When planning this Women Who Inspire interview series, I wasn't even thinking about the fact that March was going to be Women's History Month.
As I said in my Instagram post yesterday, this month has special meaning. So I could not be happier that I am highlighting a collection of incredibly diverse and inspiring women during a very fitting month. From multiple different continents, specialties, backgrounds, beliefs, and more-- these women all inspire me with their kind hearts, talent, and willingness to discuss some more challenging topics.
If you're just joining in now, this interview series taking place every Friday (pausing Favorite Friday Finds for a bit) is meant to initiate a more in-depth discussion about the realities that happen offscreen, with women who are innovators and creators. We tend to forget that these people who command large followings on social media and/or are public personalities are just as human too. A human with their own struggles, insecurities, half the hustle you don't see, triumphs, and more. You guys know I'm all about embracing your NOW, rather than the living for the "after" pictures. I wanted to look beyond the pretty feeds and filters into reality.
Sara kicked things off with her introspective answers to some deeper questions, followed by Paola with her sweet heart and frank answers. Now, I want to introduce a very dear friend of mine, who I've known since the beginning of my Instagram days.
I've linked to some of her meticulously tested, tried and true recipe reactions before on here, and you may have spotted her creations over on her Instagram, but I'm so happy to formally introduce the beautiful Joscelyn Abreu of WifeMamaFoodie!
First of all, how adorable is her family? Her kids look like exact minis of Joscelyn and her husband Rafael. Joscelyn and her family live in Tulsa, where her husband is a pastor, but she is originally from Oahu, Hawaii. Joscelyn really has a talent for creating healthy recipes that are both accessible and modifiable to dietary needs (like gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free) without sacrificing flavor-- I think she's also gotten a lot of practice, making delicious food for her kiddos!
I first got to know Joscelyn through her stunning photos. She works as a graphic designer in addition to her food blogging and photography, and her talent for visual creativity shines through in her photography. Then as we became better friends, I got to know her for her generous spirit, relatability, and optimism.
Without further ado, I will let the interview take it from here. I think you'll feel the same way I do about her, after reading her answers to my interview questions!
Hats you wear: Wife, homeschool mom, food blogger, photographer, graphic designer
First thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning: Enjoy a brief moment of peace while thinking about all the things I have to do that day.
Last nice thing you did for yourself: Went shopping and bought some new clothes
3 words to describe your strengths you’re most proud of: diligent, thoughtful, easygoing
3 characteristics other people use to describe you: Fun, smart, & hard-working…according to my hubby anyway ;)
Current book you’re reading: Love Does by Bob Goff (note from Minna- I've heard this is amazing!)
Current favorite physical activity: Yoga
Current color crush: Charcoal, as boring as that sounds!
Current song on repeat: Birds by Coldplay
Current thing that never fails to make you smile: A hug from my kids
Next purchase or experience on the bucket list: A new laptop or family trip to California, whichever comes first!
Thing you’re most looking forward to right now: Warmer weather
5 words to describe what love means to you: Love is unconditional, boundless, kind, perseveres, forgives
Morning bird or night owl: Definitely a night owl!
Coffee or Matcha: Coffee in the morning, matcha in the afternoon
Sweet or savory: Sweet
Favorite lazy girl weekday meal: Quick veggie stir-fry on a baked potato or Asian style ramen with kimchi
5 items always in your purse/bag: Wallet, concealer, lip gloss, gum, hand sanitizer
Get Shit Done
Life doesn’t always go according to plan, so we choose our battles. What are your daily non-negotiables?
Ideally, there are many things I’d like to say are non-negotiables—getting at least 8 hours of sleep, reading my bible, exercise, praying with my kids at bedtime...but if there’s anything that I’m consistent at, it’s being inconsistent! I strive to accomplish those things daily, but if I can hit them a majority of the week, I say that’s a win. ;-)
What’s a habit you’ve adopted in the past year that has had a significant positive change on your daily routine?
Not to get too distracted by social media. I used to constantly be on my phone, I had what they call FOMO (fear of missing out) yet I was actually missing out on what was right in front of me. We went out for dinner one night and I saw a family sitting near us and everyone was on a device. No one was talking or looking at each other and it made me sad. It was definitely a wake up call and it made me realize how easily our devices can distract us from the people around us.
In a creative industry where you’re constantly producing work like writing and photography, feeling tapped out of creativity+ burnt out is so common. What have you found to work best for you to reinvigorate yourself?
When I start feeling burnt out or uninspired, I step away from work and get inspired by the world around me. Traveling to a new city, visiting an art museum, browsing bookstores, painting…or sometimes I just binge watch Netflix. I really enjoy what I do, so a little time away usually helps me look forward to getting back to work.
Mountains to Climb
Your job is a lot closer to home than most. While most everyone brings home work these days, thanks to emails on phones and the workforce being more demanding, your job actually entails documenting and sharing your everyday. How has that affected your relationships with friends and family?
My poor family and friends are some of the most patient people in the world! I’m so thankful that they've put up with me this long. They wait patiently while I take pictures of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When we go out, they always ask, “do you need to take a picture of the food first or can we eat?” I feel awful when they have to wait on me and finally came to the realization that I don’t have to take a picture of every single thing we eat. I mean, the world doesn’t revolve around what we do and eat each day. Why do I feel this pressure to document everything?!
How do you stay present and unplug when you need to?
Working from home keeps me busy for sure. I don’t have the typical 9-5 job that ends when I leave the office, which makes it harder to have set hours at home. I pretty much work consistently throughout the day and night, whenever I have spare time. I turn it off for meals and during family time in the evenings. When we go out on the weekends I stay off my phone and just enjoy that moment with my family or friends. I no longer feel the pressure to document or “snap" everything I’m doing. Just having the memory of the moment is sometimes enough.
Do you think you have your shit together?
I know for a fact that I don’t! I’m still trying to figure things out as I go. I often wonder if that time will ever come because 15 years ago I definitely thought that I’d have stuff figured out by now!
Do you think anyone else does?
Sometimes it appears that way and I’m sure there are some people who really do, but I have a feeling that many people are just figuring things out as they go, like me! ;)
From time to time, we all get caught up lusting after others lives— whether it be their travel photos on Instagram, their beautiful home, their adorable husband + babies, their burgeoning career, etc. What do you do when you fall down the rabbit hole of comparison to others in your field?
It’s definitely difficult to look at people’s “highlight reel” and not feel like our own lives pale in comparison. I try to be genuinely happy for other people’s success and celebrate with them, just as people do with me on my wins. I also remind myself of all of the good things in my life and it helps me to be thankful for my blessings instead of focusing on what I lack. On the flip side, there may be people looking at your life wishing they had what you have. A lesson I heard on repeat from one of the cartoons my kids’ used to watch, “A thankful heart is a happy heart”. It may come from a cartoon, but it’s so true. You just have to keep the right perspective.
I know that I certainly suffer from wanting to be everything to everyone all the time, but it’s just impossible to do it 100% of the time. I'm sure as you juggle being a wife, mom, and blogger, you're familiar with this. How do you go about managing that pressure?
It’s hard to balance it all at times, but I try my best. Being a wife and mother is always my top priority and I fit the other things in as I can. Also, I’ve finally learned how to say “no” to things that add no value to my life or work. I figure that everything I say yes to means I have to say no to something else, so I ask myself, is this worth the time it will take away from my family? Will it have a good return on investment? If the answer is no then I don’t want to waste time on it.
Do you believe that you have to “have it all” to be happy?
I'm not really sure there is such a thing as “having it all”. Nobody has the perfect life even though we may try to make it appear that way. Like I said earlier, I think the happiest people are those who are truly thankful for what they have.
I find that I frequently see women responding to compliments by a humbling attempt to play their successes or attributes down, rather than just owning their awesomeness— why do you think this is?
Well for me, I have a hard time accepting compliments because I'm a perfectionist, so I’m always thinking of ways I could've done something better. It's difficult for me to be proud of something I only see as flawed. I'm really tough on myself and don't usually give myself enough credit. Maybe it's a first-born problem, I don't know! It's a constant internal struggle, but one that I'm working to overcome. I'm learning just to say "thank you" and shut up!
What’s one thing you’d like to see more of in your children's generation?
I feel like this age of technology is both a blessing and a curse. Kids are less active since there's TV and video games to keep them distracted. Now that we have texting and social media, it seems like there's less reason to call people or meet face to face. I mean, with Facebook and Instagram, we know exactly what our family and friends are up to and may even communicate with them online. Do we need to spend time together when we "see" them everyday? As technology advances in my children's generation, my hope is that it doesn't begin to hinder the value they place on personal relationships.
What is an important thing in life that that you feel like the world is lacking lately and could use more of?
Kindness. It’s always nice when you come across a stranger who smiles as they walk by or holds the door for you. We’re all living in the same world with the same problems. Can’t we at least be nice to one another?
What is currently frustrating you the most about the industry you work in?
For the most part, I find that bloggers are very supportive of one another. I love that I’ve been able to find a little community of like-minded people on Instagram. Even though we live in different areas of the world, we still rally around each other and support one another. I understand that with so many people in the same industry, there's bound to be similar ideas and recipes created all the time. Unfortunately, some people just prefer to rip-off other people's hard work instead of putting in the time to create their own content. If you use someone else's work—a picture you find on google images or a copy & pasted recipe—you should always add a link back to the source as courtesy. You can’t copy a quote out of a book or a famous painting and use it as your own. It’s the same with people’s work online.
Define “being healthy” in your perspective?
I think “healthy” is a relative term and will look different for everyone. I’d define the term healthy as being at an optimal state of well being in your body, mind, and soul. Healthy doesn’t just mean eating clean & exercising, but it’s combining clean eating, exercise, good sleep, and I think it’s also embracing peace and positivity in your life. I strive to be healthy by exercising regularly. I alternate yoga with HIIT and I find that combo to be great for my needs. I also find ways to get some quiet time into my day, whether it’s through yoga, meditation, or prayer. As far as eating goes, I feel best when I avoid some grains and dairy. Many people don’t realize that certain foods can cause adverse reactions in your body. I used to consume a lot of dairy and would suffer with migraines everyday. Once I figured out the culprit, I stopped eating dairy and the migraines went away. Certain grains cause a lot of bloating and cramps, so I feel much better when I don’t eat them. I do love bread, pasta, pizza, and cheesecake though (just to name a few!) I just can’t eat foods like that all the time. Getting good sleep is my hardest goal to meet each week, because there’s so much to do in the day and it often cuts into my bedtime. Just keep in mind that it’s better to go to sleep earlier and wake up refreshed so that you can work more efficiently the next day. If you’re running on fumes, chances are you’re not performing at your best and the quality of your work will suffer for it. I have to remind myself of that often! ;)
Whether it be focusing on nourishing foods, working out, or general self-care, why is it important to you to take care of your body?
As a wife and mom it’s important for me to be the best version of myself for my family. I want to live a long life so I can see my grandkids and great-grandkids grow up! Also, taking care of your body means you stay looking and feeling younger longer. As a woman in my mid-thirties, I'm all about slowing the aging process down in a natural way!
Working out has become such a mainstream part of society now that people are forgoing the late nights partying for group dates to cycling classes and bootcamps. Because of this trendiness of it all, do you ever feel like it’s almost made fitness less accessible or more intimidating for newbies and those who feel out of shape?
Well, I’ve actually met people who wanted to get in better shape before going to the gym, because they felt too embarrassed to work out around a bunch of “fit” people. It can be a bit intimidating showing up to a gym not knowing what to do or where to start. It seems like online workout videos and programs are growing in popularity and have been able to meet the needs of people who otherwise wouldn’t go.
What is the one thing you’re most thankful for about your body?
I’m most thankful that my body has allowed me to carry children and become a mother. I know not everyone is able to have children and I never want to take it for granted.
How has your perspective on your body changed since 5 or 10 years ago?
As a teenager and young adult, I was so critical of my body. I only looked at my flaws and was never satisfied. I’d look at the models in the magazines and think, "if only I was tall like her” or “why can’t I be skinny like her.” Now I look back and wish I had my 20 year old body again! I understand that I’ll never have my 20 year old body back, but now I see how flawed my thinking was. I don’t want to pass that negative thinking onto my daughter. I want her to know that she’s beautiful just the way she is. Magazines are all photoshopped and are not a true representation of the typical woman. It’s impossible to live up to society’s interpretation of the perfect woman—a tall, super skinny, ridiculously fit female who has no cellulite and wears a size zero. If you really think about it, a woman’s body is simply miraculous. I mean, my body has carried, given birth to, and fed little human beings. How amazing is that?
What do you think is unique that you offer to your audience that is lacking out there?
It’s getting easier to find recipes that use healthier ingredients, but my goal is to make them taste as close to the “real thing” as possible. I want my vegan & gluten-free chocolate cake made with avocado and maple syrup to rival that cake made with butter and white sugar. I'm happy when non-vegans and gluten lovers actually enjoy it too!
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Seeing people make and enjoy the recipes I create is always rewarding. It’s amazing to think that can I make a recipe for my family, upload it to my blog, and someone halfway across the world can view it, recreate it, upload a picture and send it back to me. Still blows my mind! I also love the fact that I’m able to be at home with my family. :)
What are 1-3 key things to maintaining your personal aesthetic + brand integrity while working with other brands?
I won’t work with brands that I don’t personally use or enjoy myself. In the beginning, it’s easy to get tempted to compromise when job opportunities are few and far in between. You may think, "man this stuff is nasty, but at least it’s a paycheck.” I think its much better to forgo certain opportunities in order to maintain credibility with your readers. I’ve turned down many jobs and potential paydays in order to stay true to my audience and my brand. I’m happy that I can look back and be proud of the partnerships I have made with no regrets. As for aesthetic, if a brand is reaching out to me, it's usually because they've seen my work and like my style. I'm drawn to both light and dark moody photos, so I bounce back and forth depending on the subject I'm photographing. I typically edit all my photos the same way, enhancing bright colors, cooler hues, and dark shadows, so that they maintain the same overall look.
What internal struggle do you wish you knew about, heading into your field of work?
I’m a major introvert and more on the quiet side, so having to be very social and reach out to brands and bloggers for partnerships has really forced me to step outside of my comfort zone. I think it has been good for me though. I’m thankful for the personal growth.
Was there any personal or professional risk involved in your commitment to the blog?
My degree is in graphic design, so choosing a totally new direction was a big leap of faith for me, especially having paid so much money for college. After the first year of blogging and hundreds of dollars in the hole, I started to question whether I had made the right decision or not. I didn’t begin the blog to make money, but I didn’t know how long I’d be able to fund this really expensive hobby of mine either! I say life’s too short to be stuck doing a job you hate. Although I may get some raised eyebrows from people who wonder why I don’t just get a “real” job, I enjoy sharing recipes and capturing the beauty of food, so I plan to continue blogging as long as I’m passionate about it.
How do you strike the balance of authentically creating content versus curating just to what you think your audience wants to see?
For the most part I just make what I like and hope my audience does too! I know that desserts and sweet treats are what appeal most to my readers and Instagram audience, so I do try to post those often. Thankfully, those are my favorite recipes to create too, so it makes it really easy for me!
How do you see the blogger/influencer space evolving as social media continues to rapidly develop and change?
It’s crazy to think that you can now make money from blogging and being an influencer on social media. The industry’s growing very rapidly, which is really amazing! One downside to all this is that social media is quickly evolving into a place for ads and brand promotion instead of being the authentic form of self-expression it used to be. I think it’s becoming harder for followers to know whether they can trust the brands we promote or if we’re only doing it for a paycheck. It's all the more reason to pick and choose the brands we promote wisely, so that we maintain credibility with our audience.