Meet Pet Artist Jan Hellwege

If you’ve ever heard, “Yes, but that’s not a real job,” then you know where this post is coming from. You may have been nine when you heard it and said you wanted to be in the circus or 12 like I was and said you wanted to write novels or even 18 and said you wanted to race motorcycles. It doesn’t matter what “it” is, people will have an opinion on your passion turning a profit. YOU may not even believe it’s a real job! Today our mermaid made the bold choice to become an artist despite the “odds of success.” She’s also an example of a second and mid-life career, which I’m a huge proponent of. I believe we’re on this earth to constantly grow and evolve and that means you will end up doing many fantastic things in your one life. I love her tenacity and am thrilled to share her mermaid tale with you. Welcome Jan Hellwege to our sea and if you’re in O-K-C, go visit her in the Paseo.

ML: Tell us about the moment you made the deep dive for your dream.

Jan Hellwege
Artist Jan Hellwege

JH: It was always a dream of mine, to be a fine artist but I didn’t think that was a real job. My stepfather offered to help me go to my hometown college and take secretarial classes…blaah! So I did the only creative thing I knew at the time and that was to get a Cosmetology license and become a hairdresser. I worked for a year out of high school, then married my high school boyfriend and became a Navy wife. We started a family a few years later. The year was 1980 and my three daughters were in preschool, grade school and Jr. High. I had been a stay-at-home mom for about fifteen years when a friend talked me into taking a college class with her. I was not sure I could focus at the college level, after so many years of watching Mr. Rogers and reading Dr. Seuss books. But after realizing my brain could still function, I enrolled in some other classes including an art class. The art teacher was so supportive and encouraged me to carry on. That was a turning point. With no money in our budget for college, I had garage sales to buy books and pay tuition for the first couple of years. Art classes proved to be a good fit for me. I thought “At last, I have found my people!”

Halfway through college, divorce happened. The challenge elevated. With no alimony and unreliable, minimal child support, I obviously had to get a job. I knew life would be harder for a longer period of time if I quit than if I just kept going.  I needed a job with benefits and a retirement plan. So, I pulled out my old Cosmetology licence from 1964, which I had thankfully kept up-to-date. I got a job in a walk-in salon which allowed me to work around my class schedule. I cleaned houses on my days off and managed a cosmetic counter in a department store for one summer.

Jan 2
Jan with some fur babies.

ML: I love this on so many levels. Mermaids know it takes a helluva lot of hard work to reach our goals and that means working like Cinderella before the ball. And even better, you didn’t STOP going to college just because you needed a job. Yes to keeping your dream alive while doing what it to get there. You mentioned your divorce and the extra financial pressure that put on your family and your dreams. How did/do you overcome adversity?

JH: Those were very hard years for me and my girls; emotionally, physically and financially. Some days, I was not sure if I could make ends meet but I learned to rely on my faith in God to provide for us a home, food, clothing, gas for the car and you name it. He never let me down, which is a whole, other story in itself. I was able to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Art with the help of academic scholarships, grants and loans and was hired by a utility company as their Graphic Artist. The challenge of learning was far from over. Between the time I got my degree and the time I got the job, the entire graphics arts industry went digital. I didn’t know anything about computers. My first day on the job, I was on a plane to Atlanta for computer graphics training. (I felt like the wife in the movie “Mr. Mom” when she reached over to cut up her boss’s steak). I had one month to learn computer graphics before a grand opening of the company’s economic development department. But after many tears and frustration, I did it! The first one through the door on the big day was the Governor, followed by TV cameras, newspaper reporters and almost every politician in the state of Oklahoma, all wanting to see what I could do with this new state-of-the-art equipment.

It all worked out for the good. I ended up in the corporate communications department designing the company magazine, logos, brochures and etc. I retired after twenty-three years with the company. Now, after putting my fine art on hold for all those years, I get to paint in my wonderful studio almost every day! My art is sold at the Contemporary Art Gallery on Paseo, Oklahoma City. Through it all, I learned that God will be with you through the worst times – no matter how confused you are or how insecure you feel and that you can live your dream.

Jan Horse
Beautiful Black Stallion painting by Jan.

ML: Ah, timing is everything, sometimes. I love that you circled back to your first love in fine art and that you found a niche in painting animals, too. What are your favorite tool(s) for enlightened living (presence, intention, action)?

JH: Write down your goals, put the paper away and get it out in one year. You will be surprised at what you have achieved. Yoga, tennis, kick boxing, ballroom dancing and travelling abroad are some of the goals I set when I turned fifty. I did them all and more and I’m still making lists even at age seventy.

Jan 3
One of the pets that Jan paints available for adoption.



ML: Gratitude is the key to happiness, I think. What always brings a smile to your face?

JH: The pride I felt in earning that Art Degree under adverse circumstances does not even compare to the pride I feel in having raised four, strong, beautiful and intelligent daughters in the midst of such uncertainty. I strive to reflect love, peace and happiness in my work. As a lover of nature and an advocate for pet adoption, twenty percent of my commissioned pet portraits goes to a animal rescue. It’s my way of giving back.

Connect with Jan and see her beautiful artwork here:

Jan Hellwege

Contemporary Art Gallery

2928 Paseo St.

Oklahoma City, OK

73034 and

To living in the deep,


P.S. If you like the mermaid series and stories about Everyday Adventure, be sure and subscribe so it will come to you each week in your in box! And thanks for sharing the love. xo

Meet Makeup Mermaid Sharon Tabb

by Malena Lott

One of my favorite memories of my grandmother was watching her sit at her makeup counter and swipe on her red lipstick. I couldn’t wait until I could wear makeup and in the ’80s, I tried it all including the crazy neon phase.

sharon tabb
Makeup Artist Sharon Tabb

What I love most about makeup is primarily that it makes me feel on the outside what I feel on the inside. You can make up your face to fit your mood or your style from Girl Next Door to Girls’ Night Out to Date Night Diva. Or simply go with what works for you. How do you want to feel? Voila. Kind of magical.

I met Sharon years ago when we were doing a shoot for Prom Dates to Die For and I love following her career and seeing the exciting projects she’s working on. As a makeup artist for movie and magazine shoots, too, she transforms people to create character and she’s damn good at it. I love hearing her mermaid origin story because it shows that your talent and passion can show up at any time in the most unexpected places.

ML: Sharon, tell us about the moment you made the deep dive for your dream and a bit about your successes.

ST: I was a 19-year-old art major in college and had no idea what I was going to do.  I was basically told I could be an art teacher or graphic designer.  I didn’t want to do either. I worked part time at a local department store in designer dresses. I was #1 in sales but the older ladies in my department didn’t care much for the young social chatter box. I was told I talked too much and they demoted me as a floater. A floater was someone who just filled in where needed. Which is so funny because my first floating position was a month at the Chanel makeup counter covering the cosmetic girl while she was on maternity leave. I just started putting makeup on people and sold makeup like crazy. The cosmetic department wanted to keep me on and after a month they placed me at Estee Lauder counter. They said I was too young to continue work at the Chanel counter due to the clientele. It’s such a funny ironic story – at this time I thought “wow! I can do makeup and make money?” I didn’t want to stay in retail and I had big dreams of doing movie makeup. 🙂 Of course I had no idea how to make that happen but I would figure it out. This was before the Internet and YouTube.  I couldn’t afford a makeup school so through the early years I just hustled my way and taught myself until I finally got into production work.  It’s been a long journey.  I’m proud of the movies, commercials, print work, celebrities, and everyone I get the opportunity to work with.

Sharon doing make-up for jewelry designer Valerie Naifeh

ML:  How cool that what was seen as a weakness (age and talkativeness) led to exposing your talent! Tell us what always brings a smile to your face.

ST: I’m so grateful for being able to do what I love. Every day I thank God for allowing me these amazing opportunities. Part of that is making people look and feel their best is very rewarding!!!  Most people have such hang ups on certain things about themselves that others would never notice. It doesn’t help seeing all these models and celebrities always looking so picture perfect. I like to bring out the best in people and see their attitude change!
ML: Love that. I like to think of makeup as an instant mood booster. If I’m feeling blah I know a swipe of the right lipstick is going to do the trick. What’s been the biggest challenge in your life and how did/do you overcome adversity?

ST: The biggest challenge I’ve faced is having an anxiety and panic disorder.  I had my first panic attack while in Esthetician school around the age of 20 or 21.  It continued to get worse in my early twenties and I had no idea what it was that was happening to me. I was in and out of ER rooms then finally I was diagnosed. I was then put me on medication This was also before the Internet so I couldn’t Google what was wrong with me.  The medication helped the panic attacks completely go away but it also made extremely tired all the time and  I gained 80 pounds in one year.  But during this time it was good because it eliminated the panic attacks, and eventually was able to function without them.

Sharon with her son and furbabies.


ML: Thank you for sharing that. What are your favorite tool(s) for enlightened living (presence, intention, action)?

Sharon with her daughter.


ST: I love spending time with my family and pets.  My pets help me in so many ways!  I have 3 dogs and 2 cats, and  they are honestly my therapy animals.  Ha ha!  I have started exercising regularly and it is amazing!   I’ve started yoga and meditation but it’s something I need to continue to work on.

Connect with Sharon and see her work here:

Website: www.





To living in the deep,


P.S. If you like the mermaid series and stories about Everyday Adventure, be sure and subscribe so it will come to you each week in your in box! And thanks for sharing the love. xo

P.P.S. Red lipstick still rocks.


Believing in Love After Heartbreak

I combed my wet hair as thoughts of my friend’s divorce filled my head. I felt that familiar tug in my chest – a deep empathetic sadness – one perhaps only someone who has walked in those shoes can feel so richly.

As the voice in my head wondered, “When will they go public and how will they present the news? Will they change their status to ‘divorced” on Facebook and have a lot of comments like my ex did? Or go my route and just change their relationship status to ‘Ask’ and keep that divorce date to themselves and a few loved ones?”

BAM! A loud crash followed by the sound of breaking glass.

I screamed and saw in the mirror that my English Patient framed poster had fallen off the wall, behind my shoe rack. Now I was sad for another reason. I walked over, afraid to assess the damage. I read the tagline: “In love, there are no boundaries.”

IMG_9462Not only did I not want to pull the shoe rack out to see the broken glass at the bottom, but moreover, I had NOT wanted to connect my thoughts with the simultaneous crash. That somehow this message, this movie about what we do for love  (he leaves her behind in a cave to seek medical help for her only to return to her dead body later) was somehow WRONG. That maybe love DOES have boundaries.

I stood there for a long moment, sorting out my feelings. My blink reaction was that love is not always enough to make things work out the way you want or need them to. That certainly our relationships must have some boundaries – and also deal breakers – to create a healthy partnership and for being true to what works for you.

I knelt down and picked up the hanger off the floor. Even though it was the same hanger that had held up the frame for the last ten years, it couldn’t hold itself up anymore. Sometimes things that seem secure still break. 

IMG_9463I held my breath and scooted the picture out from the wall. The sound of breaking glass is unmistakeable and I was sure it had splintered on at least one corner. I could barely believe my eyes.

FullSizeRender-1There they were. Two hotties kissing with not so much as a shard of broken glass around them. Honestly, I can’t explain what I’d heard and I’m thankful it landed on carpet, but then I realized maybe (besides earthquakes shaking things around here) that it could’ve just meant I was supposed to write about this, which is something that has been on my mind a lot the past two years.

It’s important to still believe in love after heartbreak. Yes, we need time to heal and sort out the emotional blow that comes with heartache. Yet on the other side of the complete shit storm of heartbreak is that a rainbow will finally fucking emerge and it will be so damned beautiful that we will wonder why we ever lost hope that the love we were seeking was ever impossible or out of reach.

I’m a believer. Are you?

To living in the deep,


xoxo #mermaidmojo



Every Day, Adventure: Kansas City

“Whether our cities are physically bad or physically good is our responsibility” — J. C. Nichols (developer, Country Club Plaza, est. 1929)

“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.” — Danny Kaye

Wasn’t hard to develop a big ol’ travel crush on Kansas City in just a weekend. Barbecue, storms, champagne, romance, shopping – a little something for everyone. Recommend all of the eateries featured, whole-heartedly.

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If I let the threat of thunderstorms keep me from an adventure, I’d never go anywhere. 80% of my trips seems to involve rain or thunder. That’s okay. If you let the weathergods dictate your life, you will see life only from your living room couch. | View from Intercontinental . Would be a tad more convenient on the other side the street/river, but there are lots of hotel choices in the plaza.


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Catching up with an ol’ college buddy of Chris’, James. Listening to your mate tell the story of how you met never gets old.


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Kansas City is known for its statues and Spanish-inspired gardens and fountains. This booty-full one sits in front of Seasons 52.

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I love a great cityscape shot at night, don’t you? You’ll eat well in Kansas City, but you can walk it off in the plaza or even running or biking by the river.

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Popular breakfast spot – worth the wait – and how pretty is my mocha? Eggtc.

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What I feel like on a good day.

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I do so love a good old train station. Kansas City turned this one into a full entertainment center with a museum, cafe and cinema. Union Station est. 1914.

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With my favorite fellow explorer on the third level of Union Station. Nice when someone offers to take your pic so you don’t have a phone full of vacation selfies, huh?

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Last day of the Da Vinci exhibit at Union Station. As my readers know, Da Vinci is my all time favorite genius/mentor/crush for his weird, fabulous mind as the ultimate Renaissance man (which inspired Dating da Vinci). The exhibit wasn’t exactly worth the hour long wait in line but it was nice to see his ideas turned into models.

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That exhibit called for an afternoon snack. (Can barbecue be a “snack”?) Interior at Jack Stack, est. 1957. Get the burnt ends. Trust me on this.

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I ordered a cheap wine while Chris was away for two minutes. Ugh. Lesson learned. I really should be better at this by now.

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My kind of brick graffiti art.

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See? The sun really will come out tomorrow!

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A little cloud porn, bridge edition.

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If I had to pick a favorite place, I’d say it was Gram & Dun in the plaza where we met James and his wife Piper for dinner. Cool ambiance, great food. Too bad I was still a little full from that “snack.” I ordered the burnt ends mac & cheese (can we say obsessed?), but I resisted taking my leftovers back to the hotel for a late night “snack”. (Who says there are no regrets in life?)

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Gram & Dun. Sliding windows, cool patio. A little noisy when full, but I could just be getting old. #speakup #lipreading

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What happens when the waiter tell you you don’t have to wait for the bathroom you are standing right next to because there’s one across the restaurant and down a flight of stairs and down another long hallway…in stilettos! Thanks, man. I snapped this private room down there, though. #didn’tbreakmyneck

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As were were leaving Gram & Dun, we see people enjoying the patio and I wanted to hop over and live there…

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In researching restaurants and asking friends, they all recommended this cool little champagne bar, Ca/Va. Nice double meaning. Cava is a sparkling wine and in French, Ca va means roughly, “I am fine.” Quaint size, pretty good selection of bubbly. Wish we had places like this in OKC.

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On the patio at Ca/Va. We clean up nice, yeah?

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Final morning. View from Brio Tuscan Grille in the plaza, which was my second favorite spot and favorite meal. I need Sicilian omelettes in my life, forevs.

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I mean, Seriously! Sicilian Omelette @ Brio

Cherrywood smoked ham, bacon, sausage, caramelized onions, tomato compote, Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, brunch potatoes 12.75

That’s all, my gorgeous Mers. I write Every Day Adventure posts to share cool spaces and adventures to inspire others to get out of their own ponds and see the world anew. Good to remember that life is pretty awesome when you make time to enjoy it. So where are you headed this summer? Would love to hear in comments.

Next up: Eureka Springs and Cancun. Finally got me a passport. Look out, world.

To living in the deep,


xo and pass the omelette

Meet Teacher/Sister Mermaid Tina Ross

I tried to remember the first time I met Tina. I was told I was so mad upon her arrival that

Tina (left), Me (crying, right)

I held my breath until I passed out. If that’s the case, I guess I’ve been a drama queen since 14 months of age. Tina and I are nearly Irish twins yet she relishes that I’m the “older sister”. Actually, I love being the big sis to her and our younger sister Amanda and on this Mother’s Day and the end of National Teacher Appreciation Week, I knew I had to make a splash about my mermaid teacher/sister Tina.

When we were younger I was the one who wanted to be the teacher but as I grew older I realized it was just because I liked to be the one at the head of the class holding the chalk, i.e. the “power” and attention. No, Tina is the teacher of the family and got an early childhood education degree followed by certification as a special ed teacher, specifically working with emotionally disturbed kids and I know she goes through a lot of stress and paperwork but she loves those kids and her job.
Stairstep sisters.
Stairstep sisters.
In addition to being a teacher and mom, she runs half marathons lickety-split and she’s always up for a Starbucks run with me (the only kind of running I do.) I can also count on her to join me in adventures like two years ago when we hiked 8 miles at Black Mesa, the tallest point in Oklahoma. And in two weeks our families are going camping together in Eureka Springs.  I’m so thankful to have her in my life and to get to introduce you to her today.

Our Wonder Women pose after reaching the top of Black Mesa.
Our Wonder Women pose after reaching the top of Black Mesa.
ML: Tina, tell us about the moment you made the deep dive for your dream in helping kids with special needs and some of your successes you are most proud of from over the years.20160414_175304
TR: This is my 20th year in education! After 2 years teaching at Head Start, I taught regular 4th and 5th grade for 10 years.  This is my 8th year in special education.  I teach 2nd to 5th graders, but I have had early childhood and even high school kids on my caseload.  I teach mainly reading, math, and written language.  My students’ needs range from developmentally delayed, specific learning disability, intellectually disabled, hearing and vision impaired, to some of my most special and challenging kids with an emotional or behavioral disability.  I spend the most time with my ED and BD kids, so therefore I become closest to them.
I would say that my most proud moments and successes are when my students learn something new, cope with stresses, overcome triggers, and develop social skills.  I follow Love and Logic practices, which is effective with all children.  There will always be those few that need in patient care before public ed. is appropriate, but we give every child a chance to succeed and each one makes an impact on my life.
On a personal note, my two teenage sons, Joshua and Jacob, make me incredibly proud.  Both boys are so smart, take schoolwork seriously, have part time jobs in construction, and are kind to each other and me.  That says a lot!
ML: Tina, what always brings a smile to your face?
TR: My husband doing dishes makes me smile.  Lol.  My love language is acts of service, and he speaks that really well!  Quality time with my boys makes me incredibly happy, because teen boys are struggling to be independent from their parents, especially Mom, so any time I do get is valued immensely.  One of my loves is running, so I have to put running outside with my husband, Doug, and my running friends, as an all time favorite of mine!
ML: What’s been the biggest challenge in your life what did/do you overcome adversity?
TR: The biggest challenge for me to overcome was my shyness and insecurities as a youth.  In grade school and middle school I was painfully shy and insecure, and I struggled with self-confidence through out my adolescence.  But with each achievement in college and then professionally as a teacher, my self-esteem has grown.  I recognize the difference I make in the lives of my students who have worse situations and adversities than I’ve had, I delight in seeing my own children work through similar middle school issues with strength and courage, and I enjoy the love and support from my colleagues, friends, and family.
I overcome adversity by reaching out to people and asking for wisdom and guidance.  There are things I could not have managed to get through without the love, encouragement, knowledge of others, and my determination and belief that this too shall pass. 20160424_090924
ML: I’m so thrilled not only that we got to grow up together and still journey through the good and tough times together. I love that we both resonated so much with Eckhart Tolle and his teachings. What are your favorite tool(s) for enlightened living (presence, intention, action)?
TR: I begin each day with an Inspirational Bible Verse and coffee, sometimes after a good run with some friends.   I am a realist, and I sometimes feel hopeless about a situation with a student, but as soon as I walk into my classroom I am revived and motivated to make it an amazing day.  I greet whomever walks into my classroom and my home with a friendly Hello!  I am happy to see each and every student, guest, and family member who enters.  I want to know how everyone is doing, and to keep relationships in my life positive.
 I am deliberate in what I eat, and try to be present while eating.  This is a new discipline for me, because as a young lady I struggled with poor eating and body image.  It feels terrific to love and respect my body as it is, and just want to keep it healthy!  Aging isn’t fun, but maturing and gaining wisdom I can pass on to the younger generation makes it all worth it!
Share or connect with Tina here:
Twitter: @dougtina
Instagram: tinaross01
Facebook: Tina Brown Ross
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mama readers out there! Mothers are our first and best life-long teachers.

To living in the deep,


P.S. If you like the mermaid series, be sure and subscribe so it will come to you each week in your in box! And thanks for sharing the love. xo

I’ll be back with two Every day Adventure posts up next – one from Kansas City and I’ll let you know how we survived tent camping in Eureka Springs!

Meet Publicity Mermaid Cyndy Hoenig

“Oh, honey, let me tell you…”

That’s how a lot of conversations begin with the bold, highly-energetic PR Rock Star Cyndy Hoenig. She’s one of those souls who isn’t afraid to talk about anything and she’s quick to use stories of her own mistakes in life as lessons for the listener. She’s also quick with genuine compliments and connections. I’ve worked with her, laughed with her and even published a PR advice book with her. Her Hollywood stories are almost as entertaining as her personal life and it’s a joy to laugh about life with her. I never know what she’s going to say which is refreshing. She’s a true “bootstraps” success story, only those boots have stiletto heels – yet its others’ success she really cares about. Meet today’s Mermaid Cyndy Hoenig of Pure PR.

ML: Tell us about the moment you made the deep dive for your dream in PR and some favorite successes.

Cyndy Hoenig and her wall of fame

CH:  In 1991 I was living in Los Angeles, going through a divorce, with 4 daughters, 2 in private school and 2 in college. No job, no prospects. The hubs took the money from the savings account and my favorite cookbook. He left us for the 4th lead in his latest film (which you can see late night on Cinemax), a French woman who spoke no English.

I had $800 to my name. The house payments hadn’t been made in 4 months I found out and the bank was taking over. I didn’t even have a car as psycho took it, too. I had no skills, and no resume, except for a one pager from my membership in the Oklahoma City Junior League, a placement sheet they called it. I was, needless to say, desperate. I pulled out my address book and started making calls. When I got to the G’s, I called Larry Goldman, an exec VP at Bender, Goldman & Helper, a prestigious PR firm in Santa Monica. He told me to come in for an interview. That very day. I did, he looked at my “resume,” if you can call it that, and deemed it “just fine.” That was it. I didn’t hear from him again for 5 months. Need to backtrack here. I waited 2 weeks after that interview and started to call Mr. Goldman.

In the meantime, I had to get a job. I worked at a reservation center answering phones from people needing to change an air, car, or hotel reservation. In the middle of the night. I got home every morning just in time to take the girls to school. I made $500/week.

Back to Mr. Goldman: I called that man every week for 5 months. He finally took my call, said there was an opening, and had me come in again. To Santa Monica I go, as fast as I can. Dressed to the 9’s in 90’s style. Black and white polka dots with red shoes. I was hired. As an assistant to a child. A woman 17 years my junior. I could have given birth to her, and everyone else in the office. It took 4 months to relax and realize I wasn’t getting fired. Four months to finally get it. Four months to learn how to work a Mac. Four months to learn the PR lingo. I was in! Then three more years to make it to the top: Director of the Television Division. I had made it. Oh, and that psycho who left me for Frenchie? His career never did take off, and he is living in the garage of an ex-girlfriend. Hardy har har. Happy Days are here again.

Cyndy and her beau David

In my new publicist career, I handled Suzanne Somers, Cybill Shepherd, Jim Carrey, Jennifer Lopez, John Lithgow, Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock and many, many more. I eventually moved back to OKC where I was born and raised and where my grandchildren were born and living. I own a PR agency called Pure PR. I owe it all to Larry Goldman, who unfortunately left the world too soon. I miss him every day. I will never forget where my success came from.

ML: Each week I ask our mermaids: what always brings a smile to your face?

CH: My grandchildren. They love my cooking and they love me. And, I am crazy about all 8 of them. 

ML: What’s been the biggest challenge in your life and how did/do you overcome adversity?

CH: Creating a career in the world’s most competitive field was the biggest challenge, and a successful one. Overcoming adversity? I never, ever give up.

Cyndy and Digger


ML: What are your favorite tool(s) for enlightened living (presence, intention, action)?


  • Smile. A lot.
  • Keep your head held high.
  • Treat others with respect and remember that we train people how to treat us.
  • I wake up every morning and ask myself, “What can I do today to further my career?”
  • When I’m feeling low, I try to do something for someone else. I try to help others.


Cyndy has many ways to get in touch and follow her words of wisdom:

Twitter – @CyndyHoenig

FB – Pure PR

FB – Cyndy Hoenig Author

Linked In – Cyndy Hoenig

Pinterest – Cyndy Hoenig

Instagram – Cyndy Hendrick Hoenig

Cyndy Hendrick Hoenig Sr. Partner, Pure PR 405.245.4668-cell

To living in the deep,


P.S. If you like the mermaid series, be sure and subscribe so it will come to you each week in your in box! And thanks for sharing the love. xo

Meet Endeavor Mermaid Katrina Shaklee

Are you defined by your limits? What if you turned something that was a perceived weakness into a strength? What if you did something no one – even yourself – thought you could do?

I first met today’s Mermaid in 1991 at a family reunion in a hot hotel lobby. I went as a favor to my grandfather though I doubted I’d know any of the relatives. There I met a red-head who told me she was an incoming freshman at the University of Oklahoma, where I would be a sophomore. (Smart, pretty, great taste and related to me!)

“Are you going through rush?” I asked her.

She said “yes” and I told her I’d see her in a few weeks. I knew from the year prior it can be scary to go through sorority rush when you’re from a small town and I made Katrina my “rush baby” which basically meant I wanted her to be my Alpha Chi Omega sister and made sure everyone knew how cool she was. Luckily for us, she joined our sorority and luckily for me, she became my “lil’ sis.” We are bonded though big-hair, bad boyfriends, study hall hell, fundraising goals, and roomie chats into the wee hours of the night.

She’s a mermaid because she’s bold and brilliant. Not only was she the creator of the Endeavor Games at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, OK but she also has a great story of strength through adversity. Alpha Chi recently named my lil to be in their first Real. Strong. Women of Distinction selection, too.

Let’s jump in and meet Katrina, shall we? (Mermaid Pearls of Wisdom in bold.) 

ML: Katrina, this feels VERY GROWN UP talking to you about this, but you know I love to pull you into deep discussions, too. Tell us about the moment you made the deep dive for your dream in your field of work with UCO Endeavor games and some of your successes you are most proud of.

UCO Endeavor Games creator Katrina Shaklee


KS: I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1998, the same year I was finishing my masters degree in sport administration and getting married. My goal was to work in major league baseball and I had an internship lined up and ready to go. But the diagnosis made me question what it was I wanted to do with the rest of my life and where I wanted to be. I began to attend programs and events for people with MS and it was then that I first started thinking about people with physical disabilities and their opportunities to participate in sport. I wasn’t physically disabled, (and am still doing pretty well) but I also realized that my life could change in an instant and would want the same opportunities my able-bodied counterparts had! With that, I began to formulate the idea to host an athlete competition for individuals with physical disabilities. It was a huge leap, leaving my current job to start a new non-profit and there were no guarantees. But my supervisor, husband, friends and family encouraged me and I decided to go for it. We began planning in January of 2000 and held the first Endeavor Games in June that very year. My husband actually came up with the word “Endeavor” and I love to tell people he named the event! He is and always has been my biggest supporter and believes in the event just as much as I do.

We had always hosted the Endeavor Games on the campus of the University of Central Oklahoma and after a few years, UCO actually reached out to us to discuss a more formal partnership. By 2004, I was employed by UCO and the university had taken on the event as a way to reach out to the community. UCO’s vision to take a chance on our event was so important and led to a designation as a US Olympic and Paralympic Training Site and Community Partner. I believe that was a huge success but UCO definitely provided the opportunity. I truly belief it is rare for successes to happen solely to an individual. There was always someone else in the picture helping to make a dream become a reality.

Another success is simply seeing the athletes compete each and every year. There is nothing like it and it makes my heart smile. My favorite event is the youth group running the short distances. We have had three-year-olds running down the track into their mom’s arms at the finish line and I think I cry every year.

Personally, I am a typical proud parent. My son Cal, is 13, plays all kinds of team sports and has a great interest in politics . My daughter is nine and loves to dance, sing, and just started playing volleyball. It is fun to get to be a part of what they want to do. I just try to support them the best I can.

ML: I love that you turned your own challenge into this great gift for athletes and families and our community. Tell us, what always brings a smile to your face?

KS: When the Endeavor Games are over every year I can’t help but reflect and think of the weekend and all of the people that were impacted. I have been doing this for 17 years and always leave the event happy and satisfied. I am not involved in the day to day operations of the Games anymore as I oversee other areas, but that weekend, everyone comes together, and we make it a success and I am so grateful to have the wonderful people on our staff and as volunteers. When I started the event, J.D. and I were newlyweds with no children. Now that we have two kids, they also volunteer at the event. When I see them at the sports, engaging with the athletes and even advocating for this event, I can’t help but smile. They are my biggest fans!

ML: What’s been the biggest challenge in your life and how did/do you overcome adversity?

KS: Until last year, I would have answered this question referring back to when I was diagnosed with MS. And, it was tough. I wasn’t sure how to deal with it initially and I was very frightened. I even told J.D. he didn’t have to marry me! But he said that was ridiculous and we just moved forward. Last year, we were hit with a double whammy though. J.D. was diagnosed with kidney cancer which was discovered by accident when he had to have an emergency appendectomy. When you are faced with something so scary and you have no idea what the outcome will be, you realize how precious life really is. We prayed a lot and had family and friends rally around us. The kidney was removed, the cancer was contained and he has been cancer free since. Just three months after his diagnosis however, Cal’s appendix ruptured (I’m not sure how in the world two in our family had appendix issues the same year!). He was very sick and was in OU Children’s Hospital for a week. He couldn’t eat, he was very weak and we were extremely scared. When they were finally able to remove the appendix, seeing him being wheeled away to surgery was the most frightening moment in my life. Family is everything. We overcame by being supportive of each other, being positive and having faith. I did a UCO TedX talk last year and one of my items I talked about learning was “It will be okay”. And, in the end, it was. Cal is fine and healthier than ever. J.D. is good as well and my MS is still being managed. Life is not easy. It can be very difficult. But in the end, things tend to work out. Eleanor Roosevelt once said “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face…. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Katrina and her beautiful family


ML: What are your favorite tool(s) for enlightened living (presence, intention, action)?

KS: As evidenced above, I LOVE quotes. I have one in my office that simply reads, “Don’t let the best you have ever done be the standard for the rest of your life.” I am always looking for ways to grow myself as an individual personally and professionally. I believe in trying to give my kids different experiences and to have empathy towards all kinds of people. I love to travel as a family and also feel it is important to get away with just J.D. I enjoy hiking, playing basketball with Cal and hitting a volleyball with Kate. We ride bikes around the neighborhood as a family. To balance it out, we also watch The Goldbergs every week and the kids make fun of how we grew up in the 80’s! One of my favorite “me time” activities is just sitting on our back porch and having a glass of wine. In the end, I believe in balance and I may not always achieve balance, but I do always try.

Connect with Katrina and learn more about the UCO Endeavor games here:

Twitter – @MamaKat48

Instagram – katrina.beth

TedXUCO Link –


To living in the deep,


Just for fun- a throwback to our OU AXO days. Thanks for sharing your story, Katrina.