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My Story - Rebellious Int
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My Story

Hello there and thank you for stopping by! I am beyond excited that you are checking out the site, and I do hope it inspires you to shake things up and start on your own journey to seizing each day. What do I mean by that? Well, that depends on what makes you happy and fulfilled. Here I will tell you a little bit about me and what makes my heart skip. To give you the short story, the pictures above summarize it all.

Below I speak from the heart so please pardon the randomness, casual language and length of my story. All the detail is there because I believe in personal relationships and knowing the person behind the story. I also hope you understand better why this company is such a dream in the making…..

Background

Originally from Bulgaria, my family relocated to the U.S.A. in 1992. Moving to this country was a dream of my dad. He was frequently mocked over it while we lived in the Eastern European Block. But he made it happen!

I am the older of 2. My younger brother came 5 years behind me, and was unique, amongst other things, in that he spiced a family generation of all girls. From early on, I was the older sister and the one who had chores, had to be responsible and set example. My parents raised us to be very independent. Early on, they would allow us to make our own decisions with their famous saying: “The choice is yours but so is the consequence”. Kind of makes you rethink the choice.

I grew up in Bulgaria during communist time. I had a very happy, active and fun childhood. Yes, I did not have a fraction of the toys my daughter now has but grew up in a close family with strong family values and many friends in a 14-floor condo building. I also grew up with a lot of discipline and ton of emphasis on academics. My parents are both PhDs in Biochemistry, and early on, they placed a lot of emphasis on academics. I was pretty good at sports. I was on the swim team in elementary school, and my then Russian coach would tell me with heavy accent: “Mashenka, we will train you for the Olympics”. She would let me compete with the boys. Well, my sport aspirations did not last because there were English privates, piano privates, math privates, Bulgarian literature privates…..you get the point. School was a priority. I didn’t think about it much back then.

My teens were probably best described as a bit on the awkward side. In school, I wasn’t part of the popular crew. I was actually having a tough time because of several bullies who mocked me as the ‘nerd’ for always making A’s and a couple of mean girls who mocked my growing curves. The bad part there was – yes, it did suck because even a couple of these kids can make you not want to be there with the rest of your cool friends. The good part – early on, I learned that there will always be those who try to knock you down, and you can either take it move on. My parents had always reinforced that I should think for myself and not crumble under peer pressure, that different doesn’t mean bad, and that I should always aspire after the best. I think the combination of my raising and my difficult time in middle school made me stronger and more ambitious. That ambition has paid off in magnificent ways, especially with our move to a different country. I also do have to admit that sometimes I wish I had less ambition; it would definitely make my life a lot easier at times.

While in my teens and as I mentioned, I started developing my girly curves. Let’s just say I was bottom-heavy (and I  wasn’t really heavy, I just have a butt ? ). My dear aunty started calling me affectionately ‘meatball’ (‘kjuftence’ in BG). Well, I do not need to explain that especially when you are a teen, that is not the nickname you are after. That was my motivation to sign up for the gym at age 12. In retrospect, that was probably a very pivotal time in my life because ever since then I have been a gym rat or rather one who is in love with exercise. I love moving, I love the adrenaline rush and feel-good after feeling! I am a true believer that exercise is needed not just for the known physical reasons but also for mental distress and overall well-being.

Move to the U.S.

Fast forward to May 1992, my dad came to Athens, GA as an exchange scientist. He came on a 6-month contract. At that time, I had finished a preparatory year in a school with English emphasis so my parents thought it would be great for me to join dad for a couple of months to polish my English. My little brother was upset as to why just me and not him. So, my dad made the grand decision to have the entire family – mom, brother and I – come. That was a major decision because at the time, buying 3 airline tickets across the ocean costed my parents their entire life savings for housing and education. Essentially, the decision was more than come visit and go back, it was more you-have-to-make-it-work-because-there-isn’t-going-back option.Mom was less than thrilled about the move. We grew up very close to her side of the family, and I do not think she aspired to uproot our comfortable life to start from ground zero in a far, far away country. We, the kids were excited even though I had changed schools and had really enjoyed my new class and classmates.

We moved. I skipped eighth and ninth grades and started high school in 10th grade. High school in the U.S. was quite an adjustment. There was no comparison between discipline in Bulgaria and here. I could not believe students spoke back to teachers. Things have probably changed back home now too, but in my time, there was a ton of discipline and respect in schools. On a different topic, I found it hard to form close connections with many of my classmates, which was unusual for me because I have always been known to make ‘best friends’ within the hour. The cross cultural change turned out to be quite the educational experience. It has definitely been a life-long lesson to not judge others till I have walked in their shoes and to be open to different thinking, customs, and experiences.

I was beyond lucky to have as a neighbor a girl from Brazil, who made the transition so much easier and less lonely. She was in a similar situation in that her family was visiting the States while her dad was on an exchange for work. She and I walked to school, talked, hung out; our families became close. We are friends to this day! I also bonded with many of the other foreign students; that was somehow easier. From the locals, there were a few amazing kids, teachers and adults that embraced and encouraged me while getting acclimated in the new environment; little do they know how much of an impact their friendship and support means to me to this day!

Outside of that, my circle of friends was limited so it was again a bit rough. But hey, I was on a mission to get to college so I had a goal to chase. In 11th grade, I was accepted at a school that would have allowed me to finish senior year and freshmen college year together. There was only one problem – cost; my parents could not afford the tuition. Oh well, I wasn’t heart broken. I focused on school work.

I finished high school as a salutatorian. My parents had no idea. I remember the Award Night when they announced it and gave me $1k check for college. My dad…OMG, he was so beyond proud. I think if he could have put it on Breaking News, he would have done so. THAT right there was priceless. A disappointing part of that same night was that there were several of my teachers and classmates who walked by me without saying a word…..to find out later, that another girl was ‘supposed to be’ the salutatorian.

I was happy and had busted my behind for that. To give you perspective, my first Literature class covered stories from the Bible in old English. First of all, religion was forbidden in Bulgaria during communist times. I knew nothing about the Bible. Second, English was my second language, which was tough enough. Old English? I would come home, read the material, and underline each word I did not know (and that was a lot of words, be it contemporary or old English). My mom would look up each word for me and write it down. Then, I would re-read the material with sheets and sheets of translations on the side.

There was also a lot more to being proud…

Migration Transition

My mom did not transition well with our move. She had always been a working mom, she had a lot of friends and family back home. We moved here. She knew no one. She could not find work as every job she applied to she was over-qualified for. She is shy so having to deal with the newness and all the change was a lot. She went through a bad depression. It was so bad that my dad told me she needs to go back home to feel better.

My dad wasn’t making much, but, as always, he and mom made sure my brother and I never felt deprived. My dad was a scientist by day and a construction worker on weekends. And the best part – he couldn’t be any happier that he had accomplished his dream of bringing his family to the U.S. – the land of opportunities.

Diagnosis

And then, just when mom found a job in her area of Biochemistry, and things were slowly starting to fall in place with our acclimation….dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and given 6 months to live. To this day I remember the day when mom and dad walked into the apartment. They had gone for a checkup as dad had been coughing for several months, and mom finally convinced him to visit the doctor. My mom walked in and dad followed, his eyes red and watery. I don’t think I had ever seen my dad cry. I was confused and inquired. Dad’s response: “I have cancer”.

_____________________________

Cancer? What? Cancer? Cancer doesn’t just happen like that to regular families. Cancer happens in the movies. Cancer? Doesn’t that kill people? No, my dad isn’t going to die! Come on now, this has to be wrong. What kind of crap is that?

Mom seemed ok. I followed her to the bedroom.

Me: Mom, what’s going on?

Mom: It is cancer.

Me: What? How? Why?

Mom: I don’t know, he has 6 months to live.

…..and the tears started rolling….

______________________________

By the time of my graduation, dad had gone into remission. If you knew my dad at the time, you would have never known he was sick. He was his energetic, funny, annoying dad. I don’t know if he really felt like the brave face he put up. He did treatments and all that but it is like they never fazed him other than the falling hair.

That was the time when I developed total phobia for hospitals. The white walls, the beds around, the smell….just give me such an uneasy feeling. And not to mention that the sound of this disease just absolutely paralyzes my inside to this day.

As I walked on graduation day, I was happy because my heart knew my parents were so proud. And with everything we had been going through, that meant that much more! And even though dad was in remission, the question of whether he will ever make it to my college graduation crossed my mind…..

During the summer, I was walking toward to university, when my dad drove by and picked me up. We had never really discussed the topic of college. He asked what the plan was. I had already been accepted at UGA, worked out all of the scholarships, etc. It hit me that my parents were not even aware I was going to be a student at UGA.

Dad’s remission did not last long. By the fall, his condition started deteriorating. We went to visit a friend radiologist who performed some tests. He showed us the X-rays and said all was clear! Then he pulled mom and me to the side and told us there isn’t much time left……

Somehow dad held on. Those were really tough times. My brother was only 13. Mom wasn’t driving so I had to take dad to treatments, my brother to practices, help mom with home stuff. I was also a student, had a part-time job and was still a teen wanting to date my boyfriend and go out. We tried to make the most of it but it was tough.

By the time winter came, things were not looking good. Doctors in the U.S. gave up on dad’s case. Dad and mom went back to Bulgaria to search alternatives. That was not fruitful. By the time they came back to the U.S., dad had lost a lot of weight and the disease was spreading. Somehow we held hope. We did crazy, desperate things hoping something will change.

Dad passed away on March 1st 1996. Ironically, March 1st is a huge Bulgarian holiday of health. I was 18.

That summer, mom, brother and I became American green card holders. I am sure dad was smiling from above saying: I told you I will make it happen!

My Dad in Me

As I get older, I find more of my dad in me. He kind of did his thing, didn’t care what people thought and really enjoyed the little things life. He used to do yoga in his more youthful years, he ran – both things not usual for the average Bulgarian, especially back then. He dragged us hiking to the mountains almost every weekend (he heard a lot of complaining for that). When we moved to the U.S., his English was alright but he could not care less about the mistakes he made – he thoroughly enjoyed speaking to everyone. My friends used to tell me my dad is cool because he liked to watch MTV. He and mom always had this special thing where they would talk to us about everything – that was their way of guiding us in the right direction (of course, I found it annoying back then). A friend recently told me I am ‘restless’. It made me think of dad….. and somehow  does too ?

My First Job in the Fitness Industry

When we first relocated to Athens, GA, I started (trying to) run with my dad. We would run for 15 minutes, after which I had to lie down on the floor and recover for probably that much longer. Dad got me into running which to this day I love. I have crossed the finish line of many half marathons and my one full marathon with dad cheering me on.

However, I was missing my beloved gym classes. I wanted to join a gym. I convinced dad to take me to inquire (because you know mom is the rational brain that says not to bother because we can’t afford that; but then there is daddy, who I had almost convinced to get me a brand new sports car (in retrospective, I have no idea what he was thinking)).

We sit with the sales person, he provides overview of the memberships. And here is a wonderful example of my daddy in action!

Dad: No, we can’t afford that.

Sales Manager: Well, the only other option is X but then blah, blah.

Dad: No, that doesn’t work either. She needs to starts working here and get free membership.

This is the time when as a teen you want to sink into the ground b/c of all the silly things your dad is saying. You try to nudge him to just leave, but he completely ignores you and keeps on, as to purposely ensure you are utterly humiliated (saying all this with a lot of love but looking through my eyes back then).

Dad: So, what does she need to do to start teaching classes here?

(In my head – what the heck are you thinking, dad?!? Teach classes? I have never taught a class. In front of strangers? In English? You have lost your mind!).

Sales Manager (obviously confused): Well, she needs to demonstrate a routine, and we will evaluate her teaching skills.

(In my head – what teaching skills?!?)

Dad: Great, when can she do that? Can she come sometimes this week?

And within minutes, I have an appointment to do a teaching demo within days! We walk out, and dad is beaming!

Dad: See, now you can have free membership to the gym!

Me, wanting to scream, try to argue that this is unrealistic, etc. My dad didn’t want to hear it.

Shortly after this, I was a 16-year old aerobics (now known as group class) instructor at the gym. And do not think it just happened; that demo costed me hours of practice and look up of fitness vocabulary. However, I had a free gym membership. And so my journey in the fitness industry began!

My Mom

So while dad was outgoing and adventurous, my mom is shy and quiet. She does her things behind the scenes and is the most selfless person I know. These days, she is my biggest supporter and is a devoted mom, grandma, and mother-in-law. She won’t say much but she will do a ton. She will take care of the little things and take over anything and everything to help me. Her and my little princess have an amazing relationship, one that makes me smile from deep within.

Mom was under my dad’s wings. He had her up on a pedestal and took care of her in a sweet, loving way. He respected her and always brought her flowers. Dad’s early departure from life was a big hit for us all but I feel for mom especially. Dad shared stories that my mom was a dedicated career woman who had no interest in chasing men. Dad wasn’t chasing family life either. They met when mom was helping dad out study. My dad told me that my arrival changed mom’s priorities. I always thought that was weird as I could not envision my mom as an ambitious career woman….until my ambitious self became a mom.

I feel like my relationship with mom grew after my dad passed. We became closer. She was always a sound of reason for dad, and she always did it with such calm and patience (something unfortunately I did not inherit).

Mom retired right before my little monkey was born, and, in traditional Bulgarian style, moved in with us. Have I mentioned that I would be lost without my mom? I could have never juggled everything and chased my dreams if it weren’t for her; and I mean it! Quietly, she runs the house. I often wonder if I could ever be the same mom for my daughter when she grows up….Mom is loving, smart, beautiful, caring, humble…..amazing summarizes it well!

College Years

Opposed to high school years, college years were some of the best times in my life! Dad departed life in my freshman year and that was difficult and required adjustment for the entire family. In retrospective, mom now says that us moving to the U.S. was one of the best things for the family because raising a family in Bulgaria as a single mom would have been that much more difficult since the opportunities for children at the time weren’t the same.

I completed my BBA in Finance at UGA while living at home. I had established a good, fun base of friends.

I studied hard and partied hard. My surrounding again consisted of mostly international students but that was the time when my mind expanded, and I made some great American friends. By that time, one of the big lessons learned was my appreciation, rather than lack of understanding, of different cultures. For example, I grew up in Bulgaria which was under Turkish yoke for 500 years. I feel that a lot of the Bulgarian literature and history is anti-Turk. Guess who some of my best friends in college were? Turks! Guess what? I discovered we have so much in common – values, food, customs, etc. – with them. My family has always promoted accepting people for who they are and not judging them till you really know their story. I think after my failure to execute on that in high school, I had matured to grasp that concept much better in college.

In college years, I also got to enjoy another passion of mine – dancing! Since a little girl, I have absolutely loved music and dancing. My mom loves sharing a story when I busted singing out loud on the bus when I was maybe 3-4. I love to sing but for sure do not have the talent. I equally love to dance; there I have some skill after repetition because I have terrible coordination. I think a big part of it is that I thoroughly enjoy moving to the beat; my heart truly starts pounding when a good rhythm hits. When we were back in Bulgaria, I had gone to a dancing lessons open house. There were hundreds of people. I think the event was more of recruitment of talent. I must have been an early teen. They did a demo class. I was so excited! Then they shared what tuition fees were. Ha, clearly remember monthly tuition was my mom’s salary. Didn’t bother sharing with my parents. Today, I make sure to teach my daughter that not all kids have the same chance to try this and that class, and she needs to appreciate the opportunities she is given.

In Athens, there were Wednesday International Nights. That’s where I discovered my love for Latin dancing! If you haven’t tried it, do so! It is such amazing fun! Do not get intimidated by the amazing couples who you will likely find on the dance floor. Just dance your heart out! I have never been much of a drinker (and my hubby will tell you I am such a cheap date!). My partying constituted of hours and hours of dancing. I would be the sweaty, disastrously-looking girl on the dance floor who is having the most fun!

Even though I had a very active social and fun time in college, even though I worked , I never forgot why my parents brought me here; my priorities remained straight. Studying and getting a solid education to land a good job was a prerogative. I completed my undergrad with one B in Legal studies and completed my undergrad in 3 years.

Two things worth mentioning. I am not smarter than the average person. However, I work harder than the average person. I do not believe (and it is actually a huge pet peeve of mine) in half-a**ing things. I pass to my daughter today what my parents taught me: If you are going to do it, you need to do it right. I think that kind of attitude has served me well in life and has earned me respect from many. The flip side, yes, I am a perfectionist and with age have found that I put tremendous pressure on myself and am one of my biggest critics. It can be a bit too much and unhealthy at times. I am personally struggling with finding a balance and am on a continuously learning path.

My college education was 100% paid by the HOPE scholarship and various scholarships. I am only adding this fact here to encourage those who think they may not be able to fund education to search alternatives (I had applied for SO many scholarships!). I had also substantiated them with strong academics, of course. Another favorite sayings is: When there is a want, there is a way!

After I worked for a couple of years, I completed my MBA in Finance at Georgia State University. I did the part time program and finished in 2.5 years with only one B. A story reflective of me is how I handled a Securities Valuation class. First test – score of 73! What?!? Oh no, panic mode. What to do? Study, of course! I think I had solved each problem in the book at least 3 times! I read and practiced and studied insanely. Final test – I breezed through it. I clearly remember finishing all the extra credit problems. Class dismissed and time to discuss test. Some of my friends were the brainiacs in the class – you know those (annoying) people that comprehend everything the first time the professor explains it and do not need to study because they just get it; my brother is one of those! They all commented how hard the test was and how they barely got to finish it without the extra credit stuff. I was feeling good! I busted the class average and deserved my A. My boyfriend (now hubby) then told me I was studying like a mother******.

In retrospective, I am not sure why getting good grades has been so important to me my entire life. I think because I was raised always being told to be the best I can be.

Me in Real Life

One of the first jobs I had interest in after undergrad was a financial advisor. A lady at the university department where I worked helped me get an interview at a brokerage house. The interview did not last long because I was told: ” You are young, you are a woman, you have an accent, you will never make it as a financial advisor in Athens, GA.” Ha! Not the most encouraging advice but it was honest so I respected that. Welcome to the corporate world! I had never thought of myself described as such; if anything, I saw these as advantages.

A few things about me and my work ethic that I believe have helped me climb the corporate ladder but also will give you insight as to who I am.

I am a hard worker. I believe doing a good job and going above and beyond. I question things because I learn by understanding. I am dedicated and ambitious. I like efficiency and am very results driven. I strive to make things better. I love challenges and seizing opportunities arising from them. I believe in developing people. I believe in treating people with respect, no matter their level, and helping them grow. I believe that with change comes chaos but also incredible opportunities. If you are in a painful situation but want to grow, this is prime time to shine (I am not saying that breaking through the clouds is easy). I am persistent. Some of my nicknames at work have been ‘pit bull’, ‘the bomb’. I am generally very respectful, and I think that has always helped me connect with older folks.

What I am not so good with – on top of the list would probably come being politically correct. Ever since my first work review, consistent feedback is that I am way too direct. I have been working on this for years and years. And while I think I have made huge leaps, it continues to show up on those reviews. The flip side – if honest feedback is needed and there is a difficult project where people need to speak up, I am in demand. I do not avoid confrontations. I believe resolving problems is key to moving forward. Leaders have to deal with confrontations. I believe talking and listening are essential in being successful in any situation; open and honest communication is a must to any solid relationship.

I am a huge stickler for discipline. I admire people who have discipline. I think discipline is much needed, especially for kids. I grew up with a ton of discipline at home and school and strongly believe has helped me stay focused and on course. My family calls me ‘the dictator’ in the house because of all of my crazy rules (don’t get fooled in thinking the rules get followed).

In professional and personal setting, I say what I think. I do not like sugar coding things. However, that does not translate into being mean. I say what I think because I care. I honestly think the world would be so much easier to maneuver if people were honest with each other. Where I need work on is my delivery. Someone who I respect very much told me that I should ‘say it with a smile’. My mom tells me that I should learn from my little one who can get anything and everything from daddy (she starts with: “daddy, I love you”. Then she gives him a hug. Then proceeds with: “May I get X?”. She will tell you that she can get everything she wants from daddy. I have to say, I see that it works). I stink at sucking up. I am not a good bs’er, I am not afraid to call on someone’s bs. In my younger times, my guy friends would call me ‘balls buster’.

Something that happens frequently – first impression – you probably won’t like me (I really do not know why). As you get to know me, you will really like me and know that all that I say comes from the heart and is well meant even if it does not sounds so. I am one of those friends who will let you cry a bit but then tell you to get up , shake it if off and come up with a plan of action. Another one of my favorite quotes: You need to suck it up!

I am a very passionate person, and many times people become overwhelmed by me. I do have to tone it down in daily life. If I am excited about something, I appear forceful. I have observed that with this business, people see me as a very aggressive sales person. The truth is, I really do not see myself as a sales person at all. I see myself as someone genuinely eager to recommend a great product.

If I am upset about something or with you, you will know. I need to talk issues over, address them, resolve them and move on. I think this makes relationships stronger. I do not like it when people ignore situations or avoid a response. To me that is unprofessional and immature (not to mention it drives me crazy!).

I like to question and understand things. I have been told quite a few times I should be a lawyer. An old colleague had jokingly put into his self-evaluation training section: “Answer a hundred Angelova questions”. My inquisitiveness also takes people aback as they perceive me questioning their knowledge. Again, over time, folks learn that I am trying to understand to make things better and are then eager share.

At pretty much all of my jobs, I have formed solid work and personal connections with colleagues and managers. I also think that most colleague and managers form a deep respect for my work ethic and appreciation for all the things that I drive them crazy with.

I have also been told that I exhibit a cold exterior. That always surprises me because I am a very warm-hearted, sensitive and caring person. When in college, I could not understand why guys would not come talk to me but my friends would be flooded by attention. My guy friends response would be that I appear intimidating (no idea why). I cry at movies like you can’t believe it. I may give you hard core advice but that doesn’t mean I don’t internalize and share your pain. And simply because something doesn’t appear to bother me doesn’t mean that I am not hurting.

I sometimes get comments as: ” You have been so lucky your life!”. While I do acknowledge that there is certain level of luck involved in everything we do, I think it is interesting that people tend to see the luck part rather than the work required to get something, whatever it is, accomplished.

Another pet peeve of mine is excuses. Who have excuses helped? I think excuses are part of human nature but some people like to use them more frequently than others. I have a lot more respect for someone owning up things than someone making a lame excuse.

Oh, and how can I forget another weakness of mine – patience! Or rather the lack of it. I like things done now and well. As we all know, that is not the real world. It is a steep learning curve for me in professional and personal life to understand that not everyone is driven and works like me.

It will be interesting to see how all of the traits that have helped or hindered me so far will reflect in my personal business. I look forward to the opportunity and challenge of growing, learning and building many personal and professional connections!

My Hubby

Hubby and I met randomly at a Latin club. The first thing he asked was: Are you married?

To make a long story short, that night we danced for about 3 hours non-stop. We never exchanged phone numbers but ended up he worked out at the same gym I did. We dated 8 years before we tied the knot. We are a prime example of opposites attract. We broke up and made up a few times, we got engaged twice before we married. I even moved to NYC for a couple of years which think gave him the nudge (if you can call it that after 8 years) to finally commit. Our ‘for real’ engagement was on my 30th birthday in a NYC club. We eloped and got married in St. Lucia.

We love each other but we tend to get on each other’s nerves. Sometimes he makes me insanely upset. Other times I wonder how he puts up with me because I do understand I am a lot to handle. He has a kind, sweet heart. He completely hates confrontation and shuts off when it happens. Yes, yes, exactly! Oh, did I mention his dancing skills aren’t so good? Funny how motivation would make one step out of his comfort zone, right?

The best part about him is his relationship with our little princess. I see her with him, I see him with her and my heart melts! That certainly has its moments because mommy always has to be the mean one but it is still precious! And remember how he really wanted her to be a boy when she was in my tummy? That was forgotten the second our little princess came to this world.

THE BIG DECISION

I had been working way too much. Even though Pilates, the Young Living Essential Oils and Beautycounter were my ‘hobbies’, I was spending too much time on them and not enough time with my family. My balance, if such a thing exists, was for sure off. I also found myself not working out, not sleeping enough, stressing too much. I had lost the ‘fun’ me. Then one day I spoke to a mom who looked good – she was in shape, hair fixed, nails polished (one of those moms I will never manage to be) but when asked how she always looks so good, she said she takes care of herself. Hm, innovative thinking for me. She is so right! You have to take care of you! Because if you don’t, who will? And if you don’t, you will kill yourself doing everything that you need to do but you will miss out on the important things in life…..that is where I was headed. I had made sure to be at each event my little one had at school, I made my best to do some volunteering there, to talk to her daily but it was a constant rush.

At the same time, I started questioning what I should do professionally. I had worked very hard to be where I was. I was very lucky to have the job I had – solid company, truly awesome colleagues. I worked hard but had flexibility. I had a decent paycheck and benefits and all that. One issue – I was really sidetracked mentally by my hobbies. I found enjoyment in them. I wanted to do more of that. I had always wanted to do something on my own in the fitness world; I have had a passion for that from early on in life. Now, I had a couple of other fantastic products related to proactively taking care of oneself.

I actually recently asked my mom how come my dad and her never encouraged me to pursue more sports. We knew dad was very much against professional sports; he thought it was unhealthy demand on the body. Mom said she never envisioned me in a Finance role. She thought I would end up doing something related to writing.

Last year I brought the thought of giving up my corporate career to hubby. He brushed it off and told me I am crazy. He is right, this is kind of crazy. This year, the thought kept creeping in more and more often. I really started questioning where this would go if I devoted all of my energy, including the one spent in corporate, to do my own thing…… And what if I got promoted? Then it would be even harder to make the transition. My hubby said that creating awareness about Pilates and essential oils and safer cosmetics “is a mission, not a job”. Precisely; very well said! What if I made my mission my job?

And that is the very long birth story of ! I decided to jump and give it a go. This is the story of a girl who is following her passion and hoping success will come…..

Be You, Be Rebellious, Be Today!

My Journey Into the Pilates World

Through a simple Google search, I discovered Pilates of Dunwoody – a studio nearby my home. I knew nothing about Pilates other than it is big in Hollywood and it is similar to yoga.

I stopped by the studio and inquired about lessons and certification. In order to convince my husband to get a starting package, I got him (he suffers lower back issues) duet sessions for his birthday. Admittedly, it was a bit of a selfish gift.

And so my journey began. Session one – I was not challenged at all. I have strong legs, and I powered with them through the entire workout; no powerhouse involvement, and I was not impressed. I am not sure what kept me motivated; it was probably the annoyance that I cannot feel anything from these supposedly amazing exercises. I continued. This journey started in February 2012.

Hubby dropped off; I continued with privates. My body slowly started ‘getting it’. I would watch the other instructors workout and wonder why an exercise is an advanced one. Then I would try the exercise – “oh, she made it look so graceful and easy; somehow that is not happening for me”. A lot of the other instructors have dance backgrounds. I was stocky and stiff, especially with all the weights I was doing. I was definitely missing the ‘grace’ part (that is still work in progress).

In a year and combining Pilates, weights (I eventually did stop teaching when I was completing my advanced Pilates certification and went back to work; once again, there was too much on my plate) and running, I was in probably the best shape shape of my life. I wasn’t the skinniest (because I don’t think skinny = strong) but I was my strongest me. I was also flexible, and my muscles lengthened. I felt so empowered. A strong body and mind can do wonders to how one feels!

In the summer of 2013, I became a certified level V Romana Pilates Instructor after completing a 600-hour, intense 3-level program (Basic, Intermediate, Advanced) training at Pilates of Dunwoody. Just like any other classes I have thought in the past, I thoroughly enjoy helping others gain the same benefit from this incredible method.

Becoming a Mom

Once we were ready to be parents, which was a dream for each of us, I certainly had a planned timeline for when things should happen. Only, The One Above had different plans. I struggled conceiving. I tried hormone therapy, did all sort of tests, peed on an ovulation stick daily but nothing was happening. I was completely emotionally drained, our relationship was being affected, and I was ready to accept that maybe it wasn’t meant for me to carry my own child. Our final step was IVF. I needed a mental break before starting that.

2.5 years into it, on a rainy Sunday evening, I did yet another pregnancy test. Positive! Hm, should I get excited?!? I had had many false positive ones before. I called hubby, who was less than happy to be interrupted from watching a football game with his nephew.

Me: Look at this….

Him: What does that mean?

Me – shrug shoulders…..I knew where he was coming from; he didn’t want to go through the excitement only to crash again the next day.

First thing Monday AM, I called the doc’s office and went in for a blood test. Things felt different this time, but then again, they had felt different so many times before when I had hoped that darn test would be really positive. They told me they will call me tomorrow. For real?!? Again, seriously!

Tuesday AM – I was glued to the phone. Come on, call now. 8 AM, 9 AM, 10 AM, 11 AM, 12 PM. For real, how long does it take to do this test?!? I gave up waiting and went to grab lunch at Moe’s, phone in hand.

While in line, the phone rang. Yes! Doc’s office. I am not sure but I probably ran outside. My heart was about to pop out. In my head, I was praying: ” Please, please, please, let it be good news.” Somehow knowing I will completely crumble if the news were not what I wanted, I managed to pick up the phone with normal tone.

Nurse: Hi Mrs. Angelova, this is X from Dr. X office.

For real, I know that! Annoyed.

Me: Yes, hi, do you have the test results (I usually tend to do the polite pick up…not this time).

Nurse: Yes, we do….(pause).

For God’s sake, please speak up faster. Anticipating and totally dreading what I am about to hear….

Nurse: Mrs. Angelova, your HCG is very elevated; congratulations, you are very pregnant!

OMG, OMG, OMG, if that nurse was in front of me, I would have probably suffocated her with my hug!!!! Scheduled ultrasound at X weeks, hung up. Tears were rolling down my face….

I called hubby.

Me: Are you in the office?

Him (he could tell by my voice I was crying): Yes, are you ok?

Me: yes, I will be in your office shortly.

Him (confused): Ok

It was a nasty cold and rainy day. It was grey and pouring. I thought to myself that this is the most beautiful day I have seen in a long while. It took me 15-20 minutes to get to hubby’s office but that felt like forever. I cried the entire way there.

I walked in the office, eyes red and swollen. Hubby’s eyes got teary-eyed too. I knew the news he was expecting.

We walked into a private office and closed the door. I sat in his lap.

Him: are you ok? What’s going on?

Me (my heart pounding with excitement): WE ARE GOING TO HAVE A BABY!

Him (bursting out crying): OMG, why didn’t you tell me earlier? I was so worried.

That was probably one of the best moment we have shared together!

My pregnancy went mostly ok. I was so nervous not to do something wrong to the baby that I went from super active to some walking. I had some cramping in the beginning which freaked us out a bit. I started having hip pains early on but that was nothing major.

Then we found out the sex of the baby! A baby girl!

I really didn’t care what we are going to have. Hubby, he wanted a boy. So, every visit we went to, he would ask the doctor if it was a boy or girl. I found this utterly annoying! Had to tell him the sex of the baby doesn’t change.

I gained 50 pounds. I wasn’t pigging out but was a lot less active than before. I had a ton of water retention. Toward the end, I could barely put flip flops on.

The baby was big and my doctor was convinced I won’t be able to push her out. I really didn’t want a C-section but was ready to do whatever was best for baby and mama. The surgery was scheduled for a Friday.

During the Wednesday visit, I showed my doc my inner thigh. It had been super swollen and tender to the touch, and now it was starting to turn purple. Doc thought it would be smart to do an ultrasound to make sure there were no issues. I did the ultrasound and headed home.

On the way home, the phone rang. The hospital.

Nurse: May I speak to Mrs. Angelova please?

Me: Speaking.

Nurse. Mrs. Angelova, you have a clot in your lower extremity and need to be admitted to the hospital immediately.

We arranged timing and where to go and all that. I didn’t think much about this other than get excited that I am finally going to meet my baby girl!

I call hubby and tell him we need to go to hospital immediately when I get home. Of course, he tells me he is not ready with packing his stuff, etc. This is a prime example of when I talk about opposites attract. I am fuming! 9 months were not enough for him to get ready?!? Of course I tell him exactly how I feel.

We finally make it to the hospital early evening. I put the sexy hospital gown and am in bed anxiously and excitedly awaiting the doctor. Finally the doctor comes in. It’s not my doctor but a doctor from her practice. First impression and upon us eagerly greeting her, she isn’t uber friendly. Oh well, who cares. She doesn’t spend much time with us but her message is alarming and cold and confusing and chilling and shocking and scary and upsetting…..

The message: I am in a very high risk situation right now because the clot could travel up to my lungs and be fatal. I cannot deliver right now because the delivery can cause the clot to travel. I need to be on blood thinners in hope the clot dissolves before I go naturally in labor. Once on blood thinners, a C-section isn’t the recommended way to go.

As always, I try to stay strong and keep the tears at bay. I want to say something but for once in my life I am speechless. I am upset and mad. I try to tell her I am scared and am looking for reassurance that everything will be ok. But she either doesn’t get it or does not care or maybe just has to deal with stuff like that all the time and can’t allow herself to care. I do not know. What I know is that right before she walked out, I asked her to confirm…

Me: So you are basically telling me that I can die before I see my baby?

Doc: You need to be on complete bed rest because the situation is very delicate.

As she walks out, I start to cry full force. I am mad! I am upset! Why can’t anything in my life for once go smoothly? I am scared. I am horrified. What do I do? What if this crying makes the clot move? Pull it together, Maria! No, wait, I can’t feel sick b/c what if the clot moves? How will my daughter be raised without me? I am sure mom can help! Yes, my brother, he is around, he can help hubby too. And then my in-laws, yes, they have kids, they know. OMG, I am not prepared. I don’t have a will; do I need to write one now? What about a letter to my daughter? Pictures? Would she have pictures of me? What about her? Is she going to be ok? What if something happens to her? My head is spinning! I feel sick! My hubby tries to be reassuring but he isn’t doing a good job. I am usually the tough one. I can tell he is horrified, his voice is shaky. I call my mom trying to share the news calmly; I fail as I start crying on the phone. Family, sister-in-laws and friends start calling. I try to keep it together, I can’t….I am scared, I don’t feel like being tough or strong or any of that. I need to hear that all will be ok.

I clearly remember all of this as if it was yesterday. I spent 5 days on bed rest in the high risk department. I was absolutely not allowed to move. My back was killing me. I was humongous. Oh glory, on Sunday I got great news – the clot had dissolved!

Monday I got induced and after unsuccessful attempts for natural delivery, I still ended with a C-section. Thank God, my baby was healthy and so was I! It was the most precious, special, unbelievable moment of our life! She was our little miracle baby dream! And hubby was smitten and absolutely in love with her the first second he met her! Remember the talk about him wanting her to be a boy? That was instantaneously a thing of the past!

I struggled with motherhood and baby stage. It was repetitious and I wasn’t in control. Hubby’s consolation was that I wasn’t the first one to have a baby (rrrrr!). I really couldn’t complain. We were so incredibly blessed. I did my 12 weeks off, and, on a Friday, confirmed with my manager that I will be back to work on Monday.

And then things changed in a way I never envisioned…. I looked at my little monkey and decided there was no way I could leave her home and go back to work. I delivered the news to hubby. After all, when I had moved to NYC for a couple of years, and we debated where we should settle, his cost-of-living argument was that if we live in GA, one day when we have kids, I can be a stay-at-home mom. I was furious! Stay-home mom? Me? Are you for real? I have busted my behind to be where I am in the corporate world. You want me to give that up to be a stay-at-home mom?!? Huge fight!

Well, now things had turned around. His ambitious corporate wife had decided she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom after all. He was shocked! And upset! Where was that coming from? We weren’t prepared. True, but I couldn’t leave my baby at home and go back to work. So we fought, and over the weekend I wrote him a long letter telling him why I should stay home. I resigned on that Monday.

Back to Work & Into the Essential Oils World

2.5 years into motherhood, I needed to get a job. I got lucky and found a position pretty quickly, with a good company and amazing people. The job was in a different industry and had a steep learning curve; I enjoyed the challenge. Of course, getting back to work was hard with my little monster at home and I was working through my advanced Pilates certification. She was going to school part time, and hubby, who has more flexibility, was the one in charge of schedule. With mommy in charge, school started at 8-8:30 AM. With daddy in charge, school started 9-10:30 AM. Mom continues to live with us and this has always been tremendous help but with the whole transition, her help was more priceless than ever.

A year into school, my little one would get sick frequently – runny nose, sore throat, etc. If you are a parent, you know the cycle of a sick kiddo – they can’t sleep, you can’t sleep, the next day they are home, you are stressed because you have to get work done, by evening situation is ever more tense because everyone is exhausted, and this goes on for 2-3 days before things start getting better.

Another factor that made things more stressful for us was that my daughter had a complex febrile seizure when she was 1. The horror of that one night and the following week at the hospital haunts me to this day. Every time she would get fever, we would make sure to stay at home and watch her like hawks.

That summer, I had seen a friend post on FB about Young Living Essential oils. and how they helped her family stay healthy. Sounded intriguing. I wanted to read more about them but somehow never got to that part. Then December came, and my little one came home with runny nose again. I was done. I hated giving her meds all the time, and because of her febrile seizure history, we had to give her meds even for low grade fever.

I think I was probably one of the easiest sales ever. I message my friend, asked her what the best way to start is, confirmed there are no strings attached and, within maybe an hour, bought a Premium Starter Kit! Desperate times call for desperate actions.

I got the oils a week later. The box was pretty to the point where I wasn’t sure I want to touch anything. I opened a couple of oils. Oh, they smelled good! Now one problem – I had NO earthly idea what to do with them! So, I would message my friend and ask her each time I wanted to try something what to do. The first time I put Thieves on my daughter’s feet, I told mom we need to watch her to make sure she is breathing.

Obviously, I wasn’t comfortable doing what I was doing. So, the quest for essential oils knowledge began! I googled and read, and got books, and researched, and went to events. I clearly remember the first oil event I attended. The presenter was so comfortable applying oils and knew what to do with each and what they were good for. I thought to myself that I will never get there.

Guess what? 4-5 months later, the entire family had starting using the oils for various reasons. All of a sudden, the oils started popping up all around the house. Then the issue came that everyone wanted to have her bottle. Then we needed a bottle with a roller and a bottle with a dropper. And then, I found myself telling friends about the incredible power this precious liquids have. Friends were intrigued.

Around that time, a friend posted a disheartening post on FB in regards to his son’s health. I thought to myself. This stuff is way too good not to share! And that is how I became a distributor. It was never my original intent. I already had a family, corporate job and was teaching Pilates.

Quickly, I found myself changing from attending events to hosting events. I love talking about the oils and sharing how they changed our life, I love socializing (because anyone who has attended knows we do not forget to have fun!) with old and new friends, and I love the feedback and the amazing testimonies that come back. One of the best compliments is that people are relieved that the presentation was educational rather than salesy.

I find that people are very skeptical to try essential oils.  If they try, most people lose traction because the oils do require some experimentation to find out what works for each body (because everyone’s chemistry is different) along with some homework to read and educate oneself. Those that invest the energy are for sure rewarded in unexpected ways. I have heard crazy things about the oils. I can tell you for sure they are not a cult or a scheme or anything like that. Young Living is an amazing company. There is no trick to it.

The surprising change that came with Young Living essential oil use is that it made me question things in my food, in my cleaning products, in my cosmetics. I agree with those that say that the oils are a lifestyle changer. Young Living essential oils took me to Beautycounter in my quest for safer cosmetics.

It did not take me long to realize that is another company with a powerful mission whose message I was wanting to share. Read the stats on disease (Beautycounter Useful Links) and the detrimental impact of ‘crap’ around us on our health. I could not believe that some of the products I had used on my baby had ingredients that were harmful. I want to share all I am learning with family and friends!

I started hosting more and more events. Schedule was getting tighter and sleeping hours were getting shorter. I found myself rejuvenated after hosting events during the weekends. Then I found myself wanting to do more on leads I had. However, I could not do that during the day as I was at work. Then I had to be at the studio or get home to my monkey. I could start working again after 9 PM. Toward the end of last year, I found myself exhausted. I was in constant rush from one place to the next. I did not have quality time with my family and hated always rushing my princess. I did not have much time for friends or social life. I was not working out or taking care of me. I told hubby I am quitting the sales side for Young Living.

Then came January, and I found myself hosting more and more events, not not just Young Living-related but also Beautycounter-related. Something had to give…..

Fitness Industry

If you have read the entire story, you know my first introduction to the gym was in my pre-teens thanks to my loving aunt and developing behind, and my first job at a group fitness instructor was thanks to my dad and his crazy ways of finding solutions where they were least expected.

I started teaching high/ low impact and step classes when I was 16 in a small private gym in Athens, GA. I hadn’t imagined teaching classes but being thrown into this adventure turned out to be a lifelong passion. Especially at the beginning, it was quite intimidating being in front of a group of (judgmental) folks wondering what this kid is doing up front and stressing out about my English. However, as anything else, with time, I found my groove and started looking forward to being at the gym and energizing a crowd. The music, the intensity, the sweaty bodies and the motivational shout outs – ah! I have never done drugs in my life but I am sure that exercise gives me the addictive high! Nothing like high fiving your buddies after a sweaty workout!

I taught close to 3 years when I started preparing to pass a certification exam with AFAA (American Fitness Association of America). Close to test time, my dad passed away so that put a damper on my desire to teach. Even though I didn’t take much time away from life after dad’s departure, my spirits were low and I didn’t have the same contagious energy neither for me nor for those who I was trying to motivate. I gave up on pursuing my certification and continued going to the gym for my personal pleasure.

Fast forward to 1998, I graduated undergrad and moved to Atlanta, GA for work. Naturally, I went gym hunting. I ended up signing up at Bally’s. As I entered the gym and saw the nice group exercise room, I got that nostalgic feeling of something I had been missing.

I passed the certification exam and was back at the gym in the role of instructor. I expanded my horizon to include Zumba, Spinning/ Cycling, and Kickboxing.  I even tried personal training but that didn’t work too well schedule-wise (thinking now and with everything on my plate, I wonder why that seemed too much back then).

Around the time I moved to Atlanta, I also completed my first marathon – the Marine Corps marathon in DC. I ran the marathon in honor of my dad and a little boy with leukemia. It was such an inspirational, crazy and fun experience! I struggled the last 5-6 miles because of a nice hill some brainiac decided to add at the end of the race. What got me through was the thought of dad and I taking my first run together, and dad telling me one day I will enjoy running. I crossed the line with him ‘next’ to me (I so wished he was physically there!).

I taught until I was into my second year MBA when along with full time job, something had to give, and it was my hobby. I was actually sad. I loved teaching and that was my spinning/ cycle phase-craze! I knew it was a matter of time till I get back into it.

Following my MBA completion, I moved to NYC where I worked insane hours but kept up with my personal workouts. I missed teaching but between work and commuting, there was no time to squeeze it in.

Once I got married, I moved back to ATL but then there were other things, like having  a baby, on my mind. Actually, right when I moved from NYC, I had finally gotten an entry to the NYC marathon. Two months before the marathon, I suffered a knee injury so had to forward my entry a year ahead. As I was prepping for the marathon the next year, my gyno told me that I need to lay off too much exercising. I was in a great shape but only had 16% body fat, and my doctor thought this isn’t helping me. So I cancelled my second entry. Actually, I know I paid fees for 3 years but now do not remember why there was a 3rd cancel. It is a bucket list item to run the NYC marathon! I have been running half-marathons but not another full one since the Marine Corps one.

Once I was back to Atlanta, I also resumed my attendance of some fantastic Ashtanga yoga classes. I had tried yoga before but I really lack the patience to slow down and calm the mind. I need my body to be in continuous motion in order for my mind to be quieted. I think for the first time then, I truly discovered the mind-body connection. We used to start the class with a couple of minutes of dedication/ concentration, and I found out that this portion of the class was very pivotal to my better practice. It was quite a revelation and a change to the depth of my workout routines. All of a sudden, I was getting that much more from them. I also had a couple of awesome instructors who loved to kick students’ behinds. I love to be challenged in a way that develops stronger body and mind. Here is a good place to say that I disagree with some of the new exercise regimen that push the average beyond their limits and cause so many injuries. I am all for a good challenge but one that a body can sustain and grow from.

As I had mentioned above, I slowed down a lot my exercise routine when I became pregnant after 2.5 years of failed attempts. I was so worried something can go wrong. I ended up with 50 extra pounds. I really think this was due to less moving than more eating. As long as baby and I were healthy, I was perfectly fine with it. After the baby came, I struggled losing the weight. The first 25 pounds came off without much effort. Well, the other 25 felt like had no intent of going anywhere. I was frustrated!

Then a glorious thought hit me – I need to get back into teaching! I was a stay home mom, had mom living with us (which is a huge bonus), needed to get in shape, and missed teaching! I passed the interviews/ demos and needed to arrange for the type of classes to start teaching. I was surely after the kickboxing and high impact classes; those were always some of my favorites; I was over spinning.

What do you know? Right when I was supposed to decide on which classes to pick, I injured my ankle doing kickboxing with punching bags. There was no way I could put impact on it! Serious, I am telling you, always a challenge. The only class I could teach was bodyworks (weights). I was less than thrilled. Blah! I have always found those classes so boring. I would take them because I know they are good for me but to teach them? I wanted to bounce around and go crazy! Oh well, no choice there. Body works or nada. Let me challenge myself doing something new.

Who would have known I would fall in love with the format? Good music, great crowds and energy – yes, please! Not only did I love being back in the instructor spot but I got myself in great shape! I built lean muscle and got my energy up! Loved it! Loved the classes and the great students in them. I loved energizing the crowd. I also found out that my style had changed. I think as I had matured, I had become more confident setting my own standard rather than being a copycat of the popular teacher at the gym. Form was emphasized (a lot). I encouraged people to get loud and spread contagious, crazy energy. I also taught much about the mind/ body connection.

I did bodyworks classes, I ran. I was getting a bit stiff and bulky though. I missed my Ashtanga classes! I loved the challenge and wished to continue my journey down that path and get certified; however, the studio I practiced at was too far and with a baby at home, it was not possible to devote the time to travel back and forth.

My Journey Into the Pilates World

Through a simple Google search, I discovered Pilates of Dunwoody – a studio nearby my home. I knew nothing about Pilates other than it is big in Hollywood and it is similar to yoga.

I stopped by the studio and inquired about lessons and certification. In order to convince my husband to get a starting package, I got him (he suffers lower back issues) duet sessions for his birthday. Admittedly, it was a bit of a selfish gift.

And so my journey began. Session one – I was not challenged at all. I have strong legs, and I powered with them through the entire workout; no powerhouse involvement, and I was not impressed. I am not sure what kept me motivated; it was probably the annoyance that I cannot feel anything from these supposedly amazing exercises. I continued. This journey started in February 2012.

Hubby dropped off; I continued with privates. My body slowly started ‘getting it’. I would watch the other instructors workout and wonder why an exercise is an advanced one. Then I would try the exercise – “oh, she made it look so graceful and easy; somehow that is not happening for me”. A lot of the other instructors have dance backgrounds. I was stocky and stiff, especially with all the weights I was doing. I was definitely missing the ‘grace’ part (that is still work in progress).

In a year and combining Pilates, weights (I eventually did stop teaching when I was completing my advanced Pilates certification and went back to work; once again, there was too much on my plate) and running, I was in probably the best shape shape of my life. I wasn’t the skinniest (because I don’t think skinny = strong) but I was my strongest me. I was also flexible, and my muscles lengthened. I felt so empowered. A strong body and mind can do wonders to how one feels!

In the summer of 2013, I became a certified level V Romana Pilates Instructor after completing a 600-hour, intense 3-level program (Basic, Intermediate, Advanced) training at Pilates of Dunwoody. Just like any other classes I have thought in the past, I thoroughly enjoy helping others gain the same benefit from this incredible method.

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