Grinning Through the Grimaces

I had a sweet, thoughtful blog comment this last week. In part, it said “I wonder at you and your energy. I’m ashamed of myself for nagging so much lately. How can you manage all those things [kids, household, business, sport and fun at weekend], all together, and apparently so perfectly?” The comment struck me because I want this blog to be a fun, inspirational place to hang out. I never want anyone to feel badly about themselves, to think that my life is magically 100% perfect or that things somehow come more easily to me than they do others. If you haven’t read the (long) story of how Bramble Berry got started, it’s here. There were floods, embezzlements, years in debt, a divorce, sleeping in the office, firings and plenty of times where I felt sorry for myself or alone. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t glamorous. And it’s still not. And obviously, glamorous was not the look I was going for in the photo below from Bramble Berry’s early years.

Photograph-2Bramble Berry’s 4th warehouse. We moved. A lot. 

This blog is designed to be a scrapbook of sorts, a happy place, a snapshot into my life at a brief glimpse in time. Yes, I still have housework to do. My husband and I sometimes disagree. My baby boy often wants me to read the same book 432 times. But, I don’t usually notice or think about it. I don’t dwell on the negative (ever). I rarely remember bad things that happen to me (my team is constantly reminding me about some drama or another that I’ve completely put out of my head). I have deliberately selective amnesia when it comes to painful past events. I view my existence as a precarious little surfing adventure: always trying to skip over the waves and turbulence in life and come out dry on the other side.

Everyone struggles. Everyone fails. Everyone has disappointment. Picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and moving forward with excitement, enthusiasm and delight is an essential key to being successful in business and in life. I’ve written blog posts in the past on dealing with disappointment (here) and keys to designing a happy life (9 part series, here). We have a fun phrase at Bramble Berry that is slightly ludicrous but we repeat it at least a few times a week. Someone pops up with “I have a problem!” and almost everyone here has it ingrained that problems are not problems. They are opportunities. So someone else will pipe up, “It’s an opportunity! How can we help!” (in a deliberately perky voice). My opinion is that you make your own life by how you feel about it. It’s easier to grin through the grimaces, assume goodwill and emotionally surf over rough patches.


So, no, my life isn’t perfect. My actions generally fall short of my own expectations for myself (and that’s even with a team of people to help me at Bramble Berry!). But with the help of selective amnesia, surrounding myself with positive people and trying to design an attitude of gratitude and positivity, I still feel enthused about every day and thankful for the challenges that keep life interesting. And, I’m so thankful to have people to share little windows of my life with. I look at this blog like a long term friendship – I love getting to know all of you better and hope you feel the same.

There are many, many smarter people than I that have written about remaining joyful even when circumstances conspire to pull you down.  Some of my current favorite books about designing your best attitude to be resilient to all life has to throw at you are: Flow, Authentic Happiness and Firestarter Sessions.

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  1. Kelly says

    This is what I love best about Bramble Berry, is that the owner/founder is so humble, the staff are so supportive and it is built around people who truly are passionate about this industry. Starting a business from scratch is always so nerve raking. Your post today brings the same respect I have always had for you and your company for years.

    • Anne-Marie says

      Aw, Kelly, what a nice compliment – thank you! We have an amazing team at Bramble Berry and I’m so thankful for their help and support over the years. They are amazing – and yes, even with that, starting a business is fraught with anxiety and stress (and exhilaration and hope!).

  2. says

    So did you ever have those nights of panic? saying or thinking what was I doing and this will never work? only to find yourself having to gasp for a breath of air, and making yourself shake off the negative to only keep positive and moving forward?

    I am wondering supplier vs. mfg. of soap….do you think that Mfg. has the same success rate? For the people that don’t want to supply we just want to buy from Bramble Berry and make soap 24 hrs. a day? :)

  3. says

    Too many of us do the opposite, we have selective amnesia for the negative things in life which only bring us down and that is not productive, nor will it get us to reach our goals like you have.

    Thank you for the great post, reminding us that a positive attitude is half the battle.

    p.s. You look like Michelle Williams in that first picture. :)

    • Anne-Marie says

      Thanks! That’s a great compliment =) The Michelle Williams one and the great post one…

      And you’re right, it’s so easy to do selective memory but then remember the incorrect thing! =)

  4. Holly says

    Wonderful and inspiring blog (I’m so glad I subscribed). Sign me up if you find a way to bottle that selective amnesia, I want a double dose.

  5. says

    I think I’m going to print your comment, “I have deliberately selective amnesia when it comes to painful past events,” out and post it where I can see it daily. It is a great motto to live by. :)

    • Anne-Marie says

      Thanks! It usually works out in my favor – but sometimes, it leads to really awkward things, like when people are reminiscing about “remember the time when the sewer totally flooded in the warehouse and we blah blah blah” and I’m all, “Really? Hm….” My team has quit questioning if I’m losing my memory now though and just realizes that I don’t recall the negative. =)

  6. says

    Great post Anne-Marie. We all struggle but we must keep our heads up and keep going. I feel with hard work and a positive attitude we can accomplish anything. You always inspire me. Thank you!

  7. says

    Awww… I love this post. I totally agree.

    Life is what you make of it. If I remembered all of my dramas, I’d cry myself a river. 😀 And, forgetting the negative (not that we shouldn’t learn from it), leaves more room for the positive!

    You’re the best!

    Happy day,

    • Anne-Marie says

      I love the way you think – yes! Forgetting the negative DOES leave more room for the positive. That’s a beautiful way of putting it.

  8. Olivia says

    Great mensaje.Positividad and perseverance are essential for success, ny is clear that nothing in life is perfect despite appearances.

    My most sincere admiration to you and your team.

  9. says

    I can totally relate to this post. I too have selective amnesia. Why dwell on past experiences that you cannot change? Not to say you should completely “forget” where you’ve been though. I think it is important to (briefly) look back on bad times so you can see how far you’ve come. I honestly feel if you can come away from every experience with at least one little lesson or one positive thing, it was an experience worth having. Besides, if we didn’t have those struggles, we wouldn’t be very interesting people, would we? At least that is how I try to look at it. Finding that one thing to come away with can be difficult, but it is there waiting for you to find it.

    Everyone has struggles, insecurities, and “something” to work through. We may not be able to see it, but it’s there. This is something I try to impart to my three girls when they are struggling and putting their friends on a higher level than themselves. Keeping this in mind not only helps us feel better about ourselves, but also helps us have more compassion for other people.

    Having said all of this, I have to say that you are someone to be admired Anne-Marie. Your positive attitude, work ethic, and ability to keep yourself well-rounded are things that inspire others to want to do more and be more. I don’t see that as a bad thing at all. :)

    • Anne-Marie says

      Isn’t that the truth – everyone has insecurities and issues, even people that we think have ‘made it.’ It’s difficult to see that sometimes and I’m glad that you’re instilling that in your daughters.

      Another thing to try to remind your daughters is that things are really different in a decade =) I’m amazed how much difference a decade makes in how I view the world, how I view myself, how I view my friends and what ‘success’ looks like. I’m pretty sure that my folks tried to tell me that when I was younger and I’m pretty sure I didn’t “get” it but man, if I had only know that all the teenage angst wasn’t worth that amount of crying. =)

      Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your support and your insights.

  10. Krystal says


    You’ve been such an inspiration to me in so many ways. I started by little business after my husband and I lost our daughter to a congenital heart defect. Not long after that we found out I was pregnant with twins. After a long hard road with that pregnancy and a 6 weeks stay in the hospital for them we finally got to start building what would be our new normal. Just as everything was settling into place, our son died. A lot of what we do around here is just trying to make it to the next day and keeping both our kids (3.5 and 7 months) happy and healthy. My business sometimes suffers because of this, but then I remember, all the big businesses started out small.

    Thank you so much for sharing with us that you’re not perfect, and reminding us all that that is ok!

    • Anne-Marie says

      Krystal, your story is heartbreaking. I cannot imagine losing one child, but two? I’m impressed that you’re even standing. Your business suffering would make complete sense. Don’t beat yourself up over that. You deserve a long bath, a big hug, and a huge dose of grace.

      Having two children and a business, while dealing with grief, would be taxing and stressful for anyone. Please give yourself permission to not be perfect, to luxuriate in friends, family and find a joyous moment every day.


  11. says

    Anne-Marie, thank you so much for your post! Reading this was just what I needed today, your words brought me back to a place of gratitude and positive outlook. After years of planning I left my corporate job and opened a tiny bath and body shop in January, I’ve been so excited about my new venture and the best part is I no longer dread Monday’s! Only problem is the lady who owns the shop next to mine is full of negative “advise”, she makes a point to stop in every morning and share ;). I continue to be positive but some days it takes it’s toll…so again thank you for this very timely positive reinforcement. Thought I would let you know you made someone’s life a little brighter today!

    • Anne-Marie says

      Oh dear – some people make a sport of it – trying to take down naturally happy and optimistic people. I’ve been there. I generally smile, play the fool and pretend not to understand the negative thing they’re implying. It’s easier than fighting about my difference in worldviews.

      Gosh, I wish I had a great problem solving answer on this one. The best I can come up with is saying you’re really busy with XYZ deadline and would love to chat but can’t today …

      I hope that resolves itself AND that you eventually wear her down with kindness =) Good luck!

  12. Jen says

    Great post wish I had “selective amnesia”. I would like to sell one day, but depression is holding me back unfortunately.

    • Anne-Marie says

      Oh sweetie, depression is such a difficult issue to tackle. I hope you have a good support network.

      And, as best as you can, are doing things to take care of yourself: working out daily, surrounding yourself with people you respect and admire, taking Fish Oil and Vitamin D, and working with a professional (a Doctor, a counselor, a psychologist/psychiatrist) to help you overcome this. Depression isn’t something that is easy to overcome on your own and I hope you’re getting some sort of professional support.


  13. Sara Jane Tinker says

    Great post!! It’s easy for outside viewers to see only the glamour without realizing all the persistent hard work and determination that went into creating something wonderful!! Attitude is SOOooo important in everything and YES!! we do create our own reality. So glad I am coming to the Soap weekend 15th-17th. AND, bringing my 17 year old daughter along. Not only the soap experience but the PEOPLE experience will be such an education for a young mind soaking up the world!! Thanks again!

  14. says

    I love your blog and your YouTube channel. I read your whole story and to me it is so inspirational! I know that sometimes things pile up and you can feel so over whelmed. Congratulations on all of your accomplishments. I think you have earned them!

    • Anne-Marie says

      Ugh, the piling up issue when you’re self-employed can feel overwhelming, can’t it? I do the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” concept with the ‘big rocks’ (the important things) being scheduled first and that means that (shrugging shoulders), sometimes all my emails don’t get answered for days. You can’t do it all – so just try to get done what you need to to move your business and your personal life forward. The rest can usually wait. Of course, take that all with a grain of salt – what works for one person might not work for another one =)

  15. says

    Wow, your momma is a wise woman. Her phrase “Asume good will, it’s easier” is something that I repeat to myself now and then (I should do it more) since reading one of your responses to an online argument months ago. So, so true.

  16. Mariah says

    You are awesome. This blog post proves it once again. Thanks for the honest and pure heart…and it shines through in all you do.

    • Anne-Marie says

      Aw thanks, Mariah. I love the idea of being pure of heart – that compliment feels great! Thank you for making me smile.

  17. says

    Loved your post Anne-Marie, your attitude to life is inspiring! The ability to think of every problem as an opportunity is awsome! The people who work for you are so lucky to have you for a boss and to be able to work in such a positive environment.

    You deserve all the success in the world and I hope your business continues to go ahead in leaps and bounds. Your blog motivates, inspires, encourages and cheers, God bless.

  18. inspiration says

    My dear Anne-Marie,

    I’m on my side sorry if my statement “struck” you that much. Indeed I didn’t feel “bad” about myself. I felt bad about nagging because of the nasty weather, cold an rain here in Germany for over 2 weeks.
    Today we’ve finally a little bit of sun shine and my mood is pretty better now.
    So I assure you, whatever you write and communicate is inspiring, bringing new ideas, hope and joy. After reading that special post I came to a new business plan which I’m going to fulfill with all my power. Someday I’ll disclose to you and your reader how your posts and your whole blog has inspired me and made a little turn in my whole business and career road.
    Your page is the first one I visit early in the morning even before reading news and it cheers up my day, I assure you. Continue being as you are , I assure you you’ve only cheered me up and inspired me.
    By the way, I love that statement about “Selective Amnesia”. I think I’ve to train myself in it.

    • Anne-Marie says

      It only struck me because I would never, ever, ever want my life or experiences to make anyone feel bad. I really appreciate that you shared it with me so I could post and explain a bit more about why life sometimes seems easy from the outside. =) And, if you were thinking it, trust me, someone else definitely was!

      I’m so happy that you like this blog and that you read it almost daily. That is a HUGE compliment and if there’s anything I can help you with, a book suggestion, something I can write about that might help you, please let me know. I appreciate all of your candor and support =)

      • inspiration says

        You’ve already done more than you can imagine.
        I follow your book suggestions with hunger.
        Yesterday I was out of my soul reading the story of BB. (please don’t be struck again, it was a very good feeling)
        I wish you all the success and happiness in the world.

  19. Jennifer says

    Thank you so much for this awesome post. You do always seem rather perfect… and to hear about all that you and your company has been through to get where you are… brings you back donw to earth and makes me be able to relate more. And with an attitude like yours, no matter what comes, you can deal with it as positively as you can. A wonderful lesson and reminder for me. Thanks!!!!

  20. says

    Very inspiring post! Selective amnesia, eh? I think I’ll have to get
    me some of that! Something tells me I may have to work at it…but that’s a great ‘opportunity’ to succeed. Lol…how am I doing so far?

    • Anne-Marie says

      Nice one! I like it! And yes, it’s a mind set.

      My husband and I do a very dorky “competition” every week. We both make 4 goals – 1 to enhance our marriage, 1 to enhance our brains, and 2 personal goals (flossing, no swearing etc…). We check off if we did our goals every day and compete with who has the most check marks at the end of the week.

      I’m betting if you gave yourself a goal to put a positive spin on every negative occurrence that within about 2 months, you could retrain your mind fully. Just a guess. =) If you try it, keep me posted. I would love to hear how it goes.

  21. says

    It all comes down to choice ~ and knowing (and believing!) that we ALL do choose how we feel at each moment. Those of us who have ‘victim’ thinking really do not understand that they actually choose their feelings and reactions every moment.

    Thank you for being an inspiring example of someone exercising their choices in a positive way Anne-Marie xxx

  22. says

    Interesting story of Bramble Berry’s beginnings. Actually, I know exactly what you mean by sharing little snapshots and windows. I love to take pictures, and I am a scrapbooking fiend. Once we went to a blueberry festival in Palatka, FL (literally the middle of nowhere, super tiny town, not me at all). It was horrible, but I took little snapshots of things that went well, my then 2 year old dancing to music in the grass, blueberry stuff everywhere, a pancake breakfast. In pictures it looks like the best time ever, when in reality it was a bit of a drag. People don’t always realize what someone’s life is like from a snapshot, especially when the snapshot looks so perfect. But as a reader, I want the upbeat positive messages, which is why I rarely watch the news…too negative.

    • Anne-Marie says

      I totally can identify with the blueberry festival story. My pregnancy was high risk, the delivery and hospital stay was fraught with complications and extra procedures, and yet, the pictures look happy and carefree. In my mind, I remember only 5% of all the high risk pregnancy complications, the extra days in the hospital and 95% the overwhelming joy at being a Mother, having a family unit and the pure emotion at seeing our son for the first time. But the reality is that yeah, the entire thing wasn’t a piece of cake – just like your blueberry festival. But you chose to see the best in the experience and I’m guessing your life feels better with that attitude. =)

  23. Heather says

    Awesome post! It is nice to be reminded that everyone of us struggles with life sometimes, but with the right attitude we can work through it. Look past the clouds and see the bright light on the other side!

  24. Candice says

    I love this post Anne-Marie, not because you have experienced failure like any other person but because you remain so positive. You are an inspiration. Thanks!

    • Anne-Marie says

      Thanks Candice. I’m extremely fortune and blessed – and feel thankful for all of the support I have now and have had in the past. And, that includes you on this blog. =) I appreciate the positive props. And that you took the time to read and comment. I love getting feedback.

  25. Candice says

    I love this post Anne-Marie, not because you have experienced failure like any other person but because you are so positive. Truly an inspiration. Thanks!

  26. Jessica says

    Thank you for this post Anne-Marie! It is not easy to be positive when things are not going well. I started my small soap making company Bellabrice Body Care in 2009 and I have been frustrated many times when I have failed. Looking at each problem as an opportunity is a great lesson in business.

    I have to admit that I sometimes look at your success and think it must be so easy for you because of all you have accomplished. It is nice to know that everyone has difficulties and I am not the only one. I really admire what you have accomplished and I am proud to be a loyal Brambleberry customer!

    • Anne-Marie says

      Oh my goodness, your FB page has such cute soaps! I love the funnel pour soap and the unicorn soap? Over the top adorable.

      I tend to look at every No (aka “failure”) as one step closer to a Yes (aka “success”) so keep going. One baby step at a time. You’ll be amazed at where you go in a few years with tiny, incremental amounts of daily effort. =) Good luck with your business this year.

      • Jessica says

        Thank you Anne-Marie, You have really encouraged me to keep going and never give up!

  27. Stacey Hoffstot says


    WOW! You go, girl! What a fantastically inspiring post. I read your post about the early years too- and I have to admit, I was in tears by the end of it because I am going through or have gone through many of the things you wrote about.

    Keep shining….I can only speak for myself, of course (although I know most other BB’ers would agree), it’s exciting to watch another woman be more than just fluff and vanity, if you know what I mean!! :)

  28. says

    I’ve learned that after the rain,the sun comes out. I had to be at a complete low before I consciously made the decision to CHANGE my life, thoughts and attitude. That is the keep to a happier life.

    I agree with you Anne-Marie. I have selective amnesia also. Its better to dwell on the positive rather than dwell in the negative. At the end of the day, dwelling and nagging doesn’t help either. You need to ACT also.

    thumbs up to you Anne Marie on overcoming all these obstacles and coming out stronger. I needed to read your story tonight because I am in the process of moving my business to another level and needed inspiration. Thank YOU!

    • Anne-Marie says

      Sada, If you’re moving to the next level, there are some really inspirational books you might like that I’ve found helpful over the years. “The Magic of Thinking Big”, “Small Giants” and a new favorite “The Fire Starter Sessions”. I’m a big fan of learning from people way better than me and usually, the easiest way to find them is through books. =)

      Keep me posted on how your business leap goes. I’m rooting for you!

  29. DRadig says

    Wow! I just read your whole story you mentioned in the beginning! It just goes to show that things aren’t always as they seem. Outwardly we all envy you, but many would never have persevered like you did! You earned your success. Your site is the most informative website around. Before I found it, I was very afraid of trying to make something of my interest in selling soap, etc., it all seemed so mysterious! Now I am slowly going forward, and your website has been an invaluable tool!Your ideas are great, the recipes are easy and always turn out great! Thank you for all you do!!You really are giving back to a very large community!

    • Anne-Marie says

      Aw, you’re sweet. Thank you for the compliments. You have me grinning!

      I know what you mean about being fearful of making something out of something you love. I had a really hard time selling products for what they needed to be sold to – in order to stay in business (price wise) – so I’ve been there with you. =)

      Thanks for being a reader – and your support.

  30. Amanda says

    Brilliant. Truly brilliant. Thank you for sharing and for the reminder of grace – aka selective amnesia. Great article at a great moment.

    • Anne-Marie says

      So glad you like the phrase =) I was just talking to another business owner friend tonight and she said he has ‘selective amnesia’ too! Maybe we’ve hit on a great business trait?!

  31. tonya says

    What a well said blog!! Nope, nobody is perfect!!! Not even I! Lol! When I was teaching “hair” I always told the girls when they doubted themselves…fake it ’til you make it! Even with ‘life’…keep marching forward with your head held high-even when you don’t want to!!

  32. Bonnie says


    I wish I could develop your knack for “Selective Amnesia”!! LOL! This is a great post~Thank you! The people who work for you are very lucky to be in such a great environment…gosh if I were closer I’d apply for a job just to be around all of you! I’m glad that someone like you was able to make a success out of a business venture. I myself have been blown away with the customer service, you have a great team! I’ve only placed one order with you but it won’t be my last! I wish you continued success!!

    Ps. Love all the Soap Queen video’s~they are so bright and cheery!!

    • Anne-Marie says

      Aw, you’re sweet. If you ever talked to my team, they’d tell you I’m a tough boss! =) But, at least, we’re almost always smiling!

      Thanks for being a SoapQueen.TV watcher. We’re working on the next round of scripts right now (eeek!).