Boss Ladies / Inspiration / News / Style

Boss Ladies | Liz Forkin Bohannon


Photo c/o Woodnote Photography

Liz Forkin Bohannon is a journalist-gone-shoemaker and the founder of Sseko Designs, an ethical fashion brand that works to educate and empower women. By providing employment and educational opportunities, Sseko enables women to continue their education and become leaders in their country. She now splits her time between Uganda and Portland, Oregon, where she and her husband Ben run Sseko Designs.

Growing up I really wanted to be
A lawyer, an OBGYN, a journalist and an actress. As someone who didn’t grow up with an interest in either business or fashion, I never dreamed I’d run my own ethical fashion company, but here we are!

My most-used emojiis are
I use the cry face shamelessly. I have the world’s funniest friends!

I don’t know how I ever lived without
My Saturday morning hip hop workout! I go to this amazing dance studio with legit 90’s hip hop vibes and it’s the one time in my week where I can turn off my “work brain” and dance!

One thing people don’t know about me is
I taught my high school boyfriend to speak in an Irish accent.  For most of our junior year if we were together alone, you better believe we were speaking in Irish accents.

My real life hero is
Sister Rosemary, a friend in northern Uganda. She has risked her life to protect kids from the rebels in the Lord’s Resistance Army and gives her life to bettering her community. And she does it with humor and spunk — she dons Nikes under her nun habit and I love everything about her.

What I love about my work is
Getting to create community– in Uganda through our employment program and in the US through the Sseko Fellows program. I help bring together bright, brave and bold women from across the world. It blows my mind.

The hardest thing about my work is
It’s hard to feel torn in so many directions — from product to branding to creative direction to business development. I love that my work is varied but it can be quite overwhelming at times.

How I got started with my current career
I studied Journalism at the University of Missouri and became increasingly interested in how extreme poverty and conflict affects women across the globe. After college, I got a full-time job at a communications firm, but quit to move to Uganda and pursue my passion of understanding — in a first-hand, relational context — the realities facing women and girls.

I started out believing that the greatest impact I could make would be through journalism.  But I ended up creating a marketplace solution for a specific group of remarkable young women in Uganda.

The dumbest thing I did when I was starting out
I didn’t understand that our impact has to be laser focused. The need is overwhelming, and I wanted to respond to every request for help.  But I (painfully) learned that in order to succeed and create maximum impact, I needed to be okay with not being the solution for every woman in Uganda who was seeking a brighter future.

My typical day looks like
Wake up my delicious 8 month old son, Theo. Lay in bed, cuddling and nursing and listening to the Pray As You Go podcast together. Get ready and get Theo off to daycare.

I spend the first hour or two catching up on emails from East Africa and using Viber or WhatsApp to talk to all our partners across the world before they go to bed.

That usually wraps up around 10am and that’s when things cease to be normal! I meet with my team about everything from growing the Fellows program, to planning photo shoots, to doing sample revisions on a new product to meeting with investors to doing interviews to trying to think of the Next Big Thing.

Most days my husband and I walk to a local grocery store together to get lunch. It’s such a perk — getting to do what you love with the one you love most!

I used to think success meant
Getting somewhere quickly.

My current definition of success is
Being committed and faithful.

An example of when I had to push through my insecurities
Recently we made an incredibly risky decision to wind down our wholesale business to go direct to consumer. Everyone thought we were crazy (wholesale made up about 75% of our revenue!) but we believed it was the best thing for Sseko and it was the type of business we wanted to build. I struggled with doubt and wondered if I was being foolish and idealistic, but I’m so glad we followed our intuition and took the risk!

I know my work/life balance is out of sync when
When I consistently prioritize urgent over what’s important. There is part of me that loves to fight fires, but that’s not when I do my best work. I know I’m getting unhealthy when I get anxious and can’t seem to turn my brain off no matter what I’m doing.  I try to carve out an hour or two to make a plan for everything in front of me and prioritize what’s really important.

When is the last time you created something you were proud of?
Community is incredibly important to me.  I live on a bit of an urban commune that we affectionately call Rainbow Row! We share life, meals and chickens! We’re still in the midst of creating this life together and exploring what it looks like to live in true community in a society that favors individualism. But I feel so proud to know that my son will grow up surrounded by people who love him and are rooting for him to be the man he was created to be.

I wish I could tell my younger self
Try the things you know you won’t be good at, because there is beauty in the trying. I wanted to be the best at whatever I tried, which limited some self-discovery. My journey as adult has had many major fails, which has thankfully shattered every hope of being “the best” at anything — I couldn’t be more grateful for the freedom that comes with that realization!

The legacy I hope to leave is
My greatest hope is to simply be faithful to whatever story the Lord calls me into. I hope that by being brave and obedient, I might create a wake for others to do the same. And of course, I hope to make a little bit of magic and mischief along the way.



Behind from the start…


Photos c/o Sara Kerens

This spring I have done very few outfit posts.  It’s not that I gave up getting dressed and moved to a nudist colony—although how crazy would that be?  I simply have not planned very well.

After running The Refined Woman for the first few years without much of a game plan, we realized we had to create a more sustainable system for our content.

By constantly posting at the last minute we weren’t setting ourselves up for the space to grow.  If you’re treading water, all you can focus on is the task at hand.  You have to first get on solid ground before you can start thinking about other things outside of survival mode.

In the past, if we had scheduled an outfit post for a Tuesday and one of us forgot to do it, the other would hurry the morning of and scramble to throw something together.

It was Elizabeth—  our senior editorcontributor,  and mentor who pointed out that we were running an online magazine.  That shifted something in me.  In my head it was just a blog.  But magazines have editorial calendars up to 18 months in advance.  If we wanted others to take us seriously, we first had to start holding ourselves higher.

Elizabeth also helped us come up a set of core values, including authenticity, work-life balance, and rest.  For the last 18 months we have been working hard at creating processes, expanding our team, getting organized, creating space to dream and vision cast in order to set us up for success.

Now we typically plan our style posts a quarter in advance.  And we have a team of ladies working on all the articles we feature from contributors up to six months in advance.

Even with a solid team in place,  I still sometimes feel behind before I even get started on a project.  But here’s the cool thing about being on a team that values work life balance, rest, and community:  we carry one another’s burdens.  There are days where someone takes one for the team.

Now that we have systems in place and have opened ourselves up to the support of a team things are much smoother even when I feel disorganized.  I can go to my team and see if there’s a post already ready that we can shift to go live that day.  Or we just skip posting for a day.  Because guess what happens when you don’t blog for a day?  The world keeps spinning.




Beauty Is ... / Inspiration / News

Beauty Is… A Mindset | Erin Treloar, RAW Beauty Talks


Photo credit c/o Brittney Gill, Kim James, Melissa Gidney

Erin Treloar is the Founder of RAW Beauty Talks, a non-profit promoting the mental and physical health of girls by increasing self-esteem and cultivating positive body image through education, events and media.  

When I was a teenager I developed an eating disorder.  I was a people pleaser with big ambitions, and at some point I linked success to my weight on the scale, grades on my report card and whether or not people liked me.  If Instagram had been around I would have been the person whose self worth was tied directly to the number of “likes” I received on a post.

I stopped listening to my body and heart in order to create a life that the rest of society deemed as perfect.  I sacrificed myself for affirmation from others, and the closer I got to my goal weight, the more unhappy, depressed, anxious and isolated I became.

At the age of 16 I spent three months in a Vancouver hospital program. And after lots of counseling, countless self-discovery sessions and the wisdom that comes with age, life is very different 12 years later. I am truly happy, I have a beautiful family, a career that I am proud of and a strong sense of self.

Here’s the thing: life didn’t stop throwing curve balls my way.  It didn’t stop teaching me lessons or dropping sadness, fear and anxiety at my door.   I didn’t suddenly get the perfect body (stretch marks, chewed on nails, wrinkles).   With every year that passes, my physical state moves further away from the one our society celebrates.   There are other struggles too —  I sometimes question whether I’m on the right career path, and my relationships with friends and family are still, at times, somewhat complicated.

What did change?  My mindset.  There are 3 core beliefs that help me see more beauty in the world — no weight-loss, age-defying make-up or expensive wardrobe necessary!

1) Imperfection is beautiful.  We are taught through media and advertising that beauty is a limited ideal and that when we achieve it we will find happiness, love, success and affirmation.  I know firsthand that this is a lie.   Being beautiful can  bring momentary happiness, but it is fleeting and empty and always leave you wanting more.  Life is not perfect and we are not perfect.

When we stop trying so hard we free ourselves to just be, and that is the most effortless yet powerful place we can exist from.  Think about the people you are most drawn to in life.  Think of the people you love.  Are they perfect? Are they beautiful?

2) Honoring yourself is beautiful. When we make time to do the things that light our soul on fire we show ourselves kindness, respect and love.  Feeding your soul creates positive energy that flows into every other area of your life. It creates a chain reaction because it gives others permission to make time for the things they love.  Giving to yourself is the greatest way to give to others.

When we choose to listen to that inner voice and honor our wishes the universe gives us everything we could ever need. What do you do that brings you the greatest joy?  Do you make time for this frequently?

3) Appreciation is beautiful.  Learning to be grateful has had a profound impact on my life.  It’s easy to wish for the things we don’t have, and sometimes I still get stuck in that mindset.  Social media, advertising, comparison, and our natural propensity to strive to be better can leave us feeling empty, unhappy and not good enough.   By shifting our focus to the things we do have we literally re-wire our minds over time to feel safe, satisfied, happy and at ease.

This doesn’t mean we stop trying.  We just do it from a more grounded place.  If you can’t think of something you’re grateful for, start with the pot you boil water in or the fact that you can read this page.  What are you grateful for?  Try listing a couple of things before you fall asleep each night.

Beauty is not something to be attained.  It is all around us.  We simply have to learn how to see it.  We’re on a journey to discovering beauty, confidence and self-love over at RAW Beauty Talks. Come join us for the ride!


Inspiration / The Refined Collective

The Refined Collective // Forgiveness

Photo c/o Tutti del Monte

This post is apart of The Refined Collective monthly series.  This month’s topic is on Forgiveness.  Be sure and check out the other ladies who are a part of the Collective:  Tutti del Monte, Chelsey Korus, Nikia Phoenix, Joanne Encarnacion, and Lauren Scruggs.

In my 20s I had a tumultuous relationship with a guy.  We were off and on for a few years.  I’ll never forget the exact moment I knew it was over for good: I was at New York Fashion Week, and sat outside of Lincoln Center between runway shows and sobbed.  I was heartbroken.

Over time, my sorrow became muddled with anger.  I felt so misunderstood and dismissed.  In conversations I would find a way to bring him up and share how he had wronged me.  He was in my debt, and I wanted to make sure everyone knew that!  I wanted him to feel all the things that I felt.

It dawned on me one day that, unlike me, he wasn’t walking around thinking about the ins and outs of our relationship.  Holding onto my pain wasn’t doing anything to him, but it was keeping me in bondage.  I was boiling over with hurt, anger, and unforgiveness.  I was chained to him.

One day my friend Elizabeth asked what it would look like for me to forgive him without the expectation of ever receiving an apology.  What if I let him off the hook, and trusted God to take care of things in His way and His timing?

It didn’t seem nearly as gratifying as having my ex grovel at my feet, begging for forgiveness.  But forgiving him wasn’t as much for him as it was for me.  Forgiving him meant freedom for him—whether he knew it or not.  But it mostly meant freedom for me.

Something felt true about that.

And as much as I tried to compartmentalize my life; it never worked.  The feelings bled over into all the other areas of my life.   I was more irritable than usual, quick to judge myself and others, and impatient; it wasn’t pretty.

If my ex had hurt me, I wondered if it was because he was hurting in some other area of his life—a past relationship or break-up, or maybe something else entirely.  It didn’t mean his behavior was excused, but I started to see how much we all need forgiveness.  We’ve all blown it.  I’ve been hurt, and I’ve deeply hurt others.  We all need forgiveness.

Forgiving my ex wasn’t a one time thing; it was a non-linear process that took years.  I’d never had such a confusing and painful breakup; forgiving him was like an atrophied muscle that needed to be strengthened.  Emotions tend to follow obedience, so I practiced daily and sometimes hourly to choose to forgive him even when I didn’t feel like it.

Over time I realized he was less a part of my thought life.  I had fewer imaginary conversations of how I’d tell him off if I ran into him.  And when his name came up I felt less negative energy.   When anger started to bubble up again, I would acknowledge it and once again choose to let him off the hook.

If we look around at our culture, we can see that responding to injustice and pain with anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness isn’t very effective.  There’s a reason why abusers give birth to children who then become abusers and marry abusers.

What if there was a different way?  A path that led to freedom instead of more pain?

I think there is— the way of forgiveness.  It’s courageous to replace pain and anger with love.  It’s humbling to go to someone you’ve hurt and ask for forgiveness; it is the road less traveled.

But our time on earth is limited.  We are here today, and gone tomorrow.  A meditation I’ve listened to repeatedly challenges me with this thought:  Some scientists believe that the universe is nearly 14 billion years old.  And the earth is around 4.5 billion years old while human beings have been in existence for a mere 200 thousand years.  To put that into perspective it would be like you stretched out both arms and your entire wingspan represented earth’s history.  Then if you took a nail file and shaved off the tiniest bit of the nail on your pinky finger, it would be like you just wiped out all of human history.  The dust of a fingernail representing all of life as we know it.

It’s as if we are dust, a spark of light in a room.  A hard year can feel like an eternity, yet we blink and decades slip through our fingers.

So what will you do, who will you be with in your moments on this earth?  What legacy will you leave for those after you?  One of debt, anger, pain, and revenge?  Or will you forge a new path—one of light, freedom, love, hope, reconciliation, and forgiveness?



This post is apart of The Refined Collective monthly series.  This month’s topic is on Forgiveness.  Be sure and check out the other ladies who are a part of the Collective:  Tutti del MonteChelsey KorusNikia PhoenixJoanne Encarnacion, and Lauren Scruggs.

Boss Ladies / Inspiration / News

Boss Ladies | Brynn Elliott Watkins


Photos c/o Ashtin Paige & Aaron Craig

Brynn Elliott Watkins is a creative consultant and stylist in New York City who enjoys wardrobe styling for film productions and print. She is the curator of the popular site which highlights fashion, design, exuberant cooking and exotic travel. 

Growing up I really wanted to be
A mix between Meriwether Lewis and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Women.  A strong, exploring woman!

My most-used emojiis are
The pizza and red heart because of my overwhelming love for pizza.

My go-to order at a coffee shop is
A decaf black coffee. I’ve been off caffeine for about 2 years now. I would like to think I’m a little less cray because of it.

I don’t know how I ever lived without
My husband. He makes a mean breakfast (lol)!

One thing people don’t know about me is
I’m the distant relative of Meriwether Lewis (Chief explorer of the Lewis and Clark Expedition). I also cannot blow a bubble with gum for the life of me.

My real life hero is
My mother, who has been with me through everything. She started an organization to help cancer patients and helped launch an after-school club to provide a safe place for students to play and learn. She also supports a center which serves kids in need. If I can make half the difference in the world as she has, I’ll be blessed. Go mom!

What I love about my work is
I love the flexibility to travel and work with my husband. There are days or sometimes weeks when we hardly get to see each other, but other times, we can tackle large-scale projects together. We have so much fun. I love creating lifelong memories with him!

The hardest thing about my work is
There is no set stopping point. I am always working on the go. It’s hard to know when to truly decompress. Tech breaks are a must. I cherish those electronic-free moments.

How I got started with my current career
I was working in corporate fashion. The intensity and bottom-line mentality was stressful. I realized it was no place for me. I wanted to try to make a go of it on my own.

Luckily, I had some great people to mentor me and help me grow and expand. I had already created Being Elliott. Styling and consulting came as a natural extension of my blog.

I’ve always been a very visual person. I feel blessed to work in a very visual field. My work is not always a picnic, however, I often have to power through stressful moments. I tell anyone interested in freelance the first years can be tough. It’s important to have a strong foundation and support system.

The dumbest thing I did when I was starting out
I said yes to too many projects at once. The result: I felt like an inexperienced court jester trying to juggle fire. We all know how that turns out!

My typical day looks like
I always start my day with a power smoothie! You can’t go wrong with kale, spinach, water and a wide assortment of healthy add-ins!

I might be on location styling. I might have my own photo shoot. I may even have to style and shoot right in my own home.

My biggest interruptions are unexpected delays. I live and work in New York, where life is dependent on subways, cabs, walking, and, of course weather! That can get crazy!

Everything is deadline oriented. That can be frightening. An unexpected call, someone arriving late… it’s like watching dominoes fall. I have to be creative to stop the avalanche!

I used to think success meant
Like every little girl, I looked at magazines and thought flawless beauty, perfect clothes and lots of money spelled success! Of course, I also thought you had to add New York living to the mix!

My current definition of success is
I believe success is finding beauty in imperfection, celebrating unique qualities and, most importantly, sharing love.

An example of when I had to push through my insecurities/fear of taking risks was when
I don’t always have the best self-confidence. When facing big projects, that negative voice in my head screams at me. I try to remember God gave me a gift to use. In any job, you’ve got to be open to failure. Don’t let that paralyze you. It’s OK to make mistakes. I’ve made my share. It isn’t the end of the world.

I know my work/life balance is out of sync when
I’m crabby! I need to stop, pray, eat a healthy snack (My go-to snacks are almonds, kale chips, or fruit) and focus on others.

The last time I created something I was proud of was
My husband Aaron and I created a short film which was featured at Cannes. I also just created and directed a unique handbag commercial which not only featured handbags, but also the strength, dignity and beauty of women. It’s something I’m really proud of.

I wish I could tell my younger self
Don’t be so worried about tomorrow. Focus outward. Everyone is dealing with their own struggles. Help others feel better. In the end – you will feel better.

The legacy I hope to leave is
My mom says she wants her tombstone to read “She loved God…and it showed.”  I’m with my mother. I hope people are able to see how much I love them.


Inspiration / News / Real Talk

The End of FOMO | Elizabeth Boocks


At the beginning of adulthood it seems that each revelation creates a lasting change.  You say things like, “I used to struggle with that, until I realized this.”  Growth requires some effort, and yet there’s hope because it seems linear.

A few months later, you struggle with that thing again.  At first it can be confusing.  Didn’t I learn from that other experience?

If the struggle comes around yet again it can be deeply discouraging.  Am I incapable of learning from my mistakes? Am I ever going to stop struggling with this?

The questions and self-doubt can get really ugly. But if you’re lucky, you have a friend who puts it into perspective.

For me, that was a mentor who explained real growth is layered, like an onion.  One part of our heart experiences a revelation, and a while later, that outer layer is peeled off and we deal with the same struggle, but at a deeper level.

This concept brings hope and lots of humility —because I’m not back where I was, and yet there’s always more growth to be had.  Its not as exciting as overnight transformation, but it’s good to know growth is non-linear, and to be free from judging myself every time I struggle with something I thought I’d moved past.

But once in a while growth happens quickly for me – like the day that FOMO (fear of missing out) died.

As I drove to Los Angeles to pick up my parents I was weary from a late night of packing and excited about our vacation plans. But I also felt upset about the timing — one of my best friends, Katherine, was flying in from New York that afternoon for work. She’d be staying at my house and I wouldn’t get to see her.  Another friend was also visiting from the East Coast for a girls’ trip to Santa Barbara.

I’m not sure why I was upset, other than fear of missing out compounded by the fact that quality time with family and friends is rare. Why was everyone in town at the exact same time?   Why couldn’t it all have been spread out over a month or two?

It was hard to understand, and as I drove I argued with God about it.  It was childish, but there wasn’t anyone else to yell at, so I told Him everything I felt, along with a bunch of other stuff that seemed unfair.

And when I was done, to my great surprise, He responded.

Not in words, exactly, but the gist of it was that this was none of my concern, and Katherine would have a bed to sleep in (rather than my couch), and I didn’t need to worry about what I wouldn’t be a part of in Santa Barbara. He loved me, my friends and family loved me, and I wasn’t missing out on anything.

That may not sound comforting, but it was.   It was just so… true.

I burst into laughter and felt a wave of relief. I still didn’t like it, but it no longer bothered me. I would have fun with my family, I’d see Katherine some other time, my friends would have a wonderful time in Santa Barbara and it was okay that I wouldn’t be there for it.

When I got to the station to pick up my parents I felt like a new woman.  But they weren’t there.  I tried to call, but it went to voice mail. The staff didn’t have a record of their arrival.  And then I realized they were arriving the next day.

I couldn’t believe my mistake.  It was frustrating, but as I walked to my car I realized I could now pick up Katherine from the airport!

Yosemite - Elizabeth Boocks the end of FOMO

The timing was perfect.  We drove back to Newport Beach, and since I was completely ready to go on vacation — which wouldn’t have happened under any other circumstance — I was free to spend the evening with her and another friend.  It was wonderful, and I left the next day feeling rested.

A few days later in Yosemite I reflected on the curious absence of FOMO as I watched the sun begin to drop.  When I took this photo the thought that came to me was, “the glass is always full.”  It felt like the completion of what God had said to me earlier.

I marveled at the thought.

I’d love to end the story there, but it wouldn’t be right.  Because ten minutes later I realized my 70-something parents hadn’t come out of the woods yet, and night was falling, and there are no streetlights in Yosemite.

So I ran, truly ran, through a very dark forest to find them, and by the time I did I was scared for their safety and angry about the miscommunication that led to our separation.  My moment of peace and revelation was all but forgotten.

Thankfully it floated back to me that night, and it’s never left.

the glass is always full

For the record, I do think we can miss out — but not because we can’t be in two places at once.

We miss out when we won’t commit to someone in case a better option comes along.
We miss out when we refuse to apologize or forgive.
We miss out when we become so fixated on whether we made the wrong decision that we fail to be present to the goodness right before our eyes.

And that’s the real kicker: fear of missing out, in and of itself – is what steals our joy!

The good news is, letting go of FOMO comes down to a choice. When you refuse to entertain fear of missing out, life gets infinitely more enjoyable.

You’re free from the torment of second-guessing your decisions.
You’re less weighed down by jealousy and comparison.
You’re more present to yourself and those around you.
And you’re able to receive the goodness of the moment you’re in.


Capsule Wardrobe

Capsule Series | Winter Woes


Photos c/o Sara Kerens

It’s that time of year when all I want is to wake up to warm weather so I can throw on a sun dress and call it a day.  (Remind me of this when it’s the the middle of summer and I’m soaked with sweat!)

I’ve spent most of my New York winters stuffed into a puffer jacket which I now refer to as old faithful.  When it came to getting dressed for the day, I just wanted to be warm.  But this winter I’ve tried to put outfits together —  even on the days when all I want to do is crawl under my covers in sweatpants.

I still have plenty of days when I sport yoga pants, UGGS, no make-up and a high pony tail. But sometimes you have to put on your big girl pants, throw on some mascara, and take the world on—even when it’s 20 degrees outside.



Beauty Is ... / Inspiration / News

Beauty Is… Staying Put | Cari Jenkins


Photos c/o Sarah Shreves

Cari Jenkins has been mentoring women for over 20 years. She loves to gather people in her home and sets the yearly goal of hosting 500 people around her table. Cari leads workshops on Identity and Living as a Person of Blessing and models her life after Jesus. She lives in Denver, Colorado, where nesting is one of her favorite pastimes.

I love adventure. There is something about waking up to a new city or country that invigorates me and is, frankly, really sexy on my Instagram feed. I built a life around this love.  I would plan my next trip – for work or for fun — after I found myself at home longer than 3 weeks.

I loved it all, and that is why I chose to stop.

Last summer I worked in Spain, and made friends with the owners of a restaurant across the street from my house. Several times a week I’d get a drink and mix it up with the locals. One night as I was leaving, I thought, “I love this life! I love that I get to make friends with strangers and be known by the businesses in my neighborhood.” I was content and happy, living the small town Mediterranean life.

While engaged in my nightly routine of checking social media, a comment on a photo caught my attention. The owner of my favorite coffee shop in the US — in the neighborhood in which I pay rent and call home most frequently — wrote, “We miss you Cari! Come home to us soon.”

At that moment I was struck. Here I was, in Spain, romanticizing about my ability to simply pop over to the local hot spot and know the owner and the people there, when all along I had the very same thing in my neighborhood. What was I doing?

Why must I leave home for a sense of adventure? Why is going so much sexier than staying? Why must connection and beauty be found outside of my home, rather than in it?

And so, then and there, I made a decision: I would limit my travel and engage in one place, do the hard work of being rooted, and find beauty in staying put.

I had no idea how difficult that would be.

Knowing my jet-setting tendencies, I decided I needed a group of friends to listen with me when opportunities to travel arose. This group would help me make decisions that aligned with my desires. Though I love to travel, I also longed to belong, experience community, and have roots. It is difficult to choose differently, so I set some parameters and also brought those to that same group, seeking their input.

I have learned a great deal by choosing to stay.  For example, I’m not very good at day-to-day conversation. When I traveled regularly, every conversation was a catch up. There is a certain relational high that comes when the details of one’s life and heart are poured out after a month of not seeing one another. It felt flat and, dare I say, boring to engage in conversation with the same people daily.

I also had to face myself. Traveling kept me from facing uncomfortable things such as some of my unmet desires and sadness. When I traveled there was always someone or something to distract me. Staying has caused me to face the parts of my story that are painful.

The results of staying have brought about the most beautiful changes in me. I now have friends with whom I do life regularly and to whom I belong. I have had to face a lot of the pain of my own story and I’ve found healing in it. I have experienced the romantic parts of
the city in which I live and revel in belonging to a place. People count on my presence now, where as before, there was an assumed absence. I have re-learned the art of day-to-day conversation and I am still learning what to do in conversations with those with whom I know almost all there is to know (there is always more to know).

I chose against myself to stay, to root, to belong and I am still choosing to do so. I continue to dream of jets and new people and places weekly. However, now I have people who are with me in my dreaming and invite me to be with them. In a time when it’s so easy to travel, not doing can feel almost foolish, but after a year of staying put, I’m glad I did.


Boss Ladies / Inspiration / News

Boss Ladies | Aida Rivero


Photos c/o Tanausú Negrón Jiménez

Aida is an architect and photographer living in the Canary Islands. She uses her creative and strategic abilities to span the digital landscape. Her photos capture more than a moment, but a mood, a feeling, a sense of timelessness.

Growing up I really wanted to be
An astronaut or pilot. I was obsessed about getting off the ground.

My most-used emojiis are
laughing face, kissing face and any kind of heart

My go-to order at a coffee shop is
A chai latte. I first had one at a café in Copenhagen, and now I don’t drink anything else.

I don’t know how I ever lived without
Instagram. I never thought this app would have such a huge impact in my life.

One thing people don’t know about me is
I have Cuban blood running through my veins (that’s probably why I love dancing to latin rhythms so much).  I have also lived in Poland and Denmark  — one of the best experiences in my life.

My real life hero is
My mother is probably the strongest woman in the world.  She’s always dealing with something and yet still has the strength to care for us.

What I love about my work is
I’m able to visit a lot of different places, meet interesting people and be surrounded by design that inspires me.

The hardest thing about my work is
Too much work can be stressful, and it’s hard when your work is also your hobby.

How I got started with my current career
I became interested in architecture when I was in high school. I had the skills and I liked everything related to design so I just went for it. But after I finished my studies I discovered my love for photography. I started with my phone, then I upgraded to a good camera and it has led me to where I am now.

The dumbest thing I did when I was starting out
Not believing in myself…and not putting the effort enough to make everything come true.

My typical day looks like
I wake up around 7:30 am, get dressed and go out. On my way to the studio I buy some croissants for breakfast. I love to walk in the city during the morning and see all the movement, enjoy all the smells in the air. When I arrive I have to check emails, deal with clients, phone calls and spend a lot of time designing on the computer. My favorite part of work comes when I get to go out and do something outdoors, then I’m super happy.

I used to think success meant
To have a good job and earn a lot of money, or to make a living out of what you really enjoy doing.

My current definition of success is
Feeling good about whatever you are doing.  Life isn’t easy but it is incredible to be here!

I know my work/life balance is out of sync when
If I don’t have time for my friends and family or for myself.

The last time I created something I was proud of was
I’m proud of everything I create because I do it with love and it takes me a lot of time and effort.

The legacy I hope to leave is
My way of seeing everything in life, my “world” and the way I feel about everything.


The Refined Collective

Loving the Skin You’re in | The Refined Collective Part II


Self portrait c/o Kat Harris

[The Refined Collective is a collaborative series featuring the stories of multiple women.  Click through and read their perspective on “Loving the Skin You’re In…”:  Lauren Scruggs Kennedy, Tutti del Monte, Chelsey Korus, Nikia Phoenix, + Joanne Encarnacion].

I’ll never forget the first time I threw up my food.

It was my freshman year of college.  I was leaving the cafeteria after dinner with a few of my teammates on the tennis team, and once again, we’d all had way too much at the dorm buffet.  One of the girls said, “I could totally throw up right now.”  Another girl said, “It’s not that hard—I do it sometimes.”

A few minutes later we were behind the dumpsters, each of us putting a finger down our throat.  It wasn’t pretty.  We walked back to our dorm with bloodshot eyes, our throats scratched and burning, and feeling bonded in a weird way.  It was our little secret, and I was hooked.

I had never struggled with body image before college.  I was confident and ate whatever I wanted.  But then I became a collegiate athlete, and everything changed.  As a Division 1 athlete on a full-ride scholarship I felt pressure to be fit for the sport I was in, mixed with societal pressure to be a perfect ‘model size.’  It was overwhelming.

As an athlete I worked out more than 20 hours a week, had weekly weigh-ins, and had to keep a weekly food journal that was submitted to my coach.  Almost overnight I went from thinking nothing about the food I put in my body to it be my every waking thought.  There was good food and bad food, but most of it seemed to be bad. Food was no longer my friend, but my nemesis—an enemy I was convinced was there to take me down.

In addition to gaining a significant amount of muscle as a college athlete, my body was changing.  Instead of the freshman 15, I gained the freshman 30.  Binging and purging contributed to my weight gain.

Within a year I had lost all confidence and I hated my body.  I felt like I had ants crawling all over me and I wanted out of my skin.  Instead, I hid it with baggy sweat pants and oversized button-ups.

Throwing up never became easy for me.  I always left the bathroom looking like I had cried for hours. The binging and purging continued for much of my freshman year, but then morphed to just binging, then counting every calorie, then eating something and working out for a precise amount of time to burn it off.  For the rest of my college career and into my 20s I was a slave to food and obsessed with my body.

A life in which I was free from the bondage of food and could look at my naked body with love and acceptance seemed like a reality I would never again have.  Instead of seeing my body as the gift it was, all I could see were the imperfections.  I hated it.  I’d see other girls in two piece bathing suits or a fitted top and feel achingly jealous.

For years I kept my struggle a secret. Sometimes I would let someone into the process, but shame kept it tucked away in the dark.  I would get fed up and vow to myself and to God never again—only to find myself in the same old patterns the very next morning.

Underneath it all I felt like I wasn’t enough.  I felt unworthy of love.  And the only way I could get love was to look a certain way.

The burden of keeping it secret finally became too much to bear.  One of my best friends became an ally, and she prayed for me to find freedom.  The more I shared my struggle, the less shame I felt.  The path of freedom involved many baby steps. There was no secret formula or quick fix out of this.

At one point I stopped working out altogether because I couldn’t do it in a healthy way.  When I moved to California a huge breakthrough happened when I decided to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, and work out only if I felt like it.

On top of that I moved into a house full of women and we had some house rules: no body shaming, no talking about food as if it is the enemy.  It was foreign territory.  If we weren’t talking about how bad we were that day at lunch, or how we really shouldn’t eat that ice cream—what would we talk about?

It turns out we had a lot to talk about.  Instead of cursing food or our bodies, we blessed it—all of it.  Instead saying does my butt look big—we praised one another’s differences and curves.

I started going to counseling, I texted friends on days I was struggling, and I confessed when I gave into the temptations.  It was not easy or natural work—it was hard, took discipline, and lot of support from others.  But fighting for healing, freedom, and truth is so worth it.

When you go through a break up, you sometimes wonder if your heartache will ever end.  And then one day, out of nowhere you realize you haven’t cried in two weeks.  Healing can sneak up on us in that way.  That’s how it was for me with my eating disorder.

Now at 31, my struggle with an eating disorder seems like a lifetime ago.  Last year when I was in Guatemala there was an afternoon where all the guys went rock climbing and the girls stayed at our private beach to lay out.  We basked in the sun, laughed, and talked about our hearts.  And since there were no boys in sight, we took off our tops and laughed like giddy school girls.

I looked around and wanted to cry.  Ten years earlier I wouldn’t have been caught dead on a beach in a swimsuit — much less a bikini.  I realized I loved myself.  I adored my body, and I was FREE from the bondage of fear, free from the eating disorder and no longer had a distorted view of my body.  I never thought I would feel this way.

Many people think if they aren’t throwing up their food or physically wasting away, they don’t have an eating disorder.  But food is a gift and our bodies are to be treasured, and when there is a distortion in how we view food and our bodies  — no matter how big or small—there is dysfunction.

I have wrinkles on my forehead and stretch marks on my thighs, and I still have moments of insecurities.  But I can honestly say I love the skin I’m in.

If you are in the throes of an eating disorder, you are not alone.  There is freedom for you!  I believe it.  I have hope for you. If I can be free, so can you.

Bring your struggle from the darkness to the light. Share it with others, ask for support, go to counseling, get enrolled into a rehab facility.  You are beautiful.  You are worth fighting for.  You are enough.