7 tips for Whole 30 success


7 tips for Whole 30 success


photo by Dominik Martin

1. Think ahead: We set a date to start Whole 30 about three weeks in advance. During those three weeks, we purposely became more concious of what we usually ate and what wouldn’t be allowed during Whole 30.

2. Get rid of non-compliant foods: We ate up some of the things we didn’t feel really guilty about. We threw out some things. And we put the items with long shelf-lives in a Rubbermaid tote in our basement.

3. Plan: I started a Pinterest board of Whole 30 recipes, and we brainstormed more straight forward recipes like chicken on the grill and burgers without buns.

4. Decide on deal-breakers: We decided that we would keep going with Whole 30 even if one of us had a cheat day. Others I know quit and started all over again after even just one little cheat. Decide what’s best for you.

5. Eat at home and invite others over: We found it too tough to eat out or visit others’ homes, because there just weren’t enough compliant options. We set out knowing we’d be eating at home for almost every meal.

6. Find your lifesavers: I wrote about my lifesavers. Applegate hot dogs, carrot sticks, Lara bars, passion tea. Find yours and fight the I’m-so-tired-of-this-urge.

7. Take before and after pictures and measurements: Though mine will never see the light of day, the after pictures really did provide an extra boost of confidence that Whole 30 was worth it.

adoption conversation with my boyfriend



April Showers by Olivia Raufman



April Showers by Olivia Raufman

March 2011, St. Louis, Missouri

“So, I’m going to an adoption forum at our old church tonight,” I told Dan, hoping he wouldn’t think I was crazy. I knew he knew I cared deeply about adoption, but I wasn’t sure if he would find it odd that I was going. We had been dating less than two months. “Can I go with you?” he asked.

So we went. Surely the only unmarried couple there and definitely the youngest. The topics and stories weren’t necessarily new information for me, but I had a feeling some of it would be new to Dan.

When the forum ended, we walked outside to find it was pouring. It was a cold, dark, rainy early spring night. My favorite kind. The church was near a large park, so we drove to a shelter to sit and talk.

I had been praying long before I met Dan that I would someday meet a man who would be open to adoption. And when I started dating Dan, I had prayed regularly for a good time to initiate that conversation.

This seemed to be that time. I worked up the courage and finally asked: “Would you be willing to adopt someday?”

Dan smiled while the thunder cracked and the rain poured. He said he was absolutely willing. He had always wanted kids, but he was open to the idea of how God would add them to his family.

When my mind is racing with happy thoughts, I can’t sleep. And I didn’t sleep that night.

This is the nineteenth post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.


moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff


my first real job

After completing two different practicums in grad school — one in foster care and one in youth development — I knew I preferred to work in foster care.

A few months before graduation, I had started stalking job boards on general sites as well as several specific agencies. Dan and I were married by this point, so I absolutely needed to (wanted to!) stay in St. Louis.

I loved the foster care agency where I had interned. I had done a short stint in the adoption and licensing department, and while I enjoyed case management, I saw the advantages of a less rigorous position. I had emailed my former supervisor to have her put in a good word for me in the adoption and licensing department. She replied that I had just barely missed an opening, and they had hired someone that very day. I was bummed.

A couple weeks after this and a few weeks before graduation, I attended a conference in town about arts and development. I was pulling out of the parking garage at the Chase Hotel when my phone started ringing. It was the foster care agency.

I answered, expecting to hear my former supervisor. But it was the head of the adoption and licensing department. “Hi, Natalie? Could you email me your resume ASAP? The position we just hired for is already vacant. We’d like to interview you.”

And a few hours after my interview, I got the call: I had the job. My first full-time real job. My first social work job.

I started the day before graduation.


Master's graduation


This is the eighteenth post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.


moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff


paper home and residential treatment



Paper Horizon by Misty Hughes



Paper Horizon by Misty Hughes

March 2011, St. Louis, Missouri

I pulled through the gate into a rather sprawling campus. It was a residential treatment facility, or a “children’s home.” Either term is really sad. There were very few features of the campus that resembled anything you would see in a home.

I parked and checked in at the front desk, showing my agency badge with my picture and title: Intern. I was given direction to Cottage B, where the foster child I was visiting was living. He had not lived in a real home for quite some time.

It was one of the most restrictive buildings on the campus. He — I’ll call him D — had done some things that could be considered extreme and warranted such a placement. I was nervous. Though he was only 12 years old, I pictured a very big, angry, violent, young man. And he had experienced some very big, angry, violent things in his 12 years.

I walked over to Cottage B and used the buzzer outside of the door. A staff member answered, and I told him who I was there to see. D had recently lost a substantial number of his privileges. He was in his room, instead of participating in the activity the others were completing. I took a deep breath. I really didn’t want to know what he had done.

“His room is the second door on the right,” the staff member said pointed down one hallway. The entire cottage was silent, and I think D was the only one still there.

I walked to his room. Inside sat a short, scrawny kid in pajamas with little pieces of colored construction paper all over the floor. He had no obvious belongings, and there was nothing on the walls like most kids’ rooms I had seen. There was only a bed and a chair.

“Hi, I’m Natalie,” I said. “I’m filling in for Jessica today.”

He said hi, and immediately went on to show me the product of all the construction paper scraps. He explained how he had made it using paper and glue. It had walls, a cardboard floor, windows, rooms, and doorways. It was a construction paper house.

D, who hadn’t lived in a home for so long, had made his own home in the confines of this bare, sterile room in a residential treatment facility.

This is the seventeenth post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.


moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff


telling my dad I wanted to be a social worker

November 2009, Muscatine, Iowa

I met my dad at a little family-run restaurant near the municipal airport in my hometown to have lunch and talk about social work. Though I was positive I wanted to do it, I had a strange fear — a fear founded on nothing but a lack of confidence — that he would think it was an unwise decision.

We sat down in a corner booth — he in his business attire and me in my Thanksgiving-break hooded sweatshirt and jeans. We ordered food and started talking.

And I just started crying. And I could not stop. My hometown is a small town, and there were most definitely people there who knew me and my dad. They probably thought something horrible was happening.

My dad made a joke about it, and I apologized, wiping my face with the paper napkin. I’m still not sure why I was crying.

I think it might be this: Even when it’s based on no reality, I have a high degree of fear that those I love and whose opinions matter to me will tell me I can not or should not do something I really want to do. I have an intense desire to please those I love, too. I don’t care much about acquaintances, but family and close friends? It makes my stomach hurt to think I would let them down.

I had spent three-point-five years at college, supported by my parents, taking every opportunity I could to advance my education and prepare for a job in journalism. It was well-planned, and every piece was in line to be successful in that goal.

My dad was, of course, fully supportive of my decision to apply to graduate school for social work. And he has been supportive at all other major turning points in my path and decisions I’ve made in my life.

I just wish I hadn’t cried in Good Earth off Highway 61.


1916099_1219974017701_4571752_n


the only picture I can find of myself from Thanksgiving break that year :)

This is the sixteenth post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.


moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff


Stitch Fix box and prices

With some more credit on my account, I decided to request another Stitch Fix box. In my notes, I requested a specific tunic I had seen on another blog, no bottoms, and unique pieces… think Anthropologie. Here’s what came from Stitch Fix, as well as the prices:

Kut from Kloth Broderick Tile Print Tie Front Blouse, $34.00
I was not a fan of this at all when seeing it in the box. I really didn’t care for the primary pattern. When I put it on, the pattern grew on me, and I realized the red was flattering. But the strange buttons + tie at the bottom looked cheap to me, and waist ties like that make me uncomfortable. The price was right on, but this was sent back.



Kut from the Kloth Broderick Tile Print Tie Front Blouse - Stitch Fix



Skies Are Blue Benson Embroidered Trim Top, $48.00
This was comfy and flattering. I love extra details on shirts, so the stitching detail along the neck and pocket was awesome. I don’t have anything that looks like this or is this color — and Dan really liked it — so I kept it! And my credit brought it down to $21.



Skies Are Blue Benson Embroidered Trim Top, $48.00 - Stitch Fix





Skies Are Blue Benson Embroidered Trim Top, $48.00 - Stitch Fix



41Hawthorn Candice Embellished Tie-Waist Tunic, $78.00
Okay, first? $78 is more than I would spend on this. I did request a tunic, but I was thinking a straight-line shift dress type tunic, which this was not. I do like navy, but the cut of this wasn’t especially flattering. I think a smaller size would have worked well. But the embellishment looked a little cheap and not-unique to me. Returned.



41Hawthorn Candice Embellished Tie-Waist Tunic, $78.00 - Stitch Fix





41Hawthorn Candice Embellished Tie-Waist Tunic, $78.00 - Stitch Fix



Fate Adalrich Scoop Neck Knit Sweater, $58.00
love this color. And I really like open-weave sweaters. The sweater was soft and not scratchy. And the price is appropriate for the quality. But, unfortunately, this sweater had strangely long sleeves. Like, super long. So it went back.



Fate Adalrich Scoop Neck Knit Sweater, $58.00 - Stitch Fix



Papermoon Ivan Embellished Collar Striped Knit Top, $48.00
Another pretty embellished collar. I really loved this one, and seeing the picture again, I love it more. It was three-fourth sleeves with a normal hem. I do have another top that looks like this, though — striped with an embellished collar. It was also hand wash only, which yes, I pay attention to in my adult life. Sent this one back.



Papermoon Ivan Embellished Collar Striped Knit Top, $48.00 - Stitch Fix



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how I chose social work

November 2009, Ames, Iowa


foggy Des Moines in film


A few weeks before Thanksgiving break of my senior year of college, I started to think maybe I had made a mistake choosing journalism and art as my majors.

I was working at an apprenticeship in the web department of a magazine. I was very, very grateful for the apprenticeship and the small income it provided. But I went each day and spent most of my day behind a computer editing HTML, uploading photos, and copying and pasting text. Even as an introvert, I was missing face-to-face interactions with people in a significant spot at a point in their life’s story.

(I did get to be a hand model for a bridal shower invitation photo shoot. That was a highlight.)


work files on my desk


One night, after all my homework was done, while sitting at my desk next to my messy inspiration board, I drifted to Facebook. A friend whose story is intertwined with mine in some very obscure ways popped to mind. She and her husband had adopted. And thinking of her, I realized: I am passionate about adoption and foster care. I am not passionate about online journalism. Why am I heading toward a job I am not passionate about?


senior year inspiration board


I sent her Facebook message that seriously went something like this: “That person who facilitated your adoption… who works at an adoption agency… or who did your home study… what kind of degree do you think that person had?” She replied soon after that she thought for sure it had to be a Master’s of Social Work, an MSW. 

And that’s the instant I went into a flurry of adoption and foster care and social work and graduate school research. 

So, thank you, Jane. I’m not sure you realize how significant your response has been in me recognizing my passions and pursuing them — both professionally and personally.

Julie T. was the winner of the $5 Amazon gift card!

This is the fifteenth post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.


moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff


alone at the office

July 2008, New York, New York

Empire State Building Flare limited edition print by Serenity Avenue



Empire State Building Flare by Serenity Avenue

August’s issue of the magazine was set to be released the day the entire website team — and most of the rest of the staff — was at an out-of-town meeting. I was not going to the meeting, and therefore, as the only web staff member in the office on release day, I, as an intern, would be completely responsible for pushing all the issue’s content live on the website. 

It was a pretty big deal. Multiple articles, columns, product features, and slide shows going live at the same time on the same day. And people don’t like to see broken website links, you guys.

My supervisors walked me through it before they left. They were confident in my skills. I was not. I took notes and made lists. I felt so inept. My journalism classes had not been website development classes. And though I kind of knew a bit of about these things, using the magazine’s content management system was a whole new ballgame.

I didn’t sleep well that night. I came to the office the next day, sat down at my supervisor’s desk, and took a deep breath. I turned on the computer, and I started going through each step it took to get each story up on the website. 

A couple of hours later, my supervisor called to check in. She had pulled the website up at the meeting. “It looks great, Natalie. You’re doing a great job. We’re so glad we have you working with us this summer.


This is the fourteenth post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.


moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff


call about a summer in Manhattan

April 2008, Ames, Iowa

I spent two summers in Manhattan during college — after my sophomore year and again after my junior year. It was an easy decision to go the second time. The first time was more difficult.

I wanted to be within driving distance of home. I’ve never considered myself an I’ll-only-ever-live-in-Iowa person, but I’ve always enjoyed the ability to drive to my parents’ house when I felt like it. I was a journalism major. (I had changed my major from marketing before I even started college. Iowa State made it so easy to just select a different option from the drop-down menu in their online system.)

I started looking into internships at Meredith Corporation in Des Moines and several city and regional magazines in places like Minneapolis and Kansas City. I could tell even before I applied that they would be hard positions to snag.

Then my dad called one day. I stepped out of my dorm room on the Bates Babes floor of Willow Hall. I stood in the concrete-walled poorly-lit hallway, and he told me had met the publisher of an interior design magazine with its offices in midtown Manhattan.


Brooklyn Bridge fisheye lens lomography film photography


The magazine regularly took interns recommended by word-of-mouth; they had no formal application process. He said the publisher was open to taking me, and was I interested?

I really do not remember if I said yes then — which would be unusual for me — or if I waited a while to think about it. But no matter which, that question was the beginning of saying “yes” to people and places that take me far from home and up the level of responsibility I have had as a college student, graduate student, social worker, wife, and hopefully-someday mother. 

And I did say “yes” to that opportunity, and it was one of the best summers of my life.


central park summer


Linking up with A Harvest of Blessing.

This is the thirteenth post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.


moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff


princesses in Liberia

March 2011, near Paynesville, Liberia, West Africa


Liberia children near Paynesville


We spent time walking through a village to get to the site of a future two-story school building. The site was far off any road, so we walked. We walked past piles of trash, trees and bushes, a cemetery, many small homes, and jumped over drainage ditches. It was no place for royalty.

Most adults just nodded as we passed, while groups of kids — mostly boys — started following behind us. We came finally to a clearing among several homes. The sun was hot and high. We brought a machete to start removing some of the vegetation on the plot of land.

One girl stuck especially close to me. She wore just a jumper — the top and bottom hanging open with the buttons undone — and green flip-flops. Another little girl, a toddler in a flowered dress, stared sternly at us.


Princess in Liberia


“What’s her name?,” I asked the older girl, hoping to find a way to engage her. “Princess,” she said. “And what’s your name?,” I asked. “Princess,” she said. And I smiled.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” [1 Peter 2:9]


Princess in Liberia


I traveled to Liberia in conjunction with Vision Trust‘s efforts to establish schools and child development centers. Vision Trust is now also actively participating in projects to prevent the spread of Ebola. Get to know Vision Trust and their projects.

This is the twelfth post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.


moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff