In moving a lot I’ve had to adapt to many different jobs. After moving from Idaho to rural Minnesota I tried selling Real Estate again, but the home prices were so low that I was barely covering my gas and advertising.
One night I attended a PartyLite party at the home of a new friend. Lisa, the consultant, showed us candles and gift-ware and mentioned that she averaged $100 in income per party. I listened closely. I couldn’t afford to buy anything, but asked her to contact me. Two weeks later I booked my “starter party” (and the 6 parties I’d give as a requirement to earn a free kit). We were new in a town of under 1100 people. I knew only the ladies who worked at the bank in town so it was a tough start. I didn’t know, at the time, the impact Lisa would have in my life. I was the first consultant she sponsored that made it past the first 6 parties. It wasn’t that I was great at it. I was desperate.
I was honored in my first year when our Sr. Regional VP, Susan, called to ask me to do my first training. She had the national sales averages and said my number of guests per party was higher than the regional or national average. When you have low income women, they don’t spend much so you need higher attendance. I adapted my hostess routine to make sure there were more guests per party. Susan wanted me to train on what I was doing.
What a challenge! Susan had a healthy 6 figure income and a large productive region filled with dynamic Leaders. She was also caring and genuine. It was important to me not to disappoint her. I was nervous about standing at a podium in front of at least 150 women with pens poised. I had handouts of the document I adapted to give each hostess as a checklist, and one I created to ensure I didn’t miss a single extra step. I wasn’t doing anything special, I was just regimented. My goal was that my hostess always got $100 in free product. If I made it happen for her, I earned $100, and my happy hostess would have more parties in the future.
At the podium that day, I forgot my nervousness as I focused on the importance of what I was passing on as I spoke. Later, consultants came up to ask me more questions. The following month something magical happened, many came to thank me for helping them increase their guest count. They were sincerely happy and proud that they had done the work and it paid off. Home sales isn’t an easy business. There’s lots of rejection and though it’s hard work, you don’t get much respect for doing it. You must constantly push yourself but you can never be pushy with others. I had a warm glow for days knowing I helped others meet their goals.
By year two, I had my own unit of consultants and was earning awards while earning a good income. I wasn’t motivated by the awards. I needed to earn enough to pay bills and fix up the disaster that was our home. I needed a kitchen! I was blessed that my leader saw what was inside people, not outside. Lisa and my husband Mark (the Cowboy) believed I could succeed, and they passed their belief on to me.
That second year, there was an all-expenses-paid trip to the Waikaloa Hilton in Hawaii, and I wanted to earn it. With enough points you could earn a second trip for a guest or buy it down with points. We couldn’t spare a dime so I set my eyes on earning two free trips. And I worked, God did I work. I called every person who said maybe, I gave away extra “wax” for extra party bookings. I drove all over southern Minnesota, up to Minneapolis, down into Iowa, and over to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. If someone referred someone within a 3 hour radius, I’d go do their party. Through sunshine, ground blizzards, white-out fog and tornado warnings, I went and I worked. I was driven by the thought of having a real vacation, in a real hotel, a hotel that would be everything I ever dreamed of.
Lisa gave everyone a sheet of paper with a pyramid of bricks on it to color in as we earned points for the trip. Even if I got home at 2 am, I sat at my desk to figure my sales and colored the little brick. The pyramid was the main thing on my bulletin board, surrounded by brochures of the hotel, brochures of the cherry cabinets I had picked out for the kitchen and everything else to remodel it. I was averaging 4 evening parties during the week and 2 on Saturdays. With parties, driving, training and paperwork I averaged 60 hours a week. In my spare time I ripped out plaster, dry-walled, cooked, cleaned and helped care for the horses, calves and chickens.
With all I learned and applied, I earned the two trips to Hawaii free and clear and everything was first class. The one night we didn’t have a meal or banquet, they gave us $100 to go out to dinner on our own. The theme that year was the 70’s and we all brought outfits to dress up, there were make-up booths set up on the beach and even wigs including rainbow Afros. I chose bright blue eyeshadow and mascara to match my turquoise suede mini skirt and boots. The men were wearing polyester leisure suits with fake gold chains! They’d flown in KC and the Sunshine band for a private 70’s concert and the entire night was a blast. On banquet/awards night they brought in Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach for a private concert. It was the most fun I ever had on a trip; having meals, laying on the beach with friends, sightseeing, and romantic time alone too. This real vacation was better than I’d dreamed.
Slow and steady, each month I sent out a newsletter to my team with training tips, and held unit training in my home to help my consultants. I also attended leader training and Regional training in Minneapolis. It was almost 3 hours away so two Saturdays a month I would leave home at 5 am, and return home to do one evening party. Lisa, had a goal of becoming a Regional Vice President. It meant she needed 6 Units with two below them. She was good to me so it became a priority for me to help her earn her promotion as she’d helped me earn mine. I increased my focus on helping my consultants get promotions and helped Lisa support the other leaders. It might sound awful, but I loved it. The women were the type that build each other up, not tear each other down. There was fun, love, support, income and someone always had a solution! Regional trainings averaged over 150 in attendance, it was like a giant family.
The push for the trip catapulted my business and I kept doing the same things until I became a Sr. Unit Leader when I helped someone on my team promote. Lisa kept promoting Units and achieved her dream of becoming a Regional VP. My life got easier with Regional training in Mankato less than an hour away. The corporate office flew in officers to throw a big promotion party and we Leaders in her Region got to plan it. We were also to prepare short speeches about how she’d changed our lives to thank her. She’d changed my world, I went from seeing myself as a nothing and living in near poverty to being a respected leader and replacing a beat up Celebrity with a nice used DeVille, comfortable on those 3 hour drives.
At her party, I got up and spoke of those changes. I owned a nice car, paid for a dream kitchen and silly as it sounds, I could buy cheese every week. Before I became a candle lady, I’d go shopping and look with longing at the cheese but could never afford to buy it. There were times I could only let my daughter have one glass of milk a day, a carton had to last all week. I was the only one who loved cheese so it was a luxury I went without. I talked about what it felt like to shop every week and be free to buy all the cheese I wanted. That night I became known as the cheese lady. It’s funny what sticks.
I continued to train regularly at Regionals and afterward when someone came up to me because they were struggling, even if they weren’t in my unit, I’d get their information to call them a week later to see how they were doing and send little notes. I’d call their own leader to let them know so they could recognize and encourage them too. Always, I felt a warm glow when I’d see them again and they were joyful at how well they were doing. It felt great helping others the way Lisa helped me.
In my 5th year as a candle lady, my mother was visiting for a month. She didn’t want to attend training with me and I didn’t want to leave her home so I decided to skip Regional training. I wasn’t scheduled to train so I called Lisa to tell her and she said no. I was upset since I never missed trainings and pitched in more than most leaders. We argued for a while and I was adamant. It wasn’t mandatory. I wasn’t on the schedule to train and I told her she was being unfair. Others bailed all the time, and I was always there doing more than my share.
She finally told me she was about to reveal a special surprise. She said the consultants in our region had approached her about creating a special award for me. Not the Leader Team, not even my own team, the consultants that weren’t on my team went to her and asked her to do it. They wanted to honor me for helping everyone when it would never benefit me, and they wanted to give me the award while my mom was there to see it. She made me promise to come, and act surprised.
I hung up feeling joyful. As a Realtor, then a candle lady, I had many sales awards shoved in filing cabinets; plaques anyone can get while earning a living. This was just for me, to honor and thank me. I was excited and gathered Mark, my youngest daughter and my mom about to tell them. I again asked my mom to come so she could see me get an award and as always she said no. I told her trainings had to be fun or no one came, I wanted her to see what I did for a living. There’s nothing to do in rural towns and she’d been bored, I told her we could go to the mall after. Mark joined me and told her he had been and it was fun, with skits and prizes and they only took an hour and a half. I kept pleading with her telling her it was important to me. Then I asked her why she didn’t want to come and I’ll never forget her words, “I’m just not interested in these things.”
It was like she put a knife in my heart but there was no use begging. I went alone that Saturday and Lisa got up and spoke about “the cheese lady” so the newer consultants would know how I got the title. She spoke about the difference I’d made in the lives of many and that they wanted me to know they appreciated how much I cared about others. She also explained that my mom got sick and was sorry she couldn’t attend. She presented me with a framed document and gave me a hug and thank you. Then to complete the surprise another leader who’d worked for a cheese wholesaler came up with a giant basket filled with 50 different imported cheeses. All the leaders had chipped in to thank me too. Always a good actress I pretended to be thrilled, inside I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. Once again how I felt and what I wanted didn’t matter.
That was the day I realized my mother would never think I was worth her time or interest. She’d never cared about my thoughts or feelings, I didn’t matter. I didn’t cry about it, I stopped crying about things I couldn’t change decades before. Instead I used it to make myself more dead inside. Until many years later when I wanted to be alive and I finally cried about everything. Today I understand it was not me that was lacking but it took a long time to gain that understanding.
My youngest was a teen at the time and I didn’t realize the effect incidents like that had on children. She was standing in our dream kitchen watching the whole scene like many times before. Not only was it humiliating to have my husband and child see how little I mattered; it was how my children learned to treat me the same way when they became adults and how I learned to accept it. Be careful what you tolerate and who you expose your children to. I’m grateful she has since learned to treat me with love and respect.
Those who don’t understand confidently counseled me to “get over it.” Confidence is not a substitute for wisdom or valuable advice. In following bad advice I suppressed this memory and others, so they returned to torment me and I would relive the pain again. In accepting and allowing myself to feel it, I honored myself and it began to lose power over me.
People tell me my parents did the best they could and though it makes the speaker feel good about their platitudes, it’s a lie and agreeing with poppycock is self-betrayal. They were selfish and often did the least they could and did a lousy job of parenting. I took a free candle kit and through sheer determination, by my second year was earning what many people with a degree couldn’t. I averaged 6 parties a week, had up to 15 people at a time I managed and we remodeled 3,000 square feet of disaster. I’ve started to look at myself with different eyes and like most of what I see.
Never say never. I wrote this a couple of years ago and I’m happy to say my mom and I have a beautiful relationship now. We were brave and went to therapy together in 2011. Though we’re both older ladies, we both changed. She’s made a relationship with her a true joy. I’m no longer in sales. I’m unemployed and my mom is proud of the woman I am. I’m really proud that she’s my mom and accepts me for who I am. Neither of us is perfect and neither of us needs to be.
“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” I learned that in leader training too.