LFM #24 – Emmaline on Creativity, Cat Mugs, and Inspiration from Nature

I’ve been fortunate enough to know Emmaline for most of her life. She’s been a bonus little sister and a bonus aunt to my kids—and her creativity, vision, and zest for all that life has to offer have inspired me for years. I’m beyond excited to know her and share her story. 

Emmaline is about to start her final year of attending the University of Illinois for her Bachelor’s degree, double-majoring in photography and graphic design. She is a photographer, designer, artist, candle-maker, crafter, and guinea pig mother, among other things. 

COZY 

“Here’s the thing,” Emma confesses. “I’m not a morning person… I wish I was a morning person, but I’m just not. My ideal morning, I’d wake up around 9:30 or 10. Earlier than that? Just… no.” Emma then will make coffee (preferably out of a cat mug). “My mugs just make my day happier… you can’t go wrong with a good cat mug. I have lots of them,” she shares. 

She has three guinea pigs that need tending when she wakes up—Guggenheim, Salvador, and Guillermo. “My guinea pigs are my best friends,” Emma laughs. The pigs have to have hay at all times, guinea pig food pellets, and veggies. “I’ll usually go out onto the balcony, where I have basil, chives, lavender, and tomatoes growing… they love having a little basil for a treat.” 

 She also listens to podcasts while getting ready. “Press Send, with Chinae Alexander, is my favorite… I also love What We Said with Jaci Marie Smith.” Emmaline usually has somewhere to go in the afternoon each day—whether meeting a client for coffee or another creative friend. “Pekara in Champaign has been a current favorite; great coffee, great snacks, and parking! I also love Avionics… their rosemary mochas are amazing.” Then she’ll either work on freelance graphic design, a school project if it’s in session, or her new endeavor—Mint & the Moon candles, she and her boyfriend, Alex, have started. “I feel like all my days are different, but I love it.” 

 “I light a candle each morning—I love smells,” she laughs. “My mom always had candles going, and if we were shopping, we would go to White Barn Candle Co., Bath and Body Works, and smell everything… in my dorms, I couldn’t have candles, and that was upsetting to me, for sure. Now that I’ve had my own apartment a few years, it makes it feel like a home, like it’s actually your space.”

INSPIRED 

“I’m such a night creative,” Emma says. “That’s when I get my crazy ideas. We’ve been implementing art night with friends, where we have wine and do art. Just having a set time when. You know you’re going to work on it… someone to hold you accountable to really have that time and just work on it, not just watch TV, is so important.” Emmaline will even FaceTime with friends while they both paint. 

The candle company came from one such night creative session. “I had to do a project for class, re-making a brand, but ethical. So I chose a candle company… making it sustainable, switching out paraffin wax for soy.” Alex is a chemical engineering major, also at the University of Illinois, and offered to help mixing the scents. “Alex was like… we should just do this! Really do it! It’d be a really fun hobby to do together… and so I did all the branding; Alex is so good at the measuring, testing, and science side of getting it right… and that’s how it came to be.” 

They currently have three scents: Dusk, Garden, and Rain. “The dusk scent is my perfect candle,” Emma says. “Alex prefers clean and airy smells, and I want those really masculine scents. A lot of candle companies just order a scent, use that fragrance, and name it that fragrance. I knew I wanted to mix scents, make them our own, and be really creative with them… like with dusk, this is exactly what dusk should smell like, in my mind. It creates that feeling.” 

Emmaline says her main inspiration for everything in art is the human connection with nature. “I grew up with the woods in my backyard… we’re all connected with nature; there is that connection to the world. Re-creating those moments you have with the world around you, whether with scents or visually, is really where all my inspiration springs from.” 

My Darling Loren is Emma’s personal brand for her visual artwork. “I’m spending my summer honing that vision as well,” she says. “I’m excited to do more art and craft shows.” 

 “My guinea pigs are creative beings, too,” she laughs. “Really, though, it’s funny what people like… people like weird things! My most-sold print, thus far, has been of one of my guinea pigs.” 

When your hobbies turn into your career, as so many creatives’ do, overthinking it can lead to burnout quickly. “Getting a second opinion is huge,” Emma says. “I tend to overthink everything… we can all relate to that! So asking friends I trust when I’m second-guessing, or sleeping on it for a couple of days, and really giving myself time… that really helps. I’m so lucky to have Alex, too, who doesn’t overthink things in the way I do.” 

“When I think back, ‘why did I go into photography?’ I didn’t do any photography in high school. 

How did I know I was going to be good at it? But somehow I did… and through it, I’ve definitely become more creative in college,” Emma says. “Having more freedom and being able to connect with more people has made me way more creative; connecting with creatives in Champaign-Urbana and talking with them has been huge. The most useful thing I’ve gotten out of college is definitely connections… the ability to create those connections.”

You can follow Emmaline here, find her photography here, and, if you’re in the Champaign-Urbana central Illinois area, can see her at MadeFest in September for Mint & the Moon candles, illustrations, and more. 

That’s when I get my crazy ideas. We’ve been implementing art night with friends, where we have wine and do art. Just having a set time when. You know you’re going to work on it… someone to hold you accountable to really have that time and just work on it, not just watch TV, is so important.
— Emmaline Fleener

LFM #23 - Savannah on Language, Travel, and Making Her Bed

I’m so thrilled to share Savannah’s story, because she and I met because we have the same day job, just on different project teams. Savannah is a corporate content writer for Dot Foods, like me—and we’re both continually intrigued to hear how differently we approach writing and yet how much we both love so many of the same things (like coffee, always coffee). Working in tandem with Savannah has been the best, and I’m so fortunate to know her. 

Savannah is a writer living in Minneapolis, a year out from graduating Bradley University, where she majored in advertising and Spanish. 

COZY 

 “I have to make my bed every morning to feel like I’ve started my day off on the right foot,” Savannah says. “As a child, my parents were always frustrated that my bed wasn’t made… it was always a mess. But during my senior year of college, I’d read somewhere that making your bed reduced anxiety… a clean, neat and tidy space to go to at the end of the day really makes the difference.” 

Every morning, after making her bed, Savannah will try to get up with enough time to relax and get ready before hopping online for work. “It depends on the day, but I do always try and get up with ample time… when I was at Bradley, I had three roommates and realized the only time I could be alone and have quiet would be if I was up earlier than everyone else. Now, I live back home, and it’s the same situation. In college, I made that conscious choice—what are simple, little things I can do to make every day easier? Getting up earlier was one of these things.” Her ideal mornings involve at least 30 minutes to sit with coffee and a book. Savannah is an extrovert but noticed how depleted she’d feel without any solitude during the day. “I love being with people, but I realized I was always ‘on.’ A lot of it stems from my belief in promoting positive mental health,” Savannah says. “I have anxiety, and starting my day in the right direction is so therapeutic… I worked at Target corporate before getting my new position, and I would have a 40-minute commute. I got into the habit of getting to work before everyone else, listening to podcasts on the bus… I’m such a routine person. So even though I work from home now, I still know that I need that time.”  

Her favorite podcasts? “I’m such a financial geek,” she laughs. “I love all that stuff. I really think women should be financially independent, and have that confidence in themselves.” She loves the So Money podcast, the Latte Factor podcast… and I also really love Ashley Graham’s Pretty Big Deal podcast, as well as Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness and the Skimm’d from the Couch podcast… It’s nice to have someone telling you the things in your ear versus reading them, especially with the financial advice.” 

Savannah does love to read, though. “Right now, I’m reading Jojo Moyes’ ‘After You.’ I also just finished ‘I’m Judging You,’ which is literally hilarious… that woman is so savage, I realized I was texting my boyfriend all these lines from the book.” She’s reading “What Happened” by Hillary Clinton next; she says she banned herself from going to the library over the winter, when she realized she’d check out too many books, more than she could possibly read within the checkout window. “I do like to peruse, though, and will pick it up in the library if it looks good,” she says.

MOVEMENT 

Savannah danced ballet as a child and recently started taking adult ballet classes. “I love them so much,” she says. If Savannah has time of a morning, she’ll meditate or do yoga. “I love the Simple Habit meditation app,” she says. “You can pick on-the-go meditations for what you’re doing at the time… I like that they’re tailored, and you can even do five-minute ones.” 

She also loves to walk outside now that it’s nicer out in Minneapolis. “Being in nature, seeing the sun… it’s all so wonderful.” 

INSPIRED 

Savannah knew she wanted to major in advertising. “My mom was in advertising, as a media planner, so that sparked that interest,” she says. And originally, she had planned to focus on graphic design. “The graphic design would have made it a bachelor of science with more math and science… and in high school, I was always interested in Spanish class, but more the travel aspect than the language aspect… my teacher had so many amazing stories about travel and I realized, majoring in Spanish would give me the excuse to travel abroad.” 

 Savannah spent a semester in Madrid, Spain, and says it has impacted how she views the world. “It was absolutely life-changing… they view life as such as a gift there, and they work so they can live, instead of living to work… I’m a very goal-oriented person, which I can’t fully take away, but I definitely have more of an appreciation for the unknowns of life and the flow of things I can’t control.” She still talks to her host family, two years later. “We had such a great connection… every day was super surreal, and sometimes it still feels like a crazy dream… the little apartments in the city; I’m 5’ 11” and would be sleeping in a twin bed and would accidentally kick the radiator,” she laughs.

Savannah says living in Madrid, living in the Spanish language, for months at a time, helped her appreciation of language flourish. “Living, speaking Spanish, every day, helped me with my communication… it helped me with my English as well, opening my eyes to differences and similarities.” An advertising professor encouraged her to consider copywriting as she discovered how much she enjoyed that side of the degree. “And even the other day, I had to translate an ad into Spanish at work… I realize every day, how much of an impact Madrid had on me. I definitely value experiences.” 

You can follow Savannah on Instagram and on her blog, Sav(v)y Endeavors. 

I made that conscious choice—what are simple, little things I can do to make every day easier? Getting up earlier was one of these things.
— Savannah Riese

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 #19 - Daphne on Strong Words, Reminders, and Flexible Routines

I was fortunate enough to go to a Create & Cultivate popup in Austin, TX in March—a place I knew I was supposed to be. And a place I was supposed to be on time. So on time, in fact, that I was in line before 6 a.m. so I’d be sure to get in; and I’m so glad I was, because in that time, I met Daphne, whose friend (that I had befriended over pre-daybreak coffee and muffins) had been first in the line, right before me. I had immediate hair envy with her long, wavy, dark blonde locks; as soon as she said hello, I knew she was someone I wanted to be friends with. 

Daphne is a designer, writer, stylist, and event planner living in Austin, TX and founder of Strong Word Studio and vintage clothing shop Daphne’s Closet

When asked what her morning routine looks like, Daphne says with a laugh, “I don’t have one.” She has a varied schedule, between running events at a local brewery and her work for Strong Word Studio. “I tend to wake up pretty early on my own; I like to have a schedule for my day. I’ll write it out on a notepad, hour by hour, what’s top of mind for me to do, which has been a gamechanger. I can’t make decisions in the moment… so I’ll write everything down I’m worrying about getting done and see where everything fits in my day, hour by hour.” Also, spending time growing in faith each morning is super important to Daphne. “Lately, on busier mornings, I’ve been listening to an audio Bible app while doing my hair,” she says, “And then I’ll listen to the Bible Recap podcast by Tara-Leigh Cobble… and I’ve done Morning Pages for years, like from Bird by Bird… that way, I can just get whatever is in my head out. It’s surprising to see what comes out… and looking back, I can see like, wow, my Impostor Syndrome isn’t new, it’s been around a while,” Daphne laughs. 

She said sometimes she will go out to a coffeeshop in the morning to do her lists and writing, just to get out of the norm. “I like to make the habitual things feel special,” she says. “And then, I’ll start really tackling things on the list. I’m definitely most productive in the morning; my head is most clear then.” She loves coffee, which she discovered after early morning caregiving for kids during church on Sundays. “After that I started drinking coffee,” she says, “and I can appreciate good coffee, but really, my favorite is McDonald’s or just the grocery store K-cups. Black coffee, all the way, in the same mug each day from World Market, if I’m not getting McDonald’s. No shame in that.” 

Though she is originally from Houston, Daphne has lived in Austin since attending college there for Advertising. “The neighborhood I live in now has trees everywhere, and Austin is so funky… there is a rooster living next door, and then down the road a home with hundreds of lawn ornaments in the front yard… it’s very motivating to walk around the neighborhood and get fresh air, before the summer heat hits.” 

She started Strong Word Studio when she was working in her dream job, one that she “should” have loved, but just didn’t anymore. “It’s happened a number of times, where things seem to be fine, and there’s no real reason to not be loving what I’m doing… but there I was, and I had this angsty feeling I wrestled with for probably over a year, and I realized, I think I’m done here. It’s time to move on.” Unsure what she should move on to, she started hand-lettering commissioned pieces and doing design work. A business strategist friend asked her what she really did and was passionate about, and she was said she struggled to find the words to put to it. “I would be like, I draw things? I am a letterer? But then I realized, what I really do, is create reminders.” Strong Word Studio started out of Daphne’s own “forgetfulness,” out of a love for strong words (red letter, four-letter, and everything in-between), and out of a passion for reminding her friends (and herself) who they are and what they are capable of when focused on what’s true. “Because knowing and believing are two completely different things… it’s easy to know things, but really doing it, really living it, makes the difference. And we all just need reminders of who we are and what we really want and what matters. Words are so powerful.” 

She decided to take a bartending job, wanting something that wouldn’t need taking home after-hours to give her more time to focus on Strong Word; the brewery she approached asked her to run their events as well, based on her extensive background in the industry. “I feel like we have this sense that life should be linear and that there’s a timeline… I’m reminding myself constantly, there is no timeline. I think of this any time I watch an epic movie, and there’s an intermission… it’s wrapped up so nicely in the first half, and there are always surprising turns you didn’t see coming in the second half… but that’s what life is.” 

When her mom was diagnosed with colon cancer, Daphne says she put Strong Word Studio on the backburner and focused on helping her mom. “I still needed a creative outlet, though,” Daphne says. “I just didn’t know it for a while. I was pretty obsessed with thrifting and finding vintage clothing; I do it for fun, but it felt silly and frivolous to share for a while… but I’d have friends texting and asking me to help them find items and how I did it and they’d know my shopping schedule… so I started Daphne’s Closet. I honestly don’t know what will come out of it, but it’s been really fun. Sometimes, I think, am I avoiding what I need to be doing by focusing on this? As an Enneagram 8, I feel like I can do whatever I want all the time,” she laughs. “But I struggle with the ‘should’s’ as well.” 

Journaling doesn’t always fall into Daphne’s morning, but she is a “notebook person,” like me. “I love Leuchhtturm notebooks,” she says. “I heard a talk from my lettering hero Jessica Hische about the beauty of a larger notebook to make more room for letter forms so I abandoned my Leuchhtturm for XL Moleskine cahier journals instead. And I just like the feeling of having a pen in hand. It’s all chicken scratch if I’m not lettering, though.” She also loves Lara Casey’s Power Sheets goal planners. “They’re amazing, even though they’re much more colorful than I’d usually go for.” 

After talking for nearly an hour, Daphne says, “I guess I do have a routine… I have all these ideas of what a routine should be, and I don’t have that… but I do frequent a lot of the same things each day (creating an outline in the morning, reflecting and making gratitude lists in the evening, McDonald’s drive-thru coffee) It’s definitely the little things you do over time that add up… a quick fix doesn’t exist for anything. It all adds up, and I’m making strides, even if it doesn’t always look like how I thought it would.” 

You can connect with Daphne on Instagram, on the Strong Word Studio website, or on the Daphne’s Closet Instagram account.

 

 

Because knowing and believing are two completely different things… it’s easy to know things, but really doing it, really living it, makes the difference. And we all just need reminders of who we are and what we really want and what matters. Words are so powerful.
— Daphne Bamburg
Reminders from Strong Word Studio

Reminders from Strong Word Studio

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 # 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
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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 #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.