Radical Reinvention: From Poor White Trash and Abused Runaway Teen to Successful Women of Worth

07/16/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Meet my "Radical Reinvention" business partner Jana Fleming.

Jana: Labeled poor white trash. Me: Abused homeless teen. We are both 42. We both have been single moms. We both know the pain of an abusive childhood and both know the thrill of choosing to radically reinvent your life. But that didn't happen overnight.

Jana grew up in central Florida in a trailer with an angry, abusive alcoholic father. In the third grade she overheard her teacher tell a co-worker that Jana and her family were "white trash." Focused on academics, Jana left her emotionally and financially impoverished, abusive environment for college. It was there that she was raped and began her spiral into self destructive behaviors that stemmed from a lack of self-worth that began in early childhood. By 1988 the birth of her daughter began to wake her up to the life she knew was possible. Jana experienced an internal shift and began to focus on a positive new direction. With newfound determination and raw curiosity for world religion and spirituality, Jana embarked on a now 20 year journey to discovering wholeness, embracing her past and studying under one of the greatest spiritual teachers of our time: Dr. Deepak Chopra at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Southern California. Today Jana has her own thriving practice as a Certified Master Integrative Life Coach and is the creator and leader of A Woman's Journey To Wholeness Retreats around the world. It was in January of 2008 after meeting at a birthday party that Jana invited me to speak at one of her retreats in Santa Barbara.

I have been dreaming big all my life. From an early age I began to envision escaping my violent environment. At age 15 I left an abusive home in the middle of the night and never looked back. With money from jobs that ranged from janitorial to fast food to strip club, I put myself through dental assisting and x-ray technician training school. At 22 she left dental assisting for a bank teller position the started my 13 year financial industry career. By age 30 I became one of the banks youngest assistant vice presidents. My life was forever transformed when three masked gunmen followed me home from the bank, kidnapped and held hostage me and my daughter for 14 hours and forced me to rob the bank to save our lives. It was in the aftermath of this horrific ordeal that I finally faced my turbulent upbringing and began my radical reinvention by embracing the past and choosing self-love. By 2007 I released my first book, Held Hostage: The True Story of a Mother and Daughter's Kidnapping (network premiere movie release May 2009), and am now an international speaker, entrepreneur, and advocate for violence against women issues, PTSD, childhood trauma awareness, peace and positive change. I started Rock to Stop Violence, Violent Trauma Awareness Project and became an MSN 2008 Hometown Hero. Today I co-facilitate with Jana for the retreats that donate a portion of all proceeds to domestic violence and child abuse causes and gift a certain number of retreat seats to women in shelters.

The point is that there are dynamic women in shelters, on the streets like I was, in trailers being abused like Jana and all they need is thatone spark of hope, the right resources and women like Jana and I who can take theri hand and lead them all the way to self-loving choices, if they truly want that. Jana and I have discovered the secret to Radical Reinvention: self-love. Together we speak to audiences in our witty, incredibly honest and deeply transformative presentation, Radical Reinvention. Looking at core limiting beliefs, what is holding you hostage, embracing your NOW by accepting your past and living a "dream big" life without judging yourself are the take-away messages. And if you ask us what is next we will tell you that the doors of possibility are wide open and we, like any women of worth, are ready for wherever the path of purpose takes us.

Like I always say, "Whether we are invited to have our own radio show, share our journey on a television talk show, writing our new book "Radical Reinvention" together, or speaking to audiences at A Woman's Journey to Wholeness Retreats and Radical Reinvention workshops, as long as we are making a positive difference in the lives of others with our "the truth doesn't hurt anymore" message, being honest, self-loving and accepting of our past without judgment, we know we are exactly where we are supposed to be."

For more information about Jana and me, our workshops or retreats, visit or