LFM #22 - Taylor on Moving with Purpose, Motivation, and Morning Light

You know when you find a friend who just has that special spark about them that makes you want to bask in their presence? Taylor is that friend. Taylor and I met because of our shared love for barre—I actually subbed for several of her classes before ever meeting her in person—and she’s such an inspirational force I’m so glad to know. 

Taylor is a health coach, barre instructor, and events coordinator—spreading love and positivity wherever she goes. 

“The first thing I do, every morning, is open the shades and let the light in,” Taylor says. “I’ve always been a morning person, and generally wake up very motivated and energized,” she says. “When I was first starting to intentionally wake up earlier, I’d have all these notes on my alarms to motivate me and remind myself of what I need to do first thing… it’s totally a habit now.” 

A thread throughout everything Taylor does during the day is music. “With almost everything I do, I have music playing. It’s in my morning routine, on my drive, while I’m working, and I love making playlists for barre class. Music is like my therapy. It motivates me and helps my work flow.” Taylor’s current favorites are folk pop and electronic chill music (“I can’t do anything that has an aggressive vibe,” she laughs)—Some of her favorites are John Mayer, Dead & Company, Jack Johnson, and Maggie Rogers. “I set a goal at the beginning of this year to see as much live music as possible in 2019,” she shares. “We have a few concerts planned for this summer already!”

Taylor wakes up early around 5:30 and spends the first hour of her morning working on her coaching business; whether it be checking in with challenges or other coaches on her team, creating content for that day, or planning out future challenge groups. “I’m an ESFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale, so I definitely function off of other people’s energy and love connecting with others… I thrive around positive, uplifting people, and I hope to be that for others as well.” After her power hour working on her business, she’ll move on to her workout. “Right now, I’m doing Transform 20 which is a 20-minute HIIT style workout, so although it’s a challenging 20 minutes, it doesn’t take me long to squeeze it into my mornings.  After my workout, I jump in the shower and get ready for the day, which is really all of 15 minutes from stepping into the shower to being ready for work,” she laughs. “I really am not a makeup person at all, and I like to be efficient.” 

Then she’ll prep her morning shake, lunch and snacks for the rest of the day before heading to work at Cunningham Children’s Home, where she manages fundraising events. “I love my job and it’s super meaningful work that I do, but event planning can be exhausting with constantly balancing so many different projects.  I find myself wanting to spend any pocket of time I have working on my own business. So, I find little pockets of time throughout the day to work on it as much as I can… waking up extra early, using my hour lunch break and often an hour in the evenings when I get home for the day. I’ve always felt I was made for more than what was expected… not climbing a corporate ladder, but instead living a meaningful life that makes me excited to wake up every morning and want to work!  Time freedom is really important to me, so I’m working hard now so I can eventually create my own schedule and be my own boss! My morning time spent working on my business is super motivating and makes me excited for what the future holds.”

She’s also found that working out in the morning has been a big shift in her life. “Moving with purpose feels so right for my body… and now that I’ve started working out in the morning, I have so much more free time in the evenings. I am less stressed and feel like I can actually just live my life and enjoy my day… it’s so freeing. I used to try and go to the gym after work in the evening and was just drained and felt like I had no time at home. I like to stick with my workout programs for consistency, but when it’s nicer outside, I love to go for a walk or run when the sun is coming up… I love being outside first thing in the morning, it’s my favorite time of the day.” While she teaches barre at 6 a.m. on Friday mornings and loves her super committed early morning students, she has loved building her coaching business. “Leading group fitness was such a dream of mine for so long, and then it just aligned perfectly. But I’ve realized there’s a definite difference in coaching versus teaching… with coaching, I’m able to support others while not actively leading the workouts and being in the same room… so it’s nice for me to have that balance of teaching class some, and then saving my energy to work out for me on other days, but still making an impact by helping others live their healthiest lives through coaching.”

Even with an early wakeup, Taylor isn’t a coffee person. “I used to be a coffee person! But I cut the coffee habit cold turkey over a year ago, because I thought, I don’t think I really need this… and I really didn’t miss it at all. I’ll have a coffee every now and then when I’m out, but it’s not a normal part of my morning anymore.” She does love the occasional hot tea, though—her favorite is a chamomile/lavender/spearmint blend, but she also loves orange spice for a more invigorating tea, as well as green chai. 

Taylor and I discussed how much we both love personality assessments as well as Zodiac sign meanings. “There is just so much power in accepting yourself, understanding who you are, and living it out. Really living it out. And while I like horoscopes, I don’t check them daily or let them alter how I feel. It’s important to have that connection… to listen and to grow into yourself. Embracing who you are and living it out is such an important part of discovering happiness and purpose in your life.”

“I am seeking knowledge, always,” Taylor says when I ask about favorite books and podcasts. “I try to read as much as I can, but I find that I don’t have much free time between coaching, teaching, and working full time. I try to find time when I can, which usually happens before bed or on the weekends.  But if I’m at work and not actively working on a detail-oriented project, I’ll listen to a podcast or listen to trainings from other coaches. For podcasts, right now I’m loving Rise with Rachel Hollis and the Rise Together one, on relationships… I’m so excited because this summer at our annual coaching training event, Summit, Rachel will be the keynote speaker! Dream come true to hear her speak live!” 

Her main morning motivation? Sharing. “I naturally share my story and I want to help other people. Fitness and health has always been a passion of mine, but I know a lot of people struggle with finding consistency and balancing a healthy lifestyle. Since actively sharing my journey and helping others reach their goals, I’ve received so much support and it’s so reassuring that I’m doing exactly what I was meant to do. The best feeling is when people reach out to me and let me know they started working out in the mornings because of something I shared, or that I am motivating them to work towards their goals, or that what I’m sharing is making an impact on their every day. You just never know what kind of impact you’re making on others by sharing your journey and living out your best life.”

You can follow Taylor on Instagram and, if you’re in central Illinois, take a barre class with her.

The first thing I do, every morning, is open the shades and let the light in... I’ve always been a morning person, and generally wake up very motivated and energized... When I was first starting to intentionally wake up earlier, I’d have all these notes on my alarms to motivate me and remind myself of what I need to do first thing… it’s totally a habit now.
— Taylor Jules Tureskis

LFM #21 - Leah on Creativity, Motherhood, and Self-reflection

“Make magic happen.” These words adorn one of my favorite shirts, made by Polished Prints: beautiful t-shirts created by Leah Longueville. The brand is focused on bringing people together through minimalist, feel-good designs that will spark joy in its wearer through all seasons of life—and a series of events (sparked by beautiful t-shirts) brought Leah and I together to meet and I am so seriously happy to share her story. 

Leah is a creative mom, designer, writer, owner and talent of marketing agency Yallow Creative, and owner and creator of Polished Prints. 

“Self-care is something I really struggle with,” Leah says. “I had originally thought that if I was working for myself, there would be more time for that… but it’s definitely still a conscious choice I have to make. Last year, I got to a point where I’d have clients calling early in the morning… when you’re in an office, it’s so ingrained that you just have to be ‘on’ all the time. I switched to making the effort to run after dropping Lily to daycare… and I have to run in nature, if I can. Spending time in nature just nourishes my soul.” Leah grew up in southern Illinois, near the Shawnee National Forest, and so she loves to run surrounded by trees. “It’s the biggest stress reliever.” 

Now, she’ll start her work day after that run. “I jump into design work for clients and then will transition to Polished Prints work, like inventory right now, or updates to my website. I struggle with routine, because things are always so different—I definitely like to switch it up, though. I feel very blah when I spend all day on my phone and computer—I need to be physically doing things, with my hands. So it’s nice when I need to label boxes, handle inventory, and can get away from a screen.” Leah says she charges her phone in the kitchen, to be sure she doesn’t check it at night or early in the morning. “It’s just nice to step away and have that time for self-reflection.” 

Leah has always been a writer and creative person. “I’ve spent my whole life writing… I knew from an early age, if I was ever good at anything, it was writing. I have always been a storyteller… learning about people, including myself, has always coincided with that writing. I feel like I’m on this journey to know myself… and as a written processor, I’ve written hundreds and hundreds of pages in journals over the years,” she says. Leah attended Southern Illinois University (SIU) and worked for the student-led paper on the city desk and then was editor in chief for two semesters. “I had started blogging in college, on Tumblr, and while it felt a little uncomfortable pushing my own content, I essentially created this alter ego of ‘Stella Louise’ with the blog, and it was a way to talk about things. Soon, with the paper, though, I realized I had turned a lot of my side passions into work, and it wasn’t until later that I picked up journaling and other things I had enjoyed before.” 

Leah was working for a local tourism marketing and management agency, when she realized that she needed a change—and a new influx of things she’d once enjoyed. “I’d just had my daughter, and I felt like something was missing… I went through old journals, and was like ‘why am I not seeing the world in this way still?’ I was really out of my element and felt like I couldn’t continue living life that way.” It so happened an opportunity for a contract soon after allowed her to make the transition.“The stars aligned, and I said yes.”  

Leah’s company, Yallow Creative was born through this. “Business started piling in, which was great, but then I found myself back in that place—being nervous, overwhelmed, anxious… I had started Polished Prints as a stationery company as a creative outlet when I was pregnant with Lily, and a friend asked me to make a onesie as a gift… so I got out the Cricut, started making shirts, and something just clicked.” Leah chose phrases and sayings that resonated with her. “I feel like that really saved me during that moment… I had literally never felt so lost, after having Lily, and changing things up in my career—I was doubting my abilities with everything.” Leah and I talked about our love for Gabby Bernstein’s “The Universe Has Your Back.” “The universe has your back has truly been my anthem,” Leah says. “Right when I felt things were growing maybe too fast, work was piling up with Polished Prints orders, my husband suggested I outsource the printing—and the perfect opportunity showed up for that, right here in town.” 

Leah is an enneagram 9, the peacemaker. “I’m also a Libra, so I’m definitely indecisive about small things,” she says. “It’s so interesting to see how everyone handles situations in different ways, based on personality types,” she laughs.  

Lily will be two soon; Leah says mornings are very different now than they were just a month ago. “Lily will wake up at about 6:15 now, versus that 4 a.m. wake-up time not too long ago,” she says. Mornings for the Longueville family are all about quality time together. “My husband leaves for work at 6:30, so we try to get up together and spend some time with each other… and then Lily and I will build castles and play together with blocks, color, play together… and then have breakfast and coffee before getting ready.” 

Leah loves podcasts: “How I Built This with Guy Raz is one of my absolute favorites,” she says. “And a sustainable one! I did like Goal Digger and Girlboss Radio for a while at the start of my entrepreneurial journey, but feel like I’ve kind of outgrown them—they’re a little too filled with ads for me now.” She also loves murder mystery podcasts and Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations. “The Brené Brown episode on the anatomy of trust, and especially self trust, was so, so good.”

She also likes to read right before bed, if she has time. “Big Magic was such an important book to me,” she says. “It was like, ok, are you writing this just to me?” She also loves Gillian Flynn books (“I love murder fiction!”) and “anything that breaks your heart a little and pulls at your heartstrings.” She says “My Sunshine Away” was a great read. She says it’s a mystery and coming-of-age story that was written very beautifully. 

You can follow Leah on her personal Instagram and on the Polished Prints Instagram. If you’d like to view shirts (and coffee mugs!), you can visit the Polished Prints website here

 

 

Self-care is something I really struggle with... I had originally thought that if I was working for myself, there would be more time for that… but it’s definitely still a conscious choice I have to make.
— Leah Longueville
Photo of Polished Prints tees courtesy Emmaline Loren Photography

Photo of Polished Prints tees courtesy Emmaline Loren Photography

Photo of Polished Prints tees courtesy Emmaline Loren Photography

Photo of Polished Prints tees courtesy Emmaline Loren Photography

LFM #20 - Caitlin on Food Freedom, Fiction, and Making Your Bed

So, I think there are maybe 1.5 billion ways to spell the name “Caitlin.” When I meet a Caitlin with the same spelling as me, I feel like we just have to meet—we’re quite rare. Even though we live in the same central Illinois area, I met Caitlin Haines through her Instagram, @eatwellwithcait (do you see why I love the platform so much?). I look forward to seeing her beautiful, bright photos of food each day. Watching Cait meal prep makes me feel at once completely unorganized and also hopeful that I could one day achieve at least a similar level of food planning. She makes it look easeful, delicious, and gorgeous—all with a positive attitude and advocating for a healthy relationship with food. 

Cait is a certified health coach helping clients ditch dieting in favor of food freedom. 


“I love looking at Instagram in the morning!” she shares, as we talk about how that’s usually on the “don’t do” list for morning routines. “I love finding inspiration on Instagram, between food and recipes and seeing what I’ll make today, as well as anything to help cultivate a positive outlook.” However, she always starts the day by feeding her cats. “They have to come first,” she says. “Then I’ll make breakfast—lately, I’ve been on a smoothie kick. I don’t know how long it will last, but something about the weather turning warmer has me wanting something fruity, cool, and refreshing. I always try to throw greens in there, too.” One thing Cait can’t go without in her morning? Making her bed. “My mom taught me that—she would always make the bed, even if I was trying to sleep in on a weekend in it,” she laughs. “But when I come home at the end of the day, it makes me feel so peaceful to have this nicely made bed. It makes such a difference in my day—just by quickly making it of a morning.” 

Then she’ll almost always go on a walk. “Even if it’s snowy outside, I’ll try and go on the walking path by my home. There’s a lake with a loop around it, and I’ll just listen to podcasts… it really helps me get into a positive mindset for my day.” Caitlin really loves the Happier & Healthier podcast, with Maria Marlowe, and while she doesn’t always necessarily agree with the advice given, likes to hear different viewpoints on the Diet Starts Tomorrow podcast. “My guilty pleasure podcast is My Favorite Murder,” Cait shares. “I can’t listen to it at night, though.” 

Cait likes to surround herself with health and wellness information: “I really enjoy absorbing it,” she says. “It’s the world I live in.” Cait went to college for Family and Consumer Science Education, which she describes as “essentially 21st century home ec.” She then went on to teach nutrition and culinary skills to high school students for a few years. “It’s so funny, because during college, I was so not interested in the nutrition aspect of my degree… but then something changed and teaching basic nutrition to those kids became my passion.” She realized everything she had known up until the moment she left her teaching job she had taught herself. “So I decided to enroll in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN)—I graduate next month, and I have learned so much more about nutrition. One very important thing I’ve learned is that what works for one person may not work for the other,” she says. “Nutrition and health, generally, is just so individualized, and it take time to really figure out what works well. You are your first client, and it’s been a really interesting journey, even just for myself.”  

Caitlin’s friend had started a personal concierge business and wanted to offer meal prep for her clients; joining together, Cait started going into clients’ homes and cooking for them to make the week easier. “I didn’t know if actual meal prepping was something I’d like to offer clients, so it was the perfect opportunity to try it out,” she says. She loved that aspect and was excited to receive so much positive feedback. “It’s really gratifying, knowing I can use my skills to help ease someone else’s week. And my friends were always interested in what I was making for myself and others—so I thought I’d start sharing on Instagram. My most popular recipe, to date, is the egg roll in a bowl. I’m always thinking, what are the simplest things I can throw together? But they’re so good!” 

Cait loves sharing recipes and the meal prep she’s doing on Instagram because of all the connections she’s been able to make through the platform. “My first picture, years ago, was of a pair of sandals. It’s amazing how much things have changed. It’s really all about connections… I love that. Sometimes, the app sends you exactly who you should know.” 

Food freedom is a huge part of what Caitlin is focused on helping her clients find. “My own definition of food freedom comes from my personal background… I don’t ever remember learning nutrition until I started seeking that education out as an adult. In college, I was convinced I had to count each and every calorie, and if I was over that 1,500 mark, I wasn’t doing a good job. I could NEVER have cookies or pizza—those were bad foods. I labeled all foods ‘good’ or ‘bad’… but food is just food. It’s fuel that helps me through my day; it can make me feel better, one way or another, but the labels of good and bad aren’t helpful.” She avoided teaching high schoolers how to count calories, mostly because of the stigma that can be attached to it. “I was very focused on the goal of getting in those six main nutrients your body needs. The kids had a really hard time getting past fats—they thought of body fat and how they would need to avoid all fats. We need to have a good relationship with food and how it makes you feel… I’m all about nourishing food that nourishes that.” Making conscious choices about food and asking yourself how it will nourish you are key, according to Caitlin. “Pizza can be very nourishing on a soul level. If you need that pizza right now, that’s fine! Food is a very social thing, too. That’s why I love IIN… it goes beyond the science of what our bodies need to the intuitive motives and relationships we have with food. The primary food isn’t the food that’s on our plate… it’s what we’re consuming in our relationships, our feelings of fulfillment in career, education, and more. The food on our plate is really secondary. I went into nutrition school with a different vision than I’m coming out with… but it really helped renew my relationship with food.” She’s excited to help a larger audience soon. “My blog has really been on hold while I’m focused on school… it’s so exciting to think of what will come next.” 

Caitlin loves to read—usually before bed, to help her unwind—and she especially loves fiction. “I just read Melmoth by Sarah Perry… I adore thrillers and it’s all about the urban legend of the wanderer. Such a good read! I also loved the Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin.” She’s also currently reading Feeding You Lies by Vani Hari. “The book goes into how differently processed foods are regulated in different countries… they’ll show a food label in the U.K. versus the U.S., and it’s the same general product, but they’ll have way more additives in the U.S., because the regulations are more lax.” 

Cait is an ISFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale and says she adores lists. “I love Post-it’s,” she says. “I have Post-it’s everywhere… I make so many lists, like what I need to get done for the day, and, cooking up to six meals for clients in just one day, I have to keep it all straight. I get so much satisfaction from crossing things off the list… even if I’ve completed something, I’ll write it down, just so I can have that great feeling of crossing it off.” 

You can connect with Cait on Instagram; you won’t want to miss the egg roll in a bowl.

We need to have a good relationship with food and how it makes you feel… I’m all about nourishing food that nourishes that.
— Caitlin Haines

LFM #18 – Brianne on Brave Fear, Encouragement, and Grounding Moments

I know there’s a lot of talk that Instagram can be a terrible thing to look at when you first wake up. I definitely try not to open it right upon waking—which can be a hard habit to break—but I definitely gravitate towards Instagram most mornings, and one of those reasons is to watch Brianne share her #morningaffirmations in her turquoise robe. Hair adorably askew; turquoise robe wrapped around in fluffy splendor; no makeup upon her beautiful face—and she just shares, through Instagram stories, the affirmation she’s chosen, usually at random, for the day. (Today’s was “I am open to healing and growth.”) I found Brianne through Instagram, beautiful place that it is, and instantly wanted to be her best friend, and also, felt that I was. She loves swirly dresses, Paris, Disneyland, and we’ve definitely bonded over a shared adoration of Mary Poppins. She is a bright light I knew I wanted to interview, and I’m so happy this conversation took place. 

Brianne is a life and business guidance coach with an absolutely lovely podcast called Brave Fear. She helps entrepreneurial women create a brave mindset for success through her podcast, group coaching, and Brightly Immersive Mastermind groups. 

 CENTERED THROUGH VARIETY

“My morning routine helps keep me centered,” Brianne says. “But, as an enneagram 7, I have to have variety to keep it fun… but, it’s super grounding for me to have.” Also an enneagram 7, “the enthusiast,” I feel Brianne on this point; maybe that’s why I’m so interested in what everyone else does for their morning routines. I’m always switching it up! Whatever feels good in the moment.

“I do always journal in the morning,” Brianne says. “I’ve been journaling for years; right after I feed my cat, I’ll write out a gratitude list of at least five things I am grateful for. I try to make them very specific, too, like not just ‘my cat’ but ‘my warm cat, snuggled in my lap.’ There’s so much emotion behind that that I want to feel the gratitude with. I love the Cultivate What Matters brand… I have the Write the Word journal. It’s my prayer time… I can get out my thoughts and talk to God. It feels like a conversation, so I can process and let go of whatever is weighing on me. It’s been really healing for my soul.” She then reads from the devotional she loves by Christine Caine;  and then she’ll pull an affirmation card or make her own. “If I’m drawing from a deck of affirmation cards, I just pull them out at random, and trust that whatever I choose is what I need to hear that day.” Brianne says her #morningaffirmations in her turquoise robe came out of a challenge to herself to let go of her perfectionism. “I wanted to show people what I’m doing in the morning, but really, truly, how I am. I wear this robe a lot of the time… it was like, why am I not showing that? You’re literally getting me first thing in the morning. People kept telling me that it helped to ground them for their mornings, and they felt connected—and I felt so connected, too. So it’s showing all these things.”  

BRAVE FEAR 

Brianne doesn’t do caffeine anymore (“It was terrible for my anxiety levels,” she says) but does kickstart her metabolism with bone broth heated on the stove. “It’s such a calming moment, even just stirring it, of a morning,” she says. She throws in an added scoop of collagen as well. 

After that, she gets started with her day—which, as a life and business coach working from her home, looks different every day. “I work with entrepreneurial women as a coach… every business coaching session ended up being where we would talk about our fears, and go deeper. You can get business information anywhere… but without doing the work on your fears and what’s holding you back, you really can’t move forward,” Brianne says. That’s where “Brave Fear” came in. “I’ve lived in fear for nearly three decades,” she laughs. “So I realized, I’m really a fear expert. The name came from a conversation with my mom… and I started to run with it. Brave. Fear. It’s two words, and while you’re not going to erase your fears, you’re going to allow that fear to be brave.” Brianne is passionate about finding a different way to approach fear: “It’s like a friend trying to protect us… embrace it, and then let it guide you.” She places a lot of emphasis on the words she chooses, largely in part to the emotions behind them. “Words have a lot of power… it means a lot when I choose them,” she says. 

Brianne feels like her life has consistently been in transition—from a career in music to photography to branding to business and life coaching—which I can absolutely relate to. “It feels like a strange path, but I just keep following that fear, and somehow, it’s all connected.” Leaving the music industry was difficult for her, but also a big relief. “It’s wonderful to let go of what I ‘have to’ be or ‘should be’… it’s a beautiful roller coaster that you’ve never been on before.” 

She blocks her calendar in a way I can only describe as brilliant, with meetings one week, and all the “behind-the-scenes” work the next. “On the week I don’t have meetings, I’ll definitely stay in my robe all day and not get ready,” she laughs. “I’m glad to have the freedom to separate the two aspects of my business. It’s hard for me to follow to-do lists, so I will pick a bigger project for a day and let myself really dedicate focused time to it.” To keep her focused on her goals, she loves the Start Today journal by Rachel Hollis, which has you write your goals as if they’ve already happened. “It gives me that momentum to make a better choice; and it’s been huge in my accountability. I let this be my reminder, so progress towards my goals happens throughout the day… because you’re already capable of achieving your dreams. It’s just time to brave your fear and make them happen.”

You can connect with Brianne on Instagram, through the Brave Fear Instagram, her website, and listen to her lovely podcast

Words have a lot of power... it means a lot when I choose them.
— Brianne Wik
Photo: Casie Marie Photography

Photo: Casie Marie Photography

B&Co.-1172.jpg
Photo: Casie Marie Photography

Photo: Casie Marie Photography

Photo: Casie Marie Photography

Photo: Casie Marie Photography

Photo: Casie Marie Photography

Photo: Casie Marie Photography

LFM #17 - The Why, What, and How of Purpose and Joy

Hello, friends. It’s been a while since I’ve written an actual blog post! Most of my days are filled with writing—for myself, for the company I work for in various formats—but blogging has taken a back seat lately. And that’s ok, because (1) of course that’s ok and (2) I feel a shift in the air, the winds of change, and more blog posts coming soon.

I came across a Rumi quote today I’ve seen before, but it spoke to me today more than it did the last time I read it.

“Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.” - Rumi

Being in any sort of marketing or personal development sphere (or, like me, both), we often are asked the question: “What’s your why?” We have to know some sort of driving why to do anything. I, especially, like to feel there is purpose to the things I do, even if the purpose is “it’s fun and I feel better when I do it.” I know other people have thrown around their purpose as reasons for not doing other things and that sort of focused attention, goal-orientation, and general vision can help keep the nonsense life can throw around at bay. I tend to be less wishy-washy on saying yes and no to things when I have a feel for what my purpose is; in life, generally, as well as what I’m focusing on in the short-term.

I like to journal to myself and ask questions—I get way more answers and real clarity that way. I ask myself: what do I want from my life? The most consistent answer: To live life unfettered, in joy. I know what that looks like more and more; and I am frustrated with myself if I’m not following my own best advice and guidance to where I know could lead there. When some of the steps feel big, I remember I can ask to be shown the way. And sooner or later, little signs appear that mean something to me.

Almost exactly one year ago, I was having coffee in the breakfast nook in my kitchen. I’d been waking up early for over a year, each morning, to spend time with myself before “starting” my day, in which other people and the outside world were directly involved. I’d worked through a lot of heartaches and worries in that time. And I was literally just enjoying my morning—the sun was streaming in, my coffee had visible steam coming off of it, and the phrase just popped into my head: “Light-filled Mornings.” I am a recovering over-achiever. I could be upset I haven’t “done more” and “finished” every vision I’ve had for this platform, this concept, in that time. But when those thoughts come up, I choose not to be. Because this is a large part of my purpose, and it’s only just begun. I’ll never be finished, not all the way. It will continue to evolve. And I love that. It’s such a gift.

Of course, by following what I truly want in life (to live life unfettered, in joy) to live out my purpose, this necessitates that I do it in conjunction with finding joy. If whatever I am feeling while doing anything is “not-joy” then it deserves to be questioned. Does this really need to be done? Does this really need to be done by me? If so, then how can I have more fun while doing it? How can I make sure I do this less? How can I do more of what brings me joy?

Sometimes, living life in a way that asks the questions is exhausting. Sometimes I just want to go through the motions: my heart isn’t light, and nothing feels fun. In those times, I need rest. Now is not the time. But I’ve found that you can’t ever really go back, before the questions. Because everything lovely in my life has come from the asking—and the answers, that always come. Even if they’re not in a way I’ve expected.

And every morning, it begins again. And this makes life truly beautiful.

I’ve found that you can’t ever really go back, before the questions. Because everything lovely in my life has come from the asking—and the answers, that always come. Even if they’re not in a way I’ve expected.
— Caitlin McCoy

LFM #16 - Staying Up Late, Being Social, and Receiving Inspiration

Hi, friends.

Today, I read something I’d written in my journal last week, and it made me so happy, I thought I’d share:

Life keeps giving us gifts, again and again. There is always a different way, a new way. Life is beautiful, and your joy is both possible and prevalent—and deserved.

It’s currently the Polar Vortex in the Midwest, with temperatures nearing record-breaking lows. With the winter, I’ve been taking a break from a lot of things, somewhat unintentionally (but with gladness that’s how it’s worked out)—like interviewing lovely ladies for the Light-filled Mornings blog (I have a lot lined up for spring, however!), teaching barre, and a lot of freelance work. Those things truly bring me joy (not always freelance work, I’m discovering, but the other two), but with today being a day that leaves me whisking away any and all expectations of physical productivity (my house is a wreck, and that is all right for today), I am sitting in appreciation of the breaks on things that have made space for others.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending a work conference. It’s a gift that I even want to call it a “privilege” to attend the work conference; because while I’ve always loved writing and the process of work, I haven’t always loved the environment it’s taken place in—often, far from it. During this conference, I was away from home for several days all on my own, and while my kids handled it very well, I knew it’d be an adjustment. I kept thinking to myself, I want to truly enjoy this time. And you know what? I really did.

I enjoyed the experience of being social; I’m a very introverted person, much as my personality is also bubbly and people-loving. It normally drains me to be too social for too long—I met so many lovely, truly lovely, people during this conference, drank a lot of coffee, snuggled a lot of puppies (yes, there was an evening event where you could snuggle adoptable puppies), and had my expectations blown out of the water. My expectations of the people I would meet, the experience I would have, and how I would feel during the event—all were surpassed.

I also did something I rarely ever do: I stayed up late. Every night. And I realized that this time is pretty special as well. While I normally wake up very early, and have transitioned myself into a morning person, I have a lot of people ask me, “but what happens if I just can’t wake up early? What if I’m a night owl?” While I do think getting your day off on the right foot is always a good thing, staying up late during this conference was pretty magical. And I had a lot of thoughts; I wrote in my journal, at about 2 a.m.:

In the wee small hours of the morning… the funny thing about staying up late is you can get in a momentum swing where you really can keep staying up. All alone in a hotel room, there is an ambient silence that’s quite comforting and magical… I’m starting to understand how people do this.

My only goals for the week were to (1) enjoy myself and live fully in the moment as much as I could; and also, (2) to send off a draft manuscript to a literary agent for the book version of Light-filled Mornings. I am happy to say I did both. I don’t have any publishing news as of yet, but just the process was lovely—and of course, it took staying up late until 2:30 in the morning on the last night I was staying to do it, FedEx’ing at noon the next day. But it was so lovely and worth it; I am excited and curious to see how this unfolds.

This is a small part of Chapter 7, entitled “Receiving Inspiration”:

“To change your life is to change your energy: to make an elemental change in your mind and emotions.”

– Joe Dispenza

My soul tells me that what I want in life is to live life unfettered, in joy. There are a lot of things that I think I want and that I truly do want to do or have, in any given moment. But when I get to the heart of it, that’s my “why.” Yours is likely quite different; or at least phrased differently, should you ask yourself. At our core, though, is there anything better than living life freely, as we wish? When you sit with yourself and make the space for the light to come through, the world opens up. Or rather, it was open; you’ve just found it, discovered your opportunity. And through its change and your own, reflecting, you will continue to find it in each step.

When I first set out to write a book, it was February of 2017. I was about seven months into my own personal deep dive into the life I felt needed fixing. I happened to look on Facebook and saw a post from a dear friend whose life was in a fairly constant state of disarray. She had been dear to me for a long time, and I knew, regardless of what life choices she made, how special of a person she was. I was sitting on the hardwood floor of my home’s den, and it just hit me—why do some people have a victimized experience, and others don’t? Why do some people seem to have a bad go at it, and for others, things seem to float on easily? Yes, there are actions and subsequent consequences; yes, there is the question of privilege; yes, there is the question of mindset and nature versus nurture and ALL THE THINGS. But it hit me that when it comes down to it, it’s really the underlying energy you’re bringing to the table. That energy could be there for any number of reasons—but that energy is it. It was an epiphany for me. The book I was going to write was called, very simply, “energy.” And as time went on, my energy went elsewhere. But that day, that concept, that foundation of energy and its premise that everything rests on it—that’s built the foundation for receiving inspiration during my light-filled mornings, and my life.

So, how does your energy feel to you? It’s tied into your emotions, to be sure, but it goes deeper than that. It’s your raw feeling, your baseline, gut, vibrating core; it’s whether you feel light when you walk down the street, as if a balloon could carry you away, or if you feel like you’ve got to be dragged along, unfairly, by life. While these are ideas we can attach words, layers of meaning, and metaphors to, truly, we feel them, and must feel them first before we can decide to shift—if that’s what we decide to do at all.

And when you want to shift your energy, in this morning moment, a good practice? To ask—and receive—inspiration. When we’re actively searching for answers, googling frantically, asking this person and that in an effort to overcome something, we rarely find those answers. But when we stop and ask of the world, of ourselves, for inspiration, of any kind, we let it come through.

And so, even in the midst of extreme cold, of dreams that aren’t here today—let’s enjoy and trust. There is so much joy in appreciation; letting go and moving forward; and in being here, now.

-Caitlin

Life keeps giving us gifts, again and again. There is always a different way, a new way. Life is beautiful, and your joy is both possible and prevalent—and deserved.
— Caitlin McCoy

LFM #15 - Caitlin's Word of the Year for 2019

Last year, I thought up what I wanted my words of 2018 to be. They were “empowered” and “dynamic” and a fun way to guide where I thought my year should go. And while I have felt more empowered than ever, and felt both wildly dynamic at times and very, very not at others, I enjoyed dreaming up those words. But this year, as each year is, will be different.

My word of the year for 2019? “Be.” Goodness, that's simple, isn't it? Until it isn't. I had grand visions this summer of leaving the job that did not feel like a good fit any longer (and I did, and it flowed beautifully and like magic)—with those grand visions of leaving the job, I felt that more, giant, leaps of big life upheavals would surely follow. I'd win the HGTV Smart Home. I'd be guided to publish my book immediately and go on a 9-month book tour. Big things. Extravagant things. 

And while I was floored by the ease, grace, and flow of how full-time freelancing with the some of the most lovely and lively people I've ever worked with came into my life—my mind was fixated (as it tends to be) on a problem. "That's all? I came to be floored by magic. Yes, I am appreciative... but I thought I was meant for more." 

And do you know what my heart kept saying, in my frustration, when I would really listen? Be. That's why I'm here right now. Doing the things. To be. 

It’s pretty incredible, the amount of things that have transpired in a mere 365 days. Goodness, the idea for Light-filled Mornings as its own entity, its own platform, came to me in April of this year! And, at least today, I am appreciating all of them. Even the ones that weren’t as pretty. Even the ones I’ve felt like I was in a funk. And so if you, like August-edition Caitlin, are berating yourself for “why am I here, why haven’t I achieved more,” take heart. You have achieved exactly the right amount of things you’ve set out to do for today.

My birthday has come and gone (Christmas babies unite!) and by next week we’ll have a New Year. Last year, I brainstormed to see what words would feel good for 2018. This year, I just asked myself and journaled what came up. So guiding me this year, will be “be.”

Ask yourself—how should I spend this upcoming year?

For me? In peace, in joy, in love with life lived fully. Allowing, day by day. Forming new. Having fun. Being light. Breathing in fun.

Happy New Year, friends. - Caitlin

How should I spend 2019? In peace, in joy, in love with life lived fully. Allowing, day by day. Forming new. Having fun. Being light. Breathing in fun.
— Caitlin McCoy

LFM #14: Aishwarya on Poetry, Home, and Spreading Happiness

I remember the exact moment I “met” Aishwarya. I was in Seattle in September of 2017, after attending my first Create & Cultivate conference. I had just read about and installed Shapr, a professional networking app touted as “Tinder meets LinkedIn.” And because I was in Seattle, another writer in the city popped up: Aishwarya. We both “matched” and wanted to meet each other, but by the time we’d seen each other’s messages, I was on a flight back to Illinois.

An Instagram friendship ensued; her poems have a way of taking the breath out of me, more times than I would think possible. Much of my saved collection on Instagram contains Aishwarya’s poems. And I was so glad when she agreed to be interviewed! Aishwarya is a writer and photographer living Seattle.

INSPIRED

“My mornings differ as to when I start the day—it’s usually around 7 a.m., I rarely set alarms, and am mostly woken up by the sunlight or a garbage truck sound,” she laughs. “As soon as I wake up, I listen to a chant called Poornamadah Poornamidam— it’s a chant for peace, joy, and healing. It helps get my day going. Then I will meditate, but I don’t force myself… then my day starts.”

“I’m not a big coffee drinker, because drinking caffeine messes me up, unless I absolutely need that messing up to function during the day. I do drink tea in the winter every morning, and then I’ll water my plants, because I’m a plant mom now. I go and say hi and treat them and tell them it’s going to be a good day,” she laughs. “My mom is excited to hear updates on my bonsai!”

I asked Aishwarya how she goes about writing her poems. Is there a process? Do they just flow? “There’s so much to unpack!” she laughs. “Usually it’s just something that I see or happens to me, and it’s like ‘huh, maybe I do want to explore this further, maybe someone else does feel this way, maybe they want to feel like they’re not alone in that feeling… lately I’ve been waking up at 2 a.m. and realizing I have a thing in my head. I’ll put it in notes on my phone and get back to it when I wake up… maybe it’s a thing I want to explore right this very minute… maybe it’s not a poem, but just a simple haiku… there is no fancy process.”

Aishwarya works as a photographer, so she has no fixed hours. “As a person, I’m just not good with rules,” she says. “I like to break them. That’s just how my brain works, so I still do set deadlines for myself so I can have a structure of some sort. But I don’t like having a set schedule because it just drives me crazy… I most likely would break it just for the sake of breaking it.”

Aishwarya is a Buddhist and says having a daily practice, reading through and focusing on the teachings, really helps balance her out. “I’m not a generally religious person, but I am definitely very existential, and if I don’t keep that in check, it just turns into a mess, and I know that doesn’t benefit me. It helps remind me that it’s ok to not know all the answers… it’s not something I have to worry about. Have I done right by others who invested their love and time in me? Was I kind in my ways? The Buddhist philosophy helps me remember that it’s okay to not know everything, and just live in the moment.”

Life, as I’ve learned
Does not like the way
We plan things
And time them to our convenience.
This knowledge has surfaced
Over decades; more times
Than I thought I would have to,
More times than I thought
I could weather.
— Aishwarya Nair

Aishwarya moved to Seattle from Connecticut three years ago, but was born in India. “It was such an interesting change, moving from India to Connecticut when I was 10,” she says. “It was a super huge cultural shock—like, oh! There aren’t many people who look or sound like me, or understand my whole deal… I went to a private Catholic school in Greenwich, and I wasn’t Catholic by any margin there and it was so interesting. I hated being there… I didn’t know what to do with my feelings at the time. Looking back, it was for the best, but for a kid displaced from everything, it’s hard to work through that.”  

“Seattle is a city held together by creatives. I moved to Seattle for love, and I’m still in love with the city, even though it didn’t work out with that partner. For the longest time, I never felt like I belonged… even in India, even here. But Seattle, feels so much like home and I know this because this is the feeling I’ve sought my whole life,” she says. “My mom says ‘home is where my heart resides out of my chest… I could try and be that poetic, but would never accomplish it,” she laughs.

 MOVEMENT

“I have this friend who is a sticker poet, and they gave me a bunch of their stickers to just have for myself, but I put them in the neighborhood I live in,” Aishwarya says. “My neighborhood is super isolated, so I thought, I am just going to put a bunch of stickers up and brighten the neighborhood’s day.  By mid-afternoon, if I feel myself getting sleepy, I think, you know what, I’m going to go take a walk. I go put out stickers… and now I love going for walks, and with the hills in Seattle, I don’t have to go on an actual hike to get my cardio in! Just a 15 minute walk, and I’m done for the day,” she laughs. “I still do yoga, but walking for 15 minutes there and back, putting up stickers… most people won’t see it, but someone will, and maybe it will make them happy. Maybe it won’t. But you have to try. That’s the only thing.”

 You can follow Aishwarya on Instagram.

I dreamed of us
Last night,
And I am not entirely sure
That was a dream at all.
You looked
Like you had wandered right
Out of the fairytale
From my childhood, bathed in
Gentleness and home;
And I, I just looked
Very lucky.
You took my hand,
And we moved together
In the moonlight
Underneath the stars.
— Aishwarya Nair

LFM # 13 – Cecilia on Inspiring Future Scientists, Time for Exercise, and Doing It All

I met Cecilia when I took a job at the start of 2017 handling marketing for the University of Illinois Materials Science and Engineering Department. Going in, I knew nothing of materials science—and even less of the faculty that would touch my life going forward, even as I left the job to pursue other opportunities. Professor Cecilia Leal had her office right next to mine, and was a friendly face to answer my many questions—and an inspiring force, conducting life-changing research, teaching courses, taking on graduate students in her labs, raising two adorable children, and making it look easy (and fun). I was so glad when Cecilia agreed to be on the blog and let me visit her new office and chat.

Professor Cecilia Leal, Ph.D., is a materials scientist and engineer, focusing on biomaterials, with a focus on materials for medicine. She is also a music-loving mother of two, who has traveled the world in pursuit of her passions.

MOVEMENT

Morning workouts are a fairly recent thing for Cecilia. “I used to think, there’s just no way I have time to work out. But I just started doing it, waking up at 6:30 for an hour-long workout, and after that’s done, I feel like I can get my life going. I thought for sure I’d be losing out on time by not sleeping in during that hour, or by not being productive on other fronts… but the net is positive. It gives me that energy to start my day and believe that I can do it all.”  

One or two mornings a week, Cecilia will run or bike. “Otherwise, I go to the gym—especially when it’s cold!” Then she’ll wake up the kids (“They’re hard to wake up!” she shares, “I have to poke them, they love to sleep.”), get them their milk, and while they’re drinking that, she’ll pack their lunches for school and daycare, then make fresh oatmeal with cinnamon and brown sugar. While they eat breakfast, she’ll get ready for her day, as her husband does as well. “By 8:45, we’re out the door, dropping Amy to school, Max to the daycare, and I have just enough time to grab a coffee and then get to my office by 9:15.”

I’m always interested in what people do at gyms, having never felt “good” at navigating a gym myself. “I run around the track and do core exercises, with many reps of the same thing,” she laughs. Cecilia has diastasis recti (abdominal separation) after the birth of her son, Max. “It’s been emotionally very difficult,” Cecilia says. “It’s surprising how much I have thought about it and been so upset by it… I’m definitely better with it now… but there’s just a lot of exercises I can’t do, that would make it worse. I’ve been working with someone to help it.”

INSPIRED

As for what keeps Cecilia motivated throughout the day (besides coffee), it’s thinking about what her driving purpose is. “I am always thinking, ‘what is my purpose?’ It’s definitely my children, and my students… not to provide for them, not to buy more stuff, but to give back and inspire.” Cecilia grew up in a small town in Portugal and was the first of her family to go to college. “When my father died, we were very poor, really… but in Europe, college is free, no tuition, so I knew I could do it. Throughout that process, my teachers and mentors kept saying to me, ‘you should do research,’ and that really changed my life… I want to be that person… when my students go to the classroom or the lab, I want to inspire them. Inspire them to do what they want to do, especially people who don’t necessarily think that they can. I feel so lucky that I do what I love. Looking back, I can see so many points that it could have broken down… steps that it all could have failed. Along these time points, each time, someone—a teacher, a colleague—would serve as my inspiration to keep going. Serving that role for others inspires me.”

(Side note: She is one of two Ph.D.’s in her hometown, and they were classmates. “I’m much more average than they think, though!” she laughs.)

Leaving her hometown changed her a lot, she says, but also highlighted her appreciation of where she came from. “My father was one of seven children, and started working at age 11. He didn’t go to college, but instilled a great focus on education in me… his stance was always, do whatever you want, fulfill your dreams—but get your education first. He was always saying, ‘Education won’t make your head bigger.’ He was a self-taught man with lots of books in his home, he ended up managing our town’s library… because it’s a small town, I was surrounded by a lot of people who, yes, didn’t have a college education, but they were well-intended in helping the next generation, and I’m grateful for that.”

Cecilia was fairly certain she wanted to be a professor early on; but if people would have told her at age 16 that she would be a professor in the United States at a top institution, she never would have thought those specifics were possible. “It’s so much different than I would have thought possible, but wow—I’m grateful.”

She did her undergraduate studies in Portugal, and was encouraged by a few key professors to do research. She went to Sweden on a recommendation by a professor. “I went to Sweden for a few months, and was completely fascinated by the labs and equipment during undergrad. I met a Swedish professor who ended up being the chairman for the Nobel prize for Chemistry… he asked if I had considered a Ph.D., and my answer was yes. Once I did my Ph.D., after a brief stint at a cancer hospital, I was in the loop, reading papers, researching how to pursue an academic career… and that led me to California. And California led me here,” she smiles.  

This is her first semester not teaching any courses; when you have children, the university allows for a semester off each year to balance home, research, and class.

“This career requires a positive attitude… I foolishly believe I can do it all,” she laughs. “And because I do and I’m in it, I have to somehow… if class is at 10, I have to be there. It’s a mixture of planning, self-motivation, and pressure—both internal and external… but motivation is the main ingredient. I wake up in the morning thinking, ‘I can do this.’ You can’t stretch too thin, for sure… but humans are highly stretchable. I’m not everything, though, I’m just one element in getting things done.” Cecilia delegates to her students and shares a lot with her husband. “A supportive spouse is so important,” she says.

Cecilia, while from Portugal, lost both of her parents at a young age and her husband’s family is from Australia. “We don’t have any family nearby… we’re all we’ve got… but then, being positive, I think, I can do all these things, but I don’t have to physically do all of them myself. Delegating is key.”

She has always considered herself a very positive person. “One of my favorite quotes goes something like, stay away from negative people… they’ll find a problem for every solution,” she laughs. “But my mother was a very positive person, and I think that influenced me… but I also make the choice to cultivate it. You have these moments of setbacks, regardless of what kind of career you’re in… and it works best if you don’t take the setbacks as personal. If everything went your way all the time, the way you think it should, the world wouldn’t make sense… without boredom, there is no creativity. I had an issue Friday, even, that I was hurt over, it felt like a setback… but then this morning I woke up, and thought, wait—this is the opportunity to start something new! And an idea I’d been considering popped into my head, suddenly I’m emailing people, having a lunch meeting, and starting it and all about it… call it luck, call it serendipity, but it is true that I could not have pursued both of the options… you’ve got to look at your setbacks as opportunities.”

 “Music is so important for my mornings and my life,” Cecilia says. “When writing papers… when at home with the kids… working out… it’s always present. I’m into all sorts of Indie bands and sometimes fast and loud music, but it’s always there.”  

A book that has really impacted Cecilia’s life is Arch of Triumph, by Eric Maria Remarque. “Just the people being able to survive and go about their daily lives with very little needs… simple homes, good coffee, bread and cheese, and you’re good. They’re going through intricate times… and the simple lives they lead, it just inspires me to live more simply. I strive for simplicity in my home and life.”

You can follow Cecilia’s research here and follow on her personal Instagram.

ACS_0997.JPG
I used to think, there’s just no way I have time to work out. But I just started doing it, waking up at 6:30 for an hour-long workout, and after that’s done, I feel like I can get my life going.

LFM #12 - Autumn on Morning Intentions, Simple Living, and Raising Creative Kids

I talk frequently—with friends, relations, hundreds of people on stage at conferences—about Instagram. I love it so much. Truly, if you’re not ever finding a sense of beauty and inspiration from Instagram, you’re following the wrong people. Follow people who make your heart sing and inspire you to take a breath of fresh air. Like my friend Autumn—a blogger who homeschools her lovely children and each time I scroll through and see a post from her, I feel lighter. Happier. Calmer. More content with my own life, even, because I see the beauty in the parts of hers she shares on her Instagram feed and stories. Autumn’s Instagram bio headlines a Mary Oliver quote, “Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.” And you really feel that, reading her content.

Autumn is a stay-at-home mother of three, homeschooler, and lifestyle blogger with a love for simple, clean living. She is also a certified birth and postpartum doula.

COZY

“I wake up with kids in my bed,” Autumn laughs. Homeschooling Marli, Hunter, and Luna—ages 9, 7, and almost 2—she wakes up when the kids do. “Most of our day is following their lead, and their interests… it’s very open, flowy, and easy,” she says. “So while we have a rhythm, there’s nothing rigid, and no set schedule, which helps me keep less stressed… if I have no schedule, we can’t be late.”

In the mornings, she and the children will make breakfast—“usually smoothies or oatmeal and always coffee for me”—and have time for reading to start the day slowly. “I’ll often get my journal out while they have time with their books,” Autumn says. Then they all wash up. “They brush their hair and teeth, wash their face, I’ll do my morning beauty routine… and then if it’s nice out, we’ll go outside for a while and take lots of deep breaths out there and play. We go with the flow as long as it’s fun. I’ve had to train myself to be easygoing… I have my moments, of course, but if I’m stressed, I always apologize. It’s important to teach them that even if we lose our temper, we can be sorry, admit we make mistakes, and that’s ok.”

“Mornings are when I set my intentions for the day; my attitude for the day, the headspace I want to be in, it’s the perfect time to take whatever time I need to meditate, move my body… literally whatever it is that I need. I used to be go-go-go with the kids, but when I take this time, I am so much better being able to communicate and be present with them… mornings and bedtimes are the grounding experiences. We base a lot of our homeschooling on the Waldorf method, which says a child’s day begins with bedtime… how you put them to bed impacts their day when they wake up. So as much as we have a rhythm to our mornings, we also have a rhythm at bedtime—with stories, being tucked in, kisses and hugs, and time together. It’s so important to take those moments.”  

INSPIRED

Autumn started her blog with her vintage Etsy shop. “I sold midcentury modern houseware, atomic age goodies… that’s where I gained a following, with other kitschy, retro vintage bloggers. It just naturally happened… at the time, I was 21 years old, with a three-year-old at home and had just had my son and blogging was just really becoming a thing—so I thought, let’s homeschool and really do the blog… the blog has evolved over time and grown with me.” (P.S. You’ll want to read her post on self-care here.)

 With her love of vintage things, I’ve noticed her kids flipping records on her feed quite often—and my kids are thrilled to know there are other kids out there that have records. “Music is so much better on a record, I want to hear the dirty cracks and pops on it!” Autumn says. “Music is a huge part of what our life is.”

In addition to blogging, Autumn sells and provides education on essential oils with Oils&Honey Essentials. “Essential oils are naturally a part of my life and what simple living looks like for my family… so it doesn’t feel like a lot of work. I like to do the live videos, the classes, a lot… you can buy oils from the shelf, but no one is going to show you how to use them—safely, in ways that work—that education and leading people through it, makes all the difference. It becomes overwhelming for people otherwise, and natural alternatives should be known to people… I really want to make it accessible.”  

Between homeschooling, blogging, and sharing essential oils, it’s all about finding the balance. “I used to be a birth and postpartum doula—I had to be on call, away from my duties at home… I feel called to it and love it, but it just wasn’t right for this season of my life.”

I knew we could count on Autumn for some amazing book recommendations; she’s sharing them consistently on her Instagram stories! “Right now I’m reading The Creative Family Manifesto, which I’m loving, and Heaven on Earth, a beautiful parenting book… we’ve been doing a French unit in homeschool, and so a lot of our kids’ books have been Paris-focused, like a Magic Treehouse chapter book set in Paris, and impressionist artist books. We’re planning to take them to Paris in the spring… we like to match our learning with our activities whenever we can.”

“I think there’s this misconception that if you can take a pretty picture, there isn’t chaos,” Autumn says of social media. “Instagram is a highlight reel. I’m a normal mom, we all have the same things going on—there is frustration! And mess! And chaos! But I try to have a good time. I am a creative, I like styling, I like pretty things. Instagram has been a wonderful outlet for me to channel through, for my photography and my business, and I try to share a good mix of vulnerability and creativity… I can style a pretty photo, but the real life, the chaos, it’s there.”  

You can follow Autumn on Instagram and her essential oils account, as well as her blog.

While we have a rhythm, there’s nothing rigid, and no set schedule, which helps me keep less stressed… if I have no schedule, we can’t be late.

LFM #11 - Changing Seasons, Changing Routines

Hello! I feel like fall is coming. Woolly worms are covering my country road, inching back and forth going who knows where, and being adorable doing it. I'm still dressing my kid in shorts and there is a pool party for Sadie's class tomorrow, but it was in the 60s this morning at drop-off. I got out pumpkin candles and scent warmers last night. The pumpkin spice latte is here (though I haven't partaken). I suddenly feel an urge to listen to Neil Young (he feels like fall to me) and there is a crispness to the air that I may be conjuring in my imagination, but also a crispness to ideas and outlook on life with the change of seasons. Both of my kids are in full-day school for the first time ever (Sadie in Kindergarten; Sam in third grade) and I'm still fresh in working from home full-time again. This means that my mornings are changing their routines as well; I thought I'd update you on what I'm loving and what's working for me in this season. 

1. We're All Early Risers Now

When I was working full-time in an office, I felt like I really needed to wake up at 5:30 each morning to have time for myself before I started my outward-facing day. I really did need to do that each day to have the time to read, to journal, to dream, to drink coffee with my thoughts and not with my email. Only Sam was in school then, and he wouldn't get up until past 7. 

Now, my kids are both getting up early—by about 6:30—and I live by the code that no hurry, worry, or stress are ever necessary or worth it. This means that I am trying to bring Light-filled Mornings to my kids, letting them do whatever they'd like to wake up and have their special time before school. For Sam, this looks like eating nutella toast and watching his favorite YouTubers or checking in on his games on Xbox. For Sadie, this looks like watching Garfield in her favorite chair and snuggling in a blanket with our beagle, Loretta. 

I try to languish in bed a little before I actually get out of it—noticing how much I appreciate the air of my fan, the light coming in the windows, the feeling of my extra large blanket, my chihuahua curled next to me, how fun it is that I get to work from home. Just appreciating before my mind starts my "what's on the calendar today" list. 

Then I'll make my coffee, and really enjoy each process of grinding the beans, being weird and smelling it for way too long, listening to the drip of the machine. By this time, Sam and Sadie are up and set up with their things, so I mostly just drink coffee while getting out their outfits (it's much smoother if I do it) and putting their ice packs in their lunch boxes, which I pack with lunch the night before. 

Sometimes I feel like I have time to sit and journal at this time, but I want to be available for my kids, as I'm sending them off to school for the full day, and so I usually just hang around getting their stuff together, drinking my first cup of coffee while they're still here. Then I drive them to school (we've had bad experiences with the bus and tears with Sam in the past) and walk them in. (Often in lounge or workout clothes, which I've always said I'd never do, and here I am doing it and trying to be ok with that.) 

2. My "Inward" Morning Starts Later

Because I'm working from home again, I'm able to come back, in those workout clothes, have my second cup of coffee, and journal my thoughts for the day. Sometimes I just want to look through things I've saved on Instagram and write any thoughts or inspiration down. Right now, I'm not really reading anything other than Outlander (weird for me not to have the four books going at this time, I know) and am in a phase where I am just wanting to write my book and other content and am much more into producing than reading. I'm sure I'll get back into juggling four books at once again, but right now, I have so many thoughts flowing that it feels good to focus on those. 

So I'll spend that time in my nook going through my journal, and sometimes I'll write anywhere from 3 to 15 pages of things—how I'm feeling or ideas I've had I want to keep going for the book.

3. Movement is Becoming a Big Part of My Life Again

And I'm oh-so-glad. I've always had back problems (or felt like I did)—trying to lean over chairs the right way to make it feel better and the like. Yoga, Pilates, and barre had been huge in "fixing it" and making it feel better, but I felt like this part of my life was sorely lacking when I worked a 9 to 5 job. Everything is about priorities, and so of course it could have been a larger part—but now I'm thrilled to make it a priority again and feel good doing it. I'll be teaching barre this fall at Hatha Yoga & Fitness and going through and creating routines and playlists to go with them make me so ridiculously happy. I really love workout classes, being with people during them, at least one day of the week. I've also gotten out my Ballerina Body book from time to time, and I really love Misty Copeland's outlook about being a dancer—that it's a way of life, and so she'll be doing calf raises waiting for the subway. I don't have any subways out here to wait for, but I am certainly doing them waiting for coffee to brew, looking through kids' take-home folders, checking my email on my phone, etc. 

What are your mornings looking like now that school has started? I'd love to know! 

 

 

I live by the code that no hurry, worry, or stress are ever necessary or worth it.

LFM # 9 – Chloe on Coffee, Creating, and Making Time for Things You Love

Have you heard of Create & Cultivate? It’s a creative women’s conference and online community that I attended last September in Seattle, where I met so many unbelievably lovely women. One of those lovely women—who I actually just saw from afar and then followed on social media, like so many great friendships of the 21st century—was Chloe. She was working for Create & Cultivate at the time, photographing a breakout session and wearing the coolest track pants. Her wavy chestnut-colored hair was making me rethink my consistent quest to stay blonde. She seemed like someone I would want to be friends with; and of course, I was right.

Chloe is a graphic designer, artist, and photographer, with her business Chloe White Art + Design. Her amazing hand-lettering, photographs, and straightforward and insightful blog posts have been such a joy to follow. I was so glad to chat with her IRL (or over a video call, anyway) and get to know more about what led her to Los Angeles, how her mornings fuel her creative endeavors, and how she got that adorable coffee tattoo.

INSPIRED

 “I don’t know if I’d consider myself an entrepreneur,” Chloe laughs, “but I left Create & Cultivate in May to pursue my freelance projects full-time; I was doing both for a while, and I thought, while I’m young, why not? What’s the worst that could happen?”

Chloe isn’t one to let opportunity pass her by. She grew up in New England, mostly in Vermont (“So I get the cows and wide open spaces!” she says of my life in central Illinois) and after taking a year off of school and then a year of classes at Maine College of Arts, she felt like doing something “crazy.” “I was doing art my whole life, and I always knew I wanted to pursue it as a career… I was going to do fine art, and won some art competitions in high school for photorealistic portraiture, but then I started doing graphic design and thought this is sick!! I can do fine art but then manipulate it on the computer.” It wasn’t just the graphic design major that was a big move; she’d never been to Los Angeles, but looked up programs at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) and after a visit, she thought, let’s do it! “I even took a friend with me!” Chloe says, of her friend who attended FIDM and lives next door to her even now, four years later.

“Coming here, I was able to find myself outside the life I’d always lived,” Chloe says. “I was able to start new. Yes, I had the one friend who came with me, but, I was able to develop myself as an adult away from people who’d known me my whole life.” She took on every job available to her at school and tried as many new experiences as she could. “I was always passionate, but never a ‘go-getter’… never thinking ‘I’m going to start my own business for sure!’ It was a great experience being in LA as a young person, in college, there are no dorms at FIDM, so it throws you into the real world quickly.”

While in college, Chloe didn’t have much ample time to take things slowly. “They work on a quarter system, so everything is done within 10 weeks, have to stay super focused. In college, I was all over the place, I felt like I never slept… but mornings have always been an important part of my day.”

Chloe says she was never the kind of person to sleep until late afternoon on a weekend. “Growing up, my family always woke up early—Sundays would be our day to sit together, drink coffee around the table, no electronics, and just have family time.”

With a newfound sense of self and trying new things, it’s no wonder Chloe has had an amazing array of internships. “First, I did an internship at Darling Magazine… I told my career advisor, please! This mag is dope!,” Chloe says, “She said ok, even though I wasn’t technically supposed to be doing internships at that stage. I’d toured the Darling office as part of a club I was in at FIDM, and then just kept emailing until they invited me,” she laughs. “I met so many lovely people!”

She then landed an internship at Create & Cultivate while still attending school before it turned into a full-time job. “It’s a circle—L.A. is a lot smaller than you’d think!” She’d attended a Create & Cultivate Conference in L.A. in 2016 and ran into someone she knew, got emails for people within Create & Cultivate, and after some emailing, they brought her in for an interview. “I started before finishing school and was hired freelance before I started working for them full-time. It grew so fast… I could just FEEL it, I knew it [Create & Cultivate] was going to be a big thing.” Chloe grew into her role as graphic designer, working closely with the founder on brand identity and making graphics for conference sets, social media, the website, and more.

“I was driving to my full-time job, driving an hour and a half mostly stuck in traffic from Pasadena to the west side of L.A. Then, I’d try to take the time and wake up and have coffee and listen to podcasts where I’d be calm—no road rage!” she laughs. “Now mornings are the best part of my day because I get to decide how my day goes… and I’m not judging myself if my body needs more sleep. I really try and take my time in the morning, not worrying I have to be somewhere, most of the time.”

Now that Chloe is freelancing full-time, she’s also been working on her blog more. “While I’d been blogging off and on since 2013, I started up Chloe by Storm up last fall. I’d wanted to do it forever, but felt like I couldn’t keep up… half the weekends, I was gone, I had to do laundry, then I got in this ‘Will people think this is stupid if I try to keep doing this? Is there value here?’ second guessing, but that’s dumb; I enjoy it, I enjoy these things, and if I enjoy them, chances are there are other people who will enjoy it too. I like the ‘start by starting mentality’… as long as you’ve started, your project is going, it doesn’t have to move fast. Do things you like! People say ‘Life is short!’, but hopefully it’s not that short! Really, you have a long time to do the things you want to do, and you have plenty of time to do them.”

“We set so many timelines for ourselves… things we have to get done by a certain age. That’s not the case. If you watched a video of yourself a year ago, you would be floored at the growth and where you are. Even if it’s not where you ‘ultimately’ want to be, look how far you’ve come. So I’m scheduling out content, but not stressing about it—it’s a go with the flow type thing.”  

COZY  

Chloe wakes up around 8:30 or 9 most days and spends 30 minutes to an hour chatting with her boyfriend, Daniel, and making coffee. “I’ll be a miserable grump if I don’t have coffee!” Chloe says, not so jokingly. “Even if I don’t have time to make it and enjoy the routine at home, I’ll grab it out if I’m on my way to a client meeting… yes, it’s an addiction to caffeine, but it really is more than that. Coffee brings people together. If I’m having coffee, I’ll make the time to really sit down and drink it and have a conversation or be with my own thoughts for a minute… I enjoy that time to sit and relax before I run into my day… running into the day is just not how humans were made to live.” (She even has a little coffee tattoo!)

“I’ve been intrigued by starting to do The Morning Pages,” Chloe says. She read about the practice, created by Julia Cameron, on the Skinny Confidential blog. “Basically, you just do three pages of a brain dump… no judgment, just anything you want. It’s not a list necessarily, just whatever is on your mind. I keep thinking I should start doing that!”

As far as books and podcasts Chloe’s loving right now? She’s been listening to the Ensemble, recommended on Girls Night In newsletter. “I downloaded it to listen to; if I have a client meeting, I’ll take the train and love listening to this book right now. When I had a commute to work, I was obsessed with Jenna Kutcher’s podcast. Anything female business development, teaching you how to do things. Also a guilty pleasure (but I don’t feel guilty about it!) are the Bachelor podcasts.”

“Even when it comes to work—I’ll try and creatively look for inspiration before starting… on Pinterest, just getting creative juices flowing… as a creative, it’s hard to pump out good work all day without that space. Now I have the time to focus on the projects I’m doing, to get inspired and get ideas for the day, it’s really nice. I’m a quick worker, and focus on one project at a time, but this also means I can make my own schedule… by time-blocking, I’ve learned to take control of my time so I have those blocks for focused work and those blocks to take a lunch break, to take a walk to clear my head, to focus on self-care… You have to make time for things you love.”

You can follow Chloe on Instagram and on her blog, Chloe by Storm.

All images provided by Chloe White.

Now mornings are the best part of my day because I get to decide how my day goes… and I’m not judging myself if my body needs more sleep.

LFM #8 – Clouds in my Coffee, New Routines, and Engineering Art with Devon

I first met Devon at the University of Illinois at Engineering Open House—an annual College of Engineering expo for local schoolkids to see engineering students in action. I had my preschool-aged daughter with me and was so impressed by Devon’s ability to explain concepts to her and her general sweetness and poise. I hired Devon as a student worker when I was working at the University of Illinois in marketing and was certain, immediately, that her talent and passion in every sphere of life was something special.

Devon is now a polymer composite engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers with plans to attend graduate school in the future—she’s also a foodie, artist, and world traveler.

MOVEMENT

“First thing every morning, I’ll stretch for 10 minutes, do a Pilates routine, or yoga on YouTube, whatever I feel like, but just working out the kinks before I get ready is so important,” Devon says. “I used to start class at 9 in the morning for college, but now I have to leave for the office by 7:45, so unless I want to get up at 5 a.m., which I don’t, I don’t have time to go to the gym beforehand… so my morning workouts are just moving to wake up.”

Devon recently graduated from the University of Illinois with a Materials Science and Engineering degree and her job with the Army Corps of Engineers is her first foray into the 9 to 5 world. “I find that my routine now is a lot faster—I’m a morning person, but I like to be efficient.”

COZY

“I just started liking coffee!” Devon announces. (We started our friendship over matcha lattes, so this is a big deal!) “But I always have my tea brewing in the morning while I’m stretching… I love the process of making loose leaf tea… especially how the milk moves in it.” Devon says she always thinks of Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain when she makes it. “I always think of clouds in my coffee, but mine is milk, in the tea, the milk clouds disappear… I love that.”

Devon has a food Instagram where she documents food for the ‘practical vegan’ and says she has always loved cooking. “I do so much chopping,” she laughs. “I have always loved cooking with my mom, but since being away for college and being out on my own, I’ve developed it further and I just love the process of it all.” Recently, she’s been craving different types of oatmeals—like peanut butter and jelly with different flavored jams and mangoes and apricots for summer. If she’s feeling adventurous, she’ll make a frittata with spinach, feta, and broccoli, with some toast. “I like hot breakfasts,” Devon says, “regardless of the time it takes to put together… I want something hearty and warm when I wake up.

INSPIRED

Devon says she has always liked reading and writing—and loves to journal, between her travel and journal and Bullet Journal.

Devon traveled a lot as a child—even living in Japan, Belgium, and then to the U.S. while her dad was in the Navy as a fighter pilot. “I started my travel journal in 2015, right before I went on my first solo trip to Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos,” Devon says. “I wish I had started it sooner! I documented every activity, every hike, all my favorite stores… it’s been helpful to share with friends, but also really fun and insightful to read back… at what I thought and how my internal voice has changed in a span of a few years.” Devon recently went to Iceland with a friend and looks forward to traveling more. “Traveling always jogs my creativity.”

Devon started her Bullet Journal in January. “I didn’t like how a lot of agendas were laid out and they were so expensive for a good one! I saw Bullet Journals on Instagram and knew I could make my own… they started out very structured and plain, but in the last three months, I’ve really added the art into it.”

Art is a big part of Devon’s life; she paints a lot and is glad to have time to work on her canvasses. “I spend probably seven hours a week painting now; in college, I was restricted to my sketchbook mostly, and now I’m working on large canvasses.”

Devon goes to bed by 10:30; right now, she’s been reading The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan before bed. “It’s one of the most moving books I’ve ever read,” Devon says. “She doesn’t sound like she’s trying to be older than she is… Marina wrote in this fresh, sarcastic manner… it’s fantastic.”

You can follow Devon on Instagram

I find that my routine now is a lot faster—I’m a morning person, but I like to be efficient
\

LFM # 7 — About Caitlin, About LFM, and What’s Now and Next

You’d think the "about" post would be the first post, wouldn’t you? I like to mix things up. Obviously. 

For this post, I thought we’d get introduced, for who I am and where I am at this stage in my life. It’s an exciting stage! If we’re just now meeting, I am Caitlin Shea McCoy—my middle name “Shea” being pronounced “Shay”. (All my social media handles tend to incorporate my middle name, and I know it can be tricky seeing it all together. I’ve had people pronounce it “Shee-ah” and I know I tend to avoid pronouncing things in public if I don’t know for sure how they go, so… we’re good now.) I am a writer; I am a photographer; I am a dreamer; I am a mother; I am all the things that I am, and yet none of them really encompass who I really am, you know? It’s all of those things put together, but we’re all complex human beings, that can’t be summed up on paper, much as we try. 

ABOUT CAITLIN

I have always been “into” personal development and can’t really remember the first time I thought to myself, hey, I can guide my life—but I’d imagine the idea came to me when I was about 11 years old. I had a super happy, dreamy, loving childhood (throughout all of it), but the biggest change in my life, up to that point, happened when I was 11 and we moved out of the home that my dad had grown up in to move in with my new stepfamily to the bigger town 30 minutes away. I was so happy for my mom, I had always wanted siblings and within two years’ time went from being an only child to having a half-sister (with my dad and stepmom) and five stepbrothers and a stepsister with my mom and stepdad. Plus, being an 11-year-old girl is just its own lesson in changes, isn’t it? I distinctly remember sitting in my new bedroom, though, clipping things out of magazines, dog-earing books, writing things in notebooks about what I wanted to do and feel and be… and really, things aren’t too different now, in that regard. 

One of my favorite things to do in my new family unit, as a pre-teen and young teenager, was to go to bookstores (again, not much different now) and the first personal development book I bought was “Kiss My Tiara: How to Rule the World as a SmartMouth Goddess.” It came out in 2001, which means I was 14, which also means it’s the same year that Princess Diaries came out… so, it makes sense that this book stood out to me on the shelf at Borders. It also stood out because things like ruling anything, being “smart-mouthed” or a “goddess” were the antithesis of the way I walked through the world. I had debilitating shyness—most of my classmates at school had never heard me speak. And while this certainly wasn’t an appropriate book choice for a young teenager, it really helped frame my mind at the time that I could make changes, that I didn’t have to let my shyness hold me back, who I wanted to be was flexible, and most importantly, I was the one in charge of my life. 

After getting my Journalism degree at the University of Illinois (graduated in May 2009… had my son, Sam, in July 2009…), my small town newspaper closed, and I remember crying my eyes out one night because I couldn’t continue writing for them (covering town meetings and the like) and I could potentially never again, call myself a journalist. Of course that was silly. I’ve had my byline in quite a number of publications, and the sheen wears off after a while. It’s the research and the interviews and the way all the stories come together that’s the fun part. 

Anyway, my writing career ‘really’ started at a museum exhibit firm, where I loved the research-intensive nature of it and getting to really foster my bookworm’s heart; I loved taking all the data at hand and weaving a story through it, with a central theme at heart. I was laid off when I was pregnant with my daughter, Sadie (now 5 years old), and went to a marketing agency that was a bad fit all around—but led me to the opportunity to work writing full-time from home, which after a few years led me to the University of Illinois for a writing day job, which has now, again, led to me writing from home, full-time. Whew. 

While I’ve always been personal-development-minded, I had a lot of fear surfacing a couple of years ago, and in some ways felt like I had a wonderful, happy life (I did) but it didn’t feel quite right, and I felt very trapped, generally, and stuck. I had been working from home for years and in theory had all the time and flexibility in the world to give myself the space to discover what was next for me, and what I wanted to change that would feel right. But by taking the 9 to 5 job, where I really did have less time and space to think through things, I also had less time to worry—and clarity began coming in droves. In February of 2017, the thought of writing a non-fiction book came to me. And it’s been through several iterations and evolving ever since; in April of this year, I was in the midst of spending my early morning time doing what I love: reading books that speak to me—on a soul level—journaling, feeding my coffee addiction—when the phrase “light-filled mornings” just popped into my head. And I knew I had found what I’d been wanting; and I’m grateful I made the space for it. 

ABOUT LIGHT-FILLED MORNINGS

A few years ago, I was obsessed with morning routines. You’ve seen the (many) articles out there—12 things successful people do before breakfast, 8 ways to get ahead by waking up early. A lot of this was because I was also consistently working out for the first time in my life, and so I was trying to create space for things I’d never done before. But a lot of the advice out there was very action-oriented and, well, forceful, for lack of a better word. “Don’t want to get up at 5 a.m.? Too bad, sissy! Important people eat sheer willpower and discipline for breakfast!” I don’t think anyone actually said this in an article, but it often felt that way. If I could just be a little bit harder on myself (which I have a tendency to do anyway), then maybe I could create a morning routine that would fix everything I felt needed fixing about myself and my life. 

Light-filled Mornings has nothing to do with willpower and everything to do with joy. Over the past year, that has really clicked with me—allowing over forcing—working with instead of against—perseverance over insistence. I heard once that most of our problems come from us treating ourselves like a badly behaving employee; guilty as charged. It turns out that the things you really love to do (staring out the window while sipping your coffee… journaling to your heart’s content… reading all the books… doing yoga because it’s fun and not because you’re trying to reach a goal) are there because they’re meant for you. 

By doing the things that light you up in the morning, over what you feel you’re “supposed” to do, you are in alignment with your true self and able to start your day with a mindset that puts you in the driver’s seat. 

Light-filled Mornings is all about being proactive in how you want to feel; not reactive to conditions around you. Light-filled mornings are not another task to get done, but a way of milking the most from your day, the way you'd like to.

From my personal experience as well as studying that of many, many others, I’ve found that light-filled mornings—those truly life-changing, awe-inspiring, I-can-do-anything mornings, simple as they may be—typically fall into three categories: Cozy, Movement, and Inspired. Some mornings (generally my favorite ones) touch all three in some way; other times, I’ll only feel like doing some of the things that would fall into only one category, and that’s ok. With light-filled mornings, there is nothing that *should* be done; only things that you feel like doing that specific morning and making the space for them to happen, in any capacity. 

COZY

I always like to start my morning by guiding my thoughts for the day when I’m still in bed. I start my day by noticing and appreciating. As soon as I wake up, I’ll think to myself, “I should notice and appreciate,” because I’ve built the habit now, but also usually wake up coming out of a dream so I need a nudge to bring myself into the day. I think about how much I appreciate the fan in my room, and how the oscillating feature makes it so the right amount of air fans my face in the coziest, most wonderful way possible. I think about my king-sized Target blanket and how plush it feels and how great Target is, generally, and that we live in a world that has Target. I think about how well things are going for me (if I truly feel this way, no forcing it) and how excited I am for my coffee downstairs and anything else in the coming hours or days that feels fun or exciting. 

So by the time I’m ready to come down and make my coffee, I am in a good mood and good mindset—to where that appreciation keeps going. I have momentum behind it. My coffee addiction runs so deep and public that I have acquaintances sending me coffee memes and my daughter is learning her letters by saying, “C is for Caitlin and Coffee.” I enjoy the process of choosing which coffee beans will be today’s coffee, grinding the beans, choosing which mug is the right mug for the morning, listening to the coffee being brewed, and the steam that rises from it when I set my mug on the table and the light shines through to reveal it. 

MOVEMENT

I have always loved dancing around the house. I was in ballet for a lot of my childhood, and the sashaying around never went away. So after I have my coffee, I’ll likely twirl around to my yoga mat (people, if you weren’t sure that I was silly, here you go, full admission) and then do whatever barre or Pilates or yoga routine (or some mix of all) I feel like doing and have time for. I make my own playlists to play even if I’m watching a video and doing it along with that; but I taught fitness classes for a couple of years and really got into the habit of making my own routines, so it feels creative and fun for me to do that for myself. 

Lately, I’ve been wanting to branch out with the change in my own schedule and routine, and have been trying the Sweat app, which I feel is a good switch up to my normal Pilates—and I do love that you can just play your music right in there, and the confetti the app “throws” at you when you complete the workout is super fun. 

It took a while, but I’ve learned that I always feel better when I move in the morning, even if it’s a very small amount. Walking, running, getting out the mat, even for fifteen minutes, makes me feel more alive. 

INSPIRED

Reading has always been such a big part of my life. I have always been an observer, an introvert, and while I love having friends, doing things, and meeting new people, it has to be built on a foundation of quiet, introspective, time to read and process thoughts beforehand or it’s just not sustainable for me. A few years ago, I found The Universe Has Your Back by Gabby Bernstein, and it was the breath of fresh air that I was really seeking at the time. Every morning, I make time to read whatever book it is I’m currently reading (usually four at a time, picked up at any given time based on my mood). As I process things best through writing them out, I am concurrently journaling any passages that speak to me while reading. 

Right now, I’m reading Three Magic Words (see the fun way this appeared in my life here), Warrior of the Light, The Power of Now, and Dragonfly In Amber (Outlander series book 2). Three non-fictions to one fiction seems to be my sweet spot. I always choose books to read in the morning that inspire me in one way or another. I don’t push through books that don’t resonate with me anymore just because I “started them.” 

Like I said, journaling is also a big part of my morning—I am almost always writing passages and takeaways from the books I’m reading, but will also “vocalize” on paper the appreciative thoughts I had upon waking, and if I have a perceived problem or something I am wondering about, I will write it down and then let it go. Often just having the courage to ask and then giving up trying to figure things out will return the answer to me in record time. 

Sometimes I’ll listen to music or podcasts in the morning. Sometimes I’ll watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix. It just depends on the day and what I’m really feeling. And there is no wrong choice. 

WHAT’S NEXT

Light-filled Mornings will be a physical book; with thoughts, practices, and ways to get in touch with your intuition to give yourself permission to find what really lights you up—as far as morning routines and larger life paths go. 

I’ve also been thinking of making workout routines and playlists more readily accessible to the world, and expect a lot more video content to be created and shared in the very near future. 

And of course I love a good story; so I’ll be sharing many, many more stories of others’ light-filled mornings right here on the blog. 

Is there any content you’d like to see? Questions you have? Let me know!

 

Over the past year, that has really clicked with me—allowing over forcing—working with instead of against—perseverance over insistence.
— Caitlin McCoy
lfm 7 caitlin quote-2.png

LFM #6: Transitions, Helping Others, and Yoga with Kristina

I first met Kristina when we both were working at a museum exhibit design firm soon out of college. She was a graphic designer; I was a writer. Kristina’s sweet nature and ray-of-sunshine smile are the first things you notice about her. Kristina is the kind of person who, when you’re around her, makes you feel like everything in the world is amazing, as it should be, and anything is possible. (Which it is.)

Kristina has been teaching yoga for 10 years, and just recently helped open a new yoga studio, Hatha Yoga & Fitness, in Champaign, Illinois. She is an amazing dog mom already, and she and her husband, Todd, are having their first child — a boy! — in August. 

MOVEMENT

“At this time in my life, my light-filled mornings are committed to helping others with theirs,” Kristina says. “When I was in college, I would roll out of bed directly onto my yoga mat and start my day with intentional movement. It’s so, so important to get your day going the way you want it to. And so I wanted to help facilitate that for others.”  

Kristina wakes up at 4:40 each morning. She takes her two small dogs, Franny and Opi, on a walk, then has a smoothie, and comes to the studio to lead 6 a.m. yoga. 

“My mornings are very streamlined, and my focus is on others. After that yoga class I say, ok, I can relax into my morning now…  so I don’t often meditate before I come to the studio, but to be honest, walking the dogs at that time of day is pretty meditative.” 

Hatha Yoga and Fitness is a gorgeous space that just feels like a breath of fresh air. Kristina and other teachers offer yoga, meditation, sculpt, and barre classes, as well as one-on-one and small group yoga, personal training, and coaching. Also, (coming soon!) Lululemon retail up front.

“We’ve only been open for a month,” Kristina tells me as she finishes giving the tour of her gorgeous new space. “And we moved to a new home last week! And the baby is due in August. So, I kind of put it all out there, all at once,” she laughs. 

With the baby coming soon, Kristina says she knows her new routine will be very different. “I’m giving as much as I can to my students in the mornings now, and I’m excited to see what it will be like when he gets here.”

With the new home, Kristina says it’s been the “opposite” of nesting, but she feels very settled already in the new studio. “It’s been amazing to cultivate a dream into fruition… I used to have this laundry list of what I’d do when I had a yoga studio, and now it’s here.”  

INSPIRED

“It seems like the yoga studio went quickly from getting involved in the process in February… but really, I’ve been working toward this my whole life.”

Kristina has been cultivating an attitude of joyful action for years, and it shows in everything she does. “I’m really excited we’re having a boy,” she shares. “I grew up with all brothers, and so it’s easy to envision this little one as an older brother one day.” Her husband said they should count all the yoga classes their son has already attended, still in the womb. “We’re going to have this little guru baby,” Kristina jokes. “For the most part, I feel really at home in my body with the pregnancy, but then I’ll see photos and be like omg, that’s me? It’s new and natural, all the same.” 

Every morning, Kristina does an Ayurvedic breathing practice, where she will cover her left nostril with her thumb and breathe 20 deep breaths out of her right nostril. Breathing through the right nostril gives her energy — it’s the sun side, for brightness, masculine energy, and awakening. “I love waking up at 4:40 and teaching, but it’s still hard sometimes! Those breaths help! On the weekend, I still do it — but then I just cuddle a dog instead of teaching class,” she says. “Every morning, when the alarm goes off, I breathe — with intention.” 

“I heard this quote that went something along the lines of ‘I always feel lucky when I work really hard,’ and I definitely feel that… I always feel lucky when I put in the work, because to always be taking that next step towards fulfilling your dreams is what’s going to get you there.”  

You can follow Kristina on Instagram as well as Hatha Yoga & Fitness and also visit the website.

It’s so, so important to get your day going the way you want it to. And so I wanted to help facilitate that for others.

LFM #5: Fitness, Hugs, and Personal Development with Katie

When we first sent our son, Sam, to preschool, there was this mom in the pick-up line that I kept thinking I just had to meet. She was always ready to meet your glance with a big smile, and seemed to have this upbeat, positive energy that just flowed from her all the time. 

Katie is the CEO and Founder of Harlan Coaching, co-author of the Sugar & Spice cookbookZYIA Active fitness clothing representative, mom of three adorable kids, and the woman who inspired me to start my own fitness journey several years ago. 

COZY

Katie tries to wake up each morning at 5 a.m. “It’s like a secret time… the world isn’t awake. It’s a special time of day,” she says. 

“I slowly make my way downstairs… I try to nurture myself a little bit at this time… I let out the dog, wake up slowly, bring down my book light and journal, and I just sit in front of the windows overlooking our backyard and just take five minutes.” Katie says this five minutes can be to contemplate her day, enjoy watching her dog (a beagle named Wrigley) have fun outside, or really, anything. She used to set a timer for those five minutes, but doesn’t feel the need anymore. “I allow my brain to go where it wants to go… I have a lot of structure to my day, so it’s nice to just BE for those five minutes at the start of the day.” 

MOVEMENT

Whether it’s her coaching business or working out, Katie is on the move for a lot of her day — and mornings are no different. “After I take my time waking up slowly, it’s time to get moving,” Katie laughs. 

Depending on the morning and her family’s schedule, Katie will either get right to work tasks or do her workout then. Being a fitness instructor with multiple certifications and a home gym, I was interested to see what she’s loving right now. 

“CrossFit!” she announced. “Right now, I’m doing CrossFit… I need to be challenged all the time, and this seemed like a fun thing to try. I love it, because it’s very much what you want it to be… it can seem intimidating, but there are lots of different people, different ages, different goals, all making it their own.” She also enjoys running when she’s not at the gym. 

“Because my kids are home right now, for summer vacation, business activities fit into the cracks,” Katie said.  “So if it’s not a morning for me to drive to CrossFit, I’ll jump directly into my work to-do’s.” 

Katie runs an intermittent fasting and carb cycling 3 week online program called IF You Carb Cycle, has a membership group for fitness clients with an online portal full of fitness videos, challenges, and recipes, does business coaching for other entrepreneurs, and is also a leader in the ZYIA active wear company. “It’s a lot of Facebooking,” she laughs. “First thing in the morning, I check in with all of my clients if I’m running the program, to see how they are doing.” 

“With business coaching, I have some private clients as well as group membership clients, that’s meant to be extra help for them, whether they are just starting out or ready for growth… I love that I have such a variety of clients, and I love this side of my business… watching others succeed is so inspiring to me.” 

INSPIRED

“Every morning, I’ll write one page in my journal,” Katie shares. “I keep it to one page, but I don’t have any goal for it or structure to it other than to just journal what I feel like journaling that day… it tends to be a frustration or a problem on my mind, usually business-oriented, but it allows me to work through it, and not leave it in my head… I do always end the page with something I am grateful for and appreciate that day.” 

Every morning, without fail, Katie makes sure not to check her phone until she journals. “This is HUGE,” she says. “Doing this keeps my mind in the right place… one email can completely change the trajectory of your thoughts, and I want to hold on to that place I want to.” 

Katie also loves listening to books or podcasts. “I’ll put my headphones on while making coffee if the kids are asleep, and I love listening to the Oprah SuperSoul podcast. It’s inspirational, it’s spiritual, but in all kinds of different ways.” She recently listened to the episode featuring Diana Nyad, who is the first person to complete the 110-mile swim from Cuba to Key West, Florida. “No matter what the subject is, she has a way to ask the same set of questions to end the interview, and everyone’s conversations are just so inspiring.” Katie also loves listening to Gary Vaynerchuk if she’s in more of a work-focused mood. “I have to be in the right mood,” she says, “but if I have a frustration on my mind, I’ll search out that personal development that fits it. I really loved Playing Big by Tara Mohr… for all my fiction books, I like physical books, but for non-fiction, listening is just the best.” 

While day to day things can change, Katie says her mornings include Facebook, coffee, and hugs for her kids and husband. “I love hugs!” 

You can learn more about Katie on Instagram and Facebook and visit her website.  

I have a lot of structure to my day, so it’s nice to just BE for those five minutes at the start of the day.

LFM #4: Finding the Balance Moment to Moment: Running, Parenting, and More with Natalie

Natalie and I met several years ago because she and her then-fiancée contacted us to do their wedding photos. I instantly knew there was something about Natalie that I just adored, and I’m happy to say we’ve stayed in touch throughout the years, thanks largely to social media. Her fitness journey and consistent, heartfelt Instagram posts have motivated me and inspired many a smile. 

Natalie is a wife, mother, and health and fitness enthusiast whose serene presence and sincerity mean so much to anyone who meets her. 

MOVEMENT

“My goal was never to ‘be a runner’,” Natalie says. “It became way more than I ever could have imagined… yes, I finished a 5K, but I also received so much support in so many other areas.” 

Natalie is an introvert and didn’t know many people in her city or where to start, but she was interested in maybe training to run a 5K when her daughter Aubrey, now two and a half, was just a little baby. Her previous supervisor encouraged her just to go for it, and that there were groups that helped you along the way. Natalie decided she should just go for it and signed up through Fleet Feet in her city of Bloomington, Illinois for a “Strolling Moms” running group. 

“I never would have gone out of my comfort zone if it wasn’t as easy and upfront as clicking a button,” Natalie said. “But I’m so glad I did… you’re out there with these other moms, sharing your struggles, good advice, and form these real, strong bonds with these women. We’re all still friends, and now Aubrey is friends with a lot of their kids.” 

What started as running short distances three times a week evolved into a 5K and Natalie is signed up for a half marathon in the fall. “You get to know people so well on the runs… you develop good friendships, because at the end of the day, all of you have the same goal of the next mile, the next race, whatever it is you’re going for. There’s a natural high in running you all come to love.” 

While running is somewhat new in Natalie’s life, fitness routines are not. She has been doing Tone It Up videos and routines since 2012. “I really love all the routines where you jump right now,” Natalie laughs. “Jumping squats are so fun! But really, I’ve always loved any strength training and using weights… I just love to feel strong.” And Aubrey is noticing. “She knows mommy works out, she will sometimes do part of workouts with me, and has even completed a fun run that she did have so much fun doing.” Natalie says that if Aubrey notices she hasn’t done a workout yet that she’s seen, she’ll ask her what video she’ll select that day. “She’s extremely motivating,” Natalie said. “I like finding that balance… of keeping Aubrey entertained, but still getting workouts in and having time for myself.”  

INSPIRED

“I love making space to read after my workouts in the morning,” Natalie said. “Especially if I’m having a rough day, I will revisit the books I’m reading throughout the day… it’s something I do to re-ground myself and say ok, it’s not that bad, your to-do list isn’t THAT important.” 

She’s currently reading Only Love Today by Rachel Stafford, and Happy You, Happy Family by Kelly Holmes.

“I bought myself a notebook and that’s really helped to jot down my random thoughts and help process things, getting myself back to the place I want to be.” But a physical notebook isn’t the only place Natalie uses to gather her thoughts. “I began using Instagram as a journal, especially for food, as I’m finding I really do love to cook and find healthy things… I love that I can save things and go back and revisit those quotes I saved to collections, re-read thoughts I’ve had to re-focus on what’s really important.”

COZY

“Light is huge for me in the morning… I’m such a morning person,” Natalie said. “If I’ve got my mornings to refocus, I can re-center on what’s really important to me.” 

Natalie’s favorite mornings are those where she can get up before everyone, and while she likes to be active in the morning, it’s a slow, easeful kind of activity — “After my workout, I love to just sit and relax and read. Those mornings are golden.” 

She’s recently found out terminology for what she has always known about herself — that she is a highly sensitive person. “I always try to take that quiet time for myself — but it’s not new. I’ve always needed this. I was an only child until I was 16, and I have always craved that quiet and stillness… alone time, daily, is vital for me… it’s taken a lot to get to a place where I can admit that I need this, but I do, and my husband is always so great about coming home and just jumping in. And when Aubrey naps, sometimes I’ll just sit and take in the silence… I used to feel like I had to be productive every minute to feel ok… but now I know it’s really, truly ok to relax.” 

Natalie uses essential oils every morning, a calming blend of lavender, balance and stress away. “I’m a creature of habit… I love doing those things that allow me to re-center. I’m always finding the balance of who I am… I don’t feel like I learned who I was until I had my daughter, and I’m so thankful for every day, taking it one moment at a time, to find that balance.” 

You can find Natalie on Instagram at _natalietom_. 

I’m always finding the balance of who I am… I don’t feel like I learned who I was until I had my daughter, and so ... I’m taking it one moment at a time, to find that balance.

LFM #3: Unexpected Books, Surprise Weekend Getaways, and Parallelogram Furniture

Hi, there. 

Life has a way of surprising us, doesn’t it? Or rather, as we get into the work of guiding our days deliberately, it’s surprising in that the perfect timing, the perfect moment, the exact thing that you wanted but didn’t realize existed, suddenly just pops right in front of you. With books especially, this is my experience.  

INSPIRED

My husband Micah and I photographed a beautiful farm wedding for a couple near our home and I was struck that day by the beauty of all of it — of genuine love between the couple, of all the perfect details that seemed done out of love and care and not “just because,” of the home itself. Before the ceremony began, we were in the living room of the home and I realized there was this sign that said “Peace and Plenty.” I loved that. I’m so like a little rat with my nest in that I am continually, mentally, keeping things that I want to have in my life. (Don’t birds kind of do the same thing? Maybe that would be better than a rat.) This sign, and this saying, was something I wanted to keep with me. 

So naturally, later that week, I went on Etsy and searched for the phrase “Peace and Plenty.” There were lots of hand-embroidered items that reminded me of the things that used to hang on my grandparents’ farmhouse walls. Which was sweet, but nothing I felt like I needed to have up in my home now. I was thinking maybe I’d just have to DIY something myself (which I may in the future) when one listing came up with a book title: “Three Magic Words: The Key to Power, Peace, and Plenty.” A lot of photos of inside passages were posted, including things like the conscious mind, intuition, realizing absolute love as the motivating power of life, and meditations. And it was from 1954. I felt like this book had everything I was interested in all right there, in a lovely, nondescript vintage cover, and ordered it. I’ve been reading it for a couple of weeks now, and it has surpassed my every expectation of what it could be. I read a lot of books, and I think this is definitely my favorite read of 2018 thus far. 

Soon after this book was on its way, my husband asked me what I’d like to do for our 11-year wedding anniversary. We are planning a lot right now, including a vacation, a book, so many more Light-filled Mornings interviews, the kids have activities — to where I wanted to do something fun and special, but I’m looking beyond so much that I was having a hard time envisioning what to do for this weekend. So I did what I never do, and said, “Surprise me!” And he did! With a trip to St. Louis. 

We hadn’t been to St. Louis for a non-work-related trip since before we were married, so we had fun exploring. There’s so much more there than the Arch. Which I knew, but really hadn’t experienced thus far. 

We had an amazing time trying all sorts of interesting food (biscuit donuts with Fruity Pebbles topping… meatloaf muffins… blueberry coffee stout craft beer…) but the biggest surprise of all was the parallelogram furniture.

Micah booked us a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright home of Russell and Ruth Kraus in Ebsworth Park (about a 25 minute drive from downtown St. Louis) with a floor plan composed of two intersecting parallelograms. It contains all the original Wright-designed furnishings and fabrics — including a parallelogram-shaped bed and hexagonal bed. (“It would look weird in here with a rectangular bed!” our guide insisted.) It’s like the original smart home, with a switch as you come in the door to turn on all the lights in the home — and a switch by the (parallelogram) bed to turn them all off. 

Russell Kraus was an artist who wrote to Wright asking if he would please design a home for him and his wife, and one thing that struck me was he asked for a terrace for “sun-bathing and star-gazing.” (I’m keeping that sentiment, too.)

I’d asked Micah how many books I should plan to bring with me on the trip (I am generally reading four at a time, and pick them up depending on how I’m feeling in the moment) and he said no more than one. So the one was my new Peace and Plenty book, which very accurately described my feelings with a weekend away, experiencing new things. 

Enjoy your light-filled mornings, friends. 

Caitlin 

‘For sun-bathing and star-gazing’... I’m keeping that sentiment, too.
The sign that started the search. 

The sign that started the search. 

three magic words: the key to power, peace and plenty

three magic words: the key to power, peace and plenty

frank lloyd wright / russell kraus home in ebsworth park, mo 

frank lloyd wright / russell kraus home in ebsworth park, mo 

a lovely parallellogram terrace 

a lovely parallellogram terrace 

little baby beers.

little baby beers.

LFM #2: Learning Makeup & Making Yourself Feel Good with Natalie

Every morning, Facebook lets me know that my friend Natalie is at it again. She has posted a daily inspirational quote for her "A Mom, Makeup, and Motivation" group every day, unfailingly, since July of 2016, and her community (and the world at large) are better for those good vibes she sends out. 

Natalie is a Younique Independent Presenter, a blogger, a mother of two boys and advocate of special needs because of her son, David, who has You-Hoover-Fong syndrome. She's also an all-around lovely person who lights up the room when you talk to her. 

INSPIRED

Natalie began her makeup business, through Younique, two years ago, when a friend began selling and introduced her to it. "I knew nothing about makeup, at all," Natalie says. "I live with all boys. I didn't even wear mascara when I started! But I've learned as I've gone along, and I still like to play with it. It was something just for me." Natalie knew that as she started this business, she wanted to do it in her own way — and help other people as well. "I never thought I was pretty. It takes 1,000 photos of my makeup done before I'll post one — and then I STILL question it," she laughs. "But it's been fun, and it's given me a confidence, but a different kind of confidence. Not a pretty confidence, but an empowering confidence."

She began the quest to share daily in the Facebook group she runs for makeup (and motivation!) and even when her son David was in the hospital for 10 days in January of 2017, she still posted. "We truly didn't know if he would make it," she says. "But that's when I needed the inspirational quotes and that feeling of connection. I had friends tell me, 'I can't believe you're still posting... but I'm so glad that you are.'" 

Her most recent favorite quote she's shared is one by Jon Sinclair that reads, "Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo." "I keep the group small for a reason," Natalie says. "We've all become close, and I'd like to think they would miss the posts if I stopped. Each morning, before I get out of bed, I choose what feels right to me for that day... and I hope that it's right for everyone else in the group as well, and touches them. I don't think makeup is what makes people pretty... it can enhance it, but it's what's in your heart that makes you pretty. And I think the people in the group feel that." 

Natalie has also been blogging for seven years, on "Raising David and Kyle." Natalie's oldest son David, who recently turned 18, was recently diagnosed with the very rare genetic disorder of  You-Hoover-Fong syndrome, after years of testing and looking for answers. "I started the blog when Kyle, my younger son, was five," Natalie says. "It was a way to help myself process what was going on with David, how Kyle was feeling, and how I was feeling in all of it... and so I've always posted when I have something to say. I didn't even know how to put photos on when I started! So it's come a long way." Blogging has helped connect a group of people Natalie never knew she'd connect. "David was one of seven cases of You-Hoover-Fong when we finally got his diagnosis in 2017," Natalie says. "But from my blog, one of the original six with the syndrome found me, then someone with a child with it from the U.K., then someone from Alabama... it was incredible to have that support and for everyone else to feel heard and supported. With You-Hoover-Fong, it's just like with any other person, in that the kids are all so different... even though they have the same diagnosis, they're all their own people." Natalie felt a responsibility to keep the group together, and started a Facebook group for the parents of these kids to share. "I have the oldest child with this diagnosis... so I felt like I should take on that role." 

Natalie begins each and every day, after her inspirational Facebook post, with a glass of grape juice ("I don't drink coffee!" she protests) and takes an hour to care for David and get him started for his day. "David is 100 percent care," she says,  "I have to change his diaper, put his stuff away, take care of his G-Tube, feed him through his feeding tube, brush his teeth, and more, all while asking Kyle to please get ready," she says. "Then I'll take him to the bus, finish my hair and makeup, and take Kyle to the bus. Sometimes I have breakfast, sometimes I don't. But I always have my glass of grape juice. And regardless of the day, I always show up — for my boys, for my family, for my groups. I don't always feel like I have it all together... but I do always show up." 

You can learn more about Natalie on her blog: https://raisingdavidandkyle.blogspot.com and follow her on Instagram at @nataliew1978

I’ve learned that I can make myself feel good.

LFM #1: Photography, Rock Climbing, and of course, Coffee with Maria Salova

The best conversations begin with coffee. I was thrilled to catch up for coffee and brunch in downtown Chicago with my friend Maria, a photographer and digital marketing professional from Norfolk, Virginia. 

COZY

Like me, Maria always starts her morning with coffee. 

"I always make a pot of coffee as soon as I wake up," Maria says. "I start the kettle and like knowing it's going as I'm getting ready... I like to set a foundation of positive energy, a clear mind, in my mornings, and that first cup of coffee is the catalyst. Like, ok, I’ve got my day going."

She also loves breakfast (did I mention we have a lot in common?) and says she loves the routine of making it, switching it up on the weekends. "On the weekends, I always make a big breakfast — I go all out," she says. "Right now, I'm trying to perfect the smoothie bowl." 

She also listens to a playlist. "It's pretty much alternative music, and my current one is called 'Get Over It' and helps me get over, well, anything I have going on," she says. "Beach FossilsHazel EnglishDay WaveReal Estate... they're my favorites right now." 

INSPIRED

She is currently focusing more of her time on her amazing portraits and photography — for friends, for clients, always capturing the amazing architecture and cool Norfolk vibe that seems to surround her. “Photography is my guiding light… it’s the one thing I do that’s truly just for me.”

MOVEMENT

Maria used to be really into weight lifting, and while she still is, she's recently found her new inspiring movement within rock climbing. 

"I was surprised! I went with former co-workers, who told me I was a natural," Maria says. "Rock climbing is fun because it’s working out, but so much more. It's a physical and mental challenge. It's like figuring out a puzzle. And it's totally new for me, not anything I previously thought I wanted to do or ever thought I would do... but while you’re up there, you can only focus on one thing at a time. When I go to the gym, I do weight training, cardio, I think too much, but with weights, I’m counting each rep and able to really focus. I’m so focused, that this — my rock climbing, my weight lifting — is my meditation. Meditation is so important, and I never felt like I could do it before, when I pictured myself just sitting in a room. But now I've found something that allows me to still meditate but satisfy my athlete’s heart." 

Maria has always been active, pursuing ballet and track and field as a child. "Now that I've found rock climbing, I feel like there could be even more options I love I just haven't discovered yet, which is exciting." 

"One thing I love about rock climbing and the gym is that there are such communities there," Maria shares. "It's a mini-culture. It's inspiring. Enthusiastic. It brings people together. It helps women feel that strong is beautiful, which is such a movement right now, and that movement, that feeling, has really helped to inspire me." 

If you'd like to learn more about Maria, you can follow her photography on Instagramat @mvsalova and visit her website: www.mvsalova.com

Photography is my guiding light... it’s the only thing I truly do just for me.