Defining Your Home Team

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI’ve written about the concept of the home team a lot on my blog, either in entire pieces or in small references, so I was excited when I got the chance to expound upon this topic for Darling Magazine. In my most recent post for Darling’s blog, I wrote about the importance of defining the members of your squad. Shauna Niequist, the author who introduced me to this concept in the first place, makes great points about the importance of not only knowing who is in your home team but also being aware of who is not. Here’s a little peek at the piece:

[Niequist’s words] got me to thinking about continually seeking intentionality in relationships. Especially in this day and age of instant connectivity and constant communication, it’s easy to feel connected and close to a myriad of people from all different walks of life. And while that may be perfect for some people, it’s not the right fit for me. I know that I crave quality time with the people I love, and because there’s only so many hours in the day, I have to be realistic about who I’m giving my time and love and trust to — and when, and why.

Head over to Darling’s blog to read the post and let me know what you think about the idea of having a home team! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Above: a favorite photo of Laura & Kyla at the best taco shop in town

A Fresh Start

IMG_0783-copyIsn’t it funny how much easier it feels to turn over new leaf on the first day of the month (especially when the first falls on a Monday)? I don’t know about you but I love fresh starts, and even though I’m always invigorated by the start of a new year (well, except for this year maybe), I find myself feeling rejuvenated, motivated, and inspired in a brand new way when I flip the calendar to the next month. So many of life’s bigger blessings inspire me – travel, nature, relationships, service – but so many little ones, like books and restaurants and gorgeous photos and the first day of the month, provide a surge of creativity and revitalization, too.

Early on in January, I shared a post on Darling’s blog about some resolutions that could help us find our spark this year. I wanted to write about creative ways to set resolutions instead of always defaulting to the typical, generic goals of living a healthier lifestyle, saving money, and pursuing happiness. Those are wonderful resolutions, to be sure, but I wanted to inspire readers to take a chance, do something a little different, and really push themselves to achieve the lofty dreams they have, bringing them into reality and making them happen.  I am revisiting that piece today as I’m reveling in my newfound sense of inspiration, and I am plotting out the things I can do to keep this energy flowing. Don’t feel the same way on the first of the month (especially when it falls on a Monday?). Last spring I wrote this post about being stuck in a rut, and to this day it remains one of my favorite pieces that I’ve written. I actually wrote the piece while I was in a rut myself and it was a therapeutic process that actually helped me find inspiration in a variety of ways.

So here’s to you on this Monday, February the first – whether you feel ready to embrace a fresh start or ready to dive back into bed, I salute you, friend. Keep on trucking and persevering, regardless of how you feel. Inspiration is out there just waiting for you to seize it.

Image via Madi Ellis for Darling Magazine

Presence > Presents

mholmlund_76This post may be coming a little late, considering that it’s Christmas Eve already (!!!), but I thought I’d share my most recent piece for Darling Magazine about 3 Ways to Add Presence to Your Holiday Celebrations. This was my favorite piece to write for Darlng (yet!), and I hope it can be a sweet last-minute reminder to cherish the time you have with loved ones this Christmas. Here’s a little excerpt from the piece:

In this season, there will always be more to do — more cards to write, more gifts to buy, more parties to attend, more people to see. But what if this year we opt for a little less, not in an attempt to sacrifice the richness of this season but rather in hopes of giving our loved ones the gift of presence?

What if we strove to connect more intentionally with one another by saying no to invitations, taking a break from social media, and really living in the moment? Though we may have less on our calendars this holiday season, we may find that we end up with so much more joy.

Head on over to Darling’s blog to read my tips for engaging with your loved ones in a more committed, intentional way this Christmas! And enjoy your celebrations with family & friends!

Image via Madison Holmlund

Should You Quit?

deskLast month I was assigned a really interesting topic for my most recent post on Darling Magazine’s blog. My editor asked me to write a piece that explored the reasons why we should stay in a tough job when the going gets rough and compare them to the reasons that justify a transition into pursuing something new. This post took me a while to write; I was surprised by how much this topic consumed my time and energy. As the writing started to flow, I realized I had been caught up in the premise because there’s such a strong tension that exists between today’s world of living-for-the-moment, the same attitude that pushes us to chase our dreams no matter the cost (causing us to want to quit any job that doesn’t seem perfect), and the character development that’s built from sticking it out in a job that may not be our passion but gives us the space to explore who we are and who we want to become (which, though this cultivates personal achievement, could hold us back from professional gain). I began to wonder which option was best, and if there was a healthy middle ground between the two choices that could provide a sense of balance and stability.

I came up with three reasons why we should consider quitting our jobs (when there’s no more room for growth, when we’re opening our own businesses, when the office culture is abusive or derogatory) and three reasons that build the argument that we should stay (when the positives outweigh the negatives, when the going gets tough, when relationships can become resources). I found so much personal value in writing this piece, as it challenged me to explore an area that I had previously not given much thought. Hop on over to Darling’s blog to read the whole piece, and let me know what you think!

Image via The Everygirl

On Tech & Disconnecting

tumblr_n9jyg5jdtA1r1vjs5o1_1280I am settling back into my routine after returning from another wonderful trip to Ghana! I am so grateful for all of the amazing travel experiences my job with Touch A Life has afforded me, but this past week was one of my favorites of all time. The team, comprised of 22 volunteers and supporters, was just so, so wonderful. There were so many moments when we were at the Care Center that I found myself looking around at our incredible crew as they interacted with the kids and staff. We hosted a yoga retreat at the facility over the weekend, which was just the absolute best, and the children all had their medical and dental assessments completed thanks to our rock star volunteer physician and dentist. There was a fierce sand volleyball tournament, tons of crafting projects in the Art Center, and plenty of bonding with the kids. Our trips are always about the children we serve, first and foremost, but as I reflect on our week, I keep reveling in how stellar the team from the U.S. was, how passionate they are about Touch A Life and how a mentality of gratitude seemed to cloak every single person as they savored their time in Ghana. It was really special.

While I was there, my phone made itself scarce – whether it was lost or stolen or simply misplaced, I don’t know, but it went rogue halfway through the trip. I was annoyed, to be sure, mostly because I wasn’t interested in shelling out cash for a new device once I got home. But then a moment of clarity passed over me, and I felt pleased that I was able to disconnect from everything that tends to creep into my mind via my phone even when I’m in the most sacred of spaces. Sure, it made it easier knowing that I could get in touch with James or my family if I needed to by using someone else’s phone – I wasn’t totally stranded or off the grid – but I loved not having a device at my fingertips. I procrastinated on buying a new phone when I got home, and since I’ve returned, I’ve lost touch with the gravitational pull towards my social media feeds and text messages, which is something I’ve wanted to do, but failed at, for some time now. I even (finally) bought an alarm clock so I can keep my phone charging in a separate room at night (instead of using it to wake me up each morning), preventing any temptation to delve into the world of email before falling asleep.

Coincidentally (though not on purpose, lest you think I lost my phone as a social experiment), I wrote a post about social media usage for Darling Magazine that was published on Monday, the day I got back into action after recovering from jet lag, and I understood what I had written so much more acutely after having been disconnected with technology myself. I’d love it if you took a peek at the piece and let me know what you think. For now, here’s a taste of what’s in store:

“…if we’re relying solely on an online community to validate our character or our opinions, without having a real life community in place to balance out this feedback, we may be missing the point.

The point is that bonding with a group of people gathering in an online forum is important, but so is intimately connecting with the loved ones with whom we interact in real life, face-to-face. Relationships that withstand the test of time are the ones in which we’re honest and real, both online and in person, and solely relying on the commentary from those with whom we communicate through screens can be detrimental.”

For the rest of the post, hop on over to Darling’s blog!

Image via The Girl With The Curl

Tips for Traveling to Africa

africa_zebra_ColetteDeBarros_900My most recent post for Darling Magazine was inspired by the 10+ trips I’ve taken to Ghana on behalf of Touch A Life. I’ve learned so much along the way in regards to what to pack, what visas & vaccinations are needed prior to travel, what snacks to bring, and how wildly cultures differ in each African nation. Here’s a snippet from the piece:

People often underestimate the physical size of Africa and, as a result, they often tend to underestimate how vast the cultural differences are from nation to nation.

In 2013, Kai Krause created a powerful graphic that tangibly depicts the true – and massive! – size of Africa. The image shows how, if rearranged in a certain manner, over a dozen countries (including the United States, China, India, and several European nations) could fit within Africa’s mass. Upon seeing this image, it’s easier to wrap one’s mind around the fact that because the 54 countries that comprise Africa cover so much distance, their cultures are similarly spread apart, too.

What is culturally acceptable in one African country may not be tolerated in another; some nations are French-speaking, while others declare English as their national language. Each country is represented by numerous religions and other cultural influences. Women’s roles are different in each nation, too. Spend some time conducting research online, with a travel agent, or with a family member or friend who has been to the destination you’re traveling to, allowing you to be prepared for the cultural climate you’ll encounter.

To read the whole post in its entirety, hop over to Darling’s blog! Let me know what you think. Have you traveled to Africa, and do you have any tips to share?

P.S. Check out this post I wrote about packing for Ghana, specifically. I still adhere to all of the same tips!

Photo via Colette de Barros for Darling Issue No. 12

Beauty Truths

5212015_177There are so many things I love about writing for Darling Magazine. The publication, both in print and online, serves as inspiration for so many readers, and being a small part of that is such a blessing. One of the things I love most about writing for Darling is my relationship with my online editor. She is a smart, sharp young woman who gives me the freedom to present her with pitches concerning a variety of topics, many of them personal to my own life and interests. Most recently, I got to write about beauty truths that I’ve learned from my trips to Ghana, lessons I’ve taken to heart about body image and self-worth and what’s really important in this world. It was an honor to get to share some sentiments that I’ve learned from my experiences working for Touch A Life. I love the picture above of three of our amazing girls, Patience, Janet & Forgive. They have taught me so much about gratitude and self-care and peace and happiness that comes from within, ideals I try to focus on instead of worrying about first world problems, like how my jeans fit. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

In Ghana I am reminded that good health is the utmost privilege, the most important and valuable aspect of anyone’s life. I am reminded that curves are gorgeous, that a smile is truly a window to the soul, and that everlasting beauty comes from within. I am aware that these are also lessons I could learn in the U.S.; they are embraced and exhibited by incredible women all around the country on a daily basis. But for me, I needed to be removed from the cultural influences that seep into my consciousness without my awareness in order to fully understand them. I needed to literally and figuratively step outside of my comfort zone in order to understand how greatly I had been impacted by messages from the media, and for how long.

Head on over to Darling’s site to read the post in its entirety, and let me know what you think!

Photo by Nancy Borowick 

Darling Magazine

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

I have been blessed with the opportunity to write for the beautiful & inspiring Darling Magazine since the publication’s inception in 2011. Thanks to my college roommate, who was one of the first editors for the magazine, I got in at the ground level, allowing me to be able to write for both the print & online mediums on a consistent basis. It’s been such a special experience to write for a magazine that has so much heart, a publication that has gained a phenomenal following since the debut issue hit boutiques and newsstands three years ago. The reason Darling has so many faithful readers is not only because it’s a beautiful (ad-free!) quarterly publication but also because the articles in the print piece as well as on the blog are written with so much soul, as if girlfriends are sitting down together to hash out interesting, difficult, relevant topics. It’s a wonderful community to be a part of; I feel so grateful to be a member of the Darling family.

To pick up a copy of the quarterly magazine, visit Darling’s website. Check out the blog here, and read my most recent piece on intentional friendship here – this was one of my most favorite posts to write. If you’re in a blog-reading mood, check out all of my posts here!

Stuck In A Rut

tumblr_n9s2yoXi1o1r74etdo1_500

Even though I adore the holidays, I always welcome the calm, quiet, peaceful spirit that follows afterward. In January and February, I find myself craving alone time more than usual, and I like hunkering down at home to work on projects, take long naps, and try new recipes. But when March rolls around, I start to feel antsy. Even though we don’t experience frigid winters here in Dallas like others do around the country, we still do get a healthy dose of yucky weather that confines us to our homes just as I’m feeling the itch to get out and about. Last month I really felt stuck in a rut – I wanted to plan nights out with friends and check things off of my to-do list and embark on more adventures, but at the same time I felt low on energy and enthusiasm. I had to remind myself that it was okay to feel a little stuck, and I actually channeled that sentiment into a piece I was writing for Darling Magazine. I started actively pursuing ways to reenergize myself and get back into the swing of things. Going to Florida and New York helped immensely – travel always gets my creative juices flowing – but if you can’t hop on a plane, I tried out some other surefire ways will help you feel rejuvenated. I found that taking a walk, focusing on my hobbies, changing my scenery, and stepping away from my devices helped me immensely, and I wrote all about it on Darling’s blog here. I think that, to date, this may have been my favorite piece to write – it was not only an interesting topic to think about but it also helped me snap out of my own winter-themed funk!

Image via Emma Lucy Watson

Happy New Year!

f6d85d67f44e260d209ff6ebddb82854While 2014 is definitely going to be a tough year to beat, there is so much goodness to look forward to in 2015! (An aside – I absolutely cannot believe that it is the year 2015 already.) I always love the fresh start that comes hand-in-hand with a new year, and I’m excited for all that’s in store – lots of great travel plans, fun memories to be made with family and friends, new classes to take and restaurants to try, exciting places to see and things to do. I can’t wait for all of it!

Are you looking forward to the weekend? You’ve likely already started your weekend rituals thanks to the holiday season but, if not, the work-week break is here! Some of my dear friends from college, Christyn & Mark, are coming through Dallas tonight on their way from Atlanta to Denver so a group of us is getting together for Mexican food (at a new restaurant that I haven’t tried yet – exciting!). We’ll likely all rendezvous for lunch tomorrow to send them off to Colorado, and then I’m heading straight to Kyla’s parents’ house in Fort Worth for a daylong loungefest-turned-slumber party – I’m SO excited! I absolutely adore the Kiser family, so it will be such a blast to spend an entire day and night enjoying good food, pajamas, fun movies, and lots of conversation.

Since you’re hopefully at home enjoying some rest and relaxation, take a gander at these fun thinks from around the world wide web. Happy Friday, and happy 2015!

My most recent post on Darling Magazine’s blog is about being intentional when we’re short on time. Check it out, and let me know if you have any other ideas to add – I’d love to hear!

Last week Lauren and I signed up to attend The Yellow Conference in Los Angeles in August – I am SO excited! I wrote about the conference last year, so I’m thrilled that I’ll have the chance to check it out in person in 2015. Yay!

Spurred on by a random promotion through our bank (so random, I know), I signed up to try NatureBox! I have always loved the idea behind this healthy snacks subscription service but I’ve never taken the plunge. The promo was just what I needed to jump right in. I have already spent way too much time curating my pantry and selecting snacks for my first full-sized box (I’m craving these, these, and these).

I make a fun list of resolutions to keep each year, and one that cropped up for 2015 was my desire to take a floral arranging class. Doesn’t this one look fun?

After stumbling down a blogger rabbit hole, I found myself going nuts on Keep, a Pinterest-like site that lets you corral items that you’d like to purchase, say, for your home, your office, or, perhaps, yourself. Somehow it’s more visually appealing, clean, and organized than Pinterest to me (though of course I still love to pin fun, pretty things!) so I’m enjoying playing around on it, pretending like I have many more rooms in our home to decorate…

Image via Coco Lapine Design