Top 20 Countdown

The Gift of 20 Lives Ignited

Experiencing becoming a Best-Selling author with these 19 amazing women has been one of the highlights of my life. I had no idea that saying yes to joining The Coffee Club Diva’s, a women’s networking group 2700 miles away from California would lead me to such a journey. In the recaps that I wrote about each of the authors I began to experience them at a deeper level. My heart was connected to each of them, so when I flew back to Erie, Pennsylvania for our Authors dinner and Book Launch it seemed as if we were woven together as a tapestry of women, stitched together by our souls.  As I came together in person for the very first time with women whose souls were now connected was beyond a beautiful experience. Each one of them gave me love and expressed beautiful words of sentiment to me. This experience will forever be in my heart as a divine gift from both Heaven Above and The Girls from Erie, that I now call sisters. I would like to share the gifts I received from each of these women with you.
The Authors of 20 Lives Ignited
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My takeaway from Sydney Amicucci’s chapter is: It’s important to look ahead past the mess that our lives have become during certain phases of our lives, because it’s a springboard into a fantastic future. Sydney’s marriage was broken apart by alcoholism and the stress of her family situation had plunged her into a health crisis with the diagnosis being Basil Artery Dysfunctions, were the basil artery shuts down effecting the brain. This turn of fate ultimately led her to become a master trauma therapist specializing in hypnotherapy. Now Sydney’s life is filled with joy as she does what she loves.. helping people through traumatic times in their lives.

My takeaway from Bonnie Conley’s chapter is: Bonnie is a true warrior; Bonnie and her husband went through the unthinkable. They lost two of their four adult children one in a car accident and one to a truly unexpected drug overdose right before Thanksgiving. This is her motto, be a warrior, Be fearless. Be brave. Courage is not the absence of fear but doing it despite the fear. She truly walked through the toughest and most unbearable times imaginable. I love how her, and her husband clung to each other in the midst of a nightmare, walked through it and are still best friends to this day. I so admire you motorcycle mama.

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My takeaway from Susan Nyberg Dunton’s chapter is: After working so hard to try to have the perfect life, loss of control came quickly, her marriage started to unravel, she endured a double mastectomy, botched implants, and the loss of her business but Susan went on to reinvent herself and become a realtor and an author. What impressed me the most is Susan stood strong through the gluttony of life storms by finding her true voice and following that voice to a strong and better life. Bravo, Susan, Bravo!

My takeaway from Valerie Baltzer’s chapter is: Valerie spent the first part of her early adult life living in different parts of the country. She explained it like this” Every move to a new place was a new adventure, a new state, a new job, a new house, new friends, and new cultures- a whole new me. Each chapter in my life, another chance to co-create something new and different.”

The fact that Valerie had the courage to start new lives in so many different places fascinate me. In my mind that would take exorbitant amounts of bravery. She continued with fearless fortitude as she cared for dying parents and ultimately breaking the mind barrier that you must be a size two to become a yoga instructor and continuing on to become just that but also an end-of-life doula and certified drum circle facilitator. Talk about living life conquering fear! My respect for you dear Valerie is 100%. Well done!

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My takeaway from Remlee Peck’s chapter is: Stay the course no matter what. Remlee’s grandmother’s life changing lesson for Remlee was always stay the course. I loved that during Remlee’s most tragic times her grandmother would come to her in dreams and remind her to stay the course. Her grandmother’s guidance even after she passed helped Remlee to get through her most challenging times from losing her mother and best friend, getting back into a relationship, and going through horrific dejection from a career. I love her mindset which is “where you are headed is far more important than what you left behind and your past doesn’t determine your future, you do!” I never knew you Hannah M. Peck, but I want to thank you for being the kind of grandmother that I truly admire because my grandmother did the same for me.

My takeaway from Tarnie Fulloon Israelsson is witnessing the depth at which Tarnie has taken her passion and calling as a healer. In her early twenties she sat in meditation prayer with a dear friend focusing on their desire to be experts in their fields. Well, Tarnie your prayers were answered. Your devotion to first work on your own healing after a difficult childhood and extend it outwards to your clients and the world is phenomenal.

Tarnie’s insight and work in helping her clients connect with their bodies, thereby allowing the wisdom of the body to resolve physical, mental, and emotional pain that is holding them trapped and immobilized so they can lead a better life is nothing short of incredible. This work allows her clients to become more fluid and less triggered by their emotions and the best part is they then don’t so easily get sucked into others drama which is best part of it all for me. Tarnie, your dedication is inspiring, Thank you!

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My takeaway from Shelley Chicas’s chapter is when those around you fail you, devalue and reject you it’s possible to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and find people that do value and believe in you so you can believe in yourself. Sometimes it’s hard to get back on track when the tribe we’ve been attached to is all performance based and really didn’t care for us as a person. I love what she says- ‘I have been hurt, disappointed, disillusioned and yes, damaged. Damaged but not beyond repair.”

After Shelley’s horrific kidnapping and fall from Grace with the self-righteous, she removed her mask and went on to be a champion for children and has visited countless orphanages around the globe and helped build school facilities for the underprivileged. She has loving nurturing relationships with her husband, children, grandchildren, and friends. You on one amazing woman Shelley, Cheers to you dear one!

My takeaway from Tammy S. Ward’s chapter is when life turns into a dreadful nightmare, don’t get lost in your loved one’s addiction. I know this nightmare personally because addiction runs in my family too. Tammy could have easily gotten caught up in her son’s addiction but instead created a life of serving others as a Mary Kay representative, earning not one but four of those pink cars.

After much soul-searching Tammy had a vision that she was helping moms with children in addiction and her company, Unbound Love: Mentoring Moms with Children in Addiction was born. It is her passion to help moms live their lives while their child is lost. Tammy could have taken the deep dive of codependency to try to counteract her son’s addiction and hurt him more by “helping” him, but she did a total 180 degree turn and took care of herself and lived heroically by helping other suffering moms of addicts find peace and at the same time giving them tools to navigate one of the worst times in a parent’s life. Tammy, you deserve a cape, you are truly a superhero!

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My takeaway from Valerie Weavers chapter is: Always be looking for new opportunities. Be open minded and make networking a priority. This is the main theme to Valerie’s beautiful chapter. She took a transfer to a new place and started a side hustle in fashion. Valerie jumped at every opportunity to advance herself. Most women don’t do this, we can become stifled by fear, but Valerie showed tremendous courage.

Finally, Valerie’s situation changed again, and she pivoted into her current career at Park Lane Jewelry at the leadership level. This lead to great perks and opportunities of dream vacations to Spain, London Paris and more. What a life… all because she thought outside the box, took risks, and choose wisely so she could love what she does. She truly lives her motto- Get up, dress up, show up and never give up! Valerie, I have goose bumps just thinking about your courage to take chances all along the way. You are a Star!

My takeaway from Peggy Kincaid Schwab’s chapter is: Live life to your fullest all the way to the finish line. Peggy was born to move and she did just that, from dancing to majorette, to flight attendant with an action packed schedule, to Mary Kay consultant, to certified fitness trainer, to owning and operating a successful fashion boutique, from wedding planner, to branch manager for Park Lane Jewelry, to Sales Manager for her family’s hotel operations, and her crown jewel is being a mother and building a successful marriage of 50 years to the love of her life, the handsome Kerry.

I find it impressive that Peggy continues to work as a fitness instructor {over 30 years now}, manages her boutique, is the sales director for her family’s hotel operations and is the queen of bling for Park Lane Jewelry still to this day. Yes, Peggy was born to move, and she is not slowing down any time soon. What a life well lived! Peggy, I strive to be like you when I grow up.

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My takeaway from Tharifa Wenrich’s chapter is: Sometimes it is imperative that we take the praise of others to heart because it can be life changing. Tharifa suffered debilitating anxiety and rightfully so after experiencing physical and mental abuse. After a difficult 2nd divorce, Tharifa’s 16-year-old son said “Mom, I just want to tell you how great you are. No matter how far you fall, you always rise above and smile.” This was a monumental moment for her because she always felt like a failure in some sense. She took this to heart; she didn’t brush it off and it totally changed her life. What Tharifa’s son said to her that day just didn’t impact her, it is now passed down to her clients. She lovingly teaches her clients to invest in themselves and that personal development can free them from being a mental slave as it did her.

Tharifa is a woman on a mission and has dedicated herself to helping others control their anxiety and not let their anxiety control them. Well done beautiful lady, all because you took very positive feedback into your heart and let it flow out to the world.

The Authors of 20 Lives Ignited

My takeaway from Pastor Vickie Jones’s chapter is: When something takes you outside your comfort zone, you must expand the zone that you are comfortable in. Vickie did just that. At age 62 she and her husband decided to open a restaurant having never worked in the restaurant business. Ok, a reference point is they run a church, have 14 children and 54 grandchildren. Back to the story, not only did she decide to open it in a less than desirable location, but Vickie was determined to make Chippers restaurant a beacon of light in the community. The real kicker? They opened it in the middle of the pandemic and opted to start with just take out.

Talk about courage and faith and stepping out of your comfort zone. Pastor Vickie, I have goosebumps writing about the power of your faith and that usually means the Holy Spirit is near. Well, her vision came true. Chippers is a beacon and a testimony of faith to her community. As one customer said “Did you guys name this restaurant Chippers because everyone is so happy here? Every time I come here, I am greeted with smiles, laughter, and a big welcome to Chippers!” Pastor Vickie expressed that she hopes the experience of her restaurant blesses your body, soul, and spirit, so you get a sense of Yes, you can! Yes, we can! A sense that with God all things really are possible.

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My takeaway from Janet Kassir’s chapter is: It’s not uncommon to walk into a networking group of women entrepreneurs and truly find yourself. Janet explains it like this: “Surround yourself with like-minded women. I still remember the day I walked into a meeting of all women entrepreneurs. It was like I had been sent a gift from the Universe.”

This is exactly what I felt over 25 years ago when I walked into a meeting of the Professional Women’s Network. That’s what a close-knit networking group will do for you. Reading Janet’s chapter made me realize why I felt so close to her without ever meeting her in person. I too will be married to my love at first sight for 44 years and the similarities Janet and I share have been endless.

Her ten suggestions even bring me closer and remind me that the bond between women is strong and beautiful. Janet, thank you for reminding me of the importance of these networking relationships. It’s not about the transactions (money) that comes from networking it’s about the relationships, because in those relationships we find our true selves.

Janet then ends her chapter with a quote that adds even more to the connection that I feel toward her. It’s the very quote that I dedicated to an extraordinary woman that I met at a networking group, a woman named Gina Estrada, who touched so many lives as a master networker. She passed away from cancer just a year after I became friends with her, but she changed my life forever!

It’s lyrics from a song called For Good.

“I’ve heard it said

That people come into our lives for a reason

Bringing something we must learn

And we are led

To those who help us most to grow

If we let them

And we help them in return

Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true

But I know I’m who I am today

Because I knew you […}”

Don’t miss out on being blessed by other women. I love you Janet.

My takeaway from Vicke Marz’s chapter is: Sometimes the bolder the move the sweeter the payoff. Vicke tells of being inspired at 16 years of age to become a foreign exchange student. When her parents said no, Vicke filled the paperwork out, signed her parents’ names and saved every penny from her jobs to pay the fee. Soon she was on a plane to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to stay nearly a year with a wonderful Brazilian family with seven children and to this day remains close to the family. Not many young girls aged 16 would be so brave as to make a bold move like this, but it set the stage for the confidence needed for more bold life choices.

Vicke’s next bold move was to enter a men’s only occupation of a lineman for the Pennsylvania electric Company. Vicke’s description is: “I learned how to dig a hole, set a pole, climb a pole, work off a set of hooks to frame the pole, hang a transformer and string lines. Sometimes in the middle of the night whether in rain or snow.” Vicke’s talent and hard work paid off and her crewmates loved her. She later became the first woman to be a Journeyman Lineman in Pennsylvania.

As I write this I am in awe at her courage. These bold moves afforded Vicke the confidence to know she was capable of anything. Vicke has done many things, but I am most excited about her last adventure which is The Owner and Innkeeper of the Victoria Inn Bed and Breakfast which my husband and I were guests for three nights when we attended the 20 lives ignited Book Launch in Erie Pennsylvania. Well done, Vicke, my proud meter is at a 100%.

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My takeaway from Thasia Anne Lunger’s chapter is: Living through our darkest times prepares us to be a light to the world. Thasia Anne went from being abandoned by her father to marrying an abusive man at age 16. I love how she named the red flags of an abuser along the way; these red flags are the same ones she shares with Domestic Violence victims to this day. The story about the church ladies that stopped by her house to feed her the Word of God to strengthen and prepare her to leave her abuser is confirmation that God uses angels disguised as people. The fact that during an escape from her abuser she somehow supernaturally outran him is testimony to the Grace that was moving her to her destiny.

Along the way God turned Thasia Anne into an angel that would in turn pass down her knowledge of how to escape abuse to people that were once in her shoes. We will never know how many people Thasia Anne has saved from a horrible life held captive by an oppressor, but I venture to guess it is many. Thasia Anne first started working with the abused in groups at shelters, then she created their education department and facilitated her program in schools from kindergarten to college, handing out her precious warning signs to kids. Throughout the years her efforts in helping souls escape awful situations were confirmed. Thasia writes “Occasionally I would be out somewhere in a store and a young person would come up and ask “Are you the woman that came to our school? I gave that list to my sister, and she got away from her bad boyfriend.” Thasia Anne, continue your great calling dear angel, the world needs you.

My takeaway from Jody Royee’s chapter is: Trust that voice in your head and heart, it just might be God. I love Jody’s chapter. It’s got a comical touch that speaks to truth, parody, and satire in a lighthearted way. Sometimes I get the feeling that Jody kind of floats on an invisible jet stream, sometimes the good girl other times not. But I do know one thing, God does love her, and He takes care of her even when she is cruising along with her mind likened to a 12-lane highway as she describes it.

After she is shunned from the plane to Paris, almost effortlessly Jody rents a car and goes back home. She is saddened after seeing her life partner and best friends fly off to Paris without her because she seemingly lost her passport because of stops at the California wine bar and Sake bar enroute to her gate. Upon arriving home, the Voice tells her where to look in her carry on and she finds her passport. Jody then miraculously finds a flight to Paris under $300 dollars that leaves at 11 am the next day that gets her to Paris only one hour later than her birthday entourage. Yes, one hour later! You just can’t make this stuff up.

Out of all the chapters Jody’s would make a wonderful movie. As you can tell, Jody is a friend of mine and I admire her greatly. Her wonder and the way her brain processes information never ceases to amaze me. Jody, I love your adventurous, creative, super smart and comical self.

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My takeaway from Dr. Gae Anderson-Miller’s chapter is: Get back up after you’ve been hit with a baseball bat, get your teeth capped and smile again. I like what Gae says about pain. “It is important to acknowledge what the hurt from setbacks feels like, so you can embrace it, accept it, and truly move on. Gae has a great perspective on big setbacks and hurts, she believes that they cause massive growth in our lives. Dr. Gae has taken great courageous leaps in her life, and she is a brilliant woman who has accomplished so much academically but she lets her faith and prayers guide her.

Her first ball bat was a truly wrongful termination, the second was a divorce and custody battle and the third was losing her 2nd husband and loving friend to illness. These three major setbacks could have caused many to falter, but Gae set her mind to feel the pain, get back up and grow from it. Dr. Gae went on to start her own business and is now the CEO of Anderson Miller Consulting and she helps others find hope for success rather than fear of failure along with tools to leverage change in the lives of her clients.

Is Gae a tower of strength? Maybe, but I know she can rise above adversity, carry on and help others in a multitude of ways. Gae, your smile is beautiful and your capped teeth lovely. Carry on strong one, carry on.

My takeaway from Heidi Parr Kerner’s chapter is: Keep moving forward to become the person you have envisioned. Heidi tells of a common theme among us women. Heidi believes countless women have shut down and, in many cases, have put education, careers, raising families and relationships ahead of investing in themselves. How does Heidi help women come out of their shells? By teaching them what she taught herself.

You see, Heidi is a self-proclaimed recovered introvert and the techniques she used to overcome painful shyness are the methods she uses to coach women today. Heidi like myself found confidence and mentoring in women’s networking groups. There is a common misconception about joining networking groups. When we first join, we think in terms of transactions and money but fortunately many come to find out its about relationships that build us up as a person, give us confidence and allow for growth and connections beyond what we dreamed of.

I know for a fact that the authors in this book would not have been invited to contribute to 20 Lives Ignited and become bestselling authors if we were not affiliated with The Coffee Club Diva’s. Heidi has truly used her gift as she described it to ‘empower women to find their inner and outer voice; to communicate who they are; to build stronger relationships both personally and professionally; to be able to shine and trust they are beautiful.” Heidi’s mission to help women find their purpose and recognize their gifts has made a huge impact in Erie and the world. Job well done my friend.

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My takeaway from Linda Laird Staszewski’s chapter is: Believe in yourself and you will be unstoppable. After taking a job in the engineering department at a manufacturing company, Linda found herself the one in charge of the computerized system’s training. Linda being a right brain creative was thrown into the engineering world of mostly left brain logical male engineers. Linda worked so hard attending night school to learn industrial engineering which was a huge challenge because she felt she was weak in math. As Linda wrote ‘being a woman in a man’s position back then was a true challenge.” Linda pushed on even through her male coworkers and subordinate’s jeers, dragging their feet when asked to do something or outright just refusing to do what a woman asked. But Linda did not give up, she refused to be cajoled into backing down or trying to force her dominance. Instead, she was patient and did her best to help them do a great job. Finally, Linda was rewarded with respect, promotions and a team that worked well with her. At age 59 Linda found herself laid off and unable to find employment, rejected because they assumed she was close to retirement and didn’t want to hire her.

At age 66 Linda decided to reinvent herself yet again, doing what she loved- arts, crafts, sculpting and mentoring others to live their best lives. Linda wanted to help women escape the stress in their lives and relax so she founded Escape to Create Workshops, The Queen’s Comfort Boxes and Craft Kit subscriptions. Now at 71, Linda has a new passion which is curating her first anthology book, 20 Lives Ignited. What is Linda’s best advice? “Utilize your skills, learn and develop new talents and explore your creativity.” Linda I will take your advice to heart as I am sure other women that know you will too. Well done faithful woman of God!

My final takeaway: I hope you enjoyed the takeaways and chapter recaps for our book, 20 Lives Ignited. Writing about each author allowed me to take a deep dive into each chapter in search of their hearts and the essence of their chapters bought me closer to my fellow authors. Hopefully the recaps provided you with insights to live your best life, because the only reason I write is to make other people’s lives better in some way.

The purpose of my chapter is to provide my reader with an opportunity to look at the importance of writing their own story. When we write our stories, we start to know ourselves at a deeper level. We also get a profound look at the people that were our biggest influences. The why behind our actions and thoughts become more apparent. 

I start my story with my mother’s history because her impact was so strong on my life. My mother took every opportunity she could to teach me a life lesson.  There was literally a lesson to be learned at every corner. My mother’s story instilled in me that women have an untapped reservoir of strength and knowledge, to this day that has carried me through life on a different level.

In my story I have a life filled with coincidence and things that seemed to happen by chance. Seemingly, the strong knowledge base taught to me by my mother along with her intuition training mixed with identifying my dreams caused a succession of flukes that lead to my life’s destiny and good fortune. The people that came along side me is a testament to the power of a team. Too many of us try to go it alone in various levels of our lives and that doesn’t get us as far.

So dear reader, be aware of the lessons that life teaches you, know your dreams, tell your story, and go far surrounded by people. Don’t take life too seriously and allow for mystery and adventure,

Thank you for reading my Author’s highlights and now I leave you with this- It’s the chances you take that in the end bring you gifts that will fill your heart. Say yes more, and I guarantee you will feel more alive, experience more love, and go more places than you could have ever imagined.

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