The Day I Fled in 1979

When we fled on that Pan Am flight in 1979, moi proudly wearing my white ankle socks and white clogs (which I felt so much older in), I had no idea the many joys and adventures, both physical and emotional, my young and later life would hold.

We may have left for fear of not being safe inside our home, the four walls we normally associate with peace and safety, but what really happened that day and every day since was not at all driven by fear, but by love, wild optimism and an unapologetic energy (joy), everything I stand tall for at 5’3.

Though the navy blue booklet I’m holding right now says I’m American, my imaginary guitar points to being a world citizen holding Guatemalan life membership.

And this is much more than my own story.

Each of us yearns to, not only know where we really come from, but to go there, be it and bring it back…


Make happiness your business by creating your authentic brand…enjoy your business, enjoy your life!

Life is good,

In Guatemala! (more on my vision quest & the Mayans)


We *are* the elements – it’s where instinct, passion, our emotional strength and creativity come from.  And the more we work our way away from or against what we naturally are (or wish to do at any given moment), the more dis-ease uses us as it’s muse. 

But we already belong to someone, to s o m e t h i n g else…⁣

⁣Here in Guate and especially after climbing the Pacaya volcano, I‘m feeling the vision quest — the essences of self remembered that came without the distraction of food, company, even shelter — as alive as ever.⁣

There’s a woman we all have living deep inside (yet who wishes to fly on the surface of the deepest oceans), connected to her moon, to her own sun…the She who is often restless between adventures because she IS both rest-less and adventure and because modern life, too, has told her to be all things to all people, but be little to herSelf (belittle ~> being little doesn’t become us). ⁣

It’s this woman — the one who lets herself go all the way back to herself, the creation and creator, who knows exactly who she is and isn’t — this is who we miss and who we are lonely for (we needn’t be fooled, it is not anyone else we long for).⁣

Today, while sitting at temple number four in Tikal watching the sun rise over the ruins, listening to the monkey songs below, I felt as deafening a gratitude to and longing to know even more of these Mayan ancestors —⁣

⁣The ones who saw to it that women, with their unique, NATURAL gifts, be expressed, not allowed to rise, but recognized as already risen and already holding a place equal in leadership and good counsel (inside the civilization, the path to power was beautifully open to both men and women).⁣

Our guide confirmed today what I had known before as this statement-turned-question: how could a civilization so close to nature, the skies, stars and the natural world, not be close to and revere women who are a stellar symbol and part of it all?⁣

In his most adorable words, he said that men in power looked to their wives often, potentially one day also governors of the people, valuing them deeply “…knowing they were connected in a way they, themselves, weren’t and that they, the women, had great ideas and [as he leaned over pretending to tell someone a secret] also always gave GREAT advice.”⁣

And maybe where it all comes full circle is here — our connection to the natural (which is also the spiritual and the emotional, that which allows the rising) — if we don’t stop it, move further and further away from it, or feel like we must be or act any different or less creative than what genuinely courses through our veins *keeps* those great ideas and GREAT advice flowing like the river beside the temple that provides and sustains life..

Make happiness your business by creating your authentic brand…enjoy your business, enjoy your life!

Life is good,

Michelle Ghilotti
Success Designer, Brand Activator & Social Entrepreneur

Creating Your Problems!

We gotta get good at facing the upsets in life. 

There’s at least one small, medium or bigger “thing” we each wish was different— for me, for a while, it was wishing that Dino and my Mom were back — back to enjoy life with us, enjoy his nephew, her grandson, his sister, her daughter *and* back to the new normal of what family had become wasn’t so new normal’ish (bargaining phase of the grief process much?). 

Ask Josh, but I’m normally one for new (the adventure in it), for the unfamiliar, (at least five times now over the last 15 years, I’ve thrown out new countries we should plan to live in and twice, by my push, we’ve made it happen), but this time, more recently, I was holding on, wanting the previous, the old, the familiar and, generally, more comfort……

If I’m comfortable, I’ll be more able.

…if I’m comfortable, I’ll be more able?

I know that’s not true, but it’s striking how our knee-jerk reaction, many times, is to reach for what preceded us versus what is becoming us…

Unfortunately, of course, no matter how hard we want, kick or scream, some things are beyond our grip or control.

When Nolan was four, I picked him up from school in Guadalajara (this was four years before Dino passed and six before Gigi would) and the cutie shown here was upset that he had ruined his pants with these grass stains and a couple rips.

He had tears in his eyes as he talked to me about it. 

I got down on the same knees I’ve seen so much work during the grief journey and told him two things which are still true today (as true for kids as they are for adults): Honey, that’s ok, the grass stains are signs you’ve had FUN and that you’ve enjoyed yourself today, the dirtier you get, the better! (I would repeat similar words dropping him off at school for YEARS, he finally got it and would come home messily fantastic without a care in the world). 

We sat on the side of the road taking in the rest of his initial emotion and you could almost hear him making sense of what I had just said.

There are SO many things in life you can fix, I continued…we can wash your pants or buy you new pants…or, if we haven’t been nice to someone, we can communicate with them and say I’m sorry and do better next time, I paused, but there‘s one big thing that we can’t change (pause) and ( ) that’s ( ) death.

I told him,

Those last words.
Ay, those last words.

And these, too: “we gotta get good at facing the upsets in life.” I think about, use and ACT on those specific words a lot these days (these years). I share them with myself, with Nolan, Josh and to anyone who will have a convo with me about it…

I’ve realized over the last five years and, specifically, after losing my beloveds, how important it is for us to prioritize getting good, just a tiny bit better each day, at the upsets.

And surprisingly, I’m not talking so much about grief or the losses that leave us massively stunned (though I have also found there’s a way to mourn or grieve feeling the pain, but not ***suffering*** unnecessarily ~ there IS a difference), but, specifically, getting better at moving through the daily, smaller upsets of the grass stain variety). 

We spend life or seasons of that life, prioritizing and working at getting better at everything else…learning everything we need to learn to make the money, beefing up our communication skills, signing up for sales trainings (if you’re your own boss), focusing on the health or weight stuff, or establishing the habit of getting up earlier to start the day more productive or whatever it is, that we rarely consciously *also* think about or say, “hey, I want to get better at not holding onto the upsets in my life, specifically, the daily, small to medium-sized stuff for as long, so I can “hold” onto the rest of the BIG things that may come OR that I want to CREATE.”

Because if we can more quickly or easily let go of scratching at the mosquito bites or thinking excessively about the paper cuts, there’s no way NOT to have a larger capacity for, say, loss when that comes. Or for cause when that, too, comes a calling.

We can get better at facing upsets in life — the daily, smaller ones (and, actually, the more massive ones, too), by consciously creating the physical, emotional or spiritual challenges we WANT to solve…

But it has to be conscious. 

I’M AWARE THAT I’M SAYING YES TO THIS OR THAT FOR A TYPE OF EMOTIONAL TRAINING that helps me trust I can get through anything ~ and *create* any-thing…

Because when you’re in charge of creating your own “problems” (those you’re trusting yourself to get through, to find a solution to, no matter how scary), that’s what you’re saying yes to ~ an emotional type of adventure that builds a unique muscle…

Not surprisingly, all the other stuff we normally prioritize studying or making time for…the money-making, evolving our communication or whatever it is, becomes more effortless, too. But studying ourselves first or alongside everything and how we react to the tough stuff we’ve said yes to somehow needs to come to light.

Getting better at the annoyances, bumps, and bruises is so important that part of my business now helps women plan and create the physical, emotional or spiritual challenges (those they WANT to solve), so when the small upsets — or much larger ones — arise that are genuinely outside of their control, they don’t suffer at the hands of them as much.

We all have things that come hard every day, but we can get through them by creating some of those hard things ourselves.

Once we also “get” that grass stains don’t just come with the bad times, but with the REALLY good, too, our life, this life, we start li-ving.

Make happiness your business by creating your authentic brand…enjoy your business, enjoy your life!

Life is good,

Michelle Ghilotti
Success Designer, Brand Activator & Social Entrepreneur 

Birthland & First Quest Short Story


It feels good to start out slow sharing about the vision quest.  I’m holding a lot of it close to my heart…

I’ll share more as time moves through me, but as I leave today with my newly minted 14-year-old sun to Guatemala, my birthland, I think back to how much the reunion with him and Josh meant to me exactly one week ago. 

They drove 4 1/2 hours to pick me up and Josh was the first out of the car. We ran to each other and hugged.  

We started to cry. In my ear as he held me tightly, he said, “I can tell you now…I was so worried about you ~ that you might be suffering.” 

My response was, “You were? It was awesome, babe. I loved it.”

We stayed like that for a bit. With joyful quest and reunion tears still coming down, I asked about Nolan. Josh started to walk back to the car, but Nolan had already gotten out…

We, too, did a slight run to each other and hugged tightly. To make sure he immediately knew how I felt (I didn’t know if he had worried like Josh did, though he had told me he knew I had this), in *his* ear, with the leftover quiver from my embrace with his Papa, I said, “Nolie, it was SO awesome, sooo awesome!”

He smiled his quiet smile and kept holding me.

After we pulled away, I looked at him a little longer and told him he had gotten even taller in the nine days away. 

I put my head back on his shoulder and he continued to hug me like a tall person does a shorter person when they really love them.

I needed a day to start sharing my experience with them, so the next day I showed them some photos I was able to take and took them through my vision quest story as best I could with our limited vocabulary. We all sat comfortably up against pillows on Josh and my bed.

About an hour later, as we were in Nolan’s room, I leaned down to give him a hug and kiss good night, he held onto me longer and quietly said:

“I’m proud of you, Mama.”

I squeezed him back in response and laid there with him. It is such an amazing feeling to have your “baby” both see you and hold you.

He continued ~

“Over the last year or so I’ve realized again that you’re much more than my mama. You’re…(long pause).”

I couldn’t help it: “A badass chick?”

“Yes, a badass chick.”

What the quest reminded me of in that very moment, as many other things have in my life as his mama is that whatever you do for yourself, you are always (always) also doing for your family…

Focus on your happiness to raise happiness.

Make happiness your business by creating your authentic brand… enjoy your business, enjoy your life!

Life is good,




Michelle Ghilotti
Success Designer, Brand Activator & Social Entrepreneur