For Meaning Will Come…

The other night my husband Michael and I decided to open up a classic book and do some reading together. Now before you go jumping to conclusions about how sophisticated and sharp we are, keep in mind that this is not a typical evening activity for us; we usually watch one of our favorite television shows or play Words With Friends on our phones before heading to sleep. I’m grateful that we decided to switch it up on this particular evening, however-because the content left a deep impression on us both.

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We picked a fairytale in George MacDonald’s The Gifts of the Child Christ, and took turns reading out loud. The story is based around a girl named Little Daylight (also the name of a cool band) born to a king and queen. When the princess is just a baby, a bunch of fairies come to her christening to give her blessings and “remarkable gifts.” Trouble quickly assumes the christening when an evil fairy shows up and ruins the party by bestowing upon Little Daylight a gift (or curse) of a type of insomnia. As you can expect, the king was kind of freaking out at this “gift” from the evil fairy, and he started to grieve. The final fairy is able to give a gift with hopes that the curse will one day be lifted, but it has certain limits and sounds a bit complicated. The flustered king asks the final fairy, “I don’t know what that means…” She replies with something profound and it was a single statement that brought Michael and I to a complete pause and state of awe as he read the words aloud…

“Don’t be afraid. The meaning will come with the thing itself,” said she.

Deep breath.

What a timely word, for anyone, at any stage in life, I would so boldly claim.

Why is it in life that we always complicate our thoughts with the unknowns? Why is it that we so easily jump to the worst-case-scenario as we analyze our plans and circumstances? Or maybe it’s the best-case-scenario that we jump to. Either way, we are “jumping” ahead to the unknown when we react out of fear or anxiety. I can be the worst at this. My personality type is ENFP, which for me means that I feel deeply, dream wildly, and easily get bored. I like to run at a thousand miles an hour, working on twenty different projects at the same time, all the while always thinking ahead to what my next project will be before I finish the last twenty. This is why I do yoga.

I’m (obviously) all about dreaming and thinking about the future and the unknown. I think it can be very healthy. But when we start to fret and over-analyze like the king was in our story, this is where things can become toxic to our minds.

*And then I must add, in addition to the normal and more typical stresses about the unknowns, that sometimes in life, really hard stuff happens that we cannot even wrap our heads around. We humbly come before God in brokenness and ask him, “why?!” I believe that it’s okay to be honest with God, and to share our thoughts and emotions with him, without a plastic filter. I believe God wants this for us. And yet, in my own personal deepest seasons of suffering, I’ve found that is when I seek him the most and thus, feel most connected to him…(more on suffering in a later post).

Although I’ve only lived a short time, I’ve come to find that things have a way of working themselves out in life. Or, put more poetically as our fairy reminds us, “meaning will come with the thing itself.” I’m not sure where you are at in life, but hearing that, my friends, is a fresh of breath air.

Life is hard. It is messy. But do not be afraid. Love you, friends.

Photo by Robert Hamilton

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Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

My #1 Trick For Committing To A Workout

For me, the most difficult part of working out is actually getting out the door and committing to it. I’m the queen of excuses all throughout the day as to why I don’t have time. However, I do have one trick that is tried and true, at least for me, and it all starts with fashion.

My workout of choice is Barre3, which I absolutely love and would go as far as saying that it’s completely changed my life-but I’ll elaborate on that another day. One of the greatest things about a Barre3 class is that you can wear comfy workout clothes and you don’t have to wear shoes or socks. This makes it really easy for me to transform my everyday outfits into workout outfits. For example, if I am out and about running errands all afternoon, I’ll slip on exactly what I’m going to wear to my Barre3 class (leggings, tank), but then cover up with a cool jacket and some cute booties-no one knows that I’m actually rocking my workout gear! This simple trick is one that I can really stick with, even if it just means wearing one of the items that I’m going to wear in class. I’ve found ways to get really creative with it. When I’m already wearing some or all of my workout gear, it just seems lame to cancel a workout on yourself, so it’s a really great accountability tool.

At the very least, if I am at the office or somewhere where no single item of workout clothing is appropriate, I’ll pack a bag full of workout clothes in my car…that way when I’m driving home, tired from a long day…my workout bag will be right there, staring me in the face.

What is your go-to accountability tool for committing to your workout? I would love to hear!

Jacket: Andrew Marc

Tank/Sports Bra/Leggings: lululemon

Shoes: Sam Edelman

Sunglasses: Marc By Marc Jacobs


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Chilly Winter Walks

Going on an outdoor hike or walk this time of year tends to call for thick jackets and a fast pace to keep warm. I’ve come to appreciate the changing seasons and what they have to offer. It’s refreshing to get outside even when the weather isn’t ideal, and it makes you savor the warm fireplace and hot tea when you return. Below are some shots from recent hikes and walks; one with my husband Michael along the river trail behind our home, and the other on a trail in Bend with my little brother Philip and his dog Pete.

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December Favorites

Oh, December, you are finally here!

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Photos by Boone Rodriguez for Junghwa By Amy Stewart.

Here are a few things I am loving this month:

1. Sydney Hale Woods Room Spray and Candles

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This room spray smells absolutely fantastic, kind of what I like to call a “woodsy-pretty” smell. The best part is, a few sprays will last all day-unlike scents that fade within a few minutes. The candles are also absolutely divine and are offered in a variety of scents. Both of these products are designed elegantly and simple, but they pack a big punch when it comes to quality.

2. Eminence Organic Skin Care

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I just began using this line a few weeks ago, and I am in love! I started seeing a new esthetician who introduced me to their products, and I have seen incredible results. I feel that this line deserves a review all on its own…perhaps at a later date?

3. Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil

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Did you just gag a little? It’s okay, most people do when I tell them that I take this. But before you judge me too hard, I dare you to google the plethora of health benefits in this high quality supplement. There are too many perks to count in this paragraph (which I’m trying to keep short), but let’s just say-I don’t like to mess around with getting sick in the winter months, and this is one of my non-negotiable daily supplements.

4. My Barre3 Water Bottle

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Barre3 has completely changed my life, so I have no problem sporting their flair, especially when it’s designed so clean and modern. This water bottle inspires me to drink more water throughout the day. I usually pop a lemon in it and try to drink at least 2 bottles of water per day.

How about you? What are you loving lately? Cheers to December!

Looking Back 2014

As much as I love to look to the future, sometimes it’s fun to look back, especially when it brings sweet memories. As the holidays are approaching and I’m taking some time to relax, I’ve had some time to look back through all the amazing projects from this year. Here is some work from my favorite projects and clients in 2014. Huge thanks to my agency, clients, and collaborators in 2014! So much love in my heart for you all!

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That Letter To Kendall

As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed today, I couldn’t help but notice many people were sharing an article about Kendall Jenner being bashed in an “open letter” by another LA-based model and writer. These people sharing the article on Facebook were echoing their approval and endorsement of the “open letter” to Kendall, adding their own scathing words and remarks towards her and her family.

I went ahead and read through the letter to Kendall, each paragraph my heart sinking deeper. The letter is laced with disdain and disapproval in the way Kendall has risen to her success. The writer calls Kendall out on claiming “to work hard to get where she has come” in Kendall’s response to recent bullying from other models at New York Fashion Week. The letter basically goes on to drive home a point about how hard it actually is to be successful in the modeling world. The entire article has an underlying suggestion that if  Kendall only knew how hard it was to make it in the modeling world without her rich and famous family-perhaps then she wouldn’t claim such outlandish statements about her so-called, “hard-work.”

Here’s the thing: I’m nowhere close to being what one would consider a successful model. I have had some wonderful opportunities and I am so grateful for my agency and clients, but I am not a “top-model” nor am I aspiring to be one. Modeling has continued to be something that I absolutely love and feel honored to do-but I am not a supermodel. Full disclosure aside, I do get that it takes very hard work to be a model. Many of the points that this author makes about the reality of modeling are most definitely valid. It’s hard work and you have to hustle to stay marketable and relevant to brands and designers. But that’s not my issue with the article…

My issue is about how women treat other women. I don’t care if they are famous, rich, poor, black, white, a size 2 or a size 14-what on earth is up with women being okay with bashing other women? Seriously, when did this not only become “okay” but encouraged? Is it appropriate because the individual is famous? Listen, I am not a closet fan of the Kardashian family or anything. I’m actually pretty unbiased, although it would be easy for anyone to make certain judgements. From the outside looking in, I’m not sure that I would consider the family as a whole, “great role models.” But I also don’t know them personally. This isn’t about the Kardashians, though. This is about a peer-another model in my same industry, deciding that it’s okay to write a letter (with implied malice) to someone that she has never met.

So, if I were to respond to this writer of the article, Arisce Wanzer, it would go something like this:

Dear Arisce,

I understand the points you are trying to make in your open letter to Kendall. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, just like the rest of us. Some days I feel like giving it all up, too. It’s hard work and it takes dedication. It takes being okay with people telling you “no” over and over again. You’ve probably worked with much bigger clients than I have, and you’ve probably seen a lot more than I ever will.

I guess I’m just curious to know what initiated the desire in you to write this letter to Kendall? I can’t help but feel that your letter comes from a place of bitterness. If I am indeed correct, I’m curious to know about the root of this bitterness and why it exists. Is it coming from what you read about her in the media? The gossip websites are not exactly what I would consider a reputable, intelligent source. 

Part of me wants to agree with everything you’ve wrote. It’s easy to assume that Kendall might be a total spoiled child who gets every opportunity she wants in life with a snap of her mother’s fingers. And yet, deep down in my soul, I know that Kendall is just as much of a human as you and I. She wants to work for something. At least I hope…I’d like to assume the best in her, just like I want to about you. 

Arisce, let’s come together as peers, in an industry that can be so vain, so superficial, so discouraging-and prove them wrong about the stereotype that often comes with the title, “model.” Let’s come together and decide to empower one another, encourage one another, and ultimately-love one another. Instead of cringing when that other model books the job and we don’t, let’s give them a huge hug and “congrats,” hoping that they’ll do the same when we book the next job. 

I truly hope you’ll have a change of heart and revise your letter to Kendall. You have an amazing platform as a writer to influence the world for good, and not evil. 

Sincerely, 

Monica

I’m so grateful to work with incredible, supportive people in my industry. Some of my best friends today are models who I compete with on a weekly basis. We are both hoping to book the same jobs. But at the end of the day, I don’t see “just another model” in these friends of mine-I see another woman, just like me-who needs encouragement, grace, and hope in this life.

– – – – – – – – –

If you are interested in reading it, here’s the open letter from theblot.com:

‘Dear Kendall,

Take a moment and remove yourself from your current situation, if you can, to a life that isn’t riddled with excess and only hearing the word “yes” to your wants and requests. Now, imagine you’re from a small town and/or Third-World country where your only way to get out of your current social class, achieve your dreams, get a green card or just gain better work conditions is to become a high-fashion model. You have to leave for six months to a year sometimes, signing contracts you can barely understand, let alone oblige to, almost without choice. You’re away from your family, your friends and everything you know. You live in a one-bedroom apartment with six other girls in the same situation in this Big Apple, New York City.

Did I mention you’re only 17 when all of this goes down? That means you have to go to tutoring and/or English lessons in between learning how to “walk” at the agency, attending castings every other day, going on test shoots to get you experience, trying to learn your new neighborhood, going to the gym and hoping to maybe make some money all at once. Oh, and your apartment and test shoots aren’t free, by the way. They are added to your account with the agency, as are your casting outfits and cellphone. These are going to leave you in some serious debt if nobody books you for anything; some girls owe upward of $30,000 after a year of trying to book gigs, so take that into perspective as well, Miss Jenner.

So now let’s pretend you actually lived through all of that, and it’s finally Fashion Week. Exciting, right? This could be your big break! You could send your family in Belarus or Woodbridge, Va., the money they need for your little brothers to have new clothes and/or books for school and/or even afford a plane ticket home for the holidays! Imagine standing in line after line of girls with your exact height and body measurements all day, each one hoping for a coveted spot on the New York Fashion Week runway.

Casting after casting, and you just can’t seem to get your place. But suddenly after a week full of the word “No,” killing yourself at the gym, exhausting yourself in classes, cutting your diet in half, not talking with your family and sleeping in a room with six equally exhausted girls, you get the call. Your agent texts you with an 8 a.m. fitting at Marc Jacobs. Oh my god, you’re going to walk for Marc Jacobs! This is a dream come true, someone finally said yes, and the prestige is beyond what you could have imagined! So you pack your model bag, a bottled water, your walking shoes and agency-approved casting outfit. This could be your big break, assuming they don’t cut your look last minute, a common practice done to no-name girls, so fingers crossed!

The fitting was perfect, your garment is amazing, and Marc was SO nice! And cute, too! One last fitting after that one, and it’s show time; you’re finally going to debut everything you’ve worked so hard for. You get to prove to your family that you left everything behind for a great cause, and you can finally pay back all of your agency debt, not to mention the money your parents lent you to make ends meet.

It’s the morning of the show, and you’re up and ready, grab some fresh fruit to nibble on, pack your bag, and you’re out the door. The subway is packed with lots of models, agents, buyers and fashion people in general, all exhausted, but ready to work. You’ve been bumped/tripped by both a hairstylist’s travel kit and a makeup guys’ enormous Caboodles-like suitcase, all before 10 a.m. You walk into Lincoln Center, and it’s like magic … you can’t believe you’re here! You’ve finally made it!

Backstage is a commotion circus of clothes, hair, makeup, yelling, Fashion TV interviews … it’s an Instagram overload! All the big names are there, your personal heroes including Hanne Gaby Odiele, Karlie Kloss, Joan Smalls, Jamie Bochert, Anna Wintour, Marc Jacobs himself — the list goes on! You’ve really hit the big leagues!

But wait, isn’t that a reality TV star over there in hair and makeup? Yea, that’s definitely a Kardashian or something. What is she doing here? Did she take the subway? Was she at the casting? What agency is she with? I didn’t see her last season … Does she need MORE fame? MORE money? A green card perhaps? Doesn’t she get enough cash from that show that all of ignorant America glamorizes? Didn’t her sister have sex with someone on camera and profit from the video sales to get their family its new line of limelight? This girl didn’t do and doesn’t owe half of what you did (remember, you’re NOT “KJ” in this scenario) to get here today, that much is certain. Her mommy surely called a top agency, got her in the door and the design houses just chose to milk her fame like the cash cow that it is. One by one like dominos from Vogue to Givenchy, fashion is selling out to the ignorant masses for money. What happened to the art, the cerebral part of fashion? Did it really all die with Alexander McQueen?

Well, there goes the neighborhood, I guess. Gone is the prestige you once felt as a “chosen one” by Marc, Anna or Ricardo — this cheapens your entire experience. You thought you were special, that your hard work had finally paid off. You didn’t realize that these coveted spots were for sale. The cost? The soul and dignity of a fashion house. The clothes will still sell, and the players will still play, but the image will be forever tarnished by these real life Veruca Salts buying their way in with sleazy fame rights.

You’re on to walk in five, so you’re smoking to calm your nerves. You need to ash your cigarette, and there’s Kendall Jenner’s drink. You already feel a bit better.’

Image from ryanseacrest.com

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3D Fiber Lashes

Okay. Time to get real.

I don’t have anything close to naturally long eyelashes. Sometimes when I am on a job, they’ll put false lashes on me and it’s like a dream come true…for a few hours. Then my dreams die when I wash my face and they come off.

However, I recently found the most amazing product that has redeemed my lash dreams! When I first tried this product, I’m pretty sure I almost fainted from the results, not even believing that I was looking at my own lashes in the mirror. In the photos below, I only put on only one coat of the duo, what I would consider a minimal “day look.” However, this is a product you can really build upon itself, which makes it easy to pump it up the drama even more for a night out or special occasion. Here’s how it works:

-You apply the transplanting gel which looks like normal mascara.

-While the gel is still wet, you apply the transplanting fibers which is where you start to see major length and volume.

-Finish by sealing the transplanting fibers with another layer of the transplanting gel. You can continue to add more layers for a bolder look-up to 300x the length and volume of your normal lashes.

The best part about this product is that it’s completely natural-no cheap fillers or harsh chemicals! You can purchase your own Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes set here.

The only makeup products I am wearing in these photos are Chanel Perfection Lumiere (foundation), BITE Matte Creme Lip Crayon and Cinnamon Plumping Oil, and the 3D Fiber Lashes.

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Wreathspiration

Every time I sit down to craft, I wonder to myself, “why don’t I take time to do this more often?” It’s soothing and rewarding all at the same time. This past weekend was no exception. My friend Lisa and I felt adventurous and decided we were going to make wreaths. After we made a game plan, we got dressed and headed out to my “backyard” which is a river trail plush with typical Oregon greenery. We must have looked ridiculous in our city jackets and trendy shoes, looking for loose branches, leaves, and anything else that we thought would be a good addition to our wreaths.

After we had gathered the goods and made a quick stop to the craft store, we got to work! Our friend Kiera joined us while drank tea, listened to music, laughed…all the while carefully creating our masterpieces. I knew that I wanted more of a “minimalist wreath,” whatever that means (I’m just trying to be cool). What I love about crafting is that you can have an idea in your head, but you never quite know how it’s going to turn out until it starts to come together.

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Lisa’s wreath is still in progress, but I can assure you that it was looking beautiful. Here’s Kiera’s:

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And mine:

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Do you want to make your own wreath? It’s really easy! All you need is some creative inspiration, wire, wire cutters, and the supplies that you want to use to make it. Truly, all three of our wreaths were entirely different. Kiera and I both used a gold ring to help guide us along, but Lisa tied all of her greenery together simply with the wire, and she was able to get a bigger shape this way. I recommend looking on Pinterest and heading to your local craft store for inspiration. I would love to see what you make, so feel free to send photos or tag me in them on Instagram. Have fun!

A Proactive Morning Routine

It’s around 7:30am (ish), and I’m lying in bed on a typical weekday morning, my eyes fluttering to open. I actually don’t know the exact time because I turn my phone off at night and I don’t set an alarm. Slowly but surely I start to wake up; I stare into space for a bit, guessing to myself what time it might be, and roll out of bed. I walk down the stairs into the kitchen, still waking up, but starting to get really excited. Excited for my favorite part of the day. Excited to perform the rituals that set me up for success in the rest of the day. This, my friends, is the beginning of my morning routine.

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I learned the importance and benefit of a healthy morning routine long before I understood the value in one. My mother somehow always had a feast of a breakfast waiting for us before school, and little did I know that she had been up hours before-reading, praying, and sitting in the dark silence, savoring the sweet, quiet moments before the chaos of raising four children began. She would greet us each morning, flipping pancakes, and say cheerily, “breakfast is the most important part of the day!” Little did I know how true that would prove to be. My dad set a similar example, always reading in his favorite chair, sipping his coffee, and-unbeknownst to us kids, calmly praying over us.

My morning routine has definitely changed and evolved over the years, and I imagine it will continue to mature as I enter into different seasons of life. One thing has continued to prove tried and true, though-whenever I have an intentional, planned routine, it positively affects the rest of my day, and thus, my life.

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As I enter the kitchen, I start the hot water for my coffee (priorities, people), and stare at it while I sip on lemon water. Once my freshly brewed aero-pressed cup of coffee is steaming in my carefully chosen mug (I could talk all day about how crucial it is to drink coffee out of the right mug), I head to “my spot” on the couch, curl up with my blanket and books, and prepare for the bliss of the morning silence. I’ve never counted the time, but I’m pretty sure I sit and think in silence for a good 20 minutes or so before I open a book. Half of the time I’m not even sure what I think about, but I love the silence. You see, I’ve learned to savor the things that some people would call “depressing.” Living in Oregon, it’s usually dark when I wake up, and it doesn’t ever get too bright outside…ever (at least in the winter months). And yet, instead of being sad about this, I’ve learned to enjoy the romanticism of creating a cozy environment in our home and in my morning practices. This time of silence is one of my absolute favorite things in life; my mind is waking up and I’m making decisions…first deeper thoughts about who I am becoming and how I want to treat people. Then more trivial thoughts form like, “Will I make time to work out today? Am I prepared to face that co-worker at the office who I snapped at yesterday? Will I remember to pay that bill? What can wait until tomorrow?” I am settling my mind on all of these issues and tasks. Sometimes I grab my phone and make a quick list, just so I can look back on it if-and-when my “afternoon crash” happens. The reason I make these conclusions first, instead of later, is so that my day is proactive instead of reactive, and it also clears my mind so that I can focus on my reading.

Although I have a stack of books that I read (I like to start books, but it’s harder to finish them), I typically kickoff off my reading with a Psalm. I love what Psalm 112 says about someone who delights in and obeys the Lord’s commands. It goes on to prove the fruits and blessings that come to the person who does this. So this is my main goal in the morning; even if I fail at everything else, I aspire to truly just sit and delight in His word and listen to what he might have for me each day.

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Once I’m done reading and my coffee cup is empty, I set out to make my breakfast…or more like, my morning feast (adopted wisdom from my mom). Every ingredient in the scramble is always intentional, as I’ve made a habit to ensure that I am giving my body nourishment through healthy and organic produce.

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After breakfast I am going full-steam ahead; either jumping on a project, heading to a shoot, or running (not literally) to workout class. Here’s where the list comes in handy.

I’m curious what your morning routine looks like? Perhaps you are a mom with young kids scrambling around the house. Or maybe you are a student with more work than you can wrap your head around. Whatever the case, how do you make your morning routine disciplined and intentional? What does your game plan look like? How have you intended to be proactive instead of reactive?

If you don’t have a morning routine, I would encourage you to try it out. Each day, try to set aside a time in the morning where you prepare. It will completely change your mind, attitude, stress-levels, and overall success in each moment of your days.

Or as the poet Will Smith in Hitch says, “Live each day as if it were on purpose!”

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Coffee: Thump

Blanket: Restoration Hardware

Couch: West Elm

Shirt: American Apparel

Wood Side Tables: Custom

Spencer Butte

What a beautiful day for a hike and lovely conversation with Michael. 65 and sunny in November? I’ll take it.

It’s amazing how being active out in nature can completely change your perspective. I’m grateful to live in such a beautiful state!

Hat-Heritage Dry Goods

Jewelry-Junghwa

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