Woman runs a prosperous business, despite MS.
CLOTHING COPIED ART in the twelfth-floor showroom of American Colors at Los Angeles’ California Mart, circa 1985. The first eighteen months of business had been gangbusters, bringing in three-quarters of a million dollars in sales. Prospects for the future looked bright for partners Pam Miller and her second husband, Phillip.
But then unexplainable things began occurring to Miller. While sitting in the showroom the following year she started feeling queasy, fatigued, and sleepy. Spots would appear before her left eye. Neither herbs nor homeopathy helped relieve the condition. Acupuncture, which the clothing manufacturer would begin in 1990, did help to stave off symptoms of what was to be, she believed. It was this same year that Miller started, in her own words, getting very sick.
A cane became necessary in 1990, at the age of 43, to accommodate for a limp which had mysteriously appeared. Miller had her suspicions as to what was afoot and they would be borne out later that year. A spinal tap would tell the tale. Lesions on the brain and spinal cord pointed to what the busy businesswoman had already surmised as early as 1986. The diagnosis was MS.
“1984 through 1989 were five years of utter bliss and happiness,” said Miller, “but the illness terrified him [Phillip] and he didn’t want to walk that path with me.”
The strain on the marriage was too much to bear, and without husband and wife working together harmoniously eveiything began disintegrating as Miller took to her bed. “It was the end of the business, our marriage, and a life I once knew,” she said.
Things worsened when the magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake struck at 4:31 a.m. on January 17, 1994. “I was injured in that earthquake and had surgery on my knees, which set off an exacerbation. I lost my home, I was moved into this apartment, and three weeks later my mother died from shock of the earthquake,” said Miller. “We had to put my father in a home. I couldn’t work-I couldn’t do anything because I was so sick. I was bedridden.”
Two years passed as Miller recuperated. all the while she searched for that magic bullet which would address her MS and allow her to get back on her feet both literally and figuratively. It was not to be found and depression became a constant companion. But as it is said, it is always darkest before the dawn.
A friend, who was a practicing psychologist, had lost her money manager/bookkeeper. The therapist didn’t know how to get her billing done or how to keep her money in order. What she did know was that Miller’s background encompassed over twenty years in Fortune 1OO Corporations where she had worked in corporate accounting as a corporate tax administrator. The psychologist asked her friend if she would take a look at her books and try to put together some kind of system for her so she could understand her money.
“I went in and looked at her books and looked at her money, and I came up with a simplified, easy-to-understand system for knowing where your money was and how to plan ahead from that system,” said Miller. “And she was so happy to have clarity in her money that she started referring her clients to me who were struggling with money issues.”
Consequently, along with continuing to do her friend’s books and helping her strategize, “The Money Coach” was born.
Rather than being a money management or accounting firm, Miller provides an individual, intimate service that helps people put their thoughts together about what wasn’t working with their money and what they’d like to see change.
“And then I work with them individually just like a money therapist,” she said. “I see it like money therapy, and there’s bookkeeping going on and there’s analysis going on and a process that’s going on to help to decide where they’d like to see themselves in three or five years. And I give them ideas on how they might get there.”
Miller works hand-in-hand with the client, and together they develop the path that he/she will take in reaching his/her money goals.
“I throw out ideas,” said the money maven. “I give them suggestions and walk them through the process. I see what I do as a system of helping the client look at their dreams and getting them to solve the problems that they’ve had. We discuss their problems with money and how they felt about themselves, because honestly it’s not really about money, but about self-worth.”
Through word of mouth, Miller has amassed a clientele which includes doctors, lawyers, designers, television comedy writers, entertainers, and a plethora of others who desire to avail themselves of her services. At times it has taken Miller over a year to attend to the waiting list of those who want to work with her.
She has spoken about money management to different groups of individuals, both staff and program participants, who attend UCLA’s Marilyn Hilton MS Achievement Center.
“If I touched one or two people in a room who have my illness and could empower them in one little way to have a better, more qualitative way of life,” said Miller, “that would make me feel really wonderful.”
Miller finds what she does to be incredibly satisfying personally, spiritually, and financially. Through her work she has found “a way to be productive and of service in my life.”
On September 19, 2003, her company incorporated and became known as Crystal Clear Management, Inc.
Today Miller continues to persevere, using an electric wheelchair to get about on the street. The mother of two boys, now 32 and 34, she is able to walk about 20 feet with her walker in her Santa Monica apartment before having to sit down. And while F. Scott Fitzgerald had thought there were no second acts in American lives, he had never crossed paths with Pam Miller.
Al Tainsky resides in Santa Monica, Calif.
Copyright Springhouse Corporation Mar/Apr 2004
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