Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Creative Memories Roller Coaster

(A quick background in case you've missed the thousands of times I've mentioned this:  I have been with Creative Memories for the past 20 years - the last 8 of which many of us lovingly refer to as the "crazy train" or an even better comparison - a Roller Coaster. I finally had enough of the craziness and released my team in 2011 to pursue leadership with somewhere else (Thirty-One Gifts) - yet always hoping that CM would get it figured out and I could come back.)

When I found out CM was launching an entirely *new* company in January of this year, I came back to the "new, improved, free-from-several bankruptcies Ahni & Zoe by Creative Memories" naively thinking the emotional roller coaster was over.  

We started off great - Ahni & Zoe by CM was actually awarded the coveted Ethos Award for 2014 Best Product Launch from the Direct Sales Industry! I just knew we were on to something big...and after 8 years of ups and downs and stomach-clutching hairpin turns, I was starting to think that maybe just maybe "I've earned a life-long ride on the calm, cool lazy river."

So I jumped in with both feet - literally stepping down *again* from Leadership this time with my Thirty-One business so I could come *back* to my first love and find my *passion* - helping others get their photos off their devices and into their lives. I actually thought I was doing something noble.

Life was good! I was sooo excited!! (Except if I was CEO, I would have kept bookcloth album covers and some card stock, but for the most part I really loved their streamlined Fast2Fabulous product line.)  From January to May I sold over $8,000 in photo albums and supplies, was blessed by lovely ladies who joined my team, promoted to Unit Leader, earned an i-Pad Mini, helped my customers complete albums of love, held Dream Board workshops, enjoyed my own albums, and earned an all-expense-paid trip to a sunny Marriott spa and resort...I even floated down a lazy river...

Our CEO praised us for persevering through "tremendous head winds."  One of the windiest days was in February with the sudden departure of CM's co-Founder Rhonda Anderson. Seemingly overnight she surprised us all by abruptly announcing she was leaving Creative Memories and launching a very similar product line over at Heritage Makers. Suddenly I was inundated with requests to leave CM, join Rhonda's team, and get rich quick! It was all under the umbrella of the Youngevity company (think Amway) - we could sell photo albums, digital albums, vitamins, mineral makeup and essential oils! Oh joy! No, Thank You! 

I mean I had just come back to CM, I was all about Simplicity. I was also all about launching Ahni & Zoe by CM - I mean isn't that what we had been waiting for? To get out from under the mistakes of the past?  Besides I couldn't understand Youngevity's career plan and I really wasn't interested in selling vitamins along with my scrapbooks. I'm not the sharpest crayon in the box apparently because thousands of Consultants followed Rhonda over to her new company within days...(did they even look at the career plan?)...I guess it didn't matter - many were strategically placed onto teams to develop and promote leaders quickly. Rhonda has recently been recognized by Youngevity for having the "Fastest Growing Team in the World." I just wish she would have told me she was leaving and taking everyone with her before I gave up my Thirty-One Directorship to help her launch this "brand new" Ahni & Zoe company, but whatever, I'm not bitter. Haha.

So that was when the jolting feeling hit me - when *my* dream, *my* passion rounded another hairpin turn. I started hearing the familiar click-click-click sound a roller coaster makes as it takes its time climbing a Very. Steep. Hill.   Hmmm...I thought I was on a new track? Yet realizing I was actually on the same Crazy Train...and maybe nothing had changed. 

So many seemed excited to follow RA on this new venture and I just felt extremely hurt. During the first bankruptcy CM had somehow lost all of the Retirement Funds of their leaders and drained them completely empty. This was money that I had set aside every month from my commission checks into what I was told was a Financial Security Plan through the Home Office. Later we find out it was changed to a Rabbi Trust without our knowledge and completely drained dry. Thankfully I only set aside 5% during that time and lost around 10K but many leaders had 6 figures in there and were actually at retirement age when they found out they had no nest egg. I won't even get into the Home Office employees who lost everything during the employee-owned stock days... while the former CEO cashed out with millions.  

Wait. You thought we were talking about a Scrapbooking Company not Enron, right? Are you confused yet?

So then I thought...well, maybe it's a good thing that RA left and thousands of Consultants with her. They didn't like the direction of Ahni & Zoe. I still believed in the product, our mission and the small, committed group of women who remained. We could change the world! One album at a time! My energy was renewed. Now I was determined not to fail because I didn't want someone else to determine my destiny. And what really had changed? Just many thousands of our sales field had left, we were out of debt, we could still rise from the ashes....

So I put my head down and "Shared the Love" and earned Ahni & Zoe's very first Incentive Trip!

Are you a believer in signs?  Three things happened on that Trip that gave me the Gut Feeling that Something is Up:

The first *sign* - I had a layover in Denver and I got stuck there....broken down plane and ALL other flights overbooked. It was like a bad dream. I could not *get* to my all-expense-paid Incentive Trip!! Are you kidding me??  So I sat in the Denver airport for nearly 2 days waiting on standby for each plane taking off hoping to inch my way closer to Texas. Denver is significant because it just happens to be where my Thirty-One Senior Executive Director lives. Denver is also where I chose not to attend a LeadHERship Retreat with Thirty-One because I was too busy launching Ahni & Zoe. And Denver is where Thirty-One was having their National Conference in 2014. 

The second *sign* - when I wearily checked into my airport hotel room that United airlines so graciously provided, they assigned me to room in "To Thirty-One!!" I just remember lying on my bed looking up at the ceiling and asking God "What are you saying here?...Why am I stuck here?...Is this *just a coincidence* Lord? Or is this a significant Universe shift that I should be paying attention to?"

The third *sign* that Something Was Up - when I finally did arrive at the beautiful Marriott Spa and Resort the CEO was nowhere to be seen. I finally asked about him and was told, "He couldn't come. He's doing CEO things." Hmmm...what could possibly be more important than encouraging and rewarding his top leaders in the field? There were only 31 of us who earned the trip (yes, "31" I'm not making this up...was that sign #4?)  I thought maybe he would at least have a video message or Skype us or ??  But nope. Crickets....

Either very rude (which he's not) or like I said Something is Up.

Sure enough a couple of weeks later our CEO holds a Conference Call and tells us that we are financially at the end of our rope and we are no longer in the care of the Bankruptcy Trustee but we are now in Receivership. Which means that the Receiver will be trying to find a Buyer and if he can't, we will have no other choice but to shut down. (Wait. Bankruptcy? Trustee? Receivor? Didn't you tell us that we were *free from the constraints of the bankruptcies*? We were a *new company* with *unlimited potential*? 

Some people can handle roller coasters. 
Some thrive on the adrenaline and the excitement.
Some don't need to know what's around the next bend.
Some call that Faith.

I call that "they must have had a secure childhood."

This is me on a roller coaster...(the little guy in the front row Freaking Out): be continued

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

First selfie

I know that selfies are all the rage right now but this is really nothing new...the above photo was my first selfie taken in 1976. I was 11 years old. I was on an airplane flying home by myself from my grandparents house. I was using my Kodak Instamatic so you can guess what happened as I discretely tried to take this photo...."KLICK" or "KLUNK" whatever embarrassingly loud sound that box makes. Oopsie...nothing to see here....

Of course, I couldn't see it until months later when we finally got around to developing the FILM, otherwise I might have retaken a better photo. Maybe. There was that embarrassing clunking noise to consider.

In the 80's we used mirrors for selfies. My BFF Lisa G thought I was taking her photo, but really I made sure I was in there too - yes, my first sneaky selfie.  Apparently it was normal for us to carry our wine glasses into the restaurant bathroom....what?!  Lisa G was my down-the-street-neighbor. One year older and much cooler than me but she let me tag along and she also didn't mind playing Barbies with me, teehee.

This was how she got a group selfie in the 80's...just hold the camera up really high:

Mirror selfies were difficult taken at night because we had to use Flash. Of course, we mostly partied at night so we had a lot of these who-the-heck-is-taking-the-photo photos (in this one it was Lisa G): 

That's me (on the right) with my Duran-Duran haircut and Miami Vice peach buttoned-up-all-the-way-to-the-neck so you won't notice the cigarette and drink in my hand, long string of pearls, huge round white earrings....

Oh, yes, shaved hair around the ears (I'm on the left)...I was into the Cure, Stray Cats, the Vandals, Dead Kennedys, Oingo Boingo, Depeche Mode and the Smiths...and my other BFF who also happens to be named Lisa (on the right) had every single 8-track (I'll explain later, kids) of Judas Priest and Led Zeppelin. 

I met Lisa W. in 6th grade, when I accidentally spilled a can of Coke in my desk and she helped me clean it up. (What 12-year-old sneaks a Coke into class and thinks that's a good idea? Me apparently).  Here we are at school:

I know what you're're thinking "Wow, Donna Lyn had the coolest overalls!"  I know, right? They were a brand new pair and I wore them on the Last Day of School so you know they were Super Special to me because I lived in Seal Beach, California so it was probably pretty darn hot on the last day of school! But I will suffer for fashion. Always.

Lisa W. had one drawer in her room that was filled with Lip Smackers (the jumbo size was the only size they used to come in and they were COOL!!)  I used to go over to her house and smell every single one. Often. Fruit Punch and Dr Pepper were my favorites.Lisa W's dad was a sheriff and she was a good girl but she loved me anyway!

And you know what? She still does! I recently had the opportunity to see both of my Lisa's in person and it was just like old times (well, without the Lip Smackers, cigarettes and you know...)

I love these ladies!! They have been through a lot with me and know everything about me. I moved around a lot as a child so finally taking some roots in Seal Beach and keeping these friendships means the world to me. 

And, look! We even got a selfie:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Back to blogging....

My Hero has expressed disappointment that I haven't been blogging much lately. Apparently he enjoys checking in on our 3 girls and a prince while he is gallivanting serving around the world. So while he texts me photos like this:

I'm out and about taking photos like this:

1 Tween and 2 Teenagers in the house.

They do not want me to post photos. 
They do not want me blogging about...much, if anything.

There comes a time in a girl's life (and I'm assuming it will come in our prince's life as well) when they hit Middle School and suddenly Everything Becomes a Very Big Deal. I respect that. I remember hating surviving Middle School - what was then called "Junior High" - I can't imagine having a mother post photos and rants during my awkward years. 

But an even Bigger Deal is High School. This past year having a Senior in the house has been a true roller coaster ride! My girls are pretty private. They are pretty and they are private. They don't post endless selfies or tweet about every moment of every day. I respect that too.'s just me and my Creative Memories Soap Opera ("as the CM World Turns") which I already blog a little bit about on my blog. And all the dashing here there and everywhere surviving suburbia:

indoor soccer


more basketball...different nights....oy!


and Cheerleading

3 girls and a prince
4 sports
2 cars
 1 mom
1 super dad who also gets deployed (Reserves) quite frequently and likes to check on the Blog

Isn't that what our scrapbooks are for? 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

sugar's first school musical...

Sugar followed in her big sister(s) footsteps and tried out for the Middle School musical. She was so excited to be a Townsperson in Charlotte's Web. She rehearsed from November until February learning songs and dances and her one line.  

On the last night she asked me to take her photo "for the poster."  It was then that I realized she thought I was going to make a collage poster from the play to hang in our garage - because this is what I had done for her older sisters when they were in several Middle School plays. 

You think they aren't paying attention and then they mention something like that...which by the 3rd kid, I was kind of over making the collage posters (and the company I was with back then who made them no longer makes them).  They used to hang in my office but Blondie was embarrased by them and didn't seem to care so I moved them into the garage. But little Sugar...she was watching and waiting for her chance to be featured on a poster.

She had a small part but she enjoyed every minute of it. She enjoyed singing and dancing on stage. She especially enjoyed putting on the makeup and costumes, and signing autographs each night...receiving flowers from her "fans."  She even attended the Cast Party and stayed until midnight - covered in kisses from the cast when I picked her up (as is tradition). I'm so proud of you Sugar! You are shining your own kind of light and trying new things. We are blessed to have the arts so strong in our community and our schools. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

February snow storm!

 I'm one of the crazy ones who actually wanted it to snow this winter in the city. I love Snow Days! I love when the weather does what it's supposed to do each season. I like to be bundled up in the winter, sneezing in the spring (dare I say the flowers are worth it?), sweating in the summer, and I especially love crisp Fall mornings with sunny afternoons....

So when we had a couple of years with no Snow Days (one Dusting Day) .... this February was FUN!
We happen to live on the tippy top of a very steep street so when it snowed over night, the morning we woke up to our own private ski resort (without the convenient rope-tows or lifts). This was our bunny hill....where most of the younger kids went down. It was still super steep and fast!
And this was our Black least from a momma's perspective. If you look really, really close you can see the tiny specks at the bottom...that is how long and steep and epic this "hill" is. In fact, snow boarders and skiers were even taking a plunge on this hill...dodging all the kids on their sleds.

One of our neighbors got into the spirit and tried to look like Santa Claus with his frothy white beard:

I mostly enjoyed baking cookies, fixing up hot chocolate and being the Official Person In Charge of the Ever Revolving Dryer. Not a pleasant job but it sure made everybody happy putting on their toasty mitten and socks! By the time I got one kid ready for the outdoors, another kid would pop in to warm up, so back to the hot chocolate and cookies while their gloves and socks were drying...then back on and then another kid pops get the picture. Exhausting for Momma! But at the end of the day everybody sure sleeps well! 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sweet 16!

Our Jelly-in-the-Middle had her Sweet 16 birthday!
We celebrated in style!!

This is such a milestone birthday!! Each birthday is a milestone but 16 is one of the "big" ones because of the whole "you are legally able to get your driver's license now."
Not that we are in a hurry for that. 
Because I'm not.
Not yet.

Not until we are out of ice cream on a Friday night and I'm too lazy tired to run down to the local grocery store...then maybe I will wish for another licensed driver in the family...

Sooo we surprised Jelly with her own sweet ride for her Sweet 16...

Our driver took the girls downtown for a little sight seeing and a stop for dinner.
It's fun saying "our driver."  Like we have him all the time. 

Of course I had to follow the girls around with my camera...but I didn't get in the limo with them.
Really, I didn't. 
Well, just for one photo. They were holding up the Martinelli's Sparkling Cider bottles that I had just handed them so I didn't think the photo was appropriate to post here.  These are super sweet girls who are great students, athletes, artists, musicians, friends... Such an eclectic mix of awesomeness and creativity! Just like our Jelly!  If any girls deserve a limo (and I think all girls/women should have the fun of riding in a limo at least once in their lives), it's these gals!

After dinner our driver (see? I just had to say it again)....drove them back to our house for a 
super Sweet Cake and Dessert Bar!

Jelly designed this cake with ideas she turned out so beautiful.
The bottom layer was Lemon Poppyseed and the top layer was Vanilla.

We opened presents and enjoyed cake. 

When the party was over we gave each guest a Goodie Bag to fill up with Candy as their take home treat.

 It was an amazing night full of celebration and laughter. It is such a blessing to have a Sweet 16! May she feel loved and honored and encouraged!  Life goes fast -  Celebrate Everything!!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


The stomach bug has hit our household (the 4 kids got it one after another instead of all at the same time...there are pros and cons to either...let's just say I'm hoping it's over soon!) soooo anyway,  I'm a bit behind but my intention is to jump on this 31 Days to Get Organized assignments with Peter Walsh this month (maybe I'll stretch it into February). Who else is doing this? I've heard from a friend who did it last year and it was brutal but she said this year it's been much easier because of the work she did last January! That is encouraging! Let's do this!