Community, Friendship, & Connection For Women of the Great Lakes Bay Region
Author: Jaime Krueger
30-something entrepreneur and dreamer. Living life in Michigan. I share a home with an amazing husband and a Yorkshire terrier. Coffee, building community and empowering women are my passions. I love sharing my journey of health, faith, finding hope, and living a full life after infertility and pregnancy loss. Our journey to adoption is just beginning.
It seems like one of those buzz words we hear and see a lot in social media and inspirational quotes. Maybe it is, but it also goes a lot deeper than that. We all have battles we fight internally and today is an especially hard day, after a hard weekend. Depression and anxiety are not visible (to most people) and grief or pain is often hidden behind the smile you pass on the street. Disappointment is yet another invisible struggle and no one is immune to the sting of rejection when we get right down to it. These are battles for so many people, including me. So yes, I declare that I am a WARRIOR today. I keep getting up and fighting the battle and pushing forward. I’m pushing past the challenges, past the hurt, the grief, and the anxiety. It doesn’t look pretty and that’s ok. God is my refuge and He provides strength when I am weak. Support is vital to helping yourself and helping others overcome their battles. Be kind, encourage one another, and remember that others are warriors too, fighting a battle we may not be able to see. Community and friendship are powerful and no one is ever alone in their struggle.
Today has me reflecting on the last few months of this ride. I’ve been thinking on the journey that has been building community and offering support and connection for women, via our gatherings.
I realize I’ve made it complicated by trying to be ALL the things for ALL the people. I’ve put too much time into areas that didn’t really matter or reflect my heart. I’ve spent too little time in areas that matter more, those things that are the heart behind Fill Up Your Cup, like serving and just showing up for other women over a cup of coffee or through a thoughtful note.
So, I’m here, going back to the basics – back to the heart of community and connection. I wished that a community like this existed about 9 months ago, so I created it. It has been beautiful to see women come together and build relationships. It has been beautiful to see women lift each other up. THAT is what Fill Up Your Cup is about… it’s not what happens inside of four walls once a month. It’s about the women who band together in community and make each other better, no matter where they are.
So, while summer has not boasted many gatherings, it has been a season of grace and rest. The doors are always open, the table always has a seat for YOU. I’m always here to cheer you on, support you, and help you connect with other amazing women, just like you. We are better together, friends. Are you up for continuing the journey with me?
I was recently inspired to share more of my story because of a photoshoot we partnered with Self Love Beauty for. We titled the shoot “I am Brave” and with 16 women, we celebrated what moments in our lives make us brave. It was so incredible and empowering! It led me to start asking myself more questions about what made me feel brave and about what I wanted to see looking back on my journey, when I reflect on it in future years. So, I ask…
Have you ever had people in your life make you feel ‘less than’ and cause you to doubt your ability to accomplish your goals and dreams?
Yeah, me too… too many times to count! So, why is it that we let others steal our confidence and let their opinions take up space in our minds, rent free?
For me, it’s because for a long time, I wasn’t secure in myself. I was unhealthy, overweight, suffering from depression and anxiety, and struggling with infertility and loss. I didn’t believe in myself or that I had any real worth, because just getting out of bed each day was a struggle. Others’ opinions are what I lived for – I needed validation from them that I was good, worthy, and loved. Oh, how lost I was.
Looking at the old me, back in 2016, I had two college degrees that weren’t taking me anywhere. In my many years of working in health care, I didn’t feel confident, respected or valued. I didn’t feel like anyone else thought I was capable of achieving more. I had worked alongside many supervisors and executives and proved my work ethic and loyalty. Time and time again, I made the effort, yet I wasn’t getting any offers or any phone calls back regarding job applications I had put in.
On top of that, I also felt awful all of the time, mostly due to a battle with a binge/restrict eating disorder, habitual dieting, and poor management of my mental health concerns. I felt alienated and many people around me didn’t understand my reactions to sensitive situations surrounding food, stress, infertility, pregnancy and loss. I had never felt so alone and unconfident in my entire life as I did then.
My journey to healing and confidence began in 2017 with being brave enough to take back my health. Sure, I lost some physical weight, but I also started to desire taking care of myself again, physically AND mentally. I found a supportive group of people who were cheering me on. I finally started to gain confidence in my body and in my mindset. I began to believe that I COULD achieve the things I put my mind to. It was the start of a new chapter for me.
Over the last two years, I have continued to grow and heal. I have been cheering on so many others in their health journeys and focusing on strengthening my faith and marriage. Not everyone has supported my path, but I’ve chosen to be brave. I focus on the ones that have and I lean into my mentors and the people that inspire me most to keep me moving forward. I have also been focusing on finding a fitness routine that is best for me, both in mind and body. I even felt called to start a women’s community to create a local network of support among women in our area. That was completely out of my comfort zone, but I’m grateful that I had my husband, friends, and family cheering me on in that endeavor. It came at the perfect time.
I recently had a relapse with my depression and eating disorder, earlier in the year. I felt so lost and unsure of how to deal with it. Thanks to the support of a counselor, nutritionist, the women’s community I started, and many others, I was able get back on the path to healing. It hasn’t been easy and there have been a lot of dark days. However, I am incredibly proud of how far I’ve come and learning self-love has been a huge part of building my confidence. It isn’t easy to be vulnerable and share these struggles, but I do it because I know there are others out there, struggling with the same issues. I’m willing to be a brave light for them, bring awareness, and offer my story as hope. The goal of Fill Up Your Cup is to provide support, so I want others to know, they are never alone.
Because of the journey I’ve taken, it has helped me make some tough decisions. Not always popular decisions, but necessary ones for my healing. I’ve learned that I need to shift my role in how I help others in their health. I’ve also been inspired to pursue becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. This is a huge shift, but I feel totally called to live out my journey in the most honest and authentic way that I can. I’ve learned to say “no” when necessary and not to let others’ opinions determine the way in which I should go. I want to be brave and serve and love others in the way that I feel God has asked me to and that requires leaning into Him, even when it doesn’t seem simple or hardships come along.
Though this life hasn’t gone how I had “planned,” I’m so grateful that I’ve built confidence, strength and resilience through the ups and downs and the new friendships I’ve formed. I’m grateful for the healing taking place in me that has inspired me to keep going and help others keep going in their own life journeys too. So when the naysayers say you “can’t do it” or “won’t ever make it,” just know that you CAN and you WILL. If it has been placed in your heart and you have the desire, move on it and don’t give up. Small steps add up to big results. Don’t look back years from now wondering “what if…” Look back knowing you took all the chances you were given and made the most of every moment. Take the first step. Be confident. Be brave.
HUSTLE… A buzzword that we hear so often in entrepreneurship and that is often associated with achieving success and reaching goals and dreams. What does hustle really mean anyway? If you take a look at social media these days, it appears to mean that we run around like crazy, trying to meet short deadlines, losing sleep and missing time with our loved ones and missing out on living a life we TRULY enjoy. We are often worrying about how to “get it all done” and what others will think of the photo we shared or that post we made last night on Instagram, and who “they” think we really are.
According to the dictionary, hustle is defined as “energetic activity, as in work.” That doesn’t sound so bad right? I mean, I’m all for working hard, setting goals, and being a little bit uncomfortable at times to reach my desired result.However, hustle is also defined as “discourteous shoving, pushing, or jostling.” When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound as appealing does it? How do you measure your success? By energetically accomplishing work you love or by frantically pushing your way through work that you don’t really desire to do?
What does your “hustle” look like? Are you setting out to do the work you feel called to do, or are you hustling your way through and trying to meet someone else’s expectations of you? I encourage you to dig deep into your “WHY” for pursuing the dreams and goals you have. If you can’t get beyond 2-3 levels of depth in your why, or if you’re not feeling passionate when you are in the midst of your work, maybe consider that it isn’t YOUR dream that you’re working to accomplish at all. Yes, there will be hard days, even in doing the work you love, but it shouldn’t feel that way so often that you feel discontent and miserable.
Who do YOU desire to become? Why? What makes your heart beat and gives you joy? Friends, I encourage you to take a hard look at your “hustle” and if you are thriving and excited in the work you’re doing, keep doing that! If not, then I ask you to reconsider and make sure that you are truly designing a life you love, and not continuing on a path meant for someone else, for the sake of the money, the approval, or simply posting on Facebook about the hustle life. You were made for MORE than just living by another person’s opinion of you or whatever your inner mean girl is saying in your head. God has created you on purpose, for a purpose. Let Him guide you out of the hustle and onto the beautiful path he has planned for you.
“I spent a lot of my life feeling insecure, my hope is that I can encourage others to let go of their insecurities and do what they love. I’m pretty transparent. I’m honest when it comes to my emotions and I think it is important to show people that there is beauty in your chaos.”
When I first met Selena Bender, I had no idea how much we would end up having in common. I had only recently come across her work in September 2018 via Instagram, thanks to Mary Soler, owner of Space Midland. Mary featured a beautiful mural wall in her newly opened studio and creative space, completely designed and hand painted by Selena. I loved it and followed along from that day forward, often seeing her gorgeous hand lettering and creative designs around Midland and shared on social media.
At the very first gathering for Fill Up Your Cup, Selena came to join us and I was thrilled to meet her. She is the kindest soul and most genuine heart! I didn’t get to spend as much time connecting with her one-on-one as I would have liked that day, but we were able to stay in touch and recently connected again. That is where I found out just how much we had in common, despite our very different careers and talents. This girl truly is my spirit animal. Selena is a fellow “old soul,” who is also an empath, loves her childhood memories of copying the written words of her grandmother’s notes, enjoys eating butter pecan ice cream, and has an appreciation for teacups and all things Normal Rockwell! I haven’t met many people who share those same traits, so I was floored and completely excited to connect with someone so much like me.
Selena shared more with me during our recent conversation about how the desire to hand letter her own wedding materials led to a love-affair with the artform. She later discovered that she wanted to let go of insecurities around sharing her creativity. This led her to a 365-day challenge to intentionally create and grow her confidence in her artwork and in herself, ultimately leading her to form her business, Selena Ashley Designs. Below, she shares more of her heart and soul regarding her business, her love for her customers and how she works to find balance between her passion and her day job.
What products and services do you provide?
“Graphic design services and custom hand lettering. I hand paint wall murals, t-shirts, world globes, hand lettered prints, pretty much anything you dream up on most materials. I also teach classes and wholesale.”
Briefly share with us a little about what motivated you to start Selena Ashley Designs.
“I was getting married and wanted to hand letter all my wedding materials. But, then in 2015, I decided to start a hand lettering challenge for myself on Instagram. As an artist, you can feel insecure and I wanted to let go on that insecurity and just create. For 365, I created and posted a quote everyday, my account just continued to grow and people would request that days art. It just grew from there.”
Did you have a mentor or someone who encouraged you to start your own business?
“I can honestly say I’ve been blessed by my family and friends always encouraging me to create. It was just natural to start a business.”
How have you positively impacted your community as a result of your art?
“I spent a lot of my life feeling insecure, my hope is that I can encourage others to let go of their insecurities and do what they love. I’m pretty transparent. I’m honest when it comes to my emotions and I think it is important to show people that there is beauty in your chaos. I teach hand lettering classes and I love to send out happy mail or do giveaways on my social media to inspire others. I’ve hand lettered motivational quotes on school and business walls.”
What is your favorite part about owning a creative business?
“I love what my customers dream up. I love knowing what quotes inspire them and I love creating art that will hang in their home or that they’ve gifted to someone else. I’ve even hand lettered for tattoos. It is amazing to me that someone loved my lettering enough to keep it forever.”
What is a challenge that you’ve encountered with your business?
“I work a corporate job, so finding work life balance can be very difficult. When I get home I generally have logos to design, or wedding calligraphy just a lot of custom art. I get requests via text, email, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. It can get overwhelming but so rewarding at the same time. Some weeks I may work 80 hours. When I know I have a big to-do list, it is really difficult to take time for myself, there is guilt in pausing and relaxing. I always feel like I have to multi-task.”
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
“Don’t overwork yourself because you are afraid of saying no and don’t take less than you desire if people don’t see the value in your work. When I’m feeling really stressed I like to journal. I learned it from the Artist’s Way. Mind dumping can be so helpful to let go of frustrations. Just learn to pause, even when you think you don’t have time, make time for it.”
What encouragement would you offer to a woman who is pursuing a dream of hers?
“Never stop learning. Continue to grow and challenge yourself, however, you don’t always have to say yes. The quote, just say yes and you’ll figure it out anyways, this can be true, but make sure by saying yes to one thing, you aren’t saying no to something you would have loved to do.”
Do you have a favorite inspirational or motivational quote?
My business is built on motivational quotes. I honestly can’t just pick one. “Rest time is not wasted time;” “Learn to embrace the mess, perfection is overrated.”
If you are ever looking for inspirational quotes to share, I have them available on all my social media channels – Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and my website www.selenaashley.com
Thank you Selena for sharing your heart, your talent, and for being an amazing example of chasing passion, despite the challenges. We are so blessed to have you in our community!
You can follow Selena on Instagram @selenaashley_designs and on Facebook @selenaashleydesigns .
Not only is Anne Fox an expert in holistic beauty, but she holds many certifications in Reiki, along with the roles of busy mom and wife. She is a warm and calm soul that radiates joy and passion when she shares her heart for holistic beauty and wellness. Anne has an incredible story full of adventure, starting in her home country of Ireland and continuing to the U.S. and even London, U.K. for specialized training before she began working on luxury cruise ships to provide specialized spa services while sailing the world earlier in her career.
She found joy in forming amazing relationships with her ship mates while on her world travels, and overcame the many fears that come along with being away on your own for months at a time, helping her to build strong confidence. Anne strongly values her family and loves forming lasting relationships with her clients. She is also a certified Reiki master trained in Usui, Karuna, and Holy Fire®️ practices. She has years of expertise and currently provides her amazing range of beauty services in Midland at Aura Organic Beauty located at 128 Ashman Circle. Anne lives in Midland with her husband, Justin, and two children. Today, she shares some of her story, her passion for holistic beauty and how self-care affects her and each of her clients lives in positive ways.
What products or services do you provide?
A range of face & body treatments including, holistic therapeutic massage, aromatherapy, Himalayan salt stone massage, Indian head massage, signature Reiki massage, organic skin care, anti-aging facials & more!
Briefly share a little about what motivated you to start working in the holistic beauty industry?
I felt that it was my time. I have been in the industry since 1997. I trained in Ireland at Roberta Mechan International College of Beauty. I worked at Roberta’s cosmetic surgery and beauty clinic in Belfast for several years, when I decided to travel while still in my profession. I traveled to London to train with Steiner Trans Ocean preparing to work aboard luxury cruise ships for 2 years. I moved to the States and worked for Douglas J. Aveda Institute in Okemos for 4.5 years before moving to Midland. I really just wanted to keep the high standard I have been trained to incorporated into my own business. So all of that and continuing education led me to go out on my own!
Did you have a mentor or someone who encouraged you to start your journey in holistic beauty?
My mum! She encouraged me to train in beauty therapy and was with me the day I interviewed to get into school. Later, I received my Usui and Karuna Reiki Master certifications while working with Ways to Wellness, also located in Midland, as well as my Holy Fire®️ III Master certification with William Lee Rand.
How have you positively impacted your community as a result of the beauty services you provide?
When guests come to me, they have a place to let go and relax, feel taken care of and feel peaceful within. I feel that ripples into their families, work and social life. Everyone needs that from time to time.
What is your favorite part about being in charge of your own schedule?
Definitely being able to spend more time with my family! I also get to do what I love and what I’m passionate about!
What challenges have you encountered in your business and how do you work through them?
I think it takes a lot of courage to run your own business but if you believe in yourself you can overcome any challenge. Never give up! It can be easy to take care of everyone else and not take care of yourself. Learning to take care of myself through practices like Reiki, yoga, and meditation helped me find balance and healing.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change. Focusing on the positive has helped me see more positivity in every day.
What encouragement would you offer to a woman who is pursuing a dream of hers, in business or another area?
To always believe in yourself and to reach out to others if you need help, and also to take care of yourself first.
Do you have a favorite inspirational quote that you identify with?
I have many! My favorite one right now is, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” -Marianne Williamson
You can coordinate services with Anne by visiting auraorganicbeauty.com and booking online. Aura Organic Beauty is located at 128 Ashman Circle, Midland, Michigan. Thank you Anne for bringing your talents and expertise to our community and helping others find wellness through amazing self-care services!
I went to an event recently that was rescheduled from a previous date, due to our glorious Michigan winter weather. Of all of the women who had committed to attend as guests, all of them were unable to make it on the new date due to previous commitments and conflicts. It was so hard to know that this event wasn’t going to turn out as planned, despite the heart and preparation that went into making it happen. We really wanted this to be a meaningful and beautiful event.
Managing disappointment in today’s world can be so hard! It seems like everything is centered around instant gratification and it can be easy to forget that it isn’t always to get what we want, right when we want it. I think we can all look back at some moments of our lives where we are probably glad that things didn’t work out the way that we wanted them to at that moment.
I just have to share that the rescheduled event turned out to be an AMAZING experience, despite the initial “disappointment” that came along with the lack of attendees. All of the women who had planned and prepared for this event came together and made something beautiful anyway! We were gathered, in community, and we shared more of our stories, our struggles, and we shared some laughs and snacks too. It felt so good to know that we weren’t alone in the joys and the difficulties of building businesses and dreams.
I’ve looked back on the disappointing moments of “missing out” on the job I wanted so badly, the home we thought we wanted, the vacations we couldn’t take, and the list goes on. All of that doesn’t even begin to compare to the yearning I had to become a mom. That is by far the hardest thing I’ve had to wait for over the last six and a half years. I spent so much time focusing on what I didn’t have, that I missed out on embracing the joy that comes from all of the things in life that were going really well. A couple of those things being the chance to grow within and expanding my own community of amazing women, too!
All in all, while my path hasn’t gone the way I expected, it has gone the best way. If we don’t learn to embrace the rain that we are sent, we can’t learn to appreciate the beautiful moments that bloom because of that rain, in each season of our lives.