So Your Master Degree is Useless! Sonja Landis Tells All About Art, Books, Life and Legacy!

Sonja Landis Tells All About Life, Legacy, Art and Books!

Melinda: Today, I’m going to have a Girl to girl chat with author, motivational speaker, mom, looser of keys and eater of carbs, Sonja Landis.  We’re going to talk about her journey from being a single mom to being an artist, author to having celebrity clients.

Sonja:  I was seeking funding the Painted Laugh when we met.  I record children’s laugher and paint it as modern art.  I did end up opening the gallery and it was a dream of mine that I wanted for so long.  But once I opened it, I realized that it didn’t actually match who I was as a parent and what I wanted to do as a career.  I learned a lot and was really emotionally attached to it.  So when I decided to close it, it was heart wrenching.  There was so much guilt because I thought it was what I wanted and now I’m not happy.  After getting through the guilt and knowing that I did the right thing, I had a whole litany of projects that came my way that were better fitting and allow me to be the mom that I wanted to be.  And now I can work in a way that is much more leveraged of my time and skills.  Being a writer has allowing me to be more of who I am.

Melinda:  You felt like you had to go through that process first in order to go to the next phase.  If you had those opportunities prior to opening the art gallery, would you take those opportunities the same way?

Sonja: I don’t think so, I definitely believe in everything happening for a reason and in its own time frame.  Had I not opened my gallery, I would have always had this longing and desire inside of me.  But just because you have a dream and it comes true, it doesn’t mean it’s your dream forever.  And so I learned a lot about flexibility and being open.

Melinda: And you’re brave enough change!  I know a lot of women out there who may want to change but is paralyzed by fear.

Sonja:  And yes, it’s hard to be open to change.  You feel a sense of security and a sense of responsibility especially as a mom.  It is hard to be brave but it’s much nobler to be brave.  I think there’s more power in bravery than sitting idle to wonder, hope and wish. There’s a lot of power of achievement through that bravery. That’s an important aspect that I want to show my son. I want him to see that in me.  Even if I’m scared, I always think about what I’d want him do, I’d want him to be brave, to move forward, to accept change roll with it and to be flexible to new possibilities.

Melinda: This is an Oprah AHA moment!  This really resonates with me because I want moms to take that risk and take a chance.  Their personal happiness is out that for them and if they’re content, that’s okay, but if they’re not, then there are ways to take action to make themselves happier!

So you a book…

Sonja: My first book is called My Master’s Degree is Useless…  I came up with the title because it was the way I was feeling at the time.  It was during the recession when I’ve gotten a Master’s degree.  It was pushing me to a career path that didn’t fulfill me or make me happy.  It was over qualifying me for some positions that I would have really enjoyed and wanted to get into.  But because I had an elevated degree, it was pushing me toward something I didn’t want to pursue and it was holding me back from things I was really interested in.  The other aspect of that was I had gotten a Master’s degree and the world was changing.  There was so much technology, social media and entrepreneurism that was really evolving and I wasn’t set up for that with my degree.  And I paid a lot of money for that degree but I wasn’t prepared to be an entrepreneur and to live the kind of fulfilling life that I wanted.  I had a really unique life and made some really great decisions and some enormous mistakes along the way.  I feel like I can help people by encourage them to pursue their own dreams and destiny.  I want to point out my flaws and mistakes in a funny way so they can feel that if she can do it, so can I.  The mistake you make yesterday doesn’t carry on when you move forward.  So I can tell them my mistakes and flaws to give them encouragement.

Melinda: So you’re also a life coach, I’ve spoken with you briefly about this because I’ve always been skeptical of life coaches.  There are so many experts out there, how do you know if someone is really for you.  Since they’re seeking help, they’re desperate and are willing the pay the price.  What is the best advice for them to have them get a coach that’s right for them?

Sonja: It definitely depends on the person’s specific goals and what they looking for.  It could be for personal development, build a business or they want to inspire and build communities.  There so many different goals so it’ll depend on who speaks to them the most.  For me when I was in search for a coach, I wanted someone who had a business sense as well as personal development because I’m a single mom and head of household.  So for me, not only did I want to be fulfilled but I also have a child I needed to provide for.  Having that business aspect in a coach was very important to me.  Part of my book does say that you can build your life doing what you love and make money at it.  But you can’t just affirm it, cross your fingers and hope for the best.  You really have to put some business principles behind it.

Melinda: That’s what leads you to your next book…  Which is Nothing But Net, She’s the contributing author in chapter 23!

Sonja: It hit the bestselling list in 5 different categories including for entrepreneurial.

Melinda: So what inspires you?

Sonja: I’m inspired by humor, I love it when people make me laugh and when I make others laugh so that’s something that’s so true to me.  It’s really a brand new thing because it’s come out of my writing.  Another thing that really inspires me is bravery and creativity.  I think they go hand in hand.  Anytime you get bravery and creativity together, I’m really inspired by that. For example, like when people think outside the box in little things they do such as creating different ways to perform random acts of kindness.

Melinda: What legacy do you want to leave behind?

I want to people to know that I did just the best that I could with what I had and that I didn’t waste any of my days or my time and talents being afraid or looking back too much. I’m raising my son so I really want him to be brave and want him to pursue things with an open heart, mind and be flexible.  I want that for him so much.  The only way to do it is to demonstrated it and not just tell him.  I want to have made people laugh and them knowing that I laughed all the time and did what I loved.

Melinda: Now giving the same circumstance and situation, what is your imagined life?

Sonja: Now, it would be to continue to write and I have several books in the works.  So I definitely want to keep writing and pursuing that.  I want to get into public speaking and especially speaking with young women to inspire them to not get stuck into all things they should do but just to be more aware about their options and take the time to listen to their own heart and do what they want to do.

You Too Can Dance! Spilling The Beans about Living The Ideal Life You Have Imagined!

Hi, I’m Melinda Kim and the Founder for Aspirely.
Normally I would feature ordinary moms who do extraordinary things. But today, it’s just me and you baby today and I’m going to tell you how you too can dance! From all my research and interviews with moms who has turned their passion into action, there are 5 common traits among all those women.
So I’m sharing that with you today so listen up if you want to live a life with passion!
1. They all day dreamed a little: A lot of moms tells me they don’t know what their passions are and by being curious and open to trying different things, they get pulled to their inspiration and eventually find passion.
2. Invested in themselves: They are all moms who love their family and children very much. And the best thing they have ever done is to take the time out to do things for themselves that fuels their soul.
3. Share their dream: Once they found that thing that fuels your soul, they shared it with their friends and supporters to get support and accountability. Making yourself accountable to others sometimes is just what you continue going towards your dream.
4. See the details: They all visualized themselves to be able to do the things they love most. As they dug deeper in their passion, they were able to hone in on the details and make something ordinary into extraordinary. And their vision of the path becomes clearer and clearer. Your mind is so powerful that you really will become what you believe!!
5. Let their baggage go: Letting that baggage go will release your fears, disappointments and huts. In order to go forward, you have to let go of old and negative thoughts about yourself.
Even though these simple steps may not sound complicated, but sometimes committing to doing these actions can be challenging
Through the next month, I will be doing a more in depth video for each step and give you a more detailed explanation and let you know why these steps are crucial to your happiness and success.
Thank you for watching this episode of AspirelyTV, please subscribe to my channel or blog if you found this information useful.

12 Simple and Free (or at least inexpensive) Ways to Give

I recently interviewed Amy Fox on AspirelyTV.  Amy Fox is a mother of 2, community philanthropist and got inspired to start giving after her daughter was really sick when she was two years old. After her daughter recovered, she has been an avid supporter of national and local charities. Not only is she a supporter, she always inspires others to give.  Click HERE to view her interview! – Melinda

Guest blog by Amy Johnson Fox

Here are 12 Simple and Free Ways to Give!

1. Bring bags to the park or beach and have your kids clean up trash–this not only beautifies the community, but it really makes you kids see how dropping just one wrapper really adds up.
2. Fill a pair of new warm socks with small toiletries in one and snacks/drink in the other. Add a handmade card, tie the socks together and keep in your car. When you see a person in need of help (usually on a corner with a sign) hand them the socks.
3. Grab two or three other families and schedule a date to make a meal at the Ronald McDonald House. It is fun and rewarding.
4. Grab others in your sports league to organize an equipment swap for everyone or to provide as a donation for underprivileged kids. This helps get gently used equipment that kids have grown out of back into play at no cost.
5. Volunteer at an animal shelter or for a rescue. Foster some kittens or walk/socialize dogs.
6. Organize a toiletry drive at school, church/temple, or in your neighborhood and sort them into hygiene kits. Clean out all those unused hotel toiletries from under your sink and get them into the hands of families. Deliver to a local food pantry, OC Rescue Mission, or Ronald McDonald House.
7. Purchase fleece material on sale and have your family make no-sew blankets for Project Linus. It is fun and easy, and you can do this while watching a TV show. A cute fleece blanket will warm the body and heart of a sick child.
8. Keep your eyes open in your neighborhood. Maybe you have an elderly or sick neighbor, or a pregnant mom on bed rest. Offer to take trash cans in and out, or organize meals, water plants, or help with their pet care. What can you do to help out a neighbor going through a rough time?
9. Adopt a grand friend at a senior care facility. Play games, do art, read, simply talk, or help them learn some new technology.
10. Help abused kids at Olive Crest by making them Easter baskets or filling backpacks with school supplies.
11. Share your skills: medical, teaching, law, art, music… Everyone has skills they can share. Donate your time and expertise. Help those who cannot afford these skills, and help them break the cycle of poverty.
12. Appreciate your military. There are many ways to volunteer time or items through Operation Help a Hero.

How Amy Fox, a Community Philanthropist, Collected 50 Boxes of Clothes to Hurricane Sandy!

Amy Fox is a mother of two and got inspired to start giving after her daughter got really sick when she was two. After her daughter recovered, she has been an avid supporter of national and local charities. Not only is she a supporter, she always inspires others to give. Here’s her story and she’s going to give us some tips about how we can help and make a difference as an individual.

Melinda: I’d like to start by talking about Hurricane Sandy.  When I heard what you have done, that’s when I really wanted to speak with you!  You personally collected 50 boxes of coats after the hurricane and people were sponsoring your boxes to be shipped!

Amy: So I have family on the east coast, people there lost their home, clothes and belongings while it was winter. They had requested on fb just trying to collect some clothes locally.  I shared this information to my kids, they said that “We have clothes, we have coats and we have grown out of things.  Let’s send our stuff”.  We started collecting stuff and we sent some text to friends for their donations.  So we also sent out an email to our school and the response was overwhelming.  Our community really wanted to help but didn’t know how.  People gave us bags and bags of coats, hats and warm clothes for adults and children.

Melinda: What inspired you to start giving?  What inspires you now?

Amy: Originally, 11 years ago, I had a child who became critically ill. While we were in the hospital, People brought us food, they took care of our mail and our cat.  Just those simple things really warmed our hearts and made us think how we could do this for others in the future. We also got involved with the Ronald McDonald house because we had to stay there while our daughter was in the hospital.  We were so grateful that it was there.  The organization helps support families with sick children in the hospital so that the parents can be there with their children.  So when we got out of the hospital, we stayed active to help the organization, the hospital and kids on dialysis.  We also really stayed active with the Ronald McDonald house because we think that’s an organization that really just needs to be around.  Any parent can find themselves needing their services and it’s just great that they’re there for us.  What keeps us involved is that we are lucky enough to be involved with our school and congregation community that’s really big with community service.  So we get in involved with different projects.  It’s really fun and rewarding.  Every time we volunteer together with family or friends, we always end up getting something from it.  Not because we mean to but because we feel great about it.

Melinda: What is the next project?

Amy: I have 2 projects coming up, one is an annual donation for the Fleischer foundation.  We raise money to provide CPR training in school. They fund a program through the American Heart Association called CPR anytime.  Each kid gets a recessitation kit, learn CPR and they go out and train 3 other people.  We also put defibrillators in schools.  Automated external defibrillators are key when some body’s heart stops and sometimes you need to shock that heart back in.  The shock is needed within 5 minutes of a heart stopping or the person can die.  We had a few young adults who passed away for that reason.  And so, this is saving lives.  The other project coming on is for kids who are going through dialysis.  There is only 1 dialysis center for children here in the OC.  Kids are spending 3 hours a day getting their blood cleaned.  We support them with their child life coordinator by providing movies, personal dvd players and video games.  My daughter is going to teach the kids origami and make crafts with duct tape.  Giving them things they can do while doing dialysis.  It’s a hard life being in dialysis, they can’t swim, play sports because they have tubes coming in and out of the bodies.

Melinda: You are showing people how you can make a difference by taking action and not just about donating money.  That’s incredible.

Amy: There are websites you can visit to give you ideas.  Just find things you are passionate about and jump in and find ways to help.  I know a little girl who walks dogs and donates the money she makes to animal shelters.  Or she buys them gift cards so they can buy food for the animals.  My younger daughter loves animals, and so, for her birthday one year, she collected gift cards for her local animal rescue.    This year we just recued a cat from the rescue.  She noticed that the cat didn’t have enough toys so she wants to collect dog and cat toys for the rescue.  So you can turn things that you love and help that way.

Melinda: If you were to write a book, what would it be about?

Amy: I would love to write a book about inspiring your kids to just be good people.  How to do simple things to make a difference and change the world.  They can change the world by helping people in need.   Just being a kind person.  If you don’t have the money to give, there’s always time.

Melinda: You and your family are amazing not only because you give but you inspire others to give.  It’s contagious and it’s inspiring.

Baking Her Way to Sanity – Story of Linda Bertch: Widow with 4 kids, Ex-Teacher and now F/T Baker.

Linda Bertch, widowed mother of four, teacher by trade but has turned her passion for baking into a business. But what’s more incredible about her is her story of perseverence and how she used baking to save her sanity.

How did you get started?

Linda: As a mom of 4 kids, I would bake for all their birthday parties.  Then my friends would see it and would want me to do theirs.  Even though I enjoyed doing this for other people, I started to really enjoy and it turned into a passion and a calling.  I prayed to God to please use my cookies and cupcakes to bless others.  Even though I wouldn’t know how.  I had faith that He was going to do something amazing.  I made a batch of pink ribbon cookies for a friend running for the Susan G Komen race and sold all the cookies for $200.  That’s when I knew that could turn into a business.  That’s also when I started baking for cancer patients.  I knew that was part of my calling.

Melinda: So that is really a labor of love, you are just giving!  I love that.  Last year, I heard about your husband who passed away unexpectedly, with 4 children, how are you handling it all?

Linda: Yeah, I get asked that quite a lot.  I just do what I can with what I have.  I take it day by day.  The day that my husband passed away, God told me that I would be okay. He provided the community with all the support.  The City of Irvine, church and even my clients all really came together and supported me with what they could!

Melinda: That’s so great to hear that!  Especially in Orange County, sometimes we feel there’s a lack of community.  We don’t always know our neighbors and people close their garage doors right after they get home.  There’s a certain feel of coldness.  Great that the community came together for you!

What are your hopes for the future?

Linda: I still hope to continue the baking and hope to open a bakery and hire disabled adults to help work.

Melinda: I think that would be really special!

So with everything you have gone through, if you were to write a book, what would it be about?

Linda: I think it would be about how God can use any ordinary person to do great things. And by just having one passion, it can lead you to so many journeys that can help you.  Baking has been the best therapy with dealing with the grief and loss, I also use baking as a positive energy to bless other people.

Melinda: So not only is it helping you, but it’s helping others.  It’s the saving grace of your life.  This is definitely more than a passion.  It’s very intertwined with your life, you are absolutely amazing!

Thank you so much for watching, we’ll see you next time!

#FitnessTuesday: Diet vs. Exercise. Where Should You Start?

Feature Guest Blog:  #FitnessTuesday with Andrea Galbreath!

Diet vs Exercise: Where should you start?

I get approached by many people telling me they want to lose weight.  Interestingly enough, that statement is often followed by this question:  “Should I start with diet or exercise?”

Well, here is my take on this.  It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg debate.  Does it really matter which one is first? Not really, because you can’t have one without the other.  The same goes for diet and exercise.  It doesn’t matter where you start as long as you start! But in order to have real and long-lasting results, you need diet AND exercise.

Here are a couple of (almost) real life examples:

  1. We all know somebody that has lost 20, 30, 40 or more pounds with just diet alone.  Sure, that person has gone down a few dress sizes, but they look kind of soft and squishy and get out of breath just walking up a flight of stairs.
  2. What about that friend who is at the gym everyday sweating it out with the best of them?  She meets you for lunch, orders a cheeseburger, french fries, and a diet coke, then complains that she can’t fit into her pre-pregnancy jeans. Hmmmmm. Wonder why….

So what’s the take-away? First, don’t wait for the stars to align before you take control of your health. Start now!!!  Maybe you want to focus on your eating habits.  That’s great! Maybe you want to start by establishing an exercise routine that you can maintain.  Fabulous!  Just start and remember that in order to feel the full benefits of these changes you will have to include both diet AND exercise.  You won’t be sorry that you do!

Have a healthy day!


Connect with Andrea!

Mom of 3 amazing kids, health and fitness professional, Turbo Kick junkie, and Transformation Specialist helping people transform into better versions of themselves!




Tien Vares Talks About Fear, Challenges and How She Overcame Them!

Tien Vares Talks About Fear, Challenges and How She Overcame Them!


Behind the scenes:  We’re talking about feelings

Melinda: When you were about to tell your family about opening a gym, how did you feel?

Tien: I felt nervous, I guess I felt nervous for myself.  Can I really do this?  This is off the charts and is it really possible for me to do this?

If you put your mindset to it, it’s possible.

Melinda: How did your family feel about your decision?

Tien: My husband was really excited and thought it was a great idea.  He knew that I was having all the struggles while working at the other gym.  He also knew what I wanted to do on my own.

Melinda: What kind of challenges did you face?

Tien: The transition of leaving one gym and opening up another.  It seems like it was a great idea at first. And then there’s insurance, lawyers, operating agreements, business operations. Finding a location was harder than we thought.

We also had to bring in another partner and give up a part of the company.  Now I wouldn’t know what we would do without the third partner.  He’s a lawyer so it made sense.  He saw a potential in Crossfit and was more than willing to be a part of it. I’m really grateful for bringing him on board.

Melinda: How is it all feeling at this moment?

Tien: It’s feeling great, I’m starting to figure out my schedule.  At first, it was really hard because I was at the gym a lot and not enough time at home or with the kids.  I’m trying to get that balance now. That’s why it’s key to have partners.  It gives you flexibility.  I think my advice for a working mom is to have great partners.

But there are stories where partnerships go awry, so the advice is to find a really good partner!

Melinda: How are you balancing everything?

Tien: It’s been challenging but it really helps to have a great husband. He cooks, cleans and does the laundry.  And he really understands.  But if I did have to cook, I would find ways.  That’s one of the biggest challenges is to have the help at home.

Melinda:  Definitely agree!  Having support at home is very important…

So how much weight are you lifting in your picture!

At the time, that was 65 lbs.  But now, I can do about 125 lbs. for 1 rep max.  The goal with Crossfit is to get stronger.  That’s my goal, it’s just to get stronger.  It’s not about how I look, it’s more about performance.  It’s performance based training.

Melinda:  Finding the right fitness program that fits your lifestyle and personality is very important!

How Does She Do It All? Tien Vares, Mother of 2, Owner of CrossFit Vibe and Ambassador for Lululemon Newport Beach!

Find Out How this Mother of 2 and Owner of a CrossFit Gym do it all!

Melinda: Congratulations on being an ambassador for Lululemon.  How did you become an ambassador for Lululemon?

Tien: I started a relationship with the Newport Beach store, invited them to the gym and did events with them.  I applied for it on line and all the employees in the store vote.  They pick 5-6 per year.

Melinda: What’s the difference between Crossfit and other fitness platforms out there?

Tien: One biggest difference is that everybody’s accountable.  Everybody goes to the gym, it becomes a community and it’s more intimate. Everything is measured and timed so you see progress.  You repeat workouts from  3 months ago and be able to visibly see improvement and progress.  It’s high performance, intense, short workouts and measured,  4-20 minutes.  You go in the gym, warm out, and you work out.  Very time efficient.

Melinda: What got you started in Crossfit?

Tien: I’ve always been an avid runner.  I had a girlfriend one day who suggested Crossfit to me. She suggested for me to be a personal trainer.  I started looking into it.  I was looking around to see what type of personal trainer I’d like to be.  Since my girlfriend started doing Crossfit, I checked it out and I like the philosophy. So I just signed up for the certification.  After the first day, I was so sore for a week and fell in love with it.

Melinda: So the key here is that you decided to get certified even though you’ve never done Crossfit before.  It’s like applying for college without looking at the college!  Good thing you love it.

Tien: Just like any other profession, it’s a crowded space.  I wanted to do something unique that’s not too popular just yet.

Melinda: How did you go from certified to owning your own gym.  I know it’s a long process, what were your key moments that sprung you forward?

Tien: One thing is definitely the start of it. I got certified, but I still had a lot of learning. I found a gym that offered a 16 week internship program.  Twice a week I would go in, clean the gym, workout and  shadow all the trainers there.  That’s where I paid my dues!  That’s where I got my education.  It was worth it to have that type of education being surrounded by mentors and trainers.

Then, I create my own Bootcamp at the park.  I started to bring my clients in the Crossfit gym and slowly built my clients from there.  There’s where I decided to branch out and do my own thing.  I felt that my philosophy was a bit different than the one I worked for.  I wanted to cater to women and moms because they usually get intimidated by Crossfit.  I wanted them to feel comfortable and not be scared or intimidated.  Because most gyms are dominated by males, it was really scary for women to work out there.

I met my partner at a Crossfit gym, we did a stair climbing event together in LA, that’s where we bonded and realized we both wanted to open up a gym.  So that was it.

My partner Jeff was willing to try different things and that’s what I wanted in a partner.

Melinda: What is your vision for you and the gym?

Tien: I just want a place where people can come in and try to see what Crossfit is all about.  I wanted women to try it feeling comfortable.  I’ve come to realize that Crossfit is not for everybody.  And that’s okay.  But as long as everyone comes and gives it a try, I’d love that. I found that if you have a competitive side to you, you’d really like it.

Melinda: So with everything you’ve gone through, if you were to write a book, what would you write about?

Tien: I think my book would be about being a mom and being able to balance everything,  I’ve always worked, I put myself through school, I have 2 children and I have a very active social life.  Having a really well balanced life is important.  I’d want an encouraging book for women who are stuck and inspire them to go out there, try new things and meet new people.

Melinda: You wouldn’t know that you wanted to do this even 5 years ago.  Your degree in college wasn’t in fitness so I think the people do find new passions all the time.

Tien: Life is not over just because you are a mom!

Melinda: Yes!  Being able to do extraordinary things with kids is what inspires me.  So Thank You!