Silhouette of a woman face in black and white with rim lighting

What people first see when they look at me

is a strong, fit, confident woman with everything going for her. Well, they’re right. What they don’t know is how I became this person. What they don’t know is that I came from nothing. I was raised in pretty bad poverty by an addict on welfare in a house with 14 people, no working vehicles, more animals than people and meals that were sparse toward the end of the month. Sure, I went without essentials but most importantly, I went without connection with other kids as a consequence of not having a normal life. I couldn’t bring friends home and was afraid to go to theirs for fear they’d discover what my home life was really like. I knew by the time I was 11 that I was NEVER going to live like that when I grew up.

So I was alone. Not just as an only child, but in life. I was an “A” student since that was in my power to control but that was it. Imagine my teachers surprise when at 14 years old, starved for acceptance, I skipped school for the first time, and at the hands of peer pressure I lost my virginity and got pregnant all in 1 morning. (oops). I kept that baby and at 16 years old married the father, out of what I felt was a moral obligation. I jumped full force into adulthood with no support system, no friends, no local family and a backpack of my belongings. I left home, finished high school and often worked 3 jobs to keep an apartment where I rode my bicycle to and from. That guy turned out to be an abusive cheater so I left with my daughter and I was on my own with a mountain of debt and a drive to make it despite all odds. Thank goodness I made a couple friends on the way! I can’t count how many times people helped me when I could only offer my deepest thanks and gratitude in return. I wanted to give my daughter the best example I could so while working full time, I started Jr. College. I’ve always been a knowledge junkie so I was grateful for the privilege to go to any sort of college. I worked hard and graduated with honors. I was the first in my family to have a college degree but I left with more than a degree. I left that school with a newly discovered love of the human body. Anatomy and physiology were incredibly fascinating to me!

One day I noticed a “blister” on the gums of my little girl’s front teeth. I thought I had somehow burned her with food. The poor kid didn’t eat anything more than lukewarm for a month! When the “blister” came back, I took her to the dentist and found out that she had an abscess. I felt horrible. Like the world’s worst mom. (Baby teeth need to be flossed too!?) I decided that no one should have to feel that way and that dental hygiene was for me. I applied for the local program only to be put on the alternate list “in case anyone dropped out in the first month”, which happened each year that I applied…for 7 years! While I waited to get into hygiene school I worked in pediatric and general dentistry as well as Delta Dental, soaking up the experience and learning everything I could.

During that time I also did some other cool things. I bought my first house at 21 and have acquired lots of “stuff” which is nice but not what keeps me happy.

My 2 daughters and grandson

When I look back at the budget I made for myself back then, I wonder how I lived on $935 a month, yet I know that if push comes to shove I could do it again. I also got remarried and had another daughter, who at 12 years old, keeps me very busy with cheer and her very active school/social life. Despite 11 years of trying to make a round peg and a square hole fit together, that marriage didn’t work but even though it wasn’t a success in its longevity, I am very proud that we – including the wonderful woman that is my daughter’s stepmom – have a really good co-parenting relationship and a well balanced, wonderful young lady as a result. I am very happy to have watched my mom get clean, marry a man that I’m proud to call my dad and together stay clean for 20 years now. My mom is also my very best friend, my number one fan and my kids’ favorite grama.

One thing that sharing my kids afforded me was the opportunity for self-discovery, something we usually get in our teens and 20’s, that I missed. I’ve never touched a drug or even smoked a cigarette. I learned to swing dance, went on some amazing adventures and made a few good friends. I work hard to be less of a control freak and am still a bit of a loner. I don’t let people ‘in’ but I’m working on that too. 3 years ago I got into fitness and last year I competed in a couple of bodybuilding competitions where I placed well.

The man in my life, Adam, is the reason I got into fitness and he has taught me so much.  He’s incredibly knowledgeable and is a master trainer of 20 years with specialty experience in rehabilitation for spinal injuries, teaches and writes curriculum for classes on corrective movement exercises, is a bodybuilding champion, etc.

Me, Adam and my daughter

I’m currently training for another competition in 2018. I found that my deep love for fitness, dental hygiene and helping people could be combined and put to good use for other dental professionals. So here I was, 39 years old, pain-free, somehow ½ inch taller (I swear it’s from better posture as a result of weight training!) and in the best shape of my life. My colleagues were asking for help and getting results! So I got my personal trainers certificate, revisited the ergonomic materials I’d been taught and have been practiced for all of these years and developed my company ErgoFitLife.

Being a woman in dentistry, an entrepreneur, a chronically positive Polly, is fun, challenging and exciting. I love sharing my knowledge with other hygienists because I know what we go through. I work in the mouth 3.5 days a week, train clients after work 4 days a week and help many other clients nationwide with their fitness and pain relief goals. I plan to get into the hygiene programs in schools to integrate ergonomics and fitness as injury prevention for up and coming women of dentistry!

I’ve loved, lost, been down and up in the best and worst of ways but the one thing I will never lose is my drive to be the best me I can be! Who and what that equates to changes often but is ever evolving. Who would’ve guessed I’d be here inspiring other women in dentistry, helping them to get pain free and be the best they can be? I’ve read more self-help books than I can count trying to fix me but at the end of the day, it’s about letting go of the garbage in order to free your hands to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and move forward with what you can control – today, right now, this very minute. When in doubt I remind myself that I am self-made. I built this life. I am unstoppable. I CAN do anything. Believe you can do it and you will. ❤️

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