Millenials Pursuing their Dreams: Stay at Home Mom Returns to Competitive Gymnastics

  • Today we are getting to know Monica, mom to two little cuties who is a fitness coach and gymnast.

    Describe what it is that you are doing.


    When did you first become interested in gymnastics?

    I have been a die hard fan of the sport since I was very young, 4 or 5 years old. I tried to mimic the girls I saw on t.v.; and got quite daring with my acrobatics within the home. In an attempt to help me stay safe, my parents signed me up for classes when I turned 7 years old.

    What inspired you to pick it back up again?

    I felt encouraged by the strength and flexibility I was able to regain from a workout program I used after I gave birth to my 2nd little boy. Initially I just wanted to loose baby weight, but the effectiveness of the program and the excellent nutrition it encouraged me to use made me feel so good that I felt up to playing around with basic acrobatic skills in my living room while playing around with my boys. Once again I became more daring with the skills I was trying, and outgrew my home gym. A local gym offered adult gymnastics classes, and I thought I’d go in just to play around. I had no intention of taking more than a few classes as my primary job is always taking care of my family. However, the gym offered me a job working there, and I was able to take advantage of the employee benefits. God seemed to be opening doors for me.

    How do you make the logistics work with being a stay at home mom? What does a typical day look like for you?

    It’s a lot less complicated than I imagined it would be. And in all honestly, I think the fact that I have “less time” encourages me to really make the most of what I am blessed with.

    My gym time is my “fun time”. I practice skill training 4 hours a week at the gym; all the exercise that I can do at home, I do it before my family wakes up, in the afternoon when my kids are taking a nap, or occasionally when Josh is able to watch them for me. Josh is very generous with helping me, but I do my best to not interfere with his schedule and personal goals.

    On a typical day, I get up at 4:00am to work out for 1 1/2 2 hours. I have two programs that I’m using right now (The Master’s Hammer & Chisel as well as the 21 Day Fix Extreme); I do my best to be done with my workout by 6am. It gets a lot harder to fit it in (especially effectively) once the boys wake up. 6-8am If the boys are awake, I spend time relaxing with them, getting them breakfast, or just playing. I have to divorce myself from work related activities before they wake up in order to set the tone for the day. If they’re not awake yet, I try to spend time in prayer and personal development.  After playing with my kids and engaging with them in a variety of activities, I head out from 3-8pm to work out/work at the gym.

     What were any fears or concerns that held you back from pursuing your dream for a time?

    I had a lot of concerns about rejoining the sport in any serious manner… a lot of which involved taking good care of my family. I never wanted to place them 2nd in favor of pursuing pursuits/goals of my own. I’ve found the opposite to be true: pursuing my passion makes me a better wife and mother. It also encourages better communication and intimacy between myself and my spouse.

    It’s so different now that I’m an adult, there are some things that are more challenging, but a lot of what I’m doing is easier. My family is my greatest blessing. They are what drive and motivate my goals. When your “why” is strong, your drive is strong, and your goals are strong. As a kid, I just wanted to be really good because I wanted to go to the Olympics. Now, my focus is entirely internal. I want to be the best person I can be so my kids can have someone to look up to and model future women on. The gymnastics is a by product of my internal drive to be the best version of myself for my family, and ultimately a light to the rest of the world.

    Josh’s support was really important to me, and I’ve been blessed to have his love and encouragement with gymnastics. He enjoys seeing me be able to do what I love because it makes me happy. Because it has made me more joyful, my life has become more blessed, and more opportunities keep opening themselves up for us.

    What are some of your proudest accomplishments?

    If you asked me this question 10 years ago, I would’ve responded something like “Being State Champ on Beam 3 years in a row” or “Winning 2nd on Bars at Nationals”, but now nothing gives me more joy than just being near my children. They are thrilled and excited for me. They love to workout with me and talk about being “helfee” and “stwong”. I love this more than anything. Even if they’re only talking about it right now, talking about things helps create a healthy mindset for the future.

    If I can help provide a strong healthy example for how to take care of their body and how to love themselves now, I believe they will come out with real, virtuous self-love. The kind that allows them to honestly love others and lead with humility, respect, firmness, and strength. This kind of leadership is always in demand. And I can’t think of any calling/vocation that doesn’t demand these qualities. With all the narcissism and self-loathing present in most leadership today, I can only hope that I am able to help them set a new tone for the future with my own example today.

    What does success look like to you?

    I love a good win. I can’t lie. I love the material assurance, and verbal human affirmation that I’ve worked hard and done the right things to get to my goals. It feels good. Through my years involved in gymnastics and other sports though, I’ve learned that often these things aren’t great indicators of true success. Team work is success. Working with my spouse toward specific goals is success. Peace with my family is success. Loving my children and providing a good example for them is success. Good character is success. The things of this world fade quickly,

    What advice do you have for people who are considering making some change to pursue their dreams/ goals?

    Be patient with yourself. You are human and you will fail a lot if you want to succeed. Consistency is so key. More importantly, never stop praying about the decisions you make. Being open to the grace of God isn’t a dramatic one time occurrence, but a constant, ever-changing one. Most people don’t get struck by lightning like St. Paul.

    Be focused on your goals, but also be open to the fact that the direction of your goals can change too. Your approach/attitude toward this truth is often the determining factor in whether you will be at peace/happy in pursuing your dreams, or you are anxious/worried/unhappy while pursuing them.

    Thank you so much, Monica!  It was great to hear from you!  

    If you want to see what Monica is up to, including videos of her flipping around check out her facebook page .  It blows my mind on a regular basis, and provides tips for living a healthy lifestyle.

    Do you include a fitness element to your schedule?  What are your favorite ways to stay active?


Millenials Pursuing Their Dreams: Young Family Lives Abroad

Today we will be getting to know Stephanie.  Some of you might remember the Capsuled Style Series that she shared with us here a few months back.  Today she is here to talk about her family’s recent three-month stay in Italy.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Stephanie O’Keefe. I live out in a rural little no-stoplight town in Wisconsin with my husband of 4 years and our daughter and son who are 3.5 years and 19 months respectively. My passions, when grubby little hands aren’t begging me to pick them up, include baking, fitness, planning trips with our family, and listening to audio books.

When did you first become interested in traveling?

I would have to credit my initial interest in traveling to my Aunt Cindy. As a high school graduation gift, she took me to visit our extended family in Italy. Those two weeks in Italy had a profound impact on my life, especially as a teenager who was still incredibly self-conscious about herself. I was introduced to a new way of eating, socializing, and going about one’s daily life. After that trip I was already planning to go back once I finished college.

Why did you want to go live abroad when your kids were little instead of waiting till they were older?

There were many reasons for us wanting to bring our kids with us. My husband and I had talked about traveling as a family many times before we finally took the leap. We felt it would be disingenuous for us not to bring our kids. We wanted to know what it would be like to live in Italy not what it would be like to be tourists. That meant bringing our kids and risking the chance of not seeing as many museums or great sights as we might have. But the beauty of that decision was that our kids enabled us to have so many unique and funny interactions with people that probably would not have occurred if we had left them behind. Italians love to ooh and aww over children. I suppose we also wanted to take our kids to see how hard it would actually be to travel with them and if it is the kind of thing we could do more regularly.

How did you make the logistics work (with your husband’s job, traveling with little ones, etc)? My husband is the business manager for a website, so all of his work is done remotely. All his meetings are in Google hangouts and he could use WhatsApp for phone calls. The biggest difficulties were when he had meetings that were in the afternoon (in American time) or if our internet started acting up. Luckily, there was a cafe down the street with excellent internet. Overall he managed it very well and never had major difficulties. I should also mention that we had a home base in Lucca (a little city near Pisa). From there we did side trips on the weekends. That made it cheaper to do more traveling and easier for my husband to do work during the week.

As for traveling with children, that part was much easier than I thought it would be. Sure, we had a couple temper tantrums during our long plane flights and one of my kids gets car sick, but children are more capable of learning to adapt to situations than we tend to think.

What were any fears or concerns that held you back for a time?

Ordering things at the local market always made me nervous. Not many people spoke English fluently in the city we were in, especially at the market where all the locals shopped. Although I had done two courses of Italian using Pimsleur, I was always afraid of embarrassing myself and making a mistake. I almost always mixed up the word for peach and fish. I got some funny looks, but for the most part, everyone was kind and oftentimes didn’t even know I was American. I was also afraid of using public transportation with the kids. It was a new experience for them and for me using something other than a car to travel, and I wasn’t sure how well the kids would do being on a train or a bus (or a boat) for an hour or more. Despite a memorable messy episode in which my daughter got sick on my husband during a bus ride, they behaved incredibly well.

What was the best part of your experience?

This is such a hard thing to pin down into a few typed-up words. My husband and I agreed that the most memorable and meaningful part of our trip was the week we spent on the Amalfi Coast. We rented a beach house through AirBnB. The house had an incredible view of the coastline. We would wake up in the morning, make our coffee, and sit on the patio to watch the sunrise, cars snake up and down the steep cliffs, and boats make foamy paths through the water. It was that week in Amalfi when we determined that it was important for us to live somewhere beautiful and that we wanted to ultimately live in my husband’s parents’ house out in the country. Previously we had told them we wanted to live somewhere else so we could have a bigger home. But that is much less important to us now.

What have you found the most difficult parts of traveling/living abroad?

At one point during our Italy trip, my husband asked me to plan a side trip to Venice I think or maybe it was one of the Cinque Terre towns. Anyways, I became very flustered because I felt like he was so much better at planning and coordinating trips than me. After much discussion, I realized that I lacked the confidence to lead our family on trips and felt anxious about making mistakes, figuring things our the hard way, and sometimes ending up in unpredictable situations. Being willing to make those mistakes not only gave us some of our most memorable days but was a huge growth experience for me.

Would you do it again?

Yup! We are already planning our trip to Ireland next year.

What advice do you have for people who are considering making some change to pursue their dreams/ goals?

Pray. Talk to your spouse. And then pray some more. Also, know that if it’s not worth doing now then it’s probably not worth doing in 20 years.

Thanks so much Stephanie!  Man, now I really want to pack the kids up and head over to Italy.

Be sure to check out Stephanie and her husband’s blog where they chronicled their travels abroad at 

Do any of you have a dream of world travel?  Where are you itching to go?  Any awesome places that you have already been?  Tell me all about it!

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Millennials Pursuing Their Dreams- Suburban Dad becomes Published Author

Today we are chatting with author B. B. Gallagher, on discovering and pursuing his passion for writing..  I recently raced through his book ARK 13 in less than a day, it was quite the page turner. 

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Well I’m BAuthor Image.B. Gallagher, father of two, husband of one. I am a data nerd by day and an author by night. I’m 28 years old, I live in small town North Carolina. I have two masters degrees, a lot of student loan debt and terrible dance moves. I like playing with my kids and having a glass of wine with my wife as we watch some trashy reality TV show.

I’m most known for my first novella, Ark-13 (now available on Amazon, Kindle and Audible). I am also a Wattpad Featured Author. The main project I have been working on for the last four years is a spy thriller series.  It will release on Amazon, Kindle and Audible on September 11th.

When did you first become interested in writing?

I really started writing stories in middle school. I must have been 13 when I wrote my first screenplay. It was awful. It was an overly dramatic, depressing indie movie called Hickory Lane that followed a really dysfunctional family.

I think I first got interested in writing through film. I was a film geek growing up. I watched all the artsy movies. I loved movies with a twist ending like Usual Suspects, Fight Club or anything M Night Shyamalan directed.  I knew I wanted to bring that shock and awe feeling to people.

It was too hard to buy a camera and start directing stuff so I began writing. I quickly found out that it was writing that I loved.

Between your day job and family time with your wife and kids, how do you find time to write?

This is something I am trying to change right now actually. I had an unhealthy habit of staying up really late writing. One time I got on a roll and literally wrote through the night.

This is not the most conducive lifestyle for a suburban dad, so I’m trying to reverse the clock. I’m now waking up at 5 AM and going to work out. After that I have about an hour and half to two hours every morning to write. I am trying to do this every day, no matter the day. A lot of the big authors out there do this.

When people ask me, ‘how do you have time to write all of this?’ My usual answer is that I write in the car on my commute. I just don’t write anything down. I plot out the stories and brainstorm ALOT. I wrote the riddles in Project Apollo during Eucharistic adoration. I don’t know if they were divinely inspired or not, but at least the quiet helped.

If you have a passion for something you will make time. If you don’t make time, you honestly don’t love it enough. As I’m getting more popular and I’m seeing being an author as a potential full-time career, I am trying to become more disciplined and habituate myself to a routine so that I don’t lose sight of what’s most important – my family.

Ok, quick interruption, love the name Xander, but I am a little biased since that’s what we call our son Alexander.  Anyway, what were any fears or concerns that held you back from pursuing your dream for a time?

This is a very good question – one that people have to ask themselves.

I would say that the fear of rejection and criticism hung me up for a while. I remember one day for some reason I said ‘screw it’ and I sent Project Sparta to my older brother to read.  I knew he would tell me straight. He’s also a publisher of Catholic books so he knows what’s marketable and not.

I remember clear as day we met for dinner and 1519273355he took the first page out and asked for my autograph. He told me it would be worth something one day.

Most people would say, “he’s your brother of course he’s going to love it.” I would answer, “you haven’t met my brother.” I think it’s very important to surround yourself with honest people that you know are honest. It keeps you real and grounded. Those people who go on American Idol and belt out the flattest notes you’ve ever heard never had honest feedback.

What are some of your proudest accomplishments?

I’ll give you three.

  1. I ran a freeark-13-cover-front ebook promotion over five days that garnered 5,000 downloads. My book was #1 in free ebooks for Post Apocalyptic fiction. It was #46 in free ebooks on all of Amazon in five days. If you don’t know Amazon has literally millions and millions of free ebooks. So that was pretty amazing.
  1. I got offered a publishing contract. It was an indie firm out of Texas. I appreciated the offer but I turned it down for a number of reasons. But now I’m only a self-published author by choice.
  1. My mom read the end of one of my books and she called me crying. It wasn’t because she was proud of her little boy, it was because a character died and she was attached. I still have the voicemail saved on my phone in case I need encouragement.

What have you found the most difficult aspect of pursuing your dream?

The most difficult aspect of pursuing my dream is to get people to read a book. My friends aren’t book worms (well Steven is). My brothers, parents and wife aren’t book worms. People would rather binge watch Netflix these days than read a series of books.

A million books are published every year. So how do I get someone to read mine? It’s hard to ask people to read your book because its self-promoting and you are asking for an investment of their time.

Secondly, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. But I have to work to support my family and that’s more important. So I guess you could say ‘Life gets in the way.’

What does success as a writer look like to you?

Success is finding fulfillment in your work and fulfilling other’s with your work.

That requires a few things. 1) Fulfillment – if you ain’t writing about something good, you are writing about something bad. You want to make the world a better place and spread noble ideas.

2) Others – Success for me is a following of fans. This is where Wattpad has been tremendously helpful. I have fans in India and Zambia and countries I’ve never heard of. One guy said he read Project Sparta ten times.

3) Work – work is good, sometimes it sucks but no one feels personal fulfillment for being lazy. I heard a quote that has always stuck with me. Success is not owned, it’s leased and rent is due every day.

I love that idea about success being about fulfillment.  What advice do you have for people who are considering making some change to pursue their dreams/ goals?

Follow your dreams but don’t forget reality. I get so angry with people who are starving artists. You know the type. They’re the ones who put their own muse and self-indulgence before everything and everyone else. Don’t be that guy. He’s starving because he’s a moron, not because he just hasn’t been discovered yet.

As it relates to writing, don’t try to write the next great American novel. Be yourself and I promise you that it will be a better novel. You have to be honest. Being a writer or an artist or anything is about wearing hats, not wearing masks.

You have to be yourself.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, B.B. if you would like to connect with B.B. Gallagher and learn more about all of his projects, check out his facebook page and his Good Reads page.

Heads up!  His latest book Project Sparta comes out on September 11th and can be pre-ordered from Amazon.

How about you?  Do you have any dreams of pursuing writing, or a different creative process?  Any tips to share with the rest of us?

Pursuing Your Dreams: Finding What Makes You Come Alive

There is an age old struggle between dreams and reality, aspirations and illusions.

We all ask school children, “What do you want to do as an adult?” When the child is young, honest answers that reflect their interests and passions draw smiles and enthusiasm.  Bold dreams of changing the world are encouraged.   As the child ages, he is told the hard “truth” by well meaning adults:  passions must give way to practicality, dreams must yield to the necessity of a secure 9-5 job with benefits.

But what if there was another way?  What if there was a way to live your dreams and to offer something of value to the world in doing so?


Someone who is doing what makes them come alive will throw their whole being into it.  It won’t be a job at which they punch a time clock, it will be a mission.

Of course, practical necessities must be met.  I am not advocating that people become martyrs for their cause, or starving artists.  Circumstances may prohibit one from earning their livelihood by doing what they are passionate about, but nothing is stopping them from pursuing it outside of business hours.

But all too often we make excuses, at least I know that I do.  “I don’t have enough time.”  “I can’t do that because I have kids.”  “I am just too tired.”  “I am too young/inexperienced.” “I don’t have enough money.” And you know, there is truth in all of these statements.

But perhaps if I examined my life more closely I would see things a bit differently.  Maybe I am right, that this isn’t the right season in life to undertake a new challenge.  Or perhaps the truth is that the time is as ripe as it will ever be, but I have not made the new undertaking a priority.   That is something I can change if I so desire.

This week I will be chatting with several individuals who are actively pursuing their dreams of being a published author, training as a competitive gymnast, traveling the world, and more.  All of them are striving to do what makes them come alive in different ways.  All of them are millennials.

Why the focus on millennials?  For starters I am a millennial, as are most of my readers.  But beyond that, I see members of my generation claiming their relative youth as a reason that can’t do X,Y, or Z.  I want to show examples of millennials who aren’t letting their youth get in the way, and instead are seizing the day amidst a variety of challenges, college debt, young kids, 9-5 jobs, etc.

On the flip side of the coin, so many take great delight in enumerating “everything that is wrong with young people today.”  Allegedly my generation is lazy, narcissistic, selfish, etc.  Well, I want to show counter examples of millennials who are hardworking, driven and generous.  Generations don’t come one size fits all.

Throughout the series, I will be sharing other articles and resources for those who are looking to turn their dreams into reality.

None of this is meant to cause feelings of guilt or anxiety, but rather to inspire and encourage.  Often discovering your true calling takes time and effort, but it is worth the investment of both.  It is a journey that should not be approached out of fear, but out of a desire to share your gifts with others.

I hope you can join us as we share these stories together.  I invite you to take a step back this week and reflect.  Are there any dreams that you wish to pursue?  What is holding you back?  Are there ways to work around any obstacles standing in your path?

Got any dreams you would like to share in the comment section?  I would love to hear them!


“What am I Going to Do!!!”- Coping with Prenatal Anxiety and Depression

Last year I was joined by several awesome bloggers to talk about maternal mental health together here at HalfKindled.  This year I am passing the torch on to Lydia at Flourish in Hope, today she is hosting a blog hop over at her site.  Be sure to check it out to read her story and others.  

Hope for the future.2


“Two lines.  There are two lines.  What am I going to do!?!”  And that, unfortunately, was my reaction to learning that I was pregnant with my third child.

In the weeks leading up to that moment, my husband and I both noticed a dramatic increase in my anxiety and depression, but couldn’t determine a cause.  The anxiety had grown so strong that I had developed a muscular “tic.”  Now I knew why: I was pregnant.

Pregnancy is supposed to be a time of joyful anticipation but, for those who experience pre-natal depression and anxiety, it can be a time of anguish where the pregnancy hormones wreak havoc on one’s mental state.  Unfortunately, we had discovered during my pregnancy with my daughter that this is what happens to me,

That night in my journal I wrote: “Today I found out I am pregnant.  I see no answers.  I have no hope for any sort of positive resolution for a long time.  I could cope with the exhaustion, nausea, migraines, months of Braxton hicks, restless legs, insomnia and then labor and delivery, but I can’t deal with the thought of the never ending waves of anxiety and depression that are going to beat me against the rocks mercilessly for the next . . . I don’t know when I can expect a reprieve.  Each episode leaves scars on my brain leaving me more susceptible to worse panic attacks.  I see no escape.”

Mostly, I was desperate to escape my constant internal barrage telling me everything I was doing was wrong and what a horrible person I was.  I particularly remember standing over the kitchen sink sobbing as I told myself if I really loved my baby I would give him away since he would be better off without me in his life.  I worried that I would never be able to show him love because of my depression.

So intense were my feelings of failure and of being trapped that I began to fantasize about any option, even bad ones, that could provide escape.

When crossing the street, I would sometimes wish that the breaks on the oncoming car would fail; I would die and it wouldn’t be my fault.  Later on in pregnancy I would fantasize about seriously hemorrhaging in labor, imagining that the baby would be OK, and I would either die or have an emergency hysterectomy and at least be free from childbearing, if not from life.   I was apathetic about whether my life would be saved or lost.  I just wanted a “guilt free” way out.

Then the situation took a turn for the worse.  Instead of just hoping an accident would kill me, it took all my will power to stay between the lines while driving.  Every day I experienced desires to kill myself.

Even though things had reached such a horrible state, I was terrified to go on medicine.  I was so scared of it hurting my baby or causing me to become psychotic.  I knew I couldn’t go on as I was.

My intervention came from my midwife.  When she saw how bad things had become she advised me to see a psychiatrist.  She took the responsibility for making that decision for me so that I wouldn’t be plagued by the guilt and fear of doing something wrong. I am incredibly grateful for that.

The psychiatrist put me on a low dose of Celexa (10mg) to start.  It took all of my strength to put that pill in my mouth.  The first few days were awful as my body acclimated to the medicine, but after a few weeks the symptoms went away.  Gradually, I started to feel better.  I didn’t want to kill myself anymore, I experienced fewer panic attacks.  The depression and anxiety were still there, but it felt like something was helping me hold it in check.  Life was still very difficult, but I no longer wanted to die.

Once my son Alexander was born, the anxiety and depression was GREATLY reduced, even within the first 24 hours.  I was able to feel joy holding my baby and showering him with kisses.  I was able to start laughing and smiling again.  Contrary to my fears, I loved my baby wholeheartedly and was even able to enjoy the postpartum period.

Now when I am having a rough time, he is one of the people who most cheers me up.  His smile is infectious.  As I write this, he is playing with his sister and keeps looking up and flashing me the biggest grin.  He helps to heal me and it is a true joy to be his mother.

Are you or someone you know struggling with prenatal depression and/or anxiety?  Here are some things I have learned the hard way that are a big help:

  1.  Get help.  And then keep getting help.  Too often mothers feel like they should be able to manage on their own and don’t want to burden others by asking for help.  Asking for help is humbling, but it is probably the most important part of managing depression/anxiety.  Get professional help from a counselor and/or psychiatrist, get support from family and friends.  Figure out what it is that you need and then find a way to have that need filled. In my case I went to a counselor, and when counselling wasn’t enough I went to a psychiatrist.  At home my husband helped out a lot, but when things got to be more than I could handle while he was at work, the kids and I went and stayed with my parents for a week.  Do whatever works to get your needs met.
  2.  Don’t isolate yourself.  Nobody wants to have others see them at their worst.  When depression hits, people often keep to themselves, but the isolation usually makes the depression worse.  Instead, try reaching out to close friends more when you are feeling depressed.
  3.  Remind yourself that “this too shall pass.”  What you are going through is hard, give yourself permission to acknowledge the difficulty of your situation, but recognize that it won’t be like this forever.

Take each day a moment at a time, and remember that someday you will look back and be so grateful that you didn’t give up.

Linking up with Flourish in Hope, Lydia has so many great resources for those suffering with PPD, be sure to check it out!