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. 


“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.”


“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. 


 “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.


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.” 


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 #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. 


“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.”  


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

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 #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.


“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.”  


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.


 “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.”  


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.


“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.”


“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.


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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 #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. 


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.” 


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.” 


“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. 


“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.”  


“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.”


“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 #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. 


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." 


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.”


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.