What are You Putting on Repeat?


I used to think that if I could just get it right this time, then I’d be set for life. An older, wiser person (or just myself a couple years later) would have told me that life doesn’t work like that.

Your life isn’t made up of the few big moments when you did well; it’s made up of your everyday: work, sleep, food, and everything in between.

The big events are like sprinkles on top of your ice cream – they make it look nicer and add a little flavor but no matter how much you add, it’s still called ice cream.

I’m beginning to realize how much of my life is made up habits – the things that I do over and over. Nicole Krauss describes habits in the book, Man Walks Into a Room:

“Without habits, we’d be unidentifiable.
We’d have to reinvent ourselves every minute.”

I was struck by the truth of that statement. My habits paint a picture of who I am and what I believe in; when I change my habits, I am reinventing myself.

Well, talk about pressure – and I thought my daily life was something I could just forget after a week or so passed. Seriously, can you even remember what you did two Wednesdays ago? My daily choices are in some ways even more important than the big ones. It’s the small things that are repeated.

I suddenly want to write up a list of daily habits for each area of my life:

  • Run six miles.
  • Drink a gallon of water.
  • Serve in a homeless shelter.
  • Write a book…

Okay, just kidding.

Reasonable Daily Habits

  1. exercise for 15 minutes
  2. drink a cup of hot tea
  3. read a chapter of a book I like
  4. eat dinner with my family
  5. start my morning with prayer

These things are small and may not mean much by themselves, but little things add up.

Being intentional about my habits also helps insure that I’m living the life I desire for myself. Even if I can’t remember what I did last week, I’ll know that it included my daily habits – actions that I can be proud of and stand behind.

What are you doing with your daily life?

An Artist’s Passion

bluelikejazz If you believe something, passionately, people will follow you.
People hardly care what you believe, as long as you believe something.
If you are passionate about something, people will follow you because they
think you know something they don’t, a clue to the meaning of the universe.
—Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

Leadership frequently follows passion, but a lot of times we are unaware of our role as leaders – especially artists.

Unless your art is hiding in the back corner of your underwear drawer or deep within your computer archives, people are seeing it and being impacted.

At the same time, the internet makes it easy for people to view your art silently and anonymously so you never truly know the span of your influence.

It’s almost like a one way mirror: you’re sitting in a room creating your art, but when you look up all you see is yourself.

However, if you hit that little upload button…


…suddenly all the world can stand on the other side of the mirror and watch what you’ve created. It may have started out as pure self expression, but it’s no longer just for you.

This plays out in social media as well. In fact, I made it a personal rule to abstain from posting angry, depressing, or negative statuses.

Here’s why:

  • The world is already so messed up, why put out more negative thoughts?
  • People are already struggling, why increase the burden by always talking about sad things?
  • Isn’t it nice when you scroll through your feed and an inspiring quote jumps out at you?
  • Don’t you love when someone is describing how grateful they are?

It gives me a little shot of hope.

And yet, the one who posted it will never know.

What are you putting out there?

What are you passionate about?

Is that what you want to lead more people to do or believe?

Artist Questions – Am I Any Good?

childhood-sketch-art Guest post by someone who makes me question, ponder, and think about things from a new perspective… my daughter.

I often am at a loss when it comes to answering the dreaded question: “So, are you any good?” I think I’m pretty good, but what if they see me in action and think differently? Then I’ll have made myself look poorly skilled and arrogant! On the other hand, if I say I’m not good then they won’t take me seriously. Perhaps the idea of being “any good” is just a game of comparison. Maybe I can only compare my own progress, like the image at the beginning of this article compared with the more recent one below. [Read more…]

Get Your Photos Organized: Tips From an Expert

Article #3 in the guest blog post series by Megan Spears. Make sure to read the first two to get your space and stuff organized!


Finally, the most important part of our work, the photograph. If you missed the first two segments on your space and your stuff, be sure to go back and check them out! What’s interesting to me is that without the photos we wouldn’t have a need for scrapbook space or scrapbook stuff, so getting those organized is pretty important.

Thankfully, if you have jumped into the 21st century the digital era has made the act of organizing photos so much easier for us. They will date themselves and even organize themselves without duplication. It’s amazing!

The problem is, if you have older photos you still need to get them organized. Also, if you are like me and have become the “keeper of all family photos just because you scrapbooker,” it’s a job in itself to organize photos that are 50+ years old that people keep sending you. No worries, it’s all good!

PLEASE NOTE: I am not a professional photographer, nor am I a professional at knowing the elements of photographs. I always encourage my clients to check with a professional if you have a unique question or concern pertaining to the quality and long term effects of your pictures.

Having said that here are a few suggestions to getting your photos organized: [Read more…]

Organizing Tips from an Expert: Your Stuff

This is article 2 from our organizing expert, Megan Spears. She’s giving us the inside scoop on how to get our space, our stuff, and our images organized once and for all this year! Make sure to review the first article in the series about how to get your creative space organized. Remember that she’s talking specifically about crafts and scrapbooking, but her tips can easily be applied to nearly any hobby!

craft room

I hope you had the chance to implement or think about a few of the suggestions I made! This week, we are going to talk about the stuff. In reality, the work we do with our pages has everything to do with the pictures and even more to do with the stuff. So much of our personal creativity comes out in the pages that we create, that we can’t help but get sucked into all the great paper and supplies that are out there.

There is hope… getting your stuff organized doesn’t have to be hard or even time consuming! It can be as simple as 30-minutes a week!

Here is what I mean… [Read more…]

Organizing Tips from an Expert: Your Creative Space

It’s a new year and I know you have boxes and piles of craft, photo, and scrapbooking supplies sitting somewhere in your house: the garage, basement, office, or kitchen. I’ve brought in Megan Spears, organizing expert, to give us some advice on how to get our stuff organized for good this year. This is article #1 in a 3-part series. Are you ready?

craft room organized

I have been an avid scrapbooker, aka “scrapper” since 2000. Back then, sexy cool organizing products were far and few between. One had to make do with unorthodox solutions to keep your stuff organized. At one point, I remember using a shoe boxes to keep my photos and Tupperware to store my buttons and ribbons. Nowadays, there are more products to keep our stuff organized, but the big question is WHERE DO YOU START?

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing with you some helpful solutions on how to get your stuff organized once and for all! This series is going to be broken down into three parts… THE SPACE… THE STUFF and THE PHOTOS. In each segment, I will provide you with a guide on how to get organized, some suggestions on how to simplify and some resources on where you can find help! Fasten your seatbelts people, and away we go! [Read more…]

Unravel Your 2013

goal-workbook-free-2013 Guest post by Imahni Dawson, artist, blogger, musician, daughter.

The beginning of a new year always excites me. It’s so full of potential; its like a blank page that I get to create art on. I could draw, paint, write or do anything I want on that page. Trying to determine what I actually want to create is where my excitement turns to frustration. With the best of intentions, I’ll create long lists of everything I want to do, complete with action steps and beautifully color-coded fonts. However, instead of being inspiring, these lists are just overwhelming. The possibility looked so inviting that I bit off more than I could chew.

This year I decided to take a different route. I started out with the free downloadable workbook entitled “Unraveling the Year Ahead: 2013”  created by Susanna Conway. This workbook is beautifully designed and the questions you fill out really get you thinking. Something I particularly loved about it is that it doesn’t immediately dive into 2013. Instead, it provides the opportunity to really ponder and learn from 2012 first. This is important because thinking about how my 2012 went made me approach my 2013 differently.

In years past, I’ve been a stickler for having fleshed out plans and some sort of measurable seven-step approach to achieving my goals. I was of the belief that if I couldn’t measure it, then little to nothing was actually getting done. However, life doesn’t unfold according to neatly categorized seven-step plans. I was setting myself up for disappointment. I hadn’t provided any room for myself to change my mind because obviously, I already knew exactly what I wanted for the next 365 days of my life. Um, no.

After thinking over what I wanted for my life overall, I wrote out a list of what I thought I could do this 2013 in order to get me closer to that grander vision. For example, I want to be healthy and fit all throughout my life, so I created a short list to describe what being “healthy and fit” means like to me. Then I thought of daily habits that I can work on will help me get there.

Still, it’s only one week into the New Year, and there have been days where I didn’t do my workout or take my vitamins. But that’s okay, because sometimes you just need to sleep. Circumstances change. I don’t want to beat myself up because I didn’t follow my goal plan to the letter. My goals are meant to guide me not rule over me. If I miss something one day, I know that I can pick up right where I left off.

When I look at my goals, I want to be inspired; I want to see it and think, “I can really do this.” And I can.

Happy 2013!

Essential Ideas On How To SURVIVE Your First Semester of College

This is Part Two of our featured article about how to prepare and survive your first year of college. Written by our Teen Identity alumni Sarah Graham!

Now that you’re all prepared and stuff… how do you SURVIVE? Don’t worry, I’ll tell you that too..

One thing that I like, is to have pictures up. They make me feel more at home. I have them on a ribbon board (cute, and space-saving), on my closet doors, and in various picture frames.

Pro-tip: Walmart.com does super inexpensive printing and delivery if you want to order some photos of you with your family or new college friends. Other places that do this are Walgreens, CVS, and other pharmacies. Walmart is just my personal preference.

Another thing I like to do is call my mom every week. It’s great to hear from family, and believe me, they miss you. A LOT. Keeping your parents up-to-date with your grades and your life is a great way to make them feel more comfortable with you being away, especially if you’re out of state. You don’t have to call every week. You don’t even have to call, really, but be sure to send a text or an email every so often if you don’t want to call.

Also, make friends with the girls in your hall. If you want to, rushing a sorority is an option for making friends and getting involved on campus. So are other groups and organizations based on interest, beliefs, religion, etc. You don’t have to join a sorority though. I didn’t, and I’m doing perfectly fine.

As far as food goes, meal plans are expensive. You probably don’t need the “unlimited” plan. I have 14 meals per week at the dining halls on campus, and I’ve never run out. It just depends on how many times you want to eat there (believe me, you’ll get tired of the dining halls after a month or so).

When it comes to your classes, don’t take a crazy amount of hours just to rack up the credits. You’ll end up slacking off in the ones you don’t care about. Also, be absolutely sure you make time for doing your homework and studying. Cramming at the last minute may seem like a good idea at the time, especially if there’s something fun going on during the weekend, but you’re going to need that information later, so cramming is a BAD idea. As long as you’re studying for an hour or so per day for each class, depending on your learning style and your classes, you should be fine. I have faith in you, don’t worry.

If you ever have any questions, ask your RA (resident assistant). RA’s are there to help you, especially as freshmen. You’re not expected to know everything.

You’re a freshman. Relax. Have fun! You’re only young once.

Tips on How to Prepare for Your First Semester of College

One of our Teen Identity alumni, Sarah Graham, just completed her first year of college. Yay! Sarah wanted to share her tips for teens on how to prepare for the first semester of college. If you’re a teen, are the parent of a teen or know one heading off to college, give them the scoop because chances are they are stressing out!

Okay, so as a senior in high school, you’ve probably taken the SAT at least once, and now you’re applying to colleges. You desperately hope to make it into your top choice, but
you’ll tolerate your number two choice if you don’t. No biggie, you can always transfer later.

“Wait a second. I’m not ready for this,” you might be thinking. Don’t worry; I’ve got some tips for you to prepare for college.

First of all…if you’re a junior, take the SAT. This will give you plenty of time to take it again if you (or maybe your parents) are not quite satisfied with your score. Personally, I took the SAT twice: once in January of my junior year, and once in April. Then, after a couple college visits over the summer before my senior year, I decided I wanted to attend Georgia Tech, with UGA as my next choice.

If you have a good GPA and have already taken the SAT (or the ACT, if you prefer that), you should consider applying early to college, fall of senior year. You have fewer essays to write that way, which is always nice. Apply to several colleges. I applied to two, but I wish I had applied to more, just for fun. If you need to rely more on your extracurricular activities and work experience and leadership positions, apply during the regular time in the spring of your senior year.

All right, so you’ve done all that, and you got accepted to your top choice! Congratulations! That’s awesome! Now what…?

Well, after confirming your acceptance, you’ll eventually have to send in your grades from your second semester of senior year…so DO NOT slack off. This is the WORST thing you could do at this point. So that’s finished. Yay. I started college in the summer after my senior year. This was the best decision of my life. I got a leg up on the competition. I met new people, I became familiar with the campus, and I was able to get used to living the dorm life. Also, because summer is much more relaxed and nowhere near as stressful as the regular school year, I was able to start my fall semester with a 4.0, which REALLY helps.

Here’s what you should bring during your first semester of college:

Shower caddy & flip-flops
Summer/fall clothes
Laundry detergent
Hand sanitizer
Trash bags
Storage bins
Silver/plastic/Tupper ware

Coffee maker
More clothes
Picture frames
A few movies
Iron/ironing board

Too many extra pillows
Bulky clothes (at least until after
fall break, typically)
Stereo system
High school paraphernalia
(including that letter jacket)
Reading-for-pleasure books
(you won’t have room…or time)
Nick-nacks (they just take up
space & get dusty)
Non-resealable foods

Check back for part two of Preparing for College!

Alternative Beauty That Goes Beyond Skin Deep

Article #3 in the guest post series by Imahni. Make sure to read why “Conventional Beauty Products are Health Hazards” and “Alternative Hair Products That Really Work.”

We all want that healthy glow to our skin. There are so many products out there that were created for the sole purpose of helping us achieve that glow. However, many of these products aren’t actually helping you out. In fact, for many people they are worsening the problem. What happens when your skin becomes even more dull or unhealthy? You buy more products to cover it up. Are you benefiting from this cycle or are the cosmetic companies?

Your body produces this natural, healthy glow on its own! However, the glow that we love so much is described as “healthy” because you have to be healthy to get it. It is possible for your skin to be soft, smooth, bright, blemish-free, and glowing without makeup! This can be achieved through drinking water, lots of sleep (7-9 hours), clean foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, organic meats, etc.), nutrient supplements, healthy cosmetics and/or homemade remedies.

The key is consistency and nourishing the skin. It takes a few weeks (give or take) as your skin recovers and heals itself.

Healthy Cosmetics/Homemade Remedies:

Soap: Conventional soap tends to dry out the skin, and since your skin absorbs what you put it on it, it will absorb all those chemicals that you rub into it. Washing your face and body is often done in a hot shower, which opens up your pores, increasing absorption. In short, what you use to cleanse your skin is a big deal.

Enter, Dr. Bronner’s Fair Trade Organic Soap! This soap is amazing. Not only is it healthy and fair trade, but it never strips your skin of natural oils. There is no need for different soaps for body and face. I use it on all of my skin. It’s also a personal favorite with the rest of the family.

Note: There are many people who choose not to use soap when they bathe or shower and this is perfectly fine! Your body does not naturally stink. Just like with washing your hair, you may experience a transition period, but it will pass. Those who regularly do not use soap and are living a healthy lifestyle don’t stink. Really!

However, most of us still prefer some type of soap anyways, my family included. Dr. Bronner’s is perfect for this because it’s so gentle.

Facial Toner: A toner helps tighten and shrink pores, while cleansing. To make this, simply create a 50/50 mix of Organic Apple Cider Vinegar and water. Then use it like a regular toner. It works even better than conventional toner! Don’t be scared away by the smell of vinegar, it does not remain on your skin!

Moisturizer/Lotions: Moisturizing is very important for your skin! For the face, I prefer jojoba oil because it’s very light. For a moisturizing mask, use some raw honey (preferably organic, but it works either way) and rub into your skin. Allow it to sit for maybe twenty minutes and then wash off. Not only is honey moisturizing, it’s also naturally antibacterial.

Application: In applying a daily moisturizer, I’ve found that my skin looks really greasy if I put on straight oil – even just a few drops of light Organic Jojoba Oil. However, my skin still really needs the daily moisturizing.

Instead of applying it like lotion that I leave on, I’ll add a couple drops of jojoba oil to the soap I pour in my hand and massage it into my skin. Then any excess oil comes off when I rinse. Other days, I may just wash my face with plain Dr. Bronner’s and then wash my face with plain honey immediately following. (The second routine works great for when I have makeup on too! Dr. Bronner’s takes off the makeup and the honey nourishes the skin.)

Lip Balm: Honey! It creates this lovely sheen similar to lip gloss and you don’t have to worry about it getting in your mouth!

Acne-prone skin: Anyone who struggles with acne will probably read this and say, “But I can’t just go all natural because I have to use the acne medicated soaps.” I had really struggled with acne for years, but I was able to heal my skin by going natural. A lot of those acne products are really harsh on your skin. Don’t seek to merely clear up acne, but by healing your whole body, your acne can be healed too. As a teen, I now know what it feels like to wake up in the morning to clean, clear skin. It’s absolutely amazing.