much has happened that I haven't written about here! Today is the perfect time to reignite my blog and share my journey to finding lasting love with others who might benefit from my experiences.

At the beginning of 2014, I declared it to be the "Year of the Matchmaker". I intended for this to be bold yet broad, to encompass blessings I was seeking both personally and professionally.  

My business as a matchmaker has evolved a lot since my last post.  Instead of running everything myself, I put together an amazing team of colleagues who all play a role in assisting our clients in becoming the best version of themselves and therefore, in an ideal place to meet their match. In January, I knew that we had the right people on the bus but we were wrestling with how to drive things forward in a way that would benefit the client and keep us in business long term. Through a series of events, I ended up connecting directly with some of America's top matchmakers and received some excellent insight on how to take The LDS Matchmaker to the next level.  

My team put together a plan and attended the Huntington Beach LDS Singles Conference in May where we were able to host and take part in some wonderful events.  We were also simultaneously filming for an episode on TLC that featured The LDS Matchmaker process and life story of a disabled woman who we assisted in her journey to love -  and we launched a casting call and filming for Season 5 of The LDS Bachelor/ette (formerly known as The Mormon Bachelor/ette) and hired Erin Elton Schurtz as our VP of Media Relations.

Since I was traveling a lot in May, my schedule was booked a few weeks out for client consultations. I recall receiving information for a newly divorced guy who looked like a total catch - I might have thought something like: "too bad he's going to be a client - but at least he'll be easy to match" :). 

As you might have already guessed, this was the one and only Derek Max Seal.  After purchasing Alisa's Dating System online and studying up, he had decided to check out our services further. In the meantime he found my profile on an online dating site and upon discovering that I was single, did some research on me.  

Unbeknownst to me, he was strategizing about how he could catch my attention :). The day before his scheduled appointment he sent me a message saying he wanted to cancel because he would rather ask me on a date than have the matchmaking consultation :). Let's just say he got lots of bonus points for his willingness to take a risk.  Since I don't date clients, he would have been off limits for me if he had signed up. 

So we cancelled our appointment and went on a date to Red Mango for my favorite frozen yogurt.  He was so cute in his suit and I could tell from the moment I met him that he was a wonderful, kind hearted, good man.  As we said goodbye and got in our separate cars to drive away, we discovered that we both had fun license plates based on our occupations - mine is “CUPID” and his says “EXPERT” - we had a good laugh
about that.  As time went on, we discovered more and more ways in which we think alike.  He was new to the singles scene and he brought a refreshing approach to dating.  He planned really fun dates and noticed the little things about me.  He had a great sense of humor.  

Our second date was to Thanksgiving Point (after I turned him down for an adventure up the canyon because I didn't know him well enough - yet).  He wrote me a cute poem that he sent in an email to ask me out and I could tell he was the kind of guy who goes after what he wants in life. Instead of his campfire idea, I met him at the Thanksgiving Point Gardens and he rented segways that we rode for about an hour as we talked and got to know each other.  He asked several great find out questions and was so easy to talk to.  Then he took me to one of my favorite places to eat - the Harvest restaurant.  The waitress kept making comments that seemed to assume we were a married couple on a date.  I made a joke that I have 5 invisible kids to get home to and we laughed and watched funny YouTube videos until they kicked us out.  I was intrigued, open but cautious . . . he was convinced and things were really really interesting.

Our third date was to Color Me Mine where we painted pottery and got to talk a lot.  My birthday was in 2 days and he had noticed that on Facebook.  After the painting he suggested we go to my favorite place for dinner - Whole Foods (which he had never set foot in before we met) and he brought in a cute birthday bag filled with small things that he had noticed through conversation that I love as well as a cute, simple card from him and a second one from my invisible kids (lol).  I felt so special and he just melted my heart with his cute personality and the way he served me.  

Our fourth date was to a Matt Townsend “date night” that actually turned out to be for married couples :) - we didn't realize this going into it and so it felt a bit awkward for both of us.  Then he started making some moves to show his affection towards me and I started freaking out inside, thinking “no, not ready for this, can’t do this” - what we refer to with my clients as “thinking errors”.  Well, I let my thinking errors get the best of me and by the end of the date I let Derek know that I thought he was great but I didn't feel the kind of connection I was looking for and being affectionate with him wasn't comfortable for me.  He was gracious and sweet about it and later that night he sent me the sweetest email, telling me he wasn't going to give up that easily and that he knew I was worth “swimming through shark infested waters for”.  He said he was willing to meet with Alisa, The LDS Matchmaker relationship expert.  I thought that sounded like a great idea for him, since I didn’t want to hurt him and wanted him to be able to learn from her and find the right girl for him ;).  So when he came to my office to meet with her, somehow I got pulled into the session as well and we ended up getting dating advice about how to proceed, even though I wasn’t sure I felt the connection I wanted :).

In my business as a matchmaker, we often see singles jumping ahead into the future, stressing out that they don’t think they can marry the person when in reality they have only been on a few dates.  The advice we give is to “stay in the stage you are in”. 
Copyright Alisa Goodwin Snell
Alisa Goodwin Snell, our relationship expert teaches that there are 5 stages to dating and relationships - that the first goal of all of them is to focus on having fun and to keep things simple and make each other feel great.  This all may seem basic but in reality most singles struggle with jumping ahead to the problem solving stage, which isn't until stage 4 when you’ve been dating exclusively for awhile.  Even though I know this stuff inside and out, I needed help applying it in my own life.  So after Alisa suggested how we can keep things simple and fun, Derek left feeling confident and I was thinking, OK, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to go out with him again :). 

He asked me to go to Stadium of Fire on the 4th of July and we had a blast seeing Carrie Underwood live. I was starting to feel much more interested and attracted to Derek than I had on our last date when I was freaking out :).  Now that the pressure was off I found that I actually did want to be close to him but he was a bit confused at my attempts at affection since I had made it clear on our last date that I didn't want him to touch me :).  We ended up talking after the concert for a couple of hours and he gave me a sweet simple kiss goodnight. 

The next day I invited him to go to Park City with my family to share in our tradition of spending the 4th of July festivities playing, eating, laughing and swimming.  He ended up spending the next 3 days with us - each day I would invite him at the end of the night to join us the next day and he would say “as you wish”.  My family loved him and when he left, they all wanted to know where I was headed with this new guy.  I told them that nothing was going to happen anytime soon since he was new to the market and I had a rule that I don’t date guys seriously who haven’t been divorced at least a year :).  When someone is newly divorced, this typically is a good rule of thumb - jumping into something serious sooner than a year poses the risk of being on the rebound and at some point going through what Alisa calls the “Commitment Crisis”.  This is when the person you are in a relationship with starts to question their commitment because they have not been in the dating world long enough to know if they really want to be with you or if they just don’t want to be alone.  Yes, I was worried that Derek hadn't been single long enough but I also knew that he had been proactive about dating for a couple of months before we started really liking each other.  It gave me some level of comfort that he was choosing me out of many women who would have loved to capture his heart :).

So, I proceeded with caution, thinking we could just take things slow.  The next week he came to my office, where I was still moving in and offered to help me hang an enormous whiteboard as well as put together furniture to get ready for a client meeting.  As I watched him serve me and use his tools to put everything together, I thought to myself: “this guy really has skills” - I have to say it was very attractive, ok - it was hot . . . he definitely had my attention.  He continued to do very sweet, cute, fun, romantic things for me, sending me flowers, dropping by my office to help me, bringing me lunch as well as things we needed to get settled as my business was growing.  My employees started to see him as part of our team - we joked that he was our new IT guy (I think they all secretly had a crush on him too - OK, only the single staff but the married folk asked if he could teach their husbands a few things).    

Within a few weeks he started booking my time pretty consistently in advance and it made me feel special that he would think so far ahead in wanting to spend time with me.  He invited me on a trip to Bear Lake with his kids and some friends of his. I think he knew the way to my heart is wake boarding.  Once again, I couldn't help but notice how good looking he was packing the car with everything we needed for the weekend, driving the boat and putting meals together for me and the kids.  The way he took care of me really gave me a feeling of confidence that he would do whatever it takes to ensure my comfort and safety, which completely resonated in my world since Alisa’s 17 Secrets to the Female Psychology teach that the #1 need of a woman is to feel safe and secure. 

We continued to have a blast together and he suggested that we go visit my best friend Rebecca in Gilbert, Arizona for Labor Day (he knew that if he could get her sold on him that I would have no choice but to surrender my heart completely) :).  So we made plans and what was going to be a 3 day trip with him turned into 9 days and 3 cities. I had work to do in Southern California and then a wedding in the DC area and so I invited him to come along on whatever part he could make it - I was pleasantly surprised when he told me he was coming for all of it!!!  

Being together for 9 days straight is what really sealed the deal for both of us.  We had already talked about getting married but were holding off for a couple of months.  Being the introvert that I am, I typically need a break when I am with someone for extended periods of time. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every minute with Derek - he took every opportunity to serve me - carrying my bags, helping me blow dry my hair when we were rushing in the morning after staying up too late smooching :) and even killing a spider I found in my hotel room :).

I am so blessed to have met such a wonderful man who is so selfless, kind hearted, generous, fun, proactive and ambitious. He is everything I have ever wanted in a husband and so much more! He has 6 amazing kids who I'm excited to learn from and continue to get to know better. Derek is an amazing father, leader, son, brother and is now officially the other half of The LDS Matchmaker!!!

He has served me in so many ways, treated me like a queen and shown the kind of love that many search for their entire life. I will never fully understand exactly how The Lord has woven the tapestry of our lives together in a way that makes us so perfect for each other. He was definitely worth the wait and I am so happy to be sealed to him for eternity!!!

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Best Is Yet to Come . . .

I’m feeling absolutely amazed at modern technology right now.  It has only been  3 days since my surgery and I feel almost back to normal.  Ok, I’m not ready to run a marathon and I do have some drs. orders to lay low but the pain I have is more like after a good workout - soreness vs. extreme pain.  I haven’t even taken one pain pill since I came home from surgery on Monday.  

When the nurse called to check on me on Tuesday, she was shocked when I said that my pain level was a 2 or 3.  Even the swelling has been very minimal and the sexy body cincher I get to wear is feeling a little bit big on me (yea!).  I guess after 6 surgeries in less than 2 years, I am really a pro at this (lol).  
I acknowledge the Lord’s hand in these blessings, including my good fortune in finding such an amazing Dr. to help me through this crazy ride - she did an amazing job if I do say so myself :).
So from the results I am seeing, this should be my last one . . . I appreciate your kind words, prayers, support and “likes” ;). As I told my sister and mom - this is the best surgery!!!!  A bit of an inside joke after my last surgery when I was all drugged up and kept saying this in a really funny voice. This time I am more coherent and it really is the best one yet! ♥
Being able to get back into life sooner, rather than later is extremely helpful at this time with my growing business Utah’s Matchmaker.  It has been a little over 2 months since I left my job as a corporate recruiter.  I am busier than I have ever been in my life but loving the flexibility I finally have to run my life and my business according to the vision I have been creating for so many years.  My best friend Rebecca is now working for me as an assistant matchmaker and some fun pics from the holiday singles events are below.  

 Many have asked why I decided to become a matchmaker and when it all first started?

 Stay tuned for the next blog post to find out!  The best is yet to come . . . 
Here is the most inspiring message I have read this week:
The truths we cling to shape the quality of our societies as well as our individual characters. All too often these truths are based on incomplete and inaccurate evidence and at times serve very selfish motives. Part of the reason for poor judgement comes from the tendency of mankind to blur the line between believe and truth. We too often confuse belief with truth - thinking that because something makes sense or is convenient it must be true." - President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Sunday, October 28, 2012

One year post chemo . . . and a new chapter ahead!

Last week it was my one year anniversary of being done with chemo - yahoo!  I can hardly believe that it was only a year ago that I had my last experience having those crazy potions infused into my body.  My life is truly better than it was before my diagnosis and I am so grateful for the journey that continues to amaze me as miracles unfold.  

I’m starting a new chapter in my life.  It is both scary and exciting to take this leap of faith and I know it is the right thing for me. I am leaving my job as a corporate recruiter to focus on my own business - Utah’s Matchmaker.  It is another way for me to  bring people together by planning dates and events for high caliber LDS singles across the USA - and even some in other countries.  I absolutely love it and until now, have not had the time to really take it to the next level.  Things have transpired in a way that allows me to make this happen at this time.  In addition to matchmaking, I will be keeping my foot in the world of recruiting by filling a few positions for companies I enjoy working with.  I am so excited to be my own boss and to have the flexibility to spend more time with friends and family and give back to so many who have blessed my life when I needed them most.

My last day with Cambia is November 9th, and my heart is a bit heavy - after more than 9 years with the company it feels a lot like a break up that needs to happen but tugs at my heart.  I know some may think it is just a job but it was a huge part of my life for so long and I feel a sense of loyalty that is hard to let go of.  I am thankful for the blessings that have allowed me to take this step, including many people who believe in me, even when I doubt myself.

So I plan to enjoy the holidays more than ever and help bring happiness to others who are searching for someone special to share life with.  I have 2 events planned called The Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidates - would love to get your help in spreading the word on this:

I still only have a few inches of hair to show off but I am thankful to have it and look forward to the time when I can pull it back or at least have a few more styling options :).  

I am feeling better than ever - emotionally and physically.  The last few challenges I was having in fully recovering from chemo have finally been tamed - some of them are too personal to share all the details but I will give a little here in hopes that it may help someone out there going through something similar.

During my treatment I wrote about “chemo brain” - a very real issue that cancer patients experience, where their brain becomes fuzzy and it is difficult to focus and process information.  It was nice to be able to claim chemo brain when I did stupid things but there were days when it was so difficult and I really didn’t feel capable of doing everyday tasks.  One of those tasks was driving - particularly on the freeway.  For months I struggled with this and had several panic attacks that I remember vividly on various points on the highway.  

Over the past year, even though chemo brain was technically vanishing, I couldn’t seem to stop myself from feeling the same level of anxiety that I had when I drove on the freeway during chemo - especially in the places where the panic attacks happened.  Friends were patient with me and have driven me places, listened to my frustrations and kindly coached me as I have tried various remedies to overcome this issue.  Finally over the past month I have been successful in addressing this fear and after months of driving the backroads for most of my travels, I was able to have anxiety free freeway driving this past month - yahoo!  There are still some ups and downs in this area but the progress I have made is amazing.

The other significant aspect of healing is very personal and has to do with my body being able to fully function as a woman.  I am so grateful for the miracles I have seen in my life throughout this trial and I know that I will continue to understand why I was given this opportunity to learn and grow in this way. 

I am not one to watch much TV but I started watching the series “Parenthood” last year around this time.  This season, one of the main characters is going through her own journey and treatment for breast cancer.  So much of what is happening for her rings true for me and it is validating to watch someone else go through many of the same emotions and experiences that I had.  I hope that I can use this firsthand knowledge to help others during their time of need in the same way that others have blessed me with their wisdom during mine.

So . . . I have one more phase of the reconstructive surgery that I will be doing on December 6th.  I know, I said I was done already - but apparently I was wrong :).  It is so minor compared to the others I have had - but it will take a couple of weeks to recover from.  One thing I didn’t understand, and perhaps didn’t really want to know is that even though the cancer treatment is over, the reconstructive part of the journey takes time and is done in phases.  I imagine it might be something like someone who is born with a cleft palate -  there are a series of surgeries that are done in order to cosmetically create the right look.  Even though I thought I was done with surgery, I am thankful that I am able to live in a modern world where we have the advanced medical procedures to create a very good replica of what I lost. So while the surgery I am having is not essential to my survival, it is important to me in feeling whole again.  

Today at church I was reminded of a favorite scripture where Christ heals a multitude of people.  One man pointed out a profound truth - that we are all healed by the Savior but it is not always as instantaneous as we might wish.  Instead it may be a gradual process that happens in a way that unless we are paying attention, we do not recognize His hand in it all.  Although the instant healing is miraculous and easy to recognize, the more gradual healing I have experienced over the past year and a half has taught me much more.  I am very grateful for the Lord’s wisdom in doing for me what I need instead of what I want.  I love you Lord.  I love you my dear friends and family.  

3 Nephi 17
6 And he said unto them: Behold, my bowels are filled with acompassion towards you. 7 Have ye any that are asick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or bleprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will cheal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy. 8 For I perceive that ye desire that I should show unto you what I have done unto your brethren at Jerusalem, for I see that your afaith is bsufficient that I should heal you. 9 And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their ablind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Because I knew you, I have been changed for good!

It has now been 4 and a half weeks since my surgery and I am feeling great! I am done wearing the sexy body cincher that was required post-surgery and the swelling has gone down enough that I am starting to fit into my clothes comfortably again (and in some cases loosely) - yea!! I am now completely huggable (and kissable) ;) . . . I can see glimpses of my new body blossoming from underneath the trauma and I’m feeling much more encouraged about my upcoming swim suit appearance in Lake Tahoe!

My hair continues to grow and evolve in how I style it - I have now graduated to using a curling iron to style it and I can’t tell you how good that feels!!!  Not that you would know by looking at it that I spend time doing it - if I don’t I do look more like orphan Annie than the sophisticated business woman I want to portray :).  It is thicker and fuller than ever and I am blessed to have my 20 minute to dry hair again, even though it is still a lot shorter than I'm comfortable with.

Now that I am able to move my body and do my normal activities, I am ready to embrace the journey to wellness that I have begun.  Although there have been many milestones, I now feel like I am officially done with cancer and I have declared August my month of healing.  I am doing many things to rehabilitate my body, mind and spirit so that I can fully heal from all that has happened physically, emotionally and spiritually.  

I’m working with a personal trainer/swim coach twice a week in the pool by my house, continuing with acupuncture, and started some amazing work in cranial sacral therapy.  These things all take time, energy and money but by the end of August, I will have a much better idea of what is working and where to go from there. I am already feeling a lot of balance and clarity - more than ever before!  It is so interesting to feel this way and to see how things are improving a lot from the discouragement and anxiety I was feeling at the beginning of the month and to realize how much this holistic approach is working together for me.  

I continue to be blessed by amazing people who touch my life.

This week my family went to see Wicked - it was so much fun and reflective for me as I contemplated the paradox of how mistaken we can be in our analysis of a situation or person. I loved the touching words of the song between the two witches Glinda (good) and Elphaba (wicked) as they realize how much the other had touched their lives.  I feel the same about so many of you for so many different reasons. Thank you for what you have taught me and all that you have done to bless me. Truly, my life has been changed for the better because I knew you!

Just a few pictures of some of the special people in my life - there are many more of you and hopefully we’ll get one together soon!  Love you!