Personal Reflections

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.

BODY BRAVE CONSULTING 

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! 

RESOLUTION RESISTANCE: Voices in Opposition to Weight Loss Goals

 RESOLUTION RESISTANCE: Voices in Opposition to Weight Loss Goals

For a week in June, I gave away my goal setting workbook for free. As part of the download form,  in addition to the “required” name and email fields, I included one more optional question. Just for fun, I asked people to share what goal they were working to accomplish before the end of the year.

The response to my offer started off really strong - which was exciting. Of course, I wanted to look right away to see what kind of goals everyone was working on.

I started to peek at the responses rolling in. . . .and my heart sank.  So many of them referenced weight loss goals. I was literally holding back tears as I scanned through some of the responses.

I was mad & sad & overwhelmed that, for many people,  the first thing they thought of when I asked them what they were working on was losing weight.

It enraged me that we live in a society that reinforces daily, especially for women, that how we look is more important than what we accomplish.

It made me angry that this myth of "healthy = thin & unhealthy =  fat” continues to be the status quo (in spite of research to the contrary) because I am sure many folks who reference weight loss really just meant they wanted to be healthier but didn’t see the difference between the two.  

It made me sad to think about all of the ways fat people & people who do not live up to societies standards of beauty/desirability are made to feel less than. And, are often treated differently because of their bodies. (When your body size and appearance can literally play a role in whether you get hired or promoted, it’s understandable that people would feel pressure to change themselves.)

It also made me realize that I need to do a better job at sharing true body positivity & empowering messages of self love with my community. (I did NOT go through and match names to goals and start picking out people - or anything like that! But, based on sheer numbers, I can assume that some beautiful folks who follow me - and see my body love messages, inspirational self acceptance quotes, and countless shared articles and resources - were actively pursuing intentional weight loss.)


Weight Loss Resolution Resistance 

This has been weighing on my heart and mind, literally, since June, and has informed a project I worked on throughout January. I wanted to share voices in direct opposition to the typical “New Year! New You!” crap that is thrown at us at the start of each year.

Don’t get me wrong, I think January is an amazing time to set goals! (I love goal setting! Remember, I even wrote a workbook about it!) What I do take issue with is the idea that we need to be new people. The presumption that the present “us” isn’t good enough. A focus not on growth & progression but on guilt & shame. And, finally, the assumed notion conveyed in these “New Year! New You!” slogans that we need to change ourselves to live up to an ideal that is truly unattainable.

I was honored to have so many people participate in this project. Their statements are strong and their stories are ones of resilience. Have a look at a few below &  see all of them on my website or Facebook (for easy sharing!).   

Finally, in reference to weight loss goals & choices you make about you. . . 

Your body is your body. I am not here to judge you. Do whatever you want. (Truly!)  Your goals are your goals. Set them however you see fit!

I do care a lot about your insides. . .your thoughts, feelings, emotions, & baggage about your body -  all informed by messages around us that are constantly telling us that we’re not good enough. . .that we deserve less. . . that our bodies are not valued. I also care a lot about information. I want everyone to be able to make informed decisions about their bodies with the full picture in mind.

Whether these are things you care about or not, know that you are so much more than the size of your body!  Losing weight is not your life’s purpose. You are capable and valuable and worthy no matter what size your body is or how healthy you are (or, aren’t)!

MONUMENTAL MOVES IN 2015: The Year Personal & Professional Moving & Shaking Reached A-whole-nother Level

“So much happened in 2015!” Ok, that is likely the most overused & cliché way to open up a post like this but it is the absolute truth. Honestly, this past year might have been the most emotional, action packed, life direction altering, monumental movement making, overall major year I’ve ever experienced.

MONUMENTAL MOVES IN 2015_.jpg

I remember last January very clearly. I didn’t travel for the holidays and spent the entire winter break from my university job working on launching this very website and blog.

Though I was already operating my online shop, I had more to offer and share. I knew I wanted to quit my full-time job and needed some changes in my life but I wasn’t sure when I could make them happen.

Seriously, if someone were to give January 2015 Cat an update about what January 2016 Cat is up to, I probably would not have believed it.

This weekend I settled in for my yearly New Year's journal session consisting of documenting memories and life events from the past year, listing personal highs and lows, reflecting on my business, brand, and professional life, and. . . .a new addition. . .Pic Stitch-ing several 2015 photo highlight collages which you will also have the pleasure of viewing today.

Though I won't share everything (like you'd want to read all of that anyway), I will share my major highlights and hardest bits from 2015:
 

    2015 HIGHLIGHTS

    • Being part of the New Leaders Council of Louisiana and developing close friendships with many of my cohort members!
    • Travel & trips (Chicago, Minnesota 4 times, Boston, the beach (Alabama/Florida) – twice, Miami, Dallas & Commerce, TX)
    • Celebrating the marriages of some of my best friends and spending time with so many beautiful friends on my various trips.
    • Reentering the dating world and absolutely loving every minute of it.
    • Connecting with fabulous au pairs within my part-time role with Cultural Care Au Pair.
    • Developing an off the chain Snapchat game.
    • Leaving my full-time job.
    • Writing a workbook!
    • Having my very best semester adjunct instructing! (I was basically on fire this fall.)
    • Creating a successful email course.
    • Consistently posting quality, stylish, thrifted plus-size fashions weekly in my shop.
    • Having several successful pop-up shops.
    • Getting positive, heartfelt responses from clients and customers.
    • Developing online & in-real-life relationships and connections with so many #WomenOnAMission around me.

    HARDEST BITS

    • Discovering that working from home can be kind of a lonely road. (I LOVE me-time! Loooove it. But, y’all, there is such a thing as too much alone time!)
    • Not reaching my financial goals. (Both in managing money/budgeting and not generating as much money as I need with my business. Dramatic deficits.)
    • Realizing that just because I am excited about something doesn’t mean folks will be flocking to read/buy/support it. (Which can be disheartening.)
    • Ending a long-term relationship. (Which was hard and still is a little hard – especially if I’m listening to Adele.)
    • Managing my time and feeling productive. (When I was working full-time, I rationalized never completing my to-do list because I was working a full-time job, adjuncting, and running my business. Well, my to-do lists still never gets completed.)
    • Struggling to decide which idea(s) to pursue now and which to flesh out later. (I have SO MANY IDEAS. Always. Who the fuck knows which one is gonna be lucrative and fulfilling and which ones won’t?)
    • Two big moves. (One across town with a ton of stuff and another across country with considerably less belongings.)

    HERE'S TO 2016!

    2015 was major in lots of ways ranging from excellent to awful. I have a personal theory about my life where my even calendar years are better than my odd years. It's a definite trend! While I like to think even numbers have some kind of positive impact on me, it's probably just because I graduated high school in an odd year thus making odd years full of more transition and challenges than the even ones. In any case, I am so happy to welcome 2016 as a year where I can settle in to the developments and transitions that life gave me in 2015. Here's to 2016! 

    I’M BACK: Why I Relocated to Saint Paul, Minnesota

    Less than two weeks ago, I moved cross country with only the belongings I could fit in my little car. For those of you who know me, relocating back to Minnesota might have come as a surprise.

    Well, it was a bit of a surprise for me, too. For years I had rejected the idea of moving back but a little bubble of excitement around the thought of coming home popped up over the summer and grew rather quickly. With so many summer trips home (wedding season) and an extended stay this fall, something about being back became more and more appealing.

    Once I decided I wanted to move, it was just a matter of figuring out when. Things fell rather perfectly into place and I made my trip back just before the end of the year.

    My final days in NOLA were spent sending out the last of my inventory and attending lots of good-bye brunches, good-bye lunches, and good-bye happy hours!

     My last major drop off to my neighborhood post office. (Complete with a holiday treat for my favorite USPS ladies!)

    My last major drop off to my neighborhood post office. (Complete with a holiday treat for my favorite USPS ladies!)

     Lots of good-bye's! Here with my NLC crew!

    Lots of good-bye's! Here with my NLC crew!

     Reconnecting with some of my Body Positive FIG students!

    Reconnecting with some of my Body Positive FIG students!

     Brunch! Brunch! Brunch!

    Brunch! Brunch! Brunch!

    What convinced me to move. . .

    I am from Minnesota. Well, I technically grew up in Wisconsin till 7th grade but moved to MN when my parents divorced. My adolescent life started to get much better when we moved, so that’s probably why I’ve always claimed Minnesota as home. (I am, however, a Green Bay Packer fan. My dad and I have approximately 5 main topics of conversation – the Packers being a major one – so, I couldn’t imagine not being a Packer fan. . .although, I am admittedly a “I’m here for the party not actually to watch the game” and/or score googling kind of fan.)

    I’ve been out of Minnesota for 5 years. Halfway through college I knew I wanted to relocate to a warmer climate. Even summers weren’t warm enough for me here. So, I moved to Texas for grad school where I loved the weather but hated ultra-small-town life. Then, I moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. Though I loved the city for lots of reasons (people, culture, food, festivals, sense of community), I didn’t feel a pull to settle down there. Also, the humidity was miserable. I kept waiting for my body to get used to the climate but I was just as frizzy and shiny on the day I left as I was when I arrived. (Athough, now I am having some major issues adjusting back to the dryness here. At this rate, I’ll be going through a jar of coconut oil a week.)

    For years I said I would never move back. I loved visiting but didn’t want to settle down here. (And, at this point I suppose I am not committing to that either. I’ve been putting an “at least three years and probably longer” timeline on it.)  But when I visited home at the end of September, it all just clicked. Somehow, there was a perfect mix of variables that made moving back seem like it would be the most natural decision in the world:

    1. My summer was quite lonely and being closer to my people (my close friends and family) felt so good.
    2. The weather while I visited was magical. (Even while I was basking in the sunny-but-just-cool-enough-for-a-scarf-weather I knew this was not typical and a major bait and switch move on the part of my home state. But, I still couldn’t resist it.)
    3. I have always felt a lot of support for my shop and other professional endeavors from folks here. And, not just from friends, but my more extended circles from college and beyond. This is so important and feels so good.
    4. Along with Bella Moxie, I hosted the best attended pop-up-shop I have been part of (so far). The overwhelmingly positive response made it even more clear to me that plus-size women want and need thrift shops that focus on our sizes!
    5. I helped organize my 10 year class reunion which took place over my small town’s Apple Festival weekend and, for the first time, instead of feeling sort of annoyed or above small-town life, I felt extraordinarily nostalgic and happy.  
    6. Oh, and.  . . an old friend from college and I reconnected and quickly decided to become roommates. (Love and thanks to my previous roommate in NOLA who helped me realize that, even as an adult, roommate relationships can be beautiful and helpful.) So, I had a place waiting for me when I got back up here.

    All of this, along with the fact that I had moved to New Orleans years earlier for a job and a man. . .neither of which I was with any longer, helped me make the decision to move back to Saint Paul.

    The Journey North

    Those following my Snapchat story saw the play by play of my packing, car Tetris, and the journey north getting colder and colder. It was an adventure but one that I’ve done before when moving from MN to TX and then TX to LA.  

    My car was an absolute champ! (Car-related struggles were also detailed on Snapchat in the days leading up to my departure.) To make it through the 18+ hours of driving,  I listened to lots of podcasts and also Aziz Ansari's book "Modern Romance" - which he hilariously narrates on the audio recording. (LOVE Aziz. Though, I'm not a fan of his subtle fat-shaming. Don't tell me I'm the only one who has picked up on that in his new series, stand up, and in this book!) 

    I am so happy to be here!

    Personally, this is a great place for me to be right now. Working for myself and mostly from home, it’s important for me to be closer to friends and people I love. This is also an area that is really familiar to me. Instead of learning a new city, I’m simply back in one where I am happy and comfortable.

    Professionally, this will be an excellent area to open up a thrift shop. It’s my intention to expand my plus-size thrift shop to a physical location here in the Twin Cities. Boutique thrifting is big here – but rarely do stores have great plus-size sections. I am confident that there are enough customers, fans, and friends here to help me make it a reality. Plus, I know that with all of the young professionals moving and shaking here I can be a great benefit to folks through my style consulting and life coaching services. Oh, and no sales tax on clothing definitely helps my shop’s bottom line.

    Here we go. . .

    Now that I'm back I am focused on settling in and getting into a good routine. I'll have Cat's Closet back up and running this week. (I already have so many fab items to share!) Some pop-up shops are in the works. And, I am beyond delighted to be closer to my favorite shop owner at The Golden Gurl and am excited to be chatting collaborations already.

    Everyday, I am even more convinced that I am exactly where I'm supposed to me.

     
     Speaking of  The Golden Gurl Shop , I am so in love with this cute Minnesota tumbler!

    Speaking of The Golden Gurl Shop, I am so in love with this cute Minnesota tumbler!

     

    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. . . 


    TOP REAL TALK TIPS
    FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS

    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! )


    MORE IMPORTANT
    THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW:

    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.
    AMAZED!

    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.


    QUICK & DIRTY
    CLASSROOM ETIQUETTE

    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.

    REAL TALK BONUS
    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! 

    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

    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

    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.

    ACTION 

    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! 

    IF YOU CAN'T STOP THINKING ABOUT IT, DON'T STOP WORKING FOR IT: "Side Hustles" Becoming My "Main Hustle"

    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!

    OUTFITS & ACTIVITIES: What I've Been Up To The Last Few Weeks

    Life is busy and beautiful these days so I wanted to share a quick peak at some of my outfits and activities the past few weeks! 

    OUTFITS 

    I've been working constantly, so most of my looks are business casual or gym clothes lately. Although, the pic at the top, right is from a night out with my sis! I'm all about floral (obvs!) and can't get enough of these new flats from Lane Bryant

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    ACTIVITIES  

    My beautiful sister visited last week and we went to a trampoline park. These places are my BLISS! And, as you can see from my in-the-air-splits. . .I still got it! ;)  We also attempted (and failed miserably) at a sundae eating challenge at the historic Creole Creamery

    I spent some time journaling about my first quarter of 2015. (My financial coach encouraged me to start breaking up goals into quarter/3 month segments - like businesses do- and I love it!)  Other than that it's just been prepped lunches and dinners and quick rests on my (carpeted) office floor before heading out to teach night class each night. I'll be excited to catch up on sleep and me-time in May! 

    LOVE YOUR BODY: Make Healthy Choices Because You Love Your Body

     



    I've been feeling mysteriously tired and kind of run down the last two weeks. I described it to someone as "pre-burned-out feeling". Like, I'm fine - not sick, not too overwhelmed, not too busy. . .but it seems like just a little bit more and I would get there.

    Acknowledging that "pre-burn-out feeling" is important! Last week I made several conscious choices to benefit my physical and metal health! I ate more veggies, drank more water, went to yoga, and cancelled some evening commitments. 

    I chose to do these things because I love myself and I love my body. It is counterproductive to make "healthy" choices out of punishment or judgement of yourself. (How "healthy" can something be if you are pressuring or shaming yourself into doing it?!) 

    When mid-March comes (like, next week), things get even busier for me. So, I'm taking a few moments now to get back into my groove and prioritize my health. 

    Hope you liked the quick video excerpt above reminding us to make healthy choices because we love our bodies! You can see the full video from a few months ago here

     

    IN A FUNK? 10 Small Ways To Kick Crabbiness

    Last week I was in a funk. And, this week has been dangerous funk territory. For me, being in a funk means feeling crabby and unmotivated for no apparent reason.  I’ve compiled a short list of things I do to jolt myself out of a funk and work to kick crabbiness. Use this list when you're having a crab attack! ;) 

    1. Blast music and sing along.
      I usually do this in the car. And, I drive an old, crappy car with no other music capabilities than the radio. So, sometimes this means belting out mumble singing to pop songs I don't know the words to.

       

    2. Exercise.
      Take a walk! Go to Zumba. Swim. Stretch. Have a personal dance party. Endorphins are real, folks. Very, very real.

       

    3. Drink water.
      And maybe a coffee or diet coke. But then, more water! I feel like over 50% of problems in life are probably because we’re somewhat dehydrated. (This is not real science but, what I like to call, “Cat Science” - meaning, a mixture things I’ve heard but cannot site and my intuition.)

       

    4. Make sure you've eaten.
      Related – make sure you’ve eaten the most recent meal. And, if not, fix that quick!

       

    5. Put a deadline on your crabby.
      One of my friends taught me this. If you’re going to feel an emotion let yourself feel it intensely but give it a deadline. When the deadline comes – honor it and move on!

       

    6. Journal.
      You can write to vent about what’s going on in your world and/or list the things you are be grateful for.

       

    7. Reminder: negative just brings more negative.
      Remind yourself that positive brings positive & negative brings negative. When I am crabby EVERYTHING goes wrong. For instance, first I’m stubbing my toe, then I’m out of almond milk, then my eye pencil is dull and there is no sharpener in sight, then I get in the car to go to work and forget that I’m on E. Right? Bad energy just brings more bad stuff! So, it's good to remind ourselves of this as a push in the right direction.

       

    8.  Watch a funny show or standup on Netflix.
      My personal recommendations include Parks & Recreation and Aziz Ansari stand up. I also recommend “Dads dancing to Uptown Funk” videos on YouTube. I have no idea why but they just crack me up. . .every single time. (I watched it again while linking it here and am currently laughing out loud.)

       

    9.  Go to bed.
      And, vow that you’ll let your pissed-off attitude go by morning.   

       

    10. Clean or organize.
      Clean your apartment/office/room and listen to music or a podcast while you do it!

     

    What kinds of things do you do to get yourself out of a funk? Let me know in the comments below!

    MY PERFECT DAY: 10 Years From Now

    Last weekend I attended a New Leaders Council Institute retreat. I recently was selected as a fellow for this progressive leadership and professional development institute. I am already loving my involvement with NLC. Our first institute weekend was a retreat focused on life entrepreneurship. With a phenomenal facilitator, an amazing group of like-minded young professionals, and lots of thought-provoking reflections and activities, our retreat was everything I was hoping for. (Yes! Yes! Yes!)

    One of my favorite activities was writing about our perfect day – ten years from now. I had never taken the time to do this or think about the manifestation of my goals in this way. We were encouraged to be as specific as possible and provide lots of detail to make our vision seem more real. (Quality goal setting and visioning stuff here, folks!)

    I am really excited about what I created as part of this exercise. So much so that I’m sharing it with you! I’ll also provide some information about how you might do the same at the end of this post. (As I was writing, it seemed like a looser timeline might be more realistic – so I’m thinking about this in an 8 – 10 year context.) Anyway, without further adieu, my perfect day several years down the road. . .

     

    My Perfect Day: In 8 -10 Years

    I wake up around 7AM in our small but spacious London flat. I hop out of bed and do some light stretching. My partner is already up with the kids and I can hear them in the next room. As I stretch I think about how London feels like home after a little over two years living in this vibrant city. And, how I will be sad to leave soon but am excited to return back home to the states in time for our oldest to start first grade next fall.

    After ten minutes of stretching, I go out to join the rest of my family in the living room where our two beautiful children, ages 3 and 5, are laughing and playing with their daddy. I give each a kiss and sit down with them all as they play.

    After a little while, my man gets them dressed and ready for the day while I make breakfast - eggs and bacon for the family along with overnight oats and fruit. Right as we finish eating, our nanny, Lena, arrives to take our oldest off to kindergarten.  I greet Lena in German and the kids are obviously excited that she's here.

    Our nanny is an amazing, creative Turkish German woman who spends time with the little ones during the weekdays. We pay her well and feel like she's an extension of our family.  Kindergarten is walking distance from our home and serves a diverse group of children. Our youngest also joins Lena and the three head out the door and make their way to kindergarten. Lena will return with the youngest after some quality play time in the park and watch her till early afternoon.

    With the kids out of the house, my partner and I clear the breakfast dishes and then hop in the shower to start our day. Once dressed, we pop down the street to our favorite coffee shop. The owner greets us by name and presents us with the perfect cafe lattes.  I take one sugar. He takes 4.

    From the coffee shop we part ways.  I return home to get some work done. It's Friday so I have a weekly Zumba class at noon and then lunch plans with a friend. I want to get all of my "taking care of business" matters complete by 11AM.

    By now it's 9AM. I sit in my small office in our home. First, I check in with my shop in the US. I am doing mostly follow-up as I recently returned from a trip to the states where I spend several days checking in on the store, doing a few speaking engagements, and catching up with friends. I was pleased to find that my plus-size consignment shop was running quite smoothly.  I spend a lot of time training the staff and it has clearly paid off. Even in my absence, they've been doing outstanding. Although it was hard for me to let go of most of the control, it's proven to be a great move. My two key managers have simply blown me away with their dedication and creativity. I feel like we've achieved my foundational business practice of "women supporting women” and I am not only proud of my shop but the values on which it’s founded.

    I also finalize travel plans for two upcoming workshop engagements. Then, I brainstorm curriculum for a Women's Leadership Retreat that I'll be hosting in two months. 54 women have already signed up, so I am reworking several parts of the curriculum to accommodate the larger group.

    Just before 11AM, I head off to Zumba. Before I go, I chat with Lena about her weekend plans and remind her about some yummy leftovers in the fridge that she and the 3 year old can enjoy for lunch.

    The weather is cool but not cold. I just need a jacket in addition to my curve-hugging sports leggings and bright Nike tennis shoes. The walk to the tube is great. I love the fresh air and I’m entertained by the podcast I’m listening to. I get on the underground and arrive at my gym within 20 minutes. It's great to catch up with some of the other regulars at the gym. Zumba is amazing and I kill it - like usual – and stare my sexy self down in the mirror the whole time.

    I shower at the gym and transform my previously sporty look into something effortlessly fabulous. I leave the gym and head off to meet a close London friend for lunch at one of our favorite spots. Other days of the week I have coaching clients in the afternoon. Some over the phone and a few in person. But, on Friday, I don't schedule any meetings. After lunch, I settle in at a coffee shop to read and journal.

    Close to 4PM I head home. My husband has picked our oldest up at school and has relieved Lena of her duties. He's home chilling with the kids when I return. I get to preparing a nutritious and delicious dinner for us. We spend several hours as a family enjoying dinner, playing and reading with the kids, and ending with a family dance party. After we put the kids to bed, my man and I sit on the couch enjoying a drink and talking about the weekend ahead.

    Tomorrow, we plan to take the kids to a community rally in the park and spend the first part of the day out and about as a family. Lena has graciously agreed to watch the kids tomorrow night so we can enjoy an evening out.  Our conversation then wanders to our preliminary moving plans and excitements about being back in the states.

    We watch a little crime drama TV and then head off to bed together. I feel happy, fulfilled, and complete – feelings that have slowly become more present as I have settled into my full and fabulous life.

     

    Is this not the most fun!? Obviously my life may not be exactly like this in 8 years, but we know that the act of visualizing yourself after you have completed goals put you in a place where you're more likely to achieve them. That's one of the reasons why this activity is so powerful. Also, I wrote about things that I didn't realize were important to me - especially all of that that kid business! That's one of those "in the back of my mind" goals that I don't really think too much about.

    Have you ever described your vision like this?

    I encourage you to spend some time with an exercise like this! We had a whole weekend of reflection as we explored our strengths, passions, values, and purpose and this exercise was kind of a culmination of this. (Much of our training was based on the book Life Entrepreneurs which would be a great resource if you want some of the activities that lead up to this.) Even without the preceding activities, the act of writing out your perfect day can still be powerful.

    In writing this, I have become even more motivated to map out my goals in a way that allows them to build and grow on each other.  In the spirit of long-term goal setting and linking our shorter term goals to the longer ones, I'd like to share a recourse I've created that might help you do this!

    This Goal Setting & Action Planning Resource is a simple way to write out a long term goal and then backtrackto list smaller goals along the way. There's also some room to start thinking about an action plan or the ways you will work to achieve each shorter term goal. This sheet totally reflects how my brain works! Use this resource if it's helpful to you!

    Wow, I've sure been sharing a lot with y'all! Hope that in doing so it's helping you visualize what you want in your life and how you might get there!

    BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION: Cat's Closet is One!

    This week, Cat’s Closet is one year old! I literally just fell into small business ownership and am now moving and shaking in ways I’ve always wanted to. In this post, I’m excited to share a bit about Cat’s Closet, my progression over this past year, and my vision for the future! 

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    How Cat's Closet Started

    Last year, in an effort to clean out my closet and make a little money, I decided I wanted to post some clothing items on eBay. (I had done this once before – mainly with accessories—before I studied abroad years ago.) I knew I needed to take photos wearing my clothes because I always am more interested in clothing when I can see it on another curvy woman. After I took pictures, I decided to throw them in a Facebook album to see if anyone I knew wanted them before I went to the trouble of posting on eBay. I made the album public and shared widely.  A few days later, I had made $300 and sold most of my items.

    The extra cash was nice but, more importantly, it truly brought me joy to share great clothing items with other plus-size women in my life. And, even through my first interactions with women in my circle, I could tell that they were gaining more than clothes from me – I was also able to share some body positive inspiration with them. So, I knew I was on to something! Now, Cat’s Closet has grown into a whole operation. I regularly thrift and shop to find quality clothing, style it in outfits, take pictures, post it for y’all to purchase, and ship to folks all over the country. 

    Developments & Resources Along the Way! 

    I have literally learned everything as I go. Those of you who have followed me from the start have seen growth in many parts of Cat’s Closet this past year. Although I won’t share all the intricacies of my business, I have lots of resources to recommend and shoutouts to share!

    Facebook: Cat’s Closet started on Facebook as a personal album and then quickly became a fan page. For the first several months, all orders happened through Facebook and Facebook messenger - and PayPal. (Although the website makes my life soooo much easier, I do miss the convos I had with all of y’all over FB messenger. Thanks to those of you who still drop me a line via FB from time to time!)

    Big Cartel: I use Big Cartel as the platform for my shop. There is a fee involved with this site but it’s simple for me to operate – which is important to me. It’s also pretty user friendly – in my opinion. I chose Big Cartel because I had seen other folks use it (including my sister). I am pretty satisfied with this site but, full disclosure, now that my blog is hosted by Squarespace – which I LOVE – I may consider switching my shop over to their e-commerce capabilities. (Shoutout to my mom for helping me set my Big Cartel site up. It is nice to have a computer programmer mom in your back pocket sometimes!)

    USPS Flat Rate Packages: It took me a minute to discover these! Flat rate packages make my life so much easier!  As those of you who order from me know, I don’t print out shipping and just get packages picked up. I hand write all addresses and go to the post office for every package! I might change this at some point but I actually enjoy visiting the PO most times – especially the one closest to my house. (Shoutout to the New Orleans Uptown Post Office on Louisiana Ave!)

    Closet Features: Closet features have added a splash of excitement into my site! Essentially, women consign their clothes with me. (Meaning, I sell them to y’all and we both get a portion of the profits.) I’ve been able to do closet features for local folks and others who have mailed me their clothes. As you may have seen on my site, sometimes the person featured wears the clothes and sometimes I do – whatever they’re most comfortable with! (Shoutouts to Ashley, Pamela, Amanda, and Barhynn for allowing me to feature their fab items this past year!) If you are interested in doing a closet feature, just contact me and I’ll give you details so we can see if it’s right for you!)

    Photography Developments: A huge development for me was switching from selfies to regular photos! It offers a better look at my items and better quality photos but also makes posting more time consuming because I need to enlist someone else to help (or, struggle with a tripod). Shoutouts to Amanda, Emily Horne Photography, Toni, and my boyfriend for taking pics for me on the regular. (Biggest shoutout goes to my boyfriend who does not usually get compensated with cash, clothing, or lunch like the others ;)!) Oh! And, as you saw in my Holiday Photo Shoot – incorporating others into my photos was so much fun! (Shoutouts to Stephanie, Amanda, Ari, Emily, Ready to Stare, and Jou Jou My Love for their involvement with that greatness!)

    What’s next? 

    I am actively working to expand my brand. The fact that you’re reading this on my blog is an indication of this! I see Cat’s Closet as just one branch of my Cat Inspired ventures. (For a peak of everything I’m currently working on, check out this page of my blog!)

    I could go on and on about my vision, goals, dreams, and plans. The brief overview of my business-related goals includes growing as a business woman, dramatically boosting my online presence, launching life coaching, sharing Cultural Care with more families, and continuing to grow and develop Cat’s Closet. Longer term goals include organizing and facilitating Women’s Leadership Retreats, writing a book, and opening a brick and mortar plus-size thrift store.

    In term of Cat’s Closet, I’ll be a bit more specific! Here are a few ways I’m looking to grow in the upcoming year:

    • I plan to do several in-person shopping events this year. (St. Paul & Chicago are on my list first!)
    • I want to continue to grow my social media presence and share great stuff with y’all. I’m looking to hit 5K+ this year on Instagram, become more popular on Pinterest, and continue to grow on Facebook but under my overarching brand Cat Inspired (name change hopefully coming soon)!
    • I’d love to find opportunities to do larger posts in an effort to move items more quickly in my shop – searching for the time to make that happen!
    • Plus, let’s be real, I’d love to make more money and become more savvy in my business tactics. (Although I dedicate a LOT of time to Cat’s Closet, it’s not yet close to a place where it could be my main source of income.) 

    Interested in Doing Something Similar?

    I’ve had at least 20 women contact me over the past year asking for advice or info about how they can start their own business like mine. First of all, I want to acknowledge that although I am quite flattered when people reach out to me, I don’t feel comfortable sharing every detail about my business.  In fact, this post is probably the most details you’ll get from me!

    Perhaps at a later time I will make myself available to consult for advice on these types of business for a fee, but I don’t think it’s fair to me or others if I just hand you all of my business strategies so you can recreate what I have developed.

    Here are my words of advice:

    1. If you only have your own items to sell, I would strongly recommend doing a personal Instagram or Facebook album. (Or, host a clothing swap and trade clothes with friends!) You’ll run out of items very quickly. I have a whole operation happening over here. I thrift at least once a week, take pictures regularly, and dedicate a lot of time to social media and promotion. It's likley not worth all of that if you have 50 items or less and don't plan to actively seek more. (You can always consider collaborating with me and doing a Closet Feature. Contact me for details!)
    2.  Imitation is NOT the sincerest form of flattery. If you like what you see and want to do something similar, I totally support you in your efforts. I believe in a world where we can all succeed and make it in our respective passions and hustles! But, please don’t replicate every detail of my business. I cannot support that as I don't think it is fair to me or you! Use your passion, creativity, and personal touch to make something of your own! 
    3.  As general business advice, I’d like to share a quote from Marie Forleo (who is, btw, just awesome). She says: “Never start a business to just ‘make money’. Start a business to make a difference." I live by this and bring it to all of my entrepreneurial endeavors. I encourage you to do the same! 

    Wow, what a year it’s been!

    Honesty, in early January 2014 I had no idea that I would be writing about this today. I am really proud of myself and grateful for all of the support around me!  Which reminds me - additional shoutouts to all the folks in my life who let me gush about my small business excitements! And, the biggest shoutouts to all of my AMAZING CUSTOMERS!!  Y’all are truly the best!! It brings me so much joy to be able to engage with you!!

    DEALS So You Can Celebrate With Me! 

    Oh, and how could I forget!? I have some fun promotions going on this week to celebrate Cat’s Closet’s birthday! They include:

     

    Thanks!
    And, I'd LOVE to Hear From You! 

    So, now you know about where I've been and my plans for the future, I 'd love your feedback! What do you hope to see from me through Cat's Closet and Cat Inspired in the year to come!? 

    Thanks so much to all of you for your support! 

    WELCOMING 2015 WITH INTENTION: Part 3 - Health & Wellness

    In part three of my series Welcoming 2015 With Intention, I share my thoughts and tips for embracing health and wellness! Many folks vow to "get healthy" in the new year! Unfortunately, for many people, "get healthy" is code for "lose weight". Well, not for me!  If you're thinking about health and wellness in the new year, this blog post shares some ways you can approach health in a supportive, body positive, loving way!  

    Health and weight-loss are not the same thing! 

    In case this is something new to you, health and weight-loss simply do not go hand in hand.  I am a strong believer in the Health at Every Size movement. Many folks have broken this info down better than I have, so I encourage you to take a look here and here. Plus, some thoughts on the weight-loss resolution trap here

    Listen to your body and do more of what feels good! 

    Like I've mentioned before, I believe our wisdom lies within. Our bodies know what we want and need. It's just a matter of listening and doing it! 

    Think about wellness holistically! 

    Health and wellness is so much more than just exercise and nutrition. I encourage you to think about health holistically. To consider all components of wellness, I like to use a wellness wheel. Take a look at the image to the right and feel free to look at this presentation that I modified from something I created for my day job. It goes in detail to describe each area of wellness. 

    No need to label yourself as "good" or "bad" when talking about your actions. Just say what you mean! 

    I think my example in the video says it all. You are valuable, good, worthy, and deserving. While your actions may be positive or negative, they don't make you a good or a bad person.  And, just say what you mean! 

    Love your body! 

    Let your love for your body and yourself motivate your healthy habits! Don't get caught up in the negative and scary cycle of making "health" choices out of anger or hate or shame or dislike for your body! 

    WELCOMING 2015 WITH INTENTION - Part 2: Goal Setting

    In the new year, we often make goals and resolutions. (I prefer making goals because I believe they are more thoughtful and action oriented than resolutions.) In the second part of my video series on Welcoming 2015 With Intention, I share a few ways you can set yourself up for success to create goals that you can achieve! Plus, I share one of my big goals for 2015. Take a look at my video below! 

    5 TIPS FOR GOAL SETTING 

    1. Get a clear vision. 
    2. Set S.M.A.R.T goals. 
    3. Create an action plan. 
    4. Write your goals down & review them often.
    5. BONUS: Share your goals with someone who can help hold you accountable. 
     

    I love the idea that "goals are dreams with deadlines"! I don't know about you, but I have lots of dreams, goals, and plans! I hope my quick video has provided some tools for you as you set goals and work to realize them!

    What goals are you setting out to achieve this year? Let me know in the comments below!