cultivate your life

Month: February 2018

Don’t Get Mad, Get Involved!

Don’t Get Mad, Get Involved!

    It seems that every week we’re hit with another national or global crisis. It’s enough to make you stop keeping up with the news at all. I know lots of people who have just opted out of the news lately because it’s hard […]

On The Menu: A Healthier Shamrock Shake

On The Menu: A Healthier Shamrock Shake

  ‘Tis the season for the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake! Nothing brings back happier childhood Lent memories than a Shamrock Shake and a Filet-o-Fish on Fridays. I mean, I know we’re supposed to be fasting and making sacrifices, but… It’s also Girl Scout cookie season with […]

Who Are You? 10 Ways of Knowing Yourself

Who Are You? 10 Ways of Knowing Yourself

Happy Wednesday! I really try to post on Tuesdays and Thursdays but not every week goes according to plan. Here’s to a good Wednesday!


When I was in high school my best friend loaned me her copy of Who Are You: 101 Ways to Know Yourself. We were pretty much obsessed with all the activities and quizzes in this book.

Who wasn’t obsessed with personality tests in high school? Teen Vogue, Seventeen, Cosmo. Every magazine had at least one quiz to help define you.

On one hand, a quiz like “Are you girlfriend material?” is totally reductionist, simplistic, one-dimensional. On the other, it’s a fun way to start thinking about who you are, what you want in life, and who you want to be.

There was something magical about taking these tests at 17. Our lives hadn’t really started yet and our hearts were full of hope & energy. Why does that optimism and curiosity have to stop as we get older? Getting to know ourselves in later decades is just as interesting and important.

I gathered 10 ways to know yourself better that I’ve found useful in my life lately. It is such a cool thing to set aside time as an adult to hang out with the only person you’ll spend your whole life with: you! Some of these activities are deep & take some quiet time. Others you can zip through in a spare 15 minutes while you’re in between appointments or errands. Take as little or as much time as you need. Pick and choose the ones that speak to you!


+ the enneagram


My in-laws had been telling me for maybe 10 years to take the Enneagram test to see which of nine personality types I belonged to. They had taken it on a retreat with their church and thought it really helped their spiritual journeys. I took it a few months ago and I’m totally addicted! The cool thing about the Enneagram is that it helps define your greatest fear and gives solid advice to mitigate your challenging qualities and enhance your beneficial ones. The first link I have is for a free Enneagram Test. I didn’t like the interpretations from that site, so I’ve included a link to the Enneagram Institute for better descriptions of each type. It’s so relevant and much deeper and more telling than the better known Myers-Briggs personality test. If you end up taking this test, leave your results in the comments below! I’d love to see what you get. Of all ten of these methods, the Enneagram might be my very favorite.


+ the four tendencies


Gretchen Rubin, the author of the very popular Happiness Project, came up with four tendencies for personalities: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. My close friend loves Gretchen Rubin and finds this type method the most telling and helpful for her. Of course, along with the test Rubin has a book to guide you through applying these types to your life. I liked how it identified your motivations and what spurs you toward chasing goals and making plans in your life. It was a good recommendation and a neat way to figure out how I’m motivated.



+ the five love languages


The Five Love Languages are so popular and have been around since the mid-90s. Though they’re mostly targeted toward couples, the tests and materials are beginning to be targeted toward singles or those in more platonic relationships as well. The Love Languages include: receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. Everyone appreciates a different kind of affection, so it’s a good idea to use this test to communicate with the people in your life how you respond best in relationship with others. It was a lot of fun taking this with my husband and really helped me prioritize the kind of affection I like to give. Thankfully, our top two love languages are the same. For couples who clash on their languages, it’s a nice way to start a conversation and a helpful cheat sheet for your partner.


+ the four temperaments


The four temperaments theory of personality typing is as old as the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. We’re talking 350 BCE old! The four temperaments are: melancholic, phlegmatic, sanguine, and choleric. In days of yore, these types helped guide physicians toward targeted cures for any kind of health condition. Individualized healthcare is coming back in vogue in Western institutions and still applies to traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. Though we no longer use the four temperaments for healthcare, it’s an interested way to get to know yourself and your motivations a little better. If you do a search for “four temperaments descriptions” you can find a lot of resources to help understand how these apply to personality, fears, ambitions, work styles, and how to do life a little better. And once you start using these words, you’ll start to sound like the medieval surgeon you always hoped to be…


+ signature style


For the last quiz in this lineup, I couldn’t leave out a signature style quiz! If you like crafting the way you look like I do, it’s so fun honing in on a personal style. It really helps make shopping trips more efficient and gives you tips and ideas for a style refresh if you’re looking to change course. This quiz requires a notebook and some time because it’s not auto-graded. I think that’s better to be honest! No simple formula here. A style quiz makes a for a lighthearted internal journey and is a good break from delving deeper into assessments like the Enneagram. I also think it’s healthy when your outside begins to match your inside. Personal appearance makes a difference in how others see you. More importantly, it makes a difference in how you see yourself!



+ cultivate: the head to heart journey


If you want to go a bit deeper, like way, way deeper, try the series of books from the worship collective Cageless Birds called Cultivate. Jonathan and Melissa Helser have a year-round camp and retreat center in the hills of North Carolina where they host the Eighteen Inch Journey (the distance from your head to your heart!). The Eighteen Inch Journey digs into the heart of the relationship between each retreatant and God. Over the period of 60 days, participants worship, journal, create, meditate, and pray their way through their soul to reveal the treasures hidden there. It’s no surprise that anything they create would plumb the depths of your soul (well, they also roast coffee, so less depth there). The Cultivate series of books is like an activity book for adults. There are projects, journaling prompts, reflections, essays, artwork, and poems in each edition. I’ve only purchased Book 1 and am still digging in years later. This requires a Bible, a journal, and a good chunk of time. Worth every moment if you ask me.



+ vision boards


I love a good vision board! At the same time I was working my way through my high school bestie’s favorite personality book, I also created a vision board for a special assignment in school. It mostly outlined the things I love, not where I wanted to go in the future. Whether you create a vision board for your future or your present, it’s a great tool to get to know yourself a little better. Check out my previous post for more info!


Why Vision Boards Work



+ dates with yourself


We all talk about self-love these days, but did you know that can include dates with yourself too? It’s not just about post-its with motivational words on your mirror. Self love goes a lot deeper. I believe we’re all creative, so things like this aren’t just for the “creatives” in the world who paint, make music, or dance. We all create things out of nothing: families, a work community, school projects. So why should inspiration be reserved for just the arts? The youtube creator, Lavendaire, created a fun video with ideas for artist dates with yourself. It’s a great idea to take a retreat from your normal life to fill your soul and heart with things that inspire you, refresh you, and give you vision. I hope to take one of these for myself soon.





+ core desired feelings


Another way to know yourself is to identify your Core Desired Feelings. I wrote a post all about that and how this concept has had a huge impact on my personal development journey. I think it peels back a lot of layers from typical resolutions and goal setting, and gets you thinking about what you want in life. Such a useful tool!


A Fresh Take on New Year’s Resolutions



+ make a mixtape


Ok, when’s the last time you made a mixtape? Like chose the music, put it in just the right order, recorded it, decorated the cassette or cd case, and gifted it to the people in your life? Or made a “road trip mix” for those cross-country travels? Ohmigosh, mixtapes are the best! So why not get back into it? If you have a cd-rom on your computer, that’s a way to go to create one. If you want to get a little cuter and more creative, you can try a USB mixtape like this one from Milktape. Seriously, how cute is that?? It’s fun to really narrow down the songs that speak to your soul and identify the artists you admire. Whether it’s inspiring, uplifting, helps chill you out, or gets you through that last 100 miles of a road trip, a mixtape is essential in the lifelong journey of self-discovery. For the record, my mixtapes always include a LOT of Kylie Minogue. If I dig into my memory box enough, I might be able to find an MD mixtape of Kylie’s music created by my friend Henley in the early 2000s… There’s something about Kylie that just speaks to my soul.



There you are! Ten ways to know yourself a little better. It’s a journey that never really stops. The older you get, the more interesting the results I think. While you may not get the same answers as a Cosmo quiz, it’s time well spent and a journey worth taking. Here’s to you!





For more tips, tricks, and inspiration head over to my Pinterest board , my Instagram, or my lifestyle and fitness Instagram.



DIY: Essential Tools for Taking Care of Your Stuff

DIY: Essential Tools for Taking Care of Your Stuff

  On Tuesday, I wrote a little bit about fast fashion and its impact on our world. You can check out that post here!     One way to combat clothing waste is to really take care of your stuff. I’m always surprised when I […]

Reducing Your Impact: Fast Fashion

Reducing Your Impact: Fast Fashion

I recently watched a CBC Marketplace special on fast fashion & its impact on our world. (I love Canadian tv.) No big surprise: clothing waste doesn’t have a very good impact. This isn’t the first news report about fast fashion & it won’t be the […]

Cultivating a Growth Mindset

Cultivating a Growth Mindset

Do you suffer from perfectionism? Bitterness? Self-criticism? Low self-esteem? Anger? Anxiety? If you suffer from any of the above symptoms, you might be the perfect candidate for a new treatment called essential oils! Side effects may include: smelling delicious, craving green juices and homemade granola, and drinking craft beer in mason jars. Contact your doctor/naturopath to discuss your treatment options.

How’s that for an intro? Ha! I love essential oils as much as the next person, but I don’t believe they’re magic. I do however have a treatment option for all that other stuff. Or at least one that has worked for me. It’s called a growth mindset.

What exactly is a growth mindset? Does it have to do with imagining myself a few inches taller and manifesting that growth? Certainly not. I guess the best way I can define it is by using its antonym: a fixed mindset.

A fixed mindset tends to speak of things in finalities, as if they are always going to be that way. “I am talented.” “I am bad a math.” “I am old.” “I can’t exercise.” It’s claiming a certain quality of yourself and a certain quality of life that is immovable. It embraces statements and ideas that don’t change. It tells and retells a story about our abilities, our attributes, and our history and totally freaks us out if those things change, evolve, or grow. And I am really, really guilty of embracing it in my life without even thinking much about it.

A growth mindset takes what’s there: biologically, emotionally, historically, socially, etc. and transforms it into something to improve, cultivate, or embrace.

Let me start with an example. My whole life, I believed the idea that I just couldn’t swim. My parents don’t swim, despite owning a boat for a few years. Most of my cousins and my brother don’t swim. Up until my early 30s, whenever it would come up in conversation or on vacation, I would clearly and firmly say, “I can’t swim.” And then sit on the beach with a magazine. At some point, I started opening my mind up to the idea that things change, that I could change. My husband signed my best friend and I up for swimming lessons, and I finally learned to swim at 35 years old! I gulped down gallons of water, was super embarrassed at the pool for a long time, avoided practicing, and felt like an idiot a lot. But I learned to swim. I spit out the water, shook out my clogged ears, and did it. Something in me said, “screw this. I’m learning to swim. Come hell or high water.”

It’s one of the things in my life I’m most proud of. For those of you who could swim from early childhood, trust me, it’s hard as an adult to swallow your pride (and so much chlorinated water), admit you want to change, and then do it. I ignored the internal fixed belief that “I can’t swim” and embraced change. A fixed mindset kept me from enjoying so much of life and so many adventures. It gave me anxiety whenever swimming would come up. It made me feel embarrassed, and then angry at people who would tease me or push me into swimming. “Who do they think they are? I can’t swim. Don’t they get it?” I gave up on learning to swim because I thought it was something you either got or didn’t get.

It took a change in my thinking to open up my life to new adventures.

This is a tiny example of the difference between a fixed and growth mindset. It’s not even all that important in the world. But if you take that idea of, “I can’t swim” and apply to it a million different, stubborn, intransigent ideas you can probably see how it’s problematic. “Our country is doomed.” “I’m going to get cancer one of these days. Why try?” “We’ve always done things this way.” “People never change.”

I admit there are layers and layers and tons of history behind these ideas. One blog post or mind shift isn’t a magic wand (or an essential oil). But everything starts small, right? The more people embrace a growth mindset, the more change is possible. The more we are able to look at some pretty troubling things in our world and work toward change and love and compassion and solutions, the bigger the effects. I know in my own life when I start even just embracing the idea that things aren’t necessarily fixed in me, I am that much closer to making positive change and inspiring others to do the same.

We are not doomed by our past. Think about that for a second. Repeat this in your head: It’s not too late. It’s never too late for me.

I have so many women I admire who have embraced a growth mindset over some really challenging circumstances. I don’t mention these amazing women to make you feel guilty. I mention them to bring fresh joy and inspiration to your journey. To show you that no matter what the world hands you, you can gracefully accept change and a growth mindset and live a happier, healthier life. I really believe that.

Right now, I’m making my way through Misty Copeland’s biography, Life In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina. She is a gorgeous, strong, inspiring ballet dancer with the American Ballet Theater in New York. Her story includes a chaotic family life, poverty, a troubling family history, a well-publicized custody battle, and the challenges inherent in being a biracial dancer in a traditionally, stubbornly white and affluent field. Every paragraph is full of triumph, overcoming, growth, honest self-assessment, and a determination to never give up. She was naturally very talented, so that gives her an edge on becoming a professional ballerina over someone else who might not have the raw talent. Copeland used her raw talent, though, to push her to work harder and strive more to perfect it.

That’s something that particularly inspired me. Sometimes these fixed mindsets don’t sound negative at all. They could be: “I’m talented.” “I’m a great dancer.” “I’m beautiful.” At some point, those things can be threatened or taken away. With a fixed mindset, that can cause distress, anxiety, sometimes anger or self-loathing. With a growth mindset, those things are developed, cultivated, cherished, and improved upon.

I was born pretty talented with words. If I have a fixed mindset and someone criticizes my work, I could fall apart and give up. “I must not be talented. I’m a fraud. I’ll never measure up.” It makes me overly sensitive to criticism, angry at those who suggest growth opportunities, insecure, and doubtful. If I have a growth mindset, I can improve and change and eventually get better. “I was blessed with brains. Now how do I make the most of it?”

I’ve been following the athlete and motivational speaker Misty Diaz on social media for awhile. She was born with spina bifida, a congenital condition where parts of the neural tube and spine grow outside of the spinal column. My oldest brother was born with this condition. It can be particularly scary for new parents and can cause severe physical challenges for sufferers. Misty Diaz has embraced a growth mindset with her condition in such an inspiring way. She never for a moment lets her disability tell the story of who she is. She is probably the most physically strong person I follow on social media! She does all kinds of crazy things like rope climbing, marathons, and iron man challenges. I can barely keep up! When I tell myself “I can’t do another push up. I’ll never be strong. I should give up” I check out even just a minute of Misty’s stories on Instagram and vow to keep pushing and keep going.

I don’t know though. Maybe success has less to do with a growth mindset and more to do with being named Misty…

Regardless of the reason, these two women have shown me that both physical and social challenges don’t tell your whole story. You get to write your own.

I also love the idea of a growth mindset because it puts God at the center of my life. I believe fully that only God is perfect. The only unchanging thing in the world is the love of God. I accept that as a statement of belief and a reality I’ve lived.

Malachi 3:6 has God saying, “For I am the Lord. I change not.”

He says a lot of things like that, to be honest. Over and over in scripture He tells us to trust Him, He holds us in the palm of His hands, He sets the stars in motion, He rebukes the storms, He’s got this. When I start declaring immutable things over my life, I start to walk away from my humanity a little bit and start to allow pride and hard-heartedness to take over. “For I am Stephanie. I change not.”

The idea that I don’t change leaves me in a position of onminscient power in my own life, instead of a position as a daughter of God. It puts me on the throne instead of God. I can’t speak for everyone, but I will say that putting myself on the throne is a bad idea. I don’t hold the stars in my hands. I’m pretty sure I’d drop them if I did. I don’t see myself being super effective at rebuking a tornado or hurricane headed my way. Instead of putting me on the throne, God granted me a little spot in the world to cultivate and tend. A tiny plot of land in my heart to plant and grow and harvest.

He believes in us. He created us to change, to have the ability to change. He gave us a little bit of jurisdiction in our own minds, our hearts, our bodies, and gifted us with the free will to choose a fixed vs. a growth mindset. When we ask for it, He blesses us with the strength to change, to inspire, to hope, to do better. We are moving from glory to glory.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

We are getting better. Truly. We are working toward the heart of God. If we stay in our hard-heartedness, we’re on the wrong side of the parted sea. We walk in slavery, not freedom. We walk in fear, not into the promised land. We bind ourselves to foreign rulers, the Pharaoh of our mind. We forget that God doesn’t fall off of His throne when we make mistakes, when we believe the lies, when we stay put just where we are. He leads us to see a different path, a happier, healthier life. He teaches us to hope, to love, to learn.

The next time you hear yourself making immutable statements about yourself, your abilities, your history, your circumstances, take a moment to examine the truth of those things. Take a moment to question them. Ask yourself, “Is this true? Is this really all there is? Is this final? Am I really doomed?”

And then listen. Listen with your heart and your spirit and your ears (because sometimes real people bring the messages of God). Listen until you get an answer. Start to believe that you are moving from glory to glory. Try new things. Keep going. Keep trying. Glory in the change and extend kindness to yourself when you fall down. Reach out. Don’t drown. No water (or pool) is too deep for the love and reach of God. Let Him give breath to your lungs and keep going.


Romans 5:2-5

“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”



For more tips, tricks, and inspiration head over to my Pinterest board , my Instagram, or my lifestyle and fitness Instagram



On The Menu: Peanut Noodles

On The Menu: Peanut Noodles

As a vegetarian family, I find some of our best recipes are ethnic recipes from cultures that value vegetarian dishes instead of trying to fit a normal American meal into a vegetarian mold. Japanese, Thai, Indian, Mexican, Italian. There are so many interesting recipes in […]

10 Surprising 80s Comeback Beauty Trends

10 Surprising 80s Comeback Beauty Trends

Who doesn’t love a good throwback? Right now we’re having a a bit of a 90s moment: choker necklaces (even the wire tattoo-looking ones!), matte lips, platform sneakers, slip dresses… even if you’re not actually getting into these things, the runways in the last few […]