Interview : Danielle Gantt Trygstad, Certified Health Coach, The DB Influence

Danielle Gantt Trygstad, The DB Influence

Reading this interview again as I prep to post it seriously makes me want to open my window and say, “HEY! HEY! Everyone!! Listen to what she has to say!”

I love working with Danielle. She’s not just a health coach, but someone who has pulled herself out of a tough spot and now works everyday to help others do the same.

She’s an inspiration and I love her words. Read this interview and remember, anything is possible.

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- Tell us about yourself. Who you are, where you're from and what you do!

Who am I, hmmmm?! Haha! Well, I'm lots of things to lots of people. First of all I am 39 years young (almost 40 in July, eeeekkkk) and a mama to 3 incredible humans who are my absolute everything!! I became a mom at the young age of 17 and have been devoted to my children, and motherhood, for basically as long as I can remember. I was born in Mpls, although we never stayed in one place for very long (like a year tops!). I have moved so much in my life that I don't really know where I grew up, I just say MN for the most part, although I have lived in New Jersey and Philadelphia, as well. From about 6th grade on I lived in the south metro and called Eagan, home. My upbringing was dysfunctional to say the least, and left many voids in my story. But it was also filled with love and laughter and good moments, too!

Being a single mom has been challenging, as you can imagine, and it has definitely shaped me into the woman I am today. I always say, my kids and I have done a lot of growing up together. I have always done it on my own, without a partner or father to help support me or the kids, so making sure I hustled to provide for them was my top priority. Needless to say it's not always been easy and putting myself first has never been an option but, I always made sure my kids were taken care of, loved and given the best life possible. I think about my circumstances back then, and the choices I made, and I think I did pretty damn good! There were surely many different paths I could have chosen, and I'm happy to say I'm proud of the ones did. All I ever wanted for my kids was better than what I had and better than what I could give them back's one of the reason's I have always worked so hard in life!

About 5 years ago I met my best friend (and now husband) while working together at a family practice clinic in the south metro. He came into my life with 3 incredible children of his own, kids that I am lucky enough to be a bonus mom to. We have a big blended family and are trying to navigate that dynamic as best we can! As you can imagine it's not always easy, but it sure is a beautiful thing to be apart of. We purchased a home in Eagan almost two years ago, and half the brood is with us 100% of the time...and the other half on alternating weekends and one evening a week. To say we are busy would be an understatement! Haha!

I have gone to a lot of schooling and college in my life...I was a licensed cosmetologist for 12 years, took courses to become a railroad conductor, pre-reqs for nursing and have been a certified medical assistant for the past 15 years. Most recently however I got my certification as a health coach, and it's what fills my life with passion and purpose. My husband and I are partners of a private practice clinic in Richfield-he is a family practice physician and I’m his CMA. We absolutely love working as a team and feel very blessed to be able to do what we love, together. It's been wonderful since becoming a health coach being able to incorporate nutrition and disease prevention into our practice. We are working to reverse disease and obesity one day at a time. The results are remarkable, and humbling!

- How did you get your start as a Health Coach?

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For the past 12 years I have suffered, quite significantly, from IBS-d (chronic diarrhea), pancreatitis, gastrointestinal issues and terrible gerd. I also developed high blood pressure in 2017 that I had started taking meds for, and my depression and anxiety started to get out of control, as well. Like I previously mentioned I was a young mom, and I think from about the time I as 20 years old I have struggled with my weight, never understanding how to fuel my body properly or even how to go about navigating that process on my own. All of these things ultimately resulted in me having a very unhealthy relationship with food. Couple that with multiple medical problems, depression/anxiety and you have a recipe for disaster. I had previously tried MANY different weight loss programs, medications, work out plans, trainers and even some other nonconventional tactics that never brought upon results, and if anything, resulted in me gaining more weight than what I may have started out at.

In Sept 2018 I was introduced to a healthy lifestyle program, that unbeknownst to me at the time, would ultimately change the course of my health and my life! Since starting that program 8 months ago I have lost a total of 50lbs, am IBS-D symptom free, off all blood pressure meds, depression meds, anxiety meds, heartburn and GERD meds and feel like I have been given a fresh shot at life! I am learning how to fuel my body properly, and my families...I have tons of energy, more patience, sleep amazing, and am actually learning what it means to love oneself...which is something I don't think I've ever done before. I am, for the first time in my life, putting Danielle first...and understanding that is OK!!!

This program very seriously saved my life....and I am so passionate about it, and everything it stands for, that I got my certification as a health coach so I can help guide others on their very own healthy lifestyle journey, and hopefully be a part of someone else's transformation much like my own! I was never raised going to church or having a very solid relationship with God, but what I can tell you is this, I really feel that something greater than me lead me to this program and it was 100% meant for me in every way! I have never felt closer to God or the Holy Spirit in all my life! It's actually kinda strange to be honest, but I like it! And I feel like all the hell I have been through in my life, wasn't for nothing! I have, for as long as I can remember, been on a search for happiness...belonging, purpose. Well I have finally found it! I have purpose in everything I do now...and a calling to help others in anyway I can. Including me. :)

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- What is the best part about running your own business?

The flexibility...being a busy mama I can virtually take my health coaching business with me anywhere I go! I am able to attend sporting events, choir concerts, parties, etc and never have to worry about missing out because of work. I have also travelled multiple times over the past 6 months and my clients never feel my absence. I am always a call or text away. Additionally I feel incredibly blessed to able to incorporate my health coaching into our medical practice...I love that my husband is 100% on board and supportive of the program and endorses it's nutrition, methods and models wholeheartedly.

- What is the greatest challenge that you face?

Feeling like I'm reaching people, without feeling like I'm selling something or being too forward. I have such a passion about what I do, and the amazing nutrition we have to offer, that I could quite literally shout about it from the rooftops... I know what we have to offer could help just about everyone. Whether you have 10 pounds to lose or 210, this program offers the best nutrition and education that I've ever seen! At times I feel like I'm not reaching anyone, or that I'm 'stuck'...maybe my attempts go unnoticed or I'm not presenting this gift in the right way or platform...but then I just pray and project that positive energy into the universe and's what comes right back to me full circle. It's funny how life works that get what you give...and your life, quite literally, is what you make of it! Energy is a huge thing to me and has a major impact in all I do. All I want to do is to be able to support my clients and love them as best I can, in whatever way they need me.

- When things get tough, where do you find inspiration to keep moving forward?

My kids! They are my world! They push me to be a better mom and human being...We have been together through it all! They have been my life-raft when, at times, I have quite literally been drowning. I always want to be an example for who they can look up to, and admire! I want them to be proud of me and know that I always did my best.

My husband! He is my rock and without him I would not be as incredible :) haha! He is totally the mac to my cheese! It's not always been easy with us, but what relationship is? I think for the first time I understand what it means to fight for what I have...I will never give up on us, even when times get rough. It's absolutely not an option. We are very different, but so much alike, as well! He lifts me up, encourages me and pushes me to keep going. He has held my hand through some pretty awful times, listened to me share my fears and held me while I cried. He has reassured me that with him, there is nothing to fear and he will be my rock through every good time and bad. He makes me feel safe and complete. And I am beyond blessed to have him in my life.

I also find a ton of inspiration in my clients...they are strong and hopeful and want a better way for their future. To be able to be a part of their journey is humbling and fulfilling and totally inspirational! I have felt so often like I have been on this quest for happiness, fulfillment....a purpose. And I can 100% say that I have found it with this business and the joy of health coaching. I am a tour guide to health, offering tips and tricks and words of wisdom and hope through the experiences I've gone through in my life. It's one of the most rewarding jobs I've ever had! I have made some life-long friends, thanks to this program, and I really do feel blessed to have these incredible folks in my life.

Not long before I started this program I remember feeling very low, almost to the point of feeling like I didn't know if I wanted to carry on. I was sick and sad and felt defeated. I recall feeling like I wanted to go to the hospital several times in 2017 and 2018 because the thoughts I was having were unsafe...more fleeting than anything, but scary all the same. Since adopting these new healthy habits, it's also taught me many healthy things about mental health, and my outlook on life and the future, as well.

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- Who is someone you admire the most and why?

I really admire my daughter Isabelle. She is 19 and concurring the world! She is everything I wanted to be a that age! Young, smart, beautiful and full of life! Isabelle has determination and drive like I've never seen, and does it all without complaint. This girl is a force to be reckoned with. lol She just finished her first year of college with good grades, and did it all while working two jobs and maintaining her social life. She is incredibly independent and has a great head on her shoulders. She inspires me every day to do better and strive for more! And that's exactly what I plan to do :) She is everything this world needs in our future generation! We need more Izzy's. :)))

- Tell us about your vision for the future? GO BIG, we want to root you on!

I have a vision to reach over 10,000 people by this time next year! I want to help reverse the obesity epidemic and start introducing people to a different way of living...and actually be a part of seeing them LIVE!! Food has a hold over too many folks and it's scary! My goal is to reach as many lives as I can through our healthy lifestyle program, and lead my clients to coaching others like I am! Anyone can do just have to love people! The education this company offers and the team coaching approach is like none other! I feel so lucky to work with so many amazing 'world changers', and I truly desire to be one of them! Everyone deserves the gifts this program has to offer...whether it's simply to get healthy and live a more fulfilled life, or if its to do that AND coach others to health and earn a living, we offer it all!!

My dream is to be able to be a health coach fulltime and travel the world teaching others about health and wellness, and the way food should be used as fuel, all while being enjoyable. Our bodies need nutrition, not calories.

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Podcast you can't get enough of:

Never listened to one (insert shocked face here) lol

Top 5 songs you keep on repeat:

PYT-MJ, Valerie-Amy Winehouse, Waiting for a Star to Fall-Boy Meets Girl, Gold-Kiiara, True Colors- Michelle Chamuel (from The Voice), Juicy-The Notorious B.I.G., Into the Mystic-Van Morrison, Man in the Mirror-James Morrison,

Your favorite social media platform:

I probably use Facebook the most and then Instagram. I wish I was more tech savvy...I think I need an assistant! haha

How do you fuel for the day?

With amazing nutrition from our company and a mix of healthy proteins, low glycemic veggies, healthy fats, and a positive attitude!! Oh and, LOTS of H20!!!

Final words of wisdom to other's out there building their business and brand? Floor is yours:

Don't give up!! There are going to be times of massive growth and success, and there will be times of wondering if what you're doing is worth it? Consistency is key. Being teachable, coachable and open to doing it a different way, are all things that you must be open to !! This is with all areas of your is about growth. We all have the opportunity to better than the day before...We are in control of our actions and reactions to every thing...we are never stuck, just be willing to look for that available door to go through...sometimes in the most inconspicuous places.

Discover more about Danielle and The DB Influence

Instagram: theDBInfluence

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If you’d like to talk about booking a photo session, shoot me a message. I’d love to discuss all options and ideas with you!

And lastly, if you know someone who would enjoy reading what Danielle has to say, pass it on & share! I appreciate the support more than you know!

Interview : Brittany Morris, Upscale Wedding Planning + Event Design | Bella Mystique

Brittany Morris, Bella Mystique

Let’s just say that Brittany and I go way back.
I’m talking like waaaay back. (Think gangly pre-teens braiding each other’s hair discussing all things boy).
And now here we are, 20 years later — creatives, mothers and big time dreamers.

It had been way too long since we’d last seen each other when I showed up to a wedding she was coordinating lugging my camera.
I desperately tried to keep up with her that day, soaking in as much as I could. What an experience.

Brittany is just one of those people that truly inspires you to your core and honestly, she always has been. What a gift she is to anyone that is lucky enough to work with her.

Tell us about yourself. Who you are, where you’re from and what you do!

I’m a creative and a proud momma of three (6,4,1) little souls. People always say you’re not just a “wife”, “mom”, “business owner”, or “gymnastics coach”, you’re Brittany.
I know.. but I am all those things.
Every aspect of my life molds me into exactly who I am and inspires me to be who I want to be. I’m addicted to stand up comedy, I’ve lived in almost every suburb in the Twin Cities and spent half of my life growing up in northern Minnesota on the Iron Range.
When I’m not being creative, and that could be anything from my kids school projects to redecorating my house to planning weddings and events, I love to catch up with my three sisters, travel with husband and be anywhere with a skyline or water view.
I love to read inspiring books and quotes and still on the hunt for a good Cabernet.

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How did you get your start as an event planner? What brought you to this work?

I’d have to say it just hit one day. It may have been a combination of me trying to find my way through the world and series of events. I started my college career with a degree in architectural drafting and design. I realized I didn’t want to wait 10 years to own my own architecture firm, so I went back to school for graphic design.
I planned my own wedding, which knowing what I know now, I would have done it totally different.
At first I wanted to focus on graphic arts and just do invitations for weddings. But curiosity took over and pushed me even further.
I’ve always enjoyed hosting events. Whether that was birthdays, BBQs or my favorite being Halloween. I was always going above and beyond for my guests. My friends know any event that I throw is going to be, in their words, “extra AF”.
Then it clicked.
I started Bella Mystique with $50 in my bank account and out of the closet in my bedroom. I made all of my marketing materials and offered my services for $250 and unlimited time. I look back on that now and think, “Yikes!” But I was so eager to learn and grow I took on anything.
Fast forward 7 years and here I am, still standing.

What is the best part about running your own business?

Being on my time. Having small children makes it difficult to work a traditional job. But with owning my own business, not only do I get to choose when I want to work, I also get to choose who I get to work with. And it’s something that belongs entirely to me. I take full responsibility of what this business is and what it can become and also hopefully, leave this behind for my kids to take over one day if they ever wanted.

What is the greatest challenge you face?

To piggyback off the last question, like a famous Spider-Man quote, “With great power comes great responsibility.” What that means to me, with owning your own business, you wear all the hats. You are the accountant, the lawyer, the market researcher, the branding manager, social media, you are client relations and human services.
When people call, they get you every single time. So even though it looks all glitzy glam with the title of owning your own wedding planning business, there are a lot of legal and administrative tasks that you are responsible for.
It can sometimes be difficult finding a healthy work/life balance.

Katie (Lead Planner) and Brittany (Owner) of Bella Mystique

Katie (Lead Planner) and Brittany (Owner) of Bella Mystique

When things get tough, where do you find inspiration to keep moving forward?

There are a few things that I do when I lose that creative spark. And it happens! More often than you think.
What I usually do though, is I take a mental break.
I clean out my office, my closet, my car, anywhere in my every day that has some form of clutter and try to refresh. I may put a little bit more of my energy and focus into my kids or traveling. I take a step back but not too long because then it’s hard to get back into it. But... enough.
Then, I see a client or I do a final venue walk-through and usually those butterflies come back. That ‘this is the reason why am doing this’ feeling comes back.

Who is someone you admire the most and why?

My husband. He’s always asking me questions and getting on my ass and pushing me to think. He’s such a hard worker. He constantly has a book in his hands because he wants to learn more, grow more and be better and that inspires me to do the same. He never makes excuses and he shows up Every. Single. Day.
Two of my favorite quotes he has ever told me are, “Be so positive that negative people can’t stand to be around you.” And “The difference between who you are now and who you are 10 years from now are the books you’ve read and the people you’ve met.”

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Tell us about the future of Bella Mystique — what’s your vision? GO BIG, we want to root you on!

I’d love to open my own venue someday. Now, I’m still digging into all of what actually that entails to see if I would truly enjoy it. But right now, doing more event design and hopefully opening a venue are my goals.

Podcast you can’t get enough of:

Let’s be real. The only thing coming out of my speakers right now comes from a Disney soundtrack or audible.

Top 5 songs you keep on repeat:

I Was Here by Beyonce
PYT by Michael Jackson
Ocean Drive by Duke Dumont
There’s Nothing Holding Me Back by Shawn Mendes
Tennessee Whiskey by Chris Stapleton

Your favorite social media platform:


How do you fuel for the day?

Coffee. A plan. And more coffee.

Final words of wisdom to other’s out there building their business and brand? Floor is yours:

If you are a creative of any sort, a solid read would be The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
Also, Have your own vision of success. What does that look like to you?
Is it just making sure you’re in the black every year at tax time? Or having 10 employees? Or making a certain design? Whatever it is, make sure it’s true to you and ignore what everyone else is doing. Because at the end of the day you’re not doing it for them.
Don’t think for a moment because the clients aren’t pouring in and you’re not flooded with emails that you’re not talented and you’re not successful.
I can’t begin to believe enough that you get what you put in yet there is no race to “success”. Don’t be afraid of people that are smarter than you, because you can learn something.
And the only way to conquer fear is by action. Stay curious.

If you enjoyed this interview be sure to sign up for my newsletter where I send out monthly-ish musings of everything I love and people I find interesting!

Do you know another trail blazing woman in the Twin Cities? I’d love to hear about them and possibly get them on the other side of my lens. Shoot me a message and let me know where I can find them!

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Discover more about Brittany and Bella Mystique:
Web: Bella Mystique | Instagram: @bellamystique | Facebook: Bella Mystique

Stop Feeling Bad About Changing Your Mind

Have you ever poured every bit of yourself into something to later change directions, deciding it was no longer for you?

Did that make you feel shitty? Confident? Excited? Shameful?

I’ve been there…many times.
And if you’ve ever put yourself out there, you’ve probably been there, too.

But if I’ve learned anything over this past decade of soul searching it’s this:

It’s OK to change your mind.

Let me say it again, louder.

It’s OK to change your mind.

You can correct course, or follow a new path, or change lanes, or stop and start again.

And if this decision only impacts you, you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone.

Someone recently made a comment to me... loosely along the lines of how many different things I’ve done over the years. How many times I’ve changed my mind… almost if to say, you’re changing your mind.. again?
It wasn’t meant to be mean at all, I mean I HAVE lived a very multi-passionate life at the ripe ol’ age of 31… but it did make me stop and cock my head, eyebrows down, as if to say, “Yes. SO. What’s your point?

I am always on the path of discovery and learning new things.
I’m being inspired daily by new thoughts and ideas…. And confidently so.

If I didn’t feel as bold as I do now, and this comment really got to me, then what?

I just stop doing anything at all?

Let myself be sucked into living in the safest way possible as not to ruffle anyones feathers?
Conform to make people comfortable or to ensure they think a certain positive way about me?

Oh my gosh just typing that sentence gets me all fired up.

Like ope, reached my try quota! Time to just sit down and do nothing!

It’s bullshit and I will not accept it.
No one should.

I don’t care if I fail 12 (hundred) times or if I change my mind 100 (thousand) times, I am STILL going to start again and I’m STILL going to be inspired again and no matter what.
And I’ll ALWAYS keep dreaming new dreams.

Give yourself time. Give yourself space. Maybe take a break to let the dust settle.

But if you feel it in your heart to maybe go back to school or start a business, or change your business or take a dance class or write or maybe even leave it all to go raise your babies… then do it.

But just promise me you’ll never stop pursing what makes you happy. Promise me you’ll never stop wanting to make a better world and lastly, promise yourself you’ll never make a decision based on someone else’s opinion no matter what that looks like for you.

What are you starting, trying or dreaming of? Leave a comment below to let me know.

You know me, I’ll be sharing it all on the blog so be sure to follow along.
And when I don’t have time to blog (I AM a mother of two littles) I’ll be creating over on instagram, so be sure to connect with me there!

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Interview : JoLynda Anderson, Doula | Birth & Soul

JoLynda Anderson, Birth & Soul

Support. Educate. Care.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that JoLynda and I crossed paths. I believe so deeply in her work and it feels like a gift to share this interview with you!

We met on a chilly afternoon at the Grand Cafe in Minneapolis. The location felt perfect and the overcast weather made for some beautiful portraits. As with every photo session, I only wish we had more time to chat!

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Tell us about yourself. Who you are, where you’re from and what you do!

I’m JoLynda Anderson and I’m a mom, wife and doula. I’m a Minnesota native and I own and operate Birth & Soul, a Doula Service in the Twin Cities.

How did you get your start as a Doula? What brought you to this work?

I’ve always been interested in birth. The process of birth, the culture that surrounds it are all fascinating to me, even as a teen. I was often invited to attend births as a support person of family and friends. I had been urged to train as a doula, and even hired one for the birth of my son in 2014. I finally trained in 2015, and dove in full time. It felt like something I was always destined to do. It’s a calling that will find you.

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What is the best part about running your own business?

The best part of having your own business is watching something grow from small, humble beginnings. It’s always growing, expanding and evolving, and you get to see your efforts transform into big things. A little sweat and tears, and a lot of learning go very far!

What is the greatest challenge that you face?

As a doula, you are always on call. It takes a very supportive family and understanding friends to know that you are unreliable socially. You will miss things that matter to you and adjusting the mindset to knowing you won’t ever truly know your schedule can be overwhelming in moments.

When things get tough, where do you find inspiration to keep moving forward?

In the families I serve. I am so honored to be chosen to be a guide as they bring their little ones into the world. Every single family teaches me something new, challenges me and expands my heart for people. It is a big deal to be invited into a birthing space. You can never lose sight of that.

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Who is someone you admire the most and why?

My sister in law Lindsey. She is a successful M.D., mother of three, wife and generous human. She is so thoughtful and diligent in all her relationships and interactions and her heart is so full for people. She is a person that no matter who you are, or what you are going through, she will be mindful and considerate.
She is also so fun and hard working in every single role. She is probably the smartest person I’ve ever met, and incredibly humble. She can tell you what mysterious medical issue you have, how to fix your mindset about an issue, and listen like no other. If everyone would be more like her, this world would be amazing. She always looks flawless, but I know it is her dedication, attitude and faith.

Tell us about the future of Birth & Soul — what’s your vision? Go BIG, we want to root you on!

I would love to re-open a physical space again to serve families. I dream to train doulas in my philosophies of business and birth and eventually move into a roll that can support more families. It all comes down to building empowered parents. If our impact can expand to helping set up families to succeed and feel supported, it goes a long way for society. We have really lost the “village” of birth and parenting, and being a piece of that, there is always room to expand, grow and help more people.
I also would like to make doulas more accessible to all, and make the career a sustainable trade. I would love to have a bigger support network for birth workers, because the job can feel so isolating at times.

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Podcast you can’t get enough of:

Top 5 songs you keep on repeat:
Rise Up Andrea Day, 9-5 Dolly Parton, Shoop Salt & Peppa, Pray Sam Smith, Truth Hurts Lizzo

Your favorite social media platform:
Instagram - because I will always like your puppy and kid photos, vacations, and pictures of food! I also love the design and fashion inspiration. I’m a visual person.

How do you fuel for the day?

I start each day with an americano in bed. A good cup of coffee is my love language.
If I’m off to a birth, I skip that and have a whole routine, no matter what time! I put a pesto pizza in the oven, take a quick shower, fill a thermos with coffee, drink a glass of water and bring half my pizza with me, and the other half in the fridge to eat whenI get home.

Final words of wisdom to other’s out there building their business and brand:

Start with a plan and know that you need to do things the right way. It can be easy to dream, but leave space for the practical stuff, that isn’t as fun. Business plans, legal documents, financial planning are as important as your dream and drive. Be okay doing things differently than how it is always done in your field. Show gratitude to others that mentor you along the way. Find the people that are going to enthusiastically cheer for you, they will be the same people to lean on when you need encouragement. Get out there and build your best self.

If you have any questions or want to find out more about JoLynda, I’ve included a link to some of her social below.

Thank you JoLynda for your time and for doing what you do. It does take a village and I’m happy to have you now as part of mine.
FB: Birth & Soul
Instagram: Birth & Soul

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2018 in 36 photos // A Year of Change

… And exhale.

We made it through 2018.

There were times it felt like we’d never get through the year.

My pregnancy felt long.

The move felt, at times, impossible.

We started in Hawaii and spent a couple months in Arizona before finally landing back home in Minnesota.

I think we’ll talk about 2018 a lot as the years go by and it’s hard to believe it’s already a memory. I know for sure 2019 will be a bit more low key and I welcome that.

You know I’ll be here, documenting along the way.

Here’s a photo recap of 2018, choosing only three photos from each month. I completed my first 365 project and I couldn’t be more grateful for the year I chose to do so. I can’t wait to hold that book in my hands.

Many blessings my friends,



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December in Review | Exhale

… And exhale.

We made it through 2018.

There were times it felt like we’d never get through the year.

My pregnancy felt long.

The move felt, at times, impossible.

We started in Hawaii and spent months in Arizona before finally landing in Minnesota.

But we did it. We made it and now here I sit from our beautiful home with my two boys settling into life. It feels good.

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Our little Mikko Jam turned one month old. He’s just the best baby there ever was. It’s hard to believe he’s already here let alone a month old but I guess that’s just what babies do… grow so very fast.

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Our first Christmas in our home was pretty low key, exactly how we wanted it! I can only imagine Christmas getting more and more fun over the years as TG was just starting to get into it. Tom and I decided being the parent is the best. Looking forward to making our own family traditions over the years.

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I had the opportunity for some creative play this month, too, and I never say no to that. Photographer Jessica Holleque came over to my house to photograph my children and I for her Mothers and Makers project. Talking with her about art, family, life and motherhood was just the best. TG had a great time turning the kitchen floor into an art studio. Please check out her instagram to see her work!

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We spent the very end of the month surrounded with family and it provides the perfect reminder as to why we moved back in the first place. That’s what it’s all about and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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2018 — a wild year. I just placed the last photo in my 365 book and I just can’t wait to send it to print. This project has meant so much to me… documenting the days. The years do go so fast.

Thank you for following along on the journey.

Wishing you all nothing but a New Year full of blessings, health and happiness.


November in Review | New Life


The month we’ve been waiting for all year!

A crazy month, a busy month — also, the month we welcomed our new little boy into the world.

I took my last official bump photo at exactly 38 weeks pregnant. I actually documented my bump starting at 8 weeks back in Hawaii. I never missed a photo, shooting every other week until he arrived! It’s so fun to look back on, it really seemed like I was pregnant forever!

38 weeks pregnant

38 weeks pregnant

We also got to experience our first snowy, cold Minnesota days. Honestly, it hasn’t been too bad because I haven’t left the house much. I’ve been totally and willingly hibernating and I wouldn’t have it any other way. TG loves being outside and I’m lucky enough to have a husband that enjoys it too! You can find me inside sippin’ hot cocoa watching a movie or putzing around my house!

Adores the snow and his daddy even more!

Adores the snow and his daddy even more!

On November 12th at 10:01am we welcomed our son Mikko James into the world. What an experience it was! I’m a birth story nerd and you can read all about Mikko’s HERE. It was much different than my first almost two years ago. You can read George’s story HERE.

Mikko James Jokinen | November 12th, 10:01am | 7lbs. 1 oz. 21in.

Mikko James Jokinen | November 12th, 10:01am | 7lbs. 1 oz. 21in.

Since Mikko’s arrival we’ve had plenty of visitors! My mother in law stayed with us for a week and a half (the best!), aunts, uncles, sisters, cousins and grandparents. Each visit reminds me of why I moved to Minnesota and makes me grateful that family is so close.

New life visitors

New life visitors

“40 weeks” holding a one week old Mikko James

“40 weeks” holding a one week old Mikko James

It’s been wonderful and tiring. Knowing how fast it goes gets me through the early morning hours. I wouldn’t trade this phase of life I’m in for anything… the best moments of my life as well as the most challenging. Motherhood… motherhood.

This right here is real life with a two week old

This right here is real life with a two week old

It’s been quite the adjustment for my little Thomas George. He’s doing the best he can and we’re doing the best we can to help him. It hasn’t been easy sharing the attention but I know it’s just another phase we’ll get through. He does better every single day. We sure do love this boy!

Thomas George, 23 months old

Thomas George, 23 months old

We are nearing the end of our 365 project. What a year it has been and I am so grateful to have been documenting it day by day. I’m part of a blog circle and this month it’s me and Laura.

Laura just had her third baby boy, so getting to travel this path together this year has been so fun. Please check out her post and incredible work!

I’ll see you guys next month. Many blessings, always!

Birth Story -- Mikko James

When I found out I was pregnant with my first, I read a million and one birthing books. I typed up and printed out a very solid birth plan. It was my greatest desire to have an unmedicated birth. If you’ve read his story, you know things didn’t go as planned that day. TG’s birth taught me so much about control, strength and surrender. His birth made me feel so strong but I also knew that when it came time to do it again, I’d want to do things differently.

When I started thinking about labor and delivery for baby number two, I decided to go in with the same exact birth plan. An unmedicated birth free from intervention was truly how I wanted to bring this boy into the world. This time, however, I knew if it got to be too much I had other options. Nothing was set in stone. I decided to play it by ear letting baby boy lead the way.. my job was to do the best I could. Nothing more, nothing less.

It was 7:30pm on November 11th when I felt my first faint contraction.

I had gone to my room just about an hour before to lay down and rest. I was 38+6, so when I felt some light cramping in my abdomen I didn’t think too much into it.

The cramping disappeared and returned — disappeared and returned. I laid in the dark room with my eyes closed feeling it all. Wondering. Preparing.

I walked downstairs to fill my water and told Tom that I might be having contractions but couldn’t be too sure.

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When I got back upstairs I pulled out my camera and took some photos in-between the waves before getting ready for bed.

If things were going to be different this time I knew I needed to rest.

I was tracking the light contractions on my phone and they were 7-10 minutes apart lasting anywhere from 30-50 seconds.

At 10:00pm I actually fell asleep tossing and turning pretty minimally. At 3:09am, though, I felt the first strong contraction and it lifted me right out of bed. I began tracking again for an hour and a half as they started to get stronger.

Finally at 4:30am I woke up Tom. Things were getting real. I was definitely in labor. I quickly texted my Aunt Peg to see if she could come over to be with TG. We had Tom’s mom flying in that afternoon but we were going to have to leave for the hospital a lot earlier than that!

At 6:50am we arrived at the Woodwinds birth center and I was on my way to triage for my IV by 7:00am. I had tested positive for group B strep (again) and needed to get on antibiotics right away.


I felt rested, everyone was lively and I was breathing through contractions consistently. I was so grateful it was morning and I got decent sleep the night before. I was also able to fuel with a big bowl of oatmeal before we left the house. Food and sleep felt so important to me this time around and so far so good.

At 7:20am I met the midwife Karen and she gently checked me for the first time. I was so curious to see how far I was dilated.

She asked Tom and I if we had any guesses.

“5cm?”, we said in unison.
The midwife laughed as she nodded her head.

We were right on.

Wow, I was already halfway there! I seriously couldn’t believe it!

It was official. I was in labor and we got the go to check in. It wouldn’t be long now.

When I had my first appointment at Woodwinds, I found out they had a water birth suite. One room available with a large tub that you could actually give birth in. When they asked if I was interested, I said absolutely so! I had read all about the benefits of a water birth and hoped when the day came the room would be available for me to use.


To our luck, it was! We were all checked in to the water birth suite by 7:30am — 12 short hours after I felt my first faint contraction.

Once we were all set up in the room they gave me the go to do some walking. At 8:15am with Tom by my side, we set out to do some laps through the halls. We made it around the loop twice before the contractions got too intense.

At this point they were painful and the doubt set in hard. I told Sarah I was pretty sure I was at my pain threshold. I could do this but I don’t think I could handle anything more. I hinted that I wanted an epidural. I pictured myself laying down in the bed with warm blankets as they took all the pain away. I couldn’t get that out of my mind.

Sarah and Tom encouraged me. They reminded me of everything I said I wanted when we got there. I knew they were right but I just didn’t know how much longer I could go. Just then, Karen came in and asked me to give the tub a try.

Alright, yes. Tub.

I stripped down, climbed the edge of the tub between contractions and lowered myself into the warm water.

Oh, my, goodness… the relief. The relief! The instant I got in the water I felt myself relax. Melt.

I bobbed until I felt a contraction coming. I grabbed the edge of the tub with my head down, totally focused. This time though, the sound I made was different.. softer. Nothing felt as intense as it was before.


Tom was right there and he rubbed my back and encouraged me. Hearing is voice and having his touch was absolutely everything. He was right in my ear reminding me that every single contraction I made it through brought us closer to the delivery. He’d be here so soon.

Not long after I got in the tub, at 9:10am, my midwife Karen came back in to check me.

9cm. 9CM!?

I couldn’t believe the way things had progressed. Was it really almost time to push?

At this point though, my water bag was still in tact. Karen asked if she could rupture it and I agreed.

As she turned around to get ready, I was hit with a contraction that took my breath away. Right in the middle of it I felt a burst.

I watched as a speckled yellow cloud made it’s way through the water around me. I couldn’t talk because my contraction was so strong. Tom didn’t say anything either because he thought maybe I had peed and he didn’t want to bring it any attention. (So thoughtful, isn’t he? :])

Finally, my contraction ended and I was able to get the words out — “I think my water just broke!”

Indeed it had!

As soon as Karen saw the water, she advised the team to get the bed ready. There was meconium — baby had pooped — in the amniotic fluid and now it was in the water. This is one of the only reasons they have you get out of the birthing tub to deliver baby.

Tom held me as I made my way back to the bed.

At this point I wasn’t upset about leaving the water. It did what it needed to — I was to the point of no return and the only thing left do to now was bring this boy into the world.

I got to the bed at 9:37am. At this point I was feeling it all and let me tell you, it was painful. I bounced back and forth between determined and focused and scared and doubtful. The encouragement from the room (Tom, nurses & midwife) really kept me going.

At 9:50am my cousin Danielle arrived to root me on, too. Oh man did I need it. I was just given the green light to begin pushing. I remember saying “Nooooo.” though my contractions, and I know there was a point when I “hit the wall.”

I felt a contraction coming on and I didn’t even want to push. I wanted to be done. It hurt. I felt like I was never going to get through it. I wanted so badly to stop. I was filled with resistance and pain.

As much as I wanted to stop though, I could feel my body continuing on. It was doing it, with or without me.

During my next little break between contractions, I got SUPER focused, super determined. I had to. I remember thinking the only way out of this is through. I had gone too far to turn around and it’s so close to the end. My nurse and midwife recalled this moment with me after the birth because they both saw the shift. This change was everything I needed in the moment, and it felt very spiritual.

It was time to push again but this time around I seriously gave it everything I had. Everyone, in unison, cheered, “PUSH!!!” And boy did I push. I gripped my legs with more power than I knew I had and every single bit of my body was alert and working. It truly felt like I was trying to push myself inside out.


One more contraction coming and my God did I push. Then I felt it. I felt him leave my body.

I did it. He was here.

At 10:01am they lifted up my son and placed him on my chest. Everything was in slow motion. Seeing his face, his little body.. he was so tiny and instantly I thought, “he’s perfect.”


I looked for Tom, he was crying. I glanced at my midwife and her smile was profound. My nurses… just joy. There were tears and smiling and joy. We were all sharing this incredible moment of life and all I could think was, “Thank you. Thank you God for this little miracle.”

Looking back at my delivery now, I realize how short it actually was. From the moment I got to Woodwinds to the moment I was holding him was only three hours. I only pushed for 15 minutes.

Everything seemed much longer than that.

As for medication and intervention? We didn’t use any. The best part was there was no episiotomy and I didn’t tear. The water got me through and we did what we set out to do making my recovery much more smooth.

As I reflect, I realize what a different experience I had with Thomas George, everything about it. It also reminds me of what I first wrote on the post of TG’s birth.

Nothing has felt more true.

I'm convinced that going through labor and delivery is the most intense, 'in the moment' experience of all time. You can read and plan all you want but you can never truly prepare for what will play out. I'm convinced that women are incredibly strong and heroically brave and I'm 100% convinced that every single women's experience, no matter what it is, is absolutely perfect and beautiful. What a miracle.

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Mikko James Jokinen
November 12th | 10:01am
7 lbs. 1 oz. | 21 in.

Thank you to all of our family and friends near and far.
We felt all of your prayers and well wishes.