authentic friendships + shared space

I’m coming off of a lot of west coast vibes and meaningful “friend-time” which is not a complaint and absolutely an expression of gratitude (and possibly involves a drum circle).
 
My first trek started in Arizona for a wedding, moved to a wedding and anniversary in Portland two weeks later, quickly followed by a flight out to and five days in California. “Hashtag blessed," some might say. 

Now that I am home and slowly adjusting to the eastern timezone, I am reflecting on the gifts that travel always stows and sneaks past TSA for me.
 

Perspective and gratitude.

 
Deep, unconditional, and genuine friendship was the catalyst for each and every trip. It’s hard to believe that at the age of 27 I have both cultivated and maintained several quality friendships and across many different groups. 

We have seen, experienced, counseled and supported one another through pivotal and trivial moments in life. We can be exactly who we are in the comfort of one another, while understanding and respecting our differences. Each person has taught me how to be a friend and when to be a better friend.

I’m sharing this because I know how hard it is to find these people and I know the work it takes to keep them. I know what confidence in a friendship brings, and I know the security of shared successes and failures.
 
Yes these are quick summations and yes they are positive but this end result required constant commitment to both respect and honesty. Respect for one another as separate people with separate expectations of every experience, separate lenses with which to see and interact with the world and separate ways in expressing ourselves. I felt this the most in California and here’s where the honesty plays its role…
 
This past week I was in San Diego and Palm Springs for a girls trip with Emily and Caroline, relationships we started at the age of 3 and 5, respectively. Despite having known each other for so long, we had yet to take a trip to celebrate just us; there was always another reason (bachelorette, wedding, “home-for-the-holidays”). Throughout the trip we had small moments of big impact. Moments where our expectations and personalities collided, differed, and then shared space. Because of our commitment to allowing one another to both be who they are and express that, we were able to talk with pure honesty.

Honesty isn't always a soft embrace and can often feel like a head-on collision. 

Each of us was willing to be authentic in expressing our true feelings (at one point I did use the term “steam-rolling”) and vulnerable to the unknown and the discomfort that comes with that. Each of us supported one another in justified feelings, emotions, and actions. Each of us held the safe space required to do so; we were allowed to be ourselves with the accountability and support of someone who is different. No one got mad, no one got nasty.
 
I encourage you to take a look at the relationships in your life where you can be your best self. Where you are challenged to be honest, asked to engage, and accepted with respect. Think of the people you can count on and can count on you. Where can you hold space for someone to share authentically with you about the good and bad sides of humanity and of ourselves. Think big by sharing in the small moments. 

keep your sense of adventure

I just returned from a gloooooorious trip to Portland, Oregon where I celebrated the marriage of a close friend and my two year wedding anniversary. Yay love! All of this in the land of local meat and cheese, fresh coffee and endless beer, and fresh-air and skyline (nose-rings and doc martens).

The first two days in what I dubbed "the motherland" (per multiple Buzzfeed quizzes, this is the city I am "meant to live" >>click here to see yours<<) were spent hiking in dense forests with lush landscape, crisp leaves, and clean air that I couldn't sip in fast enough. Literally, trying to make pine-trees, moss, and waterfalls... mother nature's fast-acting inhaler. 

Wahkeena Falls, Portland, Oregon

Wahkeena Falls, Portland, Oregon

Maltnomah Falls, Portland, Oregon

Maltnomah Falls, Portland, Oregon

Maltnomah Falls, Portland, Oregon

Maltnomah Falls, Portland, Oregon



see what I mean...

Needless to say my trip through the forest, down steep ravines, and even our jaunts through industrious city blocks were adventures. But so are a lot of things in life; vacation trips, a next chapter in life, anything that breaks you out of the mundane of "the norm," a situation that is new or uncharted. 

When you embark on an adventure you 1. enjoy the ride by 2. remaining open to the present (aka not obsessing on the outcome or result of the adventure). You gain more by engaging, moment by moment.

A lot of situations and life events are adventures

  • moving (period. new house, new city, new block, new state...all of it)
  • having or adopting a child or choosing not to do either
  • marriage
  • divorce
  • changing, ending, or pursuing a job
  • trying a new food, restaurant, way of eating
  • travel (anywhere and of course!)
  • creating/engaging in literature, art, science
  • forms of physical activity

When you keep your sense of adventure, you are willing to try new things. Opportunities are opened to you and you are reminded of the reward behind the risk. When you keep your sense of adventure, you choose a path with confidence; filling your life with experiences that are rich, deep, and vibrant. 

But wait!
There is much more to be gained from adventure:

  • youth
    • getting out of your element keeps you active and keeps you spirited
  • adaptability
    • by nature, adventure is ever-changing therefore when you embrace the novelty of something new, you too have changed with it
  • gratitude
    • rising to the challenge of an adventure shapes your mind and body and creates an appreciation for both
  • dynamism
    • the skills gained, experiences earned, and overall next "layer" of yourself that is created by adventure has the ability to disrupt and surprise what you thought you new about yourself. you gain dymension 


how will you keep your sense of adventure as you navigate change, novelty, and uncertainty? how can you look at opportunities in your life with confidence and a spirit of self-assuredness? where is your next adventure taking you and how will you respond?
 

Forest Park, Portland, Oregon

Forest Park, Portland, Oregon

comparison

There is one wicked constant in which we all share...across generations, occurring rapidly during most moments in the company of others (and heavily on social media), and is crippling only when you give it too much credibility.

What is this sneaky beast?

Comparison.

and we all do it.

Of course we know it shows up when you're reading a magazine; looking at the perfectly photoshopped women on the covers and in the spreads who are meant to look effortless yet "out of reach." Potentially "attainable" if you buy the right products, subscribe to a certain diet or workout regimen, and spend heavy for the most figure-flattering looks and luxury accessories. 

 

We also know it shows up glaringly on social media where you get a perfectly altered snapshot of unrealistic moments in that accounts life (not everyone but most). 

 

You can't help but feel it at a social gathering where everyone is meant to share about themselves; asking "what do YOU do?" and "what does your husband do?" uggggh. gag. will you measure up?

 

I just came back from a glorious weekend in Arizona, celebrating the marriage of a dear friend and attending to her as a bridesmaid. She was stunning, the setting was beautiful, and there were many social gatherings where I truly connected with both her family and new friends.I mention this because I experienced moments of being hyper aware of comparison. Not just because I was meeting several new people but also because I was engaging in small talk; an exchange I am not fond of from the outset. The double-edged sword is that small talk is the very thing that can lead to genuine connection, increased knowledge and understanding, and a deeper conversation as a whole.In all sorts of conversations over the weekend, I used comparison to remind me of qualities I wanted to sharpen:- patience- approachability- asking more questions/engaging 

  I often say this because though I may want to know more about someone, I don't always ask the questions to get me there. 

I used comparison to remind me to focus on what I am grateful to have in my own personality, my relationships, and in the life I choose for myself.

***See... comparison can be the boost/cheerleader you need to affirm your decisions, your actions, and to cut yourself some slack!

 

I used comparison to see the trap one could easily set for yourself if you give it too much credibility. After all, what can you really know about the depths of someone else's life and those assessments and judgments aren't healthy for them or you. 

 

So what do we do with comparison then? 

 

You control it. You keep a healthy view of your own reality against the perception of another. 

 

How?

 

1. You guard the parts about yourself that you love.

 You are an amazing individual who navigates the world with your unique perspective. Stand on those qualities that allow you to be your best self, effortlessly. 

 Don't allow comparison to weaken what makes you strong

2. You use it to your advantage

 as I said before, you can use comparison to "sharpen" but not completely alter who you are. there is always something to be learned about yourself against the backdrop of others; become expansive and you'll experience so much more out of the richness of relationships

3. Take it with a grain of salt

 put the phone down if you have to, disconnect from social media if the comparison becomes negative and self-destructive. remember that you are only getting a snippet of what someone is willing to share about themselves (this includes conversations too). and we all like to be seen in the best light.

4. Let it go when you need to

 don't torture yourself or others. too much comparison can become harmful. stop before you're consumed; back away so that you remain confident in your own skin.

 

Comparison can strangle yet comparison can elevate. Decide how you want to experience it and exercise your right to control or dismiss it.

A glimpse at my decision-making + a cool travel app

Today I'm sharing more of my entrepreneurial side; Sharing insight into my reasoning when it comes to taking on a project outside of my normal closet or styling gig.
I am doing more writing and embracing another facet of my creativity. I am a firm believer that when you make a declaration into "the universe" that the world "conspires" to bring more of that delaration into your view.

"your thoughts create words, your words create action and your actions shape your behavior (i'm sure this is an exact quote of someone's)." 

I declared I wanted to do more writing and share my words and now mixes of opportunities are falling into my inbox. Some have been paid and some are strictly promotional. Either way I have learned to put the opportunity through these filters:

  • *gut check!* what is my intuition telling me? "explore this further? run away NOW! or this absolutely sends my creativity soaring!"
  • does this make sense for me and my brand (core values)?
  • will this require a lot of my time and energy aka does this measure up to the time (and $) I would or should exert elsewhere
  • will this create traffic to my website and build brand awareness?

So when I was randomly asked to be a "local expert" for a travel app (Stay.com) and emailed about an opportunity to provide a list of 8 shopping destinations in Orlando, here is what I did:

  • looked up the app/website
    • if my name is attached to ANYTHING you better believe I'm going to fact-check and make sure it's something I support or think is rad/useful
  • thought about how I could re-shape what was being asked of me to fit my personal and business mantras
    • I'm not a big "shopper" nor do I subscribe to trends forcing you to buy stuff all the time, so how could I look at this list differently and make it intentional
    • I asked if I could provide my own write-up/blurbs about the businesses I would recommend; making them personal and showcase what makes these shops true gems (be sure to click the purple "local's pick" underneath each shop, to access this)
  • made sure I was clear on what I was getting out of the "free" work
    • since promotion was involved, what did stay.com commit to doing for me in return for my time and what parts of my brand were they willing to include publically
  • made sure I was clear on exactly what was asked of me
    • always one to bring my best but also one to over give or think when it isn't always necessary. they wanted short blurbs so that was all they would get; power-packed 1-2 sentences.
  • set a deadline for myself, was prompt in providing what they asked of me and shared why I agreed to the work
    • since I advocate for local and small businesses, that was exactly who I wanted to showcase in this list. I was sure to share that in my agreement and in turn, created a genuine connection with the stay.com rep. I was corresponding with

I'm sharing all this because I too filter my decisions, evaluate them against all parts of my life (personal, business, down-time), make requests, and don't claim that any single part of that is easy. 

Plus the app is suuuuuper cool and useful. I would love for you to check it out and support my ci-tay!

>>Click here to get my "guide"<<

plus check this sneaky peak!

I learn and experience deeply along this journey of mine and I will continue to share of myself and encourage you to do the same.

 

Using your Core Values to make Decisions

Last week we talked about taking the time to write, articulate, and get uber specific about values that are important to you. Whether you had a lengthy list or a brief few, I hope the exercise in "core values" was a good interruption to your weekly norm. 

If you didn't take the time, then I encourage you to do so soon. The early bird gets the worm right? And in this case, the early bird gets to move closer and closer tokicking ass
 at setting (and keeping) those boundarieswe've been talking about.

To review: Your core values are strong attributes (adjectives) that make-up both who you positively consider yourself to be and who you desire to be. Core values show you what you stand for and what you do not tolerate; this protects your
 SPIRIT; your unique essence. If we could bottle you, these would be the ingredients listed on the label.

Your list should light you up.
Your list should wet your appetite for a fueled&fulfilled (can I trade mark this slogan? sounds like a tag-line for an energy drank) life.
Your list should be ALL SUBSTANCE and ZERO FLUFF.

This Week: Actively use your list of Core Values to guide your decisions.

Spend time putting your social calendar, a request from work, how you're going to spend your down-time, whether you want breakfast for breakfast or breakfast for dinner...ALL OF IT through the filter of your values. 

ex: If I value flexibility then I'm going to leave room in a vacation schedule for spontaneity versus having every moment strictly planned. If I value deep connections then I won't get together with superficial (former) friends; I'll spend my time otherwise.

OPTION(s)
*What are my choices?

CORE VALUE FILTER
*Does it align with a specific value or set of values? If it doesn't, why am I struggling to say no?

DECISION
*The "best option" will start to present itself & your decision will be clearer

The better you get at using your core values to filter your choices, you will gain confidence and conviction in your decisions. You will learn how to comfortably say no to opportunities that do not make sense for you and stop apologizing for it. 

PLUS! You'll start to:

  • shed feelings of guilt
  • lessen anxiety around being a "good" or "bad" decision-maker
  • gain control of how you spend your time
  • understand your uniqueness
  • care about doing things to lift your spirit versus out of obligation

I'm here if you want to share your list of values, share in your successes & struggles, and sharpen your decisions. 

Establishing Core Values

Last week we started your journey to BOUNDARY SETTING by working on your Personal Bill of Rights; a powerful list of sentences (basic rights) to help you assert yourself while respecting others (ex: I have the right to be healthier than those around me. I do not have the right to tell someone how they feel).

What did you think of this exercise? I can assume some "rights" were easy while others were hard---did you almost not write those rights down? 

Did this exercise come at time when you were feeling taken advantage of; over-stretched, over-worked, over-scheduled, over-over this mess? Perhaps.

It's no coincidence I am beginning this work for you now, during the summer when things slow down. Our work on boundaries over the next few weeks will build you up and prepare you for the next season; a time when kids are back in school, projects are due, events get stacked, and our lives just get busier; more demanding.  

Now that you have your Personal Bill of Rights, let's shift into focusing on your
 CORE VALUES.

Core values are the building blocks that create the substance of who you truly are. They are the means and often motivators through which you can filter decisions, goals, actions, and behaviors. 

What qualities or attributes do you hold dear? What do you stand for in your life, in relationships, in your contributions? What buzzwords light you up and make you think..."I want that to be part of who I am."

Bonus: You can use your PBR to guide this work! Take a look at the list of rights you made and see if there are any patterns in what is important to you. Did you write a majority of rights focused on health? Did your rights show you how much you value alone time and personal maintenance? Look for the patterns and give the groupings a singular word that describes /links them. 

A few of my core values are:

  • authentic
    • it pains me to be fake so I have to share, encourage, and even dialogue from a place that is genuine
  • empowerment
    • positive thinking, uplifting, and the roar!to my spirit
  • relatable
    • I seek to make my voice, words, and insight both easy to conceive and applicable for anyone. I'm no better than anyone else
  • fresh perspective
    • I am most creative when I am looking at things from a different vantage point, playing devils advocate, and trying new ideas
  • vulnerable
    • when I am putting myself "out there" and taking a risk, I know the challenge and occasional nerves are worth it to support this value
  • abundance
    • there is plenty to give, plenty to share, and enough of anything for everyone
  • fun/humor
    • helluuuu! I can talk serious but I can't approach my life that way all the time! I love to laugh and find humor in anything

Think of it as: "I want to create a life of _____________ (fill in the blank). 

Other examples:

  • discovery/exploration
  • gratitude
  • warm-heartedness
  • patience
  • partnership
  • mindfulness
  • adaptability/flexibility
  • creativity
  • integrity
  • spirituality

I'm really looking forward to hearing what core values you come up with for yourself. Try some on and see how they feel. Not of all them will fit & that's as it should be. Go with the values that make sense for the life you want.

 

The Beginning Stages of Boundary Setting

Because I will never do anything I love without gusto, I want to start with a HUGE concept and work to pick it apart while building YOU up. 

It's a pesky, helpful, patience trying, and oh-so-rewarding life tool and skill-set called...

BOUNDARY SETTING

*Gulp!* You either have boundaries, don't have them, think you have them or are afraid/ignorant of them (which is really the same as not having them sister-friend). 

I want to help you learn your boundaries so you can set them with purpose, and keep them with conviction. 

Before you even set a personal boundary, you have to know what your personal rights are; my therapist taught me the mental health concept of
 Your Personal Bill of Rights. 

As women there can be both an inner drive and a social influence to be everything for everyone. As you and I both know first-hand (not an assumption, just common reality) this "push" is exhausting, unachievable, and completely damaging to our self-worth. 


The super-rad part about all of this, is that at any point, ANY POINT, we have an opportunity to turn our "current state" around and get our life on the right track. 

A Personal Bill of Rights allows you to respect yourself while respecting others. This is where you become assertive.

You know what else your PBR (not the beer...still the "rights") does?
 It combats GUILT, SHAME, & COMPARISON.Whaaahooo! Win.Win.Win

Here are some basic Rights:

  • I have the right to ask for what I want
  • I have the right to be healthier than those around me
  • I have the right to say no to requests or demands I can't meet
  • I have the right to be uniquely myself
  • I have the right to change my mind
  • I have the right to be happy
  • I have the right to expect honesty from others
  • I have the right to make mistakes
  • I have the right to my own needs for personal space & time

You can also put some in the "I DO NOT have the right" format:

  • I do not have the right to take other people's problems on as my own (this was a tough one for me for a long time as I had a tendency to ALWAYS be a listening ear, a chronic helper, a fixer)
  • I do not have the right to violate others
  • I do not have the right to tell someone how they feel

Use this week to think of and write down your rights; you will need to be 100% clear on what you deserve. Though not a must, think about the results you want from each right (consider the "why"). Is it more time to take care of yourself so that you're present in your relationships? Is it living a healthier life so you manage your stress better? Example: I have the right to exercise weekly. Now, what's your motivator so you protect this right. Is it... "I sleep better, can play with my kids, and set a healthy example for my family." Truly think about the version of yourself on the other side of these rights:

  • how does she feel mentally and physically?
  • what does she do in her down-time?
  • who are her friends? who is she in quality relationships with?

As you get more specific, put your list somewhere you will see it daily. I had mine on my fridge for several years. By looking at them frequently, you get to decide whether you connect to them or not. Notice how you feel as you read them. If you don't like one...change it! 

I'm here if you want to reach out for help, to share your favorites, or just tell me this work is hard. It is hard, and I promise the more you try to write these out, the easier setting & sticking to them will be. 

Wear the Cheekies

In the realm of fashion there can be both creative freedom and confusing restrictives. With so many rules and consumers being spoon-fed ideas of what's "in" and "on trend," carving out what you actually like can be quite the challenge. To even attempt this, one has to navigate the clothing cuts and options you are given, try A LOT on, and sometimes still leave empty-handed. And as the option you're looking for doesn't reveal itself as easily as you'd hoped, and you're dizzied by the fitting room... you realize it may not even exist at all. *sigh*

If this scenario sounds familiar then you've gone shopping recently. Maybe you too have been shocked by what is available to you and what isn't. In this moment, I am specifically referring to bathing suit options. But you could easily turn that sentence into a MadLib and replace "bathing suit" with just about any clothing article. 

Mind you, I have had the same bathing suit for the past 3 (ugh...maybe more) years and have worn it into the ground. So much so that the elastic of the bandeau top no longer does its supportive job and it is now considered, a "backyard ONLY" bathing suit. My lack of cute/sassy swimwear is a sad representation of this Florida girl and I was determined to improve that. 

If you are like me or erhhmm... most women, nothing sounds more enjoyable than going bathing suit shopping. Except maybe a full body wax by a russian woman with a hairy chin-mole and a constant deadpan expression. I have to be mentally prepped for either scenario and possibly skip breakfast. 

My first attempt at a new suit left me questioning how much ass is too much ass to reveal? Between thongs, moderate cheekies, and butt-floss, there was no "full coverage" bottom to be found. Was I out of touch? Am I allowed to wear something like that around other people? Yeesh!

Thanks to a group conversation during a personal training session (I was working on my new booty goals, for gosh sakes!) a girlfriend of mine who only wears brazilian cut bathing suits gave me a newfound sense of feminism that could only be manifested through a strip of fabric over my beautiful bum. I wanted that freedom, I wanted to care very little about how much of my butt-dimple(s) I would be revealing. The thirst was real folks but my own insecurities still stood in my way.

What really sealed the deal of embracing the cheekie cut bathing suit was catching a glimpse of a mom in my neighborhood TOTALLY rocking the booty-exposing bottoms while walking up from our community pool. Let me paint the motivating picture further....her butt was out OUT, flat as an ironing board, her tone was pale and SHE.WAS.OWNING.IT! This is not body-shaming people! This is taking what you have, being incredibly realistic, and not giving a f**k. I loved it, channeled it, and went to the surf shop the very next day. *Yes I did leave with a sexy, comfy, supportive new suit. Check it below.

This is not me nor my body. You can find the suit here:  O'Neill

This is not me nor my body. You can find the suit here: O'Neill

Let's talk about what can hold us back when trying something new, revealing, or "unconventional." 

Things that stand in our way:

  • Perceived judgment and opinions of other women.
    • Wow, is this one a dangerous double-edge sword; these perceptions weaken and divide us as women. Because style is visual, these judgments (real or perceived) can be felt in a snap, our confidence can be shaken, and we can refrain from doing/wearing something that truly makes us happy. Yeeesh! Nobody wins with this one. 
  • Unwanted attention of jeering men (gross) or what I will call the "construction worker catcall (yes i know it's not all construction workers, roofers, group of guys in a rusty saturn, haggard guy smoking a cigarette on the side of the grocery-store whose eyes are burning a hole into your butt as you're walking in and making sure you tuck your dress in between your legs so it doesn't fly up in a freakish breeze)."
    • This is a toughy. No matter what you're wearing, these type of responses can make anyone feel completely naked, mentally rattled, and overall skeeved. I'm sorry mamas but I don't have any words of advice for this one. I always think I will stand strong and say the perfect thing to take back the control in this situation; it has yet to happen. 
  • Ourselves
    • Most of us know we can be our own worst critic and our ability to magnify our imperfections will get in the way of confidence, style freedom, and rocking exactly what we want to wear. That growing voice of personal judgment is loudest in front of a mirror and critical of creativity. Imperfections are what make us unique & special but until you embrace them, that sentiment means nothing.

Now that we've explored our psyche a bit...What can we gain when we metaphorically/phsyically "Wear the Cheekies?"

  • Confidence
    • This is lethal and should be wielded. You are beautiful, you are awesome and now you know it. 
  • Goal Setting & Achieving
    • Once I decided my rear had to get in gear, I shared my goals with my trainer and we worked to actively reach them. Decide what is both reasonable and healthy for you then assemble the right people to both get you there and hold you accountable. Have you been wanting to rock a crop top like your friend Miranda? Share your goals with her and you can be sure she will follow-up with and support you through it. 
  • Empowerment
    • Talk about the secret sauce! The intoxicating power of embracing exactly who you are will open doors of self-love, acceptance, and body joy. Once I hit this layer of "I'm doing this for me," it was as if I was giving a big, bubbly, juicy bootylicious middle finger to other peoples unwanted/unwarranted opinions and saying hello to my own femininity. 

So mamas

Wear the cheekies, rock the crop top, don the bright pink lipstick...maybe just not all at once ;)

confident contradictions

In my ripe and fabulous age of 26, I value and respect someone who is:

clear on (embraces works here too) who they are with the flexibility and open-mind of someone who still leaves room for growth.  (Yes you can be self-assured without being a total deuche-knuckle toward other people and their own ideas).

I have spent the past few years gaining insight into the type of person I am, how I want to contribute to relationships, my sets of experiences that create my perspective, and what I value most. I have also learned that there exist some contradictions within me that give me what I will call…my “edge” (Being an extremist “anything” never seemed like fun anyway). What I have arrived at and will always point out freely is this:

I am confident in my contradictions as they make me who I am and shape who I am not.

You might know some of these people and are frustrated by their incongruence i.e. a woman who argues relentlessly against animal cruelty yet enjoys the craftsmanship and quality of a fine leather handbag. Sure this is an odd example but we’re painting a picture; setting a scene. Usually when we encounter this inconsistency in someone else, we want to point it out and feel “right” about the other person being “wrong.” Think about the time you had a friend dabble with being vegan while still munching on cheese at the office potluck. You wanted nothing more than an “AH HA! moment to call her shizz out and gloat. And for what? Let homegirl getta-little-gouda if it knocks her socks off! Where can we be gentler with ourselves--with others--and chuckle at the minutia.

I use minutia because the type of contradictions I am referring to are not designed to bring harm, are not crafted to cause insult, and they are certainly not there to be divisive. The contradictions you can become confident in are simple, laughable, and make life more interesting; they differ from our core values.

Core Values versus Contradictions :Why you can draw hard lines and be flexible with others

To me, a set of core values is inexplicably important to your life and act as a guiding force to the way you treat yourself and situations that involve other people. Core values such as integrity, humor, reliability, compassion and the like are powerful adjectives that impact your belief system and your daily operations. They act as foundational pillars that afford you the flexibility of the occasional contradictions.

Here are a few of my favorites for reference:

  • I think mayonnaise is absolutely disgusting yet offer me a flavored aioli on a menu and I want the chef’s full selection plus i'm licking the ramekins (yes folks an aioli is just a flavored mayo...mind-blowing right?!?!?!)
  • I wear leggings as if they operate the same as pants (I do realize they are not the same thank the lawd! as leggings are far more freeing!)
  • I focus on and generally care for the depths of my skincare and the type of products I use on this precious resource/moneymaker. Just take a gander at my medicine cabinet full of consciously sourced products whose ingredients I can stand behind 100%.

Yet take a look at the right door shelf of my fridge….

Check out this glorious spread of coffee creamer flavor options I openly refer to as “chemical shit-storms.” There is nothing real or plant-based in these babies and I still stock, mix, and delight in them on the reg' nay daily.

See…isn’t it better I focus on myself, call a spade a spade and sleep soundly at night?

Try it out. Take a look at yourself and your behaviors, to see where you can make those distinctions between your constant core and contradictions that exist for you. If you do uncover some, give your self license to laugh, to let go of ideas that don’t suit you and stand on the person you want to hang out with.

Go ahead…own YOUR edge.

Commitment Looks Good On You!

In the process of wedding planning, the one "assignment," as my planner calls them, I had been avoiding was shopping for my wedding dress.

I, and many of my friends, would think this would be the ONE assignment to be pumped for yet it was like pulling teeth to get me to call a bridal salon and make an appointment. Naturally, I had to examine WHY I wasn't pouncing on the phone. I came to the conclusion that so far, in all the decision-making, vendor booking,  & price quote comparing, I had been viewing our wedding as one big ol' party (which it absolutely will be!) and forgetting that it is far more than that. The wedding dress is one aspect that speaks to the magnitude of intimacy and vulnerability, level of commitment, and the joining of two families, faiths, expectations, and so on and so claustrophobia inducing, that a wedding is and means. *Gulp! Looking back, fear of commitment has trumped me time and time again.

There was a span of years filled with short-term and reckless relationships, vulnerability avoidance, strong-willed independence and defiance (this still shows up and I usually feel like the angry voiced, "I'll be damned!" version of Beyonce') and flaking out on friends. I never wanted to "put all my eggs in one basket", either with relationships, life goals, or academic pursuits (I went from majoring in Public Relations with a Philosophy minor to I/O Communication with almost a Psychology minor). It became glaringly obvious of my commitment fears when I went to Graduate School to become a mental health counselor and left the program after a semester and a half. *There were other reasons I left the program but I also couldn't convince myself of my future; I would not commit to setting any goals for where I wanted to take my career path.

"Commitment is the glue that bonds you to your goals- Jill Koenig"

So, given that dive into my psyche (as I will always do...hello! psychology background and constant draw) here I am today, still defiant as all-get-out, yet a strong decision maker and fearless in my pursuits because I am clear in my commitments in many aspects of my life and clear in my commitment to the amazing man I am marrying. So, the idea of dress shopping was scary yet a fabulous challenge to my independent spirit as no dress would break this wild horse!

With a support posse of 6, we entered Solutions Bridal,ready to use the skills learned by watching "Say Yes to the Dress."

Dress Stipulations:

  1. no princess poofy tulle insanity. *that mess is for the birds...to get caught in
  2. no long/full-length sleeves (this was my fiance's only request. paha!)

My dress stylist, Marissa, had me pull up my Pinterest board photos to get an idea of my vision and set sight on what I wanted. Oddly enough my Pinterest boards depicted what I thought I was supposed to try yet not an accurate picture of what made sense for my style, uniqueness and personal edge. Luckily homegirl stylist knew this before I knew it.

We pulled 6 dresses total and got to work in my dressing room. My favorite part of the dressing process was the crazy & foreign undergarments --Spanx style biker shorts and a strapless corset, both nude colored and made me laugh; *not too hard because I was zipped up in that mess and nothing was moving!

The first dress I put on was one from a trunk-show that was leaving the very next day and in Marissa's opinion, fit my theme, style, and personality exactly. It fit like a glove and when I walked out to my team, we thought it was stunning yet more award-show than wedding. So, I slipped into the next dress knowing we could come back to the first option. The next few made me look matronly & out of touch. Those dresses did not leave the fitting room.

Now, stylists are fabulous about asking you questions of what you do and do not like so they can get a better idea of what to pull to connect your vision with reality. I had a bit of trouble articulating exactly what I did want yet somehow she knew what I meant and I believe, was playing some mental games (which I love because you get to underlying ideas) to remind me the dress was my choice and should fit my stipulations. I loved the next two dresses I came out in but my team didn't, as they bluntly shared their opinions. I reluctantly walked back to the fitting rooms, ditched those dresses and was standing in my nude colored get-up for a bit as Marissa and I conversed.

I kept forgetting there was a room with a drape for me to dress in, because I was continually dancing and bee-bopping around in the corset and biker short combo mambo outside of the room and sometimes in the way of other dress-fixated brides. Being outside of the dressing room was also freeing for me because I was feeling tension from a difference in expectations between my clan and I. In actuality, everyone's opinion was valid and brought up strong points as to why a dress was distracting, ill-proportioned, or just not elegant.

I quickly decided to put back on dress number 1 while Marissa was considering pulling additional options. I fell in love with it again, only this time as a wedding dress that made sense for me. The dresses I had previously tried on were still the dresses I thought a bride should look at. I walked back out to my friends and family and we all just knew. It was me, my style, and absolutely what we had been comparing all the other dresses to. This dress was stunning and all it needed was the clear approval from mom---and for me to ditch the heels I was wearing (note to self: I've got to build up my high-heel immunity between now and the big day). I went around the semi-circle asking each of them "is this the dress?" and all 6 of us (including me) said yes!

cue the champagne!

Hands down, this dress is phenomenal and I want to be in it right now. I want to go to the Oscars, drink coffee on my porch, and run errands in it. Marissa revealed to me later that she positioned this dress as my 1st to try on for a reason, as she already knew it was what I envisioned (I'm telling you, mind games!). I respected that move by her. After all, she's the expert and she listened intently to what I was and wasn't saying.

This is also an approach I take when I am working with a client and friend to build their sense of style-- I am listening to what is being said or shared, your ideals about styles that do and don't work for you, while listening and looking for any barriers you have to your own creativity. Before any of us begin to be creative, we have to take the steps to examine our fears, limitations, and anxieties. When you work through those mental blocks, you have the space to play, create, try new things, and eventually uncover the true you. Your once quiet inner voice can now shout your personality proudly from the roof tops. My personality won't shut up since I've gone dress shopping--I donned my classic black eye-liner yesterday, worn combat boots all week, I'm writing this blog... the list continues.

I encourage each of you to look for those opportunities to explore when you feel most yourself. It may be difficult to quiet the noise of social and self-destructive influence but I promise you the path will narrow and your commitment to your happiness will flourish. Now, that's a commitment I want to pursue!

We Love With A Love That Is More Than Love

Being it is the day of LOVE I wanted to focus my thoughts on gratitude, on those quiet moments when I can reflect on what it is I truly love about life, my life and my loves. Around a month ago I embarked on a 30 day yoga challenge through a local yoga studio in addition to finishing training for a 1/2 marathon I did this past Saturday with my nowfiance' (that's right followers, I've been on a bit of a hiatus due to how quickly I have been planning some of the bigger wedding details).

During both of these very physical, emotional and I would absolutely say spiritual practices, I had to remind myself of what I was grateful for, what was fun about life and what my body needed each day. Naturally those ideals were challenging in difficult yoga poses, longer run training days, and in moments when I was addicted to snoozing my alarm.

Let me also say that I am someone who has a tendency to DO TOO MUCH. Wait whaaaaa???? Pahahha ridiculous you might say...but oh, so very true. I believe Matteo refers to me as "whirlwind Leah" when I am deciding to clean and purge the entire apartment, come home wanting to talk about everything under the sun and mull my life over, and when, like the beginning of this year, I wanted to start working a second job again (in addition to training and a 30 day yoga challenge) to alleviate any financial stress of planning a wedding. Really I was saying..."Let's remove this stress, and sprinkle in this other stress, so that it all works out."

In our four years together and my lifetime of doing too much, I have grown accustomed to Matteo's one single "look" that says "do you think that would be a good idea?" I quickly decided (I've gotten a weee bit faster at this scaling back thing) to keep things simple.

Quoted:  Don Draper (Mad Men)

~~Fastforward to our 1/2 marathon where we beat last year's time and finished 2:05 and to the last week of my yoga challenge~~

I had 13 classes to complete in 5 days to which I said I WILL do this, I WILL push that hard. I took 3 beautiful and cuhrazy hard classes on monday and awoke tuesday morning telling myself I was batshit crazy. I had this moment of zen where I realized to push so hard, this aggressively in something like yoga (fun fact: the definition of yoga is centered around two Sanskrit words/ideas around "to surrender" and "focused effort") was not what I believed yoga to be about. As soon as that clicked for me, I decided to bow out from the challenge and just take one last class I had already committed to and spend the rest of my week with my man and our dog.

Yes, essentially i FAILED the 30 day challenge. And the coolest part is, I LOVE that I failed. For someone like me with my tendencies, it was a friendly reminder to love what I can achieve and love what I achieved in what I couldn't finish. (Yes, I am a modern-day, well-dressed, Confucius).

Let me expand on this,

I have a tendency to do too much and avoid simplicity because I tie what I can accomplish, doing dishes late at night when I should be going to bed early, using my days off to still do work, and a laundry-list of things, to my own SELF WORTH.

I constantly burden my thoughts, ideas, and relationships with "AM I DOING, BEING, SAYING, PROVIDING ENOUGH?" Talk about self-sabotage. It has taken me the course of 2012, a fabulous job, an unconditionally loving fiance', and a love and appreciation for yoga to get to the root of why I have such tendencies. Everything is tied to my self-worth. Now, in those moments I want to tear myself down, I look at what I love, so that the LOVE BREEDS LOVE. I look to what I am grateful for and congratulate myself on what I can achieve that is simple and challenge myself to look at the simplicity as SIGNIFICANT.

Hell, I have so many people in my life who love me just as I am and never look at what I do but rather look at who i am. I've got to give myself that same perspective and kindness.

Check out this video by Brene Brown where she digs into vulnerability you want to listen

Below I've listed some things I absolutely love about the life I build for myself. Please share with me and most importantly yourself, any of your loves and things that remind you of the significant.

Slide1

Closet Conformity vs. Dresser Defiance

Today I am contemplating a question I posed to a friend in response to her therapist digging into her about a portion of her clothing choices. Having previously been knee deep in her gorgeous closet, accessories, jewelry and handbags, I have an idea as to how or why my friend dresses. We’ll call her Chelsea* (*name changed to protect the fabulous). In the three full, 9-5-style days Chelsea* and I spent together purging her wardrobe, Chelsea* was able to tell me every single memory or purpose tied to each piece of clothing. The when, where, why, and how of a pant-suit, a sweater, a beach cover-up. I realize that Chelsea* dresses for what she deems a specific role or responsibility to require of her. This could be churchgoer, concerned and put-together PTA parent, hot housewife, swim practice support, rock concert mama, etc. Absolutely fascinating. She has also come to realize which of these purposeful options makes her happy and makes her feel put-together; comfortable in her skin. Big win in my book.

Now here’s where I took it…

How many of us dress for what we deem some job, activity, calendar invite, or family member requires of us? If I apply this question to my life, and my deep, deep...I'm talking spiritual...affinity for the color black, I can tie that directly to my rebellion against my grandmother. My Nana, has always had a love for multi-color, usually pastel outfits, adorned with a brooch or some fun and bright necklaces. In my childhood, the moment I donned a pair of black shoes, my Nana told me she hated the color black and that little girls shouldn’t wear it; that I should go for a much softer choice. A rebellious youth, many unsuccessful attempts to like and wear the color pink, and the emergence and acceptance of OPI’s dark yet elegant nail colors and here I am thriving and shouting my love for black from the rooftops. This is where my “edge” comes in and why that adjective pulses through my body. Edge gives me life and a passion for building my own and others confidence in their personal style.

I chose that path as a defiance, not because I wanted to please someone else, whom I certainly have always loved and respected and who eventually grew to understand my love affair and even compliment me on some of it. Fun Fact: My Nana is one of the first few to really appreciate the black (you guessed it) tattoo on my foot. (I’m a big fan of people, particularly family, surprising you with their unfailing love and support).

 So here we are with two polar ideas with one root:

Idea 1. Conformity                          

Idea 2. Defiance

Root: Identity & Purpose

 

Is there an idea, a style, and identity that you are trying to create through your clothing? I would hope so.

Fashion is one of the last things that just “happens” to you. You have to be inspired, willing, and open to build an identity through your clothing. You have to be unapologetic as to who you are. But most importantly you need to define your identity, otherwise you are swallowed by a lack of it. 

If I look at the above offered extremes, I encourage you to choose a balanced and happy medium between giving in to or fighting back on, what others expect of you. Do what YOU expect of YOU and above all else, what feels comfortable or natural. Do what allows you to feel unquestionably beautiful, sassy, elegant, daring.

The Context Of "You"

You give me a theme and you give me life! Beit a party, holiday event, wedding, etc. if you give me a new context--an invitation in which to step outside of what’s expected--you give me purpose-driven wardrobe digging, shopping, and hunting.

Recently, my boyfriend and I were invited to an Indian Mehndi party, wedding, and reception with an added bonus of the opportunity to wear the ceremonial Indian garb. Naturally, I was stoked about the bedazzled gorgeous fabrics, and my boyfriend was his version of stoked at the idea of being able to wear “pajama-like” bottoms to a normally suit-and-tie type occasion.

We drove to the store the Bride recommended and I was still giddy as all get out. I put my bargaining panties on and was ready to play “let’s make a deal” with my new foreign friends. To my dismay, they did not share the same excitement I did nor were they so willing to foster my Indian dreams into a paisley jeweled reality. My boyfriend's clothing choices were simple while mine were expansive, complicated and pricey. I chose a beautiful peacock-colored sari and with a woman’s help, wrapped myself up into a neat little package. I quickly realized that this garb would not survive a conga line, crazy dance moves, or my typical wear-and-tear of wedding attire.

I was out of there!

But not before I picked out and bartered for some amazing earrings that would become the focal point and the color-palette for my outfit. BOOM! SUCCESS!

Back in our neck of the woods, I found an emerald green tunic dress with Grecian style vertical pleating and a gold and silver beaded scoop neck. With the addition of black tights and some killer heels, I was family-friendly yet funky.

Day of the wedding I quickly realized the addition of the tights meant my heels were slippery, unpredictable, and an accident waiting to happen. I was as I usually say in heels…”a baby deer learning how to walk.” I grabbed my gold sparkly Toms as I headed out the door and my boyfriend suggested I just wear those and ditch the heels. I took this change as an opportunity to mount my soapbox and preach about heels making me feel more like a woman, more attractive, more sexy…more, more, more! But the moment I almost busted it on the stairs I soon realized I was none of those things if I kept tripping, looking down, dragging behind, and looking more like a struggle than a sultry Indian princess. So gold Toms it was and I am thankful for the mobility and grace they afforded me all day. I still felt amazing, survived all the processions, and most importantly was present to all my surroundings and the conversations with new and old friends.

What’s the take-away?

  • Listen for and do what works for you; especially in new environments
  • You can make function, fashion, without losing one to another

Crazy For Color

For someone who loves and lives for black, I am certainly wearing less (relative term) of it and sprinkling color back into my wardrobe. I’m blaming the Florida heat on this one and the resurfacing of the color-blocking trend AGAIN. It’s much stronger this second go around and creating many successful runway and sidewalk looks. Neon pieces are certainly giving color-blocking a boost, but is it just having a second go around? Where have I seen this before? If you’re a child of the 80s early 90s, think school supplies and stationary must-haves. Think Lisa Frank.

Holy psychedelic chic ... stickers, pencils, erasers, notebooks, file folders… you name it, I begged for it. Yes those radioactive kittens and dancing dolphin backdrops were the perfect way to show you were hot stuff in class and on the playground.

Better yet, gender neutral Trapper Keepers really ruled the bus stop and if you were as deprived as me, you swindled your carrot sticks and pb&j sandwiches to score one of THE baaaadest, brightest, and color-blocked 3 ring binders. It had a Velcro closure. End of story.

If this doesn’t resonate with you oldie-hawns, then how about the strong statement piece that is the nylon tracksuit. What better representation of color-blocking than these bad boys. Who cares if the colors clash? Who cares if you’re really working out? You match head to toe and can easily be spotted looking sporty and flashy at a moments notice.

Fast forward, and bottom line. There are right and wrong, weak and strong ways to color-block so listen up. The important piece is that you try it out for yourself and see what works for you. An easy place to start is with turquoise accents. Turquoise pairs beautifully with lavendar, hot pink, green, coral, yellow, yadda yadda, every color. From there you can start building color families. Pick a genre or category and put potential outfit choices through the filter of the chosen genre.

examples:

    • Brights (anything punchy, bold, or obviously eye-catching)
    • Jewel-tones (emerald green, deep purple, sapphire blue)
    • Warm colors (pink, red, orange, yellow)
    • Cool colors (green, blue, purple)

*add a jade or emerald triple stranded necklace to this and a metallic clutch

    • Soft colors (think pastel Easter eggs, grandma’s beach condo)

Build your look from there. Do what fits your personality or how you feel that day, in that moment. Style is about how you carry, not what you carry. If it starts to feel forced or like you fell right out of a Disney movie, then scrap it. Fashion is fun, playful, and a step outside of your norm. I’m surviving my break from black and so can you.

Photos courtesy of Therapie Boutique in Jacksonville, FL. Owner Krista Nilsson does a beautiful job of carrying and styling the looks you see above. You can shop her website at http://www.therapiejax.com/ or visit her facebook page http://www.facebook.com/TherapieJax