7 Simple Ways to Feel Sexy

The other morning, I was in a huge rush to get my kids out the door so I could prep for meetings I had later in the day. Usually, I take a little time to get ready before I get them up, putting on a cute dress and some lipstick, but this morning, I was in a capital-H worthy Hurry. I threw on a hoodie and jeans, was pushing the kids out the door, and impatiently trying to get them to the train station.

Of course, it took the same amount of time it always does to get them to where they need to be. But glancing into a window as I passed by, I realized how shabby I looked. Instead of enjoying my morning walk with them and feeling put together, everything felt sloppy – and it started the second I decided to put a (meaningless and self-imposed) deadline before my self-care routine.

Does this sound familiar?

I get it. It’s easy to put the needs of the day and the needs of others before your own. But the thing is, you can’t show up the way you want to in your life without taking care of you first.

You deserve to feel good. Not only that, but I think you deserve to feel sexy.

It’s nothing time consuming, but these tiny, simple acts make a substantial difference in the way I feel. I stand up taller. I feel more confident. I feel like the leading lady in my own life, instead of a supporting character. And miraculously, when you dress the part, you start to believe it. Here are my top tips for how to feel sexier now.

Office Warming Party

1. Be more accepting.

When someone gives you a compliment, the right response is thank you. Not attributing it elsewhere, making excuses, or otherwise passing it off. Accept love. Accept help. Accept massages. If it’s a good thing, and you want it, say yes. Make it easy.

2. Leave a love note.

It doesn’t have to be for anyone in particular. You can leave it in a book, in a bathroom, in a hidden location just waiting for someone to discover. If it is for a lover, make it a little steamy.

3. Wear sexy underwear.

Please, go throw out your granny panties. Like right now. Or if you’re feeling especially daring, simply go without. I can’t lie – doing my headshots in lacy boy shorts? Totally brought out the right attitude for the photo. (And I mean, who does that? Turns out, I do.)

4. Buy flowers.

A better, more clear way to say that might be, “Girl, buy your own damn flowers.” Don’t wait for someone else to decide you are worthy of a daily, everyday beautiful indulgence. Find your favorites. Display. Done.

5. Write something dirty.

Fiction. Nonfiction. Anything. Write about a fantasy. Write about that time you stepped out of your comfort zone, took control of a sexy situation, and what came next. (Couldn’t resist.)

6. Get your hair done.

Women’s hair has deep culture connections, so treating yours well is really only natural. Find someone who’ll give you the head massage shampoo treatment, and ease into it. Let yourself enjoy being pampered, and walk out of there feeling like a goddess.

7. Embrace cooking and eating as a sensual practice.

Cooking should not feel like a chore. From choosing the best ingredients to inventing a dish just suited for the day, there is pleasure to be had in this most everyday of activities. Making a meal is an exercise in enjoying simple living – potentially one in ritual, in simple hospitality. Share something profound at the table. That’s what it was made for.

If you’re going to take center stage in your life, you need to feel like the kind of woman who does that. And let me tell you, that kind of woman? She stops to smell the roses and try the rosé.

You have a choice in how you present yourself to the world – and when it’s so simple to feel a little sexier, why wouldn’t you?

Dusti Arab is a writer and performer. Sign up for her upcoming free e-course Take Center Stage here and become the leading lady in your life again.

A happiness manifesto: 10 ways to escape what’s chasing you

A few months ago, I finally picked up Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project.

As a major fan of homework and lists (glorious lists!), I loved her suggestion of coming up with your own rules for happiness, a happiness manifesto of sorts.

Why read The Happiness Project when things seem to be going so well?

I feel like a chart my gyno made when I was pregnant with my son is a useful indicator here. She did the standard procedures: blood work, tracked my family medical history, analyzed my existing fitness and diet, and in the end, I was fit as a fucking fiddle to pop out a baby.

Except that I had a 75% chance of getting PPD (again) because I’m, ahem, uniquely suited for mental illness.


The occasional bout of lowness still comes around. I’m pretty good about catching myself when I start to spiral. Mostly.

Sometimes I feel down, and it’s hard to shake it.

It starts with a stomach drop. I try to shake it off, but it festers, rolling around in my stomach, growing with each additional drop of “What makes you think you can handle this?” I feel inadequate, not enough. It rises up, up my trachea and is like heartburn, a snake that gradually constricts every inch of my torso without me realizing it. Wrapped up in an ever-tightening embrace with something so cold, I see these feelings and know they are not true, but it won’t let me go. The angst spirals further up still and is pushed up into my eyes, and nothing but water pours out because I feel I need to do so much more, especially when it comes to being a mother. But held in the coils of this beast you cannot control, you hit a point where you feel, you know, there’s not much more you can do. These are simply the joys of single co-parenthood.

The snake lets go. I lose my temper. I get so frustrated with myself that I lock myself away until I can get myself under control. It beats on my door because it wants in. It’s easy to forget how far I’ve come over this past six months, and in my impatience, I forget this used to be my life.

In fact, my life wasn’t always so fucking pretty. I take some respite and sink into the white comforter om my bed and watch the blue sky and clouds float on and breathe in the brightness.

And then the snake takes a new form. Jealousy creeps under the door, and up over my shoulder because I am afraid that I will turn out in the end not to be enough. That I won’t be able to handle it. To handle myself. That I’ll sabotage these things I care so, so much about. It curls around my neck and I can’t speak. I know my insecurity serves no purpose. It gives me nothing, owes me nothing. I refuse to choke on my words any longer, and I finally pull it off. It slithers away. For now.

It’s so easy to forget I’m only a few months into freedom and learning what it means to value myself, to be treated incredibly well, to come to expect to be treated that way even. To love and be loved.

Sometimes, you get triggered. You take a step backwards. It’s part of moving forward.

But moving forward is really more like a dance than it is sustained forward momentum. You spiral around and around the truth, take turns leading and following, and hopefully, somewhere in the midst of all of it, you find moments of presence, effortlessness.

And so we move on. We breathe. We learn to let go. We learn to lean on each other, to apologize, to forgive. And if we are lucky, we wake up and get to do it again.

Right now, my life is my happiness project. And the idea of a happiness manifesto to keep it in check when I fall into that familiar pit where that insidious snake resides? It’s a way of throwing glitter in the air and watching it cover everything, make everything a little bit more bright, magical.

Eventually, I break free, but I need help. I need to be able to see a way that I can move forward again.

So I phrased my manifesto to reflect that by starting it with, “When in doubt…”

So when in doubt…

1. Embrace ease.

Just over a year ago, I was in perpetual hustle mode. And worst of all, I was proud of it. If you’re always hustling, that’s means you’re probably not stopping to savor the moments along the way that are supposed to be the reason you’re always pushing so damn hard anyway.

Stop pushing. Do less. Embrace ease.

2. Delight others.

This is probably the most important one on this list. It’s not about impressing anyone. It’s about bringing them joy. If I’m having an off day, there is no better way to get out of that funk that doing something with no other intention that making someone really, really happy.

Bring someone flowers. Send a singing telegram. Make something and give it away. The snake doesn’t understand joy.

3. Show gratitude

Regardless of your circumstances, you can find something to be grateful for. Always.

Write a thank you note. Tell someone you care.

4. Surround yourself with co-conspirators

I’m an extrovert (ENFP, if Myers-Briggs is your jam), and somehow, I’ve also ended up a writer, which means I spend a lot of time by myself. It’s really easy to get into this mindset of needing to get things done, which leads to me holing up in my apartment for way too long without human interaction. Bad move.

Like a Sim with a low social bar, I need people to refill my well. Being around others is how I recharge my writerly batteries, and being around the kind of people who I can dream up new things with? Well, that’s pretty much heaven for me.

Co-work with a friend. Start a group around a topic of your choice. The snake is afraid of companionship.

5. Learn something

If you’re not learning, you might as well be dead. We are naturally curious beings. Why stop when we finish school?

Sign-up for class. Take small steps towards that audacious goal you’ve been storing away.

6. Choose movement

Next time you get stuck, get up and go for a walk. Kick up your endorphins. Find a forest and lose yourself. The snake can’t find you there.

7. Reach out

Call someone. Be direct. Ask for what you need. Don’t let the snake win.

8. Make something

Create a vision board. Paint something. Write a story. Sew curtains.

9. Be generous

Do more than you need to. Share your bounty.

10. Plant something

We were never meant to sit at desks all day. Get outside under the trees. Buy a plant. Plant some seeds.

More than anything this year, I’ve learned that tiny steps are the key to being able to take that big one you desperately want to. If you need some help making progress there, my friend Nina and I made this. But having a list of things to revert to when things get hard has been a helpful fail-safe for me when it comes to managing depression. Find what keeps you moving. (And if you need help, ask for it. Remember, the snake can’t survive amongst companionship.)

18 Tiny Steps To Living More Sustainably

Simple living can feel remarkably overwhelming when you’re getting started. Many of the conveniences of modern life are bad business for the planet, and taking charge at home is one easy way you can help make the world just a little bit better place for everyone.

The only problem is… Where do you start?

I get it. When I started studying environmental science, I was completely overwhelmed by how many different options I had when it came to living lightly. But really, tt doesn’t take much to downsize a little and make a big impact. There are tons of simple and practical ways you can live with less that will actually improve you quality of life.

Sustainable for the planet and sustainable for simple lifestyle? Yes, it is possible. Here are 18 tiny steps to living more sustainably.

1. Glass reusable containers.

Pyrex has some nice reusable glass containers available, but my favorite way to store food is in mason jars. They are inexpensive, you can reuse them forever, and they are beautiful – especially in comparison with the ugly, cheap plastic containers you find everywhere. Also, the lids always match and are easy to replace. Why choose anything else?

2. Recycle.

Your local garbage and recycling company has a list of what you can and cannot recycle. Print it out and put it above your mini waste management center to make recycling faster and

3. Compost.

Composting can be intimidating for the uninitiated, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s a basic composting guide to get you started.

4. Buy in bulk.

Cut out packaging, and your garbage stream gets reduced fast. Most grocery stores will let you bring in your own containers to fill with bulk goods as long as you bring an extra one so they can zero their scale. If you’re not sure, you can call and ask what their policy is. (Ask them in a way that makes them sound progressive, and you’re gold.)

5. Host a clothing swap.

Lose weight recently? Kids outgrowing all their clothes? Send out a dozen messages and host a clothing swap. Offer to take everything left at the end to a local thrift store (or maybe a consignment shop to earn some extra cash!)

6. Eat a vegetarian diet.

It takes over 5000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Even more shocking than that, 33% of of all raw materials (base products of farming, forestry and mining, including fossil fuels) consumed by the U.S. are devoted to producing livestock.

7. Go car-free.

Ride a bike instead. Or bus. Or Zipcar. Or share with your neighbor! The options are endless. The point is that you don’t actually need your own car all the time (and if you are spending that much time in your vehicle, consider for a moment how that makes you feel).

8. Stop buying stuff.

When you think you must buy, borrow first. Then buy reused. Then buy local.

9. Move into a smaller house.

My friend Nina lives in a bus. I live in a 520 sq. ft apartment with my two kids. And you know what? It is the perfect size for us. I do miss having a yard to send the kids into, but we’re lucky enough to be within walking distance of the nation’s largest city park, the aptly-named Forest Park.

10. Bring your own bags.

This is one of the easiest things you can do to help end the trash stream! Eliminate plastic bags from your home for good.

11. Go paperless.

Sign up here to stop receiving junk mail.

12. Make your own cleaning products.

My friend Nina has all the recipes you’ll need over at Shalom Mama.

13. Grow a garden.

Even without much space, you can still garden. Container gardening is a great option for apartment dwellers. You can also rent a plot at your local community garden.

14. Conserve energy.

Turning off the lights when you leave a room, shutting off an unused power strip, can make a big difference on your electric bill, and save a lot of energy. Weatherizing windows and doors, insulating pipes, and lowering the thermostat, can cut down on heating costs too. When replacing appliances, buy new appliances with the Energy Star label, that way you can be assured of their efficiency. To save water, try low-flow showerheads and toilets, collect rainwater and use native plants and drip irrigation in your yard. Reducing your shower time by even a minute can save water and the electricity needed to heat the water too!)))

15. Cloth napkins.

This one is so easy. I’ve never understood how people can be so okay with throwing money away on paper products that just get… thrown away. Save money and use cloth instead.

16. Use a clothes line.

Granted, this isn’t practical everywhere or at all times of year, but you can save a bunch on utility bills and make your clothes last longer simply by hanging them. Bonus: it’ll make your arms look great.

17. Stop using disposable coffee cups.

Living sustainably may just turn you into a mason jar aficionado. Buy a Cuppow instead!

18. Make your morning coffee at home.

I‘m fortunate enough to have ten years of coffee experience behind me, but really, it doesn’t take more than watching a few good Youtube videos, fresh beans, and filtered water to make incredible coffee.

These tiny steps hopefully make something crystal clear – simple is sustainable.

Working towards sustainability doesn’t have to completely change how you live. You’re probably already doing some of the things listed above.

Sustainability is simply another reflection of your environment, the tell-all of what’s going on under the surface for you. Clutter everywhere? A garage packed to the brim with stuff that goes unused and has mostly been forgotten? It speaks volumes about what it is you value.

Take one tiny step today. Then take another tomorrow. You can create a better, lighter life – and it can be this simple.

P.S. If you like the idea of taking tiny steps to improve your life, you might enjoy #tinychallenges, a free 30-day series of self-care-centric prompts to help you get those tiny wins that edge you towards the life you want.

What a strong woman really wants

Let me level with you from the start. I am not a relationship expert. In fact, I have previously been an expert in exactly what not to do in a relationship.

I’ve accepted being treated poorly, like I wasn’t valuable or worthy of consideration. I’ve spent too much time trying to make thing works at any personal cost, trying to patch up things that were beyond repair, and trying to figure what was wrong with me.

If you’ve been reading my work recently, you know that isn’t the case anymore. My entire life has changed – and nothing more so than my love life. Recently, a friend’s partner reached out to me for advice because his lady is unhappy, and for many of the same reasons I was. So I’m going to put this out there for men who have found themselves with a strong woman, so you at least have an inkling of what it is she wants.

I’m pretty fresh out of a relationship that crashed and burned for a lot of reasons. But the main reason I ended it?

I didn’t get the kind of support I needed. And not only that, but I didn’t think I would ever get that kind of support that I so. desperately. wanted.

Surprised? Well, I can’t say I’m shocked.

This isn’t the 1950’s, right? I don’t need a man for financial support. I am capable. I am strong.

From your perspective, it probably looks like I’ve got everything handled over here, and well, that’s because I do. I’m a single mother of two with a successful business, living in a beautiful place in the city. Cue up the Beyonce, because this independent woman has it together on her own terms.

And I love it. I love knowing my life is this way because I made it that way. From the apartment to new friends to how my business works, these choices are entirely mine, and that makes me feel powerful.

Along with this new found empowerment, another choice I’ve made is to embrace transparency. I’m not talking about “blunt honesty” which is just an excuse for airing opinions without kindness. I have chosen transparency because I want all of the parts of my life to fit together without me having to make excuses or allowances for them. I want my life to be a clear representation of what it is I say I stand for.

With no room for excuses and nowhere to hide from the consequences of my actions, I’m continually putting myself in a position that forces me to stay honest. There’s no barrier, no walls left there to protect me. And that leaves me very vulnerable.

And guess what? That’s what I want from you. I want you to be just as vulnerable as I am.

Vulnerability isn’t always pretty. Staying open means you’re just as likely to feel pain as you are love. And that is terrifying, especially as you try to maintain it over a progressively longer period of time. You get deeper into a relationship, you feel things more deeply. That’s just the territory you end up in, and the only way out of it is by backing off or moving through it.

But sometimes, even with the chance to step away, scream your head off in a car, and pound your fists against the dashboard, you’ll still experience an evening that leaves you raw and crumbling. No matter how irrational the fear, no matter how obvious the insecurity, there you are, cursing yourself for letting this happen and trying to figure out what’s next.

But you know what’s next. Either you put up new walls and pretend it doesn’t hurt, or you stay open, feel what you’re feeling, and figure out how to move on to at least some marginal acceptance.

The deeper I get into this relationship I now find myself in, the more I have to confront triggers, demons, and all of the baggage I’ve been carrying around for a very long time. I don’t want the frustrating, selfish feelings that come up – pangs of jealousy, fear of driving him away, the desire to possess him. I refuse to let those feelings define this relationship.

Finally, I think I understand Woody Allen’s quote, “To love is to suffer.”

It’s a strange thing to accept – at least in theory – whatever is going to happen is going to happen. Not long ago, I realized I had this deep-seated desire, this need, for a masculine counterpart. There’s a part of me missing without it. Acknowledging that need is difficult because it means there is in fact something outside of me that I can’t have without another person. It doesn’t get more vulnerable than knowing you want someone who might not end up wanting that, too.

And I feel that failing to incorporate someone like that into my life, I am missing something of incredible value.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not afraid of being alone anymore (because now I know there are much worse things). I am capable of being alone and living a good and fulfilling life that way. I enjoy my own company. I can take care of my needs.

And I know I would like to share a life with someone else. That I want to build a house and garden and build communities wherever I plant myself. That I might want more children. And more immediately, that I would only choose to be with someone I felt there was a chance I could share that with.

Given all that, I have to accept that if this ends, it will hurt worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. And yet, here I am, willing to be destroyed for a chance at the Real Thing.

Let’s be real.

I’m a big tough girl. I’ve got it covered. I have things handled.

And guess what?

I love it when I don’t have to. I love knowing that if I need to step out for a minute, you’ve got this. I appreciate when you plan things so I don’t need to. Sometimes, I can’t hold it all together, and knowing you’ve got my back? I can’t tell you what that means to me.

Yeah, it’s important to me to know I can get things done, to know I can keep the ship afloat when things get rough. Chances are I became this way for a reason. Whether it’s my rough background or fucked up childhood or a history of people telling me I’d never make it out, knowing I’m independent is a part of me I won’t let go of. (Because I can’t.)

But let me tell you a secret. Can I tell you just how wonderful it is to think there exists this kind of relationship where I feel so held, so considered in the midst of everything else you’ve got going on? How amazing it is to know I can lean into you? To be in a relationship where I can feel strong and supported?

I became strong because I had to. Knowing I don’t have to be so strong around you? That is a gift.

The fact may be that I don’t need you.

But guess what? I want you. You get to stick around because I choose you. Just like every other aspect of my life that has undergone careful consideration, I am choosing to be with you.

And really, I think I’m stronger when I’m with you.

Things that I regret

Anyone who says they have no regrets probably isn’t being honest with themselves. Even if it is just in some small way, there is a situation you’ve been in where you wish you had done something differently. I have thought a lot about this recently, and I came with short list of things I regret.

Not getting help when I needed it.

Not leaving things I’m not enjoying sooner.

Not celebrating the victories.

Not volunteering.

Not letting myself relax.

Not taking the chance.

Not asking for what I wanted.

Not raising my hand.

Not telling someone exactly how I felt.

Notice any patterns here? My regrets have much less to do with what I’ve done than what I haven’t. I’ll have a thought, play it out in my head, get a little bit thrilled at the prospect, think about what it would take to accomplish, feel nervous at the thought of what the proverbial “They” might think, get scared, and back off.

I cannot tell you how often have I become overjoyed at the thought of a creative pursuit only to back away from it in fear of… what exactly? It’s not even a real thing to be afraid of. This invisible, nameless thing is continuously attempting to strangle my voice, my longing to create beautiful work that makes someone else feel like they matter. Because really, even if I do get a negative response to my work, so what? Critical feedback won’t kill me. I’m a sensitive snowflake, but I hold up to heat pretty well.

Ever so slowly, I am becoming more brave, but it is a constant struggle – to choose what’s hard now so I’m not oppressed by what’s harder later.

So when an idea hit me this past Tuesday while I was playing on the swings (it’s like my meditation), I decided not to just let it go. Brielle and I were making plans a couple of hours later over cocktails and inspired conversation, and the next day, we went for it and made this.

So first of all, thank you so much, Brielle. You are a dear friend, and I am thrilled we got to collaborate over our hopelessly romantic outlook on life. May your life ever be as delicious as a Nicholas Sparks novel.

And happy birthday, Daniel. I hope this removes all possible doubt about the effect you’ve had on me, my work, and my life.

And because we’re still working on the resolution, here’s what the whiteboard says:

Screenshot 2015-08-25 at 10.04.22 AM

Learning to date myself

(This is an excerpt from my next book Falling Madly. Get updates as they are published here.)

Six weeks into this adventure in somewhat solo city living, I’d begun to establish some local haunts. My absolute favorite is Serratto.

Their happy hour is incredible, and they serve the best cocktails in town. Generally, these expertly-crafted drinks get paired with a conical serving of twice-fried pomme frites with garlic aioli. Or maybe the tomato basil soup that is somehow magically vegan even though it’s the creamiest tomato soup you’ve ever tasted. Oh, and the ambiance!

I’m a girl who seriously values great atmosphere. Maybe it’s because I’m dramatic, and I like to surround myself with a certain mood before I dig in and write. Actually, that’s definitely it. But really, lighting can completely change how a place feels, and Serratto’s carefully curated environment is no exception.

You enter through two over-sized glass doors to a massive vase of flowers – think lilies and grass accents six feet tall – resting at the top of a short staircase before the hostess attired in a more casual version of a trend you think you saw in a magazine seats you. You follow her back past the bar to an open sea of blues, lightly-nautical-but-not-too-kitschy decor accented with wrought iron that look older than it possibly could be. She seats you at a thick wooden table framed on either side with antiqued cobalt blue chairs with wicker seats and leaves to rejoin the other offbeat but attractive waitstaff gathered around a bar, folding napkins over small talk and side glances.

Tiny acts of delightful debauchery take place in the grand room, full of tucked away corners. The wood floor is a witness to the steady stream of the feet of happy customers, content to bring in a book while they enjoy the lightness of a lemon drop stronger than anticipated. But the tipsiness merely enhances the experience.

Another day has gone ridiculously well, and I’m reveling in it. Another client engagement booked, meetings with new friends arranged, and now dressed up and out on a date with myself, things are looking very, very good.

And then there’s Daniel.

It’s only been a month since I started seeing him, and I’m in so deep already. It’s a little unnerving. This was not in the cards for me before. At least, I didn’t think so. But then he goes off saying things like how he thinks I’m fascinating. What’s strange is I believe him. Stranger still is how natural this feels. Nothing about it has been earth shattering, and that seems to be a part of why it is so remarkable. For someone in the throes of transition, I feel more peaceful than I have at any time in my life. I don’t know what that means yet.

There’s something about being with him that is so unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I wonder how much of it is biochemical. I decide I don’t care, and that I’m just going to ride it out as long as I possibly can.

God, how did this even happen? Somehow from being a trainwreck and miserable just a few months ago, I’ve completely transformed. Now I dance salsa and blues and write books and take business classes and make things and cook and have somehow become someone who sounds interesting. Like someone who might just be worth knowing.

Does thinking that makes me a narcissist? Maybe. I think it just makes me someone who is slowly learning how to follow their bliss.

A single white votive flickers on the table from the draft coming through the open doors. A table of silver-haired women at the table across from me celebrate a birthday, emanating a beauty and brilliance I hope one day I’ll have earned.

This is my normal.

Last weekend, I was hiking on the Oregon Coast with Daniel through light rain and muddy trails. For someone like me, it was perfect. I love the gray skies of the northwest, and enjoying it feels like I’m spiting the much-too-hot weather we’ve had all summer long.

Then somehow, I was inexplicably talked out of my pants. That is, I ended up in my underwear (which covered just enough skin to pretend they were swimsuit bottoms), waist deep in the freezing cold Pacific ocean while crabs sailed past my legs in the water. (Can’t lie, it was unnerving. The only place that damn water spider belongs is on my plate swimming in butter.) I screamed, laughed, and then we piled back into the car to hit up our post-hike ritual: eating as close to an entire pizza as we can manage. Ah, the things we do when we’re in love (and in desperate need of a carbo-load).

The next morning was a Monday, so I dove right into… cultivating the kinds of details that make a life worth living. After waking up to delicious sunshine on my bed, I pulled out the lipstick, lace top, and skinny jeans. I turned on jazz radio and made a french press of this Honduran roast I’m in love with right now, pulling out soft ciabatta bread from the night before and smothered it in blackberry preserves. Then I sat at my table and wrote for a few hours, did some business planning, and walked through the forest by my apartment.

And the best part of all of it?

This is a weekend like any other. This is my normal. I am so incredibly grateful for that. It took what felt like forever to retrain myself to enjoy the present moment and make it a little richer instead of jumping straight into the hustle.

But it wasn’t always like this.

It’s taken me over a year of intentionally looking at my life and figuring out what I wanted. And often, I found myself frustrated and overwhelmed because there was so much that I wanted to be different. I wanted to make big changes… and I had no idea where to start. So I didn’t. Things stayed more or less the same. I was miserable.

But in May of 2014, my best friend and I both hit the wall. We knew we had to get away. So we escaped up to a retreat in the mountains for two nights. Complete with hot-tubbing, prosecco, yoga, and endless giggles over how we felt like we were getting away with something, it was a great kick-off for a year that ended up being very much about taking tiny steps towards the lives we wanted.

As it turned out, the biggest thing that was missing from our lives was proper self-care. Being mothers, wives, business owners, etc. self-care wasn’t something we had time for.

We neglected ourselves, and our lives ended up neglecting us.

Fast forward to now? Well, you could say we’re a little better at it. You might even call us self-care queens.



The thing is that none of the things that we do to take care of ourselves are taking away from our families. These tiny acts of self-care help us fill back up, and in return, we can show up the way we want to in our relationships and our lives.

We wanted to give you something so what happened to us doesn’t have to happen to you. So we created #tinychallenges, a free 30-day self-care-centric series of prompts to get you back on the path to the life you want. 

Because sometimes? It turns out you don’t need a Big Life Change. You just need to take care of what matters – and that means you, too.

Coming to the table

I know I’ve got this whole strong, independent woman vibe going these days, but I’ve got a confession. This strong independent woman seriously loves homemaking and hospitality.

Not that those things are mutually exclusive, but I really love it. Down to the frequently-used Martha Stewart cookbook on my shelf, there isn’t much I enjoy more than entertaining and taking care of people. I love crafting lovely experiences by curating environments and making incredible food, cultivating all of these little domestic things into a place that fosters community.

That’s why in July, I decided to host my first cocktail party. It was going to be a celebration, a culmination of all of the things and people I value in one beautiful space. I invited every interesting person I could think of who was near Portland, planned some incredible appetizers, pulled out my favorite little black dress, and even made a fool-proof plan to have everyone out by ten – and down at my favorite karaoke haunt down the street. (I’m an extrovert, but frankly, I have my limits and almost always prefer smaller, more intimate groups.)

Leading up to the party, I was totally prepared. Except for one little thing. I had no table.

I was hosting the party later in the evening, and I’d put off buying one… well, since I moved… in April. I just ate at my desk and called it good until I found the right one. Sigh. I know, I know. I know better, but it just didn’t feel like a priority. But with 20+ guests expected, there was no way I’d have enough counter space without one to have a bar, an appetizer station, and a space for dessert. So the table hunt began.

I’m fairly picky about what I bring into my space these days, doing my best to prime my space for creativity and ease, and there is something about tables in general that makes me even more so.

Maybe it’s that tables are where we come together. Historically, there has always been a significance to sharing a meal together, and that still is visible in some of our modern traditions, especially around dating and more formal decision making.

As a former barista and cafe owner, tables get an awful lot of consideration. The importance of this idea of coming to the table is at the heart of why they caught on first in Mecca then in parts of Europe as centers for debates and salons. These were houses for discussion, for connection, and that legacy is crucial to understanding the continued prominence of the cafe.

Cultivating beautiful, intimate spaces for people to connect with one another in is an art form in and of itself. Careful thought must be given to lighting, to seating, to what belongs on the table from dishes to food to flowers and the reasons why those tiny decisions all support each other. Although I’ve never considered myself detail-oriented, it is these small factors that add to a greater atmosphere one can truly relax into. The value of truly great ambiance cannot be overstated. It effects how we feel in such a way that it can shift everything, thus the careful attention to what (and who) enters my apartment.

A desire to create that kind of ambiance influences my writing. When I write, I want to create intimacy, an opportunity for personal connection forged over a perfectly-brewed cup of coffee – and I think that’s what others are longing for, too. So I continue on, trying to take everyday events and crack them open to reveal the beautiful moments hidden inside of them.

It influences my relationships. Inviting people into my space to share that is a small way I can show hospitality, and at the heart of that, it’s a way to show that I care about how you experience life when you’re with me. This longing to share these precious moments with those I most love seems to only increase as I get older, softer. It is odd to think about how much I have softened over the years, and how much work there is left to do there. But at my core, there is nothing more important to me than nurturing relationships, connecting deeply with those I love and those I could. For me, showing love may happen in a grand gesture of romance (can’t resist writing love poems), but the way I’m much more likely to demonstrate I care will be smaller, more subtle.

It’s making breakfast while visiting a dear friend, being able to share the ease of a long, lazy morning over Dungeness crab omelettes and blueberry pancakes.

It’s waking up seeing a lover dressed in sunlight on my bed, rejoicing in the sweetness of it, and then starting a french press to continue to share in the warmth of the morning.

I long to commit these tiny acts of love, artful and domestic. I want to dig into the daily romance of living, because it is so lovely and intoxicating, how could I not? The warmth and familiarity created in these moments is too much not to adore.


So I come to the table – and I bring others with me. Much of what I’ve been up to for the past month has been just that, dedicating myself to pursuing deeper relationships as wholeheartedly and openly as I can in simple, meaningful ways. Because if this isn’t the point, what is?

That fateful day of the party, the right one finally came along. Found at a locally-owned thrift shop, it came to me at the exact right moment. My best friend, Nina, and I sauntered down the street and found it – the perfect-fit size and shape for my apartment with a worn-in Anthropologie-esque feel to it in a cracked, pale hue of yellow.

And in case you were wondering, yes, the party was fantastic.

P.S. If you want to bring the intimacy that is coming to the table to your brand, I have a *very* limited number of bookings remaining through December. Click here to learn more about what working with me is like.

Cultivating secrets

I’m back from my first real, planned vacation ever. (When did my life get so good?)

I went glamping for three nights (which was incredible and everything it’s cracked up to be), and as soon as I got back, it was WDS weekend. I thought a few days of relaxing in the forest would put me in the perfect headspace to come back and rock the many social gatherings planned that weekend, but it was a shockingly rough transition.

Don’t get me wrong – this was an amazing week. I got to spend most of it with all of my favorite people, my best friend came and stayed with me, the gatherings I went to were delightful, and it all culminated in one of the best nights out singing karaoke I’ve ever had.

But I’ve come to appreciate and really enjoy these weekends where I’m disconnected. My time gets spent reading and writing and hiking and loving on the people I’m with. It’s exactly what I want. Really, the more I get off the internet, the more I realize how exhausted I get when I’m constantly plugged in. This morning, I went to write about the past week, and the thought crossed my mind that I don’t want to.

And that is very, very odd for me. And I don’t really know what that means. But I don’t want to write about these most intimate details just yet. I want to savor and cherish them. These are for me.

Given of all this, I’m going to take the rest of July to recuperate, complete some client work, finish my next free e-course – Take Center Stage, and refine my book proposal. I’ll start blogging again in August, most likely.

If you’d like to stay in touch, you can follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

If you’d like to work with me, I’m now booking for Fall 2015. Email me at Dusti.Arab@gmail.com, tell me about your project, and I’ll be in touch.

And if you’d like the new e-course once it’s done, sign-up here.

See you in August.

8 Lessons I Learned Busking as a Disney Princess

Last summer, I started a princess party company. It was fun and picking up steam fast, but in February, I was going through so many other things (and had a full time job), so I gave the company to my business partner. It was definitely the right call to let it go (HAH), but lately, I have been missing just glitzing up and going out.

So I decided to pick up a new Elsa costume and go busking. Because why not? I get a performing fix, kids get to see their favorite character, and hey, I can pay for more costumes this way. (Working on a 7 of 9 get up for September!)

Busking is quite a bit different than going to a planned, structured children’s party, though. Here’s a few lessons I’ve learned.

1. People are, in fact, usually good.

I was surprised by who would approach me in costume. Some kids, some adults, some randos who didn’t want a photo. Mostly older people who seemed to just appreciate I was something beautiful.

2. Having an established character simplifies a lot.

Most people aren’t trying to figure me and my shtick out. I’m a somewhat known quantity which makes me safer to approach for most people.

3. It’s as good for me as it is for them.

Walking up to the corner I’d chosen, I felt a few nerves, but the big, goofy smile on my face was genuine. Standing up there greeting strangers, I was vulnerable. I could be rejected. I was rejected often. Because I was – I am – out of the ordinary, I make people uncomfortable.

4. So many connections = so much exhaustion.

Even as an extrovert in flats, experiencing so many moments of connection so rapidly was surprisingly exhausting. 70 minutes of busking on a Tuesday evening and $40 later (Woo! My costume will pay for itself in no time!), I was having trouble balancing on my box. Just a smile, wave, and “Good evening!” performed 100 times is an experiment in energy management.

5. Eat/drink right before you go.

This should have gone without saying, considering how many children’s parties I’ve done. During my princess party days, I might as well have been carrying around a “Powered by Starbucks” sign with as many Frappuccinos as I chugged to stay continually Disney-levels of perky.

6. A fork will pull money out of that vase you thought was such a good idea.


7. By simply being, I am a challenge.

There were quite a few people who looked openly disturbed when I attempted to engage them. I’d make eye contact, smile, and bow to them, and they’d quickly look away and walk faster. My demeanor scared them. My openness challenged them to interact with me, to remove themselves from their reality for a moment to be fully present. If you’re not used to that, it can be a terrifying prospect.

8. I need more of a challenge.

I didn’t expect the whole experience of busking to be so… easy. Don’t get me wrong. Boldness is a second language for me, but the idea of jut standing on a corner and drawing the attention of hundreds of strangers? Even I balk at that. That said, I’ve spent a lot of time as Elsa, and it felt remarkably comfortable. I want more of an opportunity for vulnerability than that.

Who knows what character I’ll play next?

P.S. I made this video for a friend’s kiddo. If you’d like one, drop me a line. I love this shit.