Debbie Vinyard’s HappyFirst.com is the kind of place where happiness abounds, even in the face of cancer. When Debbie was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s, her children were just six weeks-old and 3 1/2 years-old. She realized then that other people’s negativity was affecting her, so she decided to work hard to be happy. What came from it was a web site with gorgeous clothing emblazoned with her motto: “Happy First. Then Make it Last.” Here’s our interview with her:
Parenting with Cancer: You’ve created a site that celebrates happiness, even though you’ve been through so much. Why is encouraging happiness so important to you?
Debbie Vinyard: Because I am so grateful for each day and I want others to be too. I want people to “find their passion and pursue it.” Going through cancer made me realize how precious life is. I want people to love their life and have fun pursuing what makes them happy.
PWC: Tell us about the meaning of the egg.
DV: The egg can mean many things. It can mean new beginnings, starting fresh. It can represent starting over after cancer, a bad relationship, a bad childhood, a burned-out career. It can mean a new day. It also represents breaking out of your shell. I believe everyone has talents and creativity inside, just waiting to burst out! It takes some time to figure it out, or just to take the jump and go with what you really want to do in life.
“I named the business Happy First because I celebrate the first of every month by saying to my friends and family “Happy July 1st! (or whatever the month may be).”
I named the business Happy First because I celebrate the first of every month by saying to my friends and family “Happy July 1st! (or whatever the month may be). I have always been an optimist and said this even before I went through cancer 16 years ago. Now people who are on my e-mail list or Facebook or Twitter get the new e-card every month to share with others for free. I would love it if people woke up each month and said “Happy First!” The new month to me means a new adventure, a new season. Life is so exciting, just waiting to be explored! I want people to think about it at least once a month.
PWC: You ask people to ask themselves “What does happiness mean to you?” Well, what does it mean to you?
DV: Happiness to me means many things- What makes me most happy is my family. I am so thankful I am here to be with my husband and watch my boys grow up (they are 16 and 20). We love to entertain and have friends and family over. I started including recipes in my blog because I love sharing good food and fun times with everyone. Also what makes me so happy is being creative. I love to draw, sew, anything creative.
Working out and running also makes me happy. On June 5th, I ran my second half-marathon with Team in Training (TNT), which raises funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). I have run the San Francisco Nike Women’s (half) Marathon and the San Diego Rock and Roll (half) marathon. The San Francisco marathon raised more than $13 million for LLS. The San Diego run just raised more than $9 million!
Happiness to me also means being in pursuit of something. I love building my business and meeting such wonderful people along the way. I’m also doing some speaking.
PWC: It’s hard to be happy when you’re facing cancer. Isn’t it okay to be sad and mad now and then?
DV: Yes, it is okay! I think we go through so many feelings. My sons were six weeks-old and 3 1/2 years-old when I was diagnosed. I think my first emotion was freaked out and scared! But the more I found out about Hodgkin’s, the less scared I was, because the doctors were so optimistic about my treatment. I chose to just listen to my doctor and not listen to the negative comments of others. Sometimes people would say really negative things without realizing how it could affect me. Sure, I was scared and sad at times, but I was never really mad. I felt like I was going through it all for a reason. I just didn’t know what it was at the time. Then over the years, I found myself encouraging others, and then founded Happy First. Now through my site, blog, and other social media, I am reaching out to others.
PWC: What does ‘wearing happiness on your sleeve” mean to you? Why donate to the LLS?
DV: I think “wearing happiness on your sleeve” means several things: wear Happy First to feel good (super soft and comfy) and to be reminded of your potential inside. I think it also means to be always projecting happiness to others.
PWC: Why do you donate 10% of your sales to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society?
DV: I donate to LLS because they help patients and families with their needs and the money also goes to research. If it wasn’t for research and new drugs, I probably wouldn’t be here today! I want to reach others and spread happiness.
Check out Debbie’s new blog: HappyFirstBlog.com