My Heart Is In The Hills – Rodeo Roots & Being True To Your Home

When I sit down to plan my rodeo schedule each year, I’m blown away by how many amazing places I’ve been able to visit. I’ve crossed off the likes of Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Cheyenne, Denver and more.

But each June, there’s one rodeo that I never like to miss. It’s not iconic or well known, but it lit the spark in my heart for the western industry many years ago and will always hold a special place in my heart.

My mom grew up in a small river town called Bellevue – it’s one of the last places in the country where you can feel the Americana spirit everywhere from main street to the state park. It’s the kind of place that’s served your favorite ice cream flavor for 40 years, and the same person hands you the cone every time you visit.

The Jackson County Pro Rodeo is held just outside of town off a dirt road, and it’s a place that I’ll always hold dear to my heart. Following a dusty line of cars to a high point in the road, you’ll find the arena tucked into the side of a hill. In the distance, you’re surrounded by vintage barns and the rolling country side. Food stands hosted by the local Cattlemen’s Club. Raffles, a tiny carnival and a small town band setting up in the old barn to play afterwards. Lawn chairs and blankets on the ground, where everyone sits together. It’s everything I love about Iowa and the Midwest.

Somewhere in my parents’ house, there’s a picture of an eight year old me, wearing a purple cowboy hat signed by the rodeo queen, clutching the fence during the performance. I still remember going behind the chutes afterwards to get autographs from the barrel racers and petting all of their horses.

 

Fast forward to last weekend, sitting on the same hill I did all those years ago, thinking about how those dreams all came true – barrel racing around the country, traveling to iconic rodeos to write about them and wear one-of-a-kind western wear, going to the NFR instead of watching it on TV – all of those dreams were fostered on these rodeo grounds. I was even able to work with a local boutique, The Humming Arrow, who outfitted me for the night – a dream I didn’t know could make it all the way back to Bellevue with me.

High-Low Tee & Fringe Vest: The Humming Arrow Belt: The Humming Arrow Jeans: American Eagle Boots: Lane x Junk Gypsy Bag: Stone Feather Road Squash Blossom: Cholla’s Turquoise

 

 

Now, as my dreams get bigger and are challenging me to travel further, I cling to those roots more than ever. That little girl I used to be just loved going to the rodeo in her mom’s hometown, simple as that. And no matter where my adventures take me, my heart will always be rooted in the heart of the Midwest, somewhere in the rolling hills.

I want to remind everyone who’s reading this that it’s okay to come from a place no one knows. It’s okay to have humble beginnings. It’s okay to cling to tradition, family, values and home. Remember the places that grew you and no matter where you go, never forget where everything started.

 

 

If you liked my rodeo outfit, make sure to check out The Humming Arrow mobile boutique. Nick is close to my heart as an Iowa boutique owner, and she also carries the western trends that are hard to find close to home. You can find them on their website here, or follow @thehummingarrow on Instagram for new arrivals and more!

Mud Lowery: Unique Statement Turquoise That Is All The Rage

The hype around Mud Lowery jewelry designs is so real. I feel like I checked Instagram one day and all of the sudden, I was seeing his work everywhere. But don’t get me wrong, this hype is totally deserved – I caught up with Mud in Fort Worth, Texas where he was promoting his work at a Sip-N-Shop event hosted by Sterling Coomer. He’s an incredibly humble and personal guy with a knack for stunning silver work and bold, unique designs.

As I’ve been doing with other artists, I wanted Mud to weigh in on buying authentic turquoise and what inspires him while giving him a chance to show off his work to a new crowd. If you aren’t a fangirl of his designs yet, prepare to become one!

 

What is your tribal affiliation?

I’m Lumbee Indian which is a tribe located in Robeson County, North Carolina.

What does your culture mean to you?

It means a lot! My family in North Carolina are the coolest people in the world. They know so much about our tribe and other tribes. They haven’t turned their back on being Native American when times were really hard, not even 50 years ago. We have our own way of speaking, way of cooking – just a whole separate way of life. They are all hardworking, honest, caring and supportive. My grandparents have so many stories about growing up farming and how hard they worked as kids. I have noticed that a lot in most tribes. When my kids get older I want him to be even more involved than I am. I want them to value our tribe and traditions more than we do now.

 

How did you get started creating jewelry?

My grandma would always buy my sisters and cousins turquoise jewelry when we would go back home to Robeson County. I was always fascinated with the pieces she would buy for them, and the history behind the designs. As I got older, I painted pretty often and got into tooling leather. I always created with more of a “southwest” feel and still really enjoyed learning about Native American art. So, one day I just decided I wanted to take a break from painting and tooling leather and wanted to try silversmithing.

What is the biggest inspiration in your work?

I would say my biggest inspiration would be mountains. Last year I was blessed enough to travel a ton. I always get in such an energized mood and start thinking creatively when I travel. I went to Colorado several times; California, North Carolina, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Canada, Haiti, Italy and Switzerland (all these places have the prettiest mountains). Everywhere I went there were mountains that made me sit and stare. This inspires me to create things that would make someone else sit and stare, whether that be making a cuff or designing art for a t-shirt.

Do you have a favorite piece?

My favorite piece so far would have to be this Squash Blossom I made or this large Royston cuff I made.

What do you want others to see when they get a piece from you?

I want them to be able to tell, just from looking at it, that my pieces are original and that they took time – that I put a lot of thought into the design. I want them to think that their money was well spent.

Do you have a muse?

I do, but they are not jewelry designers. They are just people that I am inspired by, whether that be their creativity or work ethic. I think Virgil Abloh is super inspiring and talented. Sam Larson is an incredible artist and I really enjoy following his work. And then George Strait and Trevor Brazile too.

Is there somewhere you’d love to see your pieces featured?

Vogue, Cowboys and Indians, Western Horseman, really anywhere!

What would you like people to know about you, or what you do?

Man, I’m not sure. I’m super proud to be an enrolled tribal member. I think that it is always a good idea to support Native Americans; there is so much to be learned from all the different tribes. I really appreciate the people that want to learn and support enrolled members. I just want to keep learning and growing and eventually give back to future members. Thanks to some of my close native friends like Shondina (instagram: @ShondinaLee) I get to have really meaningful conversations about our culture and how special it is to be enrolled.

Where are you located now?

Fort Worth, Texas!

What’s the best way for someone to buy a piece from you?

My new (and improving) website- MudLowery.com

 

Thank you so much to Mud for giving me the inside story on being a native jewelry designer and what inspires you. Readers, definitely check out his website and social media as well. I want to encourage you to support native American artists, as the western industry is so heavily influenced by their work and culture.

Follow Mud Lowery on Social:

Facebook: Mud Lowery

Instagram: mudlowery

 

The Broke Girl’s Guide To Authentic Turquoise

So you’re a western-obsessed girl on a budget – you’ve managed your way through thrift stores and boutique sales to get the clothes you really want, but what do you do about a lacking turquoise collection?

Have you ever heard the phrase, right person, wrong time? I feel like I’ve played this life situation out so many times, but with turquoise jewelry. (yes, I’m totally serious right now, don’t judge.) There’s nothing like walking through a jewelry gallery and laying eyes on that perfect piece, only to have your heart broken by the price tag.

But don’t worry, there are ways to support native artists, be apart of the western jewelry community and invest in real stones and silver, without breaking the bank. The tips I’m sharing are all from personal experience and a few years of collecting. Keep reading to see what I recommend!

 

BUY VINTAGE.

For some of you, this may seem like an obvious tip, but it’s something I definitely overlooked in the beginning. If you’re on a budget, your best bet at finding a cool piece in your price range is to shop vintage. Personally, the vintage pieces in my collection are my favorite simply because they have so much history and are timeless.

You can find incredible stuff from estate sales, on Ebay or at a flea market for a fraction of gallery costs on a similar new piece. However, don’t forget to do your research: you’ll want to search for pieces that are sterling silver to ensure they’ll stand the test of time.

 

START SMALL.

When you first start your turquoise addiction, I know it’s hard to resist the urge to jump into the deep end of the pool looking for a huge squash blossom or statement cuff. If you’re not in the market for a splurge, start by collecting smaller pieces like rings, pendants or earrings. Not only are they easier on the wallet most of the time, but you can also leverage those small pieces to trade up to a statement piece you REALLY want.

If you invest in quality pieces, you’ll have a great shot at finding a buyer for them if you ever decide to sell or trade for other things. I’ll give you a recent example: I bought a small, vintage squash blossom on Ebay that I paired with another small piece I acquired earlier in the year. I traded both of them for a squash blossom I was completely head over heels for, and ended up saving around $650.00. It’s really just a waiting game and being smart with where you put your money.

 

LAYER SMALL PIECES.

While I’m totally obsessed with the huge statement pieces (aren’t we all?) my collection is still mostly made up on smaller rings, pendants and necklaces. Of course it would be nice to put on one GIANT piece and be done, you can create so many different looks by layering your small pieces together.

I love to mix single-strand necklaces with bolos and petite squash blossoms, or stack rings and bracelets until there’s no room left on my hands. You will still look stunning and can constantly change up the look by swapping pieces. I personally like to look at it as a style challenge: what can I create that I haven’t done before?

 

DON’T WASTE MONEY ON FAUX.

I’m sure I’ll ruffle a few feathers with this one, but don’t buy fake turquoise. If your ultimate goal is to acquire a real, $1800.00 squash blossom, why are you spending $150.00 on one that has no investment value or artistic character? I get it – the look is in, and everyone wants to rock a huge squash, but there’s more to it.

When you buy fake turquoise, you take away business from jewelry artisans and native people who have been perfecting their craft for generations. It’s impossible for them to compete with fast-fashion and Chinese manufacturing, plus it devalues their original designs that are being knocked off. If you love the culture, make a point to support it too – even if that means waiting awhile to rock your dream squash. I promise it will feel so much better when you’re wearing that piece you’ve been dying over forever knowing it’s 100% authentic.

 

SHOP PAWN.

Being from the midwest, it took a trip to Texas and a few good tips on where to shop for me to have my pawn shop epiphany. Obviously, you can’t walk into any pawn shop looking for turquoise, but if and when you’re in the right area, it’s worth the pit stop.

There are pawn shops throughout the southwest where you’ll find gorgeous pieces for a total steal. Plus, if you find one you like, it’s totally acceptable to bargain. I don’t know about you, but I love the adrenaline of a good haggle.

 

FOLLOW YOUR FAVORITE ARTISANS.

I’ve made a point to follow my favorite makers all over social media, even if I’m admiring from afar most of the time. So many have their own pages and even VIP groups you can join if you’re a diehard fanatic, where you get first dibs on new items or a heads up on sales.

Even if the merch is too expensive for your regular budget, you never know when you might be sitting on a pile of cash just in time for a sale on that piece you’ve been needing in your life. Besides being in-the-know on sales and new things hitting their shop, it’s an added bonus to be able to have the inside scoop and interact with artists you look up to. How cool, right?

 

JOIN TURQUOISE TRADING GROUPS.

This was a game changer for me while hunting for the perfect next piece for my collection. There are SO many turquoise traders on social media who have already done the hard work of finding amazing pieces and are posting them in one place for a fair price. I have a few favorite traders you can find on Facebook:

Cholla’s Turquoise

Rowdy Cowgirl’s Jewelry Closet

Texas Gals Turquoise

Also, if you’re joining a swap page, some folks are just looking to clean out their personal collections or trade for something they like more, so you’re able to put your own goods out for sale or swap as well. It’s so fun to be apart of the western jewelry community and interact with other people who love the art as much as you do – you’ll probably learn a lot too!

 

I hope these tips were helpful for all you turquoise-obsessed ladies out there. Remember, don’t be discouraged because you can’t afford what other girls are buying – just be savvy about your purchases and you’ll be rocking what you’ve got, I guarantee it!

Second Hand Chic – Resale Style For Spring

Hey Everyone!

Wow, this last month has been a total whirlwind – sorry for my absence. I’ve got a lot of exciting things happening right now, and I can’t wait to clue you in! In the meantime, I’m running around like a crazy person with a to-do list five pages long.

Last weekend, Marshall and I got to take a trip down to one of our favorite places – Fort Worth, Texas. We were only in town for a few days, but I got to work on some fun projects with influencers and brands alike. One that I was most excited for was visiting The Resale Secret in Weatherford.

It’s no secret that you secondhand fashion is the biggest hack to finding amazing pieces on the cheap. Who doesn’t want to walk out of a resale shop with a gorgeous Double D Ranch jacket or Old Gringo boots? Needless to say, I was totally in heaven when I walked through the door.

While shopping second hand is fun and affordable, I know a lot of girls get overwhelmed with where to start. Sometimes you have to do some digging to find pieces that really shine and bring out your personal style. So, I put together five outfits created, almost exclusively, from second hand items. Note: if you love these styles, they’re available at The Resale Secret store!

The owner, Kim, is originally from Iowa, so we immediately had something in common. I love running into midwestern natives who love western fashion. She carries straight and plus sizes, designer and boutique brands, and will even take some pieces you’re ready to part with. If you aren’t local to Weatherford, you can get in on the goods through her live Facebook sales too – make sure to go give The Resale Secret a like after you see the outfits I put together in store!

 

FESTIVAL BRIGHTS.

Y’all already know my love of color – the louder, the better. This bright, bell sleeve dress was the perfect way to build a hippie approved festival look around. I paired it with a leather fringe vest to balance the bold colors and add another layer of boho flair to the look.

I finished it off with a pair of leopard booties, some vintage turquoise and my favorite cobalt blue fashion hat. While the turquoise was from my personal collection, Kim also has a hand-selected stock of vintage turquoise jewelry to choose from as well!

 

PEARL SNAP PUNCH.

In need of a little fun? This outfit is the perfect punch of playfulness for a chic daytime look. I recycled the same booties from the festival look with suede leggings and my Rodeo Fashion Stole My Smile tee from Styled By Sterling. (check her out on Insta!)

The punch on this outfit really comes with this vintage Scully button down. I saw it on the rack and knew it would pair perfectly with my cobalt hat and a bright statement necklace. I’m always down to put a little punch into my outfits – I totally loved this look!

 

CHAMBRAY BLUES.

Here’s a softer look for you ladies who love denim and neutrals together. I started by pairing this satin tee (best thing ever, by the way) with an embroidered chambray shirt. I tied it up to give a little more flair and separate the denim elements. Paired with the perfect pair of distressed jeans and a pair of funky boots, this look is laid back and luxe at the same time.

To finish off this look, I added a sterling squash blossom, a spiny oyster cuff and a few small statement rings. To top everything off, I threw on this vintage cowboy fedora – it really brings together any look.

 

SATIN SENORITA. 

Oh, hello color. It’s good to see you again! This adorable Johnny Was peasant dress is a perfect spring statement piece. While you could dress it down with some neutrals, that’s just not my style – I decided to pair it with some purple boots and a clutch to match. I’m all about the vibrant, Mexican-inspired vibe and I really wanted to play it up by adding tons of color and spice.

Also, can we talk about this turquoise bear claw necklace? I fell in love with it behind the case and Kim was kind enough to let me model it with this outfit. I love finding unique native art pieces – what an awesome piece for someone’s collection!

 

NASHVILLE REBEL.

Something about this look reminds me of the Nashville music scene – a little vintage, a little boho, and a lot hip. Starting with another fun Scully pearl snap layered over a crochet-neck tank, this ensemble has fun and classic appeal built in. Add in a pair of distressed jeans, leopard booties and a cowboy fedora for extra cool.

I’m obsessed with the details in this Scully pearl snap – check out the rose embroidery, button detail and green piping – a perfect piece for spring! One of my favorite ways to layer for unpredictable weather is to repurpose rodeo shirts for fashion.

 

I hope you guys found some inspiration to hit your favorite resale store for some fun spring finds – which look was your favorite? Until next time, thanks for reading and stay unique, sisters!

The Rodeo Mrs. Takes Texas

Hi Friends!

After two weeks of running around in Texas, I’m finally settled back home in our 20 degree weather. I’m coming to you today from my favorite hometown coffee shop, eating homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese…hey, not everything about Iowa winters sucks, right?

I tried my best to keep everyone updated on Instagram, but I know I missed a lot too, sooo… I decided to do a fun trip wrap up to let y’all know what I’ve been up to lately.

We drove down Tuesday night in an ice storm, which was interesting. The way southerners react to winter weather compared to the midwest is pretty funny…I’m talking going 5 mph on the interstate, closing down businesses and booking a hotel because the power’s been out for an hour. In our neck of the woods, you might be without power for a week, making grilled cheese sandwiches over a fire, but I digress.

We ended up pulling off in Oklahoma City to ride out ice storm mania and finishing the drive to Weatherford in the morning. We stayed with one of my influencer friends, Brandi Michelle of Western Atelier. (Go check her out on Insta if you don’t follow her already!) She was gracious to host us for two weeks and show us around Fort Worth as a local, which was awesome.

The next two days we spent in the Fort Worth Stockyards, or “Northside” as the locals call it. We spent a lot of time visiting with businesses and scouting out locations for a photoshoot later in the week. For those of you who have never been to the American, the Stockyards are a mad house the entire weekend. One of the store managers told me it’s busier than Black Friday. So needless to say, everyone was busy keeping up with the business rush. We ran into so many familiar faces, influencers and brands alike – it was great to see everyone again!

Saturday, we were back in the Stockyards again, but this time, just to enjoy the action and meet up with more people. I actually ended up running into one of my best friends who moved to Kentucky to train futurity horses. I haven’t seen him since Christmas so it was a great surprise! That afternoon, we watched the Denim & Velvet fashion show and hung with some of my favorite models. Katy Jade and Janzen did a fabulous job putting it on!

Sunday was obviously the American, so we took it easy with a late brunch before heading over to AT&T that afternoon. Not gonna lie, it’s hard to meet up with people in that arena. I’m pretty sure I made my step count three times over just trying to figure out where everyone was at. But, once I found everyone, it was well worth the walk. The American is one of my favorite rodeos of the year, just for the sheer magnitude and seeing rodeo put on such a big stage. It gives me all the feels when I look down on the arena, and that’s what it’s all about.

Monday was probably one of the highlights of the trip for me. I’d been stressing my butt off putting together a photo shoot from 1000 miles away, but it was SO worth it! I’d been wanting to do an influencer edition of my Style For Every Body series, and I couldn’t have picked a better group of ladies to represent the message. We worked with fabulous stores and had a perfect day to shoot everything. Having such a great group of models made all the difference…there’s nothing like having your own personal cheer section with you’re in front of the camera, let me tell you!

On Tuesday, I ran around Fort Worth for business meetings, then that evening, Brandi and I hosted a Western Round Table where we bring everyone together to talk western industry topics and lift up other western bosses building their businesses. It was so great to get to know more people in our corner of the industry. If you’re a blogger/influencer/boutique/brand/designer/photographer (takes deep breath) go join our Western Media Round Table group on Facebook – our next discussion is on April 6th!

We were actually supposed to go home on Wednesday morning, but I ended up extending my trip to attend the Bodacious Babes of the West Conference over the weekend. There were 30 or so of amazing western boss babes all in one place to learn new business strategies, make connections and have a little fun. I learned so much and made some new friends, which was a fabulous end to our trip. Thank you to Kaylee and Brooklyn for organizing it!

In case you didn’t know, there’s an AWESOME giveaway connected to this blog post – I can’t tell you what it is just yet, but you definitely don’t want to miss out!

Head on over to my Instagram (the_rodeo_mrs) and DM me the answer to these four questions to be entered in the drawing:

  1. Who did I stay with in Texas?
  2. What was the name of my influencer collab blog post?
  3. Name one thing I wore to the Bodacious Babes conference
  4. Where did we have to pull off due to an ice storm?

I’ll be announcing the winner this Saturday at 12 pm, so stay tuned!

Style For Every Body: Influencer Edition – Part 2

Hey again everyone!

It feels weird coming to you on a Friday, but I’m so excited to share part 2 of our influencer shoot, Style For Every Body.

I don’t mean to get sappy, but this group of girls is amazing for so many reasons. I can honestly say they’re all successful, caring, confident and inspirational. How lucky was I to get all of them in the same place, at the same time?

This round of outfits came from Twisted Up Boutique – make sure to give her a follow!

 

DENAE – UNBRANDED HIPPIE

I love Denae because of her friendly nature. She’s one of those girls that’s genuine through-and-through and always thinks of others. She’s also the cutest pregnant lady I’ve ever seen!

 

KENZIE KIMBRO – ROOTS RUN DEEP

Before I became friends with Kenzie, I seriously looked up to her. She has her own show on RFD TV called Roots Run Deep and is such a boss babe. I love her because she stands on where she came from and is down to earth and real!

ANDREA THORP – THE RODEO MRS.

I’m awesome because…haha just kidding!

 

CORSI MARTIN – BUCKWILD BOHEMIAN’S CLOSET

I just started getting to know Corsi but I love her for her too-cool-for-school attitude and funky personality. She’s so fun to be around and lightens the mood just by being herself!

HANNAH HOGNER – LIVING IN GRACE & STYLE

Hannah was the first blogger friend I made when I started The Rodeo Mrs. She’s always helping others, lifting people up and setting examples for the girls around her. I love her for her confidence and love of serving others!

Style For Every Body: Influencer Edition – Part 1

Hey Guys!

If you haven’t been following along on Instagram (which you should, ahem…) I’m writing to you from Texas today. I’ve been hanging out in the Fort Worth area for over a week now, and have been loving every minute of it.When I’m not on the road, I’m just looking forward to the next time I get to go and meet up with my favorite boss ladies in the western industry. We always have a great time together!

I’ve gotten so much love on my Style For Every Body blogs that I wanted to take it one step further and make it a little bit bigger. What better way to do that than making an influencer edition with some of my favorite western fashionistas?

There’s been so much talk about size inclusivity, body positivity and authenticity in 2018 so far, but not everyone is walking their talk. This shoot was about making a statement for ALL women to be included, loved and lifted up by their peers. If you’re reading this, know that style has no size, weight, age or budget. The key to great style is owning what you do and believing in yourself.

So without anymore talk, here’s part one of the Style For Every Body: Influencer Edition shoot! Also, if you like what you see, all outfits are available at Maverick Western Wear.

 

DENAE – UNBRANDED HIPPIE

My style is kind of all over the place – One day I really love being simple and more laid back, but other days I’m over the top, decked out with my hat and boots! I take my style day by day and if I feel a certain vibe that day, I dress to accommodate.

I call myself the Unbranded Hippie because I don’t care about wearing name brands all the time. I wear whatever I can afford and try to accessorize with lots of jewelry.

Now that I’m becoming a mommy, I’m sure my style will be changing more and more and I love that about myself!

 

KENZIE KIMBRO – ROOTS RUN DEEP

I describe my style as southwestern with a twist. I’m a true lover of all things denim, turquoise, silver, fringe, vintage vibes and tooled leather.

Ranch life makes me think practical and comfortable, but I love venturing out to sassy and stylish too.

I always say dress in a way that makes you feel best, and rock whatcha got!

 

 

 

 

ANDREA THORP – THE RODEO MRS.

My style combines classic pieces with an unexpected pop of funk.

I feel my best covered head-to-toe in bright, head turning colors because it reflects my bubbly personality.

I’m a sucker for a good splurge, but you can bet I love to rock hand-me-downs and thrift finds too. My favorite place to shop will always be my grandma’s closet!

 

CORSI MARTIN – BUCKWILD BOHEMIAN’S CLOSET

 

My style is grunge, through and through.

If there is a way to put a unique twist on any piece, I will find it.

I typically thrift a lot of my clothes to revive the funk and flare, which makes up my overall style.

 

HANNAH HOGNER – LIVING IN GRACE & STYLE

 

I love all styles and trying new looks when the opportunities arise!

 

 

I don’t tend to stick with just one look, I like to put a little edge on most pieces and rock the Converses when I feel like being more hip.

 

All in all, I love to be classy and a little sassy!

 

 

 

I hope you all enjoyed Part One of the Style For Every Body: Influencer Edition series! I’ll be posting parts 2 and 3 over the next two days, which feature more gorgeous outfits from Maverick Western Wear, Twisted Up Boutique and Bronc Ranch Wear. Be ready for more fierceness headed your way!

 

Stay unique, sisters.

 

Timeless: Style Stories From The Lives Of Real Women – Ruth

I get told often that I have an old soul – that I appreciate things and values from times past. Not only do I find this to be a massive compliment, but also a gift. Nothing brings me joy quite like listening to the stories of powerful women that came before me or are living beside me now.

I’ve always believed that western fashion is timeless – it consists of pieces that can be cherished from generation to generation with as much character as when it was pulled from the box for the first time. I want to bring back the honor of clothes that mean more than a handful of likes on Instagram. I want to see the traditions of our treasures inspire like they have in the past. I want to bring honor to the women from every generation, to remind them they haven’t been forgotten and they still have the power to change the world through their personal expression.

 

So to kick off this series, I had to start with one of my biggest inspirations in fashion and life – my grandma, Ruth. Ever since I was young, I always admired her. She has timeless style and wears grace as her primary accessory. While I admired her when I was little, my admiration only grew as I got older, especially when my interest turned to western fashion.

When I got serious about fashion blogging and doing regular photoshoots, she was kind enough to pack up bag after bag of turquoise jewelry for me to borrow. I see so much of myself in her and want to show her off to the world not only for her style, but her heart.

 

I recently decided to take a trip to my dad’s hometown of West Union, Iowa to spend an afternoon with my grandparents and explore their treasures kept in the home they’ve lived in for 51 years. A huge part of my admiration for my grandma comes from her marriage to my grandpa Bob. They’re celebrating 71 years (yes, that’s right!) of marriage this year and have so many stories of their time together.

I adore their banter back and forth – they’re still saucy, full of wit and definitely still in love. If there’s such thing as relationship goals, they are the ultimate for me. I’d also like to add that she dressed him for the occasion of getting his picture taken. He thought she did a pretty good job.

Grandma has been collecting turquoise and other western treasures for decades, whether or not Grandpa knows about every purchase. One of her favorite places to pick up new pieces for her collection is in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She had a favorite maker there who she visited often for new treasures. She and Grandpa went to the Cheyenne Frontier Days almost every year for over a decade.

Upstairs in Grandpa’s room, he has what he likes to call “the Museum” – also known as his collection of ticket stubs from each rodeo performance they attended together. This find was made even cooler for me since I just attended my first Cheyenne Frontier Days last summer, which quickly became one of my favorite events of the year.

In the same room where “the museum” is displayed, is a painting of one of my grandpa’s favorite horses. They named him Troubles because he was a difficult foal – they almost lost him during his first winter, but Grandma saved him by warming up some milk and nursing him back to health. He ended up being so loved that his picture earned a spot above Grandpa’s bed.

While we’re talking about Grandpa’s treasures, I think it’s only fair to acknowledge his great taste in cowboy boots. While he’s given many away in the past few years, he’s held on to a few favorites that have their permanent spot in his closet. They’re pretty snazzy, so I assume these are date night boots, exclusively.

One room over from where Grandpa keeps his treasures, Grandma is pulling out boxes of jewelry to show me. She has shoe boxes stacked by the dresser, each full of pieces she’s collected. She keeps herself adorned with jewelry on every finger, on both wrists and her neck as well. I definitely see where I got my love of accessorizing from.

While she showed me some of her favorites, I noticed a beautiful picture on her dresser. I asked if it was her – it was. This picture was taken in 1946, before she was headed to a school dance. The locket and flower she’s wearing were gifts from my grandpa, who was her date.

Finally, we got to my favorite piece she owns – and hers too – her prized squash blossom. Of all the pieces she’s collected through the years, she never took the plunge and bought a squash blossom necklace, even though she’d always wanted one. I was lucky enough to be there the day she found “the one” – during a girl’s shopping day in Cedar Falls. She saw it on the owner of the store and bought it right off her neck. She wears it like a crown and I couldn’t love seeing her wear it any more than I already do.

I was just floored to see that it not only has its own special place in the house, but is stored in a vintage Dior box. I can’t think of anything more fitting. A classic piece is always classic, whether its a designer staple or a one-of-a-kind art piece. The same theory rings true for women with genuine souls – while they may grow older, they only get more cherished with time and character.

 

Let’s Talk Internships: Tips From My Rodeo Production Experience

This one goes out to all my college cowgirls! I remember the struggle of wanting to live my life on horseback and as close to the nearest rodeo performance as possible when I had to hole up studying instead. If you’re passionate about the rodeo industry, I have good news for you – you can totally make a career of it without having to make the NFR. But fair warning, it’s a lot of work and a ton more fun than any other internship you’ll find at the career fair.

For those of you who don’t already know, I interned in rodeo production through all four years of college at Iowa State University. I had the opportunity to work at the Junior High, High School, College and Professional levels of rodeo and experience a huge variety of situations. I wrote a blog post about this last year, but after going back to talk to ISU students about the rodeo industry, I wanted to give some new tips on what to expect. Let’s do it!

 

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.

Let’s be real here – I’ve never heard of a rodeo organization setting up a booth at the school career fair. Heck, if we’re being really honest, there’s barely any actual “rodeo internships” available. The fact is, you’ll most likely have to make your own opportunities. If you don’t have much experience, start small. Volunteer to work for your local jackpot producer or stock contractor. My first experience was doing a work study under Marty Barnes of Barnes PRCA Rodeo Company. I literally parked my rig on his ranch for a week and just followed them around learning about their business and how they ran things. Sometimes you just have to make a call with an idea until someone says yes. Don’t be afraid to do that!

 

START SAVING.

If you’re lucky enough to find a ready-to-work rodeo internship, it’s common for it to be an unpaid position. This isn’t uncommon for internships in general, but just be prepared to make your own arrangements. When I flew to Wyoming to work as a media intern at the CNFR, I covered my own flight and food. My hotel was comped, but everything else was on me. Just know, especially if you have to travel, you’ll want to plan a budget and save up cash for your trip there.

 

NOT EVERYONE KNOWS THE INDUSTRY.

One of the biggest shocks I had time and time again during my internships was how many people with no western background worked the rodeo. I used to get upset, since I, of course, wanted their job and was actually passionate about the industry. But – the truth is, they’re amazing at what they do. They don’t have to win buckles to prove their worth to our sport in marketing, graphic design, management, etc. Be ready to humble yourself and realize that it takes all kinds to put on the show that we love so much. I explained events, penalties and scoring systems a million times to my co-workers, but I ended up appreciating it more because of it.

 

FLEXIBILITY IS KEY.

You may have an idea of what you’re passionate about but don’t fence yourself into that box. I was SO bummed when I found out the marketing position I applied for at Rodeo Austin was filled before I got a chance. When they offered me an operations position instead, I wasn’t particularly excited, but I ended up seeing an ENTIRE new side to what goes into production. The more well-rounded you are, the more valuable you are to the industry. Don’t take seemingly unexciting opportunities for granted, just prepare yourself to learn.

 

USE BUSINESS TOOLS.

I’ve mentioned this tip so many times, but I just can’t stress it enough. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to have your stuff together. Keep an updated resume, have business cards made, take a headshot for your LinkedIn profile and have a list of references ready. It sounds extra when you look around at your colleagues who just slammed a resume together last night for their job interview, but it makes all the difference. Especially if you’re starting early in college or even high school – be as professional as possible. I made a business kit when I was eighteen and brought it to every western event I attended – it truly helped me into opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

 

If you’re looking for a rodeo industry job or internship, I hope these tips help you. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or Instagram and I’ll do my best to answer!

 

 

Pack A Sack & Go: The Art Of Traveling Light and Dreaming Heavy

Hey guys!

As I plan out my year of traveling for the blog, rodeo and fashion, I can’t help think of how blessed I am to have the opportunity to adventure as a job. After spending so many summers on the rodeo road as a competitor, picking up and hauling to another state alone, unannounced, I’ve realized how those times have shaped my perspective on travel.

I remember back in high school, I always tried to get my friends to plan a road trip with me. I was always met with excitement followed by a lot of hemming and hawing about making plans too quickly, not having time to pack or not having been where I suggested. Sure, high school is a little complicated since parental permission is involved, but the same pattern happened in college every time I planned a getaway for my friends. When it came down to it – they were scared.

It’s totally weird to me that some people feel fenced in by invisible borders – limitations, responsibilities, fear of the unknown. I tried to convince them for years that it was as simple as throwing a backpack into your car and driving, but that idea was always thrown off the table. Lucky for me, my husband Marshall shares the same outlook on adventure – just do it. There have been so many times we’ve just jumped in the truck and driven across the country on a whim. So that’s my mission today – I want to break down those borders we set up for ourselves of why we can’t – why we’re stuck where we are. Let’s address a few misconceptions about taking your travels out on the road:

IT’S EXPENSIVE.

Okay, obviously this depends on where you’re going and what you envision, but most of the time when I hear this excuse, no one is planning an all-expenses-paid Hawaiian vacation. Minus a few specific trips per year, when I travel for a week or longer, I spend less than 500 dollars total. That includes food, gas, lodging and fun. And who said getting out has to be a huge endeavor? There’s so many refreshing trips that involve driving four hours one way to see something unique, just for a day. It’s all about being creative and savvy with how you spend your money.

YOU NEED TO PLAN AHEAD OF TIME.

Let me tell you a really quick story. One time, I applied for this rodeo internship in Austin, Texas just for fun. They told me I was hired and my first day was a week and a half later. I packed a few laundry baskets full of clothes, my toothbrush and my dog and moved. If that story gave you anxiety, this article is for you, my friend! We cut ourselves off from so many opportunities not because something isn’t planned, but because it’s a little uncomfortable and inconvenient to make things work. When we succumb to the urge to only embrace the predictable, we lose sight of adventure and opportunity is lost.

NO ONE TRAVELS MORE THAN A COUPLE TIMES PER YEAR.

My question is who? Who doesn’t travel more than a couple times per year? While this may be true of society as a whole, why are we basing our standards for how we want to live by corporate vacation policies? I know I’m on the edge of sounding like a hippie, but there’s no rule saying you have to stay in your hometown until your expensive vacation once per year. Maybe that sounds black and white but think of all the times you stopped yourself from entertaining a trip simply because it didn’t fit the norm. Let me be the one to tell you, the norm is stupid.

 

 

The road to freedom isn’t based in traveling the globe, but it can help shift our perspectives about life and who we are as people. Traveling for me is far more about understanding that I’m in control of my own life and I’m allowed to change my direction at any time. I refuse to let myself get stuck in a life I’m no longer passionate about because I’m afraid to change roads. I want to live nothing short of passionate, inspired and grateful – I hope you decide the same for yourself.

Stay unique, sisters!