Our Blog

how to handle massive change

October 31st, 2012   |   LifeThink About It


Today I wrote a column on The Everygirl that I wish I could have read myself a month ago. I shared what I wish I knew about handling massive change. The things I share are lessons learned over the past few months handling so much change at once.

Because no matter how great our life transitions might be, they still require a generous amount of compassion, familiarity, and big picture perspective.

Post: How to Handle Massive Change


my wedding photo, taken by




Tomorrow on Wish I Knew Wednesday I’ll be sharing on an important topic: why you shouldn’t undercharge for your services. The principals will also apply for product-based companies, but we’ll be approaching the topic from the service side of things.

If you’d like to get the email, simply sign up by clicking on the image below. This email list is also where I announce upcoming workshops and other BWI updates.

(If you have signed up for the BWI newsletter, you will automatically get this series.)


entry way details and cheap tricks

October 30th, 2012   |   DecorStyle


Our entry way is coming along. There is still one important change that needs to take place… but until then I’d like to share how I’m currently using the area and a few cheap tricks I’ve come up with that look cute and keep things organized.

You’ll notice that we scored a beautiful 1880′s marble topped chest from Chic Antique. It adds a sense of history to the otherwise new and modern space. Mr. Lively was the one that gravitated towards it first due to the rough, worn paint and I was sold on the white marble top.

The drawers contain receipts, to-do lists, small tools, and puppy stuff.

On the top of the table we have two DIY bulletin boards, a tray for my keys, candle jars for pens and mailing supplies, a metal tray for Mr. Lively’s things, and a little bowl with coins and two clickers for the puppy (we get him on Saturday!).

To the side of the entry table we have a ceramic umbrella stand I received as a gift a few years ago (from Z Gallerie) filled with scarves and my rain boots.

One cheap trick I love is my key chain holder. I used the leather tassel from my K.Slademade clutch as a key chain.

The cool part about the key chain design is that it’s super simple to open and close. Which means the car keys Mr. Lively and I share are easy to add or remove from my key ring whenever needed.

Of course any keyring with a simple closure like this would do the trick.

My other favorite little cheap trick in the entry is my mail station.

In the black candle jar we have stashed a few key essentials for outgoing mail.

Stamps, ink, and a custom rubber return address stamp I made via Photoshop and Rubberstamps.net with our new address (I obscured it for privacy). The total came to just $15.90 with shipping for the rubber stamp. And it would have been even cheaper if I went for a smaller size stamp. I chose the 3.5″ x 1.5″ format for $11.95.

All in all, it’s a cute and simple way for us to send mail out without having to write our address or use return address stickers.

I can’t wait to reveal the entry when it’s in it’s final state. But until then I hope you like the progress so far!


five more days to shop Jess LC

October 29th, 2012   |   Life


Just five days left until the Jess LC shop closes on Friday, November 2nd (6p CST).  Feel free to order remaining styles at 25% off by using the code FINALFINALSALE. All sales are final.


As I’ve shared, I’m going into a new chapter in my life and career helping people design lives and businesses with intention. But Jess LC will always remain a wonderful part of my life which I am deeply grateful for.

tv with intention

October 29th, 2012   |   Life


Since moving to the new apartment, Mr. Lively and I have switched cable providers. Over the past few years we had Tivo through a special offer. I loved Tivo because it recorded my shows easily and also recorded shows I might like. We loved that second feature so much that we rarely watched live TV.

However, now that we are in the new apartment we have a regular Comcast DVR. After using Tivo for so long we were not crazy about the functionality of the DVR and the fact that it did not offer the recorded shows that we might like. So rather than just get accustomed to the DVR although we didn’t prefer it, we decided to drop cable entirely. (We also had considered ordering Tivo through Comcast, but the cost was more than we really wanted to spend.)

So now we are getting into a new TV routine. Though we are not massive TV watchers, we definitely like our fair share of time watching our favorite shows a few nights a week.

Which meant before we dropped cable entirely, we made sure to have a plan for our must-see programs. When it comes to my morning routine, The Today Show is a must. For this and other non-cable channels we got a wireless antenna. And a few other cable shows we will stream through Apple TV from the iPad. We also have Netflix and HuluPlus (which we are testing out, not sure if we’ll keep Hulu) to surf other movies and recent shows that won’t be recorded by a DVR or Tivo box.

All in all, with the cable antenna and Apple TV supporting Netflix, HuluPlus, and online streaming we aren’t missing many things cable once provided.  The only real losses now are HGTV and The Food Network which I loved to watch while I was cooking or cleaning. But I’m sure I’ll adjust over time or simply listen to music.

Either way, the cable switch has definitely made things just a bit more intentional. It takes slightly more effort to connect the Apple TV to an online program or to start to HuluPlus. Which is a good thing. It makes us pause and think about whether we really want to watch TV or if we can do without.


this week i’m thankful for… progress

October 26th, 2012   |   Life

This week was a very interesting one. I worked with new clients on entirely new projects which will be shared in the months to come. We caught up on the orders as we go into the last week of Jess LC. And the apartment is really coming into it’s final stages (cough… excluding the guest room).

We are also preparing for our new puppy this weekend (we get him next weekend!). We’ll be puppy supply shopping tomorrow and doing a few things around the apartment that we would like to have under our belt before we have our little puppy under our feet.

All in all I feel like Mr. Lively and I have been in a perpetual state of transition for most of this year. Yet now that we are almost a month into living in our new home, my career transition is a week away, and our puppy comes home soon, I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We are going to get to dwell in the life we’ve spent the last several months building.

Things are coming along.

Have a great weekend and thank you so much for reading!


PS – Does anyone using Firefox have an issue seeing the first photo on posts in their browser? We’ve heard this has happened for a few people but we aren’t sure which edition of Firefox is having the issue. If you can’t see the photo above, please let me know what browser and edition of that browser you are using. Thanks so much!

you are the best thing DIY art

October 25th, 2012   |   DecorStyle

When it comes to art for my home, I am all about making it when possible. It saves money and gives me the exact look and scale I’m going for. Though I definitely have a knack for coming up with new ideas, I don’t take on super complicated projects.

A few of my projects for past apartments can be found here on my Nate Show segment last year.

And my most recent project is hung directly across from the bed in my new bedroom. As a surprise gift for Mr. Lively, I took our song’s title and turned it into a piece of art to wake up to each morning.

But really, this is the third life that this canvas has had. It first looked like this from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

Not too bad, but I definitely tired of it.

So I painted it with gold paint and hung it in my next apartment’s living room.

And now it’s black with white letters. To make the letters, I simply traced around cut out letters from my printer and filled them in with white paint.

A $10 project which just required printer paper, an old makeup brush (I didn’t have the correct painting brush so I simply used an old makeup brush to get the crisp lines), and some black and white paint.

In other bedroom art news, I framed a photo of our shoes from our wedding above the dresser. I love the pop of blue and the subtle reference to the wedding. (Please don’t mind the floral wallpaper reflections on the frame’s glass.)

The bedroom is almost complete. Next on the list are curtains and a new light fixture!

golf balls, sand, coffee, and life

October 24th, 2012   |   Think About It

This morning I received a thought-provoking story from a friend that I thought I’d share!


When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and two cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and fills it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “YES”.

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – God, family, children, health, friends, and favorite passions. Things, that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff.” he said.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “There is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you…” he told them.

“So… pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Worship with your family. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Spend time with good friends. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap. Take care of the golf balls first — the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”


story source


I’ve so enjoyed seeing all of these amazing ladies share their intentions week after week, but this week I thought I’d mix it up and introduce a little testosterone to the mix. My boyfriend, Trevor, who is also a talented designer, (one of his designs recently made it on Apartment Therapy) agreed to write and share his intentions with you guys! I had so much fun reading them, and I think you will too. It by was nice to get a man’s perspective, but also to realize that maybe men aren’t from Mars. After all, most of his intentions are ones I know many of us can relate to, or have even made for ourselves. Check out his pinterest  and tumblr  for more visual inspiration, and read on!  -Caitlin


DESIGN YOUR LIFE: trevor of pink sky at night

Families, significant others, friends, and pets. The interactions we have when someone is counting on us make us so much more of a selfless person on a daily basis, and I think it is so important to never be the only one you’re supporting. Some of my most giving friends are this way because they had a new sibling introduced to the household while they where already teenagers, and just beginning to learn about responsibilities and priorities. Since we can’t all spontaneously introduce a new child to the world, adopting a new pet can be a great way to get a crash course in responsibility and giving. This is my cat Smudge and I even have a betta fish on my desk at work to remind me during the day that I’m not the only one counting on me.

I’m not particularly materialistic, but I’d be a fool not to walk down the street and think people aren’t making snap judgments about me, as I know for a fact I am constantly making visual assessments of those around me. Investing in oneself doesn’t mean spending frivolous amounts of money on excessive things. To me, it means having the essentials to be properly prepared for any and all situations. I recently spent more on a coat than I would normally allow myself, but I can justify it as an investment because it filled a gap in my current possessions, as I didn’t have an overcoat that I could wear in professional settings.

Life can be crazy, and everybody needs some time to themselves, but we don’t always have a space. If you don’t have one, make one. I live in a big Victorian mansion with ten other guys, and it became essential early on for me to carve out my own space where I can zone out and work on things that interest me. I also find that creating a serene space you can come back to over and over again to work, can make you much more calm during those deadline crunch periods that everybody in every profession seems to have.

K.I.S.S. or keep it simple stupid. A mantra I always keep in mind, not only in my design career but also in everyday life. As humans we lean to the extravagant, and sometimes we need to step back and decide if we’re really taking the most direct route to our end goals. Occam’s Razor. Is the Blood Orange Caramel Apple Martini Margarita really a better idea than the classic gin and tonic? Take a step back. Reassess.

Work hard. Play harder. I take myself pretty seriously at all times. When I’m working I like to give it my all and not walk away until it’s the best it can be. I think the same thing can be said of my weekend life.  I leave my work at work and my drinks at the bar. You have to let off steam to maintain an energetic work ethic day in and day out. It’s important  to be able to walk away from certain elements in your life so that you can come back to them completely calm and refreshed. If I can’t get away enough, I slip in one and then I slip in the other, and I feel my best when I excel in both.

Check out past DESIGN YOUR LIFE interviews.

closet design (phase two)

October 23rd, 2012   |   DecorLifeStyle


On the organizing front in the new place we’ve been making progress! A few weeks ago I shared Phase One of the tiny 4′x5′ master closet Mr. Lively and I share.

As you may recall, it looked like this.

Not too bad, but definitely not taking advantage of all the vertical space on the back and right walls.

So we went to Ikea and got four Grundtal rails and several packs of S hooks for about $55 total.

Installing them (with our own screws, they don’t come with them) was pretty simple with a drill.

Then it was the fun part, putting the accessories in place.

The back rail is for Mr. Lively’s belts and ties. While the lowest rail, near the laundry basket, is a spot to hang damp clothes or extra running gear.

The top rail on the right is for my long scarves.

And the middle right rail is for my silk scarves and skinny belts.

Overall, I like how the scarves and accessories add a hit of color and pattern in the tiny space.

It helps make the space cheery and organized all at once.

Talk about form and function.



In tomorrow’s Wish I Knew Wednesday I am sharing how to pick a shopping cart. When it comes to selling things online there are many awesome options to choose from and I’ll share some of my favorites which I recommend to my clients most often.

In other Business with Intention news, I am so thrilled with the success of the One-on-One Workshops that I am continuing them on an ongoing basis, no longer just in October. So feel free to sign up today! (Our next live event will be in January 2013, but more details on that in December.)

If you’d like to get the email, simply sign up by clicking on the image below. This email list is also where I announce upcoming Workshops and other BWI updates.

(If you have signed up for the BWI newsletter, you will automatically get this series.)

gallery wall

October 22nd, 2012   |   DecorStyle


Yesterday Mr. Lively and I worked a bit more on the apartment. Not a lot because I totally needed a break, but we did finish the gallery wall in the back hall.

As you may recall, the hall to our bedroom first looked like this before we moved in.

Long, white, and kinda boring.

To spice it up and display the pieces of art we had left over from our past apartments which had yet to find a home in the new space, we made a gallery wall.

But this is not one of those super curated walls with matching frames or anything like that. This is simply the artwork we had on hand in the frames we put them in originally, once upon a time.

First, we anchored the space with the largest canvas – which also covers the switch breaker panel on the left.

Then, I traced the artwork on craft paper and loosely drew or marked frame colors on the papers before placing them on the wall.

With the largest piece in place first, it made the rest of the positioning much easier. Things kinda fell into place from the left to the right.

Once Mr. Lively approved the configuration, he got to work hanging the pieces. To make things simpler for him, I marked (on some of them) exactly where the nail needed to go.

Here’s how it all turned out.

We have a mix of canvases, wood, black frames, white shadow boxes, and an ornate gold mirror. The overall effect is cohesive despite the random assortment of pieces.

One tiny detail I dig is how the mirror reflects the brick wall.

Turns out you guys were right, I am digging the brick after all.

And our walk to the bedroom is way more interesting now.

When I first decided to evolve my career and end Jess LC in favor of becoming a professional, full-time helper of people I was elated. I felt like I was finally coming into my own, that I was becoming more “me” in my career.

I was playful, optimistic, and confident about my business future and had so many awesome plans I looked forward to bringing to life.

But last week, just three weeks away from my career transition, I started diving into advice from consultants to other consultants. Since I’m still new to the industry in many respects, I was all ears when it came to putting my best foot forward in the full-time arena.

Over and over in my readings I kept finding a trend emerging called “scaling.” In fact, its a huge concept in many parts of the web. It’s based on creating products that serve large numbers of people, rather than limiting oneself to one-on-one interactions exclusively.

And though I am sure that I will scale my consulting in the future as things naturally progress, I left my advice binge sick to my stomach. I started to buy into a misled belief that if I don’t scale immediately that I am somehow ‘missing the boat.’ Or worse, intentionally running my business the wrong way. 

In my original playful/limitless approach I did not emphasize the scalable aspects of my business right away. I was looking forward to helping more people in deeper, one-on-one interactions through consulting and intimate workshops. I also had plans for e-books and eventually, larger live events. But for the moment, or next four months, I didn’t want to scale. I wanted to go deeper before I broadened.

So I questioned that intuitive plan in the face of experts with more experience.

As you can imagine, I was feeling pretty blue about this internal conflict. What once seemed a wondrous business move later seemed small-minded in light of the new information.

But then I remembered a show I had seen years ago that featured the life of Ina Garten, the woman behind The Barefoot Contessa culinary empire. I remembered something vaguely from the show about her transition from the restaurant to life after running the business.

So I decided to look up her career and refresh myself on her path to personal and professional success in more detail.

What I discovered helped me re-align with my initial intuition and innate joy at the prospect of my career. What’s more, I think her story also lends itself to all careers and walks of life.

Ina took her time.

While it is easy to assume that Ina had always been cooking as a profession, that was not the case at all. Though she developed an early passion for cooking during the Vietnam War, she did not do anything professionally with this passion for quite some time. In fact, when she moved with her husband to Washington D.C. in the early 1970′s, she started as a low-level aid and worked her way up to the “Office of Management and Budget and was assigned the position of budget analyst, which entailed writing the nuclear energy budget and policy papers on nuclear centrifuge plants for Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.”  (Source)

Stressed by the job, she then flipped houses for a profit (who knew!?). These profits later became the funds she used to purchase The Barefoot Contessa store in 1978.

She then spent 20 years growing and evolving the store into something quite incredible.

Later, she sold the business and took a six-month sabbatical to plot her next career move. She even studied the stock market and considered different ventures.

Her first cookbook, which put her onto the path to stardom did not launch until 1999. This means she had a career between 1972 and 1999 that was varied, interesting, and ultimately gave her the experience and skills she needed to become the famous culinary maven she is today.

Like Ina, I want to take my time, have fun, and explore along the way in my career. If I want to work primarily one-on-one for a little while, that is totally fine. I also want to take some time to rest after Jess LC ends before I dive headfirst into my next chapter. Though it will only be for a week or two, I also think there is significance in letting each chapter of my life breathe a bit.

Ina didn’t have a master plan.

While writing high-level documents on nuclear energy, Ina may not have grasped that she would one day be famous on television for cooking in her kitchen.

She might not have realized while flipping houses that she was raising capital to buy a food business.

But no matter where in her career she was, she always returned to her love of cooking and entertaining in her personal life which later led to her professional success. I bet the idea of working full-time on food-focused ventures excited Ina and later started directing her career steps.

For me, this helps me realize that though I may have a clear vision of what I’d like my legacy to be when I die, I don’t know exactly how that will manifest over the decades to come. I am just five years into a career which I am turning into a vocation to last a lifetime. I don’t need to race to any self- or other-perceived finish line rightthisminute in order to be labeled a success.

Ina blended her personal and professional life with her passion.

From watching her show on The Food Network it is easy to see that her show concepts are derived from real or semi-real events that happen in her life. She cooks for friends when they return from vacation, demonstrates how to cook for a friend’s baby shower, and always has her husband taste-test.

She loves to entertain and she has found a way to do so for her friends while educating her fans watching the show.

I too, want to find a way to find financial success doing what I love to do in my personal life. And the initial idea I had for my new business does allow me to do just that.


So there you have it. I hope my struggle to follow my heart and let the rest flow, as well as Ina’s inspiring and adventurous career helps others in their own professional paths. May we wander, may we weave, may we do what we are meant to do.


I worked for the Office of Management and Budget in the White House, on nuclear energy policy. But I decided it would be much more fun to have a specialty food store, so I left Washington D.C. and moved to the Hamptons. And how glad I am that I did!”  - Ina Garten


photo via


this week i’m thankful for… relaxing

October 19th, 2012   |   Life

This weekend is the first weekend that Mr. Lively and I will have both be in the apartment having a “normal” weekend. That is, if you count plans tonight, tomorrow night, and a half marathon on Sunday, as “normal.”

In order to finally have a chance to unwind and step away from the constant work on my businesses and the home, Mr. Lively has decided to take me on a date day tomorrow. I don’t know what we are doing exactly, but I know it won’t involve work, the internet, or home goods.

And that is exactly what I need right now.

Too much of a good thing is too much of a good thing. I gotta learn how to relax again. It’s okay with projects laying around the house waiting to be finished. It’s okay that I’m still stuck in transition in my career for the next few weeks. It’s okay that we don’t have any puppy supplies yet.

Those things can happen in the future so I can unwind in the present moment. I gotta live with open hands again.

Thank you so much for reading and I hope you have a fantastic - and relaxing - weekend!


While Mr. Lively and I worked on the living room curtains I thought that I came up with a killer trick to share with you all. I really believed in a random stroke of genius, I had come up with something new and fresh to offer the design world.

But recently on a trip to Kim’s blog to find her tutorial on how to make your own pipe curtain rods for our bedroom, I discovered she and others had already beat me to the punch.

Though I know that the trick has already circulated the web, I still think it is worth sharing for others who might want to “luxe up” their curtains with inexpensive clip rings.

All you need to do is clip the fabric from a few inches down at the base of the hem rather than clipping right from the top.

This mimics much more expensive drapery techniques, costs very little, and takes almost no time at all.

For our curtains in this room we doubled up the panels (they are from West Elm, but I couldn’t find them on the site) on each side of the sliding doors and used 16 rings on each rod for a fuller look.

I hope this helps all those out there, like me, who didn’t already know about this little design trick!


signature style

October 18th, 2012   |   LifeStyle

When it comes to style there are many ways to be intentional. Having a willingness to play and experiment with fashion and decor is great, but knowing what classics I adore regardless of the season helps me make confident decisions and curate a signature look.

With my brand, Jess LC, my focus and direction paired with trends made the line feel cohesive and ultimately successful. But even after the shop closes in two weeks, I will still keep that designer mentality in my life and career.

The photo above does a great job showcasing what my style is all about. It even looks a bit like it could be an inspiration board for this actual blog design. Which again, was intentional. I wanted my blog to feel like me, and by incorporating styles and colors that I return to time and again I present myself authentically in both content and design.

My favorite way to blend significance and uniqueness into my personal style is with my charm necklace.

The middle pendant has my maiden name initials and is by Allison Slingluff, a designer friend. The “C” once belonged to my late Grandma whose first name was Carole. And the little pup is a new charm Mr. Lively bought me on our honeymoon in Paris, which represents our soon-to-be puppy.

Wearing this necklace, almost everyday, is a special way to connect me to pieces of my family and past. I also love that it’s something that has a story behind it.

Plus, the great part is that though my necklace is 100% unique to me, anyone can create a their own personal charm necklace with meaningful items from their own life and travels.


Hi guys! First of all, I’m sorry for being tardy for the party with this post today. Did anyone else think today was Tuesday? No? Anyway, I am so very excited to share this weeks DYL interview, for a multitude of reasons. First of all, I knew I’d love Hilary when she sent her first email to me and signed off “With Grace and Gumption, Hilary.” How much more adorable can you get? Hearing about her personal styling business made me all the more certain that she would be a perfect person to share her intentions with Jess Lively readers this week. Hilary’s business, Dean Street Society, began a year ago, when she set the intention to help “real people with real budgets” look and feel like the best version of themselves. I love that her passion doesn’t necessarily lie with fashion or trends (as she put it) but rather with seeing someone glow with confidence for that first date they’ve been dreaming about, or that big job interview they have coming up. I’ll let her take it from here, so read on for more about Hilary’s intentions with her life and business. See you guys next week! -Caitlin

DESIGN YOUR LIFE: Hilary of Dean Street Society

My new year’s resolution for 2012 was to “make things happen + love people well”. As a solo-preneur I am, honestly, overwhelmed on a daily basis with how much there is to do for Dean Street Society. Deciding to “make things happen” is about taking action today, right now, in this hour. It’s about taking the first step in a long project, just sending the tough email, not letting myself get immobilized by the overwhelm. I have a vision for my business that is bold + I think the #1 baddie that can get in my way is myself if I lose my big vision + confidence that I can make it happy little by little each day.

There’s a book called “The 5 Love Languages”. I haven’t read it. But the basic premise is there are 5 ways people give + receive love. So often what makes me feel loved, is not what makes you feel loved. NYC is a busy, bustling place filled with people with fast-paced lives. I can’t love everyone + I’ve had to accept that I have far less social play time since I started a business. But I try to focus when I’m with people on asking about them, making eye contact, remembering details, sensing whether or not they want to share a struggle or be distracted with silliness. I’m not perfect at it, but I desire to cherish the people in my life + love them uniquely in the ways that really fill their hearts.

A few summers ago I worked in a tiny no-stop-light town on a lake upstate. At first my best gay friend + I were losing our minds with the long stretches of day with nothing to do. After a few weeks, the rhythm of my soul began to slow, change, embrace. As a girl who often thrives on the adrenaline of NYC, I now also crave quiet, simple, rest like water. There was a season in which I was only a power-walking city girl. And glowed. Now I need both. And carving out that space in my life was a huge motivator in starting my own business.

It’s been fascinating as a stylist to realize how much fear people have. Fear of color, fear of pattern, fear of being seen, noticed, too much, not enough, wrong, uncool, unflattering. It breaks my heart how many people leave the house hoping not to be seen, just blend in. When I wear a saturated peacock blue dress or a fun pair of polka dot pants, people compliment me + they smile. It’s like having fresh flowers in a room. It brings light + joy. It makes the picture prettier for everyone else, while also making you look confident in your own skin, which is always a delight to be around.

In her book “The Fire Starter Sessions” author Danielle LaPorte asks you to distill what it is you want to feel in life. For me these three words sum up everything. I want to be in control of my life, of my days, with the ability to create, help, teach. I want to be around joyful people, doing lovely things. I want to use my talented + gifts to the fullest. When I’m working with a one-on-one client, on set for a photo shoot, filming a style segment on-camera or talking business with a fellow entrepreneur friend over coffee — I feel all three of those things + am affirmed that I’m absolutely doing what I’m meant to do in life.

Check out past DESIGN YOUR LIFE interviews.

situational happiness

October 17th, 2012   |   LifeThink About It

Over the past few weeks I’ve had more highs and lows than I’d like to admit. Sure, I changed my birth control the same day that we moved. So part of me would like to blame the hormonal changes just a little bit. But I don’t think that’s really the case, or at least not the whole problem by a long shot.

And it’s true that we have been continuously on the go for several months now and have yet to have a normal weekend in the new home (Mr. Lively hasn’t even spent a weekend here at all yet). So there is a true need for relaxing and normalcy. We’ve been in a stretch zone for what seems like a long, long time.

On the other hand, I expected myself to be overjoyed and singing like those little birds in Cinderella. I am in the process of creating a full-time career based on my purpose of helping people design lives with intention. I’m living in a gorgeous apartment which is getting more complete and beautiful by the day. I’ve got a sweet, patient, funny husband who loves me despite the dozen emotional outbursts I’ve had over the past month. I’ve got a sweet puppy coming home in just a few weeks.

I have “the recipe” for happiness that I created… intentionally.

But when it comes to day-to-day happiness and fulfillment, I’ve remained constant or maybe even a bit less happy.

Am I happy with my life overall? Absolutely. 100%. Without a doubt. 

But that overarching happiness is not directly correlating to emotional stability, peace, and joy in my moods, emotions, and daily life at all times.

Heck, I got my new drivers license last week and when they messed up and didn’t change my last name on the card (which I noticed twenty minutes later in the food court). I came back to find myself in a waiting room filled with thirty people waiting to get their photos taken and I almost came to tears at the thought of having to wait in the line again.

I think I’ve stacked a lot of expectation about my day-to-day happiness on my overall situation. If I have designed the life I want with intention, I should live happily ever after.




My experience these past three weeks has taught me no. And so has research on happiness itself. In the Pursuit of Perfection they speak of research that shows people have a natural set-point of happiness. Which means events like winning the lottery (good) or losing a limb (bad) only affect happiness levels for a few months. Over time, people naturally return back to their normal set-point of happiness.

For me, especially lately, I think my unconscious expectation that life would be flawless now that I’ve designed it with intention has actually hindered my happiness set-point. And only by breaking free of that expectation will I allow myself to resume my more positive outlook and have any room for happiness growth in the future.

I now understand firsthand that it is not our overall life intentions that “make” us happy (though detrimental habits, addictions, or fears can probably make us unhappy) day-to-day. Our reactions to the frustrations, flaws, and bumps in the road of life are within our control no matter where we are on our intentional life scale. And in my case, I need to unhitch the idea that my intentional life decisions will relate to my patience and peace at the DMV.

I will continually be responsible for my reactions to life – my overall life satisfaction is not a blanket of happiness that covers everything all the time.

Sharing this here with you has helped me take a metaphorical and physical sigh of relief. The friction that has been building between me and my happiness is starting to melt. Perhaps I just needed to admit that I made a sub-conscious mistake and my expectations were misplaced.

Come to think of it, just from sharing this understanding I’m feeling better already.


PS – Business in the City is tonight!

coffee table before/after

October 16th, 2012   |   Decor

Over the weekend in Ann Arbor I took Mr. Lively to my second favorite thrifting shop, The Treasure Mart.*

Right before we accidentally spilled coffee on a blanket I was convincing talking Mr. Lively into**, he spotted a steal of a deal.

Clocking in at just $60 for a well-sized oval white marble top, this coffee table was a no brainer.

It was so good that Mr. Lively had already decided to buy it before he even showed it to me.

Swoon. That’s my kind of romance.

Anyways, when we got him home he didn’t really play well with our other pieces.

The chrome chairs are all like, “We’re cool and modern.”

The rug is like, “I’m punchy and graphic.”

And the coffee table is like, “I’m froufy and look like I belong in Beauty and the Beast.”

One of these things is not like the other…

Mr. Lively and I initially debated about finding another base to go below the table top. Something metal to look more modern like the other lines in the space.

But having gone through issue after issue trying to find the perfect reclaimed wood top for our chrome dining table, I knew that it would be a decent challenge to find the perfectly sized/priced item to compliment the top.

So instead of replacing it, I painted it.

Ahhhhh, so much better.

Now Belle is looking a little more like the Beast. (In a good way.)

Here’s another angle.

Such great semi-gloss paint with built-in primer. It was $15 for a quart from Behr called Evening Hush. It took just two coats and about 45 minutes of actual work.

Mr. Lively doesn’t even mind the flowers anymore.

Let’s take a peek at the before and after one more time.



Amazing what a few coats of paint can do to combine three totally unrelated styles.


*My favorite shop used to be the White Elephant in Chicago, may it rest in peace. 

** Fortunately for me, the coffee stains meant we had to buy the blanket after all. He’s now freshly laundered and may serve as a cover for the guest room headboard.

In tomorrow’s Wish I Knew Wednesday I’ll be sharing from my personal experience whether I think PR is a good investment. I worked with a successful PR firm for about six months a few years back, and it gave me an insight into the industry from the small business perspective.

If you’d like to get the email, simply sign up by clicking on the image below. This email list is also where I announce upcoming Workshops and other BWI updates.

(If you have signed up for the BWI newsletter, you will automatically get this series.)



family organization

October 16th, 2012   |   LifeRelationships

When Mr. Lively and I got married the number of important documents that I needed to keep track of tripled. Not only did I then have Mr. Lively’s birth certificate, social security card, etc. but we also had car documents and ring appraisals to store.

Rather than scour the apartment every few months to find that one little piece of paper that we need in the future, I decided to corral all the papers in one central location. This makes locating and storing life documents super simple. Plus, it also lets Mr. Lively know where to look if he ever needs to track something down and I’m not around.

While in college I received this Life.Doc binder which was created with this purpose in mind.

Inside there are tabs for many important categories.

On the back of each tab there are pockets for tucking papers.

I used the family one to house our birth certificates, passports, social security cards, and other “life” documents.

But other document categories warranted their own sections which were not included in the kit. So I simply made my own sections with sticky tabs and plastic sheets.

Which really goes to show you don’t need any fancy kit to make one of these binders. Just some plastic sheets and a sticky tabs does the job.

When our little puppy comes home or when kids enter the picture, this binder will house even more information as needed.

Currently we are storing this binder in a hidden part of our apartment. And if we ever get a safe, it will be stowed there. Our financial information is also not stored in this binder for additional precaution.

During my name change process I needed to grab many of these documents for different purposes at different points in time. It was handy to always know where to look for the exact papers I needed. And if we ever have a fire or need to leave the apartment quickly, we can grab our information easily on the way out the door.

Though the apartment still has varying levels of progress (read: chaos) in each room, it feels nice to know this essential aspect of our lives is organized and tucked away.


cheap trick: ikea dresser

October 15th, 2012   |   DecorLifeStyle

There is definitely progress happening on the home front. I’ve honored my birthday by treating myself to some home design time. Here is one of the recent updates which makes me so, so happy.

Mr. Lively’s bachelor dresser (hailing from the land of Swedish meatballs) is looking a bit spiffier in his new digs.

Here he was in his natural state.

A bit blah for my taste. So we upped the ante with new knobs (first spotted in Kim’s studio).

I mean, common. For those who love gold, like me, this guy is looking like a million bucks without the price tag.

Sure we coulda gone with a whole new dresser but this one was perfectly fine and had great oversize drawers and an exaggerated height which this tiny bedroom desperately needed. So for just 60 bucks we had a five minute makeover worth every penny.

He had good bones before, now he has good jewelry.

a happy birthday indeed

October 15th, 2012   |   Life

Right around my sixteenth birthday, my family got our first dog. Her name is Mackenzie and she is a wonderful furry family member.

When we got her, I remember wishing from that day forward to get a Westie puppy of my own. Fast forward twelve years and my wish has now come true.

On the way home from Ann Arbor this weekend Mr. Lively and I made one important stop along the way. We needed to meet and pick our puppy-to-be. My parents generously offered to gift us our first family dog as our wedding gift. A very sentimental gift considering my love affair with Westies began when we got Mackenzie oh-so-many years ago.

Yesterday at brunch before Mr. Lively and I selected our pup, we did a bit of cramming via a Puppies for Dummies book we borrowed from a friend (it’s really well done by the way, I definitely recommend it).

From the temperament chapter, we figured that we’d want one of the more active and energetic male pups. Though my personal dream of getting this little Westie was always to get a female puppy (named Elsie), Mr. Lively has now entered the picture. He did some heavy lobbying for a male dog. And given the glowing reports we have heard about the boy Westies, we decided to go with a guy.

Getting to play with four six-week-old Westie puppies was amazing. And also a bit overwhelming. At such a young age they largely look alike and the task of selecting just one to take home seemed daunting at first.

But within the first few minutes of sitting with them while they circled us and tugged at Mr. Lively’s shirt, one little guy promptly sat in my lap and started giving me kisses on the hand. As he sat there his tail began to wag furiously and I was in love.

I promptly passed him over to Mr. Lively who also received kisses and cuddles.

After observing them a bit more together and on his own, we realized that the little guy who loved being held was not the rebel rouser we thought we’d select. He was a bit quieter and not quite as attached to his litter mates. But his confidence and sweetness stole our hearts.

In a way, he picked us.

We cannot wait to take him home with us in November. For the next three weeks I’ll be staring at photos of him on my phone and computer, trying to stay calm.

A happy birthday indeed. It’s going to be a great year.


This weekend Mr. Lively and I are hitting the road and heading to Ann Arbor, Michigan for a fall weekend away.

I haven’t been back to my alma mater in the fall in quite a while. So this is a real treat.

We will be staying with my dear friend Vicki of Heavenly Metal. Her home is magical and I cannot wait to be surrounded by her artful life.

Have a great weekend and thanks for reading!

shining brightly

October 11th, 2012   |   LifeThink About It

This week two different thought chains have intertwined in my mind and left me with a pretty profound conclusion.

I’ve been mulling over the discussions on career intentionality and also contemplating my new phase in my own personal life.

Given all that has shifted over the past seven months for me, there are moments where I hardly recognize how wonderful my life is. Though it’s far from any version of “perfection,” the intentions I have set forth for my life have created an optimal reality.

And what I now finally understand is that instead of feeling guilty for having such blessings in my life, I should be celebrating them. With you. Not because I want to brag or try to talk anyone into living a life like mine, but because that is what we need more of in this world.

We need more people who love the life they lead. People who take risks and buck convention, when needed, in order to achieve the life they want to live. 

I marched to the beat of my own drum. I’ve made sacrifices. And it’s paid off.

That is something to celebrate.

Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

 - Marianne Williamson

In the discussion about women and careers it’s time we start walking the walk instead of just talking. It’s time we start showing our imperfections, our intentional trade-offs, and celebrating our successes.

My mission is to share my happiness with my life so that I can be an example of someone who has found a way to live a life she loves. Everyone has their own bliss to follow. By sharing my path to personal fulfillment I hope that others see that they may also shine just as brightly in their own way.

It’s time we start shining, ladies.

worth reading

October 11th, 2012   |   Life

Every now and then I find myself at a loss for what to share. Today is one of those days.

So instead of writing my own message on intentionality I’d like to share links to two important articles which relate to topics I’ve covered before.


Email Intervention in Corporate America

Cathy sent me this Chicago Tribune article about how corporations are now urging their employees to stop reading emails on nights and weekends. They are after my own heart!


Women, Perfectionism, and Careers

And Molly recently commented on my Intentional Careers post with a link to an article titled Why Women Should Stop Trying to Be Perfect.



craigslist finds

October 10th, 2012   |   Decor

As we’ve been decorating our home (or at least starting to decorate our home) we have been using Craigslist to find pieces that have a bit of character with a great price tag.

The Craigslist app has been my constant companion lately as I’ve hunted for the perfect mirror, guest room furniture, etc.

Here are our recent scores.

These vintage vinyl and chrome chairs are perfect compliments to the new modern couch. Mr. Lively wanted some leather in our space and these puppies look like baseball glove leather for a fraction of the price. We got the pair for $150.

This antique mirror was a major steal at just $40. The price was so good that the lady we bought it from couldn’t believe she priced it so low.

This will soon be mounted above our mini bar in the main room.

And this little guy has definitely stolen my heart, especially priced at $125. Though it’s not Mr. Lively’s cup of tea, he agreed to let me have it in the guest room to use as a possible future vanity or consulting station.

He is definitely cute dressed in yellow but he looks a bit too Palm Springs for my taste.

I plan to paint him white, make a new velvet cushion, and paint those drawer pulls… you guessed it, gold.

And last but not least, we have Mr. Lively’s favorite thing in the whole apartment: the patio coffee table. This cooler is from the 1920′s and is perfect for outdoor storage or actually acting as a cooler for future patio parties. At $60 he adds way more character to the space than anything we could have bought from a store.

Now I just have a one more Craigslist find to hunt down… a hallway mirror.


Hey guys! I’m really excited to introduce Rita to you, today. She’s the blogger behind this adorable blog, TOMORROWtoday, and I absolutely loved the intentions she sent over. I’m particularly honing in on the “be active” intention today, since the slight shift in temperature over in the midwest is already making me feel a little sluggish and sleepy. The best way to combat that is to get up and move! So thanks, Rita. Read on for all of Rita’s intentions.  -Caitlin


I love to read, listen to, watch and talk about basically anything and everything. I love to learn about all sorts of different things because you never know when you will be able to put something to use or find a way to use what you have learned to do something that matters. Even more, I try to surround myself with curious, interesting people who can challenge me and who I will learn from.

I am obsessed with travel. I grew up traveling to see family all over the US and the world and I believe that my experiences taught me to be grateful, humble and respectful of differences. Whether it be short weekend getaways or longer adventures, I learn something about myself and about my relationships on each and every trip I take. I honestly think the world would be a better place if we all had the opportunity to see the world and gain perspective a few weeks of each year.

I’m realizing more and more that I am at my best when I am regularly physically active and challenging myself beyond my expectations. Aside from the obvious (being healthier and sleeping better), I’m also more creative. When I think back on the last few months, the majority of my more inspired, fleshed out ideas (throwing a last minute fundraiser, well received blog posts, great presents for friends) have come to me while I was working out. And I never feel more inspired or motivated than when I finish something that sort of made me want to pee my pants at the beginning (i.e., waterfall rapeling in Costa Rica!) Clearly, something about tuning out my brain turns it on in a different way, and this is something I want to take advantage of going forward.

Spend time with people you love and that love you back. Surround yourself with things that you love and that inspire you (sometimes, that means shoes!). Find a job or a mission that you love so much that you don’t mind the mundane aspects that inevitably come with it. I believe that if you focus on creating a life filled with love, everything else will fall into place.

I try to be a good friend and family member. I love to send cards, give presents, call and email often and do what I can to show the people I love that I love them. As fulfilling and wonderful as my relationships are, I still felt like something was missing. I recently started volunteering my time for a cause I believe in and it felt like I found the missing link. I think that by doing good for people in a way which you don’t stand to benefit, you grow and learn more than you could ever imagine.

LOVE photo by Max Wanger. Check out past DESIGN YOUR LIFE interviews.

marriage and finance

October 9th, 2012   |   Relationships

Before Mr. Lively and I got married we had a few in-depth conversations about money and how we wanted to manage our finances. We were focused on setting a good foundation as a family and money management was something we naturally wanted to plan for right from the start.

Once we got married we had a financial coaching session at Next Door to confirm our plan our money intentions from a professional perspective.

After the session we felt confident taking the steps to combine our finances in a way that works for our family.

Though every couple’s situation is different, I thought it might be helpful for some people if I share how we decided to merge our finances. There are dozens of ways to do this which are all equally right, this is simply how we felt most confident moving forward in the Lively household.


Checking Accounts

For our checking account, we turned my personal checking into a joint account. Mr. Lively can now direct-deposit there and it’s already pre-linked online to my business accounts which makes it easy for me to access and deposit into as well.

We then closed Mr. Lively’s previous credit union checking account to consolidate. He was admittedly bummed to lose the credit union account from New Hampshire. But we wanted the convenience of having everything in one place that is prevalent in Chicago.


Credit Cards

We each kept our credit cards from before the marriage. But since Mr. Lively had two cards that were not with our new family bank, we closed the most recent one with the shortest credit history so that we didn’t have four cards to balance every month. It might slightly affect his credit history in the short-term, we know long term juggling four accounts is more hassle than it’s worth.

We also opened a mutual credit card for our family expenses. This is where most of our purchases will go and be paid in full at the end of every month.

I also have my old credit card to use as a “fun budget” card. We discussed the fact that I prefer to budget a “fun budget” factored into our expenses at the outset of the month to spend as I please. I hate the idea of questioning or feeling guilty for every J.Crew purchase I make. I’d rather have a clear, mutually determined budget at the start of the month to work with. Having this budget linked to the separate card from the family expenses keeps the balance clean and easy for me to track at a glance.

Mr. Lively also has the ability to have a “fun budget.” But since he rarely spends money on himself, and I’m usually with him when he does, we don’t have a need to track his purchases with a separate card. In the future if this does become an issue we will simply work this into our plan. But until then, it’s not something we are focusing on at the moment.


Retirement and Emergency Fund

Mr. Lively already has his retirement set up through his work, so that is staying put as is. I on the other hand have not had the luxury of a retirement account while to being self-employed. It simply has not been financially possible. But I am working on getting that started soon.

Up until now I have been keeping my money in an emergency fund through ING. We now have this fund as our emergency fund for our family and can ear-mark different savings goals like a down payment, emergency fund, and future trip back to Paris on our five year anniversary.


Merging our finances in this way has allowed us to pretty seamlessly incorporate our budgeting goals. As I’ve mentioned, Mr. Lively is our budget-master and uses Mint.com to monitor our spending as we go along. And I keep an eye on things every time I log into my business accounts as well.

Though it was a bit strange at first to think of all income as “our money,” the discussions and decisions we made suit our life well and have created a smooth transition overall.


As I mentioned in my post about careers with intention, every career path has trade-offs and opportunity costs. I also believe that there has been some overemphasis and maybe a bit of glorification in the blogging world when it comes to self-employment.

Though we all know the wonderful benefits of having a small business (flexibility, autonomy, etc.) there are significant drawbacks which must also be considered as well. Tomorrow I’ll honestly share the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my fourteen-year business career.

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