Express Yourself

  • Blissful Moments and Simple, Significant Joys

    A look at what we sometimes take for granted in our lives and how to appreciate the little things in life. 

    Saturday. The first day out on our first adventure for Enhance Magazine.  My team members are excited, chatting animatedly with each other, anxious for what the day would hold.  We are all headed to the Biltmore House and Gardens in Asheville, NC. In a bit of an excited trance myself, I am trying to find my balance between being what is expected of me and the excited child screaming to get out.  Later that day, I thought about that moment that stood out the most, the memory I will always remember from a place I had wanted to visit for the last fourteen years — much to my surprise, it wasn’t the details of the elegant mansion, the winery, or even the gardens.  It was a simple moment of a group picture we took.  The smiles on all my team members’ faces.  Knowing their excitement and joy.  It was the one thing that I never knew would exist in my fourteen years of waiting.  

    This, in summary, what we all know but often forget: happiness can be found in the simplest of joys.  I momentarily felt bad for all those people who spend money to roam around the grounds only to not have their dream vacation memories be what they expected, but then thought of my experience.  I didn’t realize I would forever remember Stephanie’s face as she saw the Biltmore House for the first time, or the kindness of Tiffiny, as she traded me shoes (because I definitely didn’t think that one through very well… lol), or just simply knowing that Daltyn and Thomas (brothers, and two of my children) would get to experience a place I dreamt of going, together.

    With moments like these, why then do we push ourselves to seek out the quintessential present or experience?  I mean, think about it — with the holidays just wrapping up and our stress levels winding down, what perfect gifts did you give or receive?  Do you remember, honestly?  Chances are, you don’t!  Okay, so maybe you do for this year, but what about three years ago? Do you remember every gift you received? However, I’ll bet you do remember the holiday.  Maybe the elegance of the tree lights, or that a particular family member came to visit, or a simple moment such as sitting at the table.  Maybe the memory is of something fun you experienced that year, or the way a particular movie left you feeling.  

    My point is that it’s not the hyped up things that provide an impact on all of us; often, it is the blissful moments and simple significant joys that impact us for life. It’s those moments that catch our time and attention away from all other things.  Those things that make us smile and love who we are.  Often the most blissful parts of our lives don’t come from big events; instead, they come in the form of simple moments.  What seemingly insignificant occurrences have had the most joyful impact on your life?

    — x.  Tonya A.

    Added Notes:

    Featured in our photo is one of our amazing photographers: Maddie Vogelsmeier  

    Want to be included in the first issue of Cameron Kindred Magazine? Share your thoughts to this post on our new Cameron Kindred Facebook page here, or comment below.  We would love to know the blissfulness in your life. 

  • The Connections in Our Lives

    It’s been awhile since you’ve heard from me, I know.  I’ve been heads-down with our amazing team executing some pretty lofty goals, planning our next mission to accomplish, and launching new websites.

    In the world of community, the month of February is dominated by the concept of love, when Cupid flutters about with his amorous arrows.  This new season has me thinking about relationships: the relationships between spouses and partners, between family and friends, and of course, I thought about the relationship between a business and its supporters. 

    These relationships or connections play a large role in bringing definition to our life.  Each connection possesses a different opportunity, each has a unique flavor and its own depth and breadth. Each connection helps us to learn and grow, they help sustain us through hardships, and they make the high points of our lives that much more exquisite. 

    This is a great time to think about the connections in your life.  Reflect on how they strengthen and uphold you.  Think on that connection of who can't get enough of what you are doing, that dear friend who always seems to say the right thing at the right time, the parent who has loved you unconditionally all your life, or that partner who has laughed and cried with you over the years and who generally makes all the lifting you must do in life a little easier.

    Perhaps you could also reflect on how you are all those things for the important people in your life. This isn't arrogance or conceit but rather a humble acknowledgement that love, relationships, and connections of all types are a two-way street and we often receive from others that which we have given (karma is fun that way).  This may also lead to the insight that a connection may be frayed and in need of some attention.  That is ok; you've noticed it now and can take a step to strengthen that bond.

    I hope this Valentine's Day — as you give and hopefully receive cards, flowers, chocolates, or heart-shaped candies (or some amazing smelling soap...just a thought) — you will take a moment to really reflect on the connections in your life.  They make this journey we are on worth the effort.

    Happy Valentine’s Day.

    — x. Tonya

  • Combating Illness & Sharing Remedies

    The New Year celebrations have now passed, but unfortunately the season of the flu seems to have come for an extended visit.  My darling grandson (who is two today) decided that loving on his grandma over Christmas was well worth the effort of passing along the germs that have caused an abundance of forceable downtime for me. And despite my efforts to scrub away those mini-demons from every part of my life (body, clothing, bedding, kitchen) they just seem to keep reappearing in my other family members.  Don’t these germs know by now they have overstayed their welcome?

    For approximately 5,000 years, traditional medicine has been employed to combat all types of illnesses. In some cultures, alternative medicinal practices are employed, as they are embedded in the roots of health for these individuals for over 60,000 years.  Men and women across all regions have been armed for centuries with an arsenal of home remedies, becoming the first round of defense and offense during cold season.  Several hundred different viruses can cause the common cold, and although there is still no cure, there are specific ingredients with germ-fighting powers — e.g. chamomile, for starters; but did you know about pepper?

    So, as I sit here fighting my own battle against sickness, I thought I would share a few of my natural boosters and soothers with you.  


    The herb chamomile is considered a calmative diaphoretic, and may reduce muscle spasms, relieve pain, and relieve gas pressure. These properties make chamomile tea useful in treating irritability and a variety of digestive disorders. It is also suggested for relieving generalized aches associated with the common cold.


    While this powerhouse antioxidant can't prevent a cold or the flu, it can help cut down on their duration and severity. Clementines are a great source of vitamin C and are easier to eat than traditional oranges.


    Although eucalyptus must have been seen by the very early European explorers and collectors, no botanical collections of them are known to have been made until 1770.  Today, however, the health benefits of eucalyptus oil are well-known and wide-ranging. Its  properties include being anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antiseptic, antibacterial, and stimulating, and it also acts as a decongestant and deodorant, as well as many other medicinal uses. 


    Not only is garlic great for your heart, it has the ability to kill bacteria almost as effectively as penicillin. Today, it is still used in many regions—particularly in Spain and Latin America, in the form of garlic tea, their remedy of choice when feeling under the weather.


    In many Asian cultures, ginger is not only used in cooking but in treating illnesses.  In other cultures, ginger is believed to warm the body from the inside, promoting the perspiration that will push cold-causing pathogens out through the pores.


    Honey combats bacteria; its high viscosity creates an infection-fighting barrier. From Asia to Europe to North and South America, honey is one of the most commonly used ingredients in home remedies to alleviate the symptoms of a cold or the flu — not to mention it is soothing to upset tummies and soar throats.  It also helps to reduce coughing caused by congestion.


    Pepper has been used for cold remedies for centuries. Depending on the part of the world, different varieties were utilized to relieve symptoms, with cayenne pepper being the most popular.  Pepper increases circulation and has anti-microbial properties, which kill pathogens and speed up the healing processes which are diminished by colds and flu viruses.


    An item once used in ancient Rome to pay salaries due, this house staple item is great for respiratory infections and sore throats.  By drawing out the water, infections have no room to grow. 

    Tea Tree Oil.

    Tea tree oil is derived from the tea tree plant, Melaleuca alternifolia, and is native to Australia. Indigenous Australian people have used the oil to treat skin infections and wounds since they first made a poultice of the leaves and covered their skin with the homeopathic remedy.  Today, research shows that it can have several additional benefits as well.  This oil can be used in several different ways, including combating symptoms of colds and flu viruses—from ingesting for sore throat symptoms to topical application for massaging techniques for respiratory therapy.  

    So call it intuition or luck, but last month I just happened to have made a batch of eucalyptus soap to lather up in— at the time doing so for anti-inflammatory purposes.  Although it didn’t prevent my cold and flu battle, it has been one of the best treatments I have used to comfort and soothe myself.  I am now wishing I had also made one with tea tree oil  — but that will be available from one of our new partners starting next month in our Elevate Livelihoods store in both soap and in a line of essential oil jewelry.

    Hope everyone is well (or at least better than me at the moment!)  

    — x.  Tonya


  • Happy New Year

    Ah, another year has come and gone and once again we are all excited for the New Year. Many of us because it is a closing of something that we are ready to let go of. For some of us it is because it is a fresh start after that closure. We are renewed and inspired with a fresh breath of air and endless motivation.

    Recapping 2017, I would like to follow Stef Ferrari and talk about it being the year of the woman for a moment. It has definitely been that in many ways. From the Women’s marches and global changes brought on by Emma Watson, to the monumental waves of the #metoo movement, our society is changing once again, and although many of you might not see it in your communities (yet!) — you will. Please be accepting and compassionate — it is my belief this is what is needed for our world to grow and for unity to reign.

    Remember that as our world changes we look for the comfort of the familiar and safe. Indulge in the familiar that remains positive and encouraging for your friends, family, and neighbors, and let go of things (concepts and ideas) that need to find closure. Remember that everyone in the world is simply trying to “Just….be!”

    Wishing all of you a Happy New Year and many exciting things to come this year.

    Tonya Ahrens
    Founder of Immersion Connection
  • Finding an Adventure

    When I first started my business, one of my biggest concerns was how I would learn to write properly. This form of communication has never been my sharpest skill, so it’s crazy to think that I am now creating a blog. To be honest, I only started seriously thinking of blogging a few months ago after a trip for Enhance magazine – – there were so many things that I would think about during my trips that I wanted to share with all of you, but I knew I could never get all of those thoughts into a single issue of our magazine. Once I began planning, it became clear that I should share my stories, my trials, my errors, and most importantly, my experiences. A blog became the perfect platform. After some struggles on approach, I am here - exposing all the good, the bad, and the ugly. The aim is to push myself out of my comfort zone, practice a little self care, discover new experiences, and continue to find inspiration.

    As when launching Immersion Connection, pushing aside my self-doubt, I started doing a lot of research. I planned ahead and made countless checklists, which made everything much easier. This was a perfect opportunity to get out of my shell. From the launch of IC, I have never traveled alone on this adventure and I can’t honestly say I’m not a little frightened. It’s always been my team, never just me sharing all. It’s much like crawling in the car for our first trip. You plan. You think. You worry (oh, the worry!) But then you realize you’re as prepared as you can be. You can do this. For better or worse, you are on your way! Then somewhere in the midst of taking pictures, writing down notes, and trying to take a mental image of all you experience, it’s not as big a deal as you thought. It’s a challenge, but it’s easier after breaking the ice.

    Life always provides challenges, and doing this for the first time will be a difficult learning experience. There will always be hard times. It’s OK to fail – concentrate on the small steps to solve the issue. During these tough times, it is crucial to stay positive. Running a business has taught me to be strong. I learned the importance of having a positive outlook, a positive team, and keeping negativity out of my life.

    When I went on my first trip, the first thing I packed was a notebook. Best idea ever. My head was so full and I kept writing my thoughts and doing whatever I could to capture the moment. It was time to take my thoughts from a hobby to a professional pursuit while my head was full of fresh ideas, creativity, and passion. As an entrepreneur, I realize investing 100% effort in something produces results. And you know what? After a few weeks, everything started falling into place. I had found a way to help people, go back to work, and most importantly, love what I do. It has become a habit to bring my little notebook everywhere, and to keep writing down my thoughts and filling the pages with my random and far-fetched, creative ideas, goals, dreams — my somedays!

    Throughout my stay during our first trip, I did what I wanted. If I wanted to grab a coffee, I went for it: if I wanted to shop, I did. I didn’t care what others thought from these new outings, I gained a resource - a happiness from letting go - filling my head with fresh ideas and inspiration. I simply couldn’t believe this had become my life.

    Without knowing who I would bump into, what opportunities would arise while I was out and about, I had the pleasure of meeting so many new people during my experiences. By exercising the extrovert side of my personality, I have been able to truly create connections within the communities that we visit during our trips. It has made my work easier, and I love the fact that I can keep in touch with these people from all over the world.

    When we arrived home after our first trip in Asheville, North Carolina, I knew this would be a permanent part of my life. My head was constantly buzzing, and I had an urge to share my stories. I felt like a completely different person. My journey taught me to be more comfortable with myself and focus on things that make me happy, to focus on things that can truly create change within communities that we visit, and to find a way to give back to my team in a way that they could not otherwise experience. Today, although scared, I have more confidence since I started this journey, and I am proud of how a dream has become a reality.

    What that first trip taught me was to go for it, don’t be afraid, and step out and do what you wouldn’t dare for reasons of fear. So, taking my own life lessons, here I am, presenting to you — our Express blog! I truly hope you come along for the ride, see what is to come in our futures, and somehow start to live the life you always dreamed of.

    Ps. To pre-order one of our Just Be Journals, click here

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