Meet Me Monday: Amanda

Like most of my Meet Me Monday friends, I connected with Amanda over Instagram! I think she does an incredible job of showcasing her work in a gorgeous way as well as being open and honest and sharing about her life. This is a balance I still have yet to strike but she’s nailing it.
If you love bright, airy natural light photography, photos of coffee, and beautiful days, @amandalaurenfreund is a great spot for you.


Amanda Freund

How do you want to introduce yourself to these readers?

Hello everyone! I’m Amanda Lauren Freund. Most days you can find me walking in our woods + working in my home office + sippin on $3 Trader Joe’s red blend.

I’m a natural light photographer + wife to a swipe-right on Tinder + nature enthusiast + fur mama + plant lady + homebody traveler and I drink coffee like a Gilmore Girl.

What parts of your life are you finding most rewarding lately?

Our home + the roots we are establishing. We live in a tiny Minnesota town – population 1,057. I truly enjoy living in a small town + in the country. I’ve lived in a lot of places throughout my life (hey thanks dad for moving me like 15 times). In 2016, after tying the knot, my husband + I moved to my hometown. We live on about 25 acres of woodland (next door to my parents) where we love to plant trees + go on walks + do house projects + throw some kickbacks. It’s simple + beautiful + peaceful + rewarding…it’s just my favorite.

<< I also find cutting open a perfect avocado very rewarding. >>

What word/ phrase resonates the most in your life?

Balance. I’m working to find a balance between my full-time day job + entrepreneurship. I work as a Marketing Manager for a Minnesota CPA firm, Smith Schafer. And I’m also working to build a photography + consulting business. I enjoy working from a place of peace + creativity vs. stress + hustle. So I’m constantly working towards a balance of both.

And also find myself using the word “balance” about 10 times a day. Basically resonates in every part of my life – work + health + perspective + relationships + everything.

What does your ideal day look like?

  • Wake up naturally with the sun.
  • Snuggle our pup, Stella.
  • Chug some water.
  • Get some good stretching in or yoga.
  • Meditate (sometimes 3 minutes or maybe 30 minutes).
  • Slowly sip pour-over coffee + frothy whole milk + local raw honey + cinnamon.
  • Pull a couple affirmation cards + journal.
  • Cook whatever I’m craving – this usually includes avocado toast + eggs.
  • Take a long walk in the woods with Stella…deep breathing the fresh air + listening to all the birds.
  • Crank my favorite Spotify playlist + go through emails briefly (and my inbox is always at ZERO).
  • Work on a creative project…edit photos + write a blog + build a website + connect with creatives on Instagram.
  • Go out for dinner with my husband at one of our favorite spots + enjoy a glass of merlot.
  • Play a couple rounds of bingo at the local VFW…and win on the coverall.
  • Enjoy a cup of chamomile tea + fall asleep effortlessly.

Makes me smile just thinking about days like these.

 

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As always, if you (or someone you know) would like to be interviewed for Meet Me Monday, hit me up! Let’s get this thing started!

XOXO, Lib

To Block or Not to Block

Social media, you guys. Sosh meeds as my close, personal friend favorite podcaster Phoebe Lynn Robinson calls it (though I’m not exactly sure how she spells it). There’s sooo much debate on whether or not it’s good for you or whether or not you should be using it or how it’s ruining our whole world or how it’s bringing us all together or how it’s ruining the need for high school reunions or whatever. I’m not here to engage in that conversation. I love social media. I love Facebook and I love Instagram and you can pry them from my cold, dead hands.

Yeah, though. Yeah. There are some parts that make it a little unbearable. Like that one older woman that used to babysit you when you were a kid and somehow and mysteriously manages to end every single comment thread she engages with (and she signs her name which is endearing). Or that one guy who calls you a “libtard” with such frequency that you are thinking about changing your name to it but you remember him as a fun guy from your youth, so you remain Facebook friends with him even though everything he posts and every comment he makes causes a visceral reaction in you. Or that person who you don’t really know that well but they’re a friend of a friend and you feel kind of obligated to keep that Facebook friendship even though sometimes you wake up in the morning and see that they’ve sent you a message overnight that reads, “uup?” And finally the very random men who pop up in DM’s with lyrical attempts to sweep me off my feet that read, “you gat a beautiful smile just like you.” Or, “look how awesome you are looking.” (Both very real messages that were sent to me in the past few weeks.) One of my most favorite joys in life is screenshotting these messages, sending them to my husband, laughing at them, and then smashing that block button so these guys can never talk to me again. They don’t care, they’re sending the same, misspelled messages to hundreds of women.

For some, the bad far outweighs the good and they just wash their hands of all of it. That’s great. I, personally, find a lot of joy in my social media–when I am in charge of how I use it and who I talk to. Everyone is different and everyone has something that works for them. For me, I have a technique that I’m excited to pass along to you. Are you ready for it?

Use that block button, baby. Smash that block button. Ruin that block button! Hit “block” often enough that support staff has to send you a message that says, “Are you sure you even want to be using this application?” And you’re like, “Um… well, actually now that you mention it.” But YES! You do want to keep using this application because the behavior of other people doesn’t determine whether or not you get to engage with the fun parts of your life. At least, that’s not the life I’m living.

I know, look, it seems harsh. It comes across like you’re punishing someone for bad behavior but I promise you that’s not what it is. You can’t control other people and I don’t want you to ever try. It’s futile and maddening. But if you are regularly encountering someone online who makes your cortisol levels rise and you never don’t have that feeling when you engage with them–using that block button is an exercise in self care. Do it. Feel that instant relief. It’s not a punishment for them. It has nothing to do with them at all, actually. This is all about you giving yourself permission to enjoy your internet. Yeah, you could just hide them from your feed. And you can try that out as a preliminary measure if you want. But if you’re anything like me, in dark times you’ll find yourself in a place where you know that going over to their page will get you all riled up. You’ll feel so alive! And you’ll fall down a spiral where you’re hate-reading everything they have to say. This is a specific and very real form of self-harm and you’re allowed to put the kibosh on it. Just use that block button.

The beauty of the block button is that no one has to know. No one has to know that you you used it. They don’t get a notification that you’ve blocked them. You never, ever see them on your social media and they’ll never ever see yours. For the most part, you won’t even know that the other person exists at all and both of you will be a little more relaxed (even if they’re not sure why). It’s good for me. It feels good–sometimes. Sometimes it feels good in the way that cleaning your room feels good, it’s not fun but you’re going to sleep so well tonight.

Now, look, there is a chance that one day far from now, they might be able to find out that you’ve blocked them. The only time they’ll know that someone has blocked them is if you’re both commenting on a thread and someone directly addresses you without tagging you in their comment (which is pretty rare amongst most FB savvy people). They’ll see that person’s comment and be like, “weird, I don’t see Libby commenting on this thread, I wonder why Marcia mentioned her…” And then they might be like, “that’s strange” and move along, or they’ll do a little bit of mental gymnastics to determine that you’ve blocked them. Either way, I hope they see that their internet life has been a little more peaceful without you in it and you’ll rest easy knowing that, at least on your end, that’s been true.

Now, I personally don’t believe in blocking people just because you have a difference of opinion. I think it’s important to have conversations and see the other side of the coin. I know, liberals allowing discourse? I can hardly believe it, myself. (I’ve had people leave comments on this very blog where they didn’t agree with what I’ve had to say and their comment will say something like, “You’ll probably block this from even appearing on your site…” Just know that I allow every single comment to appear on this site. That’s my policy. We never have to agree on everything–in fact I prefer that we don’t, that’s a very boring way to live. The only time I’ve ever denied a comment is when I can tell it was written by a spam bot. Don’t be a spam bot and I’ll let your comments through–I promise.) But I think respectful, honest conversations between people is a crucial part of being a whole person. But if you can’t have a respectful, honest conversation with a person (be it your fault or theirs), let it go. Block them. It’s okay. It’s good for everyone.

What do you think? What’s your unfriend/ block policy? Do you think mine is too harsh? Let me know!

Feature photo by Mikaela Shannon on Unsplash

Love the One You’re With

A few years ago I introduced a friend of mine to a larger group of friends. She could have just said, “Nice to meet you all” and left it at that but the first thing she said to the group was, “Libby helped me to love my body and I’m forever thankful for that.” I was brought to tears immediately. Not just because that was such a touching and disarming thing to hear–something I’d love to be remembered for. But because sometimes (and at that moment in particular), I am just not loving this body of mine. But I want to–so I work hard at it.

If there’s anything in this life that’s worth having, it’s worth working for. You’re never just going to wake up one day having dismantled all that your upbringing, culture, and expectations have constructed around you. I don’t care who you are–what your gender is, what your age is, what your body looks like, you have been told that some aspect of you is not good enough. It’s as inevitable as death and taxes. Some of you have had it whispered to you in a sliver of doubt in your mind–some of you have faced humiliation, discrimination and even violence because of it. But no one escapes it. Would you believe it if I told you that social media has been one of the key ingredients in building my confidence?

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Body-love starts with body-acceptance and body-acceptance starts at normalizing normal bodies. Now, body positivity is very trendy right now and on one very, very large hand that’s awesome. But on another hand, when important things become very popular, they can become diluted. Lots of brands are out there advertising diversity and body love while still showing images of all the same types of people. And the reason that this doesn’t help is because it just creates a new normal–a new ideal. Just a different thing to strive for. But I don’t want a new normal. I want what exists right now to be normal.

Look, I’m not going to change the media and the way that they keep giving us new ideals to strive for. But I can change the media that I consume. So rather than waiting for Glamour to serve me up images of the types of people that I know and love, I’m going to seek them out for my own self and flood my own media channels with what I’m looking for. It’s 2017. You’re in control of a lot more than you ever were before.

I want to be more loving and accepting of my own body and I want to be more loving and accepting of other peoples’ bodies. So I flood my social media channels with images of people who look like me and people who do not at all look like (or maybe even live like, or think like) me and this has made such a huge difference in how I see myself and how I love others well, too. The following is a list of people that I follow to one degree or another. These are Instagram accounts but don’t forget to find these people on YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr, etc to make sure that you don’t leave a gap. I hope you have so much fun finding new accounts to follow, finding new voices and perspectives to hear from, and finding new ways to see yourself as honorable.


Women who look like me (at least in one way or another):
@fatgirlflow (I especially like watching Corissa on YouTube because she often films videos with messy hair and a makeup free face and that makes me feel so much more acceptable in my greasy hair and pimply face), @meghantonjes, @hellabellafabulous, @allisonkimmey, @margotmeanie, @tessholiday

WOC Instagrammers:
@lizzobeeating, @douxsarah (plus-size, hijab fashion? I’m so here for this.), @ihartericka

Trans Instagrammers:
@shadeyshay, @ryancassata, @janetmock

Disabled Instagrammers:
@sitting_pretty, @rvbyallegra, @curvesbecomeher

Male Instagrammers:
@fatboyflow (yeah, so Nate is married to @fatgirlflow and they’re both broadening my horizons and cracking me up), @mattjosephdiaz, @titusssawthis

Etc. Body Positive Instagram Accounts:
@bodyposipanda, @bebody_positive, @cheyennegil, @themilitantbaker, @slaygirlsociety, @nolatrees, @donthatetheshake and a gazillion more who are ready and waiting to serve you up some sweet, sweet body normalization.

Are there any accounts that you’d like to add to this list? What about categories? Is there anything you’d like to see but are having trouble finding? I’ll look for it!

I think you’re great.
XOXO, Lib.

Announcing the 2017 #xoxoselfiechallenge!

I have heard the cries of my people and I’m here to give you what you asked for! This time last year we were gearing up for a Selfie Challenge. I’d conceived of it a night or two before the launch and it was very thrown together. But it was a lot of fun! I think most of the joy came from injecting fun and community into, arguably, one of the coldest and most desolate months of winter. Also it’s so exciting to see your face on the regular!

Last February, our selfie challenge focused on self acceptance and love. On our hashtag, #xoxoselfiechallenge we got over 700 tagged photos and dozens and dozens of participants. I heard back from many of you who said that you had learned so much about yourself along the way. That kind of feedback makes my heart swell! I love you all so much. You know that, right?

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This time the challenge is different. It’s bigger and better than ever. For starters—we have a few sponsors! That means that at the end of each week, we have stuff to giveaway! This excites me because I’ve wanted to lavish you with gifts for so long.

Another way that this challenge is different is our focus. Self Care is the name of the game this go-round. Now, I know what you’re thinking but there’s so much more to self-care than taking bubble baths and letting yourself eat more chocolate than you normally would. Through the course of February, we’re going to explore 28 different methods of self-care. Some of them are of the treat-yo-self variety, sure. Other prompts focus on stretching your creativity, caring for others, or setting Future You up for success! I had so much fun doing research and selecting prompts that gave you room to use your imagination.

So because this isn’t necessarily about “selfies”, you certainly don’t have to find creative ways to get your face into every single one of these photos (although I do want to see your face because that ish just lights me up). Think of it more as a Caring For Your Self(ie) Challenge. At the end of the month, we’ll re-group and talk about the different self-care techniques that you felt like really fed you and some others that were more difficult to get through. This is all about self-exploration, getting to know what works for you, and what it looks like when things are really clicking.

What do you think? Are you in? Cool. Do you want to invite a friend along on the journey? That’s awesome. The more, the merrier!

How to participate:

The entire challenge and all giveaways will take place on Instagram. Make sure that you’re following @realxoxolib to ensure that you won’t miss anything. I’ll give you updates as time draws closer and that’s where you’ll find out about how to participate in giveaways as well.

Every day (or as often as is reasonable), you’ll take a photo that correlates with that day’s prompt and hashtag it with #xoxoselfiechallenge. Then make sure you surf through the hashtag, meet everyone else, and see what they’re up to!

My hope is that this shared experience helps to foster an even deeper sense of community among XOXO readers. You’re all so loyal and wonderful and I’m lucky to have you—I just want you all to know one another, too!

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So if you’re seeing this now, post ^^this graphic^^ to your Instagram account, tag it with #xoxoselfie challenge and let your friends know that you’ll be participating! Invite them along with us! I think we’ll have a blast.

If you have questions, leave them in the comments and I promise to get back with you!

Thank you for being awesome!
XOXO, Lib

Page 65: Introducing the #xoxoselfiechallenge

I say this every single year but just in case any of you are new and don’t know this about me, I just need to shout it from the rooftops: I LOVE VALENTINES DAY! Oh wait, before we go any further, you should be listening to this song while reading, to get the mood right.

I love all the hearts and pink and red and smoochy lips and glitter and bling that pops up in one of the most disgusting months of the entire year. Weather-wise, can you think of a more gross month? Ugh. This winter is long and our feelings aren’t doing great at all but at least there are roses in February.

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I’m also not one of those people who feels like February is for lovers. It’s not. It’s for love. It’s for love in the middle of the crummiest-feeling time of the year. Whoever invented Valentines Day knew what they were doing.

Because February is for love I’m making a point to celebrate all kinds of love. Yeah, I already got a smushy, mushy, gushy card for my husband but guess what else? I’m planning a Galentines Day Brunch for my girl friends, too (let me know if you want to come)! And I’m working to orchestrate something for all of you far and wide, too. But first let me back up real quick.

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Selfies get a bad rap. “She’s so vain.” “Look at her begging for attention.” “This guy’s just trying to get laid.” “She’s making the same face in every photo!”
To that, I say, “And?”
It feels really good to put yourself out there. It’s brave and vulnerable and fun. It’s easy, and not really all that fun, to criticize, though.

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I am a firm believer in selfies as a form of self-love. I don’t get mad when I see my friends posting photos of themselves, at all. I mean, in a world where we’re constantly being told that we’re too baggy, saggy, puffy, droopy, plump, wide, slim, young, old, or tired, any act of self-celebration is revolutionary. And I say let’s grab hands and march into battle, together, without apology!

So that’s why, for the month of February, XOXO, Lib is hosting a selfie challenge!
I wrote up a list of themes for each and every day to keep things interesting. We’ll post our selfies to Instagram with #xoxoselfiechallenge. Each week, with permission, I’ll grab a few from the hashtag thread to highlight and post here on the blog.
Some of these themes are pretty obvious but others are really vague—that was done by design. You can make this anything that you want it to be, really! Take ownership of your self(ie)!
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#xoxoselfiechallenge for February, 2016:
1. What I Like About Me
2. Action Shot
3. Feet First
4. Long Day
5. Bed Head
6. Nice Hair!
7. Celebrate
8. Twinning
9. Listen
10. Get Moving
11. Lunch Break
12. What’s up?
13. Best Friend
14. Sweet Treat
15. Guilty Pleasure
16. Full Frontal
17. Wake Up
18. New Perspective
19. Treat Yourself
20. Listen
21. Stre-e-e-e-tch
22. Angry Eyes
23. Hobby Time
24. Fake It (till you make it)
25. Morning Routine
26. Hard at Work
27. Clear Mind
28. Upgrade
29. Eat Green

Rules: Starting Monday, February 1st, anyone who wants to contribute can! You don’t have to do it every day—though that IS the challenge of it. You don’t even have to follow the list of themes. You make this into whatever works for you. But in the end, I want our community to come together over celebration of ourselves and each other!
The only real rule is that you take a photo that contains at least a little bit of yourself in it.
If you don’t have instagram, you can share your photos to the XOXO, Lib Facebook page or email them to me at libby(at)xoxolib.com and we’ll all get in on this together!
If you’re on board, let me know in the comments or on the Facebook page!! And if you want to share this with your friends to get them in on it, share this post!! The more people we get involved, the more fun that it will be. I’m so excited to get to know all of you just a little bit more and put a selfie to a name!

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Thank you, everyone, for giving me the opportunity to do what I really love to do. Just by reading and sharing you’re doing more than you know and I feel so utterly over the moon about it.

XOXO, Lib
Follow me on Instagram, too! I’m liblibby.