Inspiration & Motivation

SHARING MY “WHYS” in Body Positivity & Social Justice

SHARING MY “WHYS” in Body Positivity & Social Justice

I’ve been grappling with some major realizations lately that have influenced some of my focus personally & also professionally. (If you haven’t read about what informed my Weight Loss Resolution Resistance project, that might help put some of my thoughts into context.)

I am only one woman. But, I want to do my part in spreading support, love, information, and validation to others - especially other curvy/plus-size/fat women and also those in other marginalized groups.   

To do this more effectively, I’ve identified two actions that I want to better infuse into what (and how) I share my perspectives. . .

1. Explain more fully why I believe what I believe.  
I have so many opinions, y’all! If you’re reading this you are likely aware (or, well aware - depending on how closely you know me). I want to do a better job of sharing my “whys”. What, exactly, my values are & why my convictions are so strong.  Why certain information has lead me to increased understanding. And, why I feel so passionately about certain topics.

I can’t just say something like  “I don't support intentional weight loss” and expect you to understand exactly what I mean. There are years of reflecting, learning, and internal work that have brought me to where I am. It’s silly for me to assume that I can say one quick comment & that y’all are ready to come along with me. . .or, even understand what I mean, for that matter.

2. Actively work with people who are just starting to adopt a body positive mindset.
I spend a lot of my time in fat activism spaces. A place where body positivity is old news (or, even bad news) and we’ve moved on to unapologetic, radical self love and demand representation of not just traditionally attractive chubby folks in mainstream media but super fat folks, people with big tummies and small booties, fat people of color, fat trans & gender nonconforming people (a.k.a. Nice try Lane Bryant, but you’re still not cutting it) . And, are calling for a major cultural shift including active resistance against fatphobia & all systems of oppression.

This is radical. I get it. And, I know that lots of things I do, even saying “fat”, for example, are a bit much for some of you.

Though my values are unwavering, I am challenging myself to take more time to engage with people who aren’t in that space but are craving body love and body positivity in their lives.

Those who are beginning to understand that diets and intentional weight loss efforts are not making them healthier or happier. Maybe people who are impressed and excited to see the very Lane Bryant ads that I am so quick to dismiss as “too little too late”. Folks who see what I am doing and might be drawn to it, but are utterly confused by some of the things I say flippantly or in a matter-of-fact way. I want to do a better job of showing up for you.

Not just in body positivity! 

Y’all! I can’t mention these two areas of focus and just relate them to body positivity. There’s more.

Since the election, I have been painfully reminded that I do a pretty shit job of talking to people outside of my circle about what’s going on in our community, country, & world. Though it was shocking to find out that 54% of white women voted for President Trump, I now see how I definitely contributed to this. Just because I didn’t vote for him doesn’t mean I did my part. I keep coming back to the fact that I didn’t speak out as much as I could have and, when I did speak out, it was mostly just lots of sassy statuses and not true engagement with much of anyone.

So, I want to bring these two tactics to my overall social justice & racial justice work, as well, . . . not just body positivity & fat activism! Because, the same thing holds true! I can’t just say “That policy is racist!”, for example,  and expect everyone to understand why. It’s easy for me to speak without remembering that we all have different knowledge bases, different experiences, different relationships, and different stories.

I am going to be honest. On both accounts, this feels really, really daunting. But, so very important.


One way I am excited to actively work on reaching more folks maybe just entering body positivity AND sharing my “whys” is through a new collaborative endeavor - Body Brave Consulting.

body brave - bravely embrace your body as is it is today. 

My friend & co-creator, Ani, and I are offering facilitated trainings for people interested in developing a new framework for pursuing health & body confidence. Rooted in (true) body positivity & Health at Every Size®, we want to help others bravely embrace their bodies as they are today. We currently offer trainings (two or six hour sessions) & a monthly discussion group locally in the Twin Cities. (I’ll be sure to update if/when we expand to more virtual resources.)

Yes - this is a new business endeavor. But, don’t worry - my shop is still going strong. Now, more than ever, I am working hard toward opening a storefront in St. Paul. In fact, Body Brave aligns directly with these efforts. I am committed to having my shop also be a community space. I envision doing these trainings and welcoming lots more body positive, intersectional feminism, social justice focused events in my shop, too.


Another thing! I’ve added a “Just Ask!” page to my website. If there’s something I’ve mentioned that you want to know more about, ask me! You are also more than welcome to remain anonymous.  You can "Just Ask!" here! 

BEST OF 2015: Top Six Blog Posts of 2015

I started my blog this time next year! I'm still finding my space with blogging. I want to share a good mix of body positive content, motivation and inspiration, fatshion, updates from my world, plus critique and conversation. I'm looking forward to doing even more of that in 2016.

Looking back, these are the six most popular blog posts from 2015. (This doesn't include my Inspiring Women project last March. Those posts received a lot of love from folks who loved the women I featured.)  Take a peak if you haven't read these already. Just click the title to go straight to each post.

Thank you so much for reading, commenting, and sharing! I appreciate you!  Here's to lots more great posts in 2016. Plus, an exciting writing project I'm excited to share with you soon. . .

BODY POSITIVE NEW YEAR: Resisting Toxic Diet & Weight-loss Resolutions

I love the start of a new year! I take it as an opportunity to reflect on the past year and think about goals, dreams, and plans for the year to come. Unfortunately, “health & fitness” (read: “diet & weight loss”) talk, “info”, and resolutions are almost everywhere. Even the most secure and confident among us can have trouble getting through this time of year unfazed.


I surround myself with a lot of body positive media (particularly social media). There have been so many great articles shared over the last few days about just this topic. Take a look at these voices and perspectives if you could use a little help resisting toxic diet and weight-loss resolution talk.  Let’s replace that mess with a more self-love!

I recommend these 8 videos & articles:

  1. Melissa Harris-Perry is a goddess. Her critique on social and political issues is always on point. This open letter to Oprah (shared in video form from MHP's TV show) is no exception. Long story short, Oprah has a new Weight Watchers commercial out in which she essentially claims that there is a thin person inside of all of us fat folks. Um, no. MHP’s response is *everything*.
  2. And, this additional response to Oprah’s commercial from Bethany at Power, Peace and the Poarch Gym is also great!
  3. Huffington Post knocked it out of the park with this article on "Resolutions to Boost your Body Image."
  4. Though I am not familiar with this mom blog, I really love the "New Year, New You! And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves" article from Peachie Moms.  It even includes a pdf sharing 20 self-care ideas.
  5. Love Virgie Tovar’s tips for dealing with the New Year’s diet & weight loss obsession.
  6. One of my favorite articles circulating is from Mashable sharing “What 8 body positive activists want you to know about losing weight in the new year”.  
  7. I started my blog this time last year and kicked it off with a short “Starting 2015 with Intention” series. It’s totally applicable to any year (not just 2015) and shows where I came from. (Even though it was just a year ago, I feel like I’ve already grown in terms of blogging but especially video – thanks Periscope! The videos are a little funny but the content is good. I promise!)
  8. Finally, I have a Body Positive Email Course that I would love for you to take part in – “5 Steps to a More Body Positive You”! It’s super simple and free! You just pop in your email and receive an email a day for 5 days. Each one includes a tip for loving yourself and enhancing your body positivity. Plus, each lesson includes an accompanying worksheet.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did! And, while you’re clicking on links, take a look at these 77 babes in fab outfits from 2015 (including yours truly at number 55)! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, seeing more images of women who’s bodies look like mine and/or aren’t the traditional standard of beauty has been really helpful for me in learning to love myself and be bolder in how I dress, think, and feel.

DIY DECOR: Crafting Large Wall Art


I am staying in my summer space through at least the end of the year, so it's about time I start settling in! My room isn't totally put together just yet, but I have completed a major project - creating some large wall art for my biggest, blank wall. 

As a gal on budget,  I knew what I wanted but had to find a way to do it inexpensively. Plus, I love an excuse to paint and be crafty. (I'm looking to infuse more of that into my life!)

I completed this project for around $40 and m very excited about the results! Let me share the details! 



  • 3 large canvases: These are 24 X 36 (I think?)! I found two at thrift shops and bought one new. (I could have saved money if I spent more time looking at thrift shops! I probably could have found them all for around $4 each!) The new one was $16 on sale at Michael's and the others were $4 and $10 at the thrift shop. (One is slightly thicker than the other two, but it's not really noticeable.) Total cost: $30
  • Paint: I got got black, white, & gold craft paint. (The gold was too yellow - so I ended up mixing some black into it. Also, I didn't get enough gold but thankfully had some laying around from a previous project. Total cost: $9
  • Brushes: I did all of this with one pack of those foam brushes. Total cost $1



I found some images on Pinterest that reflected the type of patterns I as looking to create. But, my main inspiration was one of my favorite bags! In the end, my attempts at other looks failed, so they each ended up being the same design but with colors playing different roles in each. When I started painting, I didn't know that would be my end result. 




  • I started by painted the two used canvases white. I did two coats each and let them dry. I am not fancy with this. I literally squirted the white on to the canvas and spread it out with the brush. 
  • Then, I started with the new canvas - I created a design inspired by the bag pattern (described & pictured above). 
  • I tried  to do some other fancy stuff on the two other canvases - but it looked terrible so I decided to make one all gold and the other all black (mainly to cover up my failed attempt at different designs). Then, I created the same pattern on them but used the colors for different elements. 
  • Voila! This is what I created! 

I'll show more when I actually get around to completely decorating my room and creating a put-together look! Till then, this is adding a little character to my space and I'm loving it! 


Periscope might be my new favorite form of social media! It fosters live conversation, authentic voices, and quality information sharing! Honestly, it's been really good for me to record live - it's not something I would ever do before. I'm becoming less concerned with my "ums" or unflattering angles and just able to talk with folks - it's great! 

I used Periscope to do a mini series on goal setting based on my workbook - GOAL DIGGER: A Guide to Approaching Your Future with Intention!  In this #GoalDiggersGuide Scope Series, I touch on five themes addressed in the workbook!  (This is basically a shorter version of the webinar that accompanies the workbook - just a bit more conversational and with less visuals)

Just a heads up for those of you who aren't familiar with Periscope, in the app there are comments that come in at the bottom of the screen during a video. That's why I am looking there and responding to people. (If you replay in the app you can still see those but for some reason they don't download.)












Don't forget I have blog posts & downloads for all three parts of the workbook. 
You can find them here: Part #1Part #2 & Part #3! You can also check GOAL DIGGER out here

REAL TALK FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS. . . because you don’t know what you don’t know!

Due to my recent and wonderful career pivot, for the first time in a decade I am not gearing up for school to start. (It’s a weird and wonderful feeling!) With the start of school on my mind, I have some words of wisdom that I want to share with students.

Although this topic deviates a bit from what I normally write about, this info is real & relevant.  Many folks might benefit from this information but, when I was writing it, I specifically had first year college students in mind.

This post was actually pieced together throughout the spring semester as I sat at my computer waiting for students to complete tests and coursework (no lie! #AdjunctLife!) and now I am finally getting around to sharing my thoughts. I have spent the last 5 years working in higher education. Most recently, I worked at a university with mainly first year students as a Student Success Counselor and also was an adjunct instructor at a community college. 

Honestly, there is just a lot of stuff you might not know so I am going to tell you! You don’t know what you don’t know. . .meaning, there are things you don’t know about that you don’t even realize might be important or impact you. Also, full disclosure, some of this might sound preachy and very direct but I am 100% coming from a place of love, y’all. Ok, here we go. . . 


1. Check your email! (Emails are, by the way, short letters not long text messages.)
Let me just get my biggest pet peeve out here right off the bat! ALWAYS use a subject, greeting, and closing (including your name) in an email. I don’t care if you email from your phone, you can still write “Hi Cat,” and then drop down a line before you start the body of your email.

You also need to check your school email! Seriously, from the moment it’s given to you, check it regularly - even before school starts. A class you register for may get cancelled. . .you may need to turn in an additional Financial Aid form. . .or your school might need to contact you. Communication takes place through campus email and it is your responsibility to check it.  Nothing is worse than showing up on the first day of classes to find a classroom has been changed or, worse, the class has been cancelled and you have no idea because you haven’t checked your email since orientation 3 months ago.

Program your school email into your phone. If you can’t figure it out I bet you $10 your school’s technology help desk has the instructions on their website. If not, call or visit the technology help desk and I’m sure someone can assist you.

2. Advocate for yourself and don’t always accept “no” as an answer.   
So often, I see students failing to ask for what they need or giving up the first time someone tells them “no”. It’s ok to stick up for yourself!! You can always ask for clarification or more information. Never nod your head and say “yes” if you actually don’t understand! (I have a Master’s degree and still ask about 6 follow-up questions every time I ask about financial aid.) It’s also fine to respectfully ask someone for another chance or another try. If you don’t look out for yourself, who will?

3. Deadlines are not optional & they’re no one’s responsibility but your own.  
Figure out how you will remember deadlines and due dates because you just gotta. (Phone reminders, Google calendar, paper planner or calendar – you need to create a system.) If you miss a deadline it could literally mean you don’t get scholarship money and cannot go to school for a semester. Or, it could mean you can’t take an intro class that is required for your major and have to stay in school an extra semester at the end of your 4 (now 4.5) years.

4. It’s up to you to seek out resources & build connections.
Building relationships with professors, staff, and other students is important. It just makes life easier when you have people to talk to and folks you can ask for help when you need it. Plus, there are so many things happening on campus that can benefit you that you may never know about. Being connected to others means being in the know. And, when I say "things that can benefit you", I’m not just talking about some free pizza across campus.  I am talking about leadership positions, paid internships, scholarship opportunities, potential conference travel and the fancier kind of catering like sausage biscuits & meat pies ;). Also, don’t graduate from college without having a few people who can write you recommendation letters!

5. Lose your “whatever, it will all work out“ - mentality!
I have seen this laissez faire, “whatever, it will all work out” – mentality from too many students. I am here to tell you that it might not work out and things could have disastrous consequences if you don’t give enough f*cks to get paperwork turned in on time, show up to class, or ask for help when you need it. You don’t want to let the stress of college get you down but a personal sense of accountability is crucial. 

6. Keep your personal information accurate & up-to-date in your student account.
Sometimes people at school try to contact you for reasons you wouldn’t want your parents to know about. If I am calling you because you're failing Geology and wound up in my “Academic Early Alert” list, you might not be so pleased if the number on file is your parent's home number and I ring them when you’re not even living there. Although you may have listed your home number on your application, please update it to your personal cell phone once you get to school.  Of course, in those cases we’re always as vague as possible when speaking to parents but that’s an awkward situation that neither of us want to be in. Update your info. And, if someone calls or emails you to see if they can provide you with some support – TAKE IT!! So many schools don’t offer that kind of outreach!

7. Transcripts are forever!
I actually didn't know this fact until I finished my master's degree...transcripts stay with you FOREVER. FORRRREVVVVEEERRRRRRR!!!!!! This includes college credit you complete or attempt while you are in high school. It doesn’t matter if you are in a different state. It doesn’t matter if it was 20 years ago. They stick with you.
There’s an online clearinghouse that Admission Counselors look at to see all of the places you were ever registered as a student. And, when you apply to school, you usually have to provide transcripts from all of those institutions. Don’t even bother lying because you will be found out. And, then you’ll be looking foolish, too. Some schools offer an academic amnesty program where you can apply or appeal to have your old records removed but that’s usually a long process and not always not always possible.

8. Self-confidence, resourcefulness, & having a strong vision for your future are VASTLY more important than book smarts.
I’m here to tell you that your academic skills are not as important as your ability to believe in yourself and bounce back when shitty things happen. There are a million ways you can beef up your academic knowledge and skills – tutoring (often offered for free on campuses), YouTube videos, reading your textbook, studying & discussing with classmates, finding practice tests and activities online . . .just to name a few. But, what can’t be so easily taught is resilience, determination, and belief in yourself & your dreams! If you can cultivate those qualities, the rest is totally doable!

Look at yourself in the mirror every day and remind yourself how powerful, capable, and badass you are! Spend some time figuring out your vision – who you want to be & what you want to achieve. Hold that picture of the future you in your mind as a daily reminder of why you are working so hard. (P.S. I believe in this so much I wrote a workbook about it. Check it out here if you’re interested! )


1. On emails, BCC means “blind carbon copy”.
When you put a recipient’s email address in this tab, you send them a copy of the email secretly (or, blindly.) So, the other people on the email won't know that person was included. I would do this almost exclusively in situations where I need to "cover my ass" by bcc-ing a supervisor if i'm sending an email where things are getting sassy or heated. 

2.T/R means Tuesday & Thursday
Do not be that kid who doesn’t show up on Thursday. I have seen this happen more than once.

3. When you pronounce FAFSA, don’t add in an extra “F” and say FAFSFA.
Related to FAFSA, always remember to go to the .gov site! There are scammers out there!

4. You’re be amazed the answers you will find by simply searching terms on your school’s website.

5. Labs are often just one credit!
Or, are less credits than a full class. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re a full time student just because you’re in 4 classes. . . .if one is a lab – you’re probably not!

6. Do not underestimate the power of drinking water and getting a good night’s sleep. Also, coconut oil. Are y’all younger people on that bandwagon yet?

7. If you schedule a meeting with someone, show up.
Or, call in advance if you can’t make it. And, apologize promptly if you miss it.

8. If you send someone an email and they don’t respond within a few days, you can totally send a follow-up email.
By a follow-up email I mean something like “replying all” so they get the original email again and adding a new message by writing something like “Hi So & So, I wanted to follow-up on this email I sent last week. I would really like to meet with you before the end of the week to go over blah – blah – blah. . .closing & your name. I DO NOT MEAN SIMPLY RE-SENDING THE SAME EMAIL AGAIN (with no additional message). I find that to be incredibly rude and extra lazy.

9. If you transfer to a different college your GPA probably won’t transfer with you.
This is different for each college but, usually, you need a certain GPA to get in but once you’re there you start fresh. Meaning – don’t bomb the first semester and think it will just get averaged in to your previous work. It won’t!

10. Sometimes you can get book store vouchers to buy textbooks if your financial aid money is coming in but hasn’t arrived yet.
It never hurts to ask! This is usually more of a possibility if you take care of your financial aid early and submit all follow up forms and info right away.

11. School libraries often have textbooks on reserve. You can sometimes look at text books there if you are still waiting for yours to come in.  (Or, order it through inter library loan.) Also, some libraries have heavy duty scanners with scan to pdf functions so you can scan a chapter of your friend’s textbook and email it to yourself.


Here’s some real talk for you should you ever wind up in my college classroom. . .

  1. The syllabus should be your first place to find information. Please look there before you ask me questions.
  2. You don’t have to raise your hand to ask to go to the bathroom while you’re in class. If you have to go, just walk out and come back. (Leave your stuff at your seat so we know you’re coming back.
  3.  If I tell you to call me “Cat”, please don’t continue to call me “Ms. Cat”. I don’t care if we’re in the south ;)!
  4. Don’t you dare pack up your stuff before I am done talking and officially close out class. (This might be my second biggest pet peeve!)
  5. I can tell when you’re using your phone. Put it away.
  6. Even if your headphones aren’t on, it’s super rude to have them in your ears while I am teaching or we are meeting.
  7.  Better to ask (in advance) for an extension on something than just not turn it in or hand in crap.
  8. In terms of grades, some points are better than no points – it’s almost always better to turn in something than nothing. Related, it’s always better to attempt test questions than leave them blank. (Unless you’re taking the SAT!)
  9. Class discussions and participation help build a positive relationship. If you don’t talk in class or talk to me outside of class time, it’s hard for me to get to know you or like you.
  10.  I want everyone to get an A! But, if you don’t earn an A I am not doing my job if I simply give it to you.

Was this as helpful as it was long!? ;) If so, I have something else for you!  

I have more to say (shocker!) related to a few specific things that I see students encountering without enough information. This is, what I like to call, “I hope you don’t need this, but I want to tell you in case you do”- info!

On this downloadable, you’ll find some info and real talk about the following topics:

  • Playing the test score & placement test game if your ACT subject test scores are barley squeaking by
  • Satisfactory Academic Progress (like, what it is),  Academic Probation, & Appeals
  • What to consider when you want to withdraw from a class
  • Showing up & owning up if you mess up and encounter academic or legal judicial action.

Finally, I also created a downloadable pdf of this blog post (minus my intro info & curse words). Feel free to share it with a college student in your life. 

Sending positive energy to you all & hoping you're going into the semester with a little more information to help you make decisions that are best for you! 

#EFFTHELIST: Your List is Irrelevant & Will Make Your Business Irrelevant, Too

I am getting very into Periscope! The best part of this relatively new social media platform is that I can see my "internet friends & colleagues" in a real and unedited way sharing information, inspiration, and motivation. 

One of my all-time favorites, Regina Anaejionu of, shared a particularly moving 'scope the other day about encountering a "best of" list from a well-known company that was made up of only men. She, justifiably, felt some kind of way that the list was made up of men - and, mostly (if not exclusively) white men. 

So, today I am writing about a few of my favorite things: the strong female centered entrepreneurial community around me (including Regina Anaejionu), calling out injustice, and the essential role of diversity in our communities, businesses, and organizations. 

Eff the list 

Regina shared her reaction about receiving this list in her inbox and talked about her experiences seeing women and people of color left out of many of these "lists". She encouraged us to think about "lists" that were trying to make it on to - validation from others that we were looking for - and simply make it irrelevant. Let's create our own list! Eff their list! 

I love this perspective and support it 100%. . .and, want to take it a bit further. I maintain that we should make their lists irrelevant not only for our personal health and happiness, we should make them irrelevant because people and companies who produce these exclusionary lists are showing their true colors by being (not-so-lowkey) sexist and non-inclusive while demonstrating poor business practices

Several times in the last few months I have been interested in buying someone's product, attending their conference, or engaging with their content but have been turned off by their monolithic representation of customers/participants/contributors. 

"No, I do not care to buy your program because all of the testimonials you share are pictures of white guys in polos!" If you can't show diversity in your marketing and show that you're making an impact in multiple communities, as a consumer,  I don't want to give you my money, time, or attention. 

Not only am I mad at their hearts, lack of awareness, and/or general ignorance, I genuinely believe that those kind of practices are bad for business. And, for me, that's what this #EffTheList movement is also about.

Not only is it the "list", its the culture that makes it ok to publish that list! 

What kind of marketing director didn't notice "hey, it's only white guys on here!"?! How is the whole group of people working for a company, organization, or magazine, I'm not saying "hmmm, something's not right here." When these things happen it shows me about the culture of these organizations. A culture I don't want to support. 

The same holds true for Oprah Magazine telling people not to wear crop tops if their tummies aren't flat or Allure Magazine telling white women that we, too,  can have afros without any cultural or historical considerations. How is no one at these companies seeing the issues before we bring them up?

If the company who sent Regina that email had more women with influence. . . or, if Oprah had more body positive staffers and/or unapologetic fat women working for her magazine. . .or, if Allure had more people of color that with editorial power, or if the guy marketing his eBook course with white men in polo shirts had people in his life sharing this information with him,  maybe this sort of thing wouldn't happen. 

Speak Up! Speak Out! 

I am so glad Regina mentioned this on one of her scopes. I am glad that this is something being talked about in our beautiful, diverse, women-centered entrepreneurial community. 

Her talk promoted several of us to write our own #EffTheList pieces - each with our own spin on this topic. Both Davina from Love & Society and Dr. Joy Harden Bradford wrote great pieces that you should check out.

More and more people are speaking up & speaking out with information supporting more inclusive "lists" in our organizations and business. People like Mellody Hobson are speaking up about hiring practices and diverse companies (check out her TED Talk on this topic) and two fabulous tumblrs are speaking out by pointing out lack of diversity out in panels through the "Congrats, you have an all male panel!" & "Congrats, you have an all white pane!" pages! (Brilliant!) 

To these companies:
Please note that your lists are going to make you/your company irrelevant! Guess what!? I can do it better! Ladies - specifically my "internet friends & colleagues"-  can and are doing much better.Thanks for showing us precisely what we want to avoid in our lives and businesses! 

GOAL DIGGER PREVIEW: Staying Motivated to Achieve Your Goals

Today, GOAL DIGGER: A Guide to Approaching Your Future with Intention is available and this is the last blog post dedicated to previewing material from the workbook. 

GOAL DIGGER is a workbook for anyone who wants to work on connecting their long-term vision to shorter-term goals and everyday actions. Or, anyone who wants to think more deeply about their vision and plan to get there! 


Creating goals is exciting but many folks struggle with follow-through! Part #3 of GOAL DIGGER is dedicated to staying motivated to achieve your goals. I maintain the two best ways to stay motivated are to have a solid vision that you're excited to pursue and to reflect regularly. Part #1 of the workbook already has you digging deep into vision. Now, Part #3 offers several worksheets and prompts to help you regularly reflect on your goal progression. 

This download isn't a worksheet but a preview from some of Part #3's information for staying motivated! 

GOAL DIGGER is available today! Take advantage of my release special buy purchasing soon. Those who purchase will also free gain access to a webinar based on the workbook. Not only can you have all of these exercises and resources in front of you in workbook form, you can also hear from me as I walk you through each section. (Kind of like these blog posts - but in person and with more tips & examples!)  

I hope this download was helpful. Let me know!  Comment here or post on social media with the hashtag #GoalDiggersGuide! 

GOAL DIGGER PREVIEW: Breaking Down Your Long-Term Goals

In anticipation of my upcoming workbook launch, I am dedicating some blog posts to content and worksheets that you’ll find inside GOAL DIGGER: A Guide to Approaching Your Future with Intention

GOAL DIGGER is a workbook for anyone who wants to work on connecting their long-term vision to shorter-term goals and everyday actions. Or, anyone who wants to think more deeply about their vision and plan to get there! 


 A big part of my GOAL DIGGER’S GUIDE is using your long-term goals as a destination and then mapping your steps to that goal. You can do this by creating mid-term and short-term goals to get you to your long-term vision. In this worksheet download, you’ll find a great way to start visualizing this process.

Goals can be broken down into three types based on how long you'll take to achieve them. I use three categories: short, mid, and long-term goals. 


Think about goals as building upon each other. For each long-term goal, there are several mid-term goals along the way, and even more short-term goals under each mid-term goal.  I created the following chart to help you visualize it: 

Using the worksheet download, you can practice breaking down your goals. Write your long-term goals in the very right. Then, think about some mid-term goals that will help you get there. For example, if you want to buy a house in 5 years, you might have mid-term goals that consist of saving a certain amount of money, researching the rental market in your city, becoming part of a first-time-home-owner class or group, looking for a new apartment in the area of the city you’d like to move to so you can "test the waters", learning about the benefits of buying a home with rental capabilities (like a duplex or a double), or things of this nature. 

After you have mid-term goals plotted, you can think of what short term goals will help you get there. Using the example of home ownership, maybe one of your mid-term goals is exploring different parts of the city so you can make an informed decision about where to buy. Some short-term goals under that might include looking for an apartment in that part of town (if you really want to go all in), attending community events in that area, researching institutions in that area that might be important to you and your family like schools, churches, gyms, community centers, etc., or looking into property taxes, costs of homes in that area, and other financial considerations. 

For a peak at how I might fill this whole worksheet out, click here! (You can see that one one of the examples I shortened the time frame. I'm a proponent of making these activities your own and this is an example of how you can do that.) 


Part #2 of GOAL DIGGER contains more details about this process of breaking down goals. To learn more about GOAL DIGGER, visit this part of my website

GOAL DIGGER will be available later this week! Before it's release, I'll have one more blog post about Part #3 and another free download so you can see all the value that's packed in to this workbook! 

After you complete the worksheet, I'd love to know what you think! Comment here or post on social media with the hashtag #GoalDiggersGuide! 

GOAL DIGGER PREVIEW: Identifying Your Vision

I am excited to announce the upcoming launch of my goal setting workbook, GOAL DIGGER: A Guide to Approaching Your Future With IntentionTo give you a peek at what it’s all about, I’m sharing a few blog posts based on the content covered as well as some free printable worksheets! 



In Part #1 of my Goal Digger’s Guide, I share the importance of identifying your vision for the future in order to create long-term goals. Download your worksheet here to see a few of the exercises I use in the workbook and so you can better understand this blog post. 

 Before you set long-term goals, you need to think about something bigger – your vision! Vision is, simply, who you want to be and what you want to achieve. It is how you see your future self.  It’s your “dream”.

Taking the time to think about your vision is essential so your long-term goals align with where you actually see yourself in 10+ years.

 If thinking that far ahead feels difficult for you, try to take some of the pressure off and push through it. Here’s the thing. . . .even if your plans change (and, they will – to some degree), having that longer picture in mind will help give you direction.

Even if your vision for yourself changes dramatically in the next two years, you will be more productive in these two years if you have something you’re working toward! If you would prefer to wait until things are “perfectly clear” you might be waiting forever and you won’t be as productive or driven in the meantime because you’ll lack purpose and direction.

On the worksheet download you’ll find two of the exercises included in the workbook that will help you identify and/or hone your vision.

The first exercise on this worksheet is a Rapid Fire Brainstorm. I love this parameter-free brainstorming technique. When completing this, simply make a list of all the things you want to accomplish in your life. Nothing is off-limits. Nothing too big, small, or silly! (Just because you write it doesn’t mean it has to happen! This is a brainstorm. You’re just getting those ideas and dreams out of your head and on to paper!)  Need some more direction? Take a look at my brainstorm here.  

In the next exercise, Passions & Talents, there are three poignant prompts to get you thinking about what you love to do and what you're good at. In order to identify your vision for the future, it's helpful to think about your passions. To get at what you're passionate about, I like to explore what brings me joy and what makes me feel alive. Again, if you'd like an example, you can see my responses here


Part #1 of GOAL DIGGER contains more exercises for identifying your vision and goes on to help you create long-terms goals based on that vision. To learn more about GOAL DIGGER, visit this part of my website

GOAL DIGGER will be available later this week! Before it's release I'll have some more blog posts (complete with free downloads) so you can see all the value that's packed in to this workbook! 

After you complete the worksheet, I'd love to know what you think! Comment here or post on social media with the hashtag #GoalDiggersGuide! 



CURRENT FOCUS: Bright, Fresh, Action

One way to help stay focused on goals/growth/intentions is to create a few mini-mantras in the form of some short phrases or words. Lots of folks do this. (I suppose it’s loosely based on this idea.)

Well, it’s already 19 days into quarter three and I haven’t properly fleshed out my goals for this three month period. But, these mini-mantras, in the form of simple words, are helping me focus on what I want to tackle in the upcoming months and the kind of spirit and motivation I want to bring to my work and life.

Right now, my words are bright, fresh and action. 


Bright in terms of ideas, sunshine, and my disposition.

I want to continue to let myself brainstorm to create new and innovative ideas. Brainstorming is probably one of the things I do best. Now, not all ideas generated in a brainstorm need to come to fruition but I want to give myself license to generate them! If I am going to make impacts (and, let’s be real, money) in ways that align with my passions, I am certainly gonna have to be creative.

At the end of almost every summer I look back and think “dang, I hardly spent anytime outside!” This summer is honestly the first in years that I am not disappointed about time outdoors. Thanks to two beach trips and amazing pool lounging and workouts, I’ve been soaking up a lot of sun and will continue to do so for the rest of summer. Related – I have been spending loads of time inside writing lately. I want to be sure to get outside (and, like, enjoy being outside) once each day.

Staying sunny and bright internally is something I want to focus on, too. Not for any kind of women-need-to-smile-and-be-perky-b.s. but because I am more productive and like myself more when I am feeling sunnier on the inside. (Also, reminder to self, one needs to get a decent amount of sleep in order to be bright!)

Bonus bright reminder related to smarts.  I need to remind myself that I am smart because sometimes I don’t feel it.  Things from my past are in the back of my mind like my 3.48 undergrad GPA that wouldn’t round up to cum laude or, my present day struggles like my constant use of google to make sure I am spelling words properly (that’s right, sometimes they’re so jacked up even Microsoft Word can’t correct ‘em) and how intimidated I get when reading legal or government language. Specifically, I need to trust that I am fully competent and intelligent enough to succeed. And, in some areas, more competent than the many people. (That might come off as braggy but I’m leaving it.)


Fresh foods, fresh style, fresh ideas, and fresh sheets.

Summer is full of amazing fresh foods. There is no need for me to be eating non-fresh convenience meals when I have the time to be making yummy stuff full of veggies! I want lots more watermelon and weekend baskets from Hollygrove Farm & Market in my life.

I am such a creature of habit. I want to challenge myself to keep my styles and looks fresh. I love sharing them with y’all and it’s no fun if I am wearing the same skirt for an entire week. Related to fresh style, I am taking a pretty big hair plunge within the next few weeks. Just let me say I will be crossing something off of my bucketlist!

Fresh ideas align with what I mentioned earlier under “bright” and challenging myself to do things I haven’t done before – especially in terms of business.

Also, fresh sheets. With my increased sun time, the amount of coconut oil I am slathering on myself before bed is astounding. I need to wash my sheets more often. I did the other day and it just feels so nice.


This one is simple. I just want to act more and to focus on doing instead of planning to do.

I am a planner. I love thinking about the future and making plans that align with where I want to be. Similar to the ease with which brainstorming comes to me, turning those ideas into plans comes naturally. But I feel like I am spending more time doing that than actually acting on those ideas and plans.

Do you ever feel like you spend more time planning to go to the gym than actually going to the gym? Because I do.

I am proud of the actions I have taken related to my business in the last year. And, now is the time to kick it into overdrive. I can’t let myself get so caught up in planning that I fail to act. I need to trust that the plans I’ve already created are good and that my intuition is on my side, too.  Based on what I shared in my other words, it’s clear that I don’t want to stop generating ideas – quite the contrary, but I need these ideas to be accompanied with action. I’ve created this beautiful opportunity to focus on Cat Inspired full-time. Now is the time to act! 


With great excitement (and an excessive amount of Instagram quotes), I proud to announce that I am formally leaving my day job! To put it simply, I am transitioning my side hustles into my main hustle!

My passion projects and side jobs are now at the point where they can’t grow until I can dedicate more of my energy toward them. I have no shortage of motivation, ideas, action plans, and opportunities – but a distinct lack of time. So, I am taking a big step and ditching my day job.  In fact, today is my last day! 

What's Coming Next? 

Now, Cat’s Closet shop posts can become more frequent as I'll have more time to dedicate to thrifting and the logistics of running my shop. In addition to my Minneapolis shopping event, I hope to plan a few more pop up events for late-summer and fall.

I see Cat’s Closet as becoming a compliment to my other Cat Inspired endeavors. I love plus-size fashion and sharing my style. What’s more, I want to inspire and motivate women to love themselves and pursue their passions. This summer I’ll be actualizing life coaching and related webinars, reorganizing my website and publishing lots more content, and writing an e-workbook! Plus, I now have time to do more style consulting – rooted in body positivity, of course.

Also, I don’t write much about a part of my life that I really love – my role as a Local Childcare Coordinator for Cultural Care Au Pair. I work with families who are interested in hosting au pairs in their home for childcare and cultural exchange. My favorite part is meeting regularly with the local au pairs in New Orleans. It’s great for my #WomanOnAMission #WomenSupportingWomen #GlobalStudiesMajor soul! 

In addition to (or, well, because of) this major job change, June is actually bringing lots of travel and excitement! My time is now my own so travel is more of a possibility! First, this weekend I'm headed to the beach for a fun Bachelorette weekend for one of my friends. Then, home to Minnesota for some family time, my best friends’ wedding, seeing my MN folks, and a pop-up shopping event at a fab Minneapolis thrift shop. Finally, I'm taking a trip to Miami to reunite with two lovely ladies that I studied abroad with years ago. 

This is something I have been thinking about and working toward for some time. I am excited to share this with you and look forward to updating y'all along the way! I want to be honest and open about my process to share the excitements and struggles of being a self-employed woman on a mission! 

Naturally, I have some fear about this major life change! But I continue to remind myself that if anyone can turn their passions into a thriving business and life - it's me and that no time is ever perfect - so I am creating my own opportunities and getting closer to living the life I've imagined.  

30 BEFORE 30: Bucketlist

Today is my golden birthday! As I turn 28, I thought it would be a perfect time to share a "30 Before 30" Bucketlist! This is actually my first bucketlist. I am more of a goal setting/dreaming/planning kind of lady, so lists of goals are more common for me. (For example, I currently have ten 2nd quarter/April, May, June goals that I am working on. Those align with my year and long-term goals, etc., etc., etc. That's just the kind of person I am.) 

A bucketlist feels different to me. Sure, some of the items on this list relate to goals I am working on, but many are just fun things I want to experience or chances I want to take. Some are things I have been meaning to do but haven't put a deadline on yet. Or, things that I want to do again! 

I was careful to craft a list that was not too serious! Plus, I made sure to include multiple parts of myself and not just list off my business-related dreams or financial goals. I've actually been thinking about many of these things for a while and am really excited to share them with you here! 

So, without further adieu, here are 30 things I want to do within the next two years - before I am 30! 

30 Before 30 Bucketlist

  1. Go on a cruise

  2. Take boudoir photos

  3. Grow an herb garden

  4. Lead a zumba class

  5. Cut my hair short

  6. Eat crawfish out of the shell

  7. Reconnect with my German host family

  8. Go blonde

  9. Work exclusively for myself

  10. Get a large, amazing arm tattoo

  11. Visit at least 2 countries I’ve never traveled to before

  12. Take a solo relaxation, meditation, visioning vacation

  13. Develop a strong relationship with a mentor

  14. Visit at least 2 states or major US cities I’ve never visited before

  15. Pay off credit cards

  16. Buy a new car (Or, have money saved for that time!. . .It’ll be a miracle if my car is still kickin’ in 2 years.)

  17. Do a photo shoot by murals and pretty fences around NOLA

  18. Organize and lead a Women’s Retreat

  19. Publish something

  20. Go back to Germany to visit (or live for a short time)

  21. Start investing

  22. Have a stay-cation weekend in New Orleans

  23. Hike Stone Mountain in Atlanta (again)

  24. Donate a large (for me) sum of money

  25. Be on a podcast

  26. Drive a manual car again

  27. Eat vegan again for at least 1 month

  28. Get sister tattoos with my sis

  29. Develop a group of close girlfriends in New Orleans

  30. Go to a musical or dinner theatre show

What's on your bucketlist? Do we have any things in common? Let me know in the comments below! 

INSPIRING WOMEN: Project Reflection

It has been an honor to celebrate all of the amazing women in my circle throughout March!  I decided I wanted to take on a creative project for Women’s History Month shortly after I started my blog. I couldn't wait till March came around so I could make it a reality. Now that the project is almost two weeks behind me, I'd like to share some reflections from Inspiring Women: Celebrating Women In My Circle.


1. The women in my life are so dang amazing! Each woman I highlighted send me a short bio along with her answers to the three prompts and, without fail, everyone included something in their bios or responses that I didn’t know about them. Further reminders of how awesome the ladies around me are! 

2. This project had me missing people, places, and hairstyles! While writing about folks that have been such a big part of my history, I couldn't help but get caught up in so many amazing memories! Travel. . .college. . .grad school. . .too many great times in my life. Also, it got me thinking about hairstyles. There are some hair changes on the horizon!

3. Writing a piece a day for the month was a lot of work.  I am so, so glad I did - but a blog post a day is quite an undertaking. . . especially with my current work/life load. If any of y'all were paying close attention you may have noticed how, at the beginning of the month, I had the daily post out by 9AM. And, by the end of the month, I was so behind that I put 4 out in one day. (Please note that any delay in people's posts was a direct result of my business/procrastination/etc. and not at all a reflection on them!) Related to time and making enough time for my passions, in particular, y'all will have to stay tuned because I have some very exciting information that I'll be sharing publicly soon.

4. I need to work on my blog format. Because I now have 30+ blog posts on a similar topic, I realize that I need to find a better way to let readers search through categories. Currently, there’s no proper way to search my blog posts.  So, if you look now, it’s all bios and it’s difficult to access my previous content. This is just giving me the push I need to do some work with my blog and, perhaps, change the Squarespace theme. (Changes to come!!) 


5. I couldn’t help but think about each person’s Top 5 Strengths! Through my work coaching and teaching, I engage quite a bit with StrengthsQuest. Essentially, SQ is a inventory, through Gallup, that identifies one's “Top 5” themes of talent or, strengths. I have done a wide variety of personality assessments and this is, by far, my favorite! The more I work with it, the more I feel its accuracy and impact.  

As I was writing each piece, I caught myself wondering the strengths of my friends. Some folks, especially those working in Student Affairs, have done this assessment so I know their strengths but I couldn't help wondering about others. As I take on Life Coaching in the upcoming months, I look forward to incorporating StengthsQuest into my sessions with women as they work to love themselves and achieve their goals. 

6. This list of 31 women isn't exhaustive. There are many other important and inspirational ladies in my life – both those I know personally and some that I do not. This project is a reminder of how women around me have shaped my personal history. It brings me joy to share them and their amazing passions and inspirations with the world. As I grow my business, I want to make sure I am highlighting the talent and expertise from women around me in the same way.

7. Women supporting women. . . is everything. I’ve been using the hashtag #WomenSupportingWomen on Instagram for a while.  This is a mantra and philosophy that has become something I believe in deeply and am constantly seeking to put into practice in my life. I have a lot to say about this. . .so much that I am going to save it for an upcoming blog post (or two).


Finally, THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! Thank you to those who read along throughout the month! Thank you to the amazing folks who agreed to be part of this! Thanks oh-so-much to those of you who shared and helped pub this project! All of this means so much to me!  

I don’t know how long I’ll keep the calendar up for – but it will certainly be a while. The images and collages of the women in this project are also on my Instagram. You can see them all using the hashtag #CelebratingWomenInMyCircle. Again, thanks so much for reading!


I intentionally started and ended my calendar with my family and, with this post, I definitely “saved the best for last”. My mom, Becky Paroubek, is the original inspiring women in my life. My mom is smart, resourceful, thrifty, creative, kind, thoughtful, humble, supportive, and fun.

My mom describes herself as “a 50-something who is too young to retire, but old enough to get a Senior Discount at Goodwill :-)”.  (This is too accurate. When she visited me last summer, she joined me on a  thrifting adventure and I asked her to help me utilize the 15% off Senior Citizen Discount! She was an amazing sport about it!)

Mom has been a woman in a non-traditional occupation, computer programming, since 1985 and has experienced gender discrimination in the workplace and job market.  She is a strong woman who sticks up for what she believes in – in the work place and beyond. As a computer programmer, my mom is quite computer savvy. In fact, for most of my life, I have called to seek her assistance on many technology related issues. (Once, I even called her from Germany to help me out when I was an exchange student.) Lately, with the creation of my online store and blog, I think I’ve gotten a little better in that department. She is always still happy to help – for which I am very grateful!

My mom supports me unconditionally. She will always listen to me if I have a decision or tough choice to make, but never pushes her opinions on me. She has that great skill of simply asking questions to help me come to the right conclusion. And, literally, no matter what I do she is supportive of my choices and decisions.  

As I’ve grown up, it’s been hard for me to identify with friends who have had overbearing or overly involved parents. (You know the type. . .parents that are not-so-subtly living vicariously through their children. Or, those who are quick to be pushy or overly assertive with their wants and demands.) This is something I have literally never experienced from my mom.

I've always loved and connected with my mom. And, I like her more and more as I grow older. While I have furthered my education and deepened my understanding about social issues, my mom has always been interested and willing to learn, too. From conversation with my peers, this is not typical. Not just every parent will read the “Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria” book you give to them and talk with you about race and racial inequity in America. Unlike some parents who are concerned with keeping their parent and child power dynamics in tact, my mom often expresses how she benefits from learning from me. What an amazing, humble woman! Because, of course, I would never understand these things were it not for the education, care, and opportunities she supported or provided for me.

Like I mentioned when I highlighted her at the beginning of the month, my sister and I have a lot of very similar views about life and are two ultra-confident ladies. Although my mom doesn't have all of the same characteristics or views that we do, I am certain that the way she raised us – to love others and love ourselves—is to credit for our perspectives. My mom did so many critical things right in raising us. She talked with us, encouraged us to imagine and “play pretend”, was active with us, and was honest with us.

Nowadays, I usually catch up with my mom every few weeks over the phone. It’s fun to update her on all of my excitements and life developments because she always shares in my joy.  I am deeply fortunate to have the mom I do. I value you her so very much! She is the original inspiring woman in my life.

Read about my mom’s inspirations and advice below. . .

What do you care about deeply?

"Being a Child of God, my friends and family, social justice, the value of [life long] education and travel, continuously striving to live a balanced life, and incorporating fun into all avenues of my life whether at work, or at play."

Who are women in your life or throughout history that inspire you?

"Bernice Polivoda (Cat’s Grandmother):  Bernice was graceful and calm with a ton of class. Besides being an excellent homemaker, she was a stable, loving, and supportive influence to myself and all those around her. Bernice valued learning and placed reading and travel as high priorities in her life. She was a fantastic role model!"

"Pat Pallardy:  Pat created Set Free 2 Enjoy which is a women’s recreational group in the La Crosse, WI area.  Set Free 2 Enjoy fills a void in women’s lives by offering organized recreational activities (hiking, kayaking, biking, cross country skiing, playing cards, having dinner, seeing a play, etc.) to women who are in need of an activity partner.  The group is a community of women, young and old, who are now able to join with other women to explore and have fun!  Pat is passionate, energetic, enthusiastic, extremely knowledgeable and deeply spiritual - an awesome woman who provides incredible opportunities for women’s recreation and has created a community of love and laughter."

"Caitlin Polivoda and Lillia Polivoda (my daughters):  My two daughters are totally different yet remarkably the same when it comes to being confident young women who are smart, savvy, and exceptional.  More than that, they are each uniquely motivated by caring spirits and a true desire to help to make this world a better place - to make a difference in the world and in the lives they touch." [Thanks, Mom!]

"By watching how my daughters live their lives, learning from them, and by the power of osmosis (ha!) Cat and Lilly continuously inspire me to be the best I can be."

If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be and why?

"You are worthy, and you are wonderful just the way you are:  don’t determine your self-worth from others’ opinions; rather find it in yourself.  Love yourself and embrace who you are – the way God made you!" 

"Be able to look at yourself in the mirror each morning and smile:  knowing you have stayed true to your soul."

"You cannot do it alone:  Well, you can but it probably won’t be as much fun, or as good. Self-determination and pride can be useful and also self-fulfilling.  But, it is also important to remember that there is great worth in seeking the opinion and support of trusted friends.  Asking for help can be one of the strongest things you ever do.  And, by working collaboratively, you will find that trusting others and working together will create a richer experience and produce a better outcome."

This March, I have been celebrating all the amazing women around me! Sharing women who have influenced me and make up my personal history. As the month goes on, you can see all my Inspiring Women posts here!

INSPIRING WOMEN: Marilyn Mcintyre

Marilyn Mcintyre is my boyfriend, Tony’s, mom. From seeing her role model self-confidence, to noticing the sweet way she interacts with her son, to the lovely things she has done for me throughout my time in New Orleans – she is an inspiring woman in my life. Marilyn is loyal, caring, honest, resourceful, confident and dynamic.

Marilyn was born and raised in Minnesota. She moved to New Orleans in 2010 to join Tony who has been down here since 2008. She is, without a doubt, her son’s number one fan. Something I find inspiring about Marilyn is her role as a mother. She wanted her son to have a different childhood and background than she did and worked hard to create it. She values education and worked to make sure this was a reality for Tony. She made sure her son could succeed. Marilyn is fiercely protective of him and very, very proud.  Now, and when he was growing up, Marilyn reminded Tony that he is a king and does not let him forget it.

Marilyn is currently a home health care provider.  When she was in Minnesota, Marilyn was an anesthesia support specialist in labor and delivery. I don’t get to see Marilyn with her patients but, I can tell you, if I was ill and needed someone to take care of me, I think she would be the best person. She is nurturing and warm. Plus, she has a realness and “tell it like it is” nature to her, which I love.

Marilyn is thoughtful and caring. She’s always sending Tony over to my place with snacks or delicious left-overs. She’s given me several pieces of furniture and things to spruce up my apartment. And, I never miss a holiday dinner in New Orleans!

Marilyn is a gal on the go! She is often traveling back to Minnesota and having her friends visit her here in NOLA. I love the value she places on travel and making time for those around her. (My haven’t-been-to-MN-in-a-year-and-a-half self could learn something from her!)

Marilyn is proud of the woman that she is today. Everything she’s gone through has brought her to where she is today. I love this perspective and try to ascribe to it, as well.

I am happy Marilyn is in my life - through Tony. It’s so nice to have a stable force down here. Especially when Tony is away on tour, it sets my mind at ease to know she’s there if I need her. Plus, it helps that we can both lament how much we miss him when I help them connect over skype sessions!

I am certain, at some point, Tony will be an exceptional father and I know this will be greatly influenced by his experiences growing up and his mom’s role in his life. And, when Tony tells me about the cute things he and his mom used to do, I can’t help but think of Marilyn as a grandma playing a special role in her grandkid’s lives . . . reminding each of them that they’re kings and queens.

Read about Marilyn’s inspirations and advice for her former self below. . .

What inspires you?

Strength and empowering women inspire Marilyn. As someone who has gone through a lot she wants to help other women. She sees many women down on themselves and caught in the trap of doing what other want them to do instead of being true to themselves.

Who are women in your life or throughout history who have inspired you?

Iyanla Vanzant! Marilyn said Iyanla can pinpoint her feelings like no one else can. In fact, sometimes she can bring up thoughts or feelings she didn’t know she had inside. And, Iyanla has a spiritual connection to her work and empowerment. When Marilyn mentioned her, I was not surprised. She shares a lot of her quotes and words over social media – which I enjoy!

What advice would you give your younger self?

Marilyn would say “I love you” because wished she would have heard that more. She’d reminded her that “you really are more than you thought you were”! And, she’d give her a hug!


This March, I am celebrating all the amazing women around me! Sharing women who have influenced me and make up my personal history. As the month goes on, you can see all my Inspiring Women posts here

INSPIRING WOMEN: Dr. Cecilia E. Suarez

Dr. Cecilia E. Suarez, better known as "CC", entered my circle in 2012 through my involvement in TPE. TPE (The Placement Exchange) is a Student Affairs employment and resource conference that takes place annually. I was fortunate to be selected as a TPE intern for the 2012 conference in Phoenix. CC was one of our fearless leaders and has been an inspiring woman in my life since.

CC is smart, passionate, social justice focused, supportive, determined, and kind.

As a graduate student completing my Masters of Science in Training & Development, I was, of course, on my professional development hustle. Signing up for this and that, applying for every opportunity that I could find, taking on more than I probably should of but enjoying the experiences and connections that they brought into my young professional life. I don’t remember how I became aware of the TPE Ambassador and Intern positions – but I am so thankful I did!

The opportunity to be a TPE Intern was one of the best professional development opportunities I have experienced. And, through my role as an intern, I was able to build relationships with some of the most amazing people! Not only was I able to get to know a fabulous group of interns – other grad students in Student Affairs – I connected with some real movers and shakers in Higher Ed. This, of course, includes CC who, this past year, was the Event Chair of TPE in New Orleans.

CC was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas.  She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Miami and majored in biology and elementary education.  Upon completing her Bachelors degree, CC enrolled at Miami University of Ohio where she graduated with a Masters of Science in Education in 2007.

After graduation, CC worked at New York University as the Diversity Educator in the Department of Residential Life and Housing Services for 3 years.  In 2014, Cecilia became Dr. Suarez and graduated with her PhD from The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Education Policy Studies. Her research focuses on access and equity for students of color in higher education, particularly first generation women of color. CC currently serves as a faculty member at the University of Illinois in the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences and teaches for the Leadership Studies Program. CC’s current research includes “Perceptions and Opportunities of Leadership Among Latino College Students” and “Intersectionalities of Identity among Women of Color in Academia”.

I admire so much about CC. She is the only women I have highlighted this month to have earned her PhD. I admire her brilliance and scholarship while staying true to herself and her identity. She has a funky personal style. (In fact, she was the inspiration for my undercut. I still am not brave enough to have designs shaved in it, though!) She also remains connected to her culture and identity and uses her position in academia to support underrepresented voices. And, CC is a genuine and engaging lady who is fun to be around.

After we met at TPE 2012, I’ve been able to reconnect with CC a few times.  I saw her the next year when I job searched at the conference and then several times here in New Orleans. In fact, last year CC and her crew (three other fab folks) all crammed into my tiny apartment for Mardi Gras. That was actually my first Mardi Gras in the city, so it was great to spend some of it with those old pros! ;) And, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing CC a few times this spring when she was down here for a conference and, just last week, at TPE 2015 (which she chaired! Woop woop!)!

Read about CC’s inspirations and words of advice below. . .

What inspires you?

“I am constantly inspired by people who believe that their lives are much more than just about them. Individuals who are focused on ensuring that every person in society has equal access to human rights inspire me. I am inspired by the strength of the human spirit to find the overall good in things. Although we face many challenges on a daily basis, people's LOVE inspires me.”

Who are women in your life or throughout history that inspire you?

“My mother and grandmother are 2 women who have inspired me to continue "The Good Fight". Raised by these 2 strong women, I learned to never settle, always focus on achieving my goals, no matter what others say, and live the fullest life possible. Although my mother and grandmother never went to college, they were the smartest women I know. They showed me how to be selfless and to always remember to reach my hand outward to help somebody along my journey. Although selfless, my mother is and my grandmother was FIESTY! Don't take their niceness for weakness. They were quick to tell you how it was if they felt like you weren't be fair or honest. Seeing them have a strong voice and strong values allowed me to grow into a SPIT FIRE womyn King who doesn't take "wooden nickels" from anyone!”

If you had one piece of advice for your younger self, what would it be and why?

“Don't allow others to tell you your worth! Your value is based off of your own perspective and does not need to be outwardly validated. Don't do things half-heartedly because you think someone will be mad at you and not think you are a good person. If you don't want to go to a party, DON'T GO! If you don't want to hang out with people because you don't really like them, but don't want to be seen as a "mean" person, DON'T HANG OUT WITH THEM! Your love and value comes from within! Remember not to lose yourself in relationships: friendship, family, or romantic. REMAIN yourself and do not adapt only to the needs of the other person. Reciprocity is key because, baby girl, you're amazing!”



This March, I am celebrating all the amazing women around me! Sharing women who have influenced me and make up my personal history. As the month goes on, you can see all my Inspiring Women posts here!


Kate Seewald is my one of my closest friends from my exchange year in Germany. While I was halfway through the school year studying in Frankfurt in 2005-2006, Kate had just arrived from Australia. We studied at the same high school for a semester and had lots of adventures together in Frankfurt. Almost ten years later, I stay in touch with Kate and impressed with her important work with women around the world.

Kate is driven, globally aware, smart, dedicated to women-centered causes, and lots of fun.  

As an exchange student, I lived with two host families in two different cities in the Frankfurt area - half of the year with each. Both were wonderful and everything I needed at the time. For the second half of my exchange year, I lived directly in the city and attended Heinrich von Gagern Gymnasium. Shortly after I arrived, Kate (also with Rotary International – my program) started at Gagern, too.

We were sort of two peas on a pod! Kate and Cat – both English speakers, both on exchange, both awkward and awesome ladies trying to speak German and make our way in Deutschland. We spent a great deal of time together exploring the Frankfurt area. We regularly attended the English movie theatre, sat in the sun on the banks of the Main River, visited each other at our host family’s houses, and discussed all of our linguistic and cultural differences. For instance, at the time, Kate legitimately thought that all US phone numbers included 555 – like in the movies! And, I had no idea about word differences like capsicums (peppers) and prawns (shrimp). (My world was altered when I realized that putting on a fake Australian accent and saying “Let’s put another shrimp on the barbie” was not at all accurate as Australians don’t even say “shrimp”!)

Kate was born in a small country town in Australia (hilariously called Wagga Wagga) and moved around a lot in remote New South Wales growing up as her dad was in the police force. When she was 17, she left home to live in Frankfurt as an exchange student – where our paths crossed. Kate says that this was probably the most pivotal, influential experience of her life. (For real! Like I mentioned in an earlier post, the beauty, challenge, and adventure of my exchange experience had a wildly positive impact of my life, as well.)

After earning a bachelor's degree in International Relations and Anthropology, Kate completed a Master's in Human Rights in the hopes of someday working on women's rights and global feminist issues. After two long years and five internships in four countries, including with the UN in Palestine and with Save the Children in Papua New Guinea, she finally landed a job with the INGO ActionAid International in London. She has worked with them on their Safe Cities for Women Campaign (which aims to eradicate sexual violence in city streets), within the organization’s International Secretariat for a couple of years, and now she’s working with ActionAid Cambodia for 2015 in order to support their national campaigning efforts.

While in Frankfurt, Kate and I became very close. I shared, what might have been, the best summer of my entire life with Kate. Summer 2006 was when Germany hosted the World Cup. Games were played all over the country – some in Frankfurt. We never went to the games at the stadium but took part in the large crowds and festivities in the city center and along the Main River. People from all over the world were visiting Frankfurt and Kate and I were happy to party with all of them! We were expert English speakers so had no trouble chatting with everyone and could always resort to secret talks in German in front of our new friends – if necessary.

That summer was everything. In addition to the fantastic World Cup festivities, the weather was finally getting warmer, it was my final months in Frankfurt – a city that, by then, I was able to easily navigate, (for better or worse, I had sort of entered the I.D.G.A.F. phase in terms of school and pleasing my host family), I had built strong ties with a few other exchange students and my amazing German girlfriends (miss you Caro, Laura, und Selma!) and I was just soaking it all in. Kate was at a different time in her exchange having come 6 months after me (as the school years are different in the southern hemisphere), but it was wonderful to be able to spend time with her toward the end of my year.

Even though we literally come from half a world away from each other, I have been able to see Kate twice since we studied together in 2006. In 2010 when I was studying again in Germany, Kate happened to be doing a Europe trip and she was able to visit me in Trier! And, last year, when Tony toured London and Paris, I was able to see Kate again as she was living in London at the time.

I greatly admire the work Kate is doing. Her feminist spirit is bold and is visible in her work with ActionAid (and, in her previous positions). She is also thoughtful and culturally aware so, therefore, is invested in working with women in various communities - not for them. Also, she’s probably the most globetrotting women in my circle! (See work and internship experiences above!) Kate is also just a really fun lady! When we catch up we share a perfect mix of laughs and deep conversations. I look forward to staying in touch with her forever and hope to see her face to face sooner rather than later!

Read about Kate’s inspirations and advice below. . .

What inspires you?

My lady friends and colleagues inspire me! I am constantly amazed by the tenacity and courage of the women in my life, and the women that I've had the opportunity to meet through my work. From young women in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, patrolling the streets with flashlights at night in groups to 'light up the dark' and look out for their fellow women who might be in trouble, to young lesbian women and garment workers in Cambodia who are shouting out against the many injustices they face on a daily basis, to activist women in Palestine organising themselves in peaceful protest against the unlawful occupation of their land by Israel. Women are incredible! The sudden mainstreaming of feminism, even (or especially!) across the Global South over the past couple of years has been incredible to watch and I can only hope it continues - of course we as women are all different and our cultural and political contexts unique - but we are all stronger in our cause when we are united. That's what is exciting me at the moment.”

Who are women in your life of throughout history that inspire you?

It has to be Rachel Corrie. I'm getting goosebumps right now just thinking about her. She was 23 when she was killed by an Israeli soldier who crushed her with a bulldozer, as she stood unarmed in front of a Gazan home that was about to be illegally destroyed. There is now a Rachel Corrie street in Ramallah.”

“Other women I adore include Marie Colvin, an amazing journalist who proved to us that foreign correspondence isn't just a boy's game - she was tragically killed in Syria as she covered the conflict in 2012. And Sophie Scholl, a young activist who at 22 was killed by the Nazis for distributing anti-regime leaflets at her local university. A true campaigner.”

If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be and why?

“You're okay! You're doing okay, and you'll be okay. None of it matters as much as you think it does right now. I had a really rough final year of school, (exactly 10 years ago now) and I thought that I would never leave those days behind me. Turns out, once you do leave a tiny country town in the middle of the Australian countryside, it's pretty easy to never go back! I wish I could tell myself that I was about to leave it all behind, and things were about to get a hell of a lot better :)”


This March, I am celebrating all the amazing women around me! Sharing women who have influenced me and make up my personal history. As the month goes on, you can see all my Inspiring Women posts here!


I know they’re not one person, but I have been working with a special group of students this semester that I want to recognize them as inspiring people in my life. The students in my Body Positive FIG have given me life this semester. Our group, made up mostly of women, has created a supportive and empowering space for learning, reflection, and conversation.  

Last semester, a few students at the University of New Orleans approached me about leading a FIG (First-year Interest Group) focused on body positivity. This was the first time students had requested a topic like this I was excited by their energy! As I am passionate about body positivity and sharing self-love, I was happy to be the staff member to lead the group. Big shoutouts to Miranda LeBeau, Toni Chauppetta, and Alyssa Moore for voicing their desires and pursuing the creating of this FIG.

Our group meets weekly and is made up of students mostly in their freshman through junior years. We’re a small group - about 5 students come together every week and about 5 more have joined us on and off. Each week we check in with each other. I usually share information or present an activity and then we discuss. We’ve covered topics like bullying and discrimination, pressure from family members, diet industry lies, the Health at Every Size movement, the media, working out because you love your body, the unrealistic standard of beauty, and positive self-talk.

As a group, the students put together a program for UNO’s Diversity Week and Eating Disorder Awareness Week in February. It was a beautiful event that centered on individuals sharing stories about themselves, their bodies, and their personal body image.  The group transformed a meeting room into a more intimate presentation space and filled the walls with positive quotes and messages. Many students within our group spoke and they invited others to speak, too. Topics included natural hair, bullying and body size discrimination, motherhood, eating disorders, being labeled “skinny”, personal style and expression, and more. Energy in the room was powerful, in fact, a few audience members hadn’t planned to speak but were compelled to share their stories.

I am really impressed by the students in our FIG. They are brilliant people who are learning to question what they’ve been taught and reframe their ideas of themselves and beauty. They’re considering intersectionality and thinking about body size, body image, and standards of beauty within the context of multiple identities. Plus, they are extremely supportive of each other. Thursdays at 2PM when we meet are one of my favorite parts of the week.  They’re even considering channeling the energy around this into a student group so they can continue these conversations and activities in years to come.

Read what some of the folks in our group share what inspires them, women who inspire them, and advice for their younger selves below. . .

What inspires you?

“I inspire myself. I want to create the best life for myself. Be the best person I can. So, I can be a role model for others. I never had role models growing up. So, I want to be one for others and myself.” – Toni Chauppetta

“My poetry inspires me. It helps me cleanse myself of any negative energy. Words are powerful and a short phrase can go a long way.” – Keydra Jones

“People living their lives exactly as they see fit: living for themselves and no one else.” – Dominque Vancourt

“What inspires me is kindness. Seeing people who are genuinely kind to others regardless of who they are, gives me hope. It reminds me that there is a reason for life.” – Miranda LeBeau


What women in your life or throughout history inspire you?

“My mom inspires me every day. She possesses the strength, courage, and grace I wish I had.” – Keydra Jones

“There are many women in my life who inspire me I honestly think that every woman I have met inspired me in one way or another. Instead of giving specific names I'll list off the qualities that they have that make some inspirational: kind, genuine, brave enough to stand up for themselves and also for others, not afraid to admit their mistakes, and not afraid to be themselves.” - Miranda LeBeau

“Maya Washington. She's a YouTube persona and always talks about how her life hasn't been really easy and I relate strongly to her. So she inspires me to not let the little shitty things bog me down.” - Dominque Vancourt


If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be and why?

That it's okay to be different. We weren't made to please everyone. Learn how to love yourself and be happy. Someday someone will come along and love you too. I've always struggled with loving myself and if I could would've started younger, I would probably be more comfortable with my body.” – Keydra Jones

“If I could, I would tell myself ‘you do you’. I was always worried about being judged as a kid. I'd tell myself 'Hey! You will be judged no matter what. So, you know what? Might as well be yourself and have fun. It is what it is, boo. You are amazing as you are'.” – Toni Chauppetta

“I would like to tell myself that it's okay to be weird and that you're the only one who can tell you who you are.” - Dominque Vancourt

“I would tell my younger self to never give up I would tell her to always try things, no matter how scary they are, and always stick to what she's passionate about. And also that I love her, even when it doesn't seem like it.”  – Miranda LeBeau

The pictures below are from our event. About half of the folks pictured are regular FIG members and the other half were audience members.


This March, I am celebrating all the amazing women around me! Sharing women who have influenced me and make up my personal history. As the month goes on, you can see all my Inspiring Women posts here!