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Beauty Is…Etched on her soul

Our amazing intern this summer, Lauren, just went on a trip to Haiti + we wanted to give her a space to share her experience!  Get to know this lovely soul of a person!


Kat + Em

"Faces become etched in your mind, and smiles will be eternally inked upon your heart.

Adjusting to life back in the Silicon Valley has been hard, because though I enjoy the clean water and amenities that only the first world can provide, my spirit aches for the joy and happiness that I discovered in Haiti. The faces are what make my heart ache, because they are inked like tattoos. My mind races when I think of them, when I juxtapose my life to theirs. Our lives are so different, yet don’t we dream of the same things? Likki, Johnson, Malyka, and Jeuna…don’t they crave family, friendship, and love? Though we were together for such a short time, in retrospect their souls have touched mine. We are intimately connected, and forever their names and faces will be imprinted upon my heart and my soul.

I was busy in Haiti, yet the busyness is most likely what kept me going. I travelled with a team of 15, all relatively young adults from my church. We helped with construction projects, provided soccer clinics and played scrimmages, and did lots of arts n’ crafts with locals from the various villages around the town of Cabaret (40 minutes north of Port-au-Prince). We worked to make the lives of these people temporarily better, but truly it is them who made my life better.

Reality hits you hard when you’re on a humanitarian trip. Sometimes it’s your firsts that will stick with you. The first village we played soccer is forever engrained in my memory. Among the banana trees that lined the village were many blue Samaritan Purse-provided shacks. Mules and emaciated cows wandered nearby, which I laugh about because in the City we worry about pigeons and feral cats. The little children crowded around us without shoes, many clad in rags, and even wearing simply a shirt. Nonetheless, many of their faces beamed with huge smiles, and their eyes held a look that can only be described as playful and happy. That day all they wanted was to play, and play we did.

Engaging with the Haitian people, young and old, brought me tremendous joy and is a cherished gift, yet grappling with our juxtaposed lives makes my heart heavy. Here, I have been brought up comfortably with a multitude of amenities. But even more so, I have been encouraged and empowered to dream big; knowing that I CAN make my dreams a reality, my destiny is limitless. In Haiti, it feels as if there is nothing that can pluck them from their circumstances. As we walked through a tent city in Port-au-Prince, the helplessness and desperation of the impoverished, which is a majority of Haiti was powerfully evident. These images weigh heavy on me, because though they may dream big, the reality of their circumstances seems to crash down on them.

On one of our last days, as we gathered at the village down the hill from where we were staying to play soccer with the locals, God gave me a wonderful little gift. As I was taking in the beautiful scene of our team joyfully engaging with all the little children and the village’s soccer team, this little girl, around 2, in a pink dress came running towards me with hands stretched to the sky wanting to be played with and loved. Her smile and laugh were infectious and full delight. She was quite the little flirt- taking in the attention from just about everyone. Yet as we started to walk home I carried her peacefully in my arms, her head resting on my shoulder. I didn’t want to let her go, and I don’t think she did either. This little barefooted, girl was full of so much joy. As I set her down- God reminded me of my childhood- of all that I had at her age and all that I had ahead of me. I can only pray that this little gem can have the ability to dream beyond her wildest dreams. That she is nurtured, educated, and most importantly empowered as a woman to dream and pursue those dreams.

Forever she is etched on my heart, just as I hope that her dreams will stay forever imprinted on her soul.


Photos from Lauren + Sam Odio

Outfit | TravelWear


Every year my mom and her two sisters have a sister trip.  Rain or shine, no matter the schedule, the things that have to be shifted around the trip has happened 10 straight years.  

For years my sisters and I talked about what it would be like when we were grown ups and were old enough to take our own sisters trip!

Well last year was our inaugural trip.  Both Laura + Caroline visited me in LA, and we knew it was the start of a very long tradition.  This year was the trip of all trips (so far!)…we met in Paris for 8 days + then went to Ireland to visit our Aunt Ann.

This trip was a trip for the soul.  Yes yes yes…Paris was magical + I cannot wait to share my film pictures with y’all, and Ireland quieted my busy distracted soul.  It was grounding to be away from the hustle and bustle + be with (literally) my soul sisters.  We walked the gardens of Versailles having some of the most raw and beautiful conversations of our lives.  We sipped wine and played cards under the eiffel tower.  We got in fights, we laughed, we cried, we sat in silence over the Cliffs of Moher in Irelands, and together we became unified and just were.  God met us deeply in that space, and more than the crepes + beautiful sites I will remember the sweet moments with my precious sisters.

I cannot wait for next year’s adventurous sister trip!  My vote is Cinque Terre, Italy!


So yes these pics were taken on my iPhone by my amazing sister!  My fotostrap was perfect for my 35 mm film camera on this trip.  As for my outfit I found this dress at Zara in Paris + it has quickly become my new favorite dress + was perfect for traveling!  I paired it with converses during the trip, but it can easily be worn with wedges, or a blazer and pumps in the fall.

Yaaaa for versatility + yaaa for Zara being like soooo amazing in Paris!!






Oh ya…my sister surprised me with a Longchamp for my birthday while we were there!!! I’m a lucky lady!

Monochromatic Mondays | Blushing

There’s something so feminine about the color blush.  Growing up a tomboy I never wore pink, and it still isn’t a huge part of my wardrobe.  However, recently I have come to appreciate the calm, feminine ease with a beautiful blush.  Even adding touches of it throughout your wardrobe can make you feel just a bit more like a lady whether through solid colors or patterns!

This week is all about owning every ounce of our femininity + letting ourselves blush a little bit!



Weekly Round-up

Gosh this week has been filled with so much ladies.  Do you ever feel like you’re being beat over the head with something that you need to learn + you can’t escape it?  Like no matter what all over the place you’re hearing the same message?  Oooof has that ever been my week!  

Ladies + Gentleman here’s my message this week:  IT’S OK NOT TO HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER + IT’S OK TO LET MYSELF BE SEEN A MESS!  I want to be perfect, and I want people to like me, and and and…I can’t do it all.  

So coming into this beautiful Friday Weekly Round-up by our amazing intern Lauren I leave you with that:  Be ok not being perfect.  BE.

Now…Weekly Round-up!

Em knows how to rock a kimono (or two)!

And we were honored to have Nikia from Model Liberation on our Beauty Is.. series talking about accepting all of you!

Beach day this weekend? Make sure you have these essentials packed! 

Love this blush dress and lovely heels.

You know…we love white on white on white here at The Refined Woman!  Evidently so do other stylish gals on the inter web! And, what a great way to show off that tan- am I right?!

Putting this lovely number from Olivia Palerno on my wish-list.

Walls need a classy with a hint of prep update? How about some pretty art starting at $20?!

Love this fun N-E-O-N  DIY to add some summer color to your entryway.

Definitely taking inspiration from this beautiful dinner party!

I cannot handle how delicious this looks…my mouth is already watering.

Couldn’t agree more with this quote from dearest Audrey.

Aren’t these shorts darling? They’re a nice transition piece for fall paired with a sweater.

PS: Ladies! This weekend is the last of the Nordstrom Sale! #damagecontrol


Kat + Lauren

Beauty Is…Accepting Flaws


Nikia of Model Liberation is a force to be reckoned with.  She embodies femininity and balance, and her love for people and heart for those around her is so lovely to experience.  A few months ago we met before sunrise with my sweet hair + make-up friend Amy Clarke + we brought in the day with laughter, singing, and getting to know each other…oh ya + taking pictures!

Enjoy getting to know this lovely woman’s heart + soul!




A few weeks ago, I celebrated a birthday. Whenever this momentous time rolls around, I get a little sad. Not because I’m slowly losing my youth. That part doesn’t bother me. I’m looking forward to growing older and wiser, at least I hope that’s what happens. I think I get melancholy on my birthday because I’m still not where I want to be in accepting myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I love me. I love that freckled reflection I see in the mirror. I love the spirit I exude. What I don’t adore are the ugly insecurities I’m still battling from yesteryear. They never go away. Even now, my eyes are puffy from some horrible moments I had just last night. So I’m avoiding looking at myself because I won’t feel beautiful when I see the sad reality that is my swollen, red face.  
I go through rough patches every now and then. There are times when I look the same as the day before but my soul isn’t strong enough to convince me that I am just as beautiful as ever. It’s not like I have a huge zit or I’ve gained weight, but somehow no outfit looks right and no color of lipstick will brighten up my day.  You know what I mean, right? I feel like so many women experience this same thing and we can’t figure out exactly what’s the problem. 
For me, I guess I’m still hearing those voices that I did as a kid that said “you’re ugly” or “you look weird.” Growing up in the South didn’t make things easy for me. In that place, people are either black or white. I’m African American, but my skin is pretty fair and I have tons of freckles. I didn’t fit into whatever cookie-cutter definition others had of what it means to be black, so I was picked on because of it. Some of my peers treated me like I was an alien. No matter how much my mom told me I was pretty, I didn’t feel that way. I would curl up in her lap and cry whenever I had a bad day at school. Now that I’m an adult, I can’t run home to mommy. I’ve got to deal with things myself.
I know that there’s probably a good reason I was born with the features I have.  My spiritual upbringing tells me that God doesn’t make mistakes. If He created us in his image, then God has a face full of freckles. He already knows what I’ve been through and what’s in store for me. I hope it’s good. Scratch that… I know it’s awesome! I just have to make it through those birthdays and bad days. I’m only human, so of course things won’t always be rosy.  Appearing to be have all my ducks in a row is a burden I placed on myself. I have to learn to accept both the stronger me and the weaker me. By no means am I perfect, and I don’t have to be. I’ve got to learn to love me even when I’m flawed. I must find the beauty in my imperfections. That time is coming soon… I just got to have faith. 






All Photos by Me:  Kat Harris | Hair + Make-up:  Amy Clarke

OUTFIT | Kimono time

I sort of have a hard time calling this a kimono - probably because I lived in Japan for a while and this is not really a kimono at all.

But it’s not a robe is it? It’s kind of a robe.

I guess no matter what you call it it’s still pretty awesome. You know I’ve always been on board with sweatpants, and since I’ve had a baby my mantra for pretty much every new thing I buy is

1. It is comfortable?

2. Is it kind of like pajamas that I can wear in public?

If yes to both of those - buy in multiple colors. Repeat. 

Heck I even wore this to a wedding a few weeks ago. I think that maybe I could have managed to get myself into a dress - but I figure that since I was carrying around a 3 month old people would give me a free pass just this once. 

Don’t tell Kat though, I think she’d die if she saw me wearing this to a wedding. 







This tunic from Zara is on sale too!

xo, Em

Weekly Round-up


Can you believe it’s already the middle of JULY? I can’t! Even though fall styles are beginning to pop up, I’m soaking in all the summer I can get for just a bit longer.

Earlier this week, Kat shared her beautiful hope-filled, inspiring, and encouraging story with us on the blog and on Conscious Magazine.

Also have you seen Lara Casey’s adorable prints…be sure + check out her Beauty Is… article from last week! 

In the market for a summer maxi? Here are some great options! 

Love how Olivia mixed florals!…but let’s face it, we sorta just love everything about her!

Glam sandal + simple dress= majorly chic!

Peaches (one of my favorite fruits!) are showing up all over the farmer’s market- here’s a great way to put ‘em all to use! 

Can’t make it to Italy? Bring Italy to you! 

This signature drink sounds perfect for a day poolside. 

How great is this shirt-dress? And fun heels?! 

Let’s go to Ojai and bask in Marysia Swim bikinis…Please….what? leave tomorrow at noon?  Ok!!!


Lauren :)

Happy Birthday Kat!

To the woman who never stops dreaming and striving to be a better version of herself, but who is full of amazing grace too. You make me want to dream bigger and this blog would not be what it is without you. 

You are the peanut butter to my jelly, and I’m so glad you were born. You make my world a better place by being in it. 

You are beautiful and cherished. 




Beauty Is…Quiet

Every morning, I take a walk through a nearby retirement community with my daughter Grace. Bright and early, toaster waffle in hand for her, I push the stroller down our street toward our path. Sometimes I laugh at the chorus of birds that sings good morning to us — it’s almost surreal. Like a nature soundtrack. But, it is indeed very real and a reminder to be present and listen. The moment we cross over into Carolina Meadows, I take a big deep breath. It’s on this path, so familiar to us now, that we have met Beauty. 

Beauty has met us in the hearts of our silver-haired friends day after day, tickling Grace’s feet, telling us of their gardening adventures, and mostly, telling me to savor these moments. Life is fleeting. Youth fades. But, what remains is what matters: deep, meaningful connection. The moments we spend with these special friends each morning have added up to shared lives. Beauty speaks to us in these quiet voices that carry with them such rich stories and memories. 
Beauty is quiet because Beauty is not about us. It’s about sharing our lives with another. Beauty gives. Beauty encourages us to savor these moments.


Lara Casey

PS…Lara designs these awesome + inspiring prints + we’re giving one away on instagram today!  Check it out:)

[Years ago I met Lara Casey on the busy street corner of New York City during Bridal Market.  It was my first time ever to New York City + I was given the opportunity to photograph runway.  (That trip would later become a catalyst in my move to The Big Apple). In the brief moments that I spoke with Lara she radiated grace, warmth, dignity.

Little did I know at that moment that Lara’s journey would have a profound impact on my own journey.  Lara is editor of Southern Weddings Magazine (one of my favorite wedding publications) as well as founder of the amazing Making Things Happen.  Lara is a wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, business owner, and leads a life this simply put is…beautiful.  I’m so excited for you to get to know a bit of her journey now through Beauty Is…]



I Choose to Believe My Story Has Power

Photo Courtesy of Kallima Photography

This week Conscious Magazine published the below article I wrote about parts of my past.  My soul feels naked and exposed having these words out there for you and the world to read.  I have felt more vulnerable in the last few days than I have in a very long time, but what I want more than anything is for people to know that in brokenness there is HOPE.  God is good.  He is faithful, and his promises abundant.  If just one person can connect with my story, and be encouraged then I am grateful to have shared it!

Everyone has one, and it shapes who we are, what we think, and the way we interact with ourselves and the world around us.

Story has the opportunity to tear down or create.  Story has the power to change my life, your life, the world, and the generations after us.

I choose to believe that my journey has power.

I choose to believe that one person indeed has the power to impact generations.  What if we all got to the place where we believed our unique individual stories mattered so deeply that we collectively changed the world together?  Hand in hand united for the greater good.  A story is a spark, a small flame with the power to blaze an entire forrest…if we choose it to.

Freedom begets freedom.  Creativity begets creativity, and it all begins with a story.

Here is a bit of mine.

From the outside it looks like I grew up in upper middle class in Dallas Texas, one of six kids, made good grades, was captain of the Varsity tennis team, went to state, and later played on a full ride college scholarship, was involved in church, and had a ton of friends.  You could say that my life was pretty suburbia.  Sure my parents split when I was 10, and both remarried but that is seemingly pretty normal these days…right?

Yet, in between the lines of a storybook childhood there were moments, days, and years, riddled with fear, heartache, and brokenness in my heart and in and throughout my entire family.

What really was going on for the majority of my high school and college life was a life where my father abused alcohol and drugs.  My holidays were filled with broken promises, dad simply not showing up, or showing up under the influence.  Intervention after intervention and nothing would stick longer than a few months.  Memories upon memories of living with my dad in the summer and him disappearing for days at a time only to return home shirtless, shoeless, without a car or dime to his name.

Over and over again my heart was broken; it got to a point where it felt like such a bloody mess that I decided no one could come near.  I decided that my heart was not worth fighting for because if it was then my daddy would stop using.  If I was worth it, he would do whatever it took because he loved me, because he loved my sisters and brother.  But nothing I ever did was ever enough.

I tried finding my worth in grades, in sports, in boys, and later on men, and nothing quite answered my question:  am I worth it?  Am I beautiful?  Am I lovable?  Am I enough?

Near the end of my college career I mourned the death of my father.  Even though he was still alive he was light years away from living.  I watched him go from being a successful business man to a homeless man on the streets of Dallas who lost everything and everyone that was precious to him.  I lost all hope that he would ever be sober on this side of life.

Then something miraculous happened.

Over my senior year of college my Dad got sober. I could hardly believe the transformation that was taking place before my eyes.  He started calling me everyday to let me know he was sober, in a program, was living a life surrendered to God, and that he loved me.  This went on for months.  I begged him to stop calling, told him I did not want him in my life and that my heart could not handle another heart break.

But my father persisted nonetheless, and looking back I needed him to pursue me during that time.  My wounded heart needed to know my father loved me, and would do whatever it takes to restore a relationship with me and my brother and sisters.

And he did just that.

What seemed like an irreparable situation was repaired.
What seemed impossible was more than possible.
What was broken is now fixed.
What was death is now abundant life.

My dad is almost 8 years sober now, and has a redeemed and beautiful relationship with each of his children.  He is one of the greatest heroes of my life.

Through this immense pain in my family I have learned about hope, identity, value, redemption, forgiveness, and the reality that love is messy!

So much has transpired in my heart, in my family and throughout our lives over the last 8 years.  I have come to believe the message in my soul that I am to share with the world is that there is HOPE!   My question of worth has been answered:  I am enough, I am beautiful, I am worth the fight…and guess what:  so are YOU!

My message is for young women to know their value, and their unimaginable beauty and worth.  That I, we, as women are beautiful and of infinite value because of WHO we are not WHAT we are.

My vehicle for this message is photography and my lifestyle blog.  I am a voice to my family, to my community, to the world that love actually does win.  That beauty is more than skin deep.  I want to change the way we as a culture view beauty.  I want to see diverse women on the covers of magazines, I want to see young ladies chasing their dreams with reckless abandon.  I want my story to ignite fire inside the hearts of young people that your story, who you are, where you have been, where you are going matters!

We live in a world full of damage and heartache, but I believe that truth sets people free and story changes lives.  Take heart, and have hope for I believe nothing in this universe is so dark, so lost, so broken that it cannot be repaired.

We are a resilient creation, teaming with hope.  So go ahead…share your voice.  The world needs you.