This is Style Story 9 in the Real Style Project. To learn more about the Real Style Project, click here.
Committed to her family, her work (which
also happens to be her dream), and to
taking care of herself, Dina may have
cracked the code to living a balanced life.
Over the years I have longed to find that fine balance between family, work and me time (like Dina, I need to have time to myself- you'll read about this in a moment), but I started to come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as "balance", rather "balance" is an unattainable end to the rainbow that we are always chasing. Then I met Dina.
Dina Ottoni-Battistessa is a mom to 3 amazing boys ranging in ages from 5 to 18 years old, she is the co-owner of Calgary's top rated preshcool, AKIDEMY, which was also a finalist in the 2019 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, she inspires women to move, play and gives her real-life tips on minimalist living (like her posts about her "no spend year") through her blog Move.Play.Mom, and she's an aspiring writer that is currently working on her co-authored book and hopes to write a children's book or novel.
"As much as I can be involved and can share and can output a lot of hard work in a short period, I am also very conscious of my needs and time. Time spent with my family and children are very important to me. BUT I also really value and need time to myself. I need time to disconnect, be on my own, to think and breathe. I do this through running, swimming, and yoga. I enjoy being alone and having time to reflect and think."
Dina not only understands, but implements the importance of taking care of herself and doing the things that make her happy. I believe that this just might be the key to living a balanced life, because if you aren't taking care of yourself, you don't have the tools, energy or mindset to take care of the other things in your life. But let's be real here, "balance" doesn't mean that you are spending equal amounts of time between work, family, friends and personal time, but it means that you are taking care of your priorities in a way that makes you feel happy, content and complete. So that said, "balance" can look different from one person to the next.
"I have always been very thoughtful about building the life I want to live. Manifesting the lifestyle I wanted for myself. I know that sounds so cliché, but it's very true. Every decision I have made along the way has been calculated to best guide the journey I want to take."
Both Dina and her husband Ben are self employed, and this is all apart of their thoughtful design for their lives. "We wanted to create our own work and schedules that was driven from our passions of doing what we love....I have a flexible working schedule that allows me time for balance. I can run, swim, bike or go to yoga because (after years of hard work to set up the business) I have created the time. I spend a lot of time with my kids but I also carve out time to still have fun myself and with my husband."
Originally from Montreal, Dina moved to Calgary to follow love. After what started as a bit of a joke, Dina met her husband through an online dating site and the relationship progressed quickly. After 15 years together, 13 of those married, three kids, and both living the entrepreneur life, Dina and Ben cheer for one another and allow each other to live their best life (even if it takes a little convincing to be on board for the no spend year). Between family (Dina's brother also moved to Alberta and she loves having him close by, and Ben's parents and two brothers are also very close) and kids, Dina and Ben love to be active- both together and on their own. We have already read about what Dina loves to do, and Ben is "golf obsessed", but together they have a weekly swimming date and do yoga together (I can only imagine doing yoga with my husband...I think I'd spend the whole time laughing). But I love how as a couple Dina and Ben have a unified vision for how they want their lives to be, they are committed to having fun together, but also allow each other to do their own thing. Whether you are married or not, I think that these elements are integral to obtaining balance!
To get a good sense of who Dina is and the narrative of her Style Story, I asked her some questions. Read through my interview with her below.
Your style in 3 words:
Streamlined - Minimalist - Athleisure
What is style to you?
Coming from a fashion city like Montreal, I grew up immersed in style and fashion. Style for me has always been another way to express myself, where I am in my life and my personality. I have always had my own sense of fashion and don't dable in trends too often. I have always preferred to find pieces that resonate with my lifestyle but can also sometimes show my quirkier side. Because Montreal is filled with amazing boutiques, small local artists and designers...I never was one to be hooked on brands or labels. I am more about, if I like it, it fits well, it is made well - it doesn't matter who made it, I will invest in it. As I get older, I am more mindful and aware of where my pieces might come from, something I am learning more about and taken more of an interest in lately.
What are some items that you always seem to wear?
I can't leave my house without my watch. My Fitbit is attached to my arm, it's not the most stylish piece but it adds so much value to my life. I also can't ever leave without having some sort of earrings or studs on. The only time I might not have earrings in, is on a run.
In a room full of people, what do you think others see?
Most people see me as the minimalist mom and educator with a zealous attitude and big ideas. I know people will often see me as an extrovert, a super outgoing and strong woman...but the truth is, I am an excavated extrovert! I had parents who really pushed me out of my comfort zone, and wanted me to use my strengths and share them, and over the years I have become more aware of this.
What are some of your personal core values or guiding principles?
My dad used to tell me that anything I did, and product I created or service I provided, as long as I believed in it, I would never fail by sharing it with the world. He would say, regardless of outcome, I would grow and learn from the experience. I have carried that with me in everything I do. ...I believe that if you follow your passions and you share that with the world, you will attract like minded individuals who will continue to inspire and guide your vision.
At my core, I am a minimalist, and I chose a lifestyle that allows me to do what I love, pursue my ideas and goals, live a flexible life and spend time experiencing life to its fullest with people I love. I would say that a very important guiding principle in my life is, REMEMBER TO PLAY. ...We need to reconnect with the things we love and remember to find time to play. Play games, play sports, dance, sing, anything...we need to find time for that, because that will bring us so much joy in life- real happiness that isn't fleeting.
What motivates you?
My family and my children are my motivation and inspiration to want to live a conscious full life. The children in my program day to day are a huge motivation to serve them, create an incredible program and a solid foundation for their tomorrows. I am also so motivated personally by movement, running, swimming and getting outdoors as this helps me to feel strong, confident and capable! I love moving people, and sharing things that I am passionate about, so seeing people who are touched by something I write on my blog about, a post on social media or something I share in a story on Move.Play.Mom also motivates me.
As a little girl, what did you dream about doing/being when you grew up?
First, I wanted to be a hockey player! I played hockey at a very competitive level until my twenties. Then as a teenager I wanted to be a Rockstar- I played guitar and started a band...that didn't pan out as I planned lol. Throughout the years, whether I was a child, teen or young adult, I always knew I was going to be a teacher and I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Finding ways to bridge the two have been all that I could have hoped for and I feel so lucky to do what I love. ...I really believe that you can make anything happen, if you really want it, believe it and work for it! Maybe that Rockstar dream can still happen...we'll see...
I've said it many times-
our style is comprised of every aspect of our story
and when you learn more about a person you can really
see their story shine through the things they wear.
Dina was instantly drawn to some jewelry that she felt really
reflected her style- they are minimal in design, yet have
interest and a bit of a cultural aesthetic.
Dina is about intentional living, doing the things
that bring you joy, and truly experiencing life.
I love how she is no stranger to hard work (having a flexible schedule doesn't just happen overnight, it happens through years of work & determination), or to having fun. From Dina's story I have learned that balance comes from within and that it is about your dreams and goals for your life, working hard to get there, and finding that contentment and joy. Balance may look different from one person to the next (after all, our passions and goals are all unique), and so my "balance" may look completely off-balance to you, but that's what makes our world such a wonderful (and dare I say balanced) place.
Thank you so much Dina for sharing your story, because through your story we can truly see how each element plays into your style and how it all comes full circle.
All of the photos from Dina's Style Story were beautifully captured by Melanie from Grey Lily Photography. Check out her wonderful family & wedding photography, and watch for her business-focused website coming soon- Brands by Grey Lily.