A Pen Pal Friendship Story

A Pen Pal Friendship Story

Have you ever opened an envelope that says “Magic Inside”? It’s something my pen pal friends and I write on the back of our letters to each other to signify that something exciting has just been delivered. The most recent letter I received from my pen pal, Makenzi, had that phrase neatly written on the back bottom corner and I gasped when I saw it. I ripped it open and the first thing that fell out onto the kitchen counter was a crystal oracle card that she enclosed. This is the second crystal card she’s given me and it made me smile. The first was a carnelian card (to stimulate creativity) and this one is a turquoise card (for when you want to express something).

I then found a note from her about what’s been going on in her life in the past month. She also included a patterned piece of paper with “Mail Tag” questions like “Favorite holiday?” and “What are your moon and rising signs?” Astrology lingo for those wondering!

Makenzi’s letter to me

There’s something about hand-writing a letter, putting a stamp on it (I recently bought these flower stamps), and sending it off into the world that feels like a warm hug. My friends call me “Mabel” because I’m like an “85-year old trapped in a 33 year old body”. Don’t get me wrong – I love technology as much as the next Millennial, but old-fashioned stationary and markers are really where my true love lies.

Back in 2015, I started a pen pal program called Happsters Mail on this blog and had the best time matching up readers with each other. One of the people I matched up was one of my childhood best friends, Maggie. She and her pen pal, Kylie, are still writing to each other to this day! I’m always so curious to hear the ins and outs of their pen pal friendship when Maggie brings up their letters, so I wanted to share the interview below featuring Maggie and Kylie. I hope that it inspires you to mail a note to a friend or family member soon.

First up, my interview with Maggie about her pen pal friendship with Kylie:

  1. Where do you live?

San Diego, California

  1. How long have you been writing pen pal letters to each other and how often do you typically write to each other?

We have been writing to each other since the beginning of 2015. We used to write to each other monthly, but the turnaround time has gotten longer as life has gotten more complicated. I would say it’s maybe 4-5 times a year now.

The first letter Maggie received from Kylie
  1. What do you think it was that helped you continue to be pen pals after all of these years?

I think we have stayed pen pals for so long because we have truly become friends. When we first started writing to each other, I had just gotten engaged. Now we are both married with kids! We have also supported each other through job changes, personal/family life events, and of course the pandemic.

  1. What’s one or two of your favorite things that Kylie has sent you?

Kylie sends really thoughtful birthday surprises! She sent me some cool beeswax wraps that I love, and always nails it with the snacks. But my favorite part of every correspondence is just reading what she has been up to in her life.

  1. Have you met in person or are you ever planning to meet?

Since we live so far away, we have never met. I would love to meet her someday! We started following each other on Instagram a couple of years ago, so it allows me to sort of see what her world looks like.

  1. Do you ever have themes for letters depending on the time of year (i.e. your birthdays, certain holidays, etc.)?

We definitely have themes depending on the month/season of the year. I love getting Kylie’s Christmas card every year (and sending her mine when I have the energy to make one)!

Holiday snail mail
  1. What’s something you love about having Kylie as a pen pal?

I love having a friend that I haven’t actually spoken to in person. It’s unique and old timey and cool! I never would have crossed paths with Kylie, and yet she is a really supportive person in my life. It brings me a sort of grade school nostalgic joy when I receive her letters in the mail. Then I get to be creative and tactile in return, which is wonderful too.

I hope that we always continue to write to each other. Maybe our kids can be pen pals someday!

Here’s what Kylie had to say about writing to Maggie for all of these years:

  1. Where do you live?

I live in rural Southeast Iowa, just outside of a very small town, Keosauqua.

2. Had you ever written to a pen pal before? What made you want to sign up for one this time?

The only time I’ve previously written to a pen pal has been through school assignments growing up and those were always short lived. This is my first real, long term pen pal. I decided to sign up because I was just fresh out of college, had a lot of time on my hands, and was looking to add something new to my life. I thought having a pen pal could lead to some fun experiences and hopefully a new friendship!

The first letter Kylie received from Maggie

3. What kinds of things do you typically include in your letters to each other?

Our letters vary depending on what’s going on in our lives but it’s usual a general update of what’s been happening in our lives since the last time we wrote to each other, holiday or vacation plans, books we’re reading, and often small seasonal gifts, stickers, trinkets, etc.

4. What’s one or two of your favorite things that Maggie has sent to you?

My absolute favorite thing Maggie has ever sent to me was for my birthday a few years ago. She sent me the cutest tin seed organizer (I’m a big gardener). Not only was it super cute, but it’s super useful and I still use it to organize my seed packets and keep track of my gardening!

The tin seed organizer Maggie sent Kylie

5. Do you have any tips to give someone who is just starting a pen pal relationship?

My tip to someone who is just starting out with a pen pal is to be open and playful. I loved that Maggie and I started out with exchanging an “about me” card that asked silly questions we wouldn’t normally think to ask but really helped us get to know each other. By being open to answering questions (especially silly or playful ones) you can find things you have in common or maybe find out something about them that you want to learn more about.

6. Where do you come up with ideas on what to include in your letters? Do you look online, at Pinterest, or just come up with them on your own?

When we first started out I initially looked to Pinterest for inspiration but have found that I don’t really need to anymore. Our letters are pretty intuitive anymore and we always include a “mail tag” card that asks different questions that don’t flow in our letters, seasonal things (what Summer foods are you enjoying right now?/ Any New Year’s resolutions?/ What are you dressing up as for Halloween? etc)

7. What’s something you love about having Maggie as a pen pal?

I love that Maggie and I live very different lives (Iowa and California are very different in lots of ways!) but we have SO MUCH in common! I almost feel like Maggie and I are the same person in some ways and we could definitely be best friends that hang out every day if we lived near each other. Her letters are so warm and she feels like someone I’ve been friends with my whole life so I have no problem opening up to her like I would with any of my other close friends. I love that I have made a lifelong friend out of being her pen pal!

I’m so grateful that I signed up for a pen pal and that you set me up with Maggie. She was definitely the perfect choice for me and has brought a lot of joy to my life! To anyone contemplating getting a pen pal, you should do it! It’s so much fun!

Thank you Kylie and Maggie for sharing your pen pal friendship with us today!

If you’re interested in getting your own pen pal, here are some organizations that match you up:

I’ve been considering opening up the Happsters Mail Program again soon as well. Send me an email at happsters@gmail.com or comment below if you’d be interested in being matched up.

Have you ever had a pen pal? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

12 Monthly Mirror Messages

12 Monthly Mirror Messages

Today, I want to talk about a project I’m doing for the first time this year that I call “Monthly Mirror Messages.” This project is pretty simple and is exactly what it sounds like. Each month, I’ll tape an affirmation on my mirror to motivate me during those 30 days. Then on the first day of the next month, I’ll switch out one affirmation for another one. That’s it! Here are the step-by-step instructions if you’d like to do it yourself:

  1. Write down 12 affirmations (one for each month of 2022), each on its own small piece of paper.

Here are the affirmations I chose:

  • I make a difference in the world by simply existing in it.
  • I focus on what I can control and I let go of what I can’t.
  • I attract positive people and experiences into my life.
  • Success follows me.
  • I am the master of my abundance.
  • “I am in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing.” – Louise Hay
  • The perfect moment is this one – Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • I am full of energy and optimism. I am ready to have fun.
  • Creativity runs through me and leads me to great ideas.
  • I don’t chase. What belongs to me will simply find me.
  • I listen to my intuition and trust my gut.
  • I am well-rested and excited for a fun day.

Looking for others? You can get great ideas for affirmations by searching Pinterest for “inspiring affirmations,” “affirmations for self love,” “affirmations for confidence,” etc.

  1. Optional: Decorate the pieces of paper around the affirmation. You can add paint, doodles, stickers, or whatever you’d like or keep it simple. I glued some dried flowers from my garden onto the paper and used those as the art.
  1. Put every affirmation card into a bowl or jar.
Beautiful bowl created by Elise Joy
  1. At the beginning of each month, choose one affirmation at random. I believe that whichever one you happen to choose will be the perfect one for that month.
  2. Use washi tape or clear tape to put it on your bathroom mirror where you’ll see it when you brush your teeth every day. Say that affirmation out loud or to yourself every day.

Curious if there’s science that backs affirmations? I was too. I was pleasantly surprised that there is quite a bit of good research on daily affirmations. Here are a few benefits of using affirmations:

  1. Affirmations have been shown to decrease health-deteriorating stress (Sherman et al., 2009; Critcher & Dunning, 2015)
  2. They have been used effectively in interventions that led people to increase their physical behavior (Cooke et al., 2014)
  3. They may help us to perceive otherwise “threatening” messages with less resistance, including interventions (Logel & Cohen, 2012)
  4. They can make us less likely to dismiss harmful health messages, responding instead with the intention to change for the better (Harris et al., 2007) and to eat more fruit and vegetables (Epton & Harris, 2008)
  5. They have been linked positively to academic achievement by mitigating GPA decline in students who feel left out at college (Layous et al., 2017)
  6. They have been demonstrated to lower stress and rumination (Koole et al., 1999; Wiesenfeld et al., 2001).

Have you ever created affirmation cards or mirror messages for yourself? Do you plan to? Tell me in the comments section!

P.S. Living with Kindness interviewed me recently about what I call the 4 G’s of happiness. Check it out here.

A Christmas Miracle & Lessons Learned in 2021

A Christmas Miracle & Lessons Learned in 2021

Happy 2022! Welcome to my first of 50 blog posts this year. Thank you for reading! I can’t tell you how excited I am to connect with you all on a regular basis again.

At the beginning of each year, in addition to making goals for the coming year, I like to think back to the previous one and write down the lessons I learned. A few lessons I learned in 2021 include:

  • Wait at least 2 weeks before making a large decision about anything in my life. I will probably change my mind.
  • Always have a book next to the bed that I’m really excited to read. Right now I’m reading A Year of Loving Kindness to Myself: & Other Essays.
  • Use Notion to organize my entire life (trust me: it’s free and easy and this is not an ad!)
  • Get dressed even if I don’t leave the house the whole day (work from home life). People told me to do this throughout 2020, but my stubborn Aries came out and I didn’t do it. I get it now.
  • Decorate for all holidays. It’s worth the hassle and makes me happy.

One of the biggest lessons I learned is to release expectations and go with the flow. Easier said than done, right? While this is going to always be a work in progress, it came up big time at the end of 2020 when my husband, Billy, and I got our first dog. He was the cutest, sweetest puppy and we couldn’t have been more excited! Once we got him though, we quickly realized that I was allergic to him. There were many tears and conversations about whether or not we could keep him, but we ultimately decided after a week that we couldn’t. We ended up finding the best family to give him to whose son had been wanting that type of dog and they were able to pick him up on Christmas Eve and give him to their son on Christmas morning. A true Christmas miracle!

Very soon after we released our expectations of what we thought our lives would be like as dog parents and gave him to his new family, a neighborhood cat started coming around every day. I grew up with cats, so this was a thrill for me. We quickly found out that he’s an outdoor cat who has an owner a few houses down from us. His owner loves that he comes over to our house and it now feels like we share this amazing kitty with our neighbors! He’s brought such joy to our lives and even my husband, who did not like cats previously, is so in love with him. We call him Peaches and he spends so much time at our house that we got him a cat bed (among many other things), where he watches TV with us every night. Releasing expectations allowed us to bond with Peaches (Instagram video of him being adorable here) and now he’s truly a part of our family. We feel like he adopted us and we couldn’t be more thrilled.

Peaches thinks he runs the place…(and he does)

In addition to my own lessons, I asked others what their biggest lessons this year were. First, I want to share a beautiful heartfelt answer from Kirsten Allen, who said her biggest lesson was:

“Don’t take anything for granted. Be a good person and live each day in a way that brings you joy.”

When I asked if she would elaborate, here’s what she said:

“Ok, the short answer is that my dad suddenly passed away in May. He was 59 and healthy. It was a shock to everyone.”

“The long answer… I’m incredibly fortunate because we had a wonderful relationship my whole life, and especially in the past few years. He was big into rock climbing – a pioneer in the southeastern US and climbing wouldn’t be what it is today in this region without what he and his friends did to establish access in the 70s and 80s. He also worked until the day he died to ensure proper mentoring in the younger generation. He and I were climbing partners for the last 5 or so years. He taught me a lot through that and I learned even more about him as a person. I was so lucky to take a 3 week road trip with him out west in sept 2020. We lived in the van that we built out and that I have now inherited. On that trip, we had many conversations about life and death and I know without a doubt he left this world with no regrets. I feel like because of that time, I have more closure than others around me do and I’m so grateful for that…”

“Basically, he was a really good person. If you met him, you were a friend, and friends were considered family. I’ve tried to emulate that in my own life. I’m working every day to go to bed with no regrets and to make sure the people in my life know what they mean to me. I’ve learned to be more open about my feelings and gratitude than ever before. We aren’t promised tomorrow.”

Kirsten and her dad

Thank you, Kirsten for sharing your profound lesson with the Happsters community. Sending you and your family so much love during this difficult time.

Other powerful lessons that were shared include:

  • “The biggest thing I’ve learned is that I need to advocate for myself in all aspects. You need to ask for the jobs you want, the love you want, the things you want. I used to wait and wish they would just happen to me. Once I took charge of that, that’s when the magic happened!” – Steph Clark
  • “In order to learn and grow, I needed to put myself first for the first time ever! Even if that means letting go of relationships that didn’t serve me any longer.” – Mary Maheux (Instagram: @bigmommamare)
  • “I think the biggest [lesson] I have learned was patience and to truly live in the present. I lived my whole life worrying about the future and sitting too much in the past. It always really put a toll on my mental health. Once I realized that and practiced being more patient and truly living in NOW, and accepting sometimes things can’t be changed and just work with what life has thrown at me, my mental health and mood has gotten so so much better.” – Hannah Albert (Instagram: @flowitoutcreations)
  • “I have learned that finding the humor, absurdity, and silliness in a situation is the easiest way to dispel any feelings of frustration, irritation, or anger. I’ve embraced not having control in the best way. All I can do is be present, be loving, and do my best and what will be, will be. Que sera, sera!” – Annie Kell
  • “If you believe in your dreams, you have to do something about it and not wait for them to show up! Loving yourself will allow more to flow in.” – AnnaLynn Waterman
  • “You do not have to hold any guilt for other people’s actions and priorities. Helped me so much in dealing with my relationship with my dad (or lack thereof!)” – Anonymous
  • “It’s okay to ask for help. And it’s okay to feel all of your feelings.” – Anonymous
  • “It’s okay to set boundaries and stick to those boundaries regardless if it’s family or friends. It’s okay to walk away from things and my absolute favorite “No” can be a complete sentence!” – Anonymous
Life lessons quote

What’s a lesson you learned in 2021 (big or small)?

Marie Coté on Gratitude, Coaching & Loving Yourself

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Happy Friday, friends! Today I’m excited to introduce you to Marie Coté, an inspiring holistic coach who uses her natural intuition to help others transform their lives for the better. I’m so excited to share her interview with you today – I think you’ll see her genuine soul shine through! Enjoy ♥♥♥

1. What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day for me would be to wake up feeling grateful for another day of life! I did not always feel this way, but I truly do now. It is not because my life has gotten so much better, it is more about my perspective being changed on life. I wake up early to meditate most mornings because I have two young boys, a dog and a husband. A quiet house for my morning meditation is amazing! I try to always get exercise and eat a healthy, protein rich breakfast with lots of water. I choose to take excellent care of myself everyday because I believe I am worth it. That does not mean I do not have indulgences like chocolate, bread and wine, but it means I try to have balance. Typically I am then busy getting my boys to school and working on my business. The day ends with a simple dinner and some tv or reading. Unless I have fun plans, I typically enjoy relaxing at night!

2. How did you decide to become a holistic coach and how do you describe what a holistic coach is?

The call to do the work I do came to me at a very young age. I observed so much suffering around me and within myself that I knew deep down there had to be a better way to live. Through much of my studies over the years, I have grown and changed so much, but the lasting changes came when I saw my own anxiety and depression leave my life completely. I came to discover that my suffering came from my thoughts and beliefs about life. Once my perspective changed my whole life changed. My mission with holistic coaching is to help guide others to find their own freedom from suffering as well. Holistic coaching is a powerful form of life coaching that approaches every aspect of a person’s life – body, mind, and spirit – in relation to the whole. It can help you access your full potential and make transformational changes.

 
3. What book have you suggested the most to friends and why do you love it?

Loving What Is by Byron Katie and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle would be my two favorite books of all time. They both teach you to love and accept this moment as it is. If you can love life as it is in each moment, you can do anything!

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4. What has been the biggest learning experience in your life?

Becoming a mother made me feel more vulnerable than ever before. It was terrifying to love someone so much and know you could not ultimately control their future or keep them always safe. It really opened up some big questions for me and helped me learn how to trust life on a deeper level than ever before.

5. It’s often said that life is about enjoying the little things. What are the little things that you appreciate?

I really appreciate laughter, sunshine, exercise, good food and good company simply because I didn’t always appreciate these things. To say that I do now, feels really good.

6. What gives you energy? What depletes your energy?

It gives me energy when I do something positive for myself and others. I am depleted of energy when I am being negative towards myself or others and when I say “yes” to something that I wanted to say “no” to.

7. What is your favorite mantra right now and why?

“I love myself.”  If I love myself, I can truly love others. Life also finds a way to love you when you love yourself. It is simple, yet it can be so challenging. It just takes consistent practice!

8. Do you have any upcoming retreats or courses coming up that you’d like to share?

You can go to www.miraculouslyyou.com to find more about what I do and how to work with me! : )
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You can follow along on Marie’s journey on Instagram at @miraculouslyyou and at her website http://miraculouslyyou.com/.

This interview is part of Happsters Happy Questions, an ongoing series of interviews that take a peek inside the lives of inspiring women around the world.

Kristy Malone on Nutritional Therapy, Mental Health & Using Your Intuition

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I’m so excited to share this interview with you today that I did with my new friend, Kristy. She has such an interesting background with experience as a mental health therapist and Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and I loved how she shared practical and helpful advice about happiness, intuition and so much more. Enjoy! ♥♥♥

1. What has your journey been to becoming a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and mental health therapist?

I first received my Master’s in counseling, and I had been working with military sexual assault victims for several years when the stress of my job took a massive toll on my health. Doctors offered me diagnoses like PCOS, hypothyroidism, and autoimmune disease, and while they were quick to prescribe medications to manage my symptoms, they weren’t interested in getting at the root cause of these conditions. My intuition told me that I needed to dig deeper and I suspected that nutrition was a big piece of the puzzle. This led me to study nutritional therapy, and from there everything clicked for me. I was able to heal my body, reverse all diagnoses, and most of all I gained a deeper understanding of the powerful connection between physical and emotional health. I now combine these two skillsets to help my clients find optimal wellness and happiness!

2. Do you have any tips on tuning into your intuition?

Absolutely! Our intuition always tells us what we need, but oftentimes we forget to listen, or we rationalize it away. Sometimes intuition manifests as something you just “have a hunch” about; but I have found that intuition more frequently speaks through emotions as opposed to profound epiphanies. For example, anxiety shows up to let us know that something isn’t right in our environment or in our life balance. Conversely, we feel peace and happiness when things are in balance. Sometimes you just have a certain “feeling” about someone or something… start to pay attention to how you feel around specific people and in your daily situations.

If you feel insecure in a relationship or in your workplace, something is off and needs further investigation. You feel that way for a reason. If your romantic relationship is creating more stress than happiness, then something has to change no matter how desirable that person is or how perfect they “could” be. If you are filled with dread every Sunday night in anticipation of going back to your job on Monday, you need to ask yourself if that job is truly serving you, no matter how great the pay is or how good it looks on paper. These emotional cues, if we pay attention to them, can connect us to our intuition and guide us towards that which is good for us, and away from that which does not serve us. Ultimately, listening to your intuition is the blueprint for happiness.

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3. What are you looking forward to most in the next month, personally or professionally?

So much! This season of my life has been one of tremendous growth in all possible ways. Professionally, I have just been invited to join a private therapy practice in Carlsbad with an amazing group of people, and I couldn’t be more excited about that. Personally, I am finding that new people continue to come into my life who bring positive energy, inspiring ideas, and new experiences. I greatly look forward to deepening these relationships and opening myself up to more meaningful connection.

4. What is your go-to breakfast?

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and it’s also truly the most important one in many ways! My go-to breakfast is sweet potato ribbons sautéed in coconut oil, two fried eggs, sliced avocado, salt and pepper, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. It is SO tasty, well-balanced, and keeps me full without weighing me down!

5. What daily rituals do you have that help you stay positive and happy?

  1. Nourishing food. Eating right for my body as well as treating myself is a huge key to my happiness. The foods we eat can impact our mood and wellbeing tremendously, so I feel my best when I’m giving my body what it needs and avoiding foods that trigger a negative response.
  2. Positive self-talk. Anxiety shows up for me from time to time, and I have learned that the content of my thoughts has a huge impact on how severe it is and how long it stays. Rather than letting my thoughts run away with me (“Things are falling apart”, “I can’t do this,” etc), I intentionally keep my thoughts positive (“Everything will be ok”, “I can handle this”). Thoughts have power, so what you say to yourself is really important!
  3. Human connection. Connecting with the people I love is a daily practice that keeps me grounded and optimistic even during challenging times. I have a wonderful support system and knowing that there are people who truly know me, and who will be there to celebrate the high points and have my back through the low points is more valuable than anything money can buy.

6. What has been your biggest learning experience in life?

There have been MANY, but the common thread in my most profound learning experiences has been finding the courage to let go of things that don’t serve me, and trusting that better things will follow. It is so hard to risk leaving a job, a relationship, or even a belief system without knowing what the next step will be. Sometimes even when things aren’t making us happy, mediocrity can be a comfortable place to stay because things will almost certainly get harder before they get better. However, it is SO worth it to take the risks, and to pursue a truly fulfilling life as opposed to a tolerable one. I suppose I could sum it up as “NEVER SETTLE!”

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7. What do you think is the key to a happy, joyful life?

I subscribe to the idea that happiness is more about the journey than the destination. Goals are extremely important, but ultimately, a joyful life comes from the people and experiences you have along the way. Genuine connection with other human beings, to show your soul to someone and have them show you theirs, to love and to be loved… to me, that is the essence of a happy life. We are all in this together, and that is a beautiful thing.

8. What is your favorite mantra?

I tend to adopt different mantras based on what’s going on in my life, but recently my mantra has been “Everything is figureoutable” (by Marie Forleo). It’s true- it is! It’s the limiting belief that we cannot overcome challenges that is the true obstacle.

9. Do you have any courses or retreats coming up you’d like readers to know about?

Yes! My business partner and I have a group for women called “Cravings & Connections” which focuses on un-complicating the nutritional and emotional elements of wellness. We talk about the emotional components of eating, why we have cravings and how to respond to them, exploring our relationship with ourselves and with food, and we also break down some complicated topics like blood sugar balance and digestion in a way that’s fun, actually makes sense, and provides tools for better health. More than just a group, we have created a community where profound growth, connection, and transformation occur. The feedback has been tremendous, and our next group starts Thursday June 29th, followed by another group starting Tuesday July 18th, and we are now taking reservations for both! Space is limited, but we do run these groups on a rotating basis. You can find more information about the group at www.paleotherapists.com, or reserve your spot by emailing paleotherapists@gmail.com.


You can follow along with Kristy’s journey on Instagram @uncommonwellness and visit her blog at https://www.uncommon-wellness.com/.

This interview is part of Happsters Happy Questions, an ongoing series of interviews that take a peek inside the lives of inspiring women around the world.

Zen Girl Mandy on Community, Purpose & the Power of Laughter

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Mandy Burnstein thinks of herself as a “yoga teacher, writer, event planner, part-time mermaid, and full-time zen girl.” That’s quite the list of jobs she juggles, not to mention that she’s also a wife and mother! Her beautiful Instagram account filled with yoga poses, fun with friends and family, and lots of beaches is what initially drew me to her and I’m thrilled to get to share her story with you today. Enjoy ♥♥♥

1. Do you have a favorite style of yoga that you generally gravitate to?
I’m a Vinyasa girl, through and through. Coming from a dance and movement background, my body craves the creative free flow of the Vinyasa style. I was trained in Vinyasa in 2010 and that is definitely my roots and foundation, but as of the last year and a half, I’ve embraced Kundalini yoga and also Bhakti yoga. I have fallen in love with the concept of healing yourself from the inside out, using your breath, chakras, energy lines, and sound medicine. There are many paths to healing and growth, and I’m open and down for all of them!

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2. What does your typical day look like?
Well, I have a 10 month old baby girl named Luna Wild, so life these days is free flowing and quite unpredictable. There is always something exciting going on! Mornings now start around 7am with big smiles, cuddle fests and sing-a-longs. We make green smoothies and breakfast, then around 10am, our Nanny comes over and I start my “Mandy” part of the day. I take a yoga class, run errands, catch up on emails, then teach yoga either in the studio, on the beach, or at the home of my clients depending on the day.

I allocate time each day to plant seeds for the future: my next workshop, goddess gathering, and my next yoga retreat. When it comes to work, I’m a big planner! I love to have my next 6-9 months of events mapped out so I can continually have new and creative offerings for my students.

As the day winds down, my husband comes home from work, we take a beach walk and catch sunset together to decompress from the day. Then we make dinner, put little Luna to bed and have a few hours together to connect.

Weekends are all about fun adventures! We usually explore around San Diego or hop down to Mexico for a few nights of being off-the-grid and more present with each other.

3. What gives you energy?
Community. Passion. My purpose.
A few years ago, I felt lost and a little confused about my purpose on this planet. I did a lot of deep healing work and learned a great deal of useful information about myself and my journey. I now know that I need a strong sense of community, with positive friends and family around me, as well as passion and purpose (and lots of delicious food in my life!) to feel energized and function at my highest.

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4. What book have you recommended to friends the most?
Modern: May Cause Miracles by Gabby Bernstein. This 40 day meditation and journaling “workbook” changed my life.
Ancient: Tao Te Ching — a classic.

5. What do you think is the key to a happy, joyful life?
Laughter. Authenticity. Purpose.
You must laugh every single day. You must feel comfortable and loved/loving in your own skin. You must identify your purpose and pursue it passionately. These are my 3 non-negotiables and have helped me create a sense of deep happiness and daily joy.

6. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
You are your own Medicine Woman. Quiet the outside noise, tune into your soul. Listen and all the answers will be revealed from within.

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7. What is your vision for where you want to be in 10 years?
I just turned 31 years old, so in 10 years I’ll be 41. My dream life would be to continue being happily married to my husband Devin, with 3 kind, loving children. We split our time between our home in San Diego and our home in Mexico. We work hard and are passionate about what we do, but we balance it out with lots of time for play and taking care of ourselves. We surf, swim, eat lots of veggies and laugh often. I’m still teaching yoga and working intimately with women. I offer three yoga retreats each year which evolve and grow as I do. Perhaps there is a boutique hotel or yoga retreat center in the jungle that I am the creator of. My heart remains nourished by my tight-knit family and an amazing tribe of friends around the globe. This is my dream life. Simple and sweet 🙂

8. What is your favorite way to give back?
Corazon de Vida Foundation. This organization is amazing! They oversee 13 orphanages in Baja Mexico, which is only 30 minutes away from San Diego. I’ve been involved with them for years. From the first orphanage visits where I fell head over heels in love with these children, to helping throw the annual fundraising Galas, I love every aspect of what they do and how efficiently and effectively they use the donations. If this type of service speaks to you, please join us!


You can follow along with Mandy’s journey on Instagram @zengirlmandy, and for more in depth life lessons, travel stories, and yoga tips, visit her blog, Zen Girl — www.zengirlchronicles.com

This interview is part of Happsters Happy Questions, an ongoing series of interviews that take a peek inside the lives of inspiring women around the world.

Lindsey & Krista from Almost 30 on Friendship, Passion & Wellness

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When I learned about the Almost 30 podcast a few months ago, I listened to it immediately and loved every second of it. I knew from the very beginning that these girls were my kind of girls. Definite “Happsters” at heart!

They are so down-to-earth and interview the most amazing guests on everything from the juice craze to psychic mediums to hormones in a fun and compelling way. I was excited when the podcast hosts, Krista (blogger at The Hundred Blog) and Lindsey (actress, singer, model and SoulCycle Instructor) agreed to an interview. Krista and Lindsey answered separately, so you can see both of their responses to each question below! Enjoy ♥♥♥

1. I love love love your podcast, Almost 30! Why did you decide to start it?

LINDSEY: Krista and I were introduced by a mutual friend who knew that we would connect immediately.  Our friendship is SO DAMN EASY.  We have supported each other and have been one another’s sounding board from day one.  Almost 30 was inspired by our deep chats about who, what, and where we are, as well as hilarious recollections of our early 20’s.  We are both obsessed with finding the experts and guru’s, the practices and habits, the products and innovative ideas that will help us to be the best versions of ourselves.  Sharing this with our listeners has been the BIGGEST GIFT.

KRISTA: That means so much ☺ we love you. I can’t even remember the genesis behind starting the podcast, but we recorded for a few months in a closet before we shared anything. I have been a podcast fan for years, and felt like there wasn’t a podcast out there that spoke to women in their twenties and thirties about bettering themselves and navigating life’s transitions. We also wanted to bring together a community of women who could support and encourage each other (that’s our secret Facebook group!).

2. How did you two meet?

LINDSEY: As I mentioned above, through a mutual friend!  What’s funny is that we both lived in NYC before LA…and then both settled on the west side.

KRISTA: Through SoulCycle! I was auditioning to be an instructor and Lindsey offered to help me out with my audition. After I moved to LA from NYC, I remembered how cool she was and asked her to hang out. We knew instantly that we had something special. Lindsey and I are super similar because we have the same dreamer mentality, plus we work wayyyyy too hard.

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3. What has been the biggest thing you’ve learned since starting the podcast?

LINDSEY: I’ve learned that when I am passionate about something and I have a clear vision, I have the power to commit and follow through.  In the past, I had convinced myself that I should be grinding and miserably over-worked in order to achieve what I wanted.  The moment I realized that the space between A and B was the best part, that I could actually enjoy the process and thus be inspired to create even more, was the moment I felt free to unapologetically take pride in my path.

KRISTA: Podcasting has taught me so much! It makes me feel like there is something out there for everyone and to have faith that if you persist to do what you want to do. It may not be the first or second thing, but to keep trying. I LOVE my blog, The Hundred Blog, but knew I wanted to incorporate something else. I would have never done the podcast if I didn’t blog for a few years prior. Also, we’ve had the greatest guests on the podcast ever so each time we record I learn so much. As an example, in the Be Well By Kelly episode, I learned about incorporating the ‘Fab Four’ into your diet: Protein, Fiber, Fat and Greens. I try to incorporate that in most meals that I eat!

4. Do you have morning routines? If so, what are they?

LINDSEY: Oh, yes!  When I wake up, I put my phone in my night stand drawer for 30 minutes.  Within those 30 minutes, I will:

  • meditate on my little balcony
  • write three affirmations that I will turn to throughout the day
  • write down three things I’m grateful for
  • write down three things I will get done today
  • take my vitamins
  • make tea or a small amount of cold pressed coffee with a lot of almond milk
  • make a healthy breakfast

By then I am awake and have a clear sense of how I want to feel today.  Then I can hop on my phone and computer and start to tackle the day!

KRISTA: I do! I am in love with a good morning ritual. It’s super important and sets the tone for your entire day. I would much rather get up early than sleep in and feel late any day. I don’t keep my phone in my room, so my alarm in the kitchen will most likely wake me up. I get up around 5:30 AM and once I do, I’ll take a moment to put my hand over my heart and say thanks. Thanks for waking me up, for my house, for everything! After that I’ll drink warm lemon water (because people have said it works, ha) and then I’ll meditate on the couch for 10 minutes. I usually do a TM meditation and if I can’t get into it, I’ll just do affirmations. After that I’ll leave and go workout (I always get them in early) and then have breakfast when I return. Usually a protein shake + avocado + collagen + pearl powder + maca. I love Sun warrior Protein in Vanilla or Vega Sport (super smooth and delicious).

5. When you’re having a bad day, how do you pull yourself back up?

LINDSEY: A great workout never fails to raise my vibration.  It helps me to shake up any mental, physical, creative, or emotional blocks I might be experiencing. I also love being by water when I’m feeling off. Water is so calming and humbling to me, so I will usually take a walk on the beach to reset and recommit to the day.

KRISTA: Meditation really helps me to navigate any bad day. It’s changed my life in that way. I know that if I do have a bad day, or a bad week, that it’s temporary and it won’t last forever. I also don’t attach myself to the feeling. So if I am stressed for some reason, practicing un-attachment really helps me to stay happy. I remember that feeling just ‘is’ and it’s not Krista. Or I’ll have a good vent session with my sister because what else are sisters for?

6. What is your favorite mantra that continues to be relevant in your life and why?

LINDSEY: My potential is greater than any problem I have.

My dreams are big. As I pursue them my mind tends to create problems, because, well, that’s what the mind does. It tries to protect me by looking for what could go wrong or what isn’t so perfect in the moment. This mantra/affirmation reminds me that the problems are specifically for me and I am more than capable of finding flow in any situation.

KRISTA: My mantra is ‘I am’, which reminds me to always ‘be’ wherever I am, and that I can always consider myself at home. I repeat it whenever I need to be reminded to be more present. I also use it when I am saying my affirmations, I’ll use ‘I am…’ then add whatever I need to hear that day like “strong” or “golden” or “love.” After I meditate, I always do a few affirmations before I start my day.

7. Do you have any wellness rituals that you swear by?

LINDSEY: I’m learning that if I don’t take care of me now, I will be useless for my dreams later.

  • massage every two weeks
  • facial every three weeks
  • move my body every day
  • YOGA YOGA YOGA
  • I sleep with my crystals (placing the appropriate crystals on my chakras to balance and ground me)

I use Saje essential oils before bed and to wake up in the morning!  “Cleanse” is one of my favorites. I put it on the bottom of my feet before bed and I AM KNOCKED OUT and feel amaaaazing in the morning!!

KRISTA: Honestly I have tried them all. Everything under the sun! I love trying new things, seeing how good I can feel and experimenting! I’ve tried LED Light Therapy, Cupping, Acupuncture, Reiki, Crystal Therapy, Cryotherapy…to name a few! This is so weird, but I swear by not taking birth control, ha. I stopped taking it 5 years ago, and have never felt better. My mood improved, I felt clearer, and my hair, skin and nails looks so much better – especially my hair! It’s never been so thick. I have the copper IUD which is amazing and non-hormonal. Once I got off birth control, I was also able to pay close attention to my hormone levels and feel so much more connected with myself.

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8. You two have such a great bond. Do you have any tips on how others can find friends as adults?

 LINDSEY: Such a good question. It is so important that you follow what makes you happy and what fills you up.  You will find like-minded people there. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more aware of what my authentic self feels like. The more I stand in that truth, the more people I attract who have similar goals, visions, love, light, and balance.

KRISTA: YES. Definitely. A lot of the way that Lindsey and I met I felt like was divine timing. It helps that at this stage we know who we are and have similar interests. Along with that, we have a deep respect for the other person. Not only do I love Lindsey, but I respect her. She’s someone I would introduce to my parents, my lifelong friends, and my co-workers because you want to be around people that you’re proud to know. If you’re looking for to listen to you complain all day about your job you hate, how will that serve you? Find people you want to be like and be friends with them. You can also find friends as an adult by doing things you love, and standing in your light, you’ll attract the right people. I found Lindsey through SoulCycle and through that activity I did for me, I was given this friendship.

9. Do you think finding “balance” is possible? If so, what are your tips on finding balance in your life?

LINDSEY: At this point in my life, balance means working really hard and loving it.  I think balance will mean something different at various stages in my life. Right now I am happy and fulfilled in the work that I do, so that feels balanced.  I have a wonderful group of friends, but I also truly value my alone time…that feels balanced. Krista and I are contributing so much to the podcast and putting in so many hours, but we are also having a blast and receiving so much from it. #ALMOST30NATION makes us so happy. That is balance.

KRISTA: I love this question! I do believe that you can ‘have it all,’ but ‘balance’ I am not so sure! Both are in the eye of the beholder. I would not say that anyone in my life thinks I live a balanced life, but I’m so happy! I work 7 days a week – I have a 9-5, my blog and podcast. I don’t watch TV or relax much, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Oh and if you think that you can have it all, you will. I believe that I have everything in my life that I need, and the universe responds to that by actually giving me everything I need.

Also with balance, I’m vegan and gluten free both by choice and don’t drink alcohol at all. But again, this is what makes me feel good and happy.

If there’s something that’s telling you that you’re not living a balanced life, then listen to that, but not to anyone else that could tell you that your life is unbalanced. I’ve had moments where I’ve pushed myself a little too far and I make sure to note that and chill out for a few days.

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You can find Krista and Lindsey online at www.almost30podcast.com. You can also follow them on Instagram at @almost30podcast and be sure to join their secret Facebook group where all the good stuff goes down here.

This interview is part of Happsters Happy Questions, an ongoing series of interviews that take a peek inside the lives of inspiring women around the world.

Katie Brauer on Connection, Identity and The Power of Rest

Today marks the start of a series called “Happsters Happy Questions,” where I feature incredibly inspiring women once a week. In these interviews, we’ll dive deep into how these women got where they are today, what drives them and get their advice on how to lead happy, healthy lives.

I’m delighted to start this series with Katie Brauer. Katie happens to live just down the street from me, so I got the chance to sit down and connect with her in person for the interview.

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Photo via @micaelamalmi_photography

Katie has a calming energy and I immediately felt at home as we chatted. She is an entrepreneur, educator and personal transformation expert and I was extremely impressed by her ability to eloquently tell me her fascinating life story with ease. Enjoy ♥♥♥

1. Tell us a little bit about your background.

I have always been fascinated by the body and human potential. I started out as a professional snowboarder and suffered a lot of injuries throughout my 7 year career, which provided me the opportunity to study a whole lot of things that I was interested in. The first time I blew my ACL out and needed a full reconstruction, I went to massage school and fell in love with bodywork, during my next bout of down time from injury, I did a 2 year program in classical Pilates. Pilates was a huge part of my rehab and became complimentary to snowboarding. When I had to have my second ACL reconstruction, the rehab wasn’t working and my swelling hadn’t gone down, so I decided to try to understand what was going on the inside. I went to the Vail library and started reading books on chakras, the energy body and emotional wounding and experimented with visualization and meditation. While I previously didn’t love yoga, once I started doing these things, I began seeing yoga as a mind body practice as opposed to just a physical practice. I’ve been down the mindfulness and yoga rabbit hole ever since.

Eventually I combined everything I learned from yoga, Bio Dynamic Craniosacral Therapy, classical Pilates, functional movement, Therapeutic Massage, Somatic Experiencing, trips to India and personal experiences to create my own teacher training program and worked to build out my yoga programming and approach. I’ve trained thousands of teachers over the last decade, have owned my own yoga studio and served on the Executive Team of the fastest growing boutique yoga company, Yoga Six.

Over the years, what kept coming back to me was that I needed to follow what I love to do instead of just doing what I’m good at. I figured out that:

1) I love connecting with and supporting people
2) I love educating
3) I love providing people with tools and resources to feel more aligned and alive

My career has followed a very natural evolution and I have no idea what is around the next corner, currently I am focused on two major areas of my business: I just launched The Yoga Professional™ and provide education, inspiration + a modern approach to supporting the evolution of Yoga Teachers to rise as Professionals that sets them up for long term career and financial success. While I was training yoga instructors, I learned that every yoga teacher I came into contact with wasn’t making the money they desired and didn’t know what steps to take to get there. Now I help yoga instructors with the business component of their careers with group coaching and masterminds.

The other leg of my business is focused on educating and supporting women in living an empowered life and teaching them how to skillfully ride the highs and lows through modern mindfulness techniques.

Editor’s note: See the last question to get more details on how Katie empowers women through her online program starting soon!

2. You’ve accomplished A LOT in your life. What do you believe is your greatest accomplishment both professionally and personally?

Personally, it would be my relationship with my mom because it wasn’t good for a long time and there was a lot of wounding on my part (I’m a highly sensitive person). I just can’t believe where we were and where we are now. I think that is a testament to how important the internal work is and our responsibility as individuals to pick up the carpet, look underneath it, and deal with what’s there.

Professionally, I’m proud of the fact that I make a multiple six figure salary doing something that I love. When I tell people I’m a yoga teacher and coach, many people “poo poo” it and it just makes me smile. It’s been interesting to observe the change in my identity along the way. From the identity of being a pro snowboarder to feeling pressure to moving on after my injuries to get a real job with a title to where I am now. There have been many different identities along the way as my jobs have changed, but what I have learned is the title doesn’t matter, but what you are doing, the impact you are having and the contribution you are making does.

3. Do you have a morning routine?

The first thing I do when I wake up is lie there for a few moments to check in with my body and notice how I am feeling. I notice how I’m feeling physically, energy-wise and emotionally. I ask myself “what do I need right now?” and do what I feel in that moment instead of doing the same exact routine every day.

My husband is in the military, so a lot of times he’s gone and I generally spend about 30 minutes hanging out with my daughter in bed. She’s starting to talk and that time with her is so amazing. Then I usually drink a big glass of lemon water and coffee, make my daughter breakfast, and we go hang out in the backyard together.

My old routine was wake up and get up right away. There was no pause and transition time, but now that I have my daughter in my life, my mornings are very spacious and not rushed.

4. Has being a mom changed how you’ve run your business?

It has heightened my awareness around the impact that my actions have on others. My daughter is almost 2 now and she’s modeling after me the same way that I modeled after my mom. I have a lot of incredible traits that my mom has, but I also have a lot of patterning that I learned from her like a “just get it done” and “keep going no matter what” mentality. Now after having my daughter, I think about how I show up for everything I do and how my actions impact other people.

5. What do you know now that you wish you could have told yourself 10 years ago?

Less is more. I know now how important rest is and that I need space for creativity. I know that by giving myself space, I’m able to tap into my best work. That’s a key piece instead of “go-go-go” all the time. I feel like something huge is on the horizon because I’m finally understanding that piece. I’m realizing that doing nothing doesn’t mean you’re doing nothing.

6. I heard you have a great program for empowered living starting soon. Can you explain what it is?

Absolutely. My Flourish Program for Empowered Living starts Wednesday the 10th of May. I run the program every spring and it takes place over 10 weeks. The program is online with an incredible group of women who come together each year. It takes them from where they now in their life in every category – spiritually, health, financially, relationships, socially, career – so that they have a snapshot of where they are now. I introduce them to my philosophy on life and help them get where they want to be in the categories where they don’t feel like they are a 10 out of 10. We’ll talk about how to enjoy the highest highs and navigate the lows. Every module I give them new tools and resources to use from the breath to conscious communication to mindfulness techniques. They complete the program being able to recognize patterns in their life that are not serving them, having the tools to change them and feeling more empowered. I like to call it a system software update for your life.

You can learn more about the program and sign up here: http://bit.ly/kbflourish. Get $50 off your registration with code “50OFF”.

Thanks so much to Katie for the inspiring interview! You can also follow Katie on Instagram at @katiebrauertransform.

This interview is part of Happsters Happy Questions, an ongoing series of interviews that take a peek inside the lives of inspiring women around the world.

Top 5 Inspiring Snapchat Accounts to Follow

Top 5 Inspirational Snapchat Accounts to Follow

Snapchat is my new obsession. I cannot get enough of the behind-the-scenes looks at peoples’ lives. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that it isn’t easy to find inspirational accounts to follow so I wanted to solve that problem! Here are 5 motivational and inspirational Snapchat accounts you should follow.

1) LoveSweatandFit
Katie is a southern California fitness professional and blogger who kills it on Snapchat. I love watching her days whether she’s filming a new YouTube video or just showing what her grocery haul is and chatting about her favorite products. Love her! Add her at: LoveSweatandFit

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Screenshot this to add LoveSweatandFit on Snapchat

2) MichelleObama
Michelle Obama recently just got her own Snapchat account. I love her personality and have found it incredibly inspirational to peek into her life and see all the good she’s accomplishing in the world on a daily basis. Add her at: MichelleObama

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Screenshot this to add MichelleObama on Snapchat

3) SophiaBushSnaps
I’m a fan of Sophia Bush from her days on “One Tree Hill” and her Snapchat does not disappoint. She snaps lots of photos and videos on set of her TV show and highlights causes that she’s an activist for. Add her at: SophiaBushSnaps

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Screenshot this to add SophiaBushSnaps on Snapchat

4) Rachel_Brathen
Rachel Brathen is also known as “Yoga_Girl” on Instagram with 1.9 million followers. She gives a glimpse into her life being a yogini in Aruba with her husband and adorable dog. What you see is what you get with her and I love her down-to-earth real vibe. Add her at: Rachel_Brathen

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Screenshot this to add Rachel_Brathen on Snapchat

5) KelliDav
This is my Happsters Snapchat account! I post happiness Snapchat challenges, happiness tips and a peek into my daily life (which lately has a lot of art, my fiancé, friends, beach time, and neighborhood walks). Add me at: KelliDav

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Screenshot this to add “KelliDav” AKA Happsters on Snapchat

Happy snapping!
Kelli
P.S. I just realized all of these inspiring Snapchat accounts happen to be women – girl power!

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