Inspiration / News / Refined by Fire

Refined by Fire: A Different Dream | Nicole Ziza Bauer


Photos c/o Victoria Clemmons

Are you sure you’d like to do this? You cannot change your mind; the admissions officer politely wrote. I’m sure she thought I misunderstood or my brain had stopped working. Anything but the words I had written.

No! I’m not sure! I had wanted to scream. I have no idea what I’m doing or what comes next. Do you know?! Shouldn’t I know myself by now?

Instead, I just wrote: Yes, I’m sure. I understand; thank you very much for understanding


Let me back up.

After college, I took the non-traditional pre-med path and decided to work before attending medical school. My plan was to beef up my resume by taking a stint in the real world to better relate to patients and make connections in my field. I had been hired at my dream university’s medical school to work in cardiology and I was on track. The chief of cardiology was my boss, I could sit in all the medical lectures I wanted and my life was happening.

But then, something else happened. Something I hadn’t planned on changing, started to change.


I had moved to Los Angeles after college to become a doctor. Not to do what everyone else did—become an actor or a creative. I wasn’t going to waste time chasing silly passions. I was going to choose the classically successful path and stick with it. Or so I thought

Two years in to my life in LA, after the MCAT and grad school interviews, I starting falling in love. Not just with my eventual husband, but also with the idea that maybe I didn’t need to have my life perfectly metered out.

I began having flashbacks of childhood: dancing on the bed, performing songs for stuffed animals, furiously typing scripts and forcing friends to act them out, spending hours in the yard creating worlds out of sidewalk chalk.

While some of this was due to being a first-born ‘90s kid, there was another part that proved unshakable. It was a feeling I had stuffed in my quest for perfection, a deeper realization of how I was wired and what brought me joy.

While medicine was a great and noble profession, I eventually had to face the truth I had spent years avoiding: it just wasn’t the profession for me.

The problem was, I wasn’t sure what the right profession was, and I floundered. I loved writing stories as a child, but had no idea how to translate that into the working world.

I felt inadequate. I felt like a hypocrite. I felt like a failure. And a few years in to a job as a paper buyer for a printing company, I felt regret. Deep, jarring pangs of regret. I had let a brilliant career go in the whim of an email.

And for what?

It takes guts to pursue a dream. But it also takes guts to let a dream go.

What no one tells you, and what college doesn’t prepare you for, is what it looks like to fail.

What does it look like to tread the waters of a career when you don’t even know what one should look like? Are you treading in a direction? Or are you simply spending precious time and energy trying not to drown?

These were questions I repeatedly asked myself, wondering what was next and feeling embarrassed at how much my situation was affecting me.

It’s been ten years since I said no to medical school. And while I did, eventually, quit working at the printing company, I’m still treading water. There’s just been a crucial difference in how I view the current.

Treading water is necessary. Without working at life, we’ll drown. But the unknowns and the regrets don’t have to take us under. Floundering is still movement — as long as we keep reaching—and reaching out.

At one point I was really depressed because I didn’t know what to do with my life or even what it all should mean. I wish someone had told me, this is all part of it — it’s not about getting there. It’s about being here.

Because when we’re here, we can’t hide in someday. When we’re here, we see ourselves in real time; that helps us better sense the direction in which we want to head.

When I let medical school go, I didn’t know what to embrace in its place. So I started trying things based on my interests and connections. There was no master plan, no tangible picture of success – and I’m probably the better for it.

While it’s important to have goals, it’s also ok to let those goals evolve, to try on different things and to see what keeps coming up over time.

I never set out to become a writer, or an editor, for that matter. But as I tried on different careers—researcher, paper purchaser, nanny, wedding planner—my strengths filtered to the top. My passions did, too.

Rather than setting my career on a hill and making a beeline toward it, (which may very well work for some people), I’ve found a different sort of success in studying where I am and foraging from what’s around me. Who do I know? What are they doing? What are the small tests I can try to see what’s right for me?

In time, I’ve reached my hill anyway only to discover there’s so many others to climb. We all have our own, and isn’t that better? It certainly makes for a more interesting, beautiful landscape.



Capsule Wardrobe / Style

The Sweet Relief of Summer // Vetta Capsule Wrap


Photos c/0 Tutti del Monte

During my first year in New York it snowed in the middle of May.  As a Texas-raised, turned Southern California girl, this was traumatic.  I can still shiver when I think back to that first winter of ice and endless snow, when I lived in my black puffer jacket until almost June.

This year has been a sweet relief.  It’s mid-May and it’s actually warm—sometimes hot outside.  In LA a cloudless 80-degree day was just another day in paradise.  I was grateful for it, but it became normal.  When something special becomes the norm it is easy to take it for granted.

After experiencing the brutal winters of the East Coast over the last four years I have a deeper appreciation for a beautiful day.  That’s something I love about seasons: when we know something is temporary we appreciate it in a different way.  I can appreciate the snowflakes because I know the heat of summer is coming, when I’ll long for that faint memory of an outdoor chill.  The nostalgia of summer and celebrating the Fourth of July with BBQ and fireworks is special because it happens once a year.

In this sense, spring has become a reawakening for me.  It’s a rare time of year on the East Coast, lasting sometimes only a few days or weeks.  It makes me think of a scene in one of my favorites books, The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe – when Aslan returns to Narnia and the long winter begins to melt away.

My soul is exhilarated with the arrival of cherry blossoms.  Waking up to birds chirping outside of my window brings a smile on my face before I even open my eyes.  I try to savor every bit of it, like a warm fresh-out-of-the-oven brownie with vanilla ice cream on top.

Sometimes I complain about the awful winter weather, just like everyone else does.  And when sweat is dripping down my back in a packed subway car in mid-August, all I want is to get out of this city.  But I’m learning to embrace the goodness and beauty in each season.  They’re special because they’ll pass and fade into another.



P.S.  I’m so excited about this Vetta Wrap top–You can wear it three different ways.  And you know–I’m ALL about the versatility y’all!

Boss Ladies / Inspiration

Boss Ladies | Britt Bass


Photos c/o Kathryn McCrary & Morgan Blake

Atlanta native Britt Bass Turner is an abstract artist known for her playful and colorful paintings. She fell in love with color and design at a young age (by way of her interior designer mother) through immersing herself in fabric samples and color swatches. Britt makes paintings and installations full time in her Roswell, Georgia studio. She also calls the quiet, Southern town her home, which she shares with her husband, Render, and their Boykin Spaniel, Birdie.

Growing up I really wanted to be
An architect

My go-to order at a coffee shop is
Currently an Americano with Almond milk

I don’t know how I ever lived without
My husband — my coffee is made and my vitamins are set out on the counter before I wake up! I’m not a morning person, so I have him to thank for getting me out of the house every day

One thing people don’t know about me is
I’m pretty good at ping pong

My real life hero is
My Mimi (my grandmother). She is strong, beautiful, wise, faithful, and has overcome so much in her lifetime. She taught me loyalty, how to speak up and stand my ground, and to go after what I want! She is my favorite person!

What I love about my work is 
It is light and full of fun. It’s engaging, yet not too complex to distract from the simple pleasure of viewing art. I love knowing that my work makes people happy!

The hardest thing about my work is
Making work when I don’t feel inspired, when I’m sick, when I don’t feel like it. It’s not a plug-and-play kind of job — it takes heart and soul. So your heart and soul have to be right in order to make the good stuff. My advice is, get your mind, body, and soul right before you make the work! It’s great accountability for me — I know I need to check in with myself when I just don’t’ seem to like what I’m making.

How I got started with my current career
I sort of fell into it in a beautifully naive, organic way. After graduating from art school I worked a few part time jobs to make ends meet while painting nights and weekends. Slowly my painting took over my other jobs, and after 2 years it became my full time job. It’s now been 6 years and I feel like still learning and growing!

The dumbest thing I did when I was starting out was
Spending too much time on the nitty gritty instead of on my work. It should always be about the artwork, it speaks for itself!

My typical day looks like:
Wake up between 7-7:30, coffee, read, go to barre class, eat breakfast, get to studio around 10, answer emails, put out fires, check in with Morgan and Sejal (employees), grab lunch or go out with a friend! Paint until 5 or so, go on a walk with my dog Birdie and get ready for the night!
I used to think success meant
Pencil skirts and stilletos in a high rise office.

My current definition of success is
Time wealth!

An example of when I had to push through my insecurities
When I hired my first employee and current sales manager. I was so nervous about choosing the right person, managing someone. I’m so glad I got over myself, it was the BEST DECISION OF MY LIFE!

The last time I created something I was proud of was
A mini green painting I made the other day just for fun, for myself!

I wish I could tell my younger self
It’s all going to be OK!

The legacy I hope to leave is
A big happy family!



Capsule Wardrobe / Style

My Summer Go-To // Off-the-Shoulder Dress


Photos c/o Tutti del Monte

Do you have a go-to outfit for summer?  Something you can wear anywhere from three to ten times in one week.  It’s sort of like when you find a new song on Spotify and play it on repeat for 3 weeks solid before getting the tiniest bit sick of it.  I always end up having one or two things each season that I live in.  Most of the time I know it within the first few moments of putting it on.

I got this Old Navy dress when it was supposed to be spring.  When it arrived mid-April it was 30 degrees outside and raining.  I tried it on, did a few twirls in front of my mirror and felt great.  I knew this would be the summer dress for me.

When I was in high school I had an outfit schedule.  My friends and I didn’t want to repeat an outfit for at least 3 weeks.  We strategically planned when we would borrow one another’s clothes and absolutely make sure there was no cross over. Looking back I cringe at how ridiculous this was.

My high school self would cringe at the site of my current closet.  It’s much more sparse, but full of things I love, which I wear as an often as I want.

I may wear the same black dress 5 days in a row because I like it, I feel pretty it in, and it’s comfortable.  I no longer waste time thinking about the last time I wore something.

For me, that’s what fashion is really about is:  simplicity, feeling beautiful and comfortable in my skin.  If I can accomplish those things, I consider it a win!



Beauty Is ... / Motherhood

Beauty Is…Motherhood


Mamma, Mumsie, Mother, Mom,
Words do little to adequately describe our gratitude.  Thank you for seeing us, caring for us, conquering many things to fight for us, and for your abundant love.  We are strong because you taught us how to be.  We hope we can be like you when we grow up.

Love always,
The Refined Woman Team

When I was little I loved it when my mom would get in the pool with us and pretend to be an alligator.  She’d sink down so her face was partially submerged, and slowly move toward me and my brother as we backed away in pretend terror.   It’s one of my favorite memories… I can see her lovely smile, and almost feel her grabbing my hands or feet under the water.  What’s really fun is sometimes she still does it, and it always ends in a lot of laughter.

As a child I took her playful heart for granted, but as an adult I can see that my mom has the gift of lightness.  She brightens every space she enters, and when you leave her presence you feel cared for, hopeful, a little bit lighter.

My mom doesn’t take herself too seriously, and is usually up for a game, a puzzle, a mystery or an adventure.  She loves to learn, and delights in little things.  I enjoy walking around the yard with her to see how the flowers and plants are progressing, and hearing about what she’s going to plant next.  I’m inspired by her authentic sense of wonder at God’s creation. I love that she still flirts with my dad, after 50 years of marriage. And I look forward to hearing her latest story about whatever mischief the cats have gotten into.

I used to wish I looked more like my mom, on the outside.  Her features are more refined than mine, and I especially love her jawline and cheekbones.  These days, though, I hope to look more like her on the inside, and I pray her legacy of lightness will live in me!
– Elizabeth

I was born in a town known for its locomotive traffic, and heard the shrill, warning whistle of countless passing trains before leaving the hospital as a 2-day-old baby. Trains and railroads are woven into most memorable moments of my life—from living near tracks in my childhood home to friendships made and heartbreaks nursed on late night railroad walks as a young adult. But each time I see a train, it’s my mother who first comes to mind.

Trains and railroad tracks were how my unconventional mother taught me about the messy beauty of imperfection, grace and carrying on.

“My job as your mother,” she used to say, “is to help you learn to think about where you are going and then how to lay your own tracks for your train to run on.”

“But here’s the hardest part,” she always added. “In life, you’re going to derail. You’re going to fall off your tracks, no matter how great that plan was. You will find yourself in the ditch. Getting out is what’s hard.”

She would go on to explain that staying perfectly on track sounds nice, but a strong and beautiful life isn’t made by following a plan or vision perfectly, but by learning to recover from a fall. It’s about how I treat myself and others when I fall off the tracks, and about choosing to get back on those steel tracks and slowly build momentum again. And again. And again. And again…

This is what Mom told me through words when I was girl, and what she shows me through her support each time I derail as a woman.
– Joy

Every night she made a home made meal for us.  It didn’t matter what was going on, we were expected to be at the dinner table at 6:00p.m.  After beginning to pass the food she’d ask, ‘now who wants to talk about the best part of their day?’.  We’d roll our eyes as we passed the homemade mashed potatoes.

One by one we’d take turns, and by the end of it we’d all be laughing and telling stories.  Back then it seemed so normal–even annoying at times to have to leave a friends house to go home for dinner.

Now I look back and see the incredible gift my mother gave us all.  She created a safe space for us to let our walls down and connect as a family.  She selflessly made a meal from scratch every day often times without being thanked for it.

I’m humbled by her commitment to us, our family, and brining us together.  To this day when I’m around a table with people I ask, ‘now who wants to talk about their day?‘ I love you mom and hope I can be like you when I grow up!
– Kat

Beauty doesn’t ask for permission…. It just is. While I think my mom is physically beautiful, I never perceived the source of her beauty to be looks.  As the receiver of her love, time, and words, I’m left in awe of my mother. She’s held nothing back, never waiting for someone else to take the first step in a relationship. Beauty pursues people unrelentlessly. Mom has experienced her fair share of push back from her three daughters; she acknowledges the piercing pain it causes her heart.

As I’ve grown closer to my mom with age, I have seen how her conviction and boldness has propelled her to speak truth in love despite the rejection. Whether she falls in or out of favor with people, Mom extends herself and closes the gap. Her unrestrained nature radiates from her, and people can’t help but be drawn to her. As her daughter, I’m challenged in how I relate to others; I’ve seen beauty, and I know it’s most evident in our relationships.
– McKenzie

Boss Ladies / Inspiration

Boss Ladies | Blair Breitenstein


Photos c/o Vanessa Granda & AJ Ragassa

Blair Breitenstein is an artist who works with fashion brands to create unique social and web content. She primarily uses pastels and a small sketchbook. Her focus is to draw the viewer into the quirky, abstract and chic world of fashion.

Growing up I really wanted to be
A fashion designer with a label called Blair Ashley

My go-to order at a coffee shop is
Large cold brew. (I’m addicted)

I don’t know how I ever lived without

One thing people don’t know about me is
I’m a textbook introvert

My real life hero is
Donald Robertson, a fashion illustrator who has mastered the art of being kind, humble and helpful while being iconic. This is so rare. He forged a path for other fashion illustrators, and his collaborations have opened my eyes to what is possible for artists. I admire his ability to excel in many realms — books, clothing, billboards, creative direction… he’s a genius.

What I love about my work is
Not having to work on a computer all day!!

The hardest thing about my work is
Working alone.  It’s easy to second-guess yourself without a team to bounce ideas off of.  I recently hired 2 people, and I appreciate them more than they know!

How I got started with my current career
I opened an Etsy shop in 2012, and when I realized that people were willing to pay me for my drawings got me thinking.  Could I draw for packaging, for magazines, at events? I started to use Instagram to share my work with a bigger audience and potential clients and strategically tagged my posts. That got me in front of important eyes.

During that time I had two jobs: a full time job at an ad agency, then I worked on fashion collaborations, etsy shop and my @blairz instagram at from 7 pm to 2 am.

In the beginning I took on a lot of work for free which was a great decision. Trading work for the right exposure is priceless. Although I didn’t do a lot of outreach, I created unique content. I worked hard to stand out among a very saturated market.

After 2 years of working full time and running my own business, I realized to be truly successful I had to give it my all, so I stopped working at the ad agency.

The dumbest thing I did when I was starting out
Posting content that wasn’t my best work. Everything you post on the Internet lives forever.  Be wise!

My typical day looks like
Get coffee (very important for my productivity level).

Get inspired – blogs, newsletters, Womens Wear Daily, Business of Fashion, Instagram, treat myself to a new magazine.

Get my creative juices following with at least 2 hours of drawing for myself. Post my favorite drawings from what I just created.

Go outside and take a walk (even if it’s raining). I work from home, so I go insane if I don’t leave the house at some point.

Draw for clients.

Answer emails.

Discuss emails with my team.

Go to yoga or pilates.

Get into bed and watch a movie.

I used to think success meant

My current definition of success is
Having my work exist beyond social media/ the Internet.

An example of when I had to push through my insecurities
Moving to NYC

I know my work/life balance is out of sync when
I don’t have time to go to yoga. Yoga is very important to me, it makes me feel physically better and mentally clear. If I don’t have time to fit a yoga class into my day then I need to get my time management skills in check.

The last time I created something I was proud of was
I recently did a collaboration with Air France. I was proud because “going to Paris for work” has been on my bucket list for a decade. It felt incredible and surreal to check that one off.

I wish I could tell my younger self
Work harder. I feel like I wasted too many years just getting by. Life is short and time is a terrible thing to waste!

 The legacy I hope to leave is
I hope to inspire young artists to follow their dreams! I hope to prove illustration is not a dead art.


Capsule Wardrobe / Style

Off-the-Shoulder Got Me Like… // Vetta Capsule


Photos c/o Tutti del Monte // Top:  Vetta for Saks // Shoes:  “Vintage” Target // Jeans:  Old

When off-the-shoulder tops started coming back in style, I wasn’t a fan.  They didn’t seem practical.  What if I raised my hand to ask a question, or wanted to do any sort of hand gesture above my waist?  It seemed inevitable that I’d be fussing with the shirt to keep it nicely on my shoulders, or would have to somehow stay relatively still when I wore it.  Staying still is not really my thing.

I tried on a few that flew up to my neck at the first sign of movement, but I finally stumbled upon a gem.  My sweet friend Cara of Vetta Capsule just came out with this beautiful off-the-shoulder blouse for Saks Fifth Avenue.  I love it.

Cara lived in Manhattan working in the fashion industry when I was still in LA.  When I traveled to New York for Fashion Week or a shoot, I would live at her apartment for days on end.  We’d talk over wine about her dream of having her own ethical clothing collection.  Last year it came to fruition as she launched Vetta on Kickstarter.  Now a little over a year later her clothes are in Saks!

I am so inspired by her hard work and vision to create an ethical, American-made clothing brand.  On top of that, the pieces are beautiful, versatile, and well-made.



News / Refined by Fire

Refined by Fire: My Refining Season | Lindsay Obenour


Photos c/o Brandon Obenour

Seasons: life’s defining chapters. They are how we refer to the changing times of the past. Right now my season is motherhood; abundantly joyful, humbling and chaotic… but my seasons haven’t always been so easy.

This is my story. This is the fire of my refinement.

Up until I married my husband, the men I dated defined my life’s seasons. In my early-twenties, I found myself dating a young man who seemed to fit my life perfectly. In true form, I dove head first into a relationship intending to let this guy be the one. For seven years he was – until the day I realized he actually wasn’t.

Merely eight days before we were to exchange vows, the freight train of my life came to a staggering halt. I walked away and lit a match to my world.

There are so many details surrounding the demise of my engagement. The only detail that matters anymore is that it simply wasn’t my story. I was not meant to marry him. I knew in the depths of my soul that I could not stand before God and spew empty promises. The fire of a broken engagement wouldn’t hold a match to the regret I would carry for marrying simply to save face.

When I ended our engagement I left a devastating wake of broken friendships.  Everyone scrambled for answers and bystanders felt cheated. They were angry and hurt… and it was mostly aimed at me.

My decision affected every aspect of my life. He was all I had known for seven years, and two simple words washed it all away in seconds: I can’t.

I was suddenly infantile in my adulthood: relying on my parents for moral, spiritual, and emotional support. I felt guilty and confused. Even those closest to me weren’t sure what to say to the villain of her own story.

It didn’t take me long to realize I had lost my identity over the years with him. Faceless and silenced, I had become a wallflower; existing for the happiness of other people.

Lost in my own grief, I faced a choice: to exist in the ruins of a story that fell apart, or go forward with intention and grace. From that moment, struggling with the heat and pressure from world around me, I began to emerge as a diamond.

To those who were angry with me, I offered grace. In return, God granted me freedom from their wrath.

To those whose trust in me had faltered, I offered patience and permission to grieve the loss of that trust. In return, I was blessed with new friendships and second chances.

I prayed for forgiveness for the hurt I experienced by those wounded in the wreckage.

I prayed for inner peace.

I prayed for clarity.

I prayed to wake up one day feeling worthy of someone else’s love and commitment.

God granted me such clarity. I began to accept that I was responsible for someone else’s heart break; likely one that would shape the rest of his life.

I also began to address my own issues of self-worth. I took time to grieve the loss of lifelong friendships and found the courage to form new bonds.

I had to pull apart every facet of my character and, in the end, I learned to love myself. I was able to recognize the strengths in my character and the beauty in my soul.

When God allowed all of my layers to be pulled back, my heart was able to sing above the noise in this world.

Without living through the fire of a hundred broken hearts, I wouldn’t have emerged ready to love. I was refined by the fire of heartbreak and broken friendships, by the loneliness of starting over in a world that hadn’t changed.

God’s grace allowed me to blow away the ashes of my past and breathe new life into my future: a joyful life, full of courage and strength. It’s the very life I breathe into the hearts of my husband and daughters. For if they should ever face a fire, I want them to know that a diamond awaits.



Inspiration / Real Talk

We Never Arrive | Allison Trowbridge


Photos c/o Kat, The Refined Woman

Allie Trowbridge is an author, speaker, public figure, and just published a fabulous book:  22 Letters to a Young Woman Searching for Meaning.  Be sure and grab a copy of her book here!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a deep-seated sense that one day I was going to arrive—that I would wake up one morning and stretch out my arms to the world and revel in a sense of finished self. Probably around the age of thirty-five.

Have you felt this?

I never used to admit it to myself, and I certainly didn’t announce it to anyone else. What normal teenage girl daydreams about her graduation into midthirties adulthood? I’m almost embarrassed to write it now. And yet, from a very young age, I had this unrelenting sense I was moving toward a destination. I was becoming someone, becoming the finished me, and one day I was going to get there. Even as a child, I couldn’t wait to meet this worldly, wisdom-filled, thirty-five-year-old self.

I’ll never forget the evening that all changed.

I was in my junior year of college, lying stomach-down on my mattress on the floor. We were approaching the start of senior year, and my girlfriends and I had moved four miles off campus into the Country Club Apartments. Each night we piled side by side into rooms that smelled like chipping paint and aging carpet, with more telephone wire than country club in our view, and it felt like the ultimate freedom.

I remember that evening so well: bright clangs of laughter and dinner dishes in the other room, the final strokes of neon sky outside my screen door. The flimsy lamp that had followed us since freshman year burned amber overhead as I flipped through a wine-red devotional: Oswald Chambers’s classic, My Utmost for His Highest.

I’ve always equated underlining to learning, so, pen poised, I found the day’s page: July 28. I skimmed the first paragraph and, out of habit, pressed a line of ink beneath what seemed an important stretch of words: “What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end . . .”

I stopped. I put my pen down. I read the passage again.

We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.

Ash, the soul—tuned by character—is an instrument. When words strike a chord, our spirit resonates. I think the heart can discern a cadence of truth as much as the ear can discern a melody, and that night, those words felt like music.

I lay there for a while, on my mind’s empty beach, as the cold truths caught me up like a tide. What we see as the journey, God sees as the destination. I wondered if I’d had life a bit wrong all these years.

Once upon a time, I believed that who I was today didn’t matter as much as who I would become. That what mattered most was whether I achieved the goals I set for myself, the goals I felt called to. I believed that hitting the sands of some tropical shore was what made the sailing trip worthwhile. But God wasn’t waiting for me to get somewhere. He saw my life, the entire span of it, from birth to death, all at once. And he loved me as I was and as I am and also as I would be, in some eternal moment outside of time.

You see, we are living in one of the most remarkable periods in history for young women. When I look around I see limitless opportunity. Never have young women been given greater access to the world—education to seize, information to gain, platforms to create, blogs to post, social networks to join, online stores to shop!

Think about it: With just a credit card and a travel-booking site, a young woman can be anywhere on the globe within seventy-two hours, reading the comment thread on her Insta-posts before she even feels jet-lagged. When in history has this level of access existed for a young person, let alone a woman?

A young woman, especially in the West, has never had more choices before her than the girl of today. Ours is the era of options and opportunities, and endless public opinions on how we might make the most of them. And yet, the girls I see exiting our twenty-first-century graduating classes seem burdened with more questions than answers, more pressure than prospects, and more feelings of doubt than direction.

I think our generation is caving under the many new and, dare I say, unrealistic pressures of this brave new world: the societal, social, familial, and, most of all, personal expectations for what we should make of this life.

There’s pressure to meet your dream guy, to land the perfect job, to design a storybook home, to raise a small tribe of cherubic children. Pressure to look like the cover girls, to know the most glamorous people, to attract millions of followers, and, of course, to change the world. Or at least end extreme poverty by the time you hit thirty. I hope you don’t feel all these pressures yet, but you probably will. I certainly feel them, and more.

A woman named Courtney E. Martin once wrote, “We are the daughters of feminists who said ‘You can be anything’ and we heard ‘You have to be everything.’”

Don’t be everything, my friend. Be you. Don’t do everything. Do you.

There’s only one you, and the world needs you desperately.




Fitness / Inspiration / Real Talk / Style

Strengthening Our Core


Photos c/o Tutti del Monte

Life hinges upon the strength of our core.

People often avoid yoga because they lack flexibility, but the majority of yoga focuses on core strength.  This goes far beyond having a six pack: it’s the development of tiny muscles deep within the abdomen that create the strength needed to grow throughout a yoga practice.

But everyone wants to immediately do cool poses — I personally can’t wait until I can magically hold a handstand for more than a split second.

It’s tempting to push  into advanced postures you’re not ready for to get to that ‘instagramable’ moment.  Or kick yourself up with force into a headstand only to topple over instantly because you don’t have body control.  Then you leave yogaclass feeling defeated because you tried the pose once and it didn’t work.

Many of us (myself included) want the external glory of accomplishing something cool on our yoga mat without putting in the patient, persistent discipline of building strength from the inside out.

All of the advanced positions begin with core strength.  Doing a headstand is less about force and more about letting your legs float up to the ceiling.

I remember the first time I piked my legs and floated into a headstand; it was a magical feeling.  It felt like I was flying.  For months I could do the pose if I flung myself into it, but I couldn’t remain there.  The grace of floating came from strengthening those deep abdominal muscles.  And just when I least expected it, my legs floated up.

It’s fun to have a cool party trick to show off.  And who doesn’t love seeing a new line of definition on their body.  But if I’m building bigger, more noticeable muscle groups and neglecting my core, I’m building a house of cards. Injury will be almost inevitable.

This principle goes well beyond yoga.

When runners hit a plateau or spin class enthusiasts begin to experience back pain, chances are it’s a core issue.  As a collegiate tennis player my game went to the next level when I started doing abdominal work.

When our core is wobbly and weak it impacts all of the other parts of our bodies.

The beautiful thing about working out our physical bodies is that the principles we learn on the track, field, or yoga mat are directly transferable to our entire lives.

Think about your life.

Maybe you’re like me and sometimes struggle with insecurity about your relationship status.  Or it could be your career.  To those around you it looks like you have it altogether, but inside you’re waiting for the moment when the chips fall and people see that you’re really a fake.

These thoughts of unworthiness, insecurity, not belonging can’t be fixed with a band aid.  They, too, are a reflection of a weak core.  If I know, in the core of my being, that I am enough, I have what it takes, I am loved, I am seen—it changes everything.

Knowing our internal value helps us remain grounded when we experience drama at work, moments of loneliness in singlehood or even within a relationship.

Instead of focusing on the exterior, how can you strengthen your core?  From your physical all the way to your emotional, and spiritual self.

Here are a few things I do physically:

  1. Prioritize your core:   Even when I don’t feel like it—which I typically don’t!  I found  Morgan on Instagram and she has some great exercises.  Check them out here.  I pick a few and do them from home a few times a week.
  2. Schedule your workout:  I live by my calendar.  I am as intentional about my workouts as I am about my time with friends.
  3. Be realistic:  People lose steam because they have these grand ideas of getting up at 4:00 a.m. and hitting the gym every day.  For most people that’s not sustainable.  Maybe you take sneakers to work and walk for 15 minutes on your lunch break.  Or you commit to an early gym time 3 times a week.

Emotionally and spiritually one of the greatest things I do is write down truth statements:

  1. First write down a list of all the negative thoughts you have—I’m scared of rejection, I’m unworthy, I’ll never have the relationship I want, etc. 
  2. Then take time toreplace each lie with a truth statement.  For example:
    • Even if I’m rejected I’ll be ok, because I know I am loved.
    • I am worthy.
    • I can have the relationship I long for—and know I am worth waiting for a partner who sees the gift that I am.
  3. My faith is important to me, so beside each truth statement I’ll include the biblical source for that truth.

My invitation for you is to take inventory of your core — physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Find tangible ways toincorporate more core strengthening exercises into your workouts.

Outside the gym, recognize the thoughts that are indicating a wobbly core.  Write them down in one column, and in a column next to it write what is really true about you.  In those moments of insecurity, go back to those core truths about who you are.

Notice over time how much freedom and strength comes from investing into our core.