I’ve recently hired a life coach, and this is my series documenting my journey through this process.  Each Tuesday for 6 weeks, I meet with Kathleen via phone and have a 45 minute session.  We go over last week’s homework, talk about thoughts I’m having (good and not so good), set goals and look deeper into ways that I can create more of the life I love.

MANTRA for the past 7 days: LIVE IT

HOMEWORK:  My 4 Values

This week, I was tasked with writing out my 4 values.  Values that I stand for, that I would like to live by, that should infuse themselves into my everyday.  First things, first.  I actually looked up the word.  According to Google, the definition of values is “a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.”   Further expanded into personal values (vs ethical, social, aesthetic values), wikipedia suggests that “Personal values provide an internal reference for what is good, beneficial, important, useful, beautiful, desirable, constructive, etc.  Values generate behaviorand help solve common human problems for survival by comparative rankings of value, the results of which provide answers to questions of why people do what they do and in what order they choose to do them.”

What I’m gathering about why I should be writing down my values, is that I can put them into practice daily in order to generate behavior that will then further enforce my values.  In a cyclical and tangible way, this should positively affect my life and further strengthen those values.  This sounds pretty simple, but I find myself rushing through the day, and by the end of it, I haven’t made time for those things that are important to me.  By defining my values each morning, I’m planning my day around what makes me feel great.  My values become a soundboard for making decisions.  It’s pretty easy- if it violates my base values, then I don’t do it, or I find another way.  Behavior and thoughts over time can become habit, the they’re just a part of how you live life- in a way that supports your soul.

My 4 Values:

1- Kindness to others and self

2- Honesty

3- Being vulnerable

4- Learning/growing from each day

My values reflect the journey I’ve been on over the last few years- one of struggle, disappointment and facing some difficult realities about myself.  But in an effort to embody my values, I must be kind to myself instead of judging, honest about what happened, vulnerable enough to share with those I deem worthy of that trust and have the ability to learn and grow from that experience.

What are your values?



The need to speak.

September 26, 2013

in Keeping it real

“Just by speaking I can break out of my self-made prison.”

- J U N E   S I N G E R

I made a goal that I would write every day for 40 days.  I have a giant chalk wall with 40 boxes on it and they are filling with the letters J B and L.  Journal, Blog, Letters.  Writing has never come easy to me, because I want it to feel authentic and purposeful, and I easily talk myself out of sharing my thoughts here by thinking, “Who will read this?” or “How is it relevant to their life?”  But just as much as this space is for my reader, it is also for myself.  The act of sharing my thoughts brings calmness to me, and a feeling that I can break out of my self-made prison, as June Singer had suggested.  When I’m in my groove with writing, I’m a little sassy, keeping things light but also grounded.  But sometimes I just don’t know what the hell to share here.  So, today, that’s what I’m sharing- my journey towards writing more often and in more meaningful ways.  It might just be the act of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) often enough that it becomes a ritual, and beginning to not question my motives for sharing.  It can all seem like a roundabout way of avoiding writing, to constantly write about wanting to write.

I read Mark Nepo’s “The Book of Awakening” as a part of my morning ritual, and today seemed appropriately titled The Need to Speak.  The first line is exactly what has stopped me from speaking my mind my whole life.  Mark writes, “So many times we suppose ourselves out of existence, imagining that if we speak our heart we will be rejected or ignored.”  Exactly.  I can’t tell you how much my heart races and my head feels light when I’m about to say something to someone I love that might just alter our relationship forever.  It happened just yesterday.  Speaking my truth, and acknowledging what I need in this world meant that I had to have the courage to risk losing someone so dear to my heart.  I always thought it courageous to put someone else first, to let your own heart be disappointed for the greater good, because of course that other person would do the same for you.  Not true.  It’s been a hard lesson, but one that I’ve been taught well over the last 3 years that you must follow your own heart and have the courage to put out there what you need in order to be a good partner, family member, co-worker, etc.  Bottling things up, while avoiding unpleasant conversations in the moment, leads to you starving your soul of what it needs to be truly joyful and free.

So, I’m learning how to free myself by sharing in this space, in my journal and in letters to other creatives over here.




September 8, 2013

in Keeping it real

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As I prepare for a new client project, I’ve been exploring watercolors and came across these beautiful designs by Yao Cheng Design.  At roughly $20 a piece, I think I’m going to have to grab a few for the studio.

Life has been so insanely stressful over the last few days, and I know that all I need to do is put my head down and get moving on things that are causing my anxiety, yet they feel so overwhelming.  Has life always been this hard?  Do we just forget our troubles of the past and replace them with today’s challenges?  I find myself longing for simpler times, when things seemed so much less complicated and full of hope.  Maybe the stress is always there, in the form of living life, and in the moment it tends to be screaming at us to listen and tend to it.  Maybe stress is a constant companion, rather than something I’ve got to rid myself of to feel ok.  This TED Talk by Kelly McGonigal gave me some hope that changing my thoughts about stress can make me healthier, even if I can’t avoid all those things in life that cause stress.


Print by Emily McDowell.

Print by Emily McDowell.

I’m sitting here prepping for my next Cleveland Flea photo shoot and practicing gratitude, instead of freaking out that I could possibly lose all the amazing things I’ve gotten myself into over the past year.  The thought occurred to me that it feels as though my life just began.  Up until this point in my life, I’ve been totally focused on other people and their opinions and expectations of me.  I’m just now learning to be myself, for myself, and finding encouragement along the way.  I’ve always been one of those overly sensitive types,  yet very attentive to other people’s feelings rather than my own (I attribute that to the middle child in me).

I spent most of Architecture School wishing I was one of the cool kids (knowing that I had it in me) but panicking about being perfect at things instead of letting myself be enough.  I did so badly in undergrad that I could barely secure a recommendation letter for Graduate School.  It was one of the most crushing moments of my life.  I had worked so hard, really slaving over my work, and knew that I understood what great and thoughtful design was, but when I began to design, my mind went blank.  I didn’t recognize this as panic (and perfectionism) until very recently.  Architecture school can be pretty brutal on the self esteem of anyone.  I remember hearing (though maybe it was just a tale to scare us) that students of Architecture school are the most likely to commit suicide, I’m guessing it’s because of all the pressure.  This was recently confirmed in my head when I visited my alma mater and happened to see a brochure that promoted mental and physical health as important to learning.  This was not the case when I was in school.  It was work until you can’t function anymore.  Professors and students would brag constantly about how little sleep they were getting and how badly they’d hurt themselves in the woodshop or with an exacto blade.  I wonder if that’s just a tactic to deflect all those insecure feelings we get when we create original work that could possibly be torn to shreds by your peers.  You see, we Architecture students can’t just turn in papers.  We have to present our projects in front of our whole class/school and some intimidating faculty that can sometimes be extremely brutal.  I have to say that this did teach me how to be quite blunt and frank with my thoughts– not always the best thing, but also healthy when trying to deal with difficult subjects in life.  But school also contributed to my desire to be perfect.  I’m happy to find out that my old school is offering health, wellness and counseling services to students and I’m sure that helps tremendously.  But it took me until very recently to understand and acknowledge how I contribute to my own story of not enough or not good enough and how I could change that.  Part of that process came in the form of loving myself more.  This concept was a little new to me, as I’d spent much of my life trying to fix people who I loved, to no avail.  While I was busy doing that, I lost sight of what I needed to be a happy, healthy person.  I let others decide for me, and when it felt wrong and I would very sensitively approach the subject, I’d be pushed back down into my place, as someone who supported someone else’s dreams, but not my own.  I didn’t even realize this was happening for a very long time.

Fast forward a few years to now.  I own two creative businesses, and I am trying to get comfortable realizing that I can design my life as I see fit.  I feel like my life has just started.  When I look at my colleagues (creative business owners on the web and in real life) I have trouble not recalling those old feelings from undergrad.  What I tend to see is people who seem to have their sh*t together, and it looks so easy for them.  But I’m also conscious that that is a story my inner critic tells me, a limiting belief.  Success is for them.  Not me.  They get to have it all, but not me.

There is something freeing there, about designing your own life, and also very scary.  Because I’d like to challenge these beliefs, I hired a life coach, and I can’t wait to begin on Tuesday.  I’m looking forward to defining my personal style, grounding my thoughts, letting my dreams soar, building my businesses and learning to enjoy all that uncertainty that comes along with it.


I just wrote this post about how much my phone is bugging me lately.  I definitely have a love-hate relationship with this little computer I carry around all day.  One side of me thinks that we’re just too accessible and too turned off to the world around us (and unable to turn off the world).  The other side thinks it’s awesome that I can find out the sex of a friend’s baby just by perusing Instagram.  A super negative is that we can even kill people by browsing our smart phones while driving distracted.  And another annoyance is more on the level of how it can contribute to less connection in relationships.  And after doing a little searching around I found this article on the NY Times website about how quickly things can go downhill via text message.  It’s pretty amazing how you can read into so much via text that’s not even intended.  And if you rely on it solely as your method of communication with your partner/spouse/kids you really erode that relationship’s capacity for connection.

At first, when I got a cell phone, I NEVER TEXTED.  I remember my lovely friend Kelli sending me messages from California and I thought to myself, “Why the hell is she always texting?  Can’t she just talk?”  That was the beginning of the end for me and texting because then I began it too, and I quickly became known as Texty McTexterson by my boyfriend.  And now I hate it.

How much do we miss out on because we’re checking facebook or taking photos of real life events that we should be living?  I’m all for capturing and sharing, but when it means that you don’t actually experience the moment, I think it’s taking away from your life experience.

I just spent a week in Toronto and have never uttered the phrase “Do you have wifi?” more in my life than I did during these 7 days. It became a joke, actually.  Some of it was logistical, sure.  We would bike somewhere and (without access to a real map) have no idea how to get to the next place unless we’d planned it before we left the loft.  And sometimes I’m just a spur-of-the-moment kind of girl.  So I did miss my phone in those cases.  BUT I figured it out. I wrote directions on paper, I talked to people, I interacted.  And maybe that’s the difference.

What are your thoughts on texting/smart phones?  Do you LOVE them or HATE them?



August 26, 2013

in Keeping it real

This is how I’m feeling today.  Back from a trip, pulled in so many ways, and craving to get back on my bike and just ride.


Touring Toronto

August 25, 2013

in Travel, Uncategorized


So I’ve been working from Toronto for the week.  Actually my trip is just ending today, but hey- I’m still here for one more day!  This is one of the great things about being a freelancer and also kind of annoying.  I always feel like I need to go somewhere, and at the same time stay still.  Maybe that’s just me.  I love nesting and one of my favorite things to do is get up early, watch the sun rise in my place and get some work done.  I also sometimes tend to feel a little antsy and want to teleport myself to somewhere amazing that moment.  I’ve definitely been known to book mid-week Band of Horses tickets in a city 4.5 hours away while sipping some wine and getting work done AND dreaming about escaping for a few days.  Needless to say I can be a little impulsive and restless.  I think that’s why I can’t work for someone else.  I LOVE working, but I can’t be tied down to someone else’s schedule.  Anyway, here’s a peak at what I ended up doing this week.


I went to some place called the Badlands.  How the hell did this happen?  Well, I guess it was formerly a river basin that dried out, but it totally looked like another planet.  So cool, especially after having 2 glasses of draft Ontario cider from these guys.IMG_1153

Did I mention waffles?  I was on the lookout for some traditional Liege waffles and these didn’t disappoint.  They have little crystals of sugar embedded in them and are fantastic.  I need someone in Cleveland to make these.  Or maybe not- since I’m attempting to stay paleo-ish.IMG_1201

This place was amazing.  Part farmer’s market, event space, maker cafe/restaurant, garden center, school all inside an old converted brick factory.  It was magical for me and I want one of these babies in Cleveland right now.  It was such an inspiration for my new upcoming project that will hopefully end up feeling similar.  IMG_1105 IMG_1186 IMG_1119

Oh, and a nighttime flea market.  It had beer, string lights and super talented artists selling their wares.  Unfortunately, the lights kept going down because the generator was over-burdened.  Note to self:  make sure you have enough power before the night of the event.  Still, it was pretty magical and none of the guests minded.  It was pretty novel for me to experience an event similar to my own as a customer, instead of the organizer.  IMG_1078

Lunch at IKEA.  Yup- coconut tilapia with veggies and a glass of vino.  I got a few great things for the upcoming design dinner at The Slovenian National Home.  IMG_0991

This concrete ball was just sitting there, overlooking the water.  IMG_0980

Dumplings.  These were filled with scrambled eggs and dill.  Super yummy.IMG_0930

This is where I spent much of my time working.  It was a quaint cafe with the most adorable outdoor area……and WIFI!IMG_0937

This was probably the best part of my trip.  SUD Forno, the most amazing Italian place in Toronto (in my opinion).  They had cracker-thin pizza crusts and stuffed them with arugula and prosciutto and cheese.  I also indulged in some gelato and pastries.  It totally took me back to my time in Florence.   Thanks Toronto!  It’s time to head home ;)




I’m really getting sick of my phone.  Don’t get my wrong, I LOVE all the amazing things that my iPhone can do, but seriously people, can we have some real connection?  I’ve gotten so fed up (and maybe it’s my lack of discipline) that I truly want to take my texting plan off of my phone.  It’s great for that quick ‘Hey, I’m in a meeting.  Call you back in 5.’ or ‘Can you grab some cultured coconut milk “yogurt” from Trader Joes?‘ or even that super sweet ‘I‘m thinking of  you and can’t wait to see you!‘ text.  But it DOES NOT and CANNOT replace our main modes of communication.  Maybe it’s because people are so damn busy, and they can’t stop and call someone.  Maybe it’s just too damn convenient to text.  But the consequences are just too negative to not pay attention to.  In addition to my own growing stress over having the ability to keep my mind occupied every moment, I ran across this video that plays out some horrific real-life tragedies as a direct cause of texting and driving.  Please take a look and put down your phone in the car.

In addition to that horrific reality, there is also the total disconnect from real emotion and people that happens when all you do is text.  Your relationship is with a computer, not a person.  Conversation might not always be “convenient” but if you don’t reserve time for it, you’re really losing out in building connection.  Just the other day, I listened to an NPR podcast titled “The Big Disconnect,”.

Here’s a brief synopsis:

New technology has radically changed the way we communicate with each other. Young people especially are relying on texting and social media for advice and friendship. A recent study found that children between the ages 8 and 18 are spending more than seven hours with electronic devices every day. Parents working from home are also spending more time on smartphones and tablets. In a new book, clinical psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair argues that widespread use of electronic devices exposes kids to unhealthy values and puts children at risk at every developmental stage. She says technology has negative effects on empathy, attention and family relationships. Diane and her guest discuss the effects of technology on children and their families and what parents can do about it.

Beyond all of the research and videos warning us about this epidemic, I just feel so much better when I put down my phone, close my computer and get outside or have a real conversation.  Keeping my brain stimulated every moment of the day (even up to bedtime) is taxing and ensures that I won’t have a full night’s rest.   Sometimes I think I’d like to go back to the old days when I had to wait until I got home to actually call someone, or scrounge up a quarter and use a payphone (for a minute).  There’s something really freeing about being able to be connected pretty much anywhere, but there’s also something so enriching about being in the moment fully focused on what you’re doing, seeing and feeling.


saturday-beaching it saturday-books saturday-building saturday-edgewater saturday-literary lots bag saturday-pink building saturday-sam saturday-sandwich boat saturday-st casimir inside saturday-st casimir saturday-tree saturday-tug of war

Snippets from our Saturday scootering escapade.  The weather was beautiful in Cleveland, and I was exhausted from a hectic week and super fun Friday night.  I had to return a movie to the library and we stumbled upon Literary Lots, an amazing project that brings books to life in little parks all over Cleveland.  There were sandwich boats, tea parties, and general whimsy-cuteness all around.  I bought a bag from my 6 year old “cashier” and had a splendid time letting my imagination run free.  Oh to be 6 again. Pretty magical.  After stopping at several garage sales and procuring 3 new cook books, I grabbed a dirty chai in Gordon Square and sipped it as we rode to Lakewood.  We had lunch at El Carnicero (sorry no pics) and got to chat with Eric about his new location in Lakewood.  The food was amazing, as always, we marveled at how easy he makes it all look.  After our late lunch, we rode down to Edgewater to admire what an amazing job the Metroparks is doing in cleaning up the waterfront.  It was a stunning view and we even dipped our toes in the water for a minute.  I took a nap in the grass and then had a very long conversation with a new client who’s opening up her first brick and mortar shop.  We discussed all the anxiety and fear that goes along with really starting an unknown project and also the bravery in just facing that and going ahead with it anyway.  After grabbing a glass (or two) of wine on a sunny patio, we were hungry again and jumped on the scooter and headed out to St. Casimir’s for their Polish Festival.  There are really so many hidden gems and ethnic festivals in Cleveland almost every weekend throughout summer.  I felt pretty lucky to have had such a beautiful day filled with easy, breezy fun.


I feel this calling, this pull to reach out and support other women, to help them understand the immeasurable power that they have just by being born with this unique perspective on the world.  Mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, wife, caretaker, creator.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some amazing businesswomen and men in this past year and have had the distinct disadvantage of running into too many businessmen who are eager to put women “back in their place” as sprites who do the bidding of others but have no agency in themselves, and cannot hope to find a legitimate voice within the patriarchal society we find ourselves in today.  It is not only maddening, but a serious soul-crusher and it’s hurting men as well as women.  I have been looking to find a way to voice this here without coming across as negative, or without “outing” people in my community as friend or foe, but it is something that deserves a voice.  There are those, who, out of fear or lack of confidence, keep women in a box, as objects and are not their champions, but captors of their spirits.  For me, equality has less to do with each gender taking on a mantle of the other (out of “fairness”), and more to do with deconstructing the confines that surround gender roles, yet celebrating the beautiful qualities that exist inherently in individuals.

This morning, I spent some time with an amazing colleague and friend, and despite the fact that Monday mornings are usually hectic and overwhelming with feelings of work to get done and lists to tackle, we had time to talk and bond and work on a relationship.  It made the rest of my day so much more productive and fulfilling.  This feels so distinctly feminine, but does it just have to be women?  Community.  Feedback.  Support.  Listening.  Creativity.  Sharing resources.  Wouldn’t the rest of the world benefit from a ritual that acknowledges and supports our desire to make a place in this world?  To feel purpose in work?

I have known many men, as clients and friends, who benefit from my own mixing of personal and business as a tactic for branding and growing a business.  But I have also known many that discourage me from talking about it, from thinking in this way, from posting anything about infusing work with personal life.  Life is so beautiful, so short, so rich, that to support each other in endeavors that bring peace, collaboration, and the ability to live a more fulfilling life seems like a no brainer.  But more often than not, I feel like we are fighting.  It leaves me at a loss, but mornings like this, spent talking about work, life, relationships, design, collaboration and aligning what our soul wants with what our hands and minds can accomplish bring me hope.


anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you

—David Whyte, poet