June’s Book To Live By

Life’s lessons are those intense pieces of knowledge we gather from experience. We learn from these nuggets and deem them to be valuable wisdom that can guide us.

But have you considered that you may also be lugging around damaging lessons you need to unlearn?

A compelling new memoir by one of Women on Fire’s most beloved wise women shares how we can twist mistakes and misfortune into destructive beliefs and behaviors. We know Mary La, formerly Mary Landberg, as an author, artist, and retired hospice nurse.

Her latest book takes us through a harrowing yet heartening journey of healing. I am so proud to announce that our June Book To Live By is Mary’s brave, powerful, and incomparable story:

The Great Unlearning by Mary La

The Great Unlearning by Mary La

Each chapter is accompanied by one of Mary’s “concept portraits,” stunning fine-art photographs of herself depicting the emotional core of the story’s theme. Like her artwork, her words capture searing details on every hard-hitting page.

The book is told in three sections: Remembering, Unlearning, and Transcendence. In Remembering, Mary reveals a chaotic childhood of neglect, abuse, abandonment, and poverty that led to risky, self-defeating behavior as she sought to belong in a world that refused to see her. Even as she showed herself to be an exemplary student and athlete, Mary struggled alone to get by.

As a teen, drug and alcohol abuse blurred her moral sensibilities, and she began a pattern of saying yes when she would have been far better served by saying no. Over time, the “lessons” grew darker and more dangerous, bringing feelings of self-loathing, guilt, and shame.

In Unlearning, Mary tells how panic attacks and crippling physical pain finally led her to seek the support of 30 practitioners from every imaginable healing tradition in the world, from Western medicine to Eastern philosophy. Some startling results brought profound self-discovery.

Mary La photo

She also shares her history with a circle of wise, caring women who helped her learn to love every piece of herself.

As Mary reaches Transcendence, she is able to find the love and belonging she always craved. But these came with a deep understanding that her suffering, too, had great value. It is the key to her remarkable career as a hospice nurse.

The Great Unlearning is a beautiful book that reads like a novel as Mary writes with unflinching vulnerability and brutal honesty in revealing her long-hoarded secrets. But her account is by no means a pity party. Rather, it is a victory march, as Mary reclaims her rightful joy. In fact, she was recently married, and we send her our love and congratulations!

I’ve rarely, if ever, read such an impressive, raw, soul-baring memoir. This breathtaking journey of healing leaves us with hope and inspiration that we, too, can leave behind a traumatic past and find true peace.

I give it my highest recommendation.

With love and peace for your beautiful heart,


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Just when your journey seems impossible…

Thank you for my wonderful birthday wishes last week. I felt very loved and cared about!


And my birthday dream came true. Rob bought me a new hammock! Then he sneaked up on me in the backyard and caught me in action lounging. 😉

The best part of my birthday week though had nothing to do with my birthday.  My best gift last week was learning that the wishes and dreams of several Women on Fire had come true!

Every single day I hear from women who are struggling yet moving forward.  Struggling to discover their passion. Struggling to achieve dreams that seem out-of-reach. Struggling to stay brave and strong until they succeed.

The good news last week from Women on Fire members Mary Landberg, Michelle Tenzyk and Eva Tenuto is that no matter the obstacles on your journey, you can make your dreams happen.

They are role models who started out at ground zero — with only a thought, an idea, a dream — and now it’s real.

If you haven’t met them yet, let me introduce you!

The book I took with me to the hammock is Mary Landberg’s new Enduring Love — Inspiring Stories of Love and Wisdom at The End of Life.

Mary is a hospice nurse and photographer who took pictures of families holding hands, often on the final day of their loved one’s life.

These powerful photos are accompanied by the family’s beautiful and tender stories.

When Mary first came to Women on Fire a little over a year ago, her book was on the drawing board. She sacrificed and went out on a limb financially. She balanced her hospice shifts with getting the book done and did most of the planning and marketing herself. She created a fundraising campaign.

She took in love and support here to keep her going — and she kept going.

I’m sure there were plenty of scary moments. But she never gave up — and the miracle happened.

Now, with her book published, she is on her way to an even bigger dream.  Her ultimate passion is to speak to groups “to ease the fear of death, define the purpose of life as shared with me by the dying, and inspire people to live fully while they are alive!”

Finishing her book led to this:

Mary’s caption for this photo: “This is what I am meant to do.”

Yes, it is, beautiful Mary. Thank you for bringing your gifts to the world.

Next on the dream-to-come-true circuit is Michelle Tenzyk.  Here is a photo of us at a Women on Fire gathering in New York a couple of weeks ago.

At the Women on Fire retreat in Naples last winter, Michelle, a long-time corporate executive who now owns her own business, imagined starting a movement to help corporate women.

Last week, she launched The Truth Behind Our Titles (tm) and her first event — an evening in New York City on October 1 to support corporate women to find strength, resilience and hope in their lives.

She’s been cheered on by many Women on Fire sisters and has enlisted the collaboration of Kelley Black, a charter Women on Fire member, co-author in the first Women on Fire book and former corporate executive who will be one of the event’s guest speakers.

If you are struggling in a corporate environment and wish for more support, understanding and a path, grab your seat now to Michelle’s inspiring event.

Way to go, Michelle!

And, then we have Eva Tenuto, the founder and executive director of the nonprofit TMI Project. Double good news for Eva!

Here is a video of her doing the very thing she empowers others to do — to tell the truth of their lives.

Ever grateful, Eva says, “I get to witness all of these people tell their truth, release their shame, and become more of who they are.”

Producing “living room shows” since she was 5, Eva today creates forums for many who would not have a voice at all — incarcerated boys, imprisoned women, people with mental illness. Her own struggle with clinical depression and her journey in recovery from addiction and mental illness is often the subject of her own talks.

Good news #1: Eva’s local YWCA selected the TMI Project as the 2014 Organization of the Year!

Eva Tenuto gets married! (Photo by Emily Tenuto)

Good news #2: This past weekend Eva married her long-time girlfriend Julie in a beautiful ceremony in New York. Best wishes to the newlyweds. You are so deserving of your many dreams coming true, Eva!

There are many more of you whose dreams are blossoming. Please feel free to share on the blog your good news.  It is the best way we can inspire each other to know what is possible! A rising tide lifts all boats…

OK, back to the hammock for me. How are you spending your upcoming holiday week? Have a sparkly one!


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