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 / Life

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.



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 / Real Talk / Wellness

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.



Boss Ladies

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 ...

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 / Wellness

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.