I watched Dad fight for everything he had. He had grown up in North Richmond, never attended college, and got his first job with Chevron pumping gas at the company’s service station on Galindo in Concord. He worked his way up the Chevron corporate hierarchy to an executive position and retired six years ago with 48 years experience.
I never thought of my father as an amputee because he gave no evidence of ever thinking about it himself. My father was full of a can-do spirit and never allowed the loss of a leg to make any difference to his success in life. He never used his handicap for any personal advantage except to qualify for a premium parking space and a Fast Pass at Disneyland. Dad taught me that life throws us curveballs just to keep us agile and quick. It doesn’t matter what life hands to you but how you play the game, which as far as my dad was concerned, involved hard work, loyalty, drive, and ethics.
My father loved me like I could do no wrong. His modeling of unconditional love and hard work were far more successful in motivating me towards success than any amount of stern discipline could ever have been. He passed his by-any-means-necessary grit to his daughter because that’s just how I am when I’m facing challenges, whether job-related or with other parts of my life. He taught me never to regard anything as a roadblock but to view them all as simply challenges to face up to and overcome. You never need to let anything defeat you even if one of your limbs is missing. I put his values and wisdom to work and, while still in college, began a successful career in the Physical Training industry.
Problems with my relationship to my husband, Anthony Garcia, was the one set of obstacles in my life that I was never able to convert to opportunities. Anthony and I were good for each other sometimes and bad for each other other times before finally giving up. The breakup was disastrous. Fortunately, Anthony and I didn’t hold on to any hard feelings. He continues to have a supportive attitude towards me and my accomplishments.
However, my life began falling apart, and I lost everything along with my marriage. Three houses went into foreclosure, I filed for bankruptcy, handed back to dealers keys to two cars, and moved myself, my kids, and my two dogs back to Concord. My parents paid my rent, kept food in my refrigerator so my kids and I could eat, and gave me one of their cars to drive. After so much success in my career, I had lost everything and was hanging on desperately to my sense of self worth.
Sometimes you can’t really start to move up in life until you finally crash to the very bottom. That moment arrived for me when I finally came to the end of myself and decided I was going to take the shattered pieces and rebuild my life with purpose and passion. I deliberately put myself into God’s hands. I didn’t understand what the future held at the time, but I had faith that God had a plan for me, and whatever it was, I would go to work on it with commitment and prayer.
For four years I had been dreaming about starting my own physical training center, and on February 15, 2011 — with encouragement from my friend, Jamie Finegold — my business partner Ginnie Peterson and I gave birth to Push Ups 2 Pin Ups.
I was born in San Francisco at the Presidio and raised in Walnut Creek. My father, Ervin Harris, was the motivating force in my life. Forty-six years ago he married his high school sweetheart, Betty Jean Washington, and they have remained sweethearts ever since. I had a happy childhood. We were always close to the members of our large extended family. Dad taught us to regard “family” as a verb; love isn’t something to be earned but a birthright to be enjoyed and shared with others.
I attended Northgate High and developed an ambition to go to Broadway because I enjoyed performing with the school’s drama group and singing in choirs. Following graduation I attended DVC for a short time. The direction of my life changed when I got an after-school job with Gold’s Gym, working the front desk at the club in Albany. From the beginning,
I took a lot of pleasure in socializing with members who came into the gym. After all, exercise releases endorphins so, in some ways, people tend to be at their best when they are exercising. I was naturally social, outgoing, and picked up the business quickly. Before long, I was promoted to Front Desk Manager and became involved in all parts of the business including sales and training. I didn’t just work the business from the sidelines, but became a certified personal trainer myself, always working to help a few people towards fitness.
My life moved into a faster lane when I was invited to take over the front desk at the Waikiki gym on Oahu and later at the Kapialani Street gym. That was the beginning of a very satisfying career because I became a key person in the Gold Gym organization, opening facilities throughout California and as far west as Hawaii and as far east as New Jersey. I trained sales people, nutritionists, and trainers. I did everything from conducting pre-sales and selling memberships to hiring staff and setting up Nutrition departments.
I worked with managers who wanted to go to the next level; I helped them get there. I would also be sent to gyms that were having problems. At those points, I was following directly in my father’s footsteps because one of dad’s co-workers once told me, “You know the big messes sometimes at Chevron? He makes them disappear.” Making messes disappear is exactly what I was doing at some of those places.
I had fun implementing changes and took satisfaction from being the fix-it person. Following my father’s wise example and advice, I enjoyed the challenges, finding opportunities where others would see obstacles. For example, I was continually moving to places where I had never been before and, consequently, didn’t know a soul. I was never tempted to be discouraged by the lack of a local network or support group but instead enjoyed the opportunity of making new friends. I got along with everyone, and met a number of phenomenal people, many of whom continue to be dear friends.
My work took on an international component in 1997 when I spent a year in Cairo, Egypt opening a gym and setting up their Fitness and Nutrition departments. Living for a while in Cairo was a great experience! It was broadening; I had to get used to people stopping five times every day for prayer. Even though I’m not Muslim, the people treated me in a loving, welcoming manner. They practiced hospitality and generosity at amazing levels and would literally give me the shirt off their back. If I would tell someone that I liked their jacket, it would show up on my desk.
My daughter, Michal, was born in 2000. My son, Miko, was born three years later. They are both great kids. Michal does competitive dance; Miko plays all sports but especially loves soccor.
THE P2P MIRACLE
Push Ups 2 Pin Ups, or P2P, has become a highly successful fitness program. A few months ago, I opened my third facility in Pleasanton. Our success is due, in no small part, to the fact that we’ve incorporated my father’s core values of hard work, loyalty, drive, and ethics. Our members’ success constantly validates P2P’s “Transformation Is our Business” tagline. We powerfully motivate them to convert their own barriers to challenges by offering rebates for whatever success they experience through the program — to the point that if they are perfectly successful in meeting their challenge, the entire cost of the program is returned to them.
The P2P workouts are vigorous without being grueling. People are having fun while engaged in a program of high intensity training and nutritional accountability that is channeling their energy while renovating their bodies and their lives. Members engage in mutual encouragement and accountability in a community of people who are working out with them. The members of my team of certified fitness coaches are positive and encouraging. They lead in exercises designed to release endorphins, which promotes the sense of happiness and even delight that validates the sign in big red words I use in my advertising: Warning: My Program is Addictive.
The members’ growing sense of wellbeing that comes from their journey towards fitness spills over into other parts of their lives, helping them to overcome the pressures of hectic schedules, kids, jobs, and housekeeping. Our website contains dozens of pages showing before-and-after pictures of members, together with their enthusiastic descriptions of the changes P2P has made in their lives. Referrals and word-of-mouth has become our most effective form of advertising because of the growing number of clients who enthusiastically report to their friends and acquaintances the results that our Transformation Center actually made in their lives. The most effective part of their testimony comes without words because of the obvious effects that the rigorous exercise and attention to nutrition has made in their appearance.
Last month my children and I walked for the first time through the beautiful front door of our lovely new Concord home. I look forward to decorating it for Christmas, hosting events for family and friends, and filling it with whatever happy, laughing, and rowdy friends my kids want to bring home. My children can ride their bikes around the neighborhood until the street lights come on. We will fill this home with laughter and memories. Some day it will serve as a refuge for the kids while they relax on breaks from college. Later my home will be a place for them to bring their own kids to spend happy times with Grandma.
Sometimes you can’t make something new until the old is destroyed. The blessings of P2P and my lovely home would never have come if my life hadn’t fallen apart and pushed me so forceably out of my happy but comfortable place.
Thank God for taking from me the life that wasn’t meant to be mine forever and for blessing me with this new life in which I am helping myself in so many wonderful ways by assisting others in helping themselves.
Thank God for second chances — and for my dad who taught me the truth that it really doesn’t matter what life hands to you but only in how you play the game.