4 Things to Try : September

photos by gina foti

4 Things to Try : September

1. Men’s button ups – These are the perfect thing to wear when I’m momming it up on the daily. Button ups are ideal for nursing and the oversized shape works now postpartum and will still look good oversized should I ever make it back to the gym. I always hunt for these when I’m thrifting – I look first for soft cotton or linen blends with good detailing. I love the safari pockets on this striped one.

2. Sailor pants – I truly don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the high-waist, wide-leg style of these pants. There is something so flattering about this cut! The high waist acts like a girdle and holds everything in. Mine (by Jesse Kamm) are an investment piece, but if you’re not sold on the style yet Everlane makes a great and affordable pair – I haven’t tried those ones because I tend to be too tall for a lot of Everlane cuts but I love this review by Style Bee.

3. Mules – Tired of Sandals, but not quite ready for boots yet? Mules are the perfect season transition footwear. I also give them bonus points for being lazy mom approved – just slip them on and go. This Freda Salvador pair is my new favorite.

4. Old man glasses – After a freak contact lens accident on vacation I had to wear my glasses all day I realized my thick frames made my head hurt, so I put in a quick order to Warby Parker to get some that I could wear easily and wouldn’t give me a headache. But turns out I kinda love this style! I’m now on the hunt for some vintage frames with this shape as well.



outfit details: top – thrifted (similar here) | jeans – jesse kamm | mules c/o freda salvador | glasses – warby parker | hat – (similar) preston & olivia 

Life / The Refined Collective



Chinae Alexander // Photos c/o Kat Harris, The Refined Woman // Written by Kitty Williams for The Refined Woman

The sidewalks of Williamsburg are busy with people, some walking in groups, some walking alone looking at their phones. Sitting at an outdoor table at a small café, Chinae Alexander tries to put to words the many things she does in her life.

Alexander is an entrepreneur, a speaker, and a social media personality with a focus on lifestyle and fitness. Her career aspirations have shifted over the years from fashion magazine editor, to event planner, to where she is now. Through all of these professions, there has been a consistent and powerful driving force: people.

“I remember sitting in a diner on 33rd and Lexington and writing down all the things I loved in my life,” says Alexander. She found that human connection was the common thread. Now, she interacts with women in meaningful ways, whether in person or on social media.

Alexander emphasizes, “It’s about finding what’s badass about you and bringing that to the surface.” She notes that it already exists within everyone; it just needs to be realized.

It’s not her goal to change people or show them how to be like her, but rather to show them that the life they want is possible, and they won’t be alone on the journey to making it a reality.

Alexander believes that, while people should make an effort to better themselves, they should also maintain self-love throughout that process. She has always been a confident person, and she wants to help others feel the same.

Her confident attitude isn’t limited to certain chapters of life. No matter where she has been in her life, either professionally, personally, or physically, she has always maintained confidence as her baseline; it is not circumstantial, and that is the key.

She also hopes to be an important presence in the lives of others by simply being there. “If I can make people believe that they are not alone in their thinking, their sorrow, their joy…” says Alexander, “whatever it is, if you can tell people they are not alone, there’s hope there.” Her social media presence is an open one that invites followers to feel as though they are friends.

When with other people, it is easy to fall into a trap of not taking enough care of herself. Alexander finds that it’s important for her to eat well, exercise, and focus on community.

Taking this time for herself to relax and reset can sometimes be attended by guilt, especially when she has to say no to certain things. “I have to be a good sane person to do any of it,” says Alexander. She is learning to be honest with herself and others when it comes to what she has the time and energy for. Remembering a specific moment when she was honest with someone, she says, “It was so freeing.”

Alexander speaks lovingly of her mother, noting that her mother always believes in her. “Every time I talk to her in my life she’s told me she’s proud of me,” says Alexander. Her mother has been supportive every step of the way, including when Alexander decided to move to New York City.

Her first introduction to New York City was watching Home Alone 2 as a child. “[Life in New York] is nothing like Home Alone 2,” says Alexander. She pauses for a moment, then adds, “besides pigeons being everywhere.” As she got older, her view of New York went on to be shaped by shows like Sex and the City where she heard of “this place called the West Village.”

When she was in high school, she had the opportunity to visit New York on a school trip. While most of her classmates were off mixing into crowds of tourists, Alexander went in search of the West Village with map in hand.

Seeking shelter from pouring rain, she found herself in a French café. She remembers hearing jazz music playing and seeing people sitting around with newspapers, coffee, and friends. “It felt like a movie,” she recalls.

She remembers thinking, “I have to live in this city, and I want to be one of those people.” Now, Alexander has been living in New York coming up on ten years. “I am one of those people now,” she says. “I have become the person that I wanted.”

Pondering whether she’ll stay in New York forever, she says, “I think for the first time, I’m living freely without a plan in that way.” She loves New York, but she wouldn’t be heartbroken to leave it or spend her time in both New York and California.

“My growth is daily leaning in to what the world has for me,” Alexander says. She is welcoming of changes that may come, but she knows the most effective growth comes only when she is consistently mindful of core values and old lessons learned while effecting that growth. Helping promote positive growth in others is a natural extension of her willingness to grow herself. Her common thread remains: people.

Inspiration / Life / Wellness

Healing Anxiety and Creating a Tribe // Goal Digger Podcast with Jenna Kutcher


photo c/o of Jen Trahan // design c/o Jenna Kutcher

We’ve been social media friends for years through our photography businesses.  And somehow commenting on each others photos turned to emails turned to text messages, then phone dates.  From day one even though we lived miles apart — me on the Coast and her in Wisconsin — she’s always felt like tribe to me.

We finally got to meet in NYC last year and over we dinner talked about life, our dreams, and struggles.  It affirmed to me that Jenna Kutcher is the real deal.  She is authentic, business savvy, full of depth, generous, and the person you encounter online is the person you meet in the flesh.  She lives her message and has expanded exponentially over the last few years.

When I got a message from her asking me to be on her Goal Digger podcast (with over a million downloads) I was honored.  Since she started Goal Digger I secretly wanted to be apart of it, but had no idea what that would look like.  It came at the perfect timing–like most things do.  We chatted about my struggle with anxiety and my commitment to building community.

And now it’s live–my very first podcast!  Please check it out, and let me know your thoughts, and if you have any questions or feedback!



Boss Ladies | Manuela Testolini


Photo C/O: In a Perfect World

Manuela Testolini is the head of In a Perfect World, an organization she founded to empower the next generation by creating programs that provide education, mentoring and artistic expression to under served and at-risk youth around the world. In addition to In A Perfect World’s work of building schools, providing grants to inner city classrooms in need, and helping to facilitate youth-driven moments of service, Manuela has created a unique Youth Ambassador Program in which she trains young people to be philanthropists and community leaders themselves.

Growing up I really wanted to be
As young as 9 years old, I wanted to be an attorney… probably because everyone said I’d make a good lawyer when they couldn’t win an argument with me.

My go-to order at a coffee shop is
Genmaicha or Jasmine Green Tea if they have it… if not, any kind of green tea.

I don’t know how I ever lived without
My iPhone! I resisted getting one for so long because, back in the day, a business phone = Blackberry. But my husband bought me an iPhone after we had our first child and I was so happy to have a phone with a quality camera to snap photos and video of our little newborn girl. I still miss having a real keyboard though.

One thing people don’t know about me is
I’m pretty shy but I’m also a daredevil. Jumping out a plane? No problem. Speaking on a stage? Ah, not so much.

My real life hero is
My mom. She left her home country (Egypt) at 21 to visit a cousin in London for 2 weeks and never looked back. She loves adventure! She lived in London for some time then moved to Paris, learning English and French along the way. Within 3 years, she had met my dad, married, moved to Canada and had me. She’s fearless.

What I love about my work is
I am fortunate to be in a position to positively impact the lives of thousands of people, children in particular.

The hardest thing about my work is
Not being able to help everyone. Seeing a problem I can’t immediately fix.

How I got started with my current career
I became disenchanted with the legal system and took some time off to volunteer in a homeless shelter. I knew I had found my calling. I wanted to work hands-on with people to change their lives. I parlayed that passion into doing consulting for different foundations and eventually started my own.

The dumbest thing I did when I was starting out
I tried to take on way too much! I’ve learned to be strategic and to align myself with the right partners.

My typical day looks like
By 6:30, one or two little munchkins wake me up. Then I go straight into getting the kids ready for pre-school or whatever excursion we have planned for the day.

Once the kids are off to school, the juggling starts. I’m at the office checking on work for the day or on my way to my first meeting. I plan meetings from 10-3 so I can pick up my kids at a reasonable time.

We are home by 4:30 and I start making dinner while they work on art projects or just run around together.

We eat dinner together, always. We talk about our day, what they learned, what I learned. And all the politics that happen at pre-school.

If we have time, we go for an after-dinner walk. My toddler likes to “hunt” for snail shells and the eldest is practicing on her bike. It’s a good meditative time, winding down, reconnecting with nature after the busy days we have.

Bath time! During which I’m usually sitting on the floor of their bathroom folding laundry.

I get the kids in PJs, they choose the book they want to read before bed. Sometimes there’s a 2-song dance party to Blame It on the Boogie or Shake Your Body.

I get them both in bed and then I get to round up my day, hopefully having a glass of wine with my Eric husband while we watch Rachel Maddow or Trevor Noah..

Last thing I do is check the calendar for the next day and the next couple of weeks, trying to make sure I’m not overbooked. I’m a very hands-on mom, so I’m the one taking my kids to gym class, birthday parties, all of that good stuff. Between that and both my daily work and travel, I rely heavily on making sense of my calendar.

What does integrity in the workplace look like for you?
There’s a great quote by Oprah that I think sums this up: Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody is going to know whether you did it or not.

I used to think success mean
Never failing.

My current definition of success is
Being able to revel in failures as much as you do successes, recognizing them as opportunities for growth and enlightenment.  

An example of when I had to push through my insecurities
Every time I visit a new community we’re working with in the developing world, it can be daunting. I stay with host families in rural villages, with no electricity or access to clean water. It is all a leap of faith — to immerse oneself in a remote community, facing new foods and a language barrier, surrounded by people I don’t know.

I know my work/life balance is out of sync when
When I’m eating a protein bar for dinner and falling asleep at my laptop. There is a fine line between working hard and working smart. An email sent at 2am isn’t going to get read until the next morning, so why not sleep and send the same email in the morning? It really is about self-discipline.

The last time I created something I was proud of was
I’m most proud of creating opportunities for young people, especially girls, to have their voices heard and their dreams manifested. Most recently, I was privileged to attend the inauguration of a school that we built in Malawi. Words can’t express the pride I feel knowing an entire community will be forever changed through education because of the school.

I wish I could tell my younger self
Not be such a perfectionist. It can be a prison.

The legacy I hope to leave is:
That my children know their mommy worked really hard in service of others and that it was all worth it.



Beauty Is ...

Beauty is… Knowing Where You Begin | Madison Hedlund


Photos c/o Kinsey Mhire

Madison Hedlund is a life coach and speaker who helps women own their story, step out of fear and shame and come alive to their most vibrant, confident selves. Known for her soulful spirit, she brings authenticity, power, and creativity into all she does. Whether she is working with clients, facilitating a workshop, or speaking to a large group, Madison’s deepest desire is to see women truly come alive.

Is your people-pleasing keeping you from living fully alive?

You’re an amazing daughter, sister, wife, friend. You serve others, sacrifice your own needs, and love to make others happy, but in the midst of all your giving, something feels off.

Keeping the peace, rising to meet expectations, and bending over backwards to make others happy takes a toll on your spirit! We people-please only to later feel resentment and frustration at the ones we love most. We make ourselves small, swallow our tongues, and lose our voice to keep the peace, and after a while, it doesn’t feel so good. In fact, it leads to a heap of ugly emotions welling up inside!

If you’re sacrificing your dreams to keep the peace, if you’re going against your values at work, if you’re allowing your family’s expectations to dictate how you live, or pretending things don’t bother you because you’re afraid to bring up drama and come across as “overly sensitive,” then you’re out of alignment.

If this is you, hear me please: there is another way! You’ve got to get into integrity with what your heart is telling you! It’s as simple as aligning your inner world with your outer world; setting boundaries that allow you to live with genuine love. Meaning, you can still be loving and honor your limits.

How do you do this? It’s all about knowing where you begin.

1. What do you stand for?

If you have never done a values assessment or written down your mission statement in life, now is the time. Grab a journal and answer some of these questions: What are your values? What 5 areas of your life are the most important to you? What qualities do you admire the most? What are your priorities right now?

When you are clear on what you stand for, you have an outline on what to say yes and no to. You can give your energy to the things that uphold your values, support love, and bring the most joy into your life. This allows your “no” to actually protect love, allows you to give more, and upholds the life of integrity you long for!

2. Get honest with yourself.

Nothing feels more “yuck” than receiving a gift from someone who feels burdened by gifting it. You can sense the lack of genuine love, the resentment, and frustration. That’s what it’s like to give from a place of obligation instead of overflow. (AKA: you’re not fooling anybody!)

You must get honest with yourself and set clear boundaries.

A simple tip: do a journal “brain dump” and write down all the raw and honest feelings you have about your commitments and the boundaries within your relationships. Are they serving you? Are they making you resentful or overwhelmed? Do they uphold all the good things you stand for?

This exercise will show you where people-pleasing needs to end and where new boundaries need to be set.

3. Live in alignment.

When you know what you clearly stand for and are honest with yourself about where you can truly give, you can begin to shift from people-pleasing into heart-life alignment. Living like this will allow you love so much better; your gifts are given in generosity and gratitude. Your “yes” becomes a “hell yes!” and your energy is devoted to what matters most, and you, well you are fully alive, in your power, and owning your life.

People-pleasing cuts us off from our inner voice and keeps us living on everyone else’s terms.
It keeps us living in fear and it masquerades as love. Genuine love, however, knows where it begins. It allows us to give from an overflowing cup, to give without the need for approval and honor our truth in love. Living in alignment allows you to say yes and no and mean it.

Let go of your people-pleasing and start to live from genuine love, a love that is rooted in your values, honesty, healthy boundaries, and an overflowing cup.



Life / The Refined Collective

The Refined Collective // Just Breathe


Photos c/o Morgan Ashley Jo for Anthropologie

Selah is a Hebrew word found throughout the ancient poetry book of the Psalms.  The Psalms have always inspired me because the authors are so relatable.  They blissfully cry out to God in one moment, and in the next breath utter their despair and angst.  It makes me feel a little more normal toknow people who wrote such profound literature were emotionally all over the place.  They were full of doubt and fear and also faith—I can relate.

A few years ago I decided to look up the meaning of selah.  I would read through a psalm I liked, and breeze past it without a second thought.  Only in hindsight do I see how ironic this is!

When the author ended a thought of particular importance he inserted the word selah.  It’s an invitation to be still and reflect.  Somehow the author knew we would breeze through the poetry like we breeze through life:  rarely stopping to be present to the moment at hand.

Maybe it’s because he, too, struggled with flying through his thoughts and days.

Finding this out changed the way I read the Psalms.  Whenever I noticed a poem had the word selah in it, I’d get excited to practice its meaning.  Instead of rushing through I tried to linger.

I began to physically practice it by breathing the word.  Inhale ‘Se’ exhale ‘Lah’.  Try it.

God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth

gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the

heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Selah. (Psalm 46:1-3)

Inhale Se.

Exhale lah.  

Even just typing it feels restful and relaxing.

This helped me slow down my reading and be more mindful to what the writer was saying and feeling.  And as I began to implement this, the idea of selah began to seep into the other parts of my life.  Selah became so impactful that a few years ago I got a tattoo of the word on my left forearm.

The other day I practiced selah with a few friends.

I woke up to a summer rain – and when it rains I just want to stay in bed all day and snuggle and watch movies.  But I opened my window and as I smelled the rain, and heard the drops splatter onto the balcony I suddenly wanted to feel it on my body.

When I was a little girl my sisters and I loved when it rained in the summer.  Mom would let us play outside in our bathing suits.  We’d stand under the drainpipes and let the water (which I’m now positive was dirty and disgusting) wash over us.  It was exhilarating.

I couldn’t remember the last time I played in a warm rain, but I had things to do, emails to write, photos to edit, so I sat at my computer.  But I kept looking longingly out my window.  After a few minutes I ran downstairs to my friend’s apartment and asked her to play in the rain.  My argument must have been strong, because a few minutes later we were running in the middle of the street splashing in puddles.  We weren’t out there for long, and when we made our way back into the A/C we were sopping wet and shivering.  But I had a smile on my face that wouldn’t leave.

We chose to immerse ourselves in the gift that is this moment.

When was the last time you paused?  When have you felt most present or rested?  It’s easy to get swept away in tasks that take us steadily through the day until we check Instagram as we turn our lights out at night.  But what if we started to practice selah?  Whether that’s reading an actual psalm, or taking a 5 minute walk, or turning your phone on airplane mode for an hour and being fully present to dinner with a friend.

When we learn to be still, breathe, and linger, we learn life is more about being than doing.



This series is apart of The Refined Collective.  Be sure and check out the other ladies and their thoughts on this topic too:  Corie Clark, Jackie Viramontez, Julien Garman, Tutti del Monte, Nikia Phoenix, Brynn Watkins, Jessica Chow, Tonhya Wysong, Joanne Encarnacion.


Boss Ladies / Inspiration / Style

Boss Ladies | Promise Tangeman


Photos c/o Kristen Booth & Troy Grover

Promise Tangeman-Wurzell is an artistic fashion junky who grew up loving the arts and expression. Following her love and desire to improve her craft, she attended Northwest College of Art and Design, double majoring in Graphic Design and Fine Art.  Promise and her team at Go Live Hq organize workshops, design and sell website themes, craft custom websites, and help people launch what they love. She is also the cofounder of Designer Vaca, a collaborative vacation that gathers hundreds of female designers of all kinds from around the world to dream, relax, share experiences, and learn from each other.

Growing up I really wanted to be
A babysitter! I think it was because I had some really inspiring babysitters that I really looked up to. Never underestimate the impact of babysitters, nannies, teachers, coaches or influencers.

My most-used emojis are
– two hand high five
– wink with tongue out
– lightening bolt
– fist bump

My go-to order at a coffee shop is
Regular coffee with heavy cream

I don’t know how I ever lived without
Dry shampoo. I use it daily, even when my hair is clean. I love the extra texture that it adds.

One thing people don’t know about me is
I was homeschooled in grade school. Those years were extremely formative and instiled a curious, creative, and playful spirit.

My real life hero is
My husband, Brian. Hands down. It’s inspiring to be married to someone I wish I could be like. He’s endlessly positive. He never turns down an opportunity to get to know someone new. He’s extremely fascinated by people and loves everyone. (This also sounds like the description of my dog! I’m surrounded by inspiring creatures).

What I love about my work is
The ability to pioneer new things and see progress. One of the things I love about owning a small business is the ability to turn the ship quickly and effect change. When an area needs improvement my team and I can get on it, tweak it, set it in the right direction and reap the benefits of our hard work. It’s like the gratification you get from shining an old spoon! I just love it.

How I got started with my current career
After I graduated from design school I got a job as a graphic designer working on team. I didn’t like how my teammates and I were treated and I didn’t love working for an organization. So, on the side I started doing freelance work. i started a website and blog and would post my freelance projects.. I saved my money. Little by little I began getting more freelance requests.

When I felt comfortable to take the risk, I quit my day job and began freelancing full time. The demand began to increase and eventually I was able to put together a team that has now formed into a company.

Currently my team and I at create branding and websites for creative small businesses, entrepreneurs, and girl bosses. And we have way too much fun doing it. Your side hustling capabilities are powerful. All of my successes have started as a side hustle that grow, bloom, and blossom into larger opportunities.


The dumbest thing I did when I was starting out
Was wait for everything to be perfect before starting, launching, creating, trying, making, dreaming, etc. I battle perfectionism and I’ve wasted so much time and many great ideas because the circumstances weren’t just right. Now I believe that everything is a work in progress. So, just make progress.

My typical day looks like
A typical weekday day when I’m not traveling would probably include:

  • Waking up around 6:30
  • Having a time of prayer, reflection, and writing the things that I’m thankful for with a cup of warm lemon water and honey in hand.
  • Breakfast. Probably a green smoothie
  • Getting dressed: normally just showering, brushing teeth and jumping in some lounge clothes to get stuff done in my home office.
  • Emails, interviews, or any admin work that needs to be done.
  • Phone calls with any clients, team members, or potential collaborations
  • Lunch with my pup outside on the porch to get some sun/vitamin D
  • Work on any design projects, odds & ends, or crafting any talks for speaking at conferences.
  • My pup barks at the UPS guy dropping off a package.
  • Crossfit with my husband Brian at 5:30 or 6:30 pm
  • Picking up dinner on the way home. Probably Waba Grill or Chipotle
  • Back to the house for a DVR TV show OR some time to talk about our day together!
  • Bed time around 10:30 pm

I used to think success meant
Being in highest demand. Being everyone’s first choice. Being popular.

My current definition of success is
Freedom. Creating a business which allows me the freedom to spend my time, talents, and money as I feel led. And being able to use the fruits of my success to benefit others.

An example of when I had to push through my insecurities
I had to decide between coasting as a freelance soloprenuer or growing the business into a company that included team members. I struggled with feelings like: Will I be a good boss? Will people want to work for me? Do I have what it takes to lead a company?

I know my work/life balance is out of sync when
I begin to stress about the little things. I make it a habit to write out the things I’m thankful for on a regular basis. It helps keep me grounded and focused on the things that really matter.

The last time I created something I was proud of was
When we designed and launched Sophia Amoruso and the girl boss team would definitely be on my dream client list. And we’re working on another re-design for them right now.

I wish I could tell my younger self
To stop worrying and overthinking things.

The legacy I hope to leave is
That I inspire others to:

  • Courageously go after what they are made to do
  • Live a life fully alive and awake to all the wonders God has for them
  • Have a heart for the world and give freely of their time, talents, and finances to help the lives of others.




Capsule Wardrobe / Inspiration / Life / Style

Why Fighting for Your Tribe Matters // National Girlfriends Day


Photos c/o Morgan Ashley Jo for Anthropologie


Never forget who you are—

Strong, majestic, fearless,

fierce, protective, at rest

and unworried.

Love you, 


This handwritten note sits on a shelf in my office; it’s from one of my dearest and oldest friends.  I always seem to notice it at the exact moment when I need to be reminded of these simple yet profound truths.

It epitomizes why I need a tribe of women in my life:  they unashamedly remind me of who I am.

Trying to go through life on our own is both exhausting and lonely. Allowing ourselves to need others may feel like weakness.  However, it’s in those moments where we’ve reached the end of ourselves and receive a supportive hand that we can begin to experience freedom, depth, perspective, grace and transformative love.

We need people in our lives who are committed to friendship — some for short seasons and others for the long haul. Friends who see us, fight for us, call us out and help us course-correct when we’ve lost our way.

The tribe of women in my life remind me who I am when I need it most.  When I feel lost, overwhelmed, tapped out, overjoyed, or heart broken, my girlfriends meet me in the midst of it all and hold space for me.

When I was too stubborn to admit I was settling for mediocre in a bad relationship, the women in my life sat me down (on multiple occasions) and courageously said they wanted more for me than what I was accepting.  My community opened me up to the idea that we all have blind spots, and we need others to help us see them so we don’t crash.

Living this way is not easy or glamorous.  In fact, it’s a road filled with a lot of bumps.  To allow ourselves to been seen in the depths of who we are means there’s going to be pain along the way.  Because no one is perfect.  And we all have our own issues—like André 3000 said, “I know you like to think your sh*t don’t stink—but lean a little bit closer—your roses still smell poo.”

We’re all human.  We blow it countless times every single day.  Growth doesn’t mean perfection; it’s typically slow and full of fumbling forward.

Sometimes we try to do the best we can, while at other times we’re lazy and selfish and don’t want to put in the work.  And sometimes even when we’re trying our best, our best is still painful — not only to ourselves but to those closest to us.  Having a close community means there will be collateral damage on both ends at some point.

I’ve had my feelings hurt and been disappointed repeatedly by the people in my life I love the most.  But I have hurt and disappointed them too.  And we’ll probably be doing this to each other for the long haul.

There are some friends who have said really hard things to me—risking our friendship by taking a stand for me—because they loved me fiercely and wanted more wholeness for me than I thought possible for myself.

As we’ve leaned into the discomfort of hard conversations and miscommunications and fumbled through conflict we’ve come out on the other side stronger.

Real community takes lots of work, time, and an abundance of grace.  But being known, seen, accepted, loved, fought for—even when there’s mess and tears — is so worth it.

I am who I am today because of the fierce, strong, feminine and gracious women who have gotten in the trenches with me over the years.

Happy National Girlfriends Day to the Women—Mom, sisters, aunts, cousins, Grandmas, friends— with whom I have the honor of doing life.



**This post is in Collaboration with Anthropologie + Anthro_NYC**

Shoot + Vendor Info:

All Wardrobe c/o Anthropologie

Stylist // Florals // Event Production:  Kelsea, East Olivia

Food:  Fig + Pig Catering

Drinks:  Fraciacorta

Besties:  Janelle Lloyd, Hilary Rushford, Tutti del Monte, Lauren Legato, Denka

Beauty Is ... / Inspiration / News / Real Talk

Beauty Is … Vulnerability | Victoria Sowell


Photos c/o Reed Sowell

Victoria is a pastor, blogger, and freelance writer who lives in the Bay Area with her husband Reed. She is passionate about womanhood, creativity, spirituality, and learning how to savor life. You can find more about her and read her work over on her lifestyle blog,

I remember the first time that vulnerability felt like a dirty word. I had just experienced a hard and messy fallout in a friendship (something we rarely, if ever see coming), and I was summarizing the details to my younger brother.

He asked how I was feeling, and I responded with an indignant, “fine.” He reminded me that “fine” isn’t really honest, and asked me to be vulnerable with him.

There, in that moment, I un-friended that word. Vulnerability, what Webster’s defines as “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally,” was the last thing I wanted to be.

How, in my already wounded state, could I position myself to potentially receive even more exposure? How does a hurting person willingly do that? I knew he extended the invitation with love, but the risk of falling apart felt too high.

For months, I walked around with a theoretical hello-my-name-is “fine” sticker on my chest. Pain can do that… turn an open hand into a closed fist, causing us to believe that vulnerability is the surest route to another heart break.

My decision to not allow anyone in, or be honest with how I felt, threatened to push people away. Friends, beautiful and loving friends, came knocking at my door, and kind messages frequented my voicemail box.

The more I insisted I was “fine” and kept my community at an arm’s distance, the worse I felt. Perhaps openness was not the route to more pain — isolation was.

Slowly but surely, I opened up my hand and my heart. I sought counseling, met with my pastors, confided in family members, and spent time with friends. I got honest, really honest, and in doing so, returned to myself.

As author and researcher Brene Brown says in her book Daring Greatly, “Numb the dark, numb the light.” I could not experience the depth of hope without exposing the depth of my pain!

Unveiling my raw and emotional state actually allowed joy to come back to me! Vulnerability was no longer a dirty word, but a way of life — a freed life. In telling the truth, I felt my courage grow, and despite the discomfort, it became easier over time. What I’ve learned is this: healing is often a road, and vulnerability the vehicle.

If we’re honest, some of the most impactful, beautiful women we know are the vulnerable ones. Women rarely shine as bright and pure as they do when they are unguarded.

Deep honesty bridges the gap between enemies and strangers and reminds us we belong to each other. When a woman decides her vulnerability is not a weakness, she experiences a deep freedom that flows out of her onto everyone she touches.

With perfection as the standard, the whole world wonders if there is another way — a better way. Vulnerability answers that longing, and when a woman wears it, she becomes a magnet for the hurting.

Is this easy? No, and that is part of the value. Walking into the discomfort of vulnerability refines us and makes us more empathetic to the stories and pain of others. We can know where they are, how they feel, and not rush them out of that place. Instead, vulnerability gives us the tools to love people well.

Our unguarded self is our most beautiful self, because it is real.

 In a time when everything is curated and filtered, vulnerability reaches through the surface to reveal a true look into our lives. More often than not, our honesty signals a resounding “me too” in response, when all we thought we would get is silence.

This truth is a reminder that we cannot compare our behind-the-scenes to someone’s highlight reel. When we decide that vulnerability is a means of connection we become more trustworthy, and therefore more influential! I have encountered several people who have experienced the same pain I thought I was an island in, a few years ago! Together, we share, grow, and embrace our stories…mess and all, creating a beautiful community. What community could bloom from your willingness to be open? Risky it may be, but it is a beautiful way to live.

We all have a story. And perhaps you feel like the best thing to do is hide the ugly parts, because of how they might reflect on you or your worth. But if healing really is a road, and vulnerability the vehicle, maybe it’s time to jump in, and see where it takes you. Don’t go alone. Don’t doubt your beauty. Instead, invite the unpredictable process of vulnerability to make you the truest you, you have ever been.




Capsule Wardrobe

OUTFIT : Summer Stripes


I’ve had a lot of time for instagram browsing in the past few months while I’ve been on maternity leave, and I’ve spent a large amount of that time investigating new fashion brands. This outfit represents a few new favorites of mine.

The top is from Me + Arrow, I love their minimal basic pieces. I officially own too many stripes, but I love this soft cotton-linen blend boxy tee.

These pants are my new favorite from Ilana Kohn. She makes really dramatic silhouettes in beautiful neutrals. I also own this jumpsuit from her that is totally capsule wardrobe material for me. Her pieces are investments but I recently discovered an Instagram account where people list their old clothes, so I managed to grab these for almost 50% off retail and they were brand new. Have you ever missed the return window on an expensive item? Try selling it here!

My sandals are by Beatrice Valenzuela, and I love her minimal (sensing a theme here) aesthetic and her passion for ethical production. I love supporting brands that not only make beautiful clothes but pay workers a fair living wage.

Also, this bag!  It might not be super practical for my life right now but pretty things make me happy so sometimes I like to #treatmyself

Sometimes you only manage to nab a few shots before your kids need you. So then the next best option is just to put them in the photo, clearly.

Yeah I’m not sure he is real, either.



photos by Gina Foti