I've been an artist and entrepreneur all my life. I grew up in California and started out by selling lemonade and cookies to passing neighbors on the weekends. i really can't complain too much about my childhood. We had fun playing in the neighborhood where we grew up.
High school years were tough for me. I spent a lot of time in my room painting and listening to music trying to find myself. I was trying to process life being I had just realized I had been sexually abused as a child. I remained silent about it for years and it wasn't easy for me to deal with or tell my parents. It was humiliating. I had a great dog though. I think every child needs a good dog to turn to when the world seems so cold. I loved animals! If you ask my parents, they'll tell you I rescued every stray in town. They always said, “Janel’s going to be a veterinarian, she loves animals!” So, I tried going to college to be a Veterinarian. As soon as I heard the professor speak highly of animal testing and how you could destroy a rabbits eye for the sake of nail polish, I couldn't help but leave class the first day! Also, when I started out as a veterinarian technician, the fact that the Veterinarian I started working for was miserable, I thought, “Why the heck would I waste eight years of my life going to school to be in this predicament?”
I tried going back to college to find out what “I wanted to be”. I tried interior design, psychology, etc., but I never found my place in any of it, besides, I was a young free spirit and just wanted to skate, surf, snowboard, paint and play ping pong with my new boyfriend. (Oh geez.. sigh) Anyway, after a few failed attempts of college, I started selling jewelry and crowns at a downtown marketplace where I grew up. I moved a few years later and opened another business called the Salt Mermaid selling colored and scented bath salt art! I loved being my own boss and creating new products, but who was I kidding, I couldn't sell enough salt at the time to support myself so back to a regular nine to five I went.
(Left) Playing with the neighborhood kids where I grew up. (Right) My best friend and I after skating Baldy Pipe when I was just twenty years young.
Fast forward through all my attempts at college, dead end jobs, and a couple unhealthy relationships, I was blessed with twin boys! I traded my wild single life of riding horses in the wind (literally), to motherhood!
This was my first time being a mother and I knew nothing! It was through my twins I learned about, c-sections, hospitals, circumcision, baby carriers (a black, strappy, backpack looking thing they hated), oh and Hollywood, being they were asked to play the role of Baby Jake in the show General Hospital. Yep, two screaming babies in the back seat of my truck while our nanny drove us back and forth to Burbank in traffic three to four times a week! No, it really wasn't that bad, after all we did have bottles and Baby Einstein! At home, my little c-section twins preferred the swings and a Moses basket I carried them up and down the stairs in. They became my whole world!
(Top left) My newborn twins were only five pounds each and didn't fit into their newborn clothing. (Top right) Baby Trey on the set of General Hospital with Steve Burton and Rebecca Herbst. (Bottom pics) Landon with Rebecca Herbst and Steve Burton
I was enjoying raising my boys in wine country despite the abuse and finally the leaving of their father, but I wanted something more for them. I told myself, "By the time they turn five we will live next to the ocean so they can surf everyday like I always dreamed." It's not like we lived so far from the ocean as it was, we were only an hour away, but I had an anxious highway driving phobia, so we had to be much closer if they were going to be surfers!
So, when they were almost five, we did just that! I decided to leave the mainland against everyone’s wishes to live a life of leisure in Hawaii. Just me and two strong growing boys who loved the ocean as much as I did! I saved a little money and I didn’t know where we would live or how I would support them after the savings ran out, but I knew there was more to life for us out there than this abuse and the negativity we had suffered and I was determined to find it.
We soon found ourselves in paradise!! It was wonderful! We were home! There was no one to answer to except myself and I made all my own rules! We met people who were positive and believed in taking care of the ocean and eating healthy. These people we now call our ohana. Wow, the endless possibilities with this much freedom, positive energy and all this new aloha, I could hardly grasp it! I started to find my true self again. My light started to shine from within. I felt so free, but there was still something missing. I needed to make a life for us. I didn't know how I was going to do it, but I knew I would find a way!
My last painting session on the mainland, in the garage of my wine country home before we left
My twins enjoying their first, of what would be many, amazing sunsets to come!
A sacred place I would skate to for much needed meditation.
My dream had come true, they were surfers!
We were happy together and we were home.
After longing for someone to share in the joy of raising my boys and our daily adventures, I met someone and we soon grew from a family of three to five. Being pregnant with Keli'i was pure bliss! I began to feel so aware and awake! I started researching the food I was eating, birth, breastfeeding, gentle parenting and more! I opened up an Instagram account for my little tchotchke business and named it Aloha and Light so I could share my new found Aloha with the world. Choosing the words "Aloha" (Love) and "Light" (goodness & thoughtfulness) described what I had become and it was all I would allow in my life from that point on.
A tall, dark, and handsome man who surprised me with flowers and brought me home the most amazing food on the island! I fell in love fast and he's part of the reason Aloha and Light still exists today!
I grew so bonded with this new little soul in my womb, while creating beautiful things like, antique candelabras, bird feeders, cell phone cases and jewelry. I would post them on my Instagram along with some kind of message like, "Keep our Oceans Plastic Free," or "Say no to GMO! It wasn’t until he was born that Aloha and Light Baby Slings fell into my lap.
(Top) My first tchotchke creations for Aloha and Light (Bottom) Pregnant with Keli'i holding up a couple of my new creations.
I was extremely active with my twin boys. When Keli'i was born I wanted to try to using some kind of baby carrier again, so I could stay active and keep up with them. I tried a structured carrier again, then a long stretchy wrap and they were both uncomfortable, hot, and inconvenient. I just really needed something that would keep him in that embryo position on my chest. Something that was breathable and wouldn't make me all sweaty like that thick, hot, stretchy wrap I tried. So, I went on YouTube. I can’t even remember what I typed in the search bar, but the first video that popped up was a beautiful Indian woman taking a long piece of material, tying a wooden ring around it and securing her baby in that perfect, fetal position! OK, so I knew where to get material, but rings? What kind of rings could I use and where would I get them?? That's when I found Slingrings.com! I loved all the testing they put the rings through, so it made me feel comfortable enough to order them and that's when everything started to come together.
(Top) Keli'i was born!
(Bottom left) I remember how hot I was in the mall that day! I was sweaty and my hair was sticking to my face. Trying to wrap baby with long pieces of fabric dragging on the ground was not for me!
(Bottom right) This carrier is obviously harmful to babies legs, but I didn't know that back then. Thankfully I only used it once or twice because it pulled at my back and became painful after only a short time.
I bought a sewing machine and made myself a sling, but not your average single layer sling, no, this was my very own design! We tried it and it worked! My baby loved it and I was so excited to have created something so comfortable! I posted a picture on my Aloha and Light Instagram and soon I was receiving requests for orders! I had created a new product for Aloha and Light without even knowing it. I also didn't know at the time that I had created a design for the most supportive single layer sling on the market. (AKA The Aloha Light "Quad" Shoulder.)
(Left) I'm sewing my first sling here while breastfeeding Keli'i. (Right) This was my very first Aloha and Light handmade sling and it was perfect! The rings are a little low here, but it was exactly what I had been searching for! No back discomfort and he was on my chest in his favorite position.
This is only the beginning of my story! Do you think I'll make it to the top? Stay tuned for more blog posts and please subscribe so I can let you know when new blog posts are up! If you're interested in hearing more about certain photos or times in my life please let me know and comment below, I'd love to share!
Aloha, Janel Santa Ana
P.S. I dedicate my very first blog post to the mamas who have remained connected with me since the very beginning!! You trusted me, you supported me and you ordered my products. I'll never forget you and the connections we made along the way!