From Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur's Soul

A Promise to Keep

When I reflect upon my personal journey, I see the many crossroads I have confronted. Rather than standing still, the opportunity to choose a new direction propelled me forward, granted me the chance to see new landscapes and to embrace the life I was blessed with, regardless of the myriad challenges along the way. I now vividly recognize how the road I chose guided me to the life I know today.

As any young child, my earliest memories revolved around my family. My parents were high school sweethearts who married young and settled down in New Jersey. Surrounded by our large clan of relatives, I spent my days with my maternal grandparents—Nannie and Papa—and playing with my cousins.

The Antonetti name was a proud one, a testament to our strong Italian heritage. My father came to America from Rome in 1954 with nothing in his pocket except the dried sausages his mother had packed so he wouldn’t starve. He arrived with the American Dream in his heart and a belief that if he worked hard he, too, would achieve that dream.

My father chased his dream, working tirelessly to rise up the ranks of Corporate America. His goal was to give his family what he never had, but his dream became the monster that took him away from us and consumed him. His corporate job forced him to travel for extended periods and uprooted our family from its foundation over and over again. His job spit him back at us beaten up, exhausted, feeling unappreciated and inevitably filled with disappointment as the promise of the traditional gold retirement watch turned into the reality of downsizing.

My mother, a gifted artist, lived for her family, but soon became lonely, bitter and depressed during my father’s long absences, eventually grasping for anything that would numb her pain. Addiction took control of her life and changed her from a loving, beautiful woman into something quite different. The “safe place to land” that a child’s home should be was something my brother and I had for a brief moment in time, but was shattered as our parents’ choices began impacting our family. This hurt me to the core and left the two of us to fend for ourselves. I spent much of my childhood dreaming of “normal,” envisioning a day when I could have a home and family of my own. I wanted to feel safe, accepted and loved for who I was.

When bad looked like it could not get any worse, the unthinkable happened: my mother committed suicide. This proved to be one of my life’s critical crossroads; I was only seventeen, and my mother, in that one final, desperate moment, had ended the path of her own life and redirected the course of mine.

While my mother’s death had crushed me, it also pushed me to break away from all that I knew. I no longer dreamed and waited for life to come find me. I struck out to make things happen, and although I had no idea where I was going, I felt I already had met with life’s bottom.

Nannie, the light in my life, was also my compass for life. When I left home, I took her voice with me: You have a strong spirit and you will have a great life if you don’t weaken. But if you do hit bottom, at least learn something while you’re down there.

I vowed to follow Nannie’s words, regardless of the roadblocks and dead ends that challenged me. I was determined not to weaken and succumb to what I feared was my life’s original road, a road paved with sad memories. It was those memories of my father that caused me to never trust Corporate America or to be satisfied with only one job. I often held several jobs at a time, working days, nights and weekends, whatever it took to move my life forward.

Then, at twenty-six, I thought my dream of a “normal” home and family was finally close at hand! Newly married to a man from a good family, we were soon blessed with a child. Feeling our baby growing inside of me was one of the most exciting times of my life! I was ready for that perfect life, the one I had dreamed of as a child.

Determined to be the great mom, I dove into learning. I read books, took classes and sought advice. I was determined to create the ideal place for my family to grow. We named our son David, and life was wonderful for a moment.

The joy I felt in David’s birth was my most perfect blessing. I have never in my life felt more close to God than during this time. But when we took our newborn son home from the hospital, David’s crying turned to agonizing screams of pain. The minor rashes that most babies get covered David’s entire body. A familiar feeling began to stir inside me—life was taking a U-turn back to my days of fear and desperation.

David was sick, and I was petrified. We struggled through months of health issues as I turned to doctors, nurses and specialists, none of whom seemed to be giving us answers. Physically and emotionally exhausted, alone and beaten, hopelessness was closing in around me, and I believed it was coming even faster for David. What I had thought was going to be my “happily ever after” was turning into the hardest struggle of my life. Besides trying to help David, my marriage was falling apart. I was facing an all-too-familiar crossroad.

But Nannie’s words echoed in my head, If you hit bottom, at least learn something while you’re down there. I had no idea what I could learn from losing David, the most important gift of my life, so instead I made a promise out loud to God and myself: “If you let me keep him, I will do something to give back. I’m not sure what, but I will die trying.”

I started journaling as much as I could. I soon discovered that David only had very severe reactions on Tuesdays, the day I cleaned house! Dumbfounded that my conclusion could not possibly be true, I went to the library on a mission to find answers. I was shocked to learn how toxic our homes had become over the years. In a panic, I raced home and threw out every cleaning product and anything I thought could be toxic. Then I opened the windows, sat down and cried. I had no idea if I was either right or insane, but I knew for the first time in months I took back my power and made a choice to do something. David didn’t get sick that day, or the next, or any day that week. The sink was filling up fast with dirty dishes and the floor was piled with soiled laundry, but David was getting better. I saw hope for the first time.

Feeling that my son was safe, I looked at my home, which now was an absolute wreck. I had to get my home and life back in order. I reached out for knowledge to the most constant and reliable person in my life—Nannie. She shared with me that in her era people, not companies, made products. She gave me her own recipe on how to make soap and it was a simple mixture, with love as the most important ingredient.

I began using her recipes and sharing the results with friends and other moms. Word spread, and I found myself making more and more soap. Slowly I learned how to get more uses from the soap by grating a bar on a cheese grater; I was now able to wash clothes and used the gratings for a variety of other household cleaning chores.

Once again I found myself at another of life’s crossroads. Keeping my promise to God and myself, I knew I had a responsibility as a parent to tell others about what I had learned. Corporate America was leading women down a road of “fresh scent” and “concentrated cleaning power” without sharing any knowledge about safety and long-term health consequences. If I so easily made these mistakes, so would others.

With nothing but faith and my promise, I took my Nannie’s recipe and began making vegetable-based products for moms like me. Without really knowing it, I stepped into the multibillion-dollar cleaning industry. I was determined to speak up for what I believed were the new choices needed for today’s families. At the time, no one could have known how difficult this chosen crossroad in my life’s journey was going to be. I had no idea how much would be asked of my family, my friends and myself. It came down to trust—trusting that I had enough in me to give it all back, knowing that I might lose everything I had ever known.

My journey continues to unfold and brings with it new challenges and new roads to explore. Yet at the end of each day, I remain connected to my promise, to my purpose, to my son—and always to helping people make better choices for their families. I believe there is a human-friendly lifestyle that offers better choices for everything and everyone around us. I consider my role and my life an honor and a responsibility. I take this journey down my personal road very seriously, and am truly grateful for each and every step.

Amilya Antonetti

EPILOGUE: Besides being the mother of David, now a happy and healthy preteen, Amilya Antonetti is the founder of Amilya’s Soapworks and president of AMA Productions.

Inspired by the love for her son, created with her grandmother’s wisdom and using the finest ingredients available, Amilya’s Soapworks offers cleaning products that are certified hypoallergenic, family safe, nontoxic, cruelty-free and biodegradable. Her products can be found at stores throughout the nation, including Hudson Bay Companies (Canada) and Linens ’n Things.

Outside studies show Amilya’s Soapworks work as well as, if not better than, the harsh chemical products the majority of Americans use today. Using her entrepreneurial prowess, motherly instincts and life experiences to compete, and succeed, against the tightly knit world of America’s mega–cleaning industry conglomerations, Antonetti’s products are also very price competitive compared with those other brands.

Coined the “Better Choice Mom,” Antonetti has been a featured guest on Oprah, Extra and the The Early Show on CBS, to name a few. She is a nationally known speaker to both mothers and the business world, and an author as well, having penned Why David Hated Tuesdays: One Courageous Mother’s Guide to Keeping Your Family Toxin and Allergy Free (Prima, 2003) and a self-published book entitled The Broken Cookie—Life Can Be More Than Crumbs. A frequent radio guest, Antonetti reaches out to the masses, teaching people how to live a fun, cost-effective and easy human-friendly lifestyle, and offers advice on making “Better Choices” for themselves and their families.

Antonetti’s business is worth millions. Albeit small in comparison with the billions that the “big boys” of the cleaning industry bring in, it’s not bad for a single mom who made a promise to God and herself to help others find their way back to a simpler and more trusted way of life. She kept her word.

To learn more about Amilya’s Soapworks, please visit www.soapworks.com or www.betterchoicemom.com.

Dahlynn McKowen

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