“Hey, cutie.”

“Hey cutie,” is always how Carmen greets me when we run into each other at the office. She has such a bubbley personality that when I see her, I find myself speaking in a silly high voice and giggling a lot. That’s the effect she has on me.

It was such a treat to do this photoshoot with her because I’ve watched her completely transform over the last 2 years. She was diagnosed with Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) which made her really sick, all the time. The diagnosis required her to change her whole diet. Through lots of trial and error, she learned that she has to adhere to a restricted Paleo diet. 

Carmen said that she had never been so mentally challenged and it was a struggle to push forward with a positive attitude. “I could no longer do the things I loved, so I had to find new ways of having fun.” 

I felt for her as I watched from the sidelines. As she started to come out on the other side, she became a source of inspiration for me. She started posting terrific make-up how-to’s and recipes that she was trying with her new diet. Seeing her new content show up in my feed made me really happy.

Carmen is from Iowa, where she grew up in a creative household. Her mom was a high school art teacher and Carmen always took art classes as electives when she was in high school. Her mediums are watercolors and colored pencils She says she is the artistic one among her siblings. 

During her senior year, she entered a poster contest for the Snake Valley Art Fair. The contest upped the ante with a cash prize and Carmen won. Not only did she win the cash, her work now hangs in the Art Center of Burlington and she was honored by the Gallery with a “30 under 30” exhibition.

As she was considering college, all she could think about was how she could apply art to a practical career. On a college visit to Iowa State, she discovered the graphic design department and loved it. It connected all of her talents and felt like a natural path.

After she graduated from college, one of her professors connected her with Target. She was working part time at a kitchen store and thought: “I’ll just send my portfolio and see what happens.”

She was immediately contacted by Target and was supposed to have a phone interview. However, the admin scheduling the appointments accidentally scheduled an in-person interview. So, Carmen drove all the way up from Iowa to Minneapolis to interview, and the rest is history.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? 
This is a really hard one because you have to be selective. I like a lot of things and it’s hard for me to edit. Tom Hanks. I’d love to have dinner with him. He seems like he’d be personable. His mannerisms and style remind me of my dad, as well as his charming personality.

Would you like to be famous? In what way?
No. I’m an extrovert and I like to talk, but being the center of attention is stressful. Being famous seems like too much pressure around who you should be rather than who you really are. For example, at work, I don’t need to be singled out and recognized for work that a whole team contributed to. I’d rather help others on my team get recognized. That’s more rewarding for me.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
Depends on the call. I’ve discovered as an adult that I have more anxiety about things like this. I want to leave the impression that I’m professional and organized. I want to be mindful of what I’m trying to accomplish. If I’m calling my friends, I don’t rehearse. We can gab for hours. 

What would constitute a perfect day for you?
A day without any routine. None of the daily routines matter. Breakfast for dinner. Movie in the morning. Just a day of randomness. Like that time we ran into each other at the Norseman. Those spontaneous moments are the most fun. 

When I travel, I don’t make plans either. I do what I feel in the moment.

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
Like all the time. Singing is one of my favorite things. I don’t take myself too seriously, so I sing all the time. The other day, I made up a song about making pumpkin bread. I used to be in choir and I play the piano so I can sing. Sometimes, I’ll rent out the room at the library so I can play piano and sing.

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
The body of a healthy 30-year-old. I feel like what wears people down later in life is their body and it causes crabbiness. 

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die? 
I have a lot of dreams about the apocalypse, tornadoes or being stung by bees.

Name 3 things you and your husband have in common.
Hard to narrow down to 3 because we have so many things in common. We both really love pop culture and collecting vinyl toys and albums. We both have a kid-like spirit and never want to grow up. We want to enjoy all the same things we enjoyed as kids, but as adults. We also both have strong connections to our families. They’re very important to us and we make sure we spend a lot of time with them.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
There are a lot of things, but mostly I’m grateful for getting sick. It’s been a turning point in my life and has forced me to reflect on who I am as a person. Like, I loved to cook and bake but I never did it before. Now that I’ve had to do more cooking, it’s made me realize how much I love it! Buying cool clothes is fun now. Before I had to just buy what fit. Now I have more confidence and take more fashion risks.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be? 
I don’t think I would change anything. I didn’t have the struggle of poverty, or the privilege of money, so I have a good work ethic. My family values that we’re successful and happy in our lives. Gosh, what a great opportunity to not pay for college. BUT, having to pay made me more responsible.

We spent a lot of time together as a family. When I was a kid, my mom stayed home with us full time. It wasn’t until I was in elementary school that she started teaching. My dad came home from work every single day. Not a lot of people have that experience growing up, so I’m lucky.