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Nov 24, 2015

Creating space to create

We are really fortunate to have a home that is large enough to give both me and Duquette the space to create our art. Doing your work at home can be really difficult at times, hello resistance!, but if you can be disciplined and passionate about what you do, it's kind of an ideal situation. 

Duquette recently surprised me by turning our never used sunporch into my painting studio, which was simply the most loving gesture EVER. It's my most sacred space in our home. And I really wanted him to feel that same love, encouragement and sacred space for him to record from home. With some very creative rearranging of a junky bedroom, we created a space that has that hidden feeling. You know, a space that seems to transport you somewhere else, outside of the home vibe. And it's just what he needed. 

Duquette is someone who really appreciates having natural elements around him. It may be a rock he found twenty years ago in the Southwest. It could be a wild, curling branch that will bloom over time in a vase. There's palo santo sticks, fresh cut flowers from our garden, a piece of Alabama quartz. Having grown up in the mountains of Wyoming, my husband is part wild. It's in his blood. So it's something he needs to feel around him to create most naturally. 

A big part of transforming a space is, without a doubt, the art you surround yourself with. I get that! I'm an artist after all! As this space is all Duquette, I really wanted to get some art that really captured and captivated him in a meaningful way. So when reached out to see if I would like to order something from them, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to find something special just for my man. 

I selected two large photo prints by designer Lisa Cersovsky, based in Oakland, California. 

The first image, Lake Louise, is above Duquette's desk, pictured above. I love the color tone and the dream-like landscape. If you've ever seen a place like this in person, all it takes is a beautiful image to transport you back to that sensation of being so small compared the vastness of God's nature. 

The second photographic print I ordered is a companion piece, also taken by Lisa Cersovsky. I ordered a HUGE print of it sized 60"x44". It is STUNNING. It's also a pretty penny to get framed, so we will be building a custom frame for it. 

Duquette loves his space so much, and it is evolving and changing as if it's a living thing. You need life in a space to really feel connected to it. These photographs really have helped shape the space, the vibe, the intentions for Duquette to walk into the room, shut the door, be transported and to create. 

We really want to thank Minted for so generously allowing us to bring these prints into our home and for being a part of creating a sacred space. Their web site can be a little overwhelming with all the services and products they offer, so here's my shortcut: if you want a photographic print, click here. And if you want to see the next print I want to purchase myself in a HUGE size, click here. (I'm an ocean girl, through and through!)

While hooked us up with two amazing photographic prints, we did not receive any monetary compensation for this post. All opinions are totally ours and we are just thankful to have been gifted such beautiful art and opportunities! xo Morgan and Duquette

CommentsCategories art Tags minted large photographs large art duquette johnston recording studio lisa cersovsky

Oct 22, 2015

My Fall Fashion Inspiration: Those Parisian Vibes

Gah, I am such a Francophile, especially once Fall rolls around. Give me smooth jazz and Francoise Hardy records. Give me trop coffee and novels set in Paris. It literally happens every Fall as the leaves begin to turn colors and the breeze gets chilly. And without fail, I start dressing like a French girl. Not ashamed. 


(these images via Pinterest.)

(This is a tear sheet from Vogue, I believe, that I have held onto for like five years. Because this seriously happens EVERY FALL.)


Paris girl vibes




CommentsCategories style Tags french style parisian style paris street style francophile

Oct 19, 2015

ESSENTIALS: Stylist & Traveler Kirby Cox

Kirby Cox is a stylist, writer, blogger and traveler from Birmingham, Alabama. She's also lived in London, New York City and Atlanta. "I feel very connected to the South, but I also feel very much connected to England and the UK. It's my second home," she says. 

"I grew up traveling, painting, dressing up, rescuing animals, dancing and putting on shows for anyone who would watch. I don't feel like much has changed in that way since I was little. I still hold that sense of wonder even though at times the world feels heavy."


DRINKING// In the words of Auntie Mame, "...bring me a light breakfast-- black coffee and a side car." Auntie Mame is one of my all time favorite movies and I kind of want to be Auntie Mame when I grow up. But other than those two drinks... lots of Earl Grey, red wine & sparkling water. 

READING// I'm an obsessive reader. I'm currently reading Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain. But up next I have a few CS Lewis books, Willie Nelson's Autobiography, Grace Jones' Memoir & Patti Smith's new book M Train. I can't get enough of biographies and autobiographies. 

LISTENING// Right now I have Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Prince & Serge Gainsbourg on heavy rotation. And every Sunday I listen to Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service on BBC Radio 6. It is my favorite radio show ever. 

MASTERING// French. I'm hoping to become fluent in the next few years. I'm also trying to master my writing skills. Writing is a passion of mine. I write short stories as well as the blurbs on my blog. I want to master my communication skills so I can go deeper in certain subjects. 

LEARNING// How to take time off. 

WORKING// All the time! I work full time as a Senior Stylist at Free People and I work on my blog when I'm not at work. I'm always planning or photographing something. I'm constantly gathering inspiration as well. I feel like I never turn off. 

TRAVELING// I'm going back to Ireland in November and Spain in the Spring. I'm hoping to go to Asia sometime in the near future. I want to go everywhere!

DREAMING// Always. 

PLAYING// Dress up. I never grew out of my dress up phase. 

WANTING// Roger Vivier Polly Suede Side-Buckle Ankle Boot, available here

x Kirby

You can find Kirby on Instagram and on her blog, here

CommentsCategories ESSENTIALS style Tags kirbyjoanna joanna kirby kirby cox free people senior stylist free people fpme

Oct 14, 2015

On VISION. Schaeffer Eye Center and SALT Optics

The first time I saw the man that would become my husband was magical. His band was opening for The Strokes at this old dive bar. I remember the way his jeans and t-shirt hung on him as he threw himself around the stage, spitting lyrics into the microphone. I can still see the way the lights played across his face, moving across the faces in the crowd. It was beautiful.

The first time I saw my son was equally beautiful and potentially equally rock and roll. I was laid out on a table, numb from neck to toe for an emergency c-section, and as the doctors joked about putting Humpty Dumpty together again, someone brought me my baby. They laid that little purpley bundle so high on my chest that my eyes struggled to focus on the little life changer in my grasp, and I remember looking over at my husband, Duquette as he took a dozen photos with three different cameras while entirely covered in surgical garments. 

These memories will stay with me forever. And they're so vivid because of the powerful images I took in with my eyes, my vision. I often think about the power of the senses and which sense I would struggle with the most to lose. Hands down, as an artist, photographer, stylist, wife, mother and general human being, my vision is my highest prized sense. I can't fathom an existence without looking into the eyes of my man or my son, without seeing the change in a landscape as the seasons turn, without being able to sit and apply colors, gestures, strokes of paint to surfaces. My vision makes life more dimensional, more meaningful.

And here's the horrible irony to all of it. I have not had an eye exam in eight years despite feeling a general decline in my quality of vision. I made up all sorts of reasons as to why I didn't have time or money or a need to go to the eye doctor. I was scared, and I was making up excuses without any good reason. So when Duquette needed a new pair of glasses, I knew I needed an eye exam. 

A couple of our friends from Schaeffer Eye Center heard that we were in need of some quality care, and they invited us to come down so I could finally get my eyes checked and so Duquette could be custom styled for a pair of glasses.

They're an amazing family focused company and they put the highest priority on providing the highest quality of care and education for their patients. And here's the crazy thing-- I grew up with Dr. Jack Schaeffer's kids, and now all three of those kids have grown up to be optometrists in the family practice. Moreover, our dear friend, Lynn Boone (who was my senior prom date in high school) is their director of operations who facilitated this whole experience. That's Lynn pictured below in SALT Optics "Lynn" frame (yes, named after her), and she's among the most insanely talented opticians who can pick out your PERFECT frames in about thirty seconds after first laying eyes on you. The frames she selected for Duquette to try are also below.

Lynn was really excited to tell us all about SALT, because they not only make really stunning and high quality, durable frames, they're a company with a story and a mission and a lot of love behind them. And you know that's what Rugged & Fancy is all about.

SALT: Sea Air Land Timeless, these guys understand the importance of VISION, the connection between sight and your art, your experiences, your memories, your impact in the world. I love that products are being made with real love that becomes not only an extension and mission of your brand, but is something vibrational that carries on to clients, fans, friends and family. 

If you're in NYC next week, check out this SALT event, a photography show featuring the work of three amazing artists. Proceeds from sales benefit Charity Water

As for my eye exam, it was entirely painless and not even that much of a hassle with cutting edge technology and technicians and doctors who seriously answered all of my crazy questions, including "Are you sure my retina isn't about to detach?" 

Dr. Brooke Kaplan confidently answered that question, NO with a gentle demeaner and a 3D image of my entire eye ball and nerves that's part of standard testing now, that she explained in terms I could totally understand. Below is both the machine and the 3D image of my eyeball. RAD.

While my eyes dilated for the final vision exam, Duquette settled on these really timeless frames.

Duq's glasses have always been an evening necessity slash afterthought, the things he wears between putting on pajamas and going to sleep or in the time between waking and putting in contacts. They've always been cheap frames or cool old, old frames that we have picked up over the years at estate sales for a quarter or two. The old frames have done their job, but they've never been an accessory. They've never quite fit. Until now. 

The following are photos of Duquette in our home, in the morning, wearing his SALT Novak frames. 

The turnaround time on getting special lenses for the frame was exactly two weeks, and the folks at Schaeffer Eye Center had us come in when they arrived so they could custom shape the frames to Duq's head. And anytime we might need them to be tightened or adjusted slightly, we can just take them in. That's awesome. And it lends itself to the whole family vibe they've got going on. You know, when people are so good and such a good hang that you just want to pop in and visit them. That's a little bit of what they've got going on there. 

As for my vision? I've got a very slight astigmatism, but other than that I am in goooood shape. They did mention that we both have Blonde Fundus. That basically means we have less pigment in our retina than others and need to wear sunglasses more often. Good to know we have a reason to wear sunglasses at any time. 

We deeply want to thank our friends at Schaeffer Eye Center and SALT Optics for their incredible generosity. Your sight matters. Please, please take care of yours. Get your annual eye exam and see a good doctor! 

***DISCLAIMER: While we did receive a free eye exam and a pair of frames, we did not receive any monetary compensation for this post. All words, images, thoughts and witty comments are entirely our own. xo

CommentsTags schaeffer eye center eye doctors birmingham salt salt optics charity water eye exam blonde fundus salt novak best eyeglasses stylish eyewear

Oct 8, 2015

SECRET SOURCE: Healthy Hair, Healthy You: An Organic Salon Experience with Sheri Bagwell

This is me on a good hair day. And lately I am having day after day after day's worth of good hair. 

Here's a little background info... I have ALWAYS been borderline obsessive about my hair. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the first time I radically cut it off, my eccentric mother made me sign a contract promising to work in the potato fields if I didn't like it. (That's a real story and you can see the contract here.) I want it long. And I want it blonde. (Again, for the record, I am a natural blonde, but just not quite as blonde as I prefer.)

Here's the irony of my hair obsession: I only go to a salon maybe once a year, and it's mostly on account of the fact that the chemicals are SO HARSH for me. To get a really good blonde, I have traditionally ended up with actual blisters on my scalp and a migraine from the fumes. Yeah, that's actually what happens to me. 

Without options, it's just something I was willing to forgo because the end result, pretty and fresh hair that boosts my self-confidence and helps me feel a little more like me, was worth more than the detriment it caused to my body.

So that's the back story... Right out of the gate, I am just going to tell you that the beautiful hair pictured above was created without use of harsh chemicals, without blistering, burning or pain. And I have to thank Sheri Bagwell for it. 

Birmingham's wellness community is just beginning to grow, so right now you could call it a close community with only a couple degrees of separation between holistic practitioners, yogis, nutritionists, therapists, energy workers, meditation guides, etc. Sheri and I were actually Facebook friends before meeting over coffee one day. I LOVE her blog and had been reading it for several months before realizing that she had moved to Birmingham from Atlanta. She's a wellness coach, meditation guide, Reiki master AND SHE DOES HAIR AT THE ONLY ORGANIC SALON IN BIRMINGHAM!

After having a long coffee and talking about all sorts of things, Sheri and Studio Red Salon invited me to experience their services at a generously discounted rate. (I share that detail in the spirit of full disclosure.) While the decor and clientele read a little older, the results I got were phenomenal and worthy of being called a Secret Source. 

Here's the deal, the salon products have zero ammonia, zero parabens, are 100% vegan and the colors have no PPD, a seriously toxic chemical found in tons of hair products and cosmetics. What struck me immediately is that there was NO ODOR WHATSOEVER. Furthermore, once we got started, there was no tingling, burning, itching at any point in the entire experience before, during or after. WHOA.

I was super nervous about how the color would be and how I would like Sheri. I had this wave of anxiety come over me with the realization that I previously ahd only known this woman for a hot minute and I was trusting her with something really, really important to me, my hair. And let me tell you, Sheri was AWESOME. She totally put my mind at ease, recognizing how nervous I was and gently redirecting my thought pattern with some really awesome conversation about family, nutrition, wellness journeys and so much more. Let's be honest, a great hairstylist does great hair and great conversation.

Sheri's got it all. 

I also want to mention the salon uses two product lines called Neuma and Soma. I have been using Giovanni shampoo and conditioner in an effort to eliminate chemicals (though I do still use some Oribe Dry Texturizing spray because, DUH), but Giovanni has really sucked. And it made me wonder if natural hair care products just suck in general. NEWS FLASH: Neuma products are amazing. They get my hair clean. They give me moisture and incredible body. There's no weird smells and no bad chemicals, and it may be another thing worthy of calling a Secret Source. 

I mean, look at that. The cut is so good that she didn't even have to use a brush or curling iron to style it. This literally came from blow drying with her fingers. No burns, no blisters, no migraine. I walked out the door with a giant smile, my head a little higher with a great boost in confidence and one of the best cuts and colors I have ever had. At no expense to my health.


I highly, highly recommend Sheri on a lot of levels.

To book a consult or appointment, you can call Studio Red at 205.991.2099

To follow Sheri's blog, Living Well in the South, just click here. And to read her take on hair care, click here

CommentsCategories health and wellbeing style Tags sheri bagwell birmingham wellness living well in the south organic hair care birmingham organic salon studio red salon edenton secret source

Oct 7, 2015

Four Instagrams to Follow Right Now

1// @waynepate- Wayne Pate is an amazing artist with a really special illustrative style that captures 3D scenes and people in a beautiful flat and linear way. There's a softness and magical quality to it that reminds me a little of Monet's late work in the South of France. I don't know Wayne personally, but I also love that his name is Wayne and he seems to lack pretense. Check out his web site here

@thefamilyacid- This is such a rad story. This is a family, and the patriach, photographer Roger Steffens has been documenting his atypical life since the early 60s. His kids have been scanning all of his slides he has accumulated over the years, and it's this. The images are so striking, filled with beautiful colors, trippy scenes and a slice of life you're never going to see again. 

@dredrea- I am really fortunate to call this woman a soul sister of mine. Andrea Behrends is one of the most real, sensitively astute and crazy tough people I know. She documents EVERYTHING in film and manages to capture the soul of people, places, even the food in the front of her. She has a show up in Nashville right now that you should definitely check out. 

@melinahammer- I was fortunate enough to meet Melina and her husband, photographer Jim Lafferty in Birmingham, Alabama, where fate placed them for a brief period. I feel a deep connection to this really, truly unique woman though we only were able to spend quality time together on a couple occasions. She practices Iyengar yoga very devoutly. She takes walks and urban forages. She isn't afraid to talk about the depp recesses of the human experience in a way that bonds you to her. And she prepares and photographs and shares the most exquisite food on her blog Licking the Plate

CommentsTags instagrams to follow wayne pate andrea behrends the family acid melina hammer licking the plate roger steffens

Sep 28, 2015

FOOD FOR THE SEOUL: Celebrating Korean Thanksgiving

words by Tonia Trotter / photos by Rugged and Fancy

I am and have always been a girls' girl to the core. Nothing makes me feel more in my element than a good old fashioned girls' night. True friends aren't always easy to come by, especially as you grow older and your schedules tend to revolve around your families... and especially if you relocate to a city that is anywhere other than where your girls are. 

Two years ago I packed up and moved my little family from Nashville, Tennessee to Birmingham, Alabama. I felt isolated and desperate to recreate the close female friendships I had cultivated in my twenties in Music City. It took some work and going out on a limb to find my people here, but I am now incredibly happy and thankful for the women who I have come to call my friends here. They're smart, interesting, funny, genuinely kind and authentic. 

Julia Child famously proclaimed, "People who love to eat are always the best people." 

Since I always insist on being friends with the best people, it goes without saying that a passion for good food is definitely a common interest within my crew. I love to cook for my friends and family, and I often get requests for Korean dishes since they aren't exactly common in the land of cornbread and fried chicken. Don't misunderstand, I really love those things, too. This past Sunday marked not only a significant lunar event (so I have heard) but also Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving and, most importantly, a rare evening that all my girlfriends had a free night without their babies and husbands. 

THIS fact alone warranted a celebration.  And since I am especially grateful for these friends this year, it was the perfect opportunity to host a Korean-themed girls' night in! 

Traditionally, you'd eat rice cakes on Chuseok, but since I am only half Korean and was raised in the land of fried okra and sweet potato pie, I decided to prepare some of my personal favorite foods that I know are beyond foolproof. 

I'm a firm believer that all celebrations call for champagne, so we ladies kicked the party off with some "YEOWANGS." Korean for QUEEN, the Yeowang signature cocktail is a lychee-orange libation topped with a little bubbly. 

Following cocktails and chatting, we gathered around the table.  The tablescape was a gold and soft blue theme with an eclectic contemporary vibe and key Korean details. I combined some tradition from my own Vera Wang china and cut crystal and everyday glasses with some of the amazing new pieces from West Elm

I made my mom's Yaki-Mandu, a pork and veggie dumpling that is pan-fried and steamed, sauteed Bulgogi, thin strips of steak marinated in a sweet, savory and slightly spicy marinade. As a Southern nod, I served a cooked seaweed and spinach salad to serve as a bed of greens. 

For the second course I prepared my all-time favorite Korean dish Naengmyeon, a chilled buckwheat noodle soup. I set up a DIY bar of noodle bowl toppings, including daikon radish kimchi (made by mother and tightly sealed and double bagged until serving on account of the, ahem, strong odor), hard boiled eggs, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, chopped green onions, red pepper and sesame seeds. Chopsticks optional.

For dessert, red bean popsicles were a hit. Popsicles can absolutely be a grown up treat when served alongside a stemless wine glass. You don't have to worry about slurps and drips when you can simply place the pop in your glass. The final touch was a cup of hot ginger and rosebud tea that paired beautifully with the red bean popsicles and served as that final moment to relax with my girls and pour over funny stories, in-depth discussions on style, motherhood, new reads and TV indulgences.

Around that table and over that meal, we five women shared bonding moments over personal struggles and achievements, and maybe a couple moments of over-sharing, too. (Of course there was plently of that. We are girlfriends.) 

The night ended later than expected and definitely past all of our bedtimes, and it made me feel like the night was a great success. I cleaned up and floated to bed on a cloud of garlic and wine with a full belly, a full heart and a very thankful spirit. It was indeed a happy Chuseok. 


  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 cup chopped Chinese cabbage
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 2 stalks chopped green onions
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1 T sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 package round Gyoza skins

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Drop a small spoonful of stuffing in gyoza skin. Dampen edge of skin with water, fold and press edges together. 

Pan fry uncovered with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil until golden brown on one side (about five minutes) on medium heat. 

Carefully add 1/2 cup of water to the pan. (CAUTION: the water may pop!) and quickly cover to simmer for  5-10 minutes. 


Mix soy sauce, rice vinegar and ground red pepper to taste. 

To follow Tonia Trotter's adventures in food, fashion, motherhood and more, click here. This was not a sponsored post, though the fine folks at West Elm at the Summit loaned us some beautiful items for the night, including the chargers, votives, table centerpiece, prep bowls, table runner, branches and berries. 

CommentsCategories community food Tags west elm dinner party tonia trotter rugged and fancy korean thanksgiving chuseok yeowang pork dumpling recipe easy korean recipes

Sep 23, 2015

National Yoga Month and Global Mala 2015

This past Saturday was Global Mala, an incredible free community event to bring several hundred people together on top of Vulcan Park to do 108 sun salutations together with a collective spirit of love and peace and community. It was my second Global Mala here in Birmingham and represents one full year of having practiced yoga with sincere intentions of self love, healing, love, peace and change within myself and my impact in the world around me. I think I have struggled my whole life in finding community. I think I fancied myself a lone wolf. What I have learned through connecting with the community here is that we need each other. We need deep connection with people and causes as much as we need simple connection of eye contact and a smile. All these things are equally important. 

While Global Mala is a one time a year event, it is a fundraiser with an impact that goes year round. Sweet Om Alabama is the non profit organization that gives Global Mala to the community and is the organization that provides yoga programs and training to underserved populations around the community. Basically, yoga changes lives, and there are a lot of people who need it and may not have access to it or even know what it is. Sweet Om Alabama is dedicated to changing that. 

Below are some photos from Global Mala 2015. Be sure to check out Sweet Om Alabama and consider making a donation. 

The early comers getting set up in prime spots overlooking our city.

There was a turnout of over 400 people! It ended up looking like a patchwork sea of beautiful bright colored yoga mats. 

Me and my dear friend and teacher Kim Drye of Here Now Yoga. I am doing her teacher training program. I love her so much. 

These two ladies pictured here, Emilie Maynor of Emilie Maynor Living and Annie Damsky of Villager Yoga (and president of Sweet Om Alabama) are HUGE parts of my yoga journey. I am forever grateful to them for the connection we had so early on in this path and for their love and mentorship and direction. They do an AMAZING series called 40 Days to Free that will change your life

Y'all, I can't help but take note of yoga fashion. I am preparing for a year of teacher training, and I preparing to wear yoga clothes basically for a whole year. And y'all know I care about it looking good. There's nothing wrong with that. Yoga wear has come a long, long way since wearing pajama pants to class. 

That's Kim. I love her yoga style. 

I love all the wild strap action you see these days. 

And this woman laughed at me when I asked to take her photo, but this is just gooooood and fun. 

And what did I do after all that action?? I went and got an almond milk Yerba Mate latte from Church Street and came home to the welcoming arms of my husband and bacon he had all ready for me. That's love.

So much love you guys


CommentsTags global mala global mala 2015 sweet om alabama birmingham yoga villager yoga emilie maynor living here now yoga

Sep 21, 2015

Mother Monday: a Q+A with Navy wife, mama, yogi Ally Behne

The Internet is such an amazing tool at our fingertips. It gives me the opportunity and platform to share my experiences, stories and to connect with other amazing people in a very authentic and real way and to sometimes share those stories, too. There's community here if you want it and if you need it. I think all we want as humans on a very basic level is to connect and to love. Anyway, Ally and I went to high school together at Alabama School of Fine Arts. She was a dance major and I was visual arts. We were a tight knit group of kids with a graduating class of like 36 or something. Life took us in different directions, but thanks to Facebook Ally and I have really deeply connected over motherhood, married life, yoga and more.  Ally is the wife of a Navy man, mother of a toddler boy and yogi/teacher to many. 

We caught up over email about all of these things...

R+F: Ally, you and I have known each other for almost fifteen years, but have really recently connected over shared experiences and love of motherhood, wifehood and yoga. Could you tell readers a little bit about yourself and your family?

ALLY: I'm sort of chuckling over this question.  The truth is, my life is not what I expected it to be, and yet it is everything I always wanted.  My husband is a pilot in the United States Navy and is currently deployed in the Pacific.  Back when we knew one another in high school, I already had the itch for travel and adventure, and yet if someone would have told me that I would end up as a military spouse, travelling the country and the world at the whim of my husband's career, I would have scoffed at them.  I had never even met an active duty service member, much less dated one! And yet, here I am.  Bo and I have been together for almost a decade, and in that time we have moved 6 times and lived in 5 states (and will be moving again in the spring).  Although I have both a Bachelor's and Master's degree, teaching yoga and mothering our 15-month old son, Bennett, is my full-time job.  There are very really struggles in this life, and yet the emotions I experience most are gratitude and joy.  I have more love in my life than I feel like my one heart can contain.  Although I've never really believed in fairy tales, when I look at my life, I realize that I'm sort of living in one.

R+F: I remember you always had wanderlust in you. I think it's one of the things we shared throughout high school. And you were always so deeply committed in your efforts and had a great attitude. Even when you were exhausted. I think you still have these qualities today. I can't imagine being a service wife. Is that the correct terminology? I feel like so many civilians have no concept of what this life is like for someone serving and especially for their families. What's it like? Is it what you imagined going into it? 

ALLY: Yes, service wife (or in my case, Navy wife) is the correct terminology.

The more I journey down the road of motherhood, the more parallels I see between it and having a partner in the military.  Almost every part of this life, from moving every 2-3 years, to long stretches of time apart, to starting all over finding your tribe, can be exhausting and terrifying.  It is a constant exercise in challenging your comfort zone.  In motherhood, I feel like the boundaries are always changing.  Bennett, and his abilities, evolve on a daily basis, which requires me to do the same.  Having a partner in the military is no different.  I frequently feel like I get one set of variables figured out (a city where we live, a mommy tribe, a job I adore, having Bo home, etc.), only for the Navy to change up the whole equation on me!  In the military we frequently use the phrase "Semper Gumby," which is a play on the Marine mantra "Semper Fi" and the claymation character of Gumby.  In essence, it implies that happiness in the military lifestyle requires a large degree of flexibility, and as an extension, faith.  Funny enough, there is a similarly used phrase in yoga that says "I bend so I don't break."  So it's all one and the same, no?  Navy wife, mom, yogi, they all require my flexibility and my faith.  Which, of course, is easier said that done.  It's constant work to stay present with the change, and not fight against it. Change is a way of life in the military, but so many of us see change as a four-letter word.  I've been meditating a lot on Ghandi's mantra "be the change," and realizing that it is so easy to say, and so hard to DO.  But, personally, I do want to be the change I want to see in the world.  For me, that starts by going home and loving my family.  
R+F: Do you feel like you have to be extroverted? How do you find your people in a new city and without your mate? I just have to say how deeply moved I am by your strength. 
Tell me about your path to yoga. 
ALLY: You know, I was just having this conversation with my mom the other day.  I always thought that I was an extrovert because I have this innate ability to converse with almost anyone.  But our current COW (Commanding Officer's Wife for those that don't speak Navy-ese), who is a self-proclaimed introvert, recently shared an article on Facebook about the extrovert myth.  The article talked about how the most basic definition of an introvert is someone who's life force originates from time with the self.  And there was this figurative lightbulb that practically burst in my head because I wanted to shout, "That's me!" If I don't have time to meditate, and get on my mat, and read a good book, I'm simply not the best version of myself.  In order for me to really be with anyone else, I have to make time to be with myself first.
As for finding my people, I really like to diversify!  I always try to connect with fellow spouses in our squadron.  In general, the military is really good about providing social opportunities for people to get together.  It's sort of a secret society, or fraternity or cult, but I draw all of those comparisons without any of the negative stereotypes that they come with.  In fact, I am currently the President of our Officer's Spouses Club, a role I never would have thought to fill, and yet I love it.  Getting on my mat right away when we move into a new community is a sure-fire way to connect with like-minded people.  Perhaps by happenstance, I have ended up in different book clubs everywhere I have moved, and that has been a great way to invite people into my circle that are connected neither with the military nor yoga.  The truth is, the more times I move and the more people I meet, the more I realize that we are all the same.  
I struggled on and off with an eating disorder throughout high school, and then experienced a really severe relapse while I was in graduate school. Looking back, while there's not one particular thing that caused my relapse, the unifying thread was a collapse in worthiness. I had all these great things happening in my life: Bo and I were engaged, I was completing my degree at a prestigious university, and I had my ideal dream job lined up for post-graduation, but I was hollow and imploding on the inside.  To make a long and complicated story short, Bo and I's engagement ended, I left my dream job just five months after starting it, and at 25 years old, I found myself living back in Alabama, in my mom's house,and in therapy almost every day of the week.  My psychologist essentially prescribed me yoga.  I'll never forget the first time I walked on my mat.  It felt so much like returning to the bar at the beginning of a ballet class.  On the one hand, it felt like coming home, and on the other hand, I felt those same feelings of self-deprecation/loathing/hatred creeping back in.  I sobbed in that class; and I left feeling raw and too exposed, but that was the beginning of me falling back in love with myself. 
(there's so much more to say, but I think that sufficiently answers that question...)
R+F: How do you take on motherhood without your husband and without family nearby? Yoga is obviously a part of your sacred self care (something I believe we all MUST have to be balanced and good for our roles in the world). What else do you do to take care of yourself?
ALLY: It seems to me that self-care and positive parenting are intrinsically linked to one another.  It's true all of the time, but even more of a necessity when Bo is gone, to be purposeful about my own self-care.  On the one hand, it really helps to stay busy and active, getting out of the house at least once a day (whether that is for a walk, play date, trip to the grocery store, etc.).  On the other hand, I have learned that I panic when I put too much on my calendar at once.  It is all about balance.  My sacred time is the 2-3 hours I have to myself after Bennett goes to sleep.  During these hours I read, I color, I work on a puzzle, I bake or I watch a movie. It is very rare for me to put something on the calendar for myself during these sacred hours.  I need the alone time for restoration.  
I have a deep longing for physical proximity to family. It is, without a doubt, the most difficult thing about military life for me.  What I wouldn't give to be able to go over to my mom's house for dinner or to celebrate my Pee Paw's 86th birthday in person. It saddens me sometimes to realize that I moved away so young, and I have never really come back to that home (truly, that "home" doesn't even exist much has changed since I left almost 15 years ago).  I wouldn't change anything, but I do frequently wish that there was a way to lead the life that I have, and yet have them closer.  There is a quote by Maya Angelou that I have been loving lately.  In fact, I just recently taught a yoga class inspired by these words.  She says, "The ache for home lives in all of us, the place where we can go as we are and not be questioned."  It is a beautiful reminder that home is not a place, but sometimes a person, or a feeling that one gets from a sense of belonging.  Even though Bo and I's families are scattered far and wide, I do think that he would agree when I say that we both feel a sense of home in one another.
Lastly, it would be unfair of me not to acknowledge how absolutely phenomenal my husband is.  Even when he is away, Bo does an outstanding job at making Bennett and I feel like a priority in his life.  He uses whatever means available to him to stay in contact with us.  He is tireless in his efforts to continue in his role as husband and father. The uniqueness of our love is not lost on me.
I should have probably added that I try to have family visit me, or vice versa, every 6-8 weeks or so.  Especially when it comes to extended deployments, it really helps to always have a small "light at the end of the tunnel" you are working towards. 
I keep mulling this over, and feeling this sort of nagging I didn't say something important.
The thing is, most days float by as a stream of "new normal" moments.  When it comes to the inevitable long months apart, the only way out, is through. I do it because falling apart isn't an option.  I have been blessed with this beautiful, resilient and joyful little soul that gives me slobbery open-mouthed kisses all day long. I am his everything right now. And yet there is the inevitable day that is filled with cries and tantrums and a never ending series of things that just don't go quite right.  Those are the days when just breathing is enough.  If my child is still alive at the end of the day, and I did nothing other than breathe, it's a success.  
R+F: That last line. That's so beautiful. I keep coming back to how strong you are. Let's talk about you as a yoga teacher... What style do you teach, being a teacher versus a student, the connection with the room and maybe you could talk about the dynamic of practicing presence and mindfulness in the midst of a life governed by sudden change. 
ALLY: I began teaching yoga full-time right after Bo and I got married in 2011.  Since then, I have taught classic Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin, Restorative and Family yoga, depending upon the needs of the studio.  My heart lies with the Yin and Vinyasa practices, which is interesting, considering they punctuate two ends of the yoga style spectrum.  Yin has radically transformed my practice.  It has made me a more mindful yogini on and off the mat, and has opened my body in ways I wasn't even sure were possible.  In my heart, I am a dancer, perhaps not in the classical sense, but a dancer nonetheless.  My classes are heavily informed by my playlists, which I choose with intense care and purpose. Even in my Hatha classes, I find my instruction gravitates towards fluidity and flow.
I see myself foremost as a student. I have a personal rule that I only teach as much as I am able to practice.  Therefore, even with Bo deployed, I have our nanny's schedule set up so that I can take three classes a week in the studio for myself (this is in addition to my daily meditation and any home practice I find time to fit in).  I find that if I am not AT LEAST practicing as much as I am teaching, then my voice becomes less authentic and relevant.  The practice is a living and breathing thing, and it requires our attendance and constant nurturing.
I received my teacher training from Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville and am certified as an Integral Yoga Hatha Teacher. I mention this primarily because I have a strong connection to my lineage and the "integral" approach that it offers. While viewed primarily as a hatha yoga teacher, I strive to live out all aspects of my life as a yogi.  I practice bhakti yoga through my meditation and chanting, I incorporate karma yoga - the yoga of service - into my everyday life, and I constantly strive to learn more about my own soul - and my connection to all other souls - through raja and jnana yoga. When I step onto my mat to teach, it is my intention to integrate all of these systems of yoga into my hatha class.  Ultimately, I hope to inspire others to seek the guru, the spark of divinity, that is the true teacher within. I am just the vessel.
R+F: Would you want to do or share a playlist to accompany this piece?
I feel like we have covered such a beautiful breadth of topics here. Is there anything else you would like to share?


I just want to thank Ally for sharing all of this and being so open and honest! Thank you, Ally!

CommentsCategories mother monday Tags army wife navy wife semper gumby yogaville hatha yoga ally behne mother monday

Sep 17, 2015

On the importance of space and my new studio

I've been thinking a lot lately about what real luxuries are. You know, the things beyond indulgent purchases. While I love a good $36 lipstick or the ultra sexy new organic xyz triple-clay masque fondue, these things are not deeply important to me. Luxury is so relative, right? It's relative to your geography, to your socio-economic situation, to the home you grew up in and the experiences you've had through your life. Luxury is relative.

So one of the things that I have totally realized since having a child is that space is precious. Physical, personal space to do you. Yes, TO DO YOU. Duq and I have been sharing studio space (in the guest bedroom, no less), and it's awkward. It's crowded. It's inefficient. And it leaves both of us feeling uninspired creatively-- and that's not acceptable. There's no weirdness here, of course. We each just need quiet space to create our individual atmospheres to do the things that we do in life. 

I need a space with light, air, bright white walls. I need surfaces and floor space. I need shelves to hold sheets of blank papers and paints and small plants and crystals. I need to be able to move and to be still without distraction. 

So my husband had a brilliant idea... we turn our never used sunporch into my studio. It's essentially a galley so it's got this amazing cross breeze that happens when I open the windows to the front of the house and the giant french doors that open up into our definitely magical backyard. It really has never been used for anything other than the dogs' playroom for the six years we have lived here. Insane. 

We briefly talked about it yesterday, and BAM, we woke up this morning and painted it, moved all the furniture around and got my studio set up in its first incarnation. I have to give my husband the deepest gratitude and love. This was all his idea, and basically all his hard work too. He loves me so much and believes in me so much that he worked his ass off to create the most beautiful and perfect and luxurious and sacred space for me. 

THANK YOU DUQ. You are so loved. 

I am so loved. Man, that's something I just can't take for granted. I know not everyone has that kind of love in their life and that we are blessed beyond wildest measure. I mean, don't we all just want love in our lives?

So here are a few photos from the studio space as it came along today.

The moment my husband suggested I float my desk out so I can open the doors and look outside and breathe. 

An old architects' table I found at a thrift store many years ago for $6. My inspiration photo of Picasso in his Paris studio. This is ALWAYS hanging in my studio. 

This chalk pastel piece is OLD and so treasured. It reminds me of this bedroom my grandmother Tot had in her basement. There was a midcentury painting of a woman from Valencia. And there was a velvet bedspread. And it was AWESOME and made me feel bohemian and European at just the tender age of 7 or 8. I love this piece so much. (Another thrifting gold moment.)

Small little treasures to me. The jade plant was big and beautiful, but I somehow manage to kill all of them. Trying to save this one so desperately. It was a gift from my stepmom and means a lot. The rose quartz and air plant were a love gift from Shannon (my guhl) and the Ganesha was a birthday present from my other guhl, Kim. The amythest and petrified wood and quartz are randoms but feel so good. Oh and the giant white thing is selenite and looks INSANE in the light.

My first little painting in the new studio. I found this great little traveling watercolor kit that I bought years ago and had never used when moving my stuff around today. So while Tennessee played around me and yelled out the open doors at his daddy and his dog, I painted a picture of my view out the back doors. 

You guys. I am so filled with gratitude and love right here. 

A verrrrry vague reference to an upcoming Rugged and Fancy announcement. But here's a glimpse onto my giant shelf...

My bookshelf. Because I ALWAYS want to know what people are reading.

Do you have a unique luxury? Do you have a sacred space? I'd love to hear about it in the comments or post a photo on Instagram and tag me, @ruggedandfancy

So much love,


CommentsTags sacred space luxuries morgan johnston rugged and fancy home