A BIG Happy Exciting Life Update!

Lauren Koster Creative

A lot has happened in the last month. A lot of really great things! In September I had been unemployed for two and a half months, we had been living with my in-laws for four months and desperation was starting to sink in. I wouldn’t say I was in a dark place, but I was on my way. The rejection gauntlet of unemployment can be very hurtful to the ego. And I was feeling bruised. And it all felt so naked going through it while living in someone else’s space. Then there was house hunting. finding a house we liked and could also get approved for on one salary was proving to be quite a challenge. So I did the logical thing, I decided to take on renovating my mom’s kitchen as a pet project. Lol. It has occupied my time and taken my mind off feeling less than in the past couple of months.

Then, in late September, a wonderful girl boss reached out to me. She got my resume from an old high school friend who saw a post on Facebook. A post that took a lot of courage for me to write, admitting finding a job in Michigan was much more challenging than I thought it would be, and leaning on my network to help. It worked! Because of that post, Rose found me. The moment I stepped into Conscious Clothing I knew it would be a great fit. I loved everything about the vibes I got. Their clothes are beautiful and their values are honorable. I am now working part time for an amazing company that makes sustainable clothes in a beautiful studio only a 10 minute commute away. I am stretching my legs and working on marketing and creative services. I am so excited because they not only have great product, but also such a good story to tell and I’m honored to help tell it.

Around the time that Rose found me, I wrote to my intuition to ask what I should do next. My intuition told me to reach out to someone I admired. I immediately decided to cold email KLH Custom Homes, an awesomely talented and forward thinking design and building company here in West Michigan. Their work is amazing and totally aligned with my design style. I cobbled together the interior work I have done into a portfolio. And the wonderful people at KLH decided they liked what they saw enough to take a chance on me! I start as an interior design assistant next week!

I am still moving forward with Lauren Koster Creative. I have a few weddings booked for 2019, I just did a bridal show and I am looking to book several more, as well as continuing to build my installation business. It all sounds like a lot and it is, but I used to blog and run my business after working 40+ hours a week and commuting an hour and a half each way. My new schedule is going to allow so much freedom and flexibility to spend time with my family and work on growing my business.

None of this is how I thought it would look. I pictured myself moving here and finding a full time job while keep Lauren Koster Creative as a side hustle for the time being. But I am so happy at the way things are unfolding. I am so thrilled to be stretching my legs in so many directions. And beyond excited to be working with two wonderful family-run local businesses.

Stay tuned for more news coming soon on the house front.

photo by: The Lipstick Lens / jumpsuit: Conscious Clothing / boots: Loeffler Randall

How I Manifested $12k to Pay Off Credit Debt In Less than Four Months

I've always wanted to talk about finances here, but have been way too scared to do so. Why is money such a taboo subject? Why do we cast judgement on so many aspects of it. We judge people because they have too much, pity people who (appear) to have too little. I have been ever so slowly trying to crack this egg. I am at such a weird place in my money life that I really want to open up and learn from you guys. 

How-To-Pay-Off-Credit-Cards

As you know, my family and I have moved to Michigan. One of the factors in moving was and is the cost of living. However, I had a good salary in New York. I am facing the possibility of a very significant pay cut here. I know finding a job that pays a New York salary would be next to impossible, but I also want to make what a professional with 12 years of experience is worth. Navigating the waters of what to ask for, what we need to live a comfortable life and how to save to invest in my business, have another baby, buy a house and contribute to retirement is a rough sea. 

Truth about our situation: I am currently unemployed, but am still in wedding season, so I do have a little coming in. Luckily my husband kept his remote job, so we have a single income. My husband is a contractor, so we had to purchase an insurance policy from the open market (not cheap!) and we are paying a good bit of cash to keep our stuff in storage. But, we are living rent-free with my in-laws and share a car. It sounds like a recipe to stock-pile some cash, but alas, somehow that's not really happening. 

I want to talk for a minute about our wins and about the concept of manifesting money. It sounds so woo-woo. I feel like a fraud saying it, but after I read (and reread and reread) "You Are A Badass At Making Money," I decided to test this concept out. In it author Jen Sincero tells a story about manifesting $80k to pay for a coach to kick her butt into gear and to help her get the results she truly desired. $80k! That's more than most people make in a year!!! After the third read of the book, I decided that I was going to manifest $100 a day to put toward my accumulating credit card debt, which at the time was about $12k. *Look at that, I told you my credit card debt number and I haven't burst into flames!!!* I know that $100/day seems crazy. I thought so too, but if Jen SIncero could manifest $80k, I could make a little magic of my own. So in mid-March, I started, with the goal of paying it off by the end of June.

  • I had already been paying about $500 - $600 a month, I upped $700 and that was a week out of the month marked off my calendar.
  • I do some freelance blogging that covered another 2 - 3 days
  • I got a bonus at work during that time, an other week or so worth of payments
  • I styled a shoot to earn $500 
  • Since we were moving, I sold some things on Craigslist 
  • Cleaned out my closet and sold items on Poshmark
  • I used cash from the sale of our house to pay a chunk
  • Right after we moved I was employed and living with our in-laws allowing me to contribute a larger chunk to this "bad debt"

I got there! or more truthfully, I practically got there, with about $600 still left on the card. I am so so proud of myself and it has left me wondering what else I can ask the universe for and work toward manifesting. I know my situation and life change helped me get to my goal, and not everybody is going to have the same experience, but the truth is I set out to eliminate this debt and I think I would have gotten there with or without the life change, because I was 100% focused and committed. Before we even saw the money from our house sale I had paid over $4k toward the debt. 

Next up, I am planning a month-long spending freeze in order to achieve our goals for the down payment on our new home. I am laying out my parameters here and will document my progress on my instagram stories

  • It's our anniversary on September 8, we plan to do something special to celebrate. 
  • I will allow myself to only purchase the amount of coffee on my Starbucks card
  • networking lunch or drinks are okay, but I will keep it economical 

Have you done a spending freeze? How did it go? 

How to Make Friends on the Internet

After making the BIG move from New York to Grand Rapids, all I have to say is "god bless the internet." Making friends as an adult is hard, y'all. I am not from the area, so coming here, I was starting from zero. Of course one of the easiest ways you can make friends is at work, but I don't have a job here yet, and what if you're an entrepreneur, or the boss, or you just don't jive with the people in your office? You can't really go to the bar after work to pick up a new bestie, and there is no Tinder for finding friends (though there totally should be). Finding friends to connect with in adult life may possibly be more challenging than dating. But I have been putting myself out there and enjoying the company of incredible women, while exploring my new city. I am grateful to the internet for making it possible, here are 5 tips for finding friends on the internet. 

5 Tips For Making Friends on the Internet

1. Don't over think it. Just like when you were dating, don't read into texts or take it personally when someone doesn't respond. We've all got jobs, husbands, kids, etc, it's easy to let a message slip though the cracks. 

2. Slide into those DMs. Before I moved, I DMed women who I admired, and I continue to do so now. Find common ground as a reason to message, do they always geo tag your favorite coffee spot? Do you have kids that are the same age? That's your icebreaker. For me, they are usually creative and mostly entrepreneurs of some sort. I love connecting with women who are driven and have goals. 

3. Don't worry about sounding like an idiot. We aren't all lucky enough to have a built in friend group that lives in close proximity to go through life with, you never know who you might click with and who might be looking for a friend too. But, you definitely won't ever know if you don't connect, so send that message! 

4. Use hashtags to your advantage. Search and use hashtags that the type of friends you would want to connect with might use, for example #grandrapidsmom, #chicagoentrepreneur, #westmichiganblogger.

5. Once you've connected, make a date! This is the hard part, because as I've previously noted, we've all got busy lives. But, It takes meeting in person to know if you will be compatible IRL as real friends. As much as I love my internet friendships, finding a friend you can hang with and have a drink with, is even better, and you've got to get together to find out! 

BONUS: if you're new to the area, as I am, ask your "date" to pick their favorite spot, that way you can see more of the city and experience the recommendations of the locals

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Life update...

Hi friends, it's been two months since we left New York and we've been over here trying to get settled here in Michigan. Moving across the country is no joke, insurance, DMV, new daycare, all while working a full-time job is enough to make a girl's head spin! I am happy that much of the logistical stuff is behind me. Ollie has started at a new daycare a few weeks ago and I'm officially a licensed Michigan driver. 

Coffee Break

Until last week I had been designing for The Sak remotely. I wrapped up my final season, Summer 2019, and I said goodbye to life as a handbag designer. Because we are looking for some stability, and to buy a house, I am currently looking for a new gig. Lucky for me there are so many awesome creative things happening here in Grand Rapids. I've been very open to where ever the the universe leads me, but exploring opportunities in interior design, creative agencies, furniture design, and fashion. I am also working hard on growing and establishing Lauren Koster Creative here in Michigan, and booking weddings and events for 2019. 

As for our living situation, we are still with my in-laws, but anxiously (though not desperately) looking for our own home. You can tell from the "dream home" series I started that I am psyched to have a space to design and decorate. I've been documenting our house hunt on my Instagram stories, if you want to get a look at the homes we've seen. There was one that we loved (#5), but we didn't move fast enough, which we've heard is the case more often than not in the current market here. Now that I am between jobs, getting financing for a property we love may not be realistic, so we aren't completely halting our house search, we have pumped the brakes. 

As evident by my lack of posting, the last few months have been a crazy whirl wind of one thing after the next. I could not be more thrilled to have a moment to catch my breath, browse my favorite blogs and websites, create content, make things, collaborate with local artists and get back into the creative flow! Be sure to follow along on Insta for real time updates and adventures! 

We're Moving!!

I don't even know where to start with this post. I guess I'll start with the bomb, we are leaving our beautiful home outside New York City and moving to Grand Rapids, Michigan. New York, the city for 8 years and the Hudson Valley for the last four, have been my home. Friends, job, home, life it's all here. But our families are there. I am mourning the loss of my old life, but so excited about the future! 

New York City

I moved to New York City directly out of college. I didn't leave the door open to go anywhere else. I can still remember the morning I arrived. My parents drove me from Michigan, the car packed with only clothes, a computer and a few personal possessions. We stayed overnight in a hotel in Newark and the next morning they would leave 22 year old Lauren in the Financial District of Manhattan. A few days later I started an internship at The Sak, which later became my job. The job. The only job I had in my 12 years here.

At 22 I had visions of meeting, dating and marrying a guy in this city. Maybe he would be from Connecticut or maybe Florida and New York would make sense, this would be my home forever. I didn't think I would marry my best guy friend from college. Kyle moved from Chicago in 2010 to New York to be with me. Kyle took me on a scavenger hunt around the city that ended in a proposal.  We got married and lived together on the Upper East Side, until we decided we wanted the American dream and went north in search of a house.

Then Oliver came along. And we began to long to be closer to family. Every few months we would discuss moving "back home" to be closer, make things a little easier, people near by to help out if we were in a jam. I was always the one to shoot down the idea, citing the fashion industry and my love for New York City as my reasons we needed to stay. 

Then my dad died. Next week will be a year when I sat on his bed in the hospital room and told him we were thinking of moving back to Michigan, the first person I confessed to that this was a real possibility. His response was, "Why would you do that, Lauren? Your job is there. There's nothing here for you." The sting of not being present or helping as my dad went though his illness was definitely a deciding factor for me, to tip the scales in favor of moving back to the Midwest. Then it became a question of when. Do I have another baby first? Or do we settle there and then try? The truth is there is never a good time, so we decided to pull the trigger and put our house on the market. 

What will we do when we get there? We are moving in with Kyle's parents to transition us. I am staying on remotely with my job to finish up the season I'm working on and Kyle already works remotely so he will keep his job. I will be looking for a job in Grand Rapids, and my options are very open. There are a few fashion companies, I've been exploring interior design opportunities as well as event jobs. With extra hands to help out and a much shorter commute, I hope to devote more time to this space. I can't wait to share as I explore my new city, decorate a new home and settle into life as a Michigander once again. 

photo: Clare Mullins Photography

My Mantra for 2018: Let Go

I am so lucky and grateful to begin this New Year with a little extra break from my day job. I am happy to have a moment to reflect, catch up on all the little things that have taken a back seat and start the year off refreshed. I am also excited to have a little extra time to focus my attention here, on my business and it's future. As I always do, I have probably gone overboard on goals and resolutions this year, but what I want to share here is my mantra for the year, "let go."

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I would like to let go in every single aspect of my life, starting with time. I would like to let go of my negative relationship with time. We all have 24 hours, and what doesn't get done today, will have to get done tomorrow. I want to appreciate time, and not take it for granted. I want to see idle time as resting, a positive and not a negative, I need to be doing something.

I want to let go of petty arguments, negative feelings and judgements I have about family, friends, strangers, my husband, co-workers, etc. I want to make it my goal to love people the way I love my son, I love him when he's snuggling me the same way I love him when he's throwing a tantrum. 

I want to let go of my fear of change. Change is the catalyst for great things.

I also want to let go of holding myself to an unrealistic standard. Being a mom is hard enough. How about being a mom with full-time job, an hour and a half commute and a side hustle I love? I love this blog, this business, this space, but I don't want to burn myself out, so I am going to aim to publish three times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and I'm going to give myself grace when I am not able to finish. 

I want to let go of the excuse "my dad just died." I've said it a few times, but people have assigned that excuse to me. If I'm stressed, sad, scatter brained, a bitch, you name it, someone has said to me, "it's okay, you're blank, you just lost your dad." That gave me permission to be any one of those things, but it's not okay. I am still sad everyday about my dad's passing, but it will not be an excuse for anything anymore. 

Above all, I want to let go of negativity. I can feel it in my body. All my negative energy, has manifested as knots in my back, tightness in my neck, and I believe it's a factor in my psoriasis. I'm ready to let it go and be happier.

So here I am, about to turn 34, singing "Frozen" in my head has I type this. While it's not my favorite Disney song, it's the one I'm currently vibing with the most, "Let it go, you can't hold me back anymore!"

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A Different Kind of Year-end Review

family picnic

This is the post that I usually talk about all the amazing accomplishments I achieved and fabulous things we did this year. I did some great things! I rebranded and made a new website and blog, produced some amazing weddings, executed a few awesome styled shoots, participated in my first One Room Challenge, made my foray into interior design, launched my wedding e-design service, had my home published on The Glitter Guide and many awesome family activities.

Despite of all those amazing happenings, life this year has been hard, full of resistance and nothing like how I thought it would look at the onset of 2018. I had huge ambitions to get my family in a better place financially, to work on my diet and stress levels to control my psoriasis, to find balance and practice resting and to be on my way to baby #2.

Then my world fell apart. My dad died.

I’ll back up a step. In October 2016 my dad had a stem cell transplant to help cure him of a disease called myelodysplasia, a form of cancer that will almost assuredly turn into leukemia. The stem cell transplant process is long, once they find a donor, they do the procedure, then you are quarantined in the hospital for weeks, months even. When you are finally released, you are quarantined to your home, and they suggest you wear a mask when going out in public, because your immune system is essentially set back to zero. Last holiday season my dad was weak, but recovering. He didn’t look himself, but acted his same, full-hearted, stubborn, loving self. I resisted taking photos and creating too many memories of him looking like that, as I had full confidence he would be healthier and look better this year. I know it’s pointless, but tough not to feel regret.

Dad went back into the hospital some time in late February. He had an infection. April 23rd we got a call that he wasn’t going to make it. And my time, our time, was over.

In the midst of that, we continued living our lives, Kyle, Ollie and I, back in New York. We traveled to Disney World to celebrate Ollie’s birthday in February. The three of us were having a special day at the Magic Kingdom. We were waiting in line for Oliver to hug Minnie Mouse and I felt some terrible cramping, the caliber I had not felt since giving birth exactly two years earlier, and there, in the middle of the “happiest place on Earth” I had a miscarriage. We didn’t know we were pregnant. I was actually on birth control at the time, so we were not emotionally attached to the baby, which made dealing with the situation emotionally easier than it could have been. But I couldn’t shake the question, “what was the universe trying to tell me?” Now is not the time to have a baby? Slow down? I still don’t quite know.

As I was dealing with these giant life altering events, life at work got a little more challenging. My company restructured and we lost a key player in my department. Suddenly, I found myself with a lot more work, under a lot more pressure. I had already been struggling to find balance, and these shifts sent me in deeper over my head. Perhaps if I were in a better place personally I would have found myself flowing with the current better, instead I felt like I was paddling upstream, still am to some extent. While change at work pales in comparison to losing a parent, it’s the thing I’m confronted with daily. The place where I spend my most time and exhaust the majority of my energy. And finding more joy there is my number one resolution for 2018.

The thing about your dad dying, everyone becomes your enabler. Everyone tells you that it’s okay to sad, mad, lost, fill in the blank, “you just lost your dad.” It makes it harder to grow and to keep living. But I don’t want that to be my story. That’s not how my dad would have wanted it either.

I did intend this blog post to be more about how I turned al of these challenges around and learned a lesson, but I’m not quite sure I’m there yet. I have 9 months of space between myself and my miscarriage and 7 months since losing my dad. After a lot of reflecting, I think, I myself, and we, as a family, have figured out where we want to be, and what life and happiness looks like, but figuring out how to get there is not going to be easy.

I am grateful for my little family. We live away from our families, so we lean on each other, hard. And this year was my turn to lean on and try to knock over my husband. And without him knowing it, Oliver. While I wish I had more time with my little guy, I can take solace in the fact that even though it felt like my world was falling apart, I nailed being a loving mother to my baby. I am also grateful for my friends who were good listeners and a shoulder to cry on. I needed you guys.

I have a feeling that 2018 will be a year of change. I turn 34 just after the new year. I had previously dubbed 34 my “scary age,” but I would like to flip that around and call 34 my best year yet! Cheers to changing my outlook and lots of big things in 2018!