Just Be.

I walked into the Arise & Be retreat in January a battered, wounded soul, and immediately I could tell that it was a safe place. I saw it in the way people were smiling at one another, nervous but open. I felt it in the way the Arise & Be team had set up the room so beautifully, and in the way we were greeted individually by the team. I even heard it in the gorgeous music filling the room and tickling my ears.

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Thoughts on the “Offer your Story” retreat…

It wasn’t what I expected. Actually, I’m not even sure I had too many expectations. I came on a whim, in a flight of fancy . . . I really came as a last minute support for a friend who had wanted to attend one of Arise & Be’s retreats for a while. She had been wanting to go, but it always seemed like life got in the way. As moms of three kids each, both of us are more than a little busy! But stress had escalated to a breaking point. Life was unraveling way too fast. Now was better than later! So we traveled across several states to attend our first Arise & Be retreat.

Now, having been utterly unprepared, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m a adventurous person. Even in the unknown, I knew I’d be fine. Well, I wasn’t expecting this . . . Really. I could have easily handled an enthusiastic, in-your-face motivational speaker. I could have easily handled someone selling me a problem so that they could then sell me their solution. I could have definitely handled yet another “miracle cure available only today for a steal of a deal” ploy. You
know what I’m talking about – we face them every single day. Truly, this day was absolutely none of these.

Nope. Instead, a few minutes after I arrived I found myself with tears streaming down my face. Scary? Hell yeah! But why?? It took me a little while to find out. But when I did, I was shocked. I was overwhelmed by how welcomed I felt, how genuinely cared for and accepted. The depth of caring and nonjudgmental love was palpable, real, unlike anything I had experienced. It had been such a very long time since I had felt that, that my emotions responded in a fully unexpected way.

Don’t get me wrong – I was terrified. I don’t usually let my emotions out quite like that! Control is the name of the game, baby. Am I right? Are we not taught everywhere that emotions should be restrained at the very least? Nobody seemed to mind at all. In fact, the understanding and acceptance continued. In mere minutes, I was calm and peaceful, wholly absorbed in creating an artistic expression. After the introduction, we were transitioned to creating a simple, yet meaningful piece of art. Dr. Heather Penny talked to us about her research, including how art was so pivotal in both relaxation and learning.

As I drew simple lines (I’m more of a stick figure kind of person, to date – though I expect to develop as I persist :)), just the simple lines brought me peace. I absorbed what I was learning, how I was feeling, what I was making . . . it all flowed so effortlessly. The rest of the day continued to flow, the activities, the teaching, the creative time – each added together in such a well-thought out way. The atmosphere of genuine caring deepened and expanded throughout the day.

Carla Leon

In fact, not only did I learn from what we did and what we heard, but so much of what I learned came from how I saw Heather, Sharon, Michaela, and Meredith interacting with each other and with us. That was another surprise. I’ve been to many events, conferences, etc where the speakers sort of disappear during breaks. (Am I right?? You know what I mean!) Each break all four of them were making connection and conversation a priority. (In fact, they individually
sought us out – no lines to meet the speaker here!)

Throughout the day, Heather, Sharon, Michaela, and Meredith each shared their story. They shared who they had been before, their journey, how they had met each other, and how their dream for Arise & Be had developed. Each had such a unique story, such a different set of skills, different ways of arriving where they are today. Yet what stood out the most is how their unique stories created in them this deep passion. A passion for creating a place where each of us can learn, grow, explore and create exactly the kind of life that we want most.

Bottom line, everyone, here’s the deal. This is my honest experience. I haven’t met people like this. I haven’t been somewhere where I felt so welcomed and valued. And where the value is for me, as a person, not for my customer potential! (Seriously, you know the “customer potential” feeling??) People this genuine and compassionate are beyond rare.

Turns out I was utterly unprepared for this Arise & Be retreat. I was surprised in the best of ways. I learned about myself, learned about embracing who I am, my journey, my story . . . I gained practical knowledge and tools for creating exactly the kind of life I want most. And the best part? I experienced an overwhelming sense of love and acceptance. I caught a glimpse of what deep meaningful friendships look like. I met 4 amazing women building a business they
are deeply passionate about, but who are even more passionate about the people who surround them.

Am I going back? (Seriously, do you even have to ask?? :))

 – Carla Leon

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The word alone stirs up feelings of wonder and beautiful moments to come.
In less than 5 days, my family will be heading out on an adventure…  Three weeks of exploring… Together.  All four of us…. Two teen girls and their parents!  And it’s going to be AWESOME!

View More: http://mercarty.pass.us/cox-family

We are taking a trip to Portugal…
Ah yes, blue skies… beautiful beaches…  cobblestone roads… castles…  the most delicious pastries….  AND most importantly, I get to visit with my darling, huge family!
We are  heading on an adventure…To breathe in deeply of a new place.
To make memories and spend quality time with those I love.

I travel because it wakes me up.
It’s a little scary… and a lot of joy…
It opens me up to see new things and I engage in a whole new way.
It’s a completely IMMERSIVE experience. Only that moment matters.
The busyness of everyday life is gently silenced and is quickly replaced by my desire to absorb all the beauty surrounding me. I feel like my body is suddenly more aware, and I don’t want to miss a moment.
Travel takes me where I need to be emotionally.
It reminds me of sacred moments and intentional living.
It speaks of freedom and purpose.
It shows me beauty in diversity and deepens my cultural experiences.
So here is the thing I am learning about ADVENTURE.  It doesn’t have to be about traveling to far-away places.  It’s about living with intention.  Adventure could be waiting right outside your door.  It’s about opening yourself to new new ideas and experiences.  It’s about taking a chance and living with no regrets.  Its about saying no to fear, and yes to enthusiasm and new things.

So, dear friends…
I invite you to ask yourself:  what’s next on your adventure list?
Go on, dream big, or small… Make that list.
and then… JUST GO!

Just GO

Deepen your intentional living spirit.
With Love,

ADVENTURE. It doesn’t have to be about traveling to far-away places. It’s about living with intention.
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Is your life your own?

3 Ways to Offer our Life Story Well

In his book, Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer talks about his noble ambitions to live up to a high standard by observing great lives and emulating the loftiest of ideals.  However, in his quest to achieve a high standard of living, he realized how false his life began to feel. In his words he had “simply found a noble way to live a life that was not my own, a life spent imitating heroes instead of listening to my heart.”

What does it mean to listen to our own hearts and live the life that only we are meant to live?

1-We take the time to pull away and listen to the whispers of our hearts.  

What is important to me?  How am I aligning my time and resources to listen to my heart well?  

2-We honor all that we have lived and anticipate more story yet to be written.

How do I honor my failings and my successes?  How do I get to use what I have lived to finish writing my story well?  What is my best to offer the world?  What am I anticipating?

3-We OWN the responsibility of writing our life stories and intentionally offering it back.  Where do I need more support for the story I want to offer?  How do I want to finish well?  What is the legacy I want to leave?  How is Divine Love guiding my story?  What is blocking me?

Why is it so important to be intentional about writing our life stories well and offering it back?

Because just like our own unique fingerprints…so is the story for your life.  The world is waiting for you to show up and offer your story well.

I learned this life lesson well teaching in East L.A.  With a low socio-economic at-risk community of middle school children, I was hired to teach English.  As I learned to trust my intuition by incorporating the arts and integrating the right side of their brain to both soothe their spirit as well as energize their creative thinking, I watched the test scores go up.  I witnessed a population that had consistently failed begin to succeed at high rates.  What if I had passed over this position?  What if I had ignored my instinct to incorporate art?  What if I had dismissed the whispers of my heart to find creative ways to support the journey of these children?

We each have the joy of living fully present with our lives to offer the story that only we can offer.

My heart is with you and for you as you step nobly into your story and offer it to our world, Heather

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‘Live your Journey’ Retreat

March 15th, 2015

Roseville, California


The sun was shining, the trees were swaying with a gentle breeze, and the birds were singing their hearts out.   What a beautiful beginning to a fabulous day. Each one of us on the Arise & Be team were beyond excited to meet each of the women who signed up for our ‘live your journey’ retreat.  Our hearts are so connected with what we get to offer, and we couldn’t wait to  meet the beautiful souls who bravely stepped out of their comfort zone to spend the day with us.  A day, not only relaxing, but a day filled with growth and vulnerability, intentionality and purpose.

We learnt all about honoring the whole self.  We got to listen to Heather talk about intuition and Left and Right brained activities.  We created masterpieces with oil pastels (use that right side of the brain, ladies!), discovered new terms like: space within and space between. We explored the words: Clarity, Kindness, Confidence, Growth, Receptivity, Vulnerability, Faith and Abundance…. and then used those words to create our ‘Life Map Cards’ for our journey. Deep conversations, sharing in our groups, beautiful questions being asked.  Playing with putty as Heather read us a story.  One of my favorite things was seeing all the blankets spread out under the trees as we all took time to rest after lunch. Oh, what a glorious day.

Thank you Michelle F, Shelley S, Rebecca, Shelley W, Cristal, Paige, Marjorie, Erika, Raley, Jennifer, Darlene, Amy, Jill, Jaime, Kacee, Michelle H, Lexi, Lisa W, Liana and Lisa H.

Each one of you inspired us.  We are so FOR you and we can’t wait to see each of you soar.

Live deeply and with freedom, dear friends.


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Sharing the love…One love letter at a time.

 Happy February!

Love notes have always been a huge part of my family’s life. We love to leave little post it notes around the house for one another, on mirrors, in the kitchen, in the car, etc…


And on special occasions (ie: Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Father’s/Mother’s day) we tend to go all out with the love letters! Expressing our love in depth through letters & cards.

Recently, my husband raised the “love letter” bar when he wrote a love note to me every single day for a year in 2013. This gift took my breath away. It took writing our little love notes on post-its to a whole new level.

I knew that if I was ever going to read all of these letters, I had to go somewhere where there were no distractions. So, I went to the most peaceful place I could think of… the ocean. It took me an entire weekend to read every single letter… and it got me thinking… First, “How am I (ever) going to top this gift?” and second, “What is it about love letters that make us feel so…well, loved?”

I came to a few conclusions, but in an effort to keep this post a post and not a book (hee-hee), I will keep it to just two:

First, I realized, that I will never be able to top this gift. Accept that & move on (which, if you know me, this is extremely difficult to do, but that’s a whole other blog post in itself)

Second, I realized that the gift he gave me wasn’t about the letters. It was about the act of committing to do this every single day, to show me how much he loved me….and follow through with it. Seeing our life through his eyes… for an entire year… that was his gift to me.

Times where I thought things were rough and hard and difficult… he saw beauty, love and growth. Times where I thought I could have done something better… he saw perfection. Times where I felt lost… he saw my destination. Moments in our marriage where we were challenged…he thanked me for being his rock (me? He’s always my rock). Moments where our kiddos were driving me nuts… they were driving him nuts too!


So, back to my question, “What is it about love letters that make us feel so loved?” Love letters give us an opportunity to express how we feel in depth that the spoken word may never reveal. And, most importantly, it’s the thought, the intention behind the action of taking the time to write a love note… that is where you feel the love. Love is so much more than words. It is an action.

We often think of love letters to be between a man and a woman, but they can be written to anyone. One of my most cherished love letters came from my daughter, Grace when she was {6}:


Being that this is the month of “Love”… my challenge to you is to write a love note to someone in your life that you love. It can be to anyone! Your mom, your hubby, your BFF, your daughter/son, cousin… and it can be as simple as writing a post-it note, or sending a letter in the mail, or leaving a surprise note somewhere in the house, on their car, under their pillow.

Let’s share our love this month… one love letter at a time.



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ringing in the new year!

when you make a choice to launch a business with 3 of your favorite friends and all 4 of you are women, you know that you are saying yes to many things. yes to challenge, growth, emotions (highs and lows and all of the mess in between). a big fat yes to a message you believe in and people you admire! yes to beautiful energy, vulnerability, honoring people for who they are and where they are at, loving unconditionally…

yes to holding the tensions as heather would say.

and that is not always an easy undertaking. BUT, it has been worth.every.moment. which brings me to my biggest take away from 2014. something that i would not have learned about life or myself without those beautiful dreamers by my side.

when i am working on anything and i start to get flustered with the process or start asking myself, “am i crazy?” i have learned that i feel that way because what i’m doing is not staying aligned with my core values. for example, if one of my core values is adventure, but i’m saying yes to too many opportunities that keep me behind my computer screen, i start to feel burnt out and resentful. however, if i’m intentional about making space for adventure, i am saying yes to feeling energized and inspired instead.

when i keep this lesson in mind, it helps me use my strengths to support the people around me. so, just before heading into the new year, i asked the arise&be girls to let me know what their top three core values are for 2015. they took things a step further and let me know what their top three business focuses are as well. i loved this exercise because i feel like it gives me specific points to check in with each of them on. my hope is that it helps me support them in the way they each need it most. plus, when things start to feel hectic, we are able to take a step back and evaluate if the “busy” really aligns with what matters most to each of us. i also love that it was a simple exercise that you can do with any of the important people in your life.

here is a quick look at my goals for the year ahead:


we’d love for you to join us and keep things simple for your 2015 plans. you can download the form we used here:

share with people you love or put this up for a visual check in for yourself throughout the year. the quote included at the top are words from a wise and dear friend, natalie norton. make a plan. keep it simple. work your plan. i’ll be choosing to say yes to that a lot more in the next 12 months.

cheers to you and 2015!


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Am I Enjoying Life?

What a ride 2014 has been! With the launch of Arise&Be and the incredible growth we witnessed, I think of my word for the year — ENJOY — and I realized how during this incredible journey of stepping outside my comfort zone, I experienced joy like I never had before. I think of it like the roller coaster that terrifies you and thrills you all at the same time and even though you want it to be over…you find yourself back in line for another ride.


I came to learn how joy has many faces…and being uncomfortable for the sake of creating a larger life to engage in an adventure of a lifetime…does bring joy.  Even when you’re risking like you’ve never done before.

More specifically, I witnessed how joy is manifested and how it can be so elusive…so unexpected…so unplanned…so surprisingly authentic.  Honestly, I’m still trying to understand my journey with ‘Enjoy’.    But what I observed most about joy was how it is often stolen…and how I allow it.

For instance, when I kept my focus on ‘What I am Doing versus Who I am Becoming’, I lost my compass and I’d find myself anxious, frustrated and restless.  It was easy to compare my achievements with others (which we all know zaps the very joy out of anything and conjures the green-eyed monster of jealousy) and I strived more with less results.

I found that as I switched my gaze toward ‘Who I am Becoming’ such as being a person who offers peace and love, it empowered me to return to my life path as it simultaneously engaged my compass for next steps.  I stepped into conversations better, declined invitations that didn’t align with my values, and initiated steps toward inspiring goals.  And I felt myself exhale with a ‘there you are, Heather’ sense of well-being.  Peace with myself and the life I was choosing was restored.


As I end 2014, I realize I have only scratched the surface of enjoying life.  I want more.  So, for 2015, I’m engaging this word again with the phrase, PRECIOUS PRESENT, to remind me how staying fully present with my life keeps me enjoying what’s right in front of me.

My heart is for you as you engage more joy in your life for 2015.

With warm thoughts,

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It’s a big word and there seems to be a lot of emphasis on it during this season.

I don’t just mean a little emphasis….

I mean a lot!

Facebook, Blogs, Instagram….  It’s everywhere!

People are writing about it.  Embracing it.  Choosing to live it.



This word has been a tough one for me this year.  And I will tell you why…  Every year, I intentionally choose a word for myself.  A word to focus on.  A word to grow my heart and feed my spirit.  A word to strengthen my voice and what I offer back to the world.

In past years, my words have been:   Freedom.  Intentional.  Clarity.

And, you guessed it.  My word for 2014 is GRATITUDE.

I thought it would be an easy one.  After all, I am a pretty positive person. I believe in living life to the fullest. I believe in finding the “thank you’s” in everyday living. I take deep breaths and truly engage with what life offers.  This word seemed like it would be an easy journey.  After all, it’s a natural response to a good life, and I definitely have a good life.  So I could easily cruise through this year and this word! Right?

Not exactly.

Instead, this word seemed to taunt me.  It served as a reminder of my humanness. I became acutely aware of my many broken places.   And I was reminded of my short comings.  It brought my biggest fears to the surface.  But Why?

Vulnerability.  That’s what I feel when I focus on gratitude.  Because I recognize how much I have to be grateful for, and that definitely touches on a deep part of my heart.  BUT with that awareness, I also recognize how much I have to lose.  That makes me feel vulnerable.

This is just me being completely transparent. Let me give you an example of what I mean:  When I think of my children, my heart explodes with love for them.  I feel emotional.  Just writing this, I feel teary.  Oh yes, my kids are such a beautiful part of my life. Of course I am grateful for them.  Their life is a gift to me.  But with that gratefulness comes the realization that I could lose them.  In a moment, something could happen, and I could lose one of them.  Isn’t this every parent’s worst nightmare?

HENCE: The vulnerability.

This is what I have come to recognize.  I am not afraid of vulnerability.  Vulnerability is such an authentic way to live my best life. So I choose to live from that vulnerable place, and embrace all that comes with it.  And part of living from that vulnerable place is exploring GRATITUDE.


Brené Brown said it perfectly… in order to experience joy, we should be practicing gratitude… Who doesn’t want more joy in their life?!!!

So I am embracing  gratitude.

Gratitude is a choice for me.   It’s a response to the beautiful life I have been given.  It is a declaration of today’s many gifts. It is about showing appreciation and returning kindness. It is what encourages the JOY in my life.

Oh Yes.

I’ve got this word.

Gratitude… choosing the risk of vulnerability… experiencing joy… bring it on! I want all that life has to offer through the gateway of authentic gratitude.


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The Other F Word: Fashion

I have had a love/hate relationship with fashion my entire life. I’m envious of the women who have a passion for fashion. You know the ones I’m talking about, the true fashionistas of the world. They look like they rolled out of bed styled and put together. I always wanted to be one of those people. My journey with style has left some many emotional scars. Let’s face it, the 80s weren’t nice to more than a few of us. I’ll spare you the embarrassing stories. Fast forward to the 90s, and I was wearing my sister’s hand-me-downs, most of them unfortunately had gone out of style already. I was rebellious in my teenage years, wearing jeans when other girls were wearing dresses and skirts because I just didn’t care what other people thought. Or so I claimed. Ironically my first job at sixteen was in retail. I worked as a cashier at a clothing store. The only problem was this store was not a hip, young clothing store. It was a grown up, thirties and older kind of store, and I had to dress the part. Oh I was made fun of plenty, especially when I would run into classmates at the mall. I heard comments like, “you’re wearing THAT?” What made it even worse was that I actually liked most of what I picked out my co-workers picked out for me. I was terrible at dressing myself and therefore hated it. In time, I was promoted to a sales associate and women twice my age were coming to me to wardrobe them. Yes, wardrobe. It wasn’t just about that one shirt or one outfit, I kept track of their entire closet to help them mix and match as they added new items. I became very good at it, earning an award for selling over $329,000 of clothes in one year. Little did they know, I still hated dressing myself. What broke my heart the most during my thirteen years in retail, was the negative body image many of these women had. My mission became to make each woman feel good about herself again through her wardrobe. It was about finding those pieces that make you feel special. You know what I’m talking about. You put it on, and all of a sudden you feel like super woman! You can take on anything! Anyone! You no longer look at all your flaws, the ones that only you see. They just fade away because you feel empowered! That became my mission throughout my career, to make women feel good about themselves again, one outfit at a time.  


Little did I know, this mission would become my mantra for myself. Many years later, my days of wearing the current collection, forced accessorizing, and always looking “effortlessly” put together were over. Getting dressed was quite the challenge at first. I no longer had fantastic, stylish co-workers to help dress me on a regular basis. Then there was the BIG adjustment. You mean I don’t have to wear three accessories if I’m going to wear jeans? I can wear my favorite shirt from last season again? I don’t have to wear boots and fall clothes in August when it’s still summer outside or summer clothes in February when it’s still cold? #retailproblems. I had found fashion freedom!

Armed with my extensive business causal wardrobe from my various retail jobs over thirteen years, I began to play in my closet for the first time in my life. It was a winning fashion threesome. Me, my closet, and pinterest. My closet had NEVER brought joy or fun into my life, until now. More like dread and loathing. Fashion still isn’t always effortless for me, it takes a bit of work, coordinating, and trying on a million things when packing for a trip, but it has become FUN, a form of self expression, and a joy to feel good in my clothes and consequently in my own skin.

Ironically, just like in high school, I still receive comments and backhanded “compliments” about how I dress.  Apparently, there is such a thing as looking too put together. Remember, I do have an extensive wardrobe and loads of accessories. If you worked in retail as long as I did, you would too!  Instead of being encouraged, supported, or celebrated I have often felt belittled for how I dress. But that doesn’t deter me. I get dressed every day for me, not for you. Because I feel my best when I love what I’m wearing. Audrey Hepburn said, “Why change? Everyone has his own style. When you have found it, you should stick to it.”

As the seasons turn and you pull out your favorite boots, chunky sweater and that fabulous scarf you bought on sale, whether fashion is your thing, or you could care less about it, remember, “A personal style is like a handwriting-it happens as the byproduct of our way of seeing things, enriched by the experiences of everything around us” according to Mossimo Vignelli, and I couldn’t agree more!

– Margarett

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