Tag: Oprah

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

Missed My Radio Segment?
Tune in Now

Travel Bags With Annita

It’s not too late to tune in to Travel Bags With Annita. Listen below to my segment about hyperhidrosis, how it got me to where I am, and meeting someone in the middle of the ocean who also has hyperhidrosis!

I’m On an Oprah Website!

I’m thrilled to announce the O Mag Insider website is now live. You can find me listed under the Writers, Media Mavens and The Complete List sections. Please head over to this beautiful site where you can learn more about me as well as meet my fellow Insider friends. Thank you to the team at O, The Oprah Magazine for all the work they did to create the site. I am honored to be part of this group!

Also make sure to check out the sweepstakes & contests page – some really cool stuff is up for grabs!

O Mag Insiders - The Inner Circle of O

Eeeee! I’m featured on an Oprah website.


Missed Me on the Radio?

My Life as a Puddle on Unlimited Realities with Lisa Zimmer

Missed the live radio show? You can still listen! (Image credit: Juja Han)

Grab a cup of coffee, put your earbuds in, and sit back and take 15 minutes for yourself today. If you missed my live radio debut last week on Unlimited Realities with Lisa Zimmer, you can listen to the archived version. My portion starts around the 18-minute mark.

I was a bit nervous doing the show, but I think that’s normal the first time we do something new, isn’t it? I strategically prepared myself and had a few paper towels next to me to absorb any drippage. Once I started talking, though, it got easier for two reasons.

First, I am passionate about hyperhidrosis education and awareness; I will do just about anything in the name of it. Because I live with excessive sweating, I know it like the back of my hand (see what I did there?) so it’s become easier to talk about it over the years.

Second, although I haven’t met Lisa the show host in person yet, her warmth and compassion shines through in her voice and her vibe. I immediately felt comfortable talking with her. She intuitively knew what to say to make me feel right at home like we’re old friends, like when she said this:

I love pioneers. Pioneers are my gig, and you’re a pioneer. – Lisa Zimmer

After the show was over, I had a moment. I cried. Cried because this stupid condition that I have and am trying to coexist with actually got me to where I am today – an advocate, a pioneer, a writer who is using my voice to let the world know that we are more alike than unalike, but that it is our differences that make us unique and give us a light to shine on the world. My light just happens to shimmer and drip.

I cried because if it weren’t for Lisa J. Pieretti and the International Hyperhidrosis Society, I would still be suffering in silence and feeling like a freak.

My life changed in April 2011 when I attended the IHHS symposium in Denver as a patient volunteer. Lisa, her staff, and the dermatologist who treated me that day understood what I was going through. They didn’t shrink back in disgust when they touched my hands and feet. I walked out of there that day – hands swollen and sore from the Botox injections – feeling like I needed to do something. Why? Because of validation.

This is how the IHHS made me feel that day:

So please, be a good sweaty friend and hop on over to Blog Talk Radio to listen to my voice and learn more about hyperhidrosis. And remember, you’re not alone in your sweating angst.

(A special thank you to the team at O, The Oprah Magazine for recognizing my passion and selecting me as one of just 50 #OMagInsiders nationwide. Through this year of adventure, I’m meeting and connecting with some wonderful people, one of whom is Lisa Zimmer. I am forever humble and grateful for this opportunity.)

Hyperhidrosis and O, The Oprah Magazine #OMagInsiders

Sweaty friends, last week I got an email that nearly gave me a coronary. Let me tell you all about it, as it really made my hands sweat!

Several months ago, I submitted an application to O, The Oprah Magazine to become part of O’s Inner Circle. I’ve been an Oprah fan since I was about 10 years old. I’d come home after school and watch The Oprah Winfrey Show religiously. I own the 20th anniversary DVD collection. I cried while watching the last episode of her show. I’ve seen her in person twice – once in Denver and once in Houston. And when the first issue of O Magazine came out in 2000, I was the first person to purchase a copy from my local downtown newsstand, Woody’s Newsstand.

#OMagInsiders MyLifeAsAPuddle

I’ve saved every one of Oprah’s What I Know for Sure columns, the last page in each O Magazine. The top left is the first page from her 2000 inaugural issue.

I’ve been an O Magazine subscriber since day 1. My subscription is paid up through 2020! When it comes to Oprah, I don’t mess around. She has been a tremendous source of inspiration to me, and her magazine has some really inspiring content that helps me to live my best life.

So, last Thursday I received an email with the subject line “Welcome to O’s Inner Circle!” It read,

After reviewing over a thousand submissions, we’ve selected 50 of the most influential,  engaged, and enthusiastic fans of O, The Oprah Magazine to join O Mag Insiders: The Inner Circle of O for the next year – and you’re one of them!

OMG, you guys! I immediately started texting my best friend, my hands dripping all over my phone the entire time, to tell her my exciting news. While I’m not sure what this opportunity fully entails just yet, I am incredibly honored to be selected as one of the magazine’s #OMagInsiders. I do know that I’ll be posting on social media and here on my blog on a regular basis, so you’ll be seeing lots more about this very soon. While I will try to blend these posts together with my normal hyperhidrosis content, I may not always be able to do that.

I’m hoping this journey will manifest into meeting Oprah this year. Can you imagine?! If this happens, my hyperhidrosis will be on center stage. But I’m okay with that, because it’s a great opportunity to educate Oprah and others about a medical condition that affects 5% of the world population. As Maya Angelou said, “I can be changed by my circumstances, but I refuse to be reduced by them.”

I am incredibly humbled and thankful to begin my adventure with O Magazine. Life is about the journey, not the destination, and when you pursue joy and dare to believe that something inside you is superior to circumstance, the universe will conspire in your favor.

#OMagInsiders MyLifeAsAPuddle

A quote in Oprah’s handwriting excerpted from the program I received at The Life You Want tour in Houston.

Hyperhidrosis and Oprah

Last month, I flew to Houston to attend Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend. It was amazing. While I didn’t get to be up close and personal with Oprah herself, I still saw her from the big screen as she spoke to the audience about creating a bigger and better life for yourself. Oprah gave the keynote address on Friday evening, and then on Saturday she was joined onstage by Deepak Chopra, Iyanla Vanzant, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Rob Bell.

Before the big event that first night, I went to O Town, a pop-up town square with interactive booths. I’m glad I went as soon as it opened, because the entire thing was outside. In Houston. With humidity. Not cool for someone who has a sweating condition.


Entering O Town at Oprah's The Life You Want Weekend

Entering O Town at Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend


One of the stops in O Town was the Toyota booth. Here, you could decorate a journal using scrapbook paper and tons of accessories. The line was pretty long by the time I joined, so I had to stand in the sun for a long time before the line moved inside the tent. Once I got out of the sun, I realized there wasn’t any air flow inside the tent. Uh oh.

The journal decorating area consisted of leather couches and stools and was in the back corner of the tent, even farther away from any of the air that had managed to creep inside the periphery. I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to decorate my journal. Sitting down on the leather furniture when I was already sticky from the heat combined with sharing scissors, glue, and everything else with a bunch of other people was no bueno for my puddle life. So, I stood in line long enough to grab my journal and a few pieces of decorative paper, and then I hightailed it out of that stagnant, muggy tent, deciding I’d finish my journal when I got home and could control my environment.

The journal I was supposed to decorate but couldn't because of my sweaty hands.

The journal I was supposed to decorate but couldn’t because of my sweaty hands.


After the failed journal line, I made my way over to the Oil of Olay booth, where I got a mini makeover by a makeup artist. Oprah’s camera crew was there and filmed me while I was in the makeup chair. 🙂

Getting a makeover while Oprah's film crew put the camera on me.

Getting a makeover while Oprah’s film crew put the camera on me.


Once I made the rounds at each booth, I could tell I was getting dehydrated from the sun and all the sweating I was trying so desperately NOT to do. At least I had the foresight to snag a washcloth from the hotel room on my way out the door. I stuffed it in my purse and used it discreetly every now and then to wipe off my hands. I also grabbed a flyer from the IKEA booth, which I used to fan myself and block the sun when I was in line. It was time to say peace out to Oprah and escape to an air-conditioned restaurant for some lunch.

That night in the arena, I was fine sweat-wise and could take notes without any problems. I, of course, brought my sweat-friendly notebook and favorite pen to minimize any sweat marks and paper curling (read more about paper and pens for hyperhidrosis). I also got a fabulous handout from Oprah that I used as part of creating a new vision statement for my life. It’s important to check in with yourself on a regular basis and analyze whether your life is going in the direction you desire (like when this crazy thing happened to me). If it’s not, it’s time to re-frame your life and choose different thoughts. Your thoughts create your life.

As I went through the exercises with my favorite life teacher, Oprah, I could see where I was headed with my new vision statement (read more about stepping outside of your hyperhidrosis). While I won’t share it all here, I will tell you that it includes no longer talking to myself in the self-deprecating voice that is reserved for me; I can be my own worst enemy. How many of you have a sweaty inner monologue like I do? It goes something like this:

You’re disgusting. Look at the sweaty mess you are. You’d better apologize as soon as someone notices your sweat. You can’t do this, this, or this because of your stupid hyperhidrosis. Why did this happen to me? I’m not good enough. I wish I could be like everyone else and live in a dry world.

Sound familiar? Why do we do this to ourselves? Compare our sweaty lives to the lives of others? Act like we’re less than, freakish, an embarrassment? You, and I, are exactly enough just as we are. So sit with yourself awhile – sweaty hands, feet, armpits, groin, or wherever it is that you sweat – and love yourself through it.

Accept and allow who and how you are to come forth. Yes, we want a cure for our excessive sweating and yes, we’ll never give up hope and will keep trying treatments for hyperhidrosis. But in the meantime, stop the self-hatred. Hold your head high. You are enough, and you are loved despite the sweating that might make you think you’re less than. You’re safe here. So own it.

Here is part of my vision statement. I hope it might help you in some way.

I choose to live as my authentic self, no longer apologizing or comparing who I am to others or betraying the nudges of my own heart. ‪#‎TheLifeIWant‬

The workbook from Oprah in which I created a new vision statement for my life.

The workbook from Oprah in which I created a new vision statement for my life.

Start to walk through life palms out, hands up.


Love Wide — The Eulogy of Sandy Bristoll

Here is the eulogy I wrote and delivered at Sandy’s Celebration of Life service (please read my post about hyperhidrosis and public speaking if you haven’t already). The themes you’ll read about below also can be applied to life with hyperhidrosis. The universe works in mysterious ways. You’ll see I’ve quoted a few people here. I first discovered Brene Brown in January when I attended a workshop for Highly Sensitive People (HSPs). Kelly Rae Roberts has been my favorite artist for several years now, and her work is helping me to heal this year. Shortly after Sandy passed away, Kelly released her newest piece called Your Heart, which reminds me of myself and Sandy. I ordered it the very same day I saw it, and it’s a signed print. I also placed copies of the eulogy inside a basket with the beautifully, messy, complicated story art by Kelly. Fast forward to this month, and Brene and Kelly have teamed up with Oprah to offer an online class. Love it!


The artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts that was printed on the hard copies of Sandy's eulogy.

The artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts that was printed on the hard copies of Sandy’s eulogy.


I’d like to begin by sharing a few stories about Sandy. For those of you who don’t know me, my family lived next door to Sandy back in the 90s. Sandy was pregnant with Danny when my mom was pregnant with my little sister CJ. I grew up babysitting Danny and took delight in the fact that she always introduced me as her surrogate daughter and the sister Danny never had.

I first knew I liked Sandy after my mom freaked out when I told her who I was with. You see, Sandy and I both had our vices – hers were cigarettes, mine were Skor candy bars. So at the young age of 9 when I was home alone after school, I left my mom a ransom note of sorts, explaining that I was walking down to the gas station with Sandy “Schuss.”

“Sandy who?” said my mom when I got home.

“Sandy Schuss, mom. That’s what her license plate SAYS.”

“Oh! You mean Sandy Bristoll? Schuss means she’s a skier, honey.”

My mom totally thought I had gone somewhere with a stranger.

“Oh, Chaaaaalotte.” I can hear Sandy saying in that special way she had. “Would you like some toe-mah-toes on your salad?”

You mean tomatoes? How “appropo,” ‘twas the way she spoke.

When I got engaged to be married, I’d already had plenty of time to think about whom I’d like to have in my wedding party. So when I called Sandy to ask her to be a bridesmaid, there was library level quiet on the other end of the phone. And then she finally said, “Oh, Ria. It’s a good thing you’re not here because you’d have to pick me up off the floor. Are you serious? You want ME in your wedding?”

Um, duh, Sandy. And Danny, too. She couldn’t understand why I would want a 57-year-old bridesmaid. I wanted Sandy because she was a hero to others and a champion of me. She spoke truth into me and loved me first so that I could begin to learn how to love myself. Sometimes I wonder whether she realized her own worth, or knew just who God created her to be as He added another flourish of color to the world with His paintbrush.

What I learned from Sandy was a lot. So when I tried to figure out what the most important lessons she imparted to me were, it was daunting. But then I started to see a theme in all I’ve learned from her; that theme is love wide.

Wake up to your life. Be present for it. Everything in life is here to teach you a lesson. It’s up to you whether you get the lesson. Don’t ignore the lessons that come as pebbles, then as stones, and then as bricks, because pretty soon you’ll end up with a brick wall. From Sandy, I learned how to demolish my brick wall.

1) Forgive

To begin to tear down your brick wall, you have to start with yourself. Forgiveness must happen, and in most cases it starts with you. Whatever choices you’ve made, whatever life has thrown at you, every day is a chance to begin anew, to love wide. So I encourage you to forgive yourself for whatever it might be that is holding you in shame and dimming your inner light. When you release your secrets, you release your shame.

2) Love Wide

Forgiveness is the stepping stone to love. Forgive others for what they may have done to you. It’s not about them anyway. It’s about you stepping into your best life. Strength, courage, and wisdom are prerequisites to love. This, too, I learned from Sandy. So be a seeker of all these things. Pay attention when people are having a conversation with you. Put your cell phone away. Covet the good in all things, and “when people show you who they are, believe them—the first time.” (Maya Angelou)

3) Nurture Your Relationships

Relationships require reciprocity. Be willing to put others above yourself, and more often than not you’ll find they do the same for you. Radiate passion for the lives of those around you. If you’re the one who always has to call or initiate contact, I’m telling you today, Get soooo over it. Do what you can, with what you have, right where you are. Realize that you are enough exactly as you are so that others can learn to do the same.

4) Stand in Your Truth

Sandy always made me feel like myself in my own skin, which speaks volumes for someone who has a sweating condition and is usually literally uncomfortable in her own skin. When you are comfortable and accepted for who you are, you can love wide. Sandy always made sure it wasn’t too hot when we spent time together, and always checked with me first whether I wanted to eat inside or outside when we went to eat, usually mussels or some kind of seafood if we could find anything decent in Greeley. Sandy was never afraid or ashamed to grip my sweaty hands in hers and utter things like, “How did I get so lucky to have you in my life?!” Believe me, the honor was all mine.

To stand in your truth means to tell your story. I always knew I had permission to be real when I was with Sandy. Your beautifully messy complicated story matters (tell it). (Kelly Rae Roberts) Don’t let shame prevent you from saying what you need to say. “To tell your story is to bring light to shame and destroy it. Only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” (Brenè Brown)

5) Embrace Vulnerability

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.” (Eckhart Tolle) Take chances. Fling open wide the gates of your heart. If you are struggling with something in your life, I implore you to be vulnerable and ask for help. For it is only in vulnerability where true connection takes place. Look around you for the helpers in your life. They are there, waiting to be of service.

This reminds me of another Sandy story. She tried very hard to keep up with technology, but it took her awhile to figure out Facebook and her fancy new iPhone. She would post all these status messages, like “testing, Caroline Taylor”, post comments as notes instead, and then ask how to fix things, which would prompt paragraph-long tutorials from me.

She was so cute with her iPhone, tilting it up just so in order to see the keys and concentrate on trying to text us back as fast as we could text her. There were many times I just took her phone from her and said “Here, let me do it.” But she never gave up trying to master social media, and she didn’t care if she might have looked silly trying to do it. She allowed herself to be vulnerable.

It’s okay to not always have everything together. That’s what friends and family are for. To hold you up when you can’t do it yourself. Allow yourself to love and be loved. Choose to see others and to be seen.

To every one of you here today, please know that I see you. Asian, white, gay, straight, Christian, Buddhist—I see you. You matter. Decide right now, today, that you are enough exactly as you are. Don’t dim your light. We all need a light from within in order to shine outward. Stay in the light. Have the courage to wake up every day and decide to love yourself more than you ever have before. What you think about expands, so love wide.

Sandy’s roots have been upturned and replanted in Heaven. We have our own personal angel in the sky now, whose roots are being nourished with the cleanest, purest air.

Sandy can breathe now without fear. And for that, I am grateful.

Sandy Bristoll and Maria/My Life as a Puddle

In loving memory of Sandra A. Bristoll 10-30-47 to 4-29-13


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