At The Table

At the Table With a Graphic Design Student

Twenty year old Elizabeth Culjat is an anything but a typical college Junior.   I have to admit that as my youngest interview yet, I had my own ideas about how she might answer each of my questions. I was pleasantly surprised as soon as we started talking.  She was polite, smart, and seemed to have a very mature perspective on things.  Of course our five little categories aren’t exactly earth shattering topics, but still I was  impressed with her answers.  The oldest of 3 kids (Elizabeth has two younger brothers) and daughter to entrepeneurs, this graphic design student is going places.  Currently attending Iowa State University, Elizabeth aspires to work for a prestigious firm in Minneapolis that serves what she refers to as “dream clients.”

-These are Elizabeth’s Perspectives on…


I think individuality is a cool thing.  Because a lot of people go with trends,  but I kind of don’t really follow trends.  I like just kind of do what I like or what I think is a cute look.  I like quirky outfits I guess, but I also like really classic looks too.  Like a nice staple piece or staple colors – I have a lot of those in my wardrobe.  I really like Audrey Hepburn, and she’s probably a big ‘go to’  for a lot of people though.  I also admire Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen’s style.  They have that grungy style I’ve always kind of loved.


I don’t really have a lot of people I keep in contact from my high school, except my 3 or 4 closest friends.  Just because when I went to college I wanted to make a whole new circle of friends.  A lot of girls went to the same school and now they hang out with the same people they hung out with in high school.  But that’s not really my thing.  I’ve learned to kind of let go of friendships too.  The people who want to be in your life will make an effort to be there.  That’s one big thing I’ve learned.

Health & Fitness

Well I’m more conscious about it now than I was when I was in high school.  I mean in high school I worked out every day because I was on the dance team and I did sports and things like that.  But with college and my major being graphic design it’s really intensive.  And so most of the time I’m too tired to go to the gym, because I’ve been up since four in the morning.  But then this summer I’ve been on a schedule where I get up and work out Monday, Wednesday,  Friday…just in the morning.  I hate working out at night.  I’m just too tired to do it.  So I just get up and do it in the morning and that way it’s done.  And I actually feel a lot better when I do it.   So I think I’m gonna try to continue that through school, but it’s harder with like a busier schedule obviously.

Foodwise I’m more health conscious I guess. Cheap stuff always gets me though, because I’m like “Oh I can go to McDonald’s and get a Happy Meal for $3 or Iced Coffees at six in the morning because I need one.  That stuff  gets me. It’s easier when there’s not a lot going on, but when you get busier it’s harder.

Botox vs. Growing Old Gracefully

Absolutely no Botox.  I do not want needles in my body.  I feel like it’s a natural thing for me to get wrinkles or whatever.  I feel like the people that are old but don’t look old are actually weirder than the people who are old and look really old.  Like if you’re 63 and you look  like your 28, it’s creepy.  I would say age gracefully.


I make lots of “to do” lists.  I make a to do list probably every day.  And it helps me.  My mom always tells me to take things day by day. Because I’m one of those people that gets super overwhelmed really easily if I have a lot on my plate.  And I’ve found if you section it out and write it down, and you see a physical list in front of you.  Then when you check it off.  and you can see it, it makes things easier.  So you can see what you’re doing and what you’re accomplishing. Keeping myself sane sometimes I just take a minute.  You can’t just go go go as much as you want to.  This year I had to kind of pick and choose what I was going to put most of my effort into.  Because as much as you want to, you can’t put 150% into everything you’re doing.  So, whatever I’m more passionate about at the time gets more attention.

Thank you for sitting down At The Table with me, Elizabeth.  I enjoyed your company, conversation, and hearing how you view the world.  Best of luck to you in your bright and successful future!




At the Table With the Woman That Does it All

Life rarely goes the way we plan. Trends change, people change, and through it all, our perspectives change. In this section, I sit down At the Table with different women from different backgrounds, at different stages in their lives;and get their point of view. Some answers are funny, some are sad, and others are just matter of fact. The thing they have in common though, is that they are all just normal and fantastic women. My hope is that through this blog, you may find that we are all much more similar than we think…and yet, find a deep appreciation for the different perspectives and insight they bring.

When in doubt, do both – that is the philosophy that 38-year-old Laurie Brekke adopted from a close friend and it suits her well.  After 11 years of working in the corporate world, and several years in a couple of other roles, Laurie now works from home.  She and her husband Wayne,  host their own weekly podcast -“5 O’clock Lifestyle” -  are scooter enthusiasts, artists, freelance writers…and the list goes on and on.   When it comes to fashion, she self-admittedly likes to show a little too much cleavage and describes her personal style as “comfortable”.

After a quick tour of their home,  we sat down at the dining room table and I immediately understood why Laurie and Wayne entertain guests at least once a week.  I can’t tell you exactly what it was that made me feel so comfortable in this unfamiliar environment, I can only say that I was.  Perhaps it was the welcoming smiles of everyone I met in the Brekke home.  Or maybe it was just the warm spring morning air that came in from the back doors that open to their deck, aka the Brekke Decky.  Whatever it was, I liked it.  And I couldn’t wait to get started.

These are Laurie’s Perspectives on…


I like comfortable clothes, and…hats. I like hats. And I’m glad they’re coming back.  I mean they’ve been coming back, for like years but I love that it’s acceptable now.  There’s a ton of different hats out there.  Just whatever hats look good on you, ya know?  This sort of newsboy type of hat seems to work for me. Also, vintage pieces.  I like jewelry and vintage purses.  (Laurie was carrying her Grandma Bertha’s vintage leather purse with her name embroidered in the leather.  A really cool piece!) So those things and just jewelry pieces.  Not just vintage, but all jewelry.   And then… just dress appropriate for your age. Even if you can rock the styles 20 and 30 years younger…don’t.


I’m glad that I have a wide diverse group of female friends, which I think is awesome.  Having multiple groups that don’t just look and act and do the same kind of thing as you do,  is important.  I feel like it’s very important to also have groups of friends that are chronologically different.  You know women that are not only my age, but also younger and older.  Some of my older friends are kind of like mentors to me, and having younger friends lets me be in that mentor role for them too.

Relationships in general – being married now for 5 years, sometimes it’s awesome and sometimes it sucks.  That’s always been my advice to people who are just getting married. The first year might suck.  But stick it out.   It’ll get better. (laughs)  The first year was really hard for us.  And again I’m not really sure why.  There’s something solid about feeling like you can really put your weight down on somebody you know?  And just be like, all right; in for a penny and in for a pound – I’m all the way in now.  And now we can actually fight for real and you can’t leave me.  (giggles)  It’s going to take a lot to get out of it now.  And I think that made it a little bit different.  So, it was an adjustment.  But it got better.

Having a full schedule, and him (Wayne) having a full schedule and trying to combine them together and still maintain a close relationship with him, as well as your friends, as well as any kids and whatever… is hard.  But I still feel like you have to have your individuality.  It was one of the life lessons I learned before I met him; which took me a long time.  Not to just let go of everything when you meet someone.   You still have to maintain your individuality.

Health & Fitness

So, we tried this whole Vegan thing for 30 days and I’m pretty much over it.  I haven’t missed meat or cheese as much as I thought I would.   But I’m just kind of like bored. And there’s some stuff I really kinda am starting to miss.  But shaking it up is good. I didn’t lose as much weight as I thought I would.  I really thought that shifting and taking away a lot of the calories from meat would make a difference, but it did not.  Which is kind of disappointing.  Versus the protein diet, where it was all protein and lost a shit ton of weight.  I mean by this time when I tried that diet, I had lost 15 pounds.  I knew it was sort of crazy, but you see the results and you can stick with it.  Oh well, it was a fun thing to try. (the vegetarian experiment)  Spring is a good time to try those things because everything is changing.  I do feel like we’ve made some good changes that needed to happen.   I felt like we were stuck in a big rut before.  Both of us are taking a lot of out of it.

Botox vs. Growing Old Gracefully

Mostly growing old gracefully.  I wouldn’t want to do anything crazy, like totally reconstructive or  go under the knife.  But when it comes down to it, if everything else is okay and there is just 1 or 2 things I can take care of relatively inexpensively and painlessly…I might.  We’ll just wait and see what happens.  I don’t know.  I had a friend who is beautiful, and she was talking to me about being 40.  And she said that you hit 40 and everything is okay.  But then a couple of years later everything changes.  So I don’t know…I guess we’ll just see.


I just do it all.  (she laughs) When in doubt – do both.  Sometimes I wish I had more balance.  But like today I’m  just have that feeling…that whole I need to get the hell out of dodge feeling.  I need to go some place and just not be here.  So I think we’re going to Kansas City for like just a weekend.  You know, just go down and hang out.  Stay at a B&B and kick back.  That’s kind of the way to balance.  And every now and then we’ll just have a random Saturday to lay around and do nothing.

The big thing I’m having  a hard time with now is that I have very high expectations of the person I want to be.  I want to be this kind of person that is the best wife, person, step-mom, friend…that I can be.  The kind of person that always sends notes, and remembers birthdays and is always emotionally available and all of that.  And I do, okay.  But I have this vision of what I want to be.  And it’s a lot.  I’m asking a lot.  And I think that needs to give a little bit.  On the other hand, I feel like if you have those goals and you strive for them and you even come close; then isn’t that better than if you kind of gave yourself too much slack and didn’t do any of it?

Thank you Laurie, for sitting down at the table with me.  I had a great time getting to know you, and you are an inspiration to those of us that also aspire to to do it all!

Ann Messinger is a 29 year old expectant mother and Retail Bank Branch Trainer. Ann currently lives in Council Bluffs with her husband of 18 months, Trent. At the time of this interview Ann was roughly 7 months pregnant with her first child, and exhibited a sort of calm grace about the upcoming changes in her life. Although she was honest about her concerns, she also seemed quite willing and even excited to take them all on. I will forever be grateful to my friend, Ann, for being the first brave woman to share her thoughts with us.

These are Ann’s perspectives…

On Fashion:

Right now, it’s really hard because of all the body changes that come with being pregnant. I don’t want to call myself cheap, but I definitely have more important things to worry about…like daycare and diapers. So, it’s hard for me to go and spend sixty dollars on a pair of jeans. My butt doesn’t look hot anyway, so what difference is it going to make? (laughs) That’s something I would have said if I was drunk.

On Life Balance:

I think right now it’s perfect. Trent and I have our schedules to where he gets his time and I still get my “me” time. I am nervous for when the baby comes. I mean obviously the whole world will change as we know it. That’s stuff I already think about; I’m a planner. I think on Trent’s early days he will get some alone time with the baby and on my early days I’ll do the same. I don’t know…I mean I know it will be hard, obviously.
A girl at work has an agreement with her husband – every Saturday morning he wakes up with the kids and every Sunday morning she wakes up with the kids. That way they each know what night they can go out and have fun (with maybe a few cocktails), and not have to worry about being hung-over and getting up with the kids. So, that’s something I’m going to propose to Trent. Husker Saturdays would probably be my day to sleep in knowing that Sundays he might need the extra sleep. It will just take some planning ahead and right now I don’t think it’s as bad because I don’t do anything on the weekends. I don’t go out and I’m not hung-over so I’m thinking, “Oh it won’t be that bad waking up with the kid at six in the morning because I am up already.” But, back to reality, (giggle) when I’m not pregnant and we are going out or having parties…it will be different.

On Relationships:

I’m really close with my mother. Especially going through the wedding with her, and now the baby. I would say she is probably one of my closest friends. Sister (that’s actually Ann’s nickname for her sister) and I are obviously close but she has her own life too and lives a little bit farther away, so it’s not quite as easy.
As far as other friends – It’s really hard watching friends grow apart. Where 10 years ago, we were inseparable, but now we never see each other. But, it’s all just part of growing up. After the baby – I think that you will definitely be able to tell who is in the same place in their life. Kids or not – but just those who are ready to be past going to the bars every night. And if they’re okay with coming over for dinner on a Saturday night instead. Yes we might have a couple glasses of wine, but I don’t see us going out and getting bombed every night.

On Health & Fitness:

Since I got pregnant it was kind of my free pass not to work out, which is awesome! I’ve always been really fit and health conscious and wasn’t sure what type of pregnant person I’d be. I mean having Trent be there to make healthy decisions with me six nights out of the week helps. It’s not like I eat everything but I feel like I have a little bit more of a free pass. Don’t think it’s not in the back of my mind though, “How in the hell am I going to lose all this weight? My thighs need to get back to being skinny!”

On Growing Old Gracefully vs. Cosmetic Surgery:

Right now I would say grow old gracefully. I think my mom looks good for her age and I mean that’s who you typically look up to. I didn’t know my mom’s mom; she passed away when my mom was young so I don’t really know how she would have aged. I might have cooler hair than my mom because she doesn’t dye it. (giggles) She’s just letting the grey come in. She never has been a real fashionista…no fault to her though. Right now I’m saying grow old gracefully; just let it happen. But we’ll see when I get my first gray hair or wrinkle… which might come shortly after the baby comes.

On the Challenges Facing a New Mom:

I will want to sleep; I have always been a sleeper and after you get pregnant you get even more tired. Trent even made the comment that he didn’t know that I could be any more tired! I mean the baby kicks in the middle of the night, so he’s already starting to wake me up. Trent doesn’t need a lot of sleep during the week but during the weekend is when he catches up. He’s not afraid to sleep until 11:00 or noon.
But, I think we are ready for a baby in a lot of other aspects. Money might be a lot different too, but you never really know what to expect and I’m a budgeter, a planner. I already know my mom is going to spoil him, but that’s what grandmas do. It does comfort me to hear her say, “Oh so-and-so spoils their grandchildren just a little bit too much.” She’s like, “I won’t be afraid to wap him on his ass!” Thank God! I was worried about my mom just pumping him full of sugar and sending him home to be a little shithead. (more laughs) Thankfully she knows that he’ll still need discipline. They can get away with a little bit more (with Grandma) but they aren’t going to get away with murder!


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