December Moodboard

I think I say this every time, but today I mean it: December is the best month. Sure, it’s cold and seasonal depression often hits me and others quite hard, but there’s an air of magic that accompanies the wintering of the landscape. People seem kinder, almost like they want to emulate the nature of the season. Plus, there are so many holidays in the month of December that it feels like every day is a party.

When I was younger, Christmas time meant presents, cookies and no school. Now, I can’t help but think of love, peace, and family – things that (should) unite us all. Whether you’re celebrating a holiday, or happily enjoying days off from school and work, I hope you feel a little warmth this Decbember season.

Today, I wanted to share images that capture what December does to my spirit. Despite the cold wind and barren landscape I feel hopeful that the rest will lead to a brighter Spring, within and without. Enjoy!

Delicate rounded ice crystals sprinkled over long-needle pine replicates the magical sparkle and ethereal beauty that follows an early-winter storm.
Via Frontgate
lovely christmas hair adornment

elegant holiday cocktails

Phoebe Wahl
Pull-Through crown braid💙✨ Only a couple of days until christmas!🎅� Eeek, where did the time go!?
Aurora Braids

pinterest | mylittlejourney ☼ ☾♡

Gal Meets Glam Red Penfield Jacket Winter Outfit
Gal Meets Glam
Annya Marttinen
Leysa Hair and Makeup
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe -C.S. Lewis
Book your flights—these seven vacation destinations are best explored in winter.
Finding inspiration from the Alps, Switzerland. Love the serene whites and cozy lantern.
With the shorter days and colder temperatures, winter can really be a bummer. We've pulled together the 20 habits that make you miserable every winter, and what you can do to beat the winter blues. |
Via Health

Here’s How to Build a Community That Keeps You Healthy

And why it is so important.

Recently,  I wrote  about my move to California, which you can read here. I offered suggestions for how to prepare yourself when undertaking a huge move, sharing tips from the practical day to day tasks, to the emotional support you inevitably need when you’re far from home. Being uprooted, then planted in a new environment can be touch and go for a shrub, so there’s no doubt it will be a battle for people. What becomes of us emotionally when we’re physically isolated can be compounded ten-fold when we hide our emotions opting to go through it alone.

I think it’s time for some serious candor on my part: I spent the month of August under the covers, alternating between eating carbs and crying. All my grand plans of joining a yoga studio, snagging a doctor, and conquering my fear of meeting new people got swallowed up by the seemingly insurmountable odds: how do I do all that when I’m afraid to step outside, when the landscape is off, and people stare at me like a sideshow? I’d put so much pressure on myself to be amazing that I was incapacitated by the possibility of failure, or worse, being ostracized. While I was safe under the covers the world turned around me, but I was too afraid to join in, even with people I know for fear of their disappointment.

Luckily, my brother and husband broke through my tortoise shell to get me thinking about the nature of community, how we build it, and why we really gotta let it do it’s thing. Community doesn’t have to be a gaggle of friends, who run off to save the world and unite nations – sometimes it’s as simple as a person who lets you cry on the phone. Community is being present, open and caring with those you have learned to trust. It’s not always nice; oftentimes the people who love you the most and want to see you win will piss you off. Sometimes the communities we need aren’t in town, or in the same country. If you’re far from home, or your home doesn’t feel like home, there are times when community has to be found across the internet. No matter where you find i,t I believe you owe it to yourself to hold onto it and to be an active member within it.

Today, I want to share with you what these two have helped me to (re)discover about the power of a circle of confidants and how we can continue to nurture those relationships. If you can build a core group of friends I guarantee growing will be made easier through their emotional support. Below I’ve laid out how to build your community. Let’s hop to it!


Have you ever had one of those dreams about being naked in front of a crowd? Maybe you’re singing a song horribly, or giving a speech, then BAM – fully nude.  That’s one extreme of vulnerability you don’t have to go to, but if you can think of community like singing the bad song or giving a speech that makes you sweat,  all while dressed, then you’re on the right track. You see, community – the real deal, not the shallow stuff – is all about being open to discomfort. When you peel back the layers of yourself to expose who you really are it’s crazy uncomfortable, bordering on painful. When I finally let my husband see me in distress( and all covered in tears and snot)we made a breakthrough. Together, we learned that vulnerability isn’t a one and done situation. Being open is a 24/7 deal, that isn’t always fun, but is guaranteed to make a difference in your health.

There will be times when you’ll attempt to be open and honest with others and they’ll betray it or ignore it. However, I hope you’ll still remain open to trusting again. I’ve had many disappointments in the vulnerability department, but part of finding your tribe is going out on a limb. Also, those times I’ve been let down have actually helped to feed into the next point.


Most of us have had that naked dream, because humans are cut from the same cloth. We’re all afraid, born naked, and just a little bit weird. I find it so fascinating that despite being separated by time or space we can find common ground. The beauty of empathy is that it transcends most obstacles. I say most, because there will be times when no matter how reasonable it seems to get along, there are people who aren’t here for it. Applying the concept of vulnerability can run you into some walls, but when you find people with shared experiences like depression, anxiety, PTSD, a similar home life, or even favorite anime shows, the honesty will pay off.

The huge thing about empathy is that it keeps communities, no matter the size, patient. When we take the time to understand where someone has been we are much more likely to stick around to help them out. In your respective community, and outside of it ,it is so imperative to remember kindness. Empathy lays the groundwork for you to give and receive with understanding and care. If we practice it with one another, showing a little love to ourselves becomes that much sweeter.


The best part about those embarrassing naked dreams is when you get to laugh about it later. Everyone has had them, they’re always preposterous and they take the edge off any of your other worries. Your circle is the place to air out your ridiculous fears – even if they don’t seem so far-fetched – so that you can remain grounded. Laugh with each other, bust each other’s chops, and stay humble so that you’re not carrying the weight of the world. When I finally got real with my brother and broke down why I was so afraid to be out in this new world of mine he took a breath, was honest about why I shouldn’t be afraid, then made a joke at my expense. He didn’t make fun of me, but rather he made me see the humor in life and in my situation.

When you take yourself too seriously like I was, building up real fears into dragons, you risk never putting forth that brave step. Staying grounded is difficult on your own, and laughing about things that feel like the worst situations ever can be pretty impossible. If your community isn’t one that’s able to look at the fears you present critically, take out what’s silly and get you to laugh? Run for the hills, because a place without laughter is dead.

At the end of it all, we need to encourage each other to feel joy in between the tears. You don’t have to be Patch Adams (great movie) to your friends, nor do they have to be circus performers for you, but we have to remember that it’s ok to release with some happiness, too.


You can’t have anything if you still don’t think you’re worth it.

Let me say that again: You can’t have anything if you still don’t think you’re worth it. I say you can’t, because you won’t allow it for yourself if you feel unworthy and you’re punishing yourself. Please believe me when I say it’s ok if you were a bully in 4th grade and now feel bad about it. It’s fine if you couldn’t get out of bed today, or for most of the week. It’s ok. You still deserve the help and love of your people.

I wasn’t following the previous guidelines I’ve laid out, because I was ashamed and angry with myself for not being fine on my own. I didn’t make room for myself to be reliant on others, and when I discovered just how much I need my community, I wasn’t ready to handle it. So, I turned in on myself so far that I didn’t know how to forgive myself for “messing up”. You know where that got me? Nowhere good. I’ve realized I would rather learn to forgive myself for perceived shortcomings than being alone.

You deserve people who want to help you. You deserve to be pulled up, and you are absolutely worthy of the struggle others choose to put in to keep you around. So, work on forgiving yourself for your own shortcomings and try to be a better person moving forward.


In conclusion, I just want to encourage you to be with people however you can be in the BEST way you can be. Who you are in your community bleeds into who you are out in the world on your own. If you’re closed off, an unfeeling bully, or too serious, then that’s who you’ll see outside with others. Allow yourself the room to be human with other humans and you’ll be better off for it.

Thank you for reading and following along with me. If you would like to share what you love about your community, or the ways you all take care of one another, please comment below. Stay safe out there!


A Word With Katie Hunerdosse

Each week we will feature the kind of everyday heroes you can look up to. They come from all walks of life, age groups and beliefs. We hope you’ll learn as much from them as we have!

Do you remember Chappelle’s Show ? It started airing when I was in high school and quickly became the only thing those of us with cable talked about. We pretended to be Tyrone Biggums, quoted Clayton Bigsby, and once Derek Dixon showed up for Halloween celebrations painted completely white, as Dave had been in a “wife Swap” episode. I’m still not sure how we all managed to avoid suspension.

Image result for dave chappelle white man wife swap
Comedy Central

Katie Hunerdosse doesn’t look like the kind of person you would expect to quote Dave Chappelle (clap-havin’-Jezebel was the go-to), or spend time in my basement watching his episodes, but that’s part of what makes her so special: you can’t put her into just one box. Artist, mother, singer, dancer, teacher, wife, warrior, friend; the list could go on and on if she let me. Knowing Katie has taught me that life doesn’t have to be a clean line, with every step mapped out from cradle to grave. In fact, we’re all better off for the people who deviate from grid. Her interview, which had me alternating between laughter and tears, is below. I hope you enjoy learning from this remarkable woman!

What is your profession?
Technically? I’m a substitute teacher. That’s my main gig, I guess. But, “on the side”, I am a freelance artist. Which means basically anything goes. Illustration for a children’s book? I’m here. Set painting? You got it. Need some nerdy jewelry to sell somewhere? I’m your girl. Also, I’m a mom to a two year old who has an appetite for destruction (mostly of his face), so there’s that too.

How did you break into your position?
Well, I have a degree in art, which in itself is not a bad thing at all. However, I live in an extremely small town in Minnesota (we make SPAM here), so while this town does love its arts, getting a quality career off the ground is easier said than done. So, in terms of things that could pay me money and wouldn’t suck my soul out of my head, I decided that working in schools was the best option. I started out right after college as an art paraprofessional in an emotional/behavior disorder residential school, and after that, I figured I could handle ANYTHING. Unfortunately my health wasn’t great throughout my 20s, so I had a hard time finding a consistent job that wouldn’t penalize me for being sick. Being not easily shocked, I discovered that I could work as a substitute teacher whenever I was available to work. It actually has been great for me – I think a part of me loves being challenged by improv. From the freelance angle, I wanted to still be using my degree and doing what I love, so I got involved in community theater, which opened a lot of other doors because the people willing to set aside their dignity and get crazy onstage tend to be people also willing to make a difference in their community.

If you could change your life, what would you do instead? Why?
Well, I think there are a few things I would change and most of those involve my proximity to a Target (because ours closed and the nearest one is 45 miles away! SEND HELP.) I do actually love my life and the people in it. There is a part of me – the former theater major – that wishes I would have pursued acting more seriously, but I really don’t mind not living that lifestyle, because I love hiding in my house, playing Skyrim and dancing to Michael Jackson videos with my husband and son every night. Oh, I suppose I would have loved to have taken dance classes. I could always manage to be more graceful and less apt to trip over nothing.

What are some ways you take care of yourself?

I have a lot of things that I need to do for myself, and it took me too long to realize that I shouldn’t come last. I am pretty open about not only having some mental health issues (coupled with very early diagnosed ADHD), so I know what I can handle and what ends up being too much for me. I can tell if I’m starting to slip into a bad place, so I typically keep all of my physicians aware of what’s going on with me. I have two friends from high school who are also parents and we chat all day long about whatever is on our minds and support each other; we even took a “mom trip” to Door County, WI, and drank a lot of really sweet wine and were the youngest people there (shout out to Mandy and Danielle!). Speaking of community, I mentioned the community theatre in this town and just want to express my gratitude for that. I have some amazing friends through that. And they’re all incredibly talented and motivated as well. Participating in theatre really does keep me sane and feeling like myself.
Aside from being cognizant of my mental health, I’ve had some struggles with my physical health. I have stage 4 Endometriosis, which so many women unfortunately suffer through. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I 1) couldn’t get pregnant, and 2) was having episode of extreme pain and blackouts. I’ve had a number of surgeries to remove cysts and the like, but all that scar tissue makes my insides feel like I swallowed pea gravel sometimes. Despite living in Spamtown, I gave up eating most meat (other than fish and the occasional chicken, if I’m making pho ga for a bad cold), which seemed to help a lot. I also took up running. I’m not fast, but I wanted to feel like my body could do something powerful. I’ve run two half marathons and I’m hoping to run another one this fall. Although I definitely would not be fast enough to survive a zombie apocalypse.

Can you share a time or event you didn’t think you could survive?

I think a lot of people with mental health issues can jump to any number of bad periods in their lives, but I really struggled with all of the baggage of infertility. It just seemed like an endless, hopeless tunnel. Everyone wanted to talk about babies all the time, everyone was having them, and I just wanted hide in my sweater. I ended up undergoing IVF (thankfully we lived in Illinois, which covered it under insurance), which is EXTREMELY taxing. The drugs you take are intense, you feel super gross, you’re always sweating and foggy, and there’s such high stakes. And, when I actually did get pregnant, I had spent so many years of thinking it wasn’t going to happen, that I couldn’t let myself be happy. My anxiety was relentless, especially at the beginning. Then, once I finally started to feel comfortable with our success, it turns out that I had a possibly life-threatening complication (full placenta previa, for those of you interested). Oh, and we decided to move ourselves and two crazy dogs back to Minnesota during this point. So, before my son was finally born (a month early, which required him to spend his first two weeks of life in the Infant Special Care Nursery), I had two major bleeds, two ambulance rides, and stayed a grand total of three weeks in the antepartum unit. It’s almost like I did everything the absolute hardest way I could.

What/Who pulled you through it?

I really like the guy I married. Jacob’s got a great sense of humor and has really good perspective when it comes to health issues because it runs in his family. He isn’t the type of person to coddle me (which can be frustrating), but when it comes to being a stable presence, he wins all the awards. He supplied me with endless puns and dad jokes until I was distracted from my brain long enough to relax. He spent weeks driving the 50 miles back and forth every evening during the Minnesota winter to visit me in the hospital, then did it again so we could visit our baby. His calm dedication was invaluable. He also is cute, even though he currently has a mustache (which I did not sanction but I won’t yuck his yum.)

How did the event/time shape the way you live now?

I really am not bothered by much anymore when it comes to life events. My son, Jonas, is two and a half now. He’s absolutely bonkers. But I love it. I really do. Everything he does to me is amazing because he’s like a scientific masterpiece, except when he creates his own “scientific masterpieces”, which are both underwhelming and gross. I also realized from this experience that I suffer from a lot more anxiety than I ever realized and that it’s not the way things had to be. It was kind of the point in my life when I stopped caring about what people expected of me and decided to live my life the best way I knew how.

What was the best/ funniest/ most memorable piece of advice you’ve received?
My favorite advice is the parenting strategy my husband presented to me: “let’s raise our first kid like our third kid.” It sounds crass, but it’s actually fantastic. After that whole medical mess of getting this kid, we decided to stop sweating the small stuff. Is he growing? Good. Is he pooping? Good. Has he been washed in the last week? Excellent. Obviously he’s getting more undivided attention from all the adults in his life as a first kid, but I don’t panic if he doesn’t hit all of his milestones early or eats things that aren’t perfectly healthy or falls down. A few weeks ago, in fact, he actually broke his nose falling down our front stone stairs. Naturally it was terrible and traumatic, but he actually had a great time sitting in the ER, making friends with nurses and watching Dragonball Z. (His parents were less enthusiastic, but also very hungry). Having been around a lot of kids, I know that having a very panicky parent really affects kids, and I’m hoping that this strategy allows me to hold back some of my anxiety when interacting with my kid. Plus, there’s basically zero mom guilt, because it’s not like my toddler is part of a toddler fight club (although I wouldn’t talk about it if he was.)

When do you feel the most free?
I feel free doing all the arts. ALL THE ARTS. I draw and paint and knit and make little polymer clay pendants. It gives me joy and gives me a purpose that’s separate from being a parent. Alas, I love performing on stage, specifically in musicals. I’m a huge musical theater nerd. This town has a pretty great scene for that. On stage, I get to be someone else, with very specific motivations, and I don’t have to recount every single thought I’ve ever had (which is typically how my brain works). It’s like a brain break, and it also challenges me in the best way. I’ve gotten to do things like learn how to use puppets for Avenue Q and moon the entire audience in RENT. Our summer community theater just produced the musical Chicago, and I basically had six weeks to learn how to dance convincingly (and not cause Bob Fosse to roll over in his grave). Pulling that off was a huge accomplishment (and there’s very little a room full of applause won’t fix, right?)

What do you want to be remembered for?
Well, I can tell you definitively that I DO NOT WANT TO BE FAMOUS. Being that this is a small town, I’ve had far too many people stop me to talk about the shows I’ve been in, and that’s some that my social anxiety cannot handle. I guess I just like being part of the artistic process, making something that impacts people. I have always loved the concept of heirlooms, lovely things that are passed down in honor of someone who came before. I make a lot of tiny pendants and things because I like to think that they’re going to be what remains of me someday. Nothing earth-shattering, just a little bit of art to remind someone that I was here and tried to make the world a lovelier place.


All images courtesy of Katie Hunerdosse

Friday Media Prep : Long Live the Queen

Every Friday we will feature the inspiring books, movies, TV shows, and other works of art you have to check out. Please share your suggestions below!

The passing of Aretha Franklin, the eternally-reigning goddess of music, has sent a ripple of sorrow around the world. You didn’t have to know her to be shaken by the beauty of her voice, nor the incomparable stature of her career. Beyond her music, Aretha Franklin was an outspoken champion of civil rights who wasn’t afraid to assert her worth as a black woman. She knew she was a queen and would be damned if we didn’t as well. Today’s Media Prep is in honor of the everlasting mark Aretha left on the world; it’s a rundown of some of the ways I’ve seen the spirit of her life reflected in media recently. I hope you’re inspired to assert your worth as well. Enjoy!
jaime restrepo GIF



  • First up, The Cut profiled women in Appalachia working tirelessly to secure women’s healthcare, with the fate of Roe v. Wade hanging in the balance. I highly recommend this piece. [ The Cut ]
  • Oftentimes, when we talk about the Suffrage Movement of the late 19th to early 20th century we conveniently gloss over the truth of how the movement was rooted in segregation. This article from Bust explores how black women were forced to fight for their place in the discussion. [Bust]
  • Beyonce. Normally I wouldn’t have to say more, but I want to hit home how important this interview really is. She tackles generational trauma, body image, and emotional wellness in women and men. This piece means the world to me. [Vogue]

Libby VanderPloeg GIF



  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker is one I wish I could hand out on the streets. Alas, I’m not brave enough to implore strangers in person, which is why I’m hawking it on the internet instead. You have to read this book at least once in your life. Watching the movie is a good start, but you really must give the book a go. Set in the deep South of the early 20th century, the story is the life of a young black woman named Celie. After having two children by her father, then having those children taken away, Celie is sold as a bride to the abusive “Mister”. Through literacy and empowering female relationshios, Celie begins to find herself. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking, necessary work.


  • “Crazy Rich Asians” is out this weekend, a film that,  in addition to being super enjoyable, is a huge deal historically. It’s the first time in 25 years that an all- Asian cast has led a film. But, I’m not just supporting the movie for the historical weight. I shamelessly champion movies about love, humor and taking chances, so this one is a must-watch for me. Some might call it melodrama, I call it my sustenance. The movie follows the relationship of Rachel and Nick as they travel to Singapore to meet Nick’s wealthy, traditional family. Tears, abs, love, pretty sights? I’M THERE.

GIF by Crazy Rich Asians



Finally, the only music you need today is the voice that inspired the post. This video comes from the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, where Aretha Franklin honored Carole King with her rendition of “(You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman”. It’ll give you chills.

A Word With Karen Castleman

Each week we will feature the kind of everyday heroes you can look up to. They come from all walks of life, age groups and beliefs. We hope you’ll learn as much from them as we have!

Karen Castleman is the kind of personality you won’t soon get out of your head. We first met ten years ago when I was a struggling 21-year-old, dealing terribly with depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. My grades were in a bigger mess than my body and mind, and I was looking for a little escape from the terror. I signed up for her Ballet I course hoping to land an easy A, but discovered something unexpected : peace.

Mrs. Castleman was immediately endearing; with her athletic frame, Southern accent, and easy-going sense of humor, she was not at all what I believed dancers could be. In every session she chipped away at our physical rigidity, pushed our minds to release it’s fearful hold over our perceived limitations, and – honestly – she got us to chill out.  Karen never yelled, or embarrassed us, nor did she let us off the hook if we were afraid to try, which broke down walls and led to friendships.

I began the semester hoping I wouldn’t have to think at all. So, it came as quite a surprise that I looked forward to practicing positions and stretches at the end of each day, simply because it felt right. When she offered us the choice of participating in an end of the semester performance for extra credit, I jumped at the opportunity without a thought to the points. That’s how good she was, and, I’m sure, how good she still is.

As I stated earlier, Karen Castleman isn’t someone you’re going to easily forget, which is why I reached out to her 10 years from our first meeting to ask for a bit of her time and words. Ever the wonderful teacher, she obliged. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.

What is your profession?

I am a full time dance teacher at Arkansas Arts Academy, a public, charter high school with an arts focus. I am also a freelance choreographer and performer.

How did you break into your position?

I wouldn’t say there was any breaking into it. I have been a student of dance as long as I can remember, and then some. After college I began what would be a 15 year career in professional dance. Through many different dance jobs, the one constant was teaching. I’ve always been teaching. The more I learn and grow as a dancer, the more I can offer my students. And, fortunately, I never want to stop learning!

If you could change your life, what would you do instead? Why?

My life has made me who I am right now. And I’m ok with that. If I changed things, I’d surely be changed in the process. That would be ok too, but it isn’t reality. I’m ok with my reality and changing things about it everyday. Next, I think I’ll make changes to take better care of myself.

Karen and her children

What are some ways you take care of yourself?

I can honestly say this is not one of my strengths. I have had little kids in my life for 13 years now, and I tend to take care of others first. Sometimes staying up late is taking care of myself. Just to have a little time to myself, for my brain to process. Sometimes just going to bed is taking care of myself. I love a good nap. I drink a glass of hot water with lemon and ACV every morning. I shower everyday. EVERY DAY. Even with little kids. I love my morning routine, even though it is short. I like to start the day feeling clean, fresh and ready to tackle whatever comes. I eat green things, and colorful things, and whole things. Maybe I’m better at this than I thought… I do look forward to when taking care of myself looks like actually going to yoga on a regular basis, dancing around just for fun, and having space in my life to make things again. I’m a closet crafter.

Can you share a time or event you didn’t think you could survive?

In the middle of my dance career, during the economic crisis of 2008/9, I lost my dream job dancing with my all time favorite company. I couldn’t understand why this could happen when I had worked so hard to achieve this dream and it was the perfect fit. It had been my dream since childhood and I just didn’t know what else to do.

What/Who pulled you through it?

My husband (of 9 years at the time, and 18 years now) was an incredible listener as I ranted and raved. He suggested that I could now dream a new dream. I thought he was crazy. I didn’t have another dream. So I let a little anger and a little disappointment blow the roof off of what I decided to expect of myself. I danced with a company where I had to breakdance and they taught this old dog some new tricks. I performed classical pas de deux, en pointe, some of the most challenging roles I had done up to that point. I danced in operas, once while pregnant. I had two more kids and kept right on dancing. I choreographed and earned commissions and am still just going, going, going.

Image courtesy of Karen Castleman

How did the event/time shape the way you live now?

I will never give in to the idea that there is anything I can’t do. There are things that I won’t do. And things that will just never pan out given the choices I’ve made and priorities I’ve set. But I believe that whatever I throw my heart, energy, discipline, intellect and talent towards, I can achieve. I am constantly redefining for myself what and who I am and can be. I strive to raise the bar wherever I am by expecting excellence from myself and those around me. (And I understand that sometimes, you just have to crash for a bit.)

What was the best/ funniest/ most memorable piece of advice you’ve received?

As a younger dancer I asked a role model of mine how she kept going, kept dancing and taking class and teaching (in my mind she was an “older” dancer although in reality she was probably then very near my current age). She said, “Just never stop.” I see that now as an “older” dancer. As we age, the bodies that “just never stop” seem to age more healthily. That doesn’t mean I’ll take ballet forever (a good ballet class is hard to find, and find time for, where I live) but I do hope to be a body that keeps moving. I have lots of beautiful role models to follow in the path of always moving.

When do you feel the most free?

When I recall that my true identity is that of a child of God, absolutely loved, and nothing can ever change that. And also when dancing some cheezy lyrical jazz choreography. Cheezy lyrical is my jam.

The Castlemans

What do you want to be remembered for?

For giving everything I have. And for kindness.