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It’s a joy to continue our Sisterhood of Significance series with Kristine’s nominee, Chris. Kristine nominated Chris for the Sisterhood because “She is a friend and realtor. She has helped me find “home” twice and has also endured breast cancer, and never ever lost her spunk or positive attitude.” It’s clear that Chris is living a life of significance, whether she knows it or not, whether she believes it or not. With that, it’s my sincerest pleasure to introduce you to our next member of the Sisterhood of Significance. Welcome, Chris! It’s an honor to call you sister.

For 20 years, Chris worked faithfully as an administrative assistant for one company. She started working there when she was 18 years old and loved it. On the 20th anniversary of her employment, the company informed her that they were going to be eliminating her job and would need to send her back to the switch board.

Given the news, Chris contacted her friend who’s a real estate agent; she’d heard they were hiring. Chris kept her full-time day job while training and beginning work as a real estate agent at Edina Realty. For 2 1/2 years, she did real estate work during breaks, lunch hours, nights and on weekends. I asked Chris if she recalls this being a stressful time of life. “No,” she responded without a second thought. “It was something that I needed. It was a high.”

Over the course of a relatively short period of time, Chris experienced significant changes to both her work life and her personal life. Chris’ mother had a history of breast cancer. In 2002, the breast cancer returned, and in 2004, it metastasized. When the breast cancer metastasized, Chris went part-time at work so she could spend more time with her mom. Chris’ mother passed away in 2005. Since Chris was her mother’s primary caregiver during the journey through breast cancer, it was, indeed, a stressful time. In 2006, Chris and her husband divorced.

Chris hung onto her part-time job, but in 2008, the company reorganized and Chris was let go. Chris was left with no job and no health insurance. This forced her to “sink or swim” in the real estate business. Unfortunately, the layoff happened at the same time as the real estate market crash. Fortunately, Chris survived. Not only did she make it through the layoff and real estate crash, but business went up!

In 2014, Chris went in for her annual mammogram. On her way to vacation in Colorado, she got a call letting her know they had detected breast cancer. Since her mother passed away from breast cancer, her grandmother passed away from breast cancer, and her great aunts, her mom’s sister, and her sister have all had breast cancer as well, they did some extra testing and found out that Chris had Triple Negative Ductal Carcinoma and a rare breast cancer gene, PALB2, which affects not only the breasts, but the ovaries and pancreas. Needless to say, Chris flew home early from her vacation in Colorado and quickly became a “guinea pig for doctors in the area.”

One day after returning early from her Colorado vacation, Chris met with a surgeon. She brought two of her sisters with her for support and “to help make the right decision for [her]” because “it is always better to have someone with you during a time like this, as you don’t always hear everything correctly.” Because of the Triple Negative diagnosis, the Oncologist planned a lumpectomy.

Originally, Chris and her broker had made a decision to keep Chris’ diagnosis private “due to people not thinking I would be available to help them with their real estate transactions.” But once the reports were in and the decision was made to do 16 rounds of chemotherapy in 20 weeks, she knew she needed to tell her colleagues at Edina Realty; she would be losing her hair and didn’t know how she’d be feeling. So the day after her meeting with the surgeon, Chris shared the cancer diagnosis with her colleagues during their weekly meeting, and let them know she would be needing chemo. She asked her colleagues to pray for her, and asked them to not come into work if they were sick. Chris needed her colleagues, she needed to be around them, and she needed work to keep going, especially as she journeyed through cancer. When Chris made the announcement, one of her coworkers got up and prayed for her. All of her colleagues rallied around her. Just 20 minutes later, Chris went in to get her port placed.

On September 24, 2014, just 22 days after her lumpectomy, Chris began her first round of chemotherapy with an incredible end goal in mind. Chris and her family had brought her mom home to hospice on February 4, 2005, so she marked that date with the significance it deserved. She recalls with determination, “I had to do whatever possible to make it work.” Yes, Chris wanted to COMPLETE all 16 rounds of chemotherapy by February 4, 2015, the 10-year anniversary of the date they brought her mom home to hospice to pass away.

Chris no longer had her mother and was now divorced, but she had no shortage of support from family and friends during her breast cancer journey. Chris’ older sister (who had been through breast cancer herself) became the mother figure Chris needed. She made sure Chris ate properly and had everything she needed to feel good. She also made daily calls to check in.

When Chris found out she had breast cancer, 10 people showed up at her house, 8 of those had personally journeyed through cancer. And the night she shaved her head, 17 people showed up to support her, cry with her and care for her. Chris’ friend, Brigette, came to every chemo appointment. And one of Chris’ friends sent flowers every day of chemotherapy. All of Chris’ friends are “very close.” Chris is the common denominator of them all. They showed up and were incredibly supportive during this difficult time.

Chris tried to keep a positive attitude all the way through her breast cancer journey. The day of the lumpectomy, the doctors determined she needed another mammogram. She got into position for the mammogram, but the technician couldn’t find the lump, so the technician left her in position while she left the room. Needless to say, this was incredibly painful, but Chris made the best of the situation! When she was done with the mammogram that day, her gown got caught in the chair when she tried to get up. She recalls laughing “so hard” with the technician. “Everyone’s sad for you,” Chris said. “I needed to diffuse it.”

The first four rounds of chemotherapy (also known as “Red Devil”) were administered every two weeks because they were so strong. Everything was going “really good” until round three. Chris was up late after that round of chemo, and took five hours to get ready the next day. Ultimately, her white count went so low, she had to go in for a blood transfusion. Knowing how important that transfusion was on her journey to health, Chris has participated in blood drives ever since, and encourages “everyone that is physically able to please donate whenever they can.”

Chris says she “became very selfish” during chemotherapy. She didn’t go out and refrained from shaking hands. She ate protein before every round of chemo, which helped her experience less sickness. And she didn’t tell her clients she had breast cancer, but it was tough some days. Chris continued to have open houses and worked every day EXCEPT the days she had chemo. In fact, she actually increased business that year.

On February 4, 2015, Chris finished her last round of chemotherapy. Just in time to mark the day they brought her mom home to hospice 10 years prior. It took Chris a total of 20 weeks to complete 16 rounds of chemotherapy.

Based on statistics and the rare breast cancer gene, Chris had an 85% chance of breast cancer coming back within 2-3 years, even AFTER she’d completed chemotherapy. So Chris had two options, proceed with radiation or have a mastectomy.

She went on vacation with her friends and cried the whole time. Ultimately, Chris chose a mastectomy. The procedure was completed on March 17, 2015. Chris said it “was a breeze.”

After her mastectomy, Chris drank a ton of water and walked the halls frequently. Because of Chris’ positive attitude and rare cancer gene, all the nurses loved her and everyone wanted success for her. Fortunately, Chris recovered well. Less than 16 hours after the surgery, the doctor came in to find Chris cleaned up, wearing makeup and ready to be released. The doctor released her home with drains on. Just six days after her mastectomy, she returned to work!

Chris opted for reconstructive surgery. She asked the plastic surgeon how long the process would take, and how many ccs of saline are typically added every week. No surprise given Chris’ positive attitude and determination to press through breast cancer, she requested that 50 ccs of saline be added on a weekly basis. Chris said the doctor looked at her like “nobody does that!” Yet again, Chris proved the doctors wrong. The weekly 50 cc injections were no issue for Chris! In fact, some weeks, they filled her with 75-100 ccs of saline.

Chris had reconstructive surgery on June 30, 2015. She used a lot of coconut oil so she has very few scars. In August 2015, Chris’ left implant started leaking so she had to go in to get a replacement. They ended up replacing both implants so they matched, as they had changed since she first had reconstructive surgery in June. After the second reconstruction and when her nipples were made, Chris had to heal for two months before she could get her areolas which were made by tattoo and took only one hour. Everything was complete by November 2015.

Because of the rare PALB2 gene that affects not only the breasts, but the ovaries and pancreas, Chris had a partial hysterectomy in October 2015. She returned to work the following day.

Chris says she “worked through everything because she had to.” In fact, her business increased 2015 over 2014. “Business is strong,” and she is out “living life” again.

Now Chris “helps people try to get through” breast cancer. She participated in the Susan G. Komen 3-day walk three years in a row. She also volunteers as part of The Firefly Sisterhood, an organization that “connects women diagnosed with breast cancer and trained breast cancer survivors to offer support, guidance and hope.” Through the program, Chris mentors women and helps them “make choices for what’s right for them” as they journey through breast cancer.

Chris goes to follow-up appointments every six months. “I did everything my mom didn’t do,” she states with a certain peace and confidence. “Everything I was afraid of never came true. I never had a poor me attitude. I live life and help the ones I can. It’s not the end of the world.”




On January 6, 2017, I woke with a crystal clear vision for the Sisterhood of Significance. I shared my story of significance on March 8, 2017, then passed the torch and nominated Amy as the next member of the Sisterhood of Significance. Amy nominated Kristine, and Kristine nominated Chris. Soon, I’ll be meeting with Chris’ nominee. She’ll share her story of significance, I’ll take notes and photographs, and will feature her story on the site. Chris’ nominee will pass the torch by nominating someone who’s living a life of significance, whether they know it or not, whether they believe it or not. And that woman will join the Sisterhood! So goes the chain, on and on, until we have hundreds of women in the Sisterhood of Significance. Follow the hashtag #theSOS and CLICK HERE to learn more about the Sisterhood of Significance!

It’s a joy to continue our Sisterhood of Significance series with Amy’s nominee, Kristine. Amy nominated Kristine for the Sisterhood because “she’s amazing, incredible, lives a life of spontaneity, and started a nonprofit in Guatemala that operates libraries for children.” It’s clear that Kristine is living a life of significance, whether she knows it or not, whether she believes it or not. With that, it’s my sincerest pleasure to introduce you to our next member of the Sisterhood of Significance. Welcome, Kristine! It’s an honor to call you sister.

At just 16 years of age, Kristine had goals and visions for her future. She was bored academically and a lot of her friends were older. So she opted for Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), which allows 11th and 12th graders to take college courses and earn college credits on the campus of a postsecondary institution. By the time she was 18 years old, Kristine had all of her generals completed for college!

While at Inver Hills Community College for PSEO, Kristine took a course on Mayan Studies. She’d wanted to study abroad, but her parents didn’t approve because of her age and general safety concerns. So she decided to do a 3-week January Term in Guatemala instead. Kristine didn’t speak Spanish, but she did speak French and Italian which have similarities to Spanish. Given her love of language and eagerness to jump into the experience, it’s no surprise that Kristine picked up Spanish readily during her J-Term. “I fell in love with everything Guatemalan,” recalls Kristine enthusiastically of that first trip to Guatemala in 2006.

After her J-Term in Guatemala, Kristine returned to the United States and attended the University of Minnesota. She triple majored in Mass Communications, Cultural Studies and Cinema. Mass Communications because she dreamed of becoming a sports reporter. Cultural Studies for her love of Guatemala and different cultures. And Cinema because she’d taken a film class in high school and loved shooting videos and editing them together to tell a story. Kristine went to school year round, graduating from college with a triple major at 20 years old.

When Kristine was 17 years old and still enrolled in PSEO, she started working at Best Buy. Two years later, when she was just 19 years of age, Best Buy offered Kristine a position at their corporate office. In February 2011, Best Buy sponsored and organized a vision team to go down to Guatemala. Kristine knew it was time to return! While on the vision trip, she and the team were able to build a house for a family. She also began sponsoring a little boy named Gabino through Common Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting “hope and opportunity in Guatemala.” Kristine’s sponsorship provides Gabino access to education, medical and dental care, and a clean, safe living environment.

Since that trip with the Best Buy vision team in 2011, Kristine has been to Guatemala an additional SEVEN times. On April 29th, Kristine will be taking another trip to Guatemala. (And don’t forget her J-Term visit!) So this will be her 10th trip to Guatemala!

Two years ago in October 2014, Kristine brought her mom, Cheryl, to Guatemala. Cheryl is a school teacher and doesn’t travel much. She didn’t understand Kristine’s love for Guatemala until she went down there and absolutely fell in LOVE! Cheryl did, however, wonder where the libraries were. She nudged Kristine, “We need to start a foundation. We need to get books down here!”

Kristine had parties at her house to collect books and funds for a library. Three months later, in February 2015, Kristine filled 10-12 suitcases with 350 books and hand-delivered them to Guatemala!

To be honest, there wasn’t a good place for all those books, so Kristine reached out to Common Hope about purchasing land or securing space somewhere for a library. Common Hope agreed to add the library onto a school. They painted the library, carpeted it with foam puzzle pieces, and hired locals to build bookshelves, all with funds Kristine gathered from the house parties she’d hosted back at home.

Yes, they called it the “Rutoski Family Library!” The library was a miracle, really. A dream come true for Kristine and her mom, but even more so for the children in Guatemala. The books made an immediate impact. On a later trip, one boy told Kristine he’d read all the books in the library. Now he wanted English books so he could start learning English.

August 2015 marked the official opening of the library. All the kids were invited, and the school principal dedicated the space. In March of 2016, Kristine’s mom flew down and saw the library for the first time.

The original 350 books are now split between two libraries, the original location in San Rafael, and another in Antigua. Kristine wants to expand and build another library in New Hope, but there’s been car theft and armed robberies in the area, so when it’s safer, they will begin working on that project.

Since Kristine brought that first batch of 350 books down in February 2015, she’s continued working with Common Hope to organize and operate the libraries. But now that the libraries have been open for two years, Kristine is working to secure 501(c)(3) status for “Stock the Suitcases,” which will allow it to become an official nonprofit organization. If all goes well, the 501(c)(3) will be finalized by this summer sometime.

But the story doesn’t stop there!

In 2011, when Kristine went down to Guatemala with the Best Buy vision team, she met Felix. Felix works with Common Hope as a construction manager, and helps when vision teams come down from the United States. Felix is also a coffee farmer. He buys small plots of land, and sells coffee to small cafés in Antigua. He gets up at 3:00 am, works the fields, works for Common Hope, then works the fields again until late at night. The land is much cheaper on the top of the mountains because of the long trek up. For a while, Felix had a truck to transport him to the top of the mountain so he could work the coffee fields, but it was an old truck from the 70s and has since failed. So now Felix and his friends are walking up to the coffee fields every day which is a 10-mile journey one way.

Kristine and her mom decided to raise money for Felix so he could get a new truck to drive to the coffee fields up in the mountains. So tomorrow, April 22, 2017, Kristine is having a party to raise funds for Felix’s truck! They’ve already raised $3,600. Their goal is to raise a total of $5,400.

When Kristine returns to Guatemala next week, she and Felix will purchase a new truck with the funds. She’ll also be bringing more books for the libraries and shoes for the children. It’s worth mentioning that Kristine will be bringing her boyfriend, Zach, on this trip. She met him at work, and he just so happens to have been adopted from Guatemala when he was three months old! Zach made his FIRST trip to Guatemala with Kristine in August 2015; this will be his second trip.

When I asked Kristine to share her long-term vision for Guatemala, she responded without hesitation. “I want to move there.” At the very least, she would like to get a place of her own so she can keep some of her belongings there and not have to bring stuff back and forth all the time. Her dad is a pilot, so Kristine is confident it would be easy to get down to Guatemala regularly.

Kristine’s long-term vision for her work in Guatemala led to deeper conversation. During our interview, it became evident that Kristine possesses a rare grit, determination and confidence, that she lives life with little to no fear. I wanted to know whether Kristine was born that way, or whether she learned it along the way.

From her dad, an airline pilot who tackles endless projects at home, Kristine learned to keep trying, to never be afraid, to be persistent and constantly try new things without fear of failure. From her mom, a teacher, Kristine inherited her kind and generous heart.

“I’m never really afraid of failing because I always have my family,” and there’s always “try try again.” Before she starts a new adventure or executes a fresh vision, Kristine plays through worst-case scenarios. “It ALWAYS works out” in the end, she declares with quiet confidence.

Tomorrow, Kristine will host a party to raise funds for Felix’s new truck. Next week, she and her boyfriend, Zach, will travel to Guatemala and purchase that truck with Felix. Those books and shoes? They’re heading straight down in suitcases for the kiddos. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit status for Stock the Suitcases? It’s certain to be signed, sealed and delivered by the end of the summer.

If there’s one thing we can learn from Kristine, it’s to trust the vision God’s entrusted to you. Work it. Live it. Love it well.

Welcome, Kristine. Welcome to the Sisterhood of Significance. See the significance of your story.




On January 6, 2017, I woke with a crystal clear vision for the Sisterhood of Significance. I shared my story of significance on March 8, 2017, then passed the torch and nominated Amy as the next member of the Sisterhood of Significance. Amy nominated Kristine, and in another two to three weeks, I’ll be meeting with Kristine’s nominee, Chris. Chris will share her story of significance, I’ll take notes and photographs, and will feature her story on the site. Chris will pass the torch by nominating someone who’s living a life of significance, whether they know it or not, whether they believe it or not. And that woman will join the Sisterhood! So goes the chain, on and on, until we have hundreds of women in the Sisterhood of Significance. Follow the hashtags #theSOS and #SisterhoodofSignificance, and CLICK HERE to learn more about the Sisterhood of Significance!

It’s an absolute honor and delight to kick off our Sisterhood of Significance series with my college friend, Amy. I asked Amy to be the first member of the Sisterhood of Significance because intuition told me there was an incredibly powerful story behind Amy’s new day spa long before I knew any details about how it came to be. Amy and I have much in common. We were both sweethearts of our future husband’s fraternity. We both married fraternity brothers. We both have daughters named Maisie! We both went through significant, life-changing experiences that altered the trajectory of our life. We both left long-time careers in order to follow our dreams. And we both understand what it’s like to simultaneously be pursuing the best and worst idea of your life on any given day. I’m telling you, I’m not a spa girl, but I’ve had a facial and a couple’s massage at Woodhouse Day Spa, and Amy’s made me a believer. It’s clear that Amy is living a life of significance, whether she knows it or not, whether she believes it or not. With that, it’s my sincerest pleasure to introduce you to our first member of the Sisterhood of Significance. Welcome, Amy! It’s an honor to call you sister.

For 20 years, Amy worked faithfully and whole-heartedly for advertising, marketing and content marketing agencies, as well as a marketing to women consultancy. In October 2006, Amy’s husband, Marc, was transferred from Minnesota to North Carolina for work. Amy, Marc and their two children lived in North Carolina until 2014 when they moved back to Minnesota.

At the time of their move, Amy was working for PACE, an agency in Greensboro, North Carolina. At first, the transition from North Carolina to Minnesota was easy because PACE allowed Amy to keep her position and work remotely from Minnesota. Amy traveled lot during that first year back. She flew all over the place to clients, and to PACE’s home office in North Carolina. Typically, she traveled at least twice a month (usually full weeks) or would take a few shorter trips. Eventually, the travel and time away started taking a toll on Amy’s health.

In October 2014, Amy found herself in the emergency room with horrible pain and a terrible ear infection. The doctor prescribed antibiotics and told Amy she couldn’t fly, but the brutal and unfortunate truth was that she was in San Francisco and really needed to get back home. The hotel graciously packed up Amy’s belongings, and Amy took a cab to the airport. On the plane ride from San Francisco to Minnesota, Amy’s eardrum broke and exploded everywhere, which was immediately followed by Amy throwing up everywhere. Right there. Right on the plane. Right in front of everyone within eyesight and earshot.

Thankfully, Amy made it home. She called the doctor with updates, and was told she should continue taking antibiotics.

Amy was deathly sick for five days straight, landing her back at the doctor’s office. She was sent for a CT scan which revealed a MASSIVE mastoid infection. The ear infection had spread into Amy’s skull; the only way to remove the diseased cells was through surgery.

In December 2014, Amy underwent a surgical procedure called a mastoidectomy, in which the surgeon drills a hole in your sinus and clears out the mastoid. Your mastoid sits behind your ear in your skull and is typically filled with a honeycomb of cells. The fluid from Amy’s ear had gotten in that space and become infected. So the surgeon went into Amy’s skull and basically hollowed and cleared out that whole space.

Amy had been so seriously ill and was so concerned about the situation that she was fearful she might not make it through surgery. She promised herself that if she made it through surgery, she’d make a major life change and do something different for work.

For a while after her surgery, Amy went back to work and kept at it. She’d been put on a 3-month flying restraint, so she wasn’t able to keep up the travel schedule she’d maintained prior to surgery. Work just wasn’t the same.

Amy remembered the promise she’d made to herself – that if she made it through surgery, she’d make a major life change and do something different for work.

Years prior, Amy and her husband, Marc, had been dreaming and spent time online searching for business ideas they might be interested in pursuing in the future. One business in particular, Woodhouse Day Spa, captured and kept their attention all those years. Yes, that online search never escaped Amy’s mind. She knew she was happiest when she was working face-to-face with people. A spa seemed like a fit with her personality and professional experience. So when the three-month flying restraint lifted, Amy and Marc planned a visit to Woodhouse Day Spa in Texas, which ultimately had to be canceled due to issues at home and work.

While it was certainly disappointing that Amy and Marc had to cancel their first trip to Woodhouse Day Spa, Amy received crazy confirmation she was on the right track with the spa idea! On Valentine’s Day 2015 – while Woodhouse was still a dream, before they’d visited Woodhouse in Texas – Marc purchased Amy a spa day in Minneapolis. After an incredible day at the spa, Amy stopped at Kowalski’s, a local grocery store, to purchase Valentine’s gifts for her children. When she was perusing through MadLibs and other activity books for her children, she found an envelope tied in yarn with “OPEN ME!” penned in caps on the front.

On the inside it read…

“Hi friend! Thank you for picking this up, because I am about to make your day! You have found this because you need to be reminded that you are an amazing, beautiful, and lovable human being! Thank yourself for finding this and giving yourself the chance to put YOU first, and to let yourself shine your light! Be the light that you are, and share your gifts, because there is only ONE of you, and nobody else can be you, but you! You are not a mistake or a left-over; you are Divine! You are magnificent! Ask yourself whether you are truly living for you – and if you’re not, well…do it. Have no fear, because the universe WILL support you. Stay strong, because you are on the right path! Love, Your Earth Angel.”

Amy looked all over Kowalski’s to see if that Earth Angel had left cards all over the place. But NO. There was only ONE letter in Kowalski’s that day. The ONE Amy found.

That spring of 2015, Amy and Marc made their long-awaited trip to Woodhouse Day Spa in Texas. After the visit, it took them two weeks to sign an agreement to open a Woodhouse Day Spa in Minnesota. Amy admits that her husband, Marc, was “blindly supportive” of her business adventure. “I had to make a decision quickly because I knew my head would overrule my instinct,” said Amy. “If I don’t do it now, when will I do it?”

In August 2015, Amy gave her official notice at work.

When she made the news public, a lot of people weren’t sure what to make of her decision to leave agency life to open Woodhouse Day Spa, saying things like “Woah. You’re taking a big risk.” Amy has learned that you “Can’t listen to people who doubt you. You have to choose who to listen to.”

Plans moved forward.

Amy and Marc selected a location for their soon-to-be Woodhouse Day Spa.

Construction began!

“Every day it was the best and the worst decision I ever made,” noted Amy.

On August 13 & 14, 2016, Woodhouse Day Spa opened for family and friends only.

August 15, 2016, marked the first day Woodhouse was open to the public.

October 15, 2016, was the Grand Opening of Woodhouse Day Spa at The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes in Maple Grove, Minnesota. The Grand Opening was a reminder to Amy that this was REAL, this was actually happening, this dream had come to life! Amy remembers her husband, Marc, leaning over during the Grand Opening and telling her “You should be so proud of yourself.” How many people get to fulfill and live out their dreams in such a big, tangible and visible way?

Since opening Woodhouse Day Spa, Amy has “learned more in the last six months than [she had] in 10 years.”

“I still feel like the boss is going to show up,” admitted Amy. “I hope I can make someone’s day better. We need to fill them back up today. What can we do to anticipate needs?”

More often than not, guests come to the spa to celebrate a special occasion such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries or girls’ day out. But there are other, more sobering moments in life in which the spa can soothe a guest’s soul, including illnesses, miscarriages and major life transitions.

Amy and the providers at Woodhouse draw out their guests’ needs and familiarize themselves with what brings guests in for services. When they know the guest’s favorite color, favorite coffee, favorite sweet treat, current challenges and issues, they’re best able to serve them. Amy appreciates specificity. If guests tell her what they’re looking for, she’s willing to accommodate. “We are palms up. We wait with baited breath as they check out hoping they had an amazing experience,” says Amy about her approach to customer service. “But things don’t always go perfectly,” admits Amy. If the guest did not have an amazing experience, they “make it right.” If, for any reason, an employee feels like their client didn’t have a great service, Amy works to resolve the situation and meet the needs of the guest.

Amy has 24 providers on payroll at Woodhouse. She is committed to a thorough interview process for employees, hiring “extremely talented and trained therapists to set us up for having excellent service results.” Amy prides herself on paying employees a living wage, and loves hearing stories of how employees have connected with guests. “We are all about long-term relationships and making a positive impact on our guests’ wellness and happiness. This happens by developing a relationship [built] on trust.”

“The big question is AM I DOING ENOUGH?” said Amy.

Now that the spa has been open for seven months, Amy is committed to continue bringing in new guests while retaining guests who have been in for services.

Amy and the providers at Woodhouse Day Spa go above and beyond, anticipating and meeting the needs of every guest. “There’s nothing I’ve put in this business that I’m going to take away,” proclaimed Amy with a sense of assuredness.

“We always ask who we can thank,” noted Amy. Who can they thank for calling? Who can they thank for walking in? Who can they thank for referrals?

Woodhouse always has fresh flowers at the spa. They bring in guest favorites – special sodas, sweet treats, anything that will make their day. The night before, they create a personalized welcome sign, and lay out the proper robe and shoe size by the guest’s locker in the changing area. This month, they’re leaving spring treats by each guest’s welcome sign. After guests have changed into their robe and sandals, they’re escorted to a luxurious waiting area filled with plush chairs, cozy blankets and reading material where they can rest and rejuvenate in peace and quiet. Guests are offered the gracious gift of a warm neck wrap, are pointed to treats and snacks on the side table, and are promptly delivered water or a warm beverage of choice. Once the guest is on the table, providers have permission to use any product needed to provide top-notch service. When the spa service is complete, Woodhouse leaves a box for each guest with a note from the provider, a complimentary gift, and products used during the service in case they wish to purchase anything for use at home. Amy is intentional about communication, sending each guest a hand-written thank you after their service.

Recently, Amy traveled to Texas for a marketing meeting. Four Woodhouse Day Spa owners were selected to work with the home office to design the Woodhouse Day Spa brand story. “Ultimately, it was an incredible opportunity to speak with very experienced owners about some of the challenges I have as a new owner. We discussed guest experience more than anything. I was reenergized as an owner, and ready to take my business to the next level of guest experience,” Amy reported enthusiastically.

Opening the spa was “stepping way out of the box” for Amy. Business ownership triggered a healthy fear in her. Without a doubt, those of us who have taken risks and made life-changing decisions to follow our dreams know that stepping way out of the box is certain to trigger fear. Perhaps the founder of Woodhouse Day Spa said it best when she encouraged Amy with these words of wisdom at the marketing meeting: “There comes a time when you replace FEAR with FAITH.”

With that, Amy was reminded of the day she sent her sister through the spa to provide impressions from a guest perspective. After a splendid and relaxing day at Woodhouse Day Spa, Amy’s sister encouraged her with this truth. “All the things you’re worried about are invisible to your guests.”

Fear or Faith?

“How do you want to live the rest of your life?,” Amy says poignantly as she reflects on the weeks, months, days and years that brought her to this moment at Woodhouse Day Spa.

Welcome, Amy. Welcome to the Sisterhood of Significance. See the significance of your story.

On January 6, 2017, I woke with a crystal clear vision for the Sisterhood of Significance. I shared my story of significance on March 8, 2017, then passed the torch and nominated Amy as the next member of the Sisterhood of Significance. I’m excited to announce that Amy has nominated Kristine who will ALSO become a member of the Sisterhood of Significance! Soon, I’ll be meeting with Kristine. She’ll share her story of significance, I’ll take notes and photographs, and will feature her story on the site. Kristine will pass the torch and nominate someone who’s living a life of significance, whether they know it or not, whether they believe it or not. And that woman will join the Sisterhood! So goes the chain, on and on, until we have hundreds of women in the Sisterhood of Significance. Follow the hashtags #theSOS and #SisterhoodofSignificance, and CLICK HERE to learn more about the Sisterhood of Significance!


I woke at 5:07 a.m. on Friday, December 16, 2016. Within a couple minutes of waking, I felt a tingle rush down my left arm. This wasn’t your average “my arm fell asleep” kind of tingle. It was different. Significant.

I’d been feeling tiny pains in my heart on and off since February 2014, the night before I left for Haiti. And for months prior to this particular day, I’d had several spells of unexplained dizziness when standing. Add to that three weeks of unusually elevated stress including two days of appointments at Mayo Clinic for my husband’s eye cancer, returning home to grandma and three kids with head lice that would NOT GO AWAY for NINE DAYS, my husband’s birthday, my last published post on my old blog and a new website in development, my daughter’s birthday and birthday party, one early Christmas with my side of the family at our house, and preparations for an early Christmas with my husband’s side of the family. Add to that 12 years of significant stress, including my dad’s layoff from his job two years before retirement; my sister’s SIX YEARS of significant addiction and mental health issues followed by two pregnancies with two children, one who had a serious medical problem requiring surgery three days after birth; my brother’s accident; my dad’s heart attack; my husband’s eye cancer; my dad’s rare lung disease which lead to a lung transplant; my mother-in-law’s heart attack; several years of chronic bleeding with multiple doctor visits and no answers; a vocation change; lice not once, but THREE times; and other diagnoses and discoveries we’ve chosen to keep private.

I was CERTAIN. Absolutely CONVINCED that morning of December 16, 2016, that with the tingling down my arm, the pains in my heart, unexplained dizziness and ALL the stress both long-term and short-term, that I was HAVING A HEART ATTACK.

I grabbed my phone from the nightstand, typed “symptoms of heart attack in women” into Google, and began reading the first article that popped up. No kidding. I didn’t even make it half way through the article and my heart began beating SO fast, SO out of control, SO out of my chest that I knew something was terribly wrong. My husband was sleeping, so I gave him a swift and hefty nudge.

“I need to go to the hospital. I don’t feel well.”

“What?” he said as he pushed himself slightly up and out of sleeping position. “Are you serious?”

“Yes, I NEED to go to the hospital. Call 911 RIGHT NOW. I don’t feel well at all!”

I wasn’t sure my husband believed me. This was totally random. It was still 5-something in the morning. I’d woken him from a deep slumber, asking him to call 911 and get me to the hospital.

“I’m not kidding! I’m going to DIE!!!! Call. 911. NOW! I’m having a heart attack!!!” I yelled in a panic over my symptoms and my husband’s disbelief and disobedience over not calling 911 the millisecond I asked him to.

My 11-year-old daughter rushed in our room after hearing me yell “I’m going to die.” I gave her a hug, held her hand tight alongside the bed, told her I loved her so much and that they need to call 911 right away!

At that point, I’m pretty sure my husband started to take the situation seriously. He whipped his clothes on and called 911. As soon as he connected with 911, we got me down the stairs. I hugged all three kids as big as I could, told them I loved them SO much and to hang on until we could get a neighbor to come over to watch them, and made my way to the cold car. If I was, indeed, having a heart attack, and if, indeed, it was going to be fatal, I knew this was a beyond-traumatic way for my kids to see their mom one last time. In the panic of the moment, I did my best to reassure them of my love and give them one last memory of their mom holding their hand as she rushed to take care of her health. It was, indeed, a memory four of us will never forget.

After taking my heart rate and hearing my symptoms, 911 confirmed that they should send emergency services. An ambulance was on its way.

My husband helped me back in the house.

I lay flat on the living room couch with my blue snowflake pajamas and disheveled morning hair. My arm wasn’t tingling anymore, but my heart rate was still unusually elevated, far beyond anything I’d ever felt working out faithfully for 11 years. I was dizzy, lightheaded, nauseous and shaky. I felt weak and disconnected from my surroundings. I was going crazy, having a heart attack or dying…perhaps all three.

Before I knew it, my neighbor who’s a firefighter was kneeling beside me. His wife was in the background gathering our kids and basic belongings so they could hang at our neighbor’s house before school.

An ambulance and two medics arrived. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care. The Christmas tree was decked to the nines with red ribbon, sparkly poinsettias and Hallmark ornaments aplenty. And there I was on the couch having a heart attack…or not.

This was absolutely, without a doubt, the most humbling and humiliating experience of my life. 

One male medic and one female medic rushed in the front door with their medical equipment. They asked about my symptoms and took my pulse and blood pressure. Still super high. Unusually elevated considering I was just lying on the couch. They listened and decided to take a quick EKG to see if any unusual heart activity could be detected.

Nothing. Nada. No unusual heart activity except my reported symptoms and extraordinarily high heart rate.

I KNOW myself. I KNOW my body. I KNEW something had happened and was terribly wrong.

I also happen to be a highly sensitive and intuitive individual.

I sensed pretty quickly that the male medic didn’t believe me. He thought I was some crazy person, that I was making all of this up, that there was no heart attack happening here, that it was high time for them to get out of our house and let us take care of this in our own due time. Okay, perhaps I’m being overly sensitive, but everything I read from the male medic’s body language was dismissive rather than supportive. I didn’t need any sort of dismissive. Dismissiveness, whether subtle or outright, is not a way to handle anyone’s story.

What did I have to lose in that moment? I’d already lost all sense of dignity. Heck, I was humbled prone on the couch.

“I know you don’t believe me,” I exclaimed as respectfully and NOT-crazy-person as possible to the male medic, “but I’ve been working out for 11 years and I know my body. I’ve never, ever experienced anything like this in my entire life. Something happened. Something is wrong.”

“Let’s see if you can get up and walk around a bit,” said Jordan. I got up. Made a few slow laps around our kitchen island. “Have you experienced any stress lately?” inquired one of the medics. “Yes. Significant stress for many years.” I shared the stress in a sentence or two, knowing full well that reality was more like a book.

Humbled and humiliated, I got back on the couch.

We decided, reluctantly, that the medics and ambulance would leave, that we would drive ourselves to the ER.

It hit me. I started crying as they looked at me one last time and made their way out. Something significant happened. We called 911. I traumatized our kids. Our neighbors came over. An ambulance and two medics came to my house at a freaky early morning hour. And now they were all gone. It was just me and my husband. Something had happened to my body AND I was crazy all at the same time.

A half hour later, we found ourselves in the emergency room.

Four hours later, after physician interviews, a chest x-ray, another EKG, TWO enzyme tests used to detect a heart attack, and continuous blood pressure and heart rate monitoring showing my pulse was still totally out of control, it was determined that I had NOT had a heart attack, but a PANIC ATTACK.

Yes, this was definitely the most humiliating experience of my entire LIFE.

The only consolation was the emergency room doctor who said she could see in my eyes that it had all been too much, that I had been through a lot and my system crashed once and for all. She said she wouldn’t have been surprised if my enzyme tests had come back positive considering my unusually high heart rate for all those hours; she’s seen runners leak enzymes at those heart rates post-marathons. Yes, she assured me that my heart was, in fact, INCREDIBLY STRONG.

That was Friday.

I had another panic attack on Sunday and another on Monday. On Monday, I made a doctor appointment for Friday; I’d read up on panic attacks and had no interest in this moving into the realm of panic disorder. Tuesday and Wednesday were okay, but my nerves were COMPLETELY FRAYED that whole week. I could feel my heart beating ALL the TIME. I had to move quarter to half my normal pace just to fend off another panic attack. I did very little around the house and had to take breaks to sit or lie down throughout the day. Thursday I had a panic attack. Friday I had a panic attack in the morning and was NOT well when I went in for the doctor appointment. I scored top of the charts on the anxiety test and began a medication that’s used to treat panic attacks that same day. Christmas Eve afternoon was terrible. I’m pretty sure I had panic attacks, one after another, all through Christmas Eve service. I only slept 3 hours overnight from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day because I was cycling through panic attacks all night long and was certain I was going to land in the hospital again. Yes, it was that bad.

Thank the LORD, my last panic attack was late Christmas morning on our way to the airport. Praise the LORD, we just happened to be heading to Orlando that afternoon for a 4-day family vacation. God knew I would need to get away.

The medication kicked in. I was able to enjoy the vacation and haven’t had a panic attack since late Christmas morning.

From then on, I knew life had to change.

I knew I needed to take better care of myself if I was going to continue taking care of others.

I KNEW I needed to see the significance of my OWN story. 

Since January 11th, I’ve consulted once a month with our neighbor who’s a rockstar personal trainer. I’ve eaten more salads in the past two months than I had in a year. I increased my workouts from 2x/week to 3x/week, and am lifting serious weights EVERY workout which is a notable change from my mostly-cardio workouts. I’ve cut back significantly on sugar, fast food and mindless late-night snacking, and I’m generally eating with MUCH more intentionality. Every day without fail, I log my nutrition on My Fitness Pal. I’ve lost 7 pounds in 8 weeks.

The last day I drank caffeinated beverages was December 15th, the day before my first panic attack. I started going to bed an hour earlier and have been sleeping MUCH better.

I’ve said NO to some things and YES to new things.

I’m trying to reach out when I sense I’m in need of encouragement, community and connection.

Slowly, but surely, I’m allowing myself to dream again.

Something had to change. Praise God, things are changing. For He works ALL things together for those who love Him. He makes ALL things beautiful in their time. THIS is my story and I’m sticking to it.

So here we are. So much has happened since I began working on this new site on November 7, 2016. So much has happened since I shared my last post on the old blog on December 12, 2016. God has worked mightily, and although life has brought new and unexpected challenges, I am 100% confident that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

You might be asking yourself “So why did you tell us this long and crazy story? Now what?!”

Well, let me tell you, friends!

If you followed my story for a while, you know this website is NEW, just launched TODAY! After four months of hard work, I’m so excited to finally have this site up and running, and can’t wait for you to look around. But before you take a peek at our new online home, let me explain where we’re heading from here!

Moving forward, this site will feature four categories of stories:

1. Stories by Me.

ONCE a month, I will write on ONE of four topics, including DREAMS, HEALTH, FAMILY, and REAL LIFE.

2. Stories by My Sister.

Tiffany is a mother of two and has schizoaffective disorder – bipolar type. ONCE a month, Tiffany will write on ONE of four topics, including MENTAL HEALTH & SELF CARE, MOTHERHOOD, DAILY LIVING, and RELATIONSHIPS.

3. Photo Stories

Some photo stories will be simple, featuring my favorite photographs from recent shoots. There will also be full-length stories for people who choose to pay extra for a photo shoot, interview and written story in honor of a special occasion or major life event!

4. Featured “Sisterhood of Significance” Stories

Last, but DEFINITELY not least, I’m beyond excited to announce that I’m launching a long-term series called the “Sisterhood of Significance.” For the past 4 years 8 months, I’ve been sharing my story and others’ stories on my blog. Today, in honor of the new website launch, I shared an incredibly vulnerable and personal part of my story for a reason.

I love stories. I believe strongly that everyone has a story, a story worth knowing and worth telling. Good, bad, beautiful and ugly, your story is significant. I want you to see, more than anything else, the significance of your story.  So we’ll meet. We’ll talk. We’ll get to know each other. I’ll ask questions and I’ll listen to your story. Then I’ll use words and photographs to help you see and share the significance of your story.

Two months ago, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. with a crystal clear vision for how the “Sisterhood of Significance” will work! I started the chain today by sharing my story. I’m passing the torch and nominating my college friend and day spa owner, Amy, as next in the “Sisterhood of Significance.” Next week, I’m meeting with Amy. She’ll share her story of significance, I’ll take notes and photographs, and I’ll feature her story on the site! Amy will pass the torch and nominate someone who’s living a life of significance, whether they believe it or not. That person, if they agree to be interviewed and featured on the site, will join our “Sisterhood of Significance.” And so goes the chain, on and on, until we have hundreds of women in our “Sisterhood of Significance.”

The original “Sisterhood of Significance” chain can and will pause and resume on an as needed basis. New story chains will be inserted when I launch special series. I won’t go into detail about how that will work now, but the possibilities are endless, exciting and totally in line with all the visions I’ve ever had.

One more P.S. I’ve dreamed up something super amazing for this “Sisterhood of Significance.” How about a “Sisterhood of Significance Gala” where we take one night, once a year, to honor all the women that have been featured in the series?! I’m just going to put that dream out there and won’t mention it again unless it comes to life. But wouldn’t that be awesome?

One story. One woman at a time. Let’s do this. See the significance of your story.

  1. Thank you for sharing your story.  As someone who suffers with anxiety, I know panic attacks can be extremely scary.  I’m glad you are doing better!

    • Amy says:

      So glad you could relate to the post, Amanda. Thank you for your well wishes. I am feeling a LOT better than I did in December. Have a fantastic weekend!

  2. Raquel says:

    Love the honesty and transparency you are writing about. Cannot wait to read more. Sidenote: I have a gift card to your friend’s spa that I cannot wait to use!

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