Brave Enough to Switch Careers & Pursue My Dream!

February 1, 2011 by Barb Scala  
Filed under Finding A Passion, What's New, Who's Blooming

Jen Conroy

Jen Conroy

It took me 38 years to figure out that I need to be working with my hands every day.

I studied journalism at Northwestern and pursued a career in magazine editing in New York, but I never felt I was truly myself all those years. I’d always had creative hobbies—painting, interior design, knitting—but they were always just hobbies. And I’d always felt an enormous, guilt-driven responsibility to continue with my journalism career. It was my job, after all. I had gone to an expensive college to pursue it. How could I waste my professional contacts?

Then one Christmas I decided to make jewelry for gifts, and I couldn’t believe how much fun it was. I was thrilled to get positive feedback from my friends and family members, who told me that I had a knack for it, and that I should consider selling my designs online. Of course, my first instinct was to say, “I can’t do that.” There’s such a glut of jewelry in the market. What could I possibly contribute? But the more I thought about it, the more excited I became.

Once I decided to officially pursue my own jewelry business, friends bent over backwards to help me. My friend Kathleen’s husband, David Maloney (, generously offered to design and manage my web site. Through David I met a fabulous local photographer, Catherine Kiernan, who offered to barter with me. (Thank you for your support, Catherine!) Another friend, Jen Hurley, also takes fabulous pictures for me. And I’m grateful to all my delightful, good-natured friends who have agreed time and again to be my models, devoting big parts of their day to smiling for the camera. Some of these dear people have even offered to host jewelry parties to get the word out. Thank you!

I feel lucky that it only took me 38 years to figure out that true joy—for me—comes from working with my hands. What a simple thing that is! It’s not rocket science! And yet for so many years I had ignored this creative compulsion in myself and tossed it aside to the relegated “hobby” pile.  I thank God that I had the courage to look at myself and re-evaluate my goals. I thank God that I felt brave enough to pursue this dream, despite the fact that it’s a “long shot.”

When wise people say it’s the journey, not the destination, I finally get it! Every day I feel such joy as I sit at my dining room table and create jewelry. There is joy in every step of the process! I’m not sure where it will lead. I do have a few long-term goals. I’d love to be able to donate a portion of my profits to a special need. (I’m still working on the profit part!) But I truly believe that by pursuing something you love, and infusing everything you do with love, you will bring out the best in yourself and others, and ultimately bring good to the world.

Listen: Jen Conroy on Bloom Talk

Jen’s Website:

Her Journey to Natural Healing and a Healthy Lifestyle

December 10, 2010 by Barb Scala  
Filed under Healthy Lifestyle, Who's Blooming

screen-shot-2010-08-10-at-111447-pmIt seems like a lifetime ago that I was smoking cigarettes, drinking sugar free soft drinks and rarely exercising.  That was my lifestyle when I was in my twenties.  By the time I was in my later thirties, I had started exploring natural healing modalities, like massage therapy, Reiki, aromatherapy, homeopathy, nutrition, supplements, exercise, etc.  There wasn’t anything in particular that sparked this transition – simply a desire to look and feel my best.

As I embarked on the healthy lifestyle path more and more, I felt disconnected from my corporate job in the advertising industry.  I longed to inspire other people to follow a healthy lifestyle and to create products that would help them feel better, naturally.  Sixteen years ago, I decided to focus on the study of plant essences.  They were so versatile in their healing properties and capabilities.

For the next four years I studied with different teachers and learned as much as I could about these amazing plant essences.  I then created a home based business and formulated products for individual people.  Ten years ago, I left my corporate job and launched my line, under the brand name Essence of Vali (Vali is my nick name).

It is important for people to realize that the body care products they use should be natural.  Otherwise they are introducing chemicals into their bodies that are potentially harmful.  I always tell people, “What you put on your skin goes in”.

At this point in my life, I follow a very healthy lifestyle.  I rarely drink alcohol – a glass of wine on special occasions is it.  The foods I eat are NOT processed.  Every day, I have a large salad with different veggies, sunflower and chia seeds, with a can of sardines.  I eat simply and never large portions.  I weigh the same now as I did when I was in my twenties.  In terms of exercise – 3 times per week aerobics and weight lifting.  One day per week, I take a restorative yoga class.  I also never drink soda or coffee – water is my main drink.  Green drinks are also very powerful and effective for staying healthy.

My physical body is very well taken care of with diet and exercise.  In terms of my psychological and spiritual well being, I attend a Buddhist mediation class on Sunday, do restorative yoga and lead a life balanced between work and play.

Health on all levels is a gift we can give to ourselves.  Each day, we make that choice through decisions we make on what goes in and on our body.  It is my hope to live in a world where people truly honor the temple of their bodies in a loving way each day.

In health, beauty and wellness,


LISTEN: Vali on Bloom Talk Radio

screen-shot-2010-08-10-at-102907-pm1Valerie Bennis, founder and creator of Essence of Vali natural healing blends, is committed to each and every person’s health and well being and believes it is preferable to use the gift of nature in achieving this. Her products have won industry recognition for their fragrance, effectiveness and appeal to men, women and children of all ages. They are 100% natural using the healing energy of plants for health and well being. Essence of Vali

Mary Ann Wasil Nilan: Jumping for Breast Health!

screen-shot-2010-10-19-at-33454-pm On February 4th, 2004 I found a lump on my breast. On February 5th, I had a negative mammogram, an ultrasound and a surgical biopsy to remove it and was told it was malignant.

Breast cancer…ugh!

One woman, two breasts, eleven lymph nodes, eight chemotherapy treatments, five hospitals, eight surgeries, one stroke, two 10mm amplatzer asd devices in my heart, thirty-seven months, one arm, three casts, twenty one physical therapy appointments, six fills, two silicone implants, double nipple reconstruction. $591,846.33 in total (not including prescriptions).My life priceless!

That’s my story along with being a mother of three teenagers, public speaker, former police officer, spent nearly ten years on the ABC soap opera “All My Children” and now health activist as the founder of the grassroots non-profit organization, The Get In Touch Foundation.

Get In Touch’s cornerstone mission is the Get In Touch Girls’ Program & Daisy Wheel, a breast health initiative educating girls in grades 5-12 on the importance of, and how to do a breast self exam – for life!

The September 2009 launch of the Get In Touch Girls’ Program has already resulted in its implementation in 40 states, Washington, D.C. and 13 countries, with a goal to be in every state in the US by 2011.  The program, available at no cost to schools, has already been made curriculum in the Milford, CT and New Haven, CT public school systems.

My message and challenge is one of wellness and breast health. For girls and women to “get in touch” with their bodies, information and each other and to live happier, healthier lives.


Be Positive: In the middle of the most challenging moment of your life, you can discover grace when you realize that others can be inspired by how you respond to that challenge.  Whatever you do, do it with faith and grace and style and show others that they can do it, too.

screen-shot-2010-10-19-at-33333-pmFounder of The Get In Touch Foundation, Mary Ann Wasil Nilan recently won the Oprah Magazine CoverGirl “Giving Beautiful Back Award,” as well as honored by the WNBA New York Liberty as one of their 2010 “Women Who Inspire.” She will speak at The Women’s Conference 2010 spearheaded by Maria Shriver and is currently working on her book “A Diary of Healing.”

Green Really is Good: John Shegerian, Eco-preneur

August 17, 2010 by Barb Scala  
Filed under Making a Difference, Who's Blooming

John Shegerian

John Shegerian

Most good entrepreneurs find a way to make a business successful against the odds.  John Shegerian has managed to do this multiple times in multiple industries – and has managed to infuse each business with a mission to better society, the environment or both!

John is currently the Chairman and CEO of Electronic Recyclers International (ERI), an Electronic Waste collector and recycler, specializing in the environmentally safe and socially responsible dismantling of electronic items such as computers, televisions and monitors. Under Shegerian’s stewardship, ERI has fast become the Number One recycler of electronic waste in North America!

With ERI, John is realizing the dream of not only leading a green business, but a business that makes dramatic strides in helping the community.  By hiring rehabilitated, formerly incarcerated individuals, John and ERI don’t just lead the nation in recycling electronics – they lead the effort in recycling lives!

John has a remarkable 25 year track record in business. One of his most successful businesses was – a site that enabled college bound students an increased opportunity to achieve scholarships to help fund tuition - and he was recently appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger to serve on the Governor’s Gang Advisory Committee, focused on providing the Californie’s top legislators with guidance pertaining to policies geared toward the reduction of gang and youth violence.

And of course there is John’s “Green is Good” mantra.  Passionately espousing the notion that sustainability and environmental responsibility can be good for business,  John is also the creator and host of the “Green is Good” radio show on Clear Channel (, the top rated green-themed radio program in the United States.

With ERI, John practices what he preaches as well.  ERI is a totally green organization – from the fleet of hybrid vehicles used by the sales team to the electric forklifts used on the shop floor to the methodology used to recycle the hundreds of tons of electronic waste that pass through the company’s doors.  Even the furniture used in house is made from recycled materials.

John is also the founder of, which provides nationwide outreach to help users find recycling locations nearest to them (every zip code in the country is covered) for whatever it is they wish to recycle.  Through its iPod App, website and 1-800-Recycling phone service, users are directed to responsible recyclers of electronics, tires, oil, paint, glass, plastic, wood, mattresses, carpet, junk – almost anything that can be recycled.

Driven by his commitment to innovate and develop companies that benefit and inspire others and are socially responsible, John is a success story on multiple levels and an inspiration to all those in business who wish to succeed while benefiting the planet and the people who live on it!

LISTEN: John Shegerian on Bloom Talk Radio: How did they do it?

Green is Good Radio

5th Grade Author to 20-Something Publisher: Start Small, Dream Big!

August 10, 2010 by Barb Scala  
Filed under Finding A Passion, What's New, Who's Blooming

I published my first book,
There’s a Huge Pimple On My Nose, when I was in fifth grade. The teachers in my elementary school asked me to speak to their classes about how I pursued my dream of publishing a book. At the beginning of my talk, I asked the kids if any of them were interested in writing, and a few shy hands raised. In contrast, at the end of my talk when I asked the same question, nearly all the hands in the class shot up. The students told me they didn’t know that kids could be writers. They didn’t think of writing as something that could be fun or empowering.

Writing and reading have opened the doors to so many amazing opportunities in my life: a scholarship to attend college, a semester studying abroad in England, a trip to New York City to be a guest on The CBS Early Show. Not only that, but writing gives me a healthy outlet to express my feelings and connect to other people.

I started “Write On! For Literacy” in 2001 to encourage kids to discover confidence, joy, a means of self-expression, and connection to others through reading and writing. My website features writing contests, book reviews, fun writing prompts, and more. I still frequently visit classrooms to speak to kids about my writing journey (another published collection of short stories and a novel followed There’s a Huge Pimple On My Nose) and I teach a Youth Summer Writing Camp every year in my hometown of Ventura, California.

Perhaps my most rewarding project is an annual Holiday Book Drive that I started to collect and distribute new books to disadvantaged kids who do not have many books of their own. More than 11,000 books have been donated to date.

The biggest lesson I have learned is that it is okay to start small. The first year, my Holiday Book Drive only donated 125 books to the local Boys & Girls Club. Still, even small acts make a difference, and small acts often snowball into amazing contributions bigger than you ever dreamed.

What is your passion? How can you use what you love to help others? Get friends involved. Spread the word to your community. Overwhelmingly, I have discovered that people very much want to help, but they don’t always know what they can do. If you can supply a meaningful avenue for people to help, they will join your cause.

One of my favorite quotes is by legendary basketball coach John Wooden: “Make each day your masterpiece.” Don’t wait until next week or month or year to make a difference. Start small. Start today. The most important thing you can do is begin!

SEED for SUCCESS: Be positive, Love life, Organize, Own your life, MOVE FORWARD

“Start small as small acts often snowball into amazing contributions bigger than you ever dreamed.”

LISTEN: Dallas on Bloom Talk

dallas_0481Dallas Woodburn is an award-winning author and journalist whose work has appeared in Family Circle, Writer’s Digest, The Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. For her volunteer work, she has been honored with a national Jackie Kennedy Onassis/Jefferson Award, a Congressional Award Gold Medal, and most recently a “Best of You” Award from Glamour Magazine. Learn more about Write On! For Literacy at and

Who’s Blooming: Completing the Circle of Adoption

screen-shot-2010-04-27-at-111039-pmIt was summer, and a young Mary Beth Wells, gave birth to a beautiful daughter, whom she silently and privately named Kimberly Caryn. It was her struggle to relinquish this baby to parents who could provide a home with love and stability. It remains the most painful decision of her life, to love this child enough to place her with a family who would raise her to be their own.

Years later, Mary Beth found her birth daughter and began to have a relationship with her. Part one of the healing had occurred. Her prayers were answered, yet again, when she became the mother to Sophia whom she adopted from Guatemala. At last, she had two daughters- the circle of adoption to adoption was complete.

It was now time to realize another dream - to give birth again, this time to a company that could bring precious dolls into loving homes. She knew, in her heart, that the Precious Baby Doll Company could help tell the stories of babies adopted all over the world, babies that now lived in America with their new families.

Precious Baby Doll Company’s mission to create a loving home for wonderful baby dolls through “adoption.” It was the dream of Mary Beth who experienced first-hand the pain of relinquishing a baby for adoption and the joy of becoming a mother to an adopted daughter. It was her vision to establish a company that would realize the story behind every adoption and breathe life into each by creating stories that celebrated the joy of finally bringing the baby home.

The dolls and their stories help any child learn the gift of adoption. Each doll comes with a book that tells the story about their country of birth and the love that brought them to a new world. The books that accompany these dolls tell the story of the journey that brought them home - these are stories of love with arms outstretched in two directions, one giving and one receiving. The stories of the first doll fondly named Kimberly Caryn from America, Sophia Allesandra from Guatemala, Katya Irina from Russia and Li Ming from China, tell how the children were wanted for such a long time and the supreme happiness in finally bringing these babies home to forever live with their new families.

By having the courage to heal, love again and shower joy to so many adoptive families and children through her dolls, Mary Beth Wells is someone who has truly “bloomed”!

LISTEN: The Mom Juggle - Mary Beth Wells Guest on Bloom Talk Radio

Precious Baby Doll Company

Who’s Blooming?

February 10, 2010 by Barb Scala  
Filed under Finding A Passion, What's New, Who's Blooming

screen-shot-2010-02-10-at-83443-pm As a lively tap dancer with the Blossom Tappers (love that name!),  Louise lives life to the fullest and proves that age means nothing.

There are not enough hours in the day for Louise Cavallaro, age 81, to do everything she wants to do. But she makes sure she fits in dance practice, classes and performances with the  Blossom Tappers, a senior women’s tap dance troupe she joined over 20 years ago.

“I loved ball room and square dancing with my husband. But when he died I was looking for something to do.”  Ironically, while at probate court for her husband’s estate, Louise heard the tapping of feet across the hall. It was the Blossom Tappers, originally called the Orange Blossoms, and she immediately joined up.

The Blossom Tappers, currently ages 63 to 87, tap their way into everyone’s hearts, most recently performing at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven CT. Louise and the troupe were also invited to be the first senior group to take a workshop taught by a former Rockette and performed at Radio City Music Hall. screen-shot-2010-02-10-at-83240-pm

So I asked this peppy senior, what gives her such a zest for life? “I’ve always had a get up and go personality and also take kickboxing and aerobics. I don’t think about my age. Until last year, I never stated how old I was in years. But, my daughter recently said I should be proud to be in my 80’s and so active. So now I am proud and reveal my age.”

I also wanted to know which Seed for Success was important to Louise in  her journey through life. “Owning my Life was something I had to learn. I was always a daughter, student, wife, mother and widow. I was so busy being all of those people, I didn’t have enough time left over for me. Now I found me…the person inside of me who does her own thing.”

Louise’s advice on how to bloom at any age. “Just be yourself and never give up. Always take a new path. I follow what my father taught me. The most important thing you learn in life is what you learn after you think you know it all.”

Who’s Blooming?

debgillapbassler“How can I leave my job?” became “How can I stay?” when Deb Gillap-Bassler realized she needed a career change. Here’s Deb’s story of how she followed her passion …

Wow! I often think my life has been incredible.  I have tried and enjoyed many occupations from fitness instructor to personal chef, marketing executive to interior designer, with an office overlooking the Statue of Liberty to a bullpen shared by 100+. The good, the bad, the ugly. It’s been really hard work because the pursuit to create the life I’ve always wanted has finally paid off.

I fell into marketing, suggested by a headhunter. With no other clear path and a good salary, why not try it?  But it took so much work for me to be okay at it.  Recognized for my loyalty and commitment, I still never really measured up with my peers.  I was forever the square peg in the round hole.

A decade into my marketing career, I was still struggling with my role there and a lack of inner comfort in performing the job well. My job paid for the American dream - a house, a nice car, savings, etc., how could I leave? But the question clearly became, “How can I stay?” Read more

Who’s Blooming?

screen-shot-2010-01-18-at-13044-pmAnn McDonnell overcame a health challenge as she followed her dream.

Stricken with Croan’s Disease at 25, Ann found herself in the hospital and unable to hold down a 9 to 5 job or any structured job. But, that didn’t stop her. A former model always in love with healthy skin, she followed her dream and founded Ecogenics, a natural skin care line made with active botanical ingredients. She also created a healthy lifestyle to manage her illness by eating very healthy foods and reducing stress through meditation.

Ann planted her Seeds for Success to love what she does, organized her life and then made it happen!

To Nominate a Bloomer, please email

Try Ann’s healthy & delicious skin care cocktail

Ann’s Website

Her Dreams Called Her to Africa

October 8, 2009 by Barb Scala  
Filed under Making a Difference, Who's Blooming

martha-hoffman-2For many years, Martha Hoffman had the same dream. A woman helping children, which she soon realized was herself . But where was this place and what did her dreams mean?

Martha’s questions were soon answered when her grandmother appeared in this recurring dream, holding a bark cloth purse. It was the clue she needed. As a child, Martha received this gift when her grandmother’s friend returned from a mission trip to Uganda. She jumped out of bed and screamed, “It’s Uganda!”

“That’s when the seed was planted, when I was a little girl,” explained Martha. “That’s where it all began.” Read more

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