A poetry reading was scheduled at Stone Spiral in Maplewood the evening that Michelle and I met, so our conversation about Michelle’s work was punctuated by the murmurs and exclamations of novice poets. The smell of our chamomile lavender tea hung around us as she told me about making the big decision to leave the toilet paper industry. “I just decided one day at the airport, crying, with two young kids at home, this is ridiculous.” She liked the company and she liked the people but, “selling toilet paper is not exactly my passion, so…”
One day not too long after she left, Michelle decided to try something that promised weight loss results or your money back. Sixteen weeks later she had lost 18 pounds, she wasn’t craving the junk food, her rosacea had substantially improved, and she just felt better. That was when she realized, “People need to know about this!” So she decided this was her next career move. Sharing her success by selling Isagenix products, which offer the opportunity for users to “live a healthy, clean, and lean lifestyle”, is her new passion.
Michelle may believe in taking care of your whole self and “providing the opportunity for optimum health”, but she sure hates exercise. Twenty minutes of resistance training per week is the most she’ll commit to. When she told me about her friends who do pilates and marathons she raised her eyebrows and her voice in mock consternation, “Are you crazy? I don’t get it!”
For her mental health and to stay at the edge of her game, Michelle participates in Toastmasters, an educational organization that helps members improve communication and speaking skills. The reason she is a “big believer” in the organization is because of all of the beautiful things she has learned about the members through their speeches. There have been stories about survival, illness, and overcoming incredible obstacles. One story in particular from a woman who had been a slave worker in China, really made her realize how lucky she has it here.
These stories are eye-opening, but two situations one with a taxi cab driver and the other with a massage therapist made her realize that everyone has a story and she should be open to them all. She was on a business trip and grabbed a taxi from the airport, it was dirty and the driver appeared as though he hadn’t showered in days, but she got in anyway. In the back window were numerous beanie babies, so she decided to ask. It turned out he used his free time to drive kids to the Shriner’s Hospital when they had to go for surgery and their parents didn’t have the money to take off work. On the way he would let them pick out a beanie baby to make them feel better and then let them keep it. “I’m sitting there like, ok, number one, I thought you were this schmucky, homeless idiot, and here he is the most beautiful giving person I’ve ever met.”
The next story was when she began chatting with a massage therapist from Eastern Europe. As she started telling me, she took on a Russian accent. The therapist’s country had formerly been under Communist rule and one day the therapist’s husband disappeared. She was devastated and didn’t know what had happened to him, but weeks later he was able to call her from Greece. He had risked his life and lived off of berries in the woods to try and escape to Austria where he could then send for her. They were both finally able to get to America and have lived here now for 24 years, her working as a massage therapist and he working in IT. “There are all sorts of stories like that, we live our life and never hear…” Michelle mused.
Excitement about what is happening here in St. Louis has Michelle looking forward to the next few years. “I do think there’s an awakening. I think people are coming alive, wanting to make changes, stirring things up and I think the older people are open to that and the younger people are sticking around and going for it. There’s this critical mass now. I think people are starting to buzz. It’s cool.”
As for her favorite thing about our city, “Number one, it’s simply a great place to raise a family, and it really hit home the other day when my daughter said ‘I’m coming back to St. Louis to raise my kids’. And so it still is a good place for family. Number two, there is so much generosity in this town. The giving. People that keep the money in corporations that are so giving in this city. It’s awesome for what it’s done for the city.”
After telling me she thought “what I was doing was awesome” (I had to fit that in here somewhere), we began slowly packing up to head home. I asked her if there was anything else she wanted me to include and she thought for a moment before saying:
- check out the Kickasslife.com
- come visit our bar in Soulard (her husband owns 1860’s saloon and makes his own vodka)
We cleaned up the remnants of our tea and walked towards the door as Michelle shared her final thoughts on St. Louis with me, “There really is a community on the edge of greatness here.”
Follow Michelle on Twitter @haveyourhealth for tidbits on healthy living.