Tag Archives: QVC

A Dream Goes on Forever

A little known Todd Rundgren song is a favorite of mine: A Dream Goes on Forever.

My interpretation? Our dreams sustain us through difficult times. They are unsinkable corks, bouncing up as lifesavers (sometimes despite our best efforts to drown in our sorrows.)

Like flowers yearning to break through the cracks of cement, these resilient buggers called dreams stretch onward and upward.

“A dream deferred makes the heart sick…”

Oh, boy (or oy vey!) I’ve had some sick hearts over the course of 56 years. From not getting the part of Dorothy in the 4th-grade play (and instead, cast as the Lion) to watching my younger friends marry during my single 20’s and 30’s, life dumped some #$%^@ on some of my dreams.

“…but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” – Proverbs 13:12

Beating out thousands to land a job as one of the original QVC Show Hosts! Finally walking down the aisle to a packed church cheering the end of my single days!

Some of you quizzically read those last two lines, knowing that I was unceremoniously dumped by the shopping network and cut bait on an unfulfilling marriage after 14 years.

Hey, weren’t those dreams fulfilled supposed to be trees of life?

Well, they were. For a season.

My tears dried after losing the part of Dorothy. Life went on. Life marches on! What mattered SO much once is just (as my friend Roseann likes to say) a pimple on an elephant’s ass.

Gotta love my spicy Roseann-isms.

Thoughts of dreams stirred my soul this week when immersed in a Sex and the City marathon. The show begins in their twenties with invincibility fueled by cosmopolitans and a fabulous foursome of friends. Over the course of a decade we watch breakups, losses, cancer, babies and so much more that Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte could never have imagined.

Had they a crystal ball, they might have avoided most of their adventures to avoid pain.

And so might have I, as I pondered this photo from my past:

This photo captures the moment in time when I prepared to graduate from college. Already working in my chosen field, there was no doubt in my mind I would be the next Diane Sawyer.

It was my dream to write and speak words. To use them skillfully to inspire and inform.

Also, to be fabulously wealthy and famous. (Look, I’ve never claimed to be Mother Theresa.)

Oh, had I a crystal ball I would have definitely bypassed that QVC audition, kept driving past the church (that ended up being a cult)…

…but in the choices made to avoid pain, I would have lost some of my best stories. And my best friends.

I may not be Diane Sawyer, but I’m really glad to be Brenda Viola.

Yes, Viola. I loved my ex, still hold affection for him, and love that last name. It fits!

Just as I have changed over the years (my taste for pitch black, sky-high hair replaced by golden highlights), my dreams also evolved. Some have come true! (Published author, anyone?) Some remain to be fulfilled.

But that’s the beauty of life.

I believe the dreams of our hearts are Divinely planted. And they must grow! They will materialize in perfect form when the gestation period has ended.

But aren’t we supposed to learn lessons from disappointments?

Sure!

And once learned, we move forward. To think that life is meant to be a constant string of lessons learned from heartbreaks runs counter to the idea that God (Source, the Divine, All That Is) is good and life should be happy.

I believe life should be happy.

Perhaps my message today is if you are pregnant with a dream, don’t abort it.

Turning your back on your dream is to turn away from your very self.

Your dreams are intertwined with your gifts and answer the question, “Who am I?”

They light you up. You feel most alive when expressing from that deep, holy part within you where the dream lives.

This is what you were made for!

John Russo croons a standard from the Rat Pack. My sister, Shirlee, acts on a moment of inspiration and whips up a calligraphy masterpiece. Artists are brave souls!

I have friends who claim they don’t have dreams. Oh, but when they express their gifts, they so beautifully live their purpose.

Maybe that’s a better word…purpose.

But I’ll stick with dreams. And I hope you stick with them, too.

On this topic of how what we want evolves over time and how when WE change, everything changes, here’s this week’s video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7S8BZ-CNsc&feature=youtu.be

If your dreams are feeling choked, your hope has been deferred, and you feel a bit adrift – take heart. We all weather such storms. These, too, shall pass.

Ask for the grace to help in time of need (and don’t be afraid to ask for help.)

Much love –

Brenda

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Perspective and the Passage of Time

The passage of time offers clarity of perspective unimaginable when in the thick of distress.

This past week, I enjoyed a full circle experience and could savor with glee what once had been completely unsavory. More like gut-wrenching and heartbreaking.

In fact, if you looked at my life as if it were a stock market chart, the particular juncture I revisited would have equaled my greatest crash.

Ah…but the passage of time offers the gift of perspective. 

It’s not the time itself that heals all wounds, but what you DO with the time.

In a whirlwind of excitement, I’d beat out thousands to win a slot as one of QVC’s original show hosts. I moved from New Jersey to West Chester, PA, signed a lease for a new apartment, and settled in to be the star I knew I was born to be. Heady stuff for a twentysomething who’d been making $75 a week as a reporter for a local cable TV news show.

Then, out of nowhere (and after three months of being put on a diet, having my hair shorn so tight it looked like a boy cut, and my wardrobe dissected) I was unceremoniously laid off.

A moment that so sucker punched me, I burst into tears and begged them to at least give me a position in the control room. I had bills to pay!

They declined.

Determined to not go home with my tail between my legs, I did the only thing I knew how to do to survive.

I waited tables.

It was the breakfast/lunch shift at the Penn’s Table Diner in West Chester. Bleary eyed and dejected, each morning I arrived at 5 AM to fresh-squeeze the orange juice and try to remain sunny-side up when my life was so scrambled.

At the end of each shift, covered in syrup stains, I converted my dollar tips and change into larger bills to ensure I could keep my apartment for one more month.

My ego had taken a huge hit. My perspective at that point in time? Brenda, you’re a failure. One week I hosted a show reaching ten million viewers. The next, burning my hands on hot plates and only noticed when late providing coffee refills.

Still, it served as a testament to my resilience; to my desire to survive independently. Those nearly eight months sustained me until, finally, a position in communications was once again secured.

And, after 30 years, life brought me full circle.

This week, in town for a work conference in…you guessed it, West Chester, PA, I revisited the Penn’s Table Diner. As I sat at the counter with 30 years of life experience since my last visit. I savored my new perspective, sipping a steaming cup of coffee and waiting for my omelet to arrive. Tears of appreciation welled up in my eyes.

The night prior, at our annual awards dinner, to my shock and surprise, a table covered in copies of The Public Servants’ Survival Guide awaited me.

Steve and Renee Kantor, the best owners a company could ever have (and the best friends you could ever hope for) read the book and felt everyone in the Company would benefit from the keys it contains to restore joy in work and life. I spent the end of the evening signing books – a dream come true – and my heart warmed by their genuine and generous display of support.

Sitting at the same counter I had once served, I thought about the dreams of 27 year old me. Dreams that seemed so elusive in the midst of rejection and humiliation.

Oh, if I could have whispered in her ear, “Just you wait. It’s going to get so much better. And you will be so much better for the experiences that await you.”

For writers, it’s all material!

Some subplots we never would have chosen, but these experiences chipped away and sculpted the people we are today.

Of course, I left a lavish tip.

And wondered what dreams my waitress harbored.

If you are in a squeezing the OJ at 5 AM juncture in your life, I encourage you to hang in there. Keep believing, and whisper in your own ear, “Hang in there. The good part is coming.”

https://youtu.be/ak__tchFV94

To celebrating in advance! And whispering to our own hearts, “Your dreams have all come true.”

Love,

Brenda

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Healed ‘Cause It No Longer Hurts (and the New WOW)

I didn’t even know I was healed ’til that button got pushed again.

You know the button, right?  (Everyone has one.)

It’s the reminder button; the deja vu scenario that is a shadow of former pain, betrayal, abuse or loss, disappointment and regret.

It’s the memory of the place you survived and promised yourself, “Never again.”

You all know my QVC experience by now.  The big break that ended up being the first professional heartbreak of my adult life so wounded me that, though I lived practically across the street from the studio, I couldn’t drive by the campus.  For years.  And SHOP there?  Fuggetaboutit.

You’d think a year or two of that would be sufficient, but we’re talking DECADES.  To this day, I choose not to fund the place that hired me away only to drop me three months later, leaving me with a lease, a pixie haircut, and a severe crisis of confidence.

But from the experience itself?  Totally healed.  It is always the blip on my resume people want to discuss and a great source of stories to entertain others at parties.

Does time heal all wounds?

Perhaps.  If you let it.

My take on this is that if you learn a LESSON from the pain, it’s a silver lining that can help you avoid making the same mistake twice.

Fast forward to my toxic church experience (which came soon after the QVC debacle.)  You know this one, too, where my desire for purpose and to fulfill my calling in life was manipulated and abused by narcissistic “spiritual leaders.”

Well meaning people sometimes say, “How could you ever get sucked in to something like that?”  Hey, it’s not like it started OUT like the hell it ended up to be.

It puzzles me that people could be so smug to think they couldn’t possibly be lassoed in to something they later regretted…whether a business deal, a relationship, or any type of investment.

This just happened to be an investment of my very life.

The years that have unfolded AFTER have taught me so many lessons.  Primarily, that questioning is healthy; trust should be earned (not granted just because of position) and that when my gut screams, “No!” I should listen to it.

Most of the following years have been free of anything that even remotely smacks of the potential for control.  But I recently found myself in a gathering (I thought it was a professional, business networking group!) and it soon became apparent that there was a religious undercurrent that reminded me of the seductive beginnings of my long ago church life.

Instead of causing me anxiety or torment, the experience was necessary because it showed me just how healed I was.

Sometimes things come around again just so you can celebrate such a victory.  

I was fired up when I recorded this…

Going back to my church story, that good has come out of such bad brings me JOY.

And really, SO much good came out of a bad place.

Some of my dearest friends in my life were met at that toxic church.  Because THEY were real, they remain today.  People who have had an amazingly positive impact on my professional and personal life?  Yep.  Met them there.  All those scriptures that pop up just when I need them the most?  Also from that time…only now pure and not used to manipulate me or anyone else.  Which reminds me of a scripture (!):

Are you weeping right now or filled with sorrow?

Whatever has caused you pain can turn into the greatest life lesson; a tool to make you more empathetic and less judgmental.  It can give you wisdom that can save someone else from pain.  Remarkably, it can even end up being a source of joy.

‘Cause you’re not that person anymore.

May you find the joy in every little thing this week, my friends.

Love,
Brenda

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Detours and Destiny: Adventures in Purpose (and QVC)

The FLUFFI Word of the Week, PURPOSE, caused me to reflect on my own pursuit (and boy, has it been a pursuit !) to seek and, ultimately, fulfill my reason for living.

I know, quite a humdinger of a topic!  I have sometimes said to myself, “Self, why can’t you just be satisfied with the basics:  Eating, drinking, being occasionally merry, having good family and friend relationships, taking Shasta for walks and holding down a job?” Don’t get me wrong; sometimes these aforementioned items present monumental challenges in their own right!  However, since childhood, this FLUFFI longed to grasp – and fulfill – the “reason for Brenda.”

Actually, it goes far beyond me. I’m a firm believer that every person is on this earth for a reason.  Whether you call it a calling or your purpose, it (to me) is that spark of the Divine that is nestled in each person’s spirit.

That spark is your unique gift; a gift that when nurtured and allowed to flame lights up everything around you (and you, too). It is what “gets you going” and makes you feel more alive than anything else.

I have had glimpses of this ultimate purpose in my life, followed, preceded and interrupted by epic fails, detours, potholes, roadblocks and corn husk mazes along the way. In no way a straight line, the trajectory looks more like one of those Family Circle cartoons where the little boy creates 32 steps between “A” and “B.”

The guy I thought was “the one” who smashed my heart; the bad judgment used that landed me in trouble; the “big break” that broke me…can anyone out there relate?

More than the series of events themselves, I have found that my takeaways from these disappointments held the key to my forward progress.  We often hear about amazing people who would never have found their life’s calling unless tripped up by a health crisis, humiliation, tragic loss or otherwise unfortunate series of events.

They went through hell…and found the inner strength to keep going.

But I am talking about the subtle takeaways that cause you to shrink back, hesitate, adjust your dream and settle for second best – because you learned a faulty lesson about YOU.  And yes, I have a story to illustrate.

It was 1987, and I was three years into a low-paying but valuable for experience job at the local cable TV station, Channel 13 in Turnersville, NJ.  My Communications degree attained, I was full of dreams and spunky determination that I’d undoubtedly be the next Sally Jessy Raphael (Oprah had just arrived on the national scene.)  My internship led to hosting and producing a daily, live talk show (for $25 a WEEK), then winning the nightly news anchor position (for not much more.)  I was willing to pay the price, waiting on tables each weekend to pay the bills.  Not a problem; I was young and on my way.  Watch out, Diane Sawyer!  I was coming for you!

On-camera jobs in TV were impossible to come by in the Philadelphia market for a novice like me.  Philly is where you landed after years of honing your craft in small markets like Lima, Ohio and later, El Paso, Texas.  Back then, our “demo tapes” were our ticket up and out – bulky, expensive 3/4″ U-matic tapes that I’d mail out with high hopes each week…and a sense of resignation that moving away from family and friends was inevitable.

One Sunday afternoon, my mom called me with the news that there was a huge ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer – an open call audition for a brand new home shopping network based in West Chester, PA.  QVC was preparing to launch, and though selling items on TV was never my dream, having an audience was – so I packed up my demo tape and drove to PA for the cattle call.

Because I didn’t necessarily want the gig, I performed with abandon; without pressure or fear.  Of the many hundreds that auditioned, just a dozen or so were called back for a second round.  This time I was tasked with selling a #2 pencil for ten minutes.  Again, I went for it with flair, exclaiming the virtues of the stylish yellow color and painted visions of a mistake-free life thanks to the handy, attached eraser.

By the third callback, I was ready to tell them “You know, I don’t think this is really the best career move for the next Barbara Walters…” when I was ushered to a room with suited executives who made an offer few 24-year-olds could easily refuse.

A wardrobe allowance?  Weekly manicures?  A 20-hour work week for triple my current salary?

My visions of journalistic grandeur exited the room; I began studying adjectives to describe gold jewelry, capodimonte and ionic flea and tick collars. 

I signed a lease at New Kent Apartments and reported for work.  As a newer host, my on-air shift was between 2 and 6 a.m.  The only coaching I received was to “just present the products; don’t sell.”  Back then, QVC had a co-host format and I was fortunate that Mike Gargiulo (now an anchor in the Big Apple) was my witty and talented sidekick.

After a couple of weeks, we both received a memo that we were having a little too much fun; this presenting of products was serious business.

When I was assigned to present Craftsman Tools, about which I knew nothing, it should have raised some red flags. (I remember frantically asking Steve Coluntuno, another host, what the difference between a wrench and a plier was just minutes before beginning my on-air shift.)

Then they brought in a consultant, who proceeded to cut my hair almost as short as Sinead O’Connor’s 80’s style and who, of course, put me on a diet.

Three months into this “big break” I was called into the office of my boss, John Eastman, who informed me that QVC was changing from a co-host to a single-host format.  As a result, half of the hosts were being let go…and I, of course, was one of them.

I was stunned!  This is NOT the way my story was supposed to play out.  Shamelessly, I cried big wet (snotty) tears and begged for another chance.  Which was not happening.

With my lease ironclad and enough pride to resist running home, I searched for work in my field.  After several weeks, it was clear that I needed a job – ANY job.  So the once rising star of QVC devolved from acrylic nails and 10 million viewers to pouring coffee at West Chester’s Penn’s Table diner.

I was shattered.  For years I couldn’t drive by the QVC complex without burning with anger tinged with the pain of rejection.  God FORBID I ever tormented myself by watching the channel, and I had little tolerance for people who purchased from the source of my pain.

Years passed and I moved on, finding a comfortable spot behind the cameras at another local cable station.  Decades passed and the wound seemed to heal.  After all, I didn’t really want to live out my life as a home shopping host, and because it was such a comfortable, ego-stroking gig, I could have easily succumbed to its charms indefinitely.  So it was a good thing, right?

Yes, God had other plans for me.

But it was only THIS year that I realized the QVC experience had burned a lie onto my soul that yet remained.  This lie had systematically suppressed the vibrant dreams of my youth.

Look, I know there are far worse things you can experience in life.  Believe me I know – I’ll surely write about them in the coming weeks!  But this painful and disappointing turn of events at age 24 didn’t just hurt me; I had allowed it to brand me.

The brand tattooed on my psyche was three simple words:  Not.  Good.  Enough.    

Somehow it had taken me 27 years to realize I had confused “not meant to be” with “not good enough.”

Let me preach to you, FLUFFIs, as I did to myself upon this revelation: The one that “got away” was not a reflection of your inadequacy!  There was simply something better in store for you; something more suited to your higher purpose in life; a different door whereby your gifts and talents could take wings and fly!  The big break that broke your heart was meant to redirect you to a better path to use your gifts and fulfill your potential.  In essence:

Redirection is not rejection.

That truth set me free.  I hope it helps shift what may be a faulty perspective about your own detours on the road to your destiny.

But knowing the truth wasn’t enough; I needed to act in a new way, call upon the pre-QVC me and invite her to re-join the world again.  And that is why, FLUFFIs, I have (gulp) made the leap to visit you via video on occasion.

Because my purpose was never about selling gold chains or being famous or having a huge audience…but it IS to encourage people through words, whether written or spoken.  And step by step, day by day, I am seeking opportunities to do just that.  I leave you with one of my favorite quotes of all time:

It is never too late...

Can you recall a detour that, at the time was soul-crushing but ended up being a door to the life you were meant to live? 

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