Tag: Holland America Line

Ten Things I Learned in 2017

Ten Things I Learned in 2017 by My Life as a Puddle

1. I myself am the trailblazer I have been searching for.

2. I’m not afraid anymore.

I’m saying yes to everything.

3. Second-guessing myself depletes me.

This one’s a work in progress, but at least I’m recognizing the spiraling thought pattern.

4. My heart is bigger and braver now thanks to all the “Yeses” I’ve made.

5. All it takes is one “Yes” to change your life.

(E.g., Why yes, I’ll apply to become an O, The Oprah Magazine O Mag Insider.)

6. I can do anything despite my hyperhidrosis.

(Like be a model in the Chico’s Love That! fashion show with O’s Creative Director Adam Glassman)

7. Vulnerability and courage go hand in hand.

(See my Just Stay essay)

8. Comparison is the thief of joy.

I am enough exactly as I am. (So are you.)

9. My hyperhidrosis activism is so much bigger than when I started my little blog.

I am here to serve those who feel like they are alone. (You are not.) Thank you to the following organizations who have helped me spread my message of hyperhidrosis hope and awareness one drop at a time: the International Hyperhidrosis Society (IHhS), Dermira Inc., Brickell Biotech, SELF Magazine and Healthline.

A big thank you to those of you who are reading my words right now. I heart you.

10. I no longer live in shame.

I had a crap 2016. As my favorite musician India.Arie sings,

I am light. I am light. I am not the mistakes that I have made. Or any of the things that cause me pain.

Motivational Coach Angela Davis told me on board the Oprah Magazine & Holland America Line Alaskan cruise,

Stop cheating on your future with your past.

I hear both of you, my soul birds.

2017, I made you my bitch. 2018, I’m coming for you, too.

Oprah Magazine & Holland America Line Taught Me How to Have an Affair—With Myself

(Disclosure: O, The Oprah Magazine (O Mag) and Holland America Line (HAL) did not ask me to write this post. I also paid my own way to go on this cruise. This is real talk about a life-changing experience in the hopes it will inspire you to 1) subscribe to a magazine that helps you live  your best life and 2) embark on your own HAL travel adventure no matter what it takes to do so.)

Oprah Magazine January 2018 cover

Find me on the inside of the second cover and on page 4! (Image used with permission.)

The January 2018 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine is on newsstands now, and I am featured in it not once, but twice! I am STILL pinching myself over this. I knew my photo was part of HAL’s marketing materials for the Adventure of Your Life cruises. But what I didn’t know is that my submission to O Mag’s first important question of 2018 would be printed.

How Asking the Right Questions Can Set You on a Whole New Course

This is the feature headline on the front cover of this month’s magazine, and it’s true. As a deep thinker and one who constantly is seeking more self-awareness and self-knowledge, I’m always asking myself questions. So when O Mag posed their first question of 2018, What’s the most important question you’ve ever asked yourself? I submitted my answer and went about my merry business. A couple of weeks ago, a fellow O Mag Insider sent me a message and asked if this was me:

Maria Thomas in O, The Oprah Magazine

I’m the Contributing Friend in the January 2018 edition of O Mag!

I nearly had a heart attack when I clicked open her photo. I tend to have freak-out moments when my name and anything Oprah appear in the same sentence. I mean, who doesn’t? My answer to the question was printed! What’s the most important question I’ve ever asked myself?

Am I brave enough to release my shame in order to tell my story?

Release Your Shame

The answer is yes. After I stared at this page in the magazine for a few solid minutes, I went upstairs to my reading room and had a moment to myself. Here’s my Instagram post from that night:

I just had a #gratitude cry. See the cover of the January 2018 edition of @oprahmagazine? That was taken on board the @halcruises Ms Eurodam in Alaska, and I was on that cruise. Less than 24 hours into it, I was punching away my limitations as motivational coach @shapewithangela spoke light into me. She said,

Stand unashamed in your truth.
Stop cheating on your future with your past.

That was a turning point for me. I decided I could no longer hold onto the shame I was carrying. As poet Mark Nepo says,

We must put down what we carry in order to let more of ourselves enter.

I hadn’t planned on it, but while on that cruise I told not one but two people whom I had just met that in 2016 I was awash in what they call “the dark night of the soul.” I was suicidal. When I found out there was a woman on board who was severely depressed and didn’t even want to leave her room, I couldn’t get her out of my mind. One night on the way to dinner, she just happened to be sitting on a couch outside the dining room as I was walking by. I told my newly made friends (a few #OMagInsiders) to go ahead without me. I sat down on that buttery red leather couch and told her my story. Perhaps that was why I was on that ship. To breathe life and love into her, to reassure her that life gets better if you can push past your pain and sadness.

Make Your Mess Your Message

I came home from that cruise changed. In September, on World Suicide Prevention Day, I published the bravest piece of writing I’ve ever penned. It’s called Just Stay, and you can read it here.

Now, inside this month’s edition, O Mag asked, What’s the most important question you’ve ever asked yourself? MY ANSWER IS IN THE MAGAZINE. “Am I brave enough to release my shame in order to tell my story?”

Yes, I am, and I’m okay now.

I’m in awe at my life over this past year, and so grateful. Thank you, God. Thank you for using me and my messy story so that it might help others.

Self-Care Is Not Selfish

I was a cruise virgin who never would’ve said “Yeah, I think I’ll book my first cruise, go by myself, room with a complete stranger, and hang out with nine other strangers for a week.” But I took a chance and left my life’s baggage on the curb to embark upon the best week of my life. Seven days with complete strangers, O Mag, and the fabulous HAL staff changed my life.

Being selected as a brand ambassador for O, The Oprah Magazine has brought me blessings and opportunities I never would have imagined. The people I’ve met I now consider lifelong friends. I think in our own unique ways we’ve all helped each other in some form or fashion.

For me, 2017 was the year of taking back the power I had lost. So yes, it was all about me for an entire year. And I’m not apologizing. I learned how to love myself again, and this cruise was a pivotal moment along the journey.

Until you can alleviate your own suffering, you will continue to inflict suffering—not only on yourself, but also on those around you.

~ Elizabeth Gilbert in the September 2017 edition of O, The Oprah Magazine

What To Ask Yourself

The biggest question you can ask yourself right now should be when will you book your own cruise on board Holland America Line? I didn’t think I had enough money to be able to afford my cruise. But I set my intention, put myself out there and accepted several freelance writing and editing gigs to pay for it. Now I have an experience I will remember and cherish forever. I hope to cruise again in 2018 along with my fellow O Mag Insiders on board a HAL cruise.

O Mag Insiders on Holland America Line

Me (back row, far left) and eight other inaugural O Mag Insiders departing Seattle for the 7-day Share the Adventure Alaskan cruise with Holland America Line and O, The Oprah Magazine

Take the leap. Book the cruise. Have a love affair with yourself. I promise you will be changed because of it.

I have so many more stories to tell you about my OMagonHAL cruise! Here are two more to “tide” you over in the meantime. Pre-Cruise Inspiration and Share the Adventure Alaskan Cruise: Day 1 Embarkation.

Share the Adventure Alaskan Cruise: Day 1 Embarkation

(This is the first in a series of posts about my Share the Adventure cruise with Holland America Line and O, The Oprah Magazine. Disclosures:  1) I was not asked to write about the cruise, but so many amazing things happened on this trip I must tell you about them. 2) I paid for this cruise myself. However, the cocktail dress and jewelry you’ll see me wearing in the photos below is sponsored by Chico’s.)

Year of Adventure

Sometimes we have to travel a bit first on the inside to explore the thoughts, secrets and beliefs we’ve been holding. Once we have a map to them, we’re better prepared to chart new territories and open ourselves up to new experiences. I’m not typically one who says Sure, I’ll book a cruise – by myself – room with someone I’ve never met before and hang out with nine other strangers for a week.

But when Oprah declared 2017 her year of adventure, I wanted in on that, too. I applied to become an O, The Oprah Magazine Insider in February and got the news in March I was one of just 50 people selected nationwide! So when I heard about the cruise to Alaska in July, I said yes. I will continue to say yes to anything the O team asks me to do, although I might draw the line at tattoos and body piercings. 🙂 Other than that, bring it on.

Meeting My Roommate

Prior to even discussing the cruise, I had placed the O-shaped cabin window image from O magazine on my vision board.  As a handful of the Insiders were deciding whether we could go on the cruise,  Chris and I kept talking about manifesting it and making it happen.  I put my feelers out for some freelance writing and editing gigs to help fund my cruise, and it worked. I also got two refund checks in the mail from my health insurance company (an insurance company refunding?!), which also helped fund the cruise.

Chris and I got to know each other via social media before we met at the dock in Seattle. Once I found her at the pier, I knew I didn’t have to worry about rooming with her. She is pure, unadulterated joy.

Chris Lowe PowerHoopz

Chris, my beautiful, joyful roommate for the Alaskan cruise with Holland America and O, The Oprah Magazine

As someone with hyperhidrosis, a slew of random thoughts had been running through my head about being her roommate:

  • What if the room didn’t have carpet? Would I leave a trail of sweaty footprints?
  • What if Chris liked the room temperature hotter than I did? Would I be a sweaty mess?
  • How am I supposed to get ready in front of her when I constantly have to stop to wipe off my sweaty hands amidst blow drying my hair and doing my makeup?

Thankfully, Chris asked me some questions ahead of time because she took the time to understand my condition. I am grateful for this. Chris is from Florida, so we solved the problem of room temperature a couple of ways: I turned the thermostat down just when we were getting ready so I wouldn’t sweat as much, and I wore summer pajamas to bed. Meanwhile, she wore a sweatshirt and pants to bed. Wuss. 😉

OMagInsiders Cruise to Alaska with Holland America Line

OMagInsiders meeting for the first time on our Alaskan cruise with O, The Oprah Magazine and Holland America. (L to R: Me (Maria), Shelley, Chris, Amy, Allison, Tonya, Sarah, Lisa; Megan and Christine in front row)

Chico’s Cocktail Party

Since it was our first night on board, Chico’s hosted a cocktail party so that we could meet and mingle with some of our fellow cruisers. As Chris and I were walking down the hall on the way to the party, her shoe broke! There was no way she could keep walking on it, so we returned to our room where she MacGyvered a solution – hula hoop tape!

I said to Chris, “Hurry up! You’re going to make me late for the most important night of my life!” I started to freak out because being late makes me sweat, and I didn’t want to arrive with sweaty hands as my first impression when meeting all these new people. But before I could go into full freak out mode, Chris had me laughing so hard it didn’t matter anymore. She taught me that you always have a choice in the energy you bring to a space, and this first night on board is one of just many examples where she helped me be a better version of myself and place my hyperhidrosis on the back seat.

Chris Lowe PowerHoopz

Broken shoe? Just fix it with hula hoop tape!

I got a chance to meet the O Magazine team, including Editor at Large and Oprah’s BFF Gayle King. Gayle was very busy talking to everyone, and she carried a notepad during the entire cruise to interview people . She got some really great stories that she later shared on stage.

I came prepared with two handwritten cards – one for her and one for Oprah, as I didn’t think I’d be able to meet Oprah since her schedule was completely booked for the days she was on board. When I got my turn to meet Gayle, she said she couldn’t accept anything but to give the cards to her assistant, Joseph. I found Joseph, and he graciously placed my cards in his backpack. I’m hoping Gayle and Oprah received the cards and were able to read them. They contained my Denver Woman’s Press Club winning essay, a way for them to get to know me as a writer and one of their OMagInsiders, plus a thank you message for all of the work they’ve done to help me shape myself as a woman.

Maria Thomas and Gayle King

Waiting patiently for my turn with Gayle King,
handwritten cards in hand.

Put Down What You Carry

Poet Mark Nepo says,

We must put down what we carry in order to let more of ourselves enter.

I’m so glad I left my baggage on the curb that day to board that ship. Stay tuned for more stories about the O-mazing experiences I had on this cruise. I’m still astounded by what happened. This cruise allowed me to chart new territories and explore just how far I can go despite my hyperhidrosis.

Oprah journal My Life as a Puddle

My new Oprah journal that was waiting for me on my bed at the end of the first night on board.

More cruise posts: Pre-Cruise inspiration, Oprah Magazine & Holland America Line Taught Me How to Have an Affair—With Myself

Pre-Cruise Inspiration

Before I tell you all of the amazing stories that happened while on board the Share the Adventure cruise to Alaska with Holland America Line and O, The Oprah Magazine, I’d like to share this first. It came in the mail just days before I flew to Seattle to board the Ms. Eurodam. I never would’ve taken this cruise had it not been for my connection with O Magazine as an OMagInsider. The cruise truly was a dream come true.

Hallmark dream card

Back in 2000, I found my biological father Bill thanks to the wonders of Facebook. I never thought I’d be one of those people who had a Facebook reunion story to tell, but I’m so grateful it’s now a chapter in my life. While we’ve only seen each other a handful of times, he (and my extended family) have been there for me in good times and in bad. So when something bad happened to him, the last thing I expected was a handwritten card from him to arrive.

A couple of months ago, Bill was involved in an accident and lost the fingers on his right hand. As a woodworker and jack of all trades, he works with his hands. They are his livelihood and the best way he knows how to express his love to those around him. (Maybe I’ll share one of my favorite handmade items from him in a future post.)

This accident was devastating, but through it all he has managed to maintain a pretty positive outlook on life. He’s had frustrating days for sure, but he keeps on keeping on and refuses to let it slow him down. He got back out on his boat and caught a fish using his non-dominant hand. He got a new tablet to make texting and stuff easier. He’s got several surgeries in the near future, one of which is Thursday. Please send him good vibes!

But the thing that really touches me is that he took the time to pick out this Hallmark card – in fact, the card was almost late getting to me in time for the cruise because he said he had a hard time finding just the right one. “When you care enough to send the very best” is Hallmark’s slogan for a reason, so when Bill found this one he knew it was a keeper. Using his opposite hand, he diligently wrote, letter by letter, this message. (I can hear him most likely slinging a few cuss words while he was at it.)

Inside the card was some spending money for my trip to Alaska. Isn’t that sweet?

I’ve saved this card in my memory box as a constant reminder of strength and resilience. Perhaps I get my don’t-let-hyperhidrosis-get-you-down attitude from Bill. He and I are a lot alike. I hope one day all of us can go on a family cruise together. I’ll leave you with this quote, which I mentioned in my first-ever Facebook Live video last weekend. Please view it if you haven’t already.

I can be changed by my circumstances, but I refuse to be reduced by them.
~ Maya Angelou


On-Air! Travel Bags With Annita

My Life as a Puddle and Travel bags with Annita

I’m a featured guest on this radio show! Please tune in.

Join me on the radio show Travel Bags with Annita. I’ll be interviewed by creator Annita Thomas about my Alaskan cruise with Holland America Line and O, The Oprah Magazine and how my hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) may or may not get in the way of having an amazing time. Plus, you’ll get a sneak peek about the stories I’ll be telling soon on my blog. They include celebrity encounters! Can you even?!

You’ll also hear from fellow #OMagInsiders Makes Me Wander and Single Mom Chic.

Just click the blue “Listen Live” button on Annita’s website (links above and in image) to tune in from 3-4 PM EST.  I’ll be on the second segment.

Thank you, Annita, for featuring me as a guest and letting me spread my message of hyperhidrosis hope and awareness. This was the most relaxed I’ve ever been when speaking about my condition. That’s what happens when you’ve got a good interviewer. 🙂

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