Good Enough

Recently I participated in #theimperfectboss hashtag that took Instagram by storm for small business owners.  We all shared truths about what it's like running a business, how it affects us, and what we really feel day in and day out.  On the third day, I shared this: "I worry that I am not enough."  Many people have similar feelings and I'm sure at one point or another, there is a situation that we feel we don't measure up to.  But that isn't what this is about.  It's about a comment I received on the post asking me a very simple question that took me by surprise and left me thinking about it for hours, days afterwards.

"What would 'enough' look like?"

You'd think a simple question like that would have a simple answer.  That feeling that you weren't enough would have a simple layout of how you'd want to improve in each area that you feel inadequate in.  But I sat there a bit dumbfounded for awhile, and eventually stammered out some sort of answer.  But now, a week later, I'm still thinking on it.  And I've come to the conclusion that my version of "enough" isn't actually possible.

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To feel enough as a wife, I want to go back to the wife I was as a newlywed.  I want to laugh and joke and have fun and be able to be completely present with my husband at all times.  To feel enough, I want to make sure he never feels neglected and that he's always my first priority as he once was.

To feel enough as a mother, I want to be fully present every minute that I'm with him.  I want to soak in the time that we have when it's just us and put crafts together and only feed him nutritious food and never lose my temper.  I want him to always feel that I'm with him, I want to read him books each time he asks and to jump on the bed when he wants to and to race up and down the driveway until he can't race anymore.  I want to stop wishing it was bedtime just so that I can get to work on other things.  I want to never waste this time because I know it goes far too fast.

To feel enough as a business owner, I want to be successful.  I want to put a new issue out there and sell out nearly immediately.  I want to be featured in outside press and reach more people.  I want to know that I'm making a difference.  I want to be able to pay myself and my team for all of our hard work.  I want to fly to photo shoots and take the pictures myself.  I want to style the perfect shot and take interviews during the day.  I want to work for myself.  And I want to get it all done before dinner time so that the rest of the night can be spent with my family.

To feel enough as a daughter, sister and friend, I want to remember birthdays and take the time to check in.  I want to send cards to let them know I'm thinking of them.  I want to have the time to visit while my mind remains just on them.  I want to take weekend getaways and enjoy their company without the worry of what waits for me at home.

To feel enough as a person, I want to take time for myself - to read, to take a bath, to have a spa day.  I want to pay off my student loans and not have any debt.  I want to give to charity and volunteer.  I want to exercise and eat right.

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When I go back to read all of these things that would make me feel enough it makes me realize just how unrealistic my expectations for my own life are.  And why?  I would never place those expectations on someone else.  I would never make them feel like less because they can't juggle all of the things they want to juggle.  I'm not perfect and I don't want to pretend to be.  I don't want to pretend that I have it all together.

I want to admit that there are days where I crave Mexican food and margaritas and con Brandon into having it for dinner.  Where I have put Henry in front of the TV so that I could scroll through Instagram.  Where at the end of the day, I just want to stare at a wall, or get in bed early and read a book instead of having to talk or work or be someone.  Where I want to ignore all of my other responsibilities and sit at my desk in the basement and work on Holl & Lane because I'm so excited about it.  Where I acknowledge that my bills are coming due for the magazine and I don't have enough funds to cover them.

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Maybe what I need to do is adjust what "enough" means to me.  Maybe all it should mean is getting by, surviving another day, being a kind person, and doing my very best.  Maybe it's okay to acknowledge my faults and my failings and know that even if I see them that way, others may not.  I am good enough.  My life is good enough.  I am doing good enough.  And that has to be okay.

Exactly What I Needed

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We were sitting down for dinner having the kind of mindless conversation that are our normal dinnertime conversations.  We were laughing at something Henry was doing, or talking about the day we had had swimming, or mentioning that dieting is for the birds.  But we were just chatting.  Brandon asked me what my plan was for the night and I told him, without wanting to tell him, that I could really use some time to work - that I needed to wrap up the design of Issue 8 and that I just wasn't getting anywhere with it.  I didn't want to say those words because I feel like I'm always saying those words, "I need to work".

Being the husband of an entrepreneur cannot be an easy thing.  I'm as present as I can be, but I'm sure he knows my mind is always somewhere else on those other things that I need to be doing.  Those times at night when we're sitting there "watching TV" together but I'm really on my computer working.  Or when we're gone for a weekend and I'm in my own head thinking of all the things I need to do when I get home.  It can't be easy.  I only have so much of myself to give and I'm already running pretty thin.  I'm an employee, and I'm a mom, and I'm a business owner, and I'm trying to have some time for myself to exercise.  So where in that does my husband fit?  Where do I fit in that I'm a wife, too?

And yet, I never hear a complaint from him.  I never hear him groan when I say, "I need to do some work" and then he's in charge of keeping Henry entertained for awhile.  I don't see him roll his eyes when he comes home and I'm on the computer and Henry is reading to himself.  Even though I want to roll my eyes at myself.  But he doesn't, he never does.

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That night when he asked me what my plans were and I said, "I need to work", he simply told me okay, that he was going to clean up the kitchen and that I should just go downstairs and get started.  So I did.  I went downstairs and my desk light was turned on and shining a spotlight on a card that read "Sarah" on the front.  I smiled before I opened it.

On the inside he told me how proud of me he was and how it was amazing to watch me this last year fulfill this dream I've always had.  And I just sat there for a second dumbfounded and swelling with love at the same time.  All of those nights when I felt like I was failing at life because I was stretching myself between all of the different hats I was wearing - he didn't see it that way.  He saw me busting my ass at this business of mine.  He saw me as "talented and determined" when I saw myself as a failure.  And tears filled my eyes the more I thought of it because he truly believes in me and it's exactly what I needed at exactly the right time.

So, with the renewed faith in what I'm doing, I put the card next to a few others that I've received pushing me to do more, and I opened up my laptop and got to work.  As the footsteps and the laughter and the playing happened over my head - something that would often reduce me to feeling like that's what I should be doing instead of this - I worked for an hour and a half on building this dream.  A dream that my husband wants to be successful for me as much as I do.

And now as I write this, I can feel those tears again because this husband of mine always manages to see the good in me, even when I have a hard time seeing it in myself.

I Love My Body

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I had spotted her as I was doing leg presses.  She was wearing a green short sleeve top and black pants.  She was doing an overhead press and I was impressed- especially because of her age.  I can't do an overhead press and I'm at least half her age.  But she was doing it and I was cheering her on in my mind.  I kept going about my workout and always managed to catch her out of the corner of my eye.  She was making her way through the various weight machines, always with more intensity and strength than I was.

The next time I looked up and noticed, I was on the elliptical and she was in front of me on a treadmill.  That's when I noticed it.  She was heavily limping, barely able to move her left leg.  It was just dragging with her as she walked.  And her left arm seemed to not be working the way she wanted it to either.  Her hand was curled at her side and every once in awhile she would shake it out, try to stretch her fingers.  It appeared she had had a stroke at some point in her life.  Instead of feeling sorry for her fate and what she's had to endure, I instantly felt inspired.  Here she was, being a bad ass at the gym while I was only there for the 2nd day in a row in about two years.  Despite her difficulties in the physical, she had shown up and was working her ass off.

I left the gym that day feeling more inspired than I have in a long time.  A million thoughts raced through my mind.

"I only have one body, and it's still in peak condition, why am I wasting it by not taking care of it?""I have the ability to transform my body, and I'm wasting it.""My body is an incredible thing, why am I taking that for granted?"

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Since Henry was born over two years ago, I've been just coasting through life, assuming I was healthy-ish.  I don't eat much (though what I do eat is not healthy).  I don't exercise much (an occasional Monday night Zumba class here and there).  My weight was fine, my energy level was fine, my mood was fine.  But on that day, I decided I wanted more.  I wanted to feel better and look better.  I wanted to have energy and a clear mind.  And though I was already starting on a diet to get prepped for a beach vacation in a couple months, I wanted to do it for ME.  Not for the beach.  Not for my bathing suit.  I don't want to just coast.

My husband re-started my gym membership and I've re-dedicated myself.  I want to appreciate this body that has gotten me through 33 years of life, has given life to another person, and has generally treated me well (with a few hiccups here and there).  That one hour at the gym does wonders for me.  It's my one hour of music blasting in my ear where I'm only in charge of myself.  Where I can be alone, block everything out, and just go.  My breath fills my lungs as I run, and the weights make my body feel strong and capable.  And when I'm done at the gym, I feel more clear headed, more creative, and like I'm ready to tackle this life that at times feels too overwhelming for me.

And I owe this renewed vision to a woman in a green shirt and black pants, who probably has no idea just how inspiring she is simply by showing up to the gym.  But if she can do it, then so can I.

Brothers and Sisters

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Since we first started dating, I was jealous of Brandon's family life.  It was clear from the start that his family is very close knit, and all very important to one another.  He is the youngest of three boys and his brothers are incredibly important to him.  I grew up with four siblings, one "real" brother and three half siblings.  But for the majority of our lives, we lived apart, spoke infrequently, and were not very present in one another's lives.  We all share a father, but as I've mentioned, that relationship wasn't the best, leaving us all scattered.

We grew up in three separate, very happy households, even without having our biological father present, but we'd never had that sibling bond that so many others rave about.  So I was jealous when I met Brandon.  His brothers are a constant presence in his life, they know details about one another that only siblings know.  They support each other in the way that siblings do.

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As we've gotten older, consciously or not, the five of us have been drawn closer together.  Two of my brothers now live in the same city and were once roommates.  My sister and I bonded over motherhood.  And our youngest brother is the type of person who values family and takes an interest in all that we do.  We talk frequently (having our own ongoing Facebook Messenger chat), we laugh about memories and we support each other - the way siblings do.

In February of this year, our oldest brother turned 40 and invited my brothers for a weekend trip to Vegas to celebrate (something that my sister and I quickly invited ourselves along to).  This type of vacation was completely unprecedented for us.  We had never been on vacation together, not even as kids.  And this trip wouldn't involve a buffer (no parents or spouses to control the potential chaos).  Amidst the craziness that comes with four full-time jobs, and one stay at home mom with three kids and a military husband, we managed to figure it out.  We got on three separate planes all headed to one place and for one purpose: to celebrate not only our brother, but also to be together.  I had no idea how the long weekend would go.  We had never spent more than a night together, how would we last 3 full days?

In the end, it was the trip that we needed.

We left that trip having become closer, knowing one another in a different way.  We left that trip with memories that we aren't soon to forget.  We left that trip with a new found respect for the other four people who make up our family.

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I finally feel as if I have the relationship with my brothers and sister that I've always craved.  We're five very different people, with five very different lives.  But the five of us now have something more - we're beginning our own memories together that we didn't make as children. We're getting a chance to start over and to be present and to enjoy our time together. It's a second chance that I desperately needed to form that bond I've yearned for. And now, those four people in my life are four of my very favorite people to be with. And I can't wait for our next trip.

The Reason We Do It

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It was dark and we were rocking together in the brown leather recliner that has become the staple of our nighttime routine.  It was far past his bedtime but we were all still giddy with the freshness and memories of the weekend.  We had read our books and now it was time for my favorite part, the part where he drifts off while talking to me, holding my hand or bringing me in for kiss after kiss to prolong his bedtime.  But on this night there was something else - his grin.  It was the kind of grin where I could see all of his teeth and the kind that made me grin right back at him.

"I had fun, Mommy"
"Muddy is Henry's friend"
"I saw BASEBALL!"
"Henry ride horsie!"

Over and over he recapped his weekend to me, excitedly telling me about his favorite parts.  He met Muddy the Mud Hen!  He went to a baseball game!  He rode a horse!  He played with the kids!  We had both spent the weekend smiling and now we were reveling in the memories.

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We were standing in the shaded barn petting the horses and coaxing him into the thought of riding one, though we doubted we'd have much success.  "Jillian is going to ride a horse, do you want to ride one like Jillian?"  "No!"  His response was clear.  Until the horse came out of their stalls, walking into the openness that would take the children on individual rides around and around in laps.  The brown coats and long black hair caught his attention.  His cousin Jillian getting onto a horse caught his attention and soon it was all he could talk about.  "I ride, too?"  It became all we could do to keep him calm, letting him know his time would come and that he had to take turns.  He was mesmerized as they trotted around and even more so as we took the horses out into the sunshine.  "I ride, too?  I ride, too?"  Over and over, until at last, the time came for him to ride, too.

We walked over to the giant horse, strapped on his helmet and they helped him up onto the horse.  There was no fear.  He gripped on tightly to the reins, looked at me, and then looked out at the pasture.  He was ready, and in my heart of hearts, I knew that as soon as I stepped away from the horse, he would begin to cry.

But he didn't.  He simply looked down at the young girls holding tight to the horse and off they went.  Around and around in laps until it was time to let someone else have a turn.  And that's when the dam broke.  That's when the tears came.  Because after all, he wanted to ride, too.

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We walk into the stadium with Henry clutching me tightly.  His senses on full alert, looking around at this new experience.  People everywhere, kids laughing, a voice on the loudspeaker.  And that's when we spotted him.  Muddy the Mud Hen, scooting through the crowd, honking his toy horn as people gathered and waved.  A giant yellow bird, different than Big Bird whom he knew from television, but similar still.  He glanced once, then twice, and the third time, the grin.  Muddy waved.  Henry grinned bigger.  He held out his tiny hand and Muddy gave him a high five.  And Henry's little life was made.  It was the coolest of the cool.

Later we sat in our seats, right in the front, over in left field.  He ran back and forth between us, he read books, he played with the ball we had just purchased, he ate a box of popcorn, he made friends with the older woman next to us, he did everything except watch the game.  And then Muddy came.  Right behind him, and then right next to him.  Muddy came to deliver a card to the family next to us but on his way, he took the time to stop, wave, high five, and pat the head of his newest little fan.  Henry's smile was wider than I've ever seen it.  This was his movie star, and he had taken the time to acknowledge him.

At the end of the game, mothers and their children were invited to run the bases together.  We walked onto the dirt field, held hands, and off we went.  Pausing briefly to slap the hands of Muddonna (Muddy's female counterpart), Muddy, and to step on each base as we went around.  Henry squealed and panted as if he had never had more fun in his life.  This was his moment - out on the baseball field, holding the hand of his Mommy, and running and playing.  He was so happy.

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That toothy grin is exactly the reason why we do it.  The exhaustion and expense that comes with taking a child out, whether it's to a private birthday party, or a public baseball game.  It all comes with expense - monetary and emotional.  It comes with stress and frustration and "please just listen to me"'s.  But at the end of the day when you're rocking in the brown leather recliner, and that mile-wide grin, the fast, broken speech and the hand squeezes make an appearance, that's when you remember that you'd do it all over again if only to hear his recaps, if only to see the smile.  It's the reason that parents do these things over and over again.  Because those memories that you're forming are all worth it.

Piece by Piece

­It's been no secret that I didn't have a good relationship with my father while growing up.  He was largely absent from my life (and the lives of my four siblings).  At some point we've all come to the point of forgiveness (in whatever form that may take on for each of us), and accepted the relationship that we've had.  Since I've become a parent I've strangely found myself forgiving him even more (though it should be said that my husband feels the opposite about this - in that he can't imagine a parent not wanting to be present for their child).  And since becoming a parent, my father has been more active in Henry's life, been interested in what he's up to, how he's doing, and wanting to spend time with him when he is in town - a fact that is also confirmed by my sister.

But occasionally, the feelings that I had while growing up resurface.  The feelings of inadequacy, wondering why my father didn't want to be with me.  Remembering writing him letters asking him why he didn't want me.  These feelings can be triggered by any number of things, and I can find myself with tears streaming down my face without warning.  Most recently the feelings were triggered by the Kelly Clarkson song "Piece by Piece" that my sister insisted I listen to.  The song is a beautiful testament to the love that her husband has shown her - that has reignited the faith that fathers can, and want to, be there for their children.

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But piece by piece he collected meUp off the ground where you abandoned things, yeahPiece by piece he filled the holesThat you burned in me at six years oldAnd you know,He never walks awayHe never asks for money,He takes care of meHe loves mePiece by piece he restored my faithThat a man can be kind and a father could... stay

You hear often that women choose men just like their fathers.  I can say that has been completely untrue for my sister and I.  We both chose to marry great men.  Men who are there for their children, who support their wives, who want nothing more than to be a family.  We have found in our husbands exactly what Kelly Clarkson sings in her song - great men, great fathers.

Each time I see Henry and Brandon playing together, it warms everything in me.  To see Henry running at full speed towards his Daddy in a hug.  To hear him laugh as Brandon tickles him or does ridiculous things to make him laugh.  It's those things that I will never take for granted.  It's those things that give me joy for our future.  A future with Brandon on the sidelines of every game, play, or big event that Henry has in his life.  A future with Brandon teaching Henry how to be a man, a father.  A future with Brandon holding Henry as he faces heartbreak and failure.  He'll be there for each of those moments and Henry will always know how loved he is.

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Piece by piece I fell far from the treeI will never leave her like you left meAnd she will never have to wonder her worthBecause unlike you I'm going to put her firstAnd you know,He'll never walk away,He'll never break her heartHe'll take care of things,He'll love herAnd piece by piece he'll restore my faithThat a man can be kind and a father should be great

Triumph

He looked at me with those big blue eyes.  Those saucers that look just like mine.  That have the deep ledge beneath them and the wonderment behind them.  He smiled and threw his head back in a laugh that rocked his entire body.  He drew sharply in and exploded in laughter again as I moved my fingers to his knee, tickling him in the same place that always sends me into fits of giggles, myself.

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His tiny body is sitting as close to me as he can get without sitting on my lap.  His eyes are glued to the television but his arm rests casually on my leg.  He looks at me when his favorite part comes on his current favorite movie and he grins.  Did you see that too, Mommy?  I can tell it's what he's thinking.  He snuggles in closer and links his arm through mine.  The weight of his head is now resting on my upper arm, and I dare not breathe for fear that he'll move and this overwhelming feeling of comfort and love will leave me.  And just when I can feel his muscles start to move, that he's pulling away, he turns to me once more and says "I wuv you Mommy".  The rush is so strong that my mind screams for him to tell me again, over and over and over again as if I've never heard those words before.  But I settle for his hand back on my leg, because I know it means the same thing in his world.

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It's nighttime and we're sitting in his room playing at his oversized train table while my husband cleans up from dinner.  Crash!  Chugga Chugga Choo Chooooo.  He repeats it over and over, mimicking the words that have just escaped my mouth.  He tells me he wants the green train and I hand it to him.  "Thank you, Mommy."  He says it so casually, as if he came out into the world speaking in niceties.  My heart swells with pride.

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The little things are the ones that make up my days.  The peaks and valleys of being a mother are nothing compared to the love that I feel for this tiny child.  And it's in these tiny moments that I know that he can feel the love I have for him radiate throughout his body.

Triumph.

Mothers

"You have all the capabilities to be a great single mother"
"Well, I was raised by the best."

An actual exchange between my husband and I just before he went out of town for a couple of days for work.  He never worries about how I'll handle motherhood on my own, and I think this is why.  I've somehow gleaned all I need to know about motherhood by simply watching, remembering, embracing the things that my own mother did as we grew up.  I didn't realize I was picking things up, becoming a shadow of who she was (is), until my own child came into the world and I became my mother.

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People sometimes say "Oh no, I'm becoming my mother" as if it's a bad thing.  As if the person that gave us life is someone to be feared.  But I don't.  I relish the fact that I find myself saying the same things she said to me.  That I catch myself displaying the same mannerisms she does.  That I've grown up to be a mini-me version of my mother.

It occurred to me recently that I am raising my son just as my mother raised me - even though I'm not doing it on my own.  I'm strong and independent.  I'm fun and free.  I'm strict and firm.  But most importantly, my son will never doubt how much I love him.  Just as I never doubted my own mother's love for me.

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As Henry is growing up and we're able to do more and more together, I can vividly picture moments in our tiny two bedroom apartment with my mom and my brother.  I can hear the screams and laughter as we pounded our feet on the Nintendo Power Pad, running as fast as we could to try and make our guy go faster.  I can picture my brothers grin as he climbed underneath pillows and up on top of chairs as we did our own Double Dare obstacle course. I can remember the pure exhilaration of throwing books off our bookshelves so that we could drive my Grandma nuts when she came over next.  I can remember the feeling of swimming inside the apartment in our baby pool when it was raining outside, but we still wanted to swim.

At each of these memories, I can picture my mom, with her 80's styled bangs and definite shoulder pads.  She wasn't concerned about the mess that we were making.  She was concerned about the fun that we were having.  Or at least, that's what I assume that her mile-wide grin meant.

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And now as I watch her as a grandmother, as Henry wraps his little arms around her, I'm filled with pride.  This is my mom.  My mommy.  She is who I aspire to be.  She is the person whose opinion means the most.  She's the one that I seek out when I need reassurance, or calming, or someone to complain to.

I'm proud of my mom.  I'm proud of the way she raised my brother and I.  I'm proud of her for doing it on her own.

Happy (early) Mother's Day to all of the Moms out there.  All of you who are doing it on your own, or are doing it with a partner.  Mothering is a hard job.  The hardest.  But you're doing it, and someday, your children will look up to you just as you look up to your mom.

Will You Forgive Me?

I snapped at you yesterday.  It had been a long day. I was exhausted.  I knew I still had a few hours of work ahead of me.  So I snapped when  you wouldn't listen to me.  I snapped when you just whined at everything I suggested.  I snapped when you refused to eat your dinner.  I snapped when you just wanted to be held instead of walking alongside me.  I snapped because of nothing that had to do with you, and everything that had to do with me.

I'm sorry.

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"Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them." ~From The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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I know that right now we are your whole world, your Dad and I.  And let's face it, you're ours, too.  We all rely on each other.  We are all in charge of taking care of one another.  But sometimes it's harder than others.  Sometimes I just can't be your whole world.  Sometimes I need a minute to breathe and refocus and figure out who I am again.

Right now I don't think that makes sense to you, but it will one day.  One day when you're a parent yourself and you get home from work and all you want to do is stare blankly at a wall for a few minutes.  Those days when you just need a second to breathe, but instead you immediately jump from employee to parent without a moment in between.

Right now you just see a mom who is distracted, who doesn't want to play trains right this second, who just wants to turn on Thomas the Train and sit there curled up on the couch with you.  Sometimes it's just easier.

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That's when the guilt comes in.  When I know that these years pass by so quickly that I'm going to miss the days when all you wanted was for me to play trains.  When the years were so simple that I didn't have to worry about teenage angst, but only about having to hold your weight in my arms.

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I hope that when the day comes that you feel those things that I feel- the needing a moment, the wanting to just be a person for a second and not a parent- that you'll understand and you'll forgive me.  I hope that you will know that I tried my absolute best for you and with you.  That I tried to juggle it all.  That I gave it my best shot.

Because you, Henry?  You are my greatest joy in life.  And those days when I snap and I'm unkind and I don't want to play?  I hope you will forgive me for those and remember that I am human, too.  I make mistakes and will probably continue to make them.  And I'm sorry.

That Photo

That photo.  You know the one.  The one that is slightly out of focus but so perfectly captures your life and your heart at that moment that it instantly becomes your favorite.  It's the one that speaks volumes when you look at it, no matter what was actually happening in that moment.  That photo is the one that holds everything that you feel so dearly in your heart and puts it right there in front of you.  It's as if you could send it to someone you just met to say "this is who I am, now you know".

That's what this photo is to me.  It's blurry, it's got terrible lighting, neither of them are even looking at me, but it's exactly what I feel in my heart captured in a photo.  It's the greatest man I know, carrying the beautiful human that we made together.  It's the love between a father and a son.  It's the safety that our son feels with his daddy, and that I, in turn, feel with them both.  The way his chin is resting so easily on his daddy's head.  The way their hands are gently holding one another.  It's them.  And it's me.

Who Run The World? Girls!

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A few weeks back I was invited to shoot a segment for a new TV show in Pittsburgh.  Lindsey Smith, who has contributed to Holl & Lane in the past, is starting a new show called The Zest and she asked me, along with other female entrepreneurs in the city, to be a guest on the show.  To say that I was nervous is a serious understatement.  I had no idea what to wear.  I had no idea what to say.  I had no idea what to expect.  I had never been on TV before and the thought of it was terrifying to me.  Finding out that it wasn't live (it airs in July) helped quite a bit, but still I spent most of the morning completely freaked out.

Up until that point I hadn't really put myself in the category of female entrepreneur, or business owner.  I mean, subconsciously, I knew that I was, I knew that I was running a business, but I didn't consider myself in the same realm as other women running businesses.  And I think that all stems from the fact that I still have to go to a full-time, 40 hours a week job.  So even though I'm busting my ass every spare minute of the day on the magazine, I was still considering it almost a hobby.  It doesn't pay my living expenses, so it must not be a business, right?

Something about being in the room with other women who are running their own show, not to mention Lindsey who is just AMAZING, changed that around for me.  I left the segment with my head a little higher, feeling as if I really did belong in this world.  I AM AN ENTREPRENEUR.  I AM A BUSINESS OWNER.  I started my own business and almost a year later, it's actually thriving.  It's growing.  And I did that (with help from an amazing team of women).  I DID THAT.

When I got back in the car to drive home, Beyonce's "Run The World (Girls)" came on Spotify. It was perfect timing.  I cranked the radio up, put the windows down and sang it at the top of my lungs.  And then I did it again.  And after that I started to feel something else- pride.  I'm proud of where I am and what I've done.  I have joined the ranks of other women who are getting shit done and making things happen.  I had a dream, and I went for it- just like they did.  And even though 40 hours a week, I still have to answer to someone who isn't me, those other hours I am answering to myself.  I am deciding the future of a business.

When I got home that day I put this on my personal Facebook page:

"Today I filmed a segment for a TV show. And I didn't die! And I didn't throw up! And I mostly didn't sound like an idiot!

I also got to meet some other awesome female entrepreneurs and it made me so damn proud of myself to have joined this community. I run a business! I'm following my dreams! I'm doing it!"

It's Too Much

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I can feel it starting to creep in.  It's like the sun isn't shining anymore and it's always cloudy and gray.  My eyelids are constantly heavy and my brain has turned to mush.  Simple instructions leave me staring and wondering "what was that again?".

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I stare at my computer screen wondering which file I need to open.  What needs to be done right this minute?  Which emails have I still not responded to and what ones do I even have the answers to?  And then I look down and there's a sweet little blond boy playing on the floor saying to me "Mommy, sit!".  And I want to.  I want to sit down and play cars or trains.  I want to. But when I do the gray starts to overtake me again until I realize that if I don't take care of what I need to take care of, I might never enjoy the trains again.

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Next thing I know I'm at work and I'm panicking because there is so much to be done after work.  I can't focus on anything.  There are so many open tabs in my brain that I can't figure out where to even start.  I never feel quite present anymore.

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It's my own fault.  I do this to myself each time.  I take on too much, I try my hardest to prove that I am superwoman and I can in fact do it all.  Work 40 hours, be a wife, be a mother, and also work at least the same amount on the magazine each week?  Sure, I can do that.  And I'll do it with a smile on my face.  Just don't look too closely into my eyes.  I don't want you to see the gray behind them.  The exhaustion, the fight, the strain.

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The burnout is rolling in like a wave.  It's been there all along, just quieter.  But it's getting closer to the breaking point now.  It's starting to cap, to turn, to rush into land and break.  It's getting louder.

I'm a Size 8

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It's been 2 years, 1 month, and 26 days since Henry has entered the world.  In those 2 years, 1 month and 26 days, my weight has bounced around more than at any other time in my life.  When I was pregnant, I gained 30 pounds on recommendation of my doctor and was then the heaviest I'd ever been.  I did not feel sexy while I was pregnant.  I didn't feel like I was glowing.  I wasn't one of those pregnant women that other women looked at and said "I hope I look that good when I'm pregnant".  I had my good days.  The ones where I looked at myself and thought that I looked kind of cute with my protruding belly button but just as quickly as it had come, it was gone and I was left crying on a heap in the floor of my walk in closet because I had nothing to wear and nothing fit me and I was miserable.  Brandon found me this way more than once and he always told me how beautiful he thought I looked.  I never believed him.

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And then 2 years, 1 month, and 26 days ago, Henry joined us and made us this family of three.  It was just after this day in February of 2014 that I was determined that I would be back in my old clothes.  I remember coming home from the hospital and I was able to put on a sweater that I used to wear.  I felt triumphant.  I thought that from there the weight would just melt off and in no time I'd be in all my old, favorite clothes.  That thought is funny to me now.

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Over the last 2 years, 1 month and 26 days I've struggled over and over with my weight.  Aside from being pregnant, I'm still heavier than I've ever been.  I still have stretch marks and my thighs jiggle and my stomach still carries a mom pouch.  I don't like being in a bathing suit and I don't like my husband seeing me change.  I have a couple pairs of pants that I can fit in from my before-Henry life.  But those ones that had a tag that said 4?  Those have now been placed into a garbage bag and donated to someone who can use them.  And when I put them into that white plastic, I surprisingly didn't feel disappointed in myself.  I thought about all my body had been through, and I thought about the amazing human that my body created.  And I looked down at a new pair of pants that had a tag that said 8 and I thought "who cares?"  My husband certainly doesn't.  My son certainly doesn't.  That number on the inside of my pants doesn't determine how my day will go.  It doesn't determine my success in life.  And as long as I don't let it, it doesn't determine my happiness in life.

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So now 2 years, 1 month and 26 days after having my son, I'm a size 8.  I used to be a size 4 or a size 6, and now I'm a size 8.  I have hips where I didn't used to.  My curves are curvier.  And even though the tag now says a bigger size, I'm still the same person- maybe even a bit happier.  And it has nothing to do with the size on a tag.

On Hometowns

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What do you consider your hometown?  Is it the place where you lay your head each night?  Is it where your Mom still makes you your favorite dinner when you visit?  I've always wondered, do you find your hometown when you start calling a city "home"?

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I haven't found that yet.

Or at least, I don't think I have.  We bought a house here in Pennsylvania.  We set down roots and we're raising our son here.  And when we're away, I often think "I can't wait to get home".  But then when we talk about going to visit our families, we talk about "going home".  So is that our home?  Is our home, our home?  To me, my home is wherever Brandon and Henry are, that's my true home.  But a physical place in the world- where is my home?

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Brandon and I talk a lot about where our lives will take us someday.  At one point we thought we'd travel to new and different cities constantly.  We'd live in Boston and Portland and San Diego and who knows where else.  But we'd never, NEVER, return "home".  Home, to Toledo, Ohio.  Because what is in Toledo for us?  It isn't the up and coming city of our dreams.  It isn't the city that people flock to when they want to experience cultural diversity.  It isn't even the city with solid job opportunities.

But it is the place where our parents live (or at least in the surrounding areas).  It is the place where we met.  It is the place where our very best friends live.  It is the place where we gather to let Henry play with his cousins.  It is the place where we could be a couple again because we'd have people who were gladly willing to take Henry for us any night we asked.  It is the place where we'd have our village to help us raise Henry.  So is that what makes it a home?

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I don't know what the future holds for my family of three.  I don't know if we'll be in Pennsylvania for years and years and years to come.  I don't know if we'll still take that risk and move across the country someday.  And I don't know if we'll someday end up back "home" in Toledo.  But I do know that for the first time in my entire adult life, I'm finally opening up to the idea of being back there.  Of raising my family with all of those people who love us so much.  Of going home.

We Hugged Today

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My husband and I hugged this morning.  And yesterday morning, and the morning before that.  Over the weekend, we even held hands a bit and he wrapped his arm around my shoulders and rubbed my back.

This probably isn't anything groundbreaking to people who are married, but it was for us.  We can sometimes find ourselves stuck in that parent rut where we go and go and go and forget that there is also an US.  We're parents and we're employees and we're homeowners and so sometimes being married gets pushed to the very, very back.

But recently we changed that and we started hugging.  And occasionally even a kiss here or there.  We're trying to remember who we are, who those people were that got us into this whole parenting "mess".  Because those two people were a lot of fun- they were hilarious, they played off each other, they laughed with tears in their eyes, they had smart conversations (and stupid conversations) and they did life together.

These two people in their place now, they're still doing life, but they're doing it in a routine, robotic, systematic way.  So we're working to change that.  And it starts with a hug, and sometimes a kiss.

Our Traits Manifested in Henry

One of the very coolest things about becoming a parent is seeing your tiny baby develop into an actual person.  At some point they stop being a baby and they become this person who can function on their own- with their own ideas and opinions and thoughts and traits.  One of the other coolest things (and also, not so cool things) is seeing YOUR traits manifest themselves into them.  Your personality, your quirks- they're all right there to either thank the heavens for, or curse them every single day that it got passed on to your child.  I recently thought a lot about Henry's specific traits and where he gets them from.

Cautious  //  Me

In general I find that I'm a fairly cautious person.  I've never been one for grand adventures or things that might end badly.  I take my time with things and I like to plan.  Henry is also very cautious by nature- he doesn't often push boundaries, and you won't find him dancing on our kitchen table- in fact, he's never even tried to climb on the chairs!  He likes to play it safe and keep both feet on the ground.

Shy  //  Me

According to my mom, I was an incredibly shy child and that has continued today.  I've figured out these days how to be both introverted and extroverted when necessary, but on any given day, I'd rather stand in a corner than be the center of attention.  Henry is the same- though of course he can be loud and boisterous once he gets going, he is often shy unless he's with B or I.  Even with people he knows (specifically his Grandma's), he is shy for a bit until he starts to feel comfortable.  At daycare I've been told that they sometimes forget Henry is there because he can be so quiet and is off playing by himself.

People Watcher  //  Both

Henry is through and through a people watcher.  He loves observing, if not talking, and he loves to watch scenes unfold.  Both B and I are the same way, though possibly moreso me.  If I'm at a party, I'd prefer to watch rather than talk- where B would rather talk (perhaps he's just friendlier than I am).  I've often found Henry just sitting and watching someone rather than playing- he seems mesmerized by their actions.

Frustrated Easily  //  Brandon

By nature, I'm very calm and don't get frustrated too easily.  B is the opposite in that he's quick to react and is quick to become impatient.  I see that same trait in Henry (though possibly it's in all kids?).  For the most part he is a very calm child but when things don't go exactly the way he expects them to, or we don't move quite as quickly as he would like, his little fists ball up and his frustration roar comes out.

Loud  //  Brandon

This might be in direct contrast to him being shy but when he is comfortable, he can be SO loud.  That one is all B.  B has a big voice and a big laugh - two of my very favorite things about him.  And to hear the two of them get going together?  Let's just say that I often have laughter tears running down my face watching them.

Silly  //  Both

I like to think that both B and I are funny and I think that has shown up in Henry.  Maybe we're just biased and think he's hilarious but you can often find us laughing hysterically at the things he says and does.  We lovingly call him our little weirdo.

Independent  //  Me

I'm independent to a fault.  I don't like relying on others, I don't like asking for help, nor do I like accepting it.  Admitting I need something/someone is basically equivalent to torture for me.  I also much prefer to work on my own rather than in a team setting and I prefer activities built for one (like reading).  Henry, for the most part, is the same way.  9 times out of 10, when I pick him up from daycare, he's playing by himself (though they assure me that he plays great with others and he often tells us about his friends).  He plays very well at home by himself and if we get him set up with a book and some toys, he'll happily play while I get ready for work, or while we get dinner ready.  Luckily for him though, he is quick to ask for help when needed- hopefully that won't change.

Smart  //  Both

B is one of the smartest people I know (I usually just ask him questions instead of looking them up), and I have a Master's degree (which means I have to have some sort of intelligence).  So I think we can safely say that we're smart people.  For being two, I've been told that Henry is incredibly smart for his age.  When my friend Amy recently visited she told me that he is smarter than some of the four year olds that she teaches.  I love to watch his little mind work and figure things out.  I'm crediting his smarts to good genes and good daycare teachers.

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In general, though he has traits from both of us, so far in his journey through life, his personality seems to mostly resemble mine while every day he's looking more and more like his Dad.  Both things of which I'm okay with.

Presto, Chango! A New Life Awaits!

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Recently I read a writing prompt on Hello, Neverland that really got me to think.  She asked, if you could instantly change your life, what would be different?  I sat and thought about that for awhile yesterday.  And I sat and thought about that for awhile today and my mind was a bit boggled.  What would I change if I could change anything?  What new life could await me if the magic potions were mixed up just so?

The thing is, I don't know that I'd want anything to change.  And not in a "my life is so fantastic" kind of way, but because I'm a strong believer in the fact that things happen for a reason (even if you have no idea what the freaking reason is right now).  Let's examine.

+ I didn't want to move to PA five years ago, but we did because of B's job. Had we not moved here, we wouldn't have discovered what it was like to truly be on our own- which has brought us closer together.  I wouldn't have found a new job that I enjoy.  I wouldn't have began my blog (out of sheer desperation for releasing my creativity) which has lead me to begin the magazine - a life long dream.

+ After having Henry, I didn't want to go back to work. Though I still struggle with this one every day, it has also made me cherish the times that I do get to spend with him more so than if I was home every day.  It forces me to put all of my other responsibilities aside so that my focus remains on him.  It has also forced me to become more intentional in my day to day life.  I'm better at taking charge of my day and getting things done when they need to be.  And though I still wish I was home with him, I also know that this is the right thing for us right now.

+ I wish we lived closer to friends and family. And I do because things would be so much easier.  But being here has forced us to really learn how to work as a team, to figure things out for ourselves without relying on our family.  The three of us get to have adventures together alone.  And it's forced us to make friendships in our community (though we're still working on this one).  I have no doubt that someday we will be closer but right now this is where we're supposed to be (which was most recently confirmed when B got to accept a new position at his company- something that may not have been an option had we moved).

+ I want to be able to work on Holl & Lane full time. This is the only thing I'd like to be able to *poof* and change, right now.  I'm so passionate about what we're doing at H&L that I want to pour all of my time and energy into it.  But I know if I was able to work on it full-time, that's exactly what I'd be doing.  All other responsibilities would fall to the wayside and I'd have laser focus.  Great for building a business, not great for being a wife and mother.  Plus, right now I'm able to save up money to hopefully someday make this a full-time career.  And as I mentioned before, I'm having to be more intentional with my time and the time I spend working on the magazine.  I get things done quicker because I know I don't have the luxury of time to work on them later.

So do I want to instantly change my life?  No.  Do I want things to gradually evolve into where we are supposed to be? Yes.  And though being patient is not my strong suit, I can see the value in getting through this part of life to open up doors for our next phase.

Would you instantly change YOUR life?

Lately

I really do miss blogging at this address.  I miss sharing glimpses of my life and having a journal of sorts for Henry to look back through someday to see what our life consisted of.  But I just can't seem to get myself to sit down and write.  What do I talk about?  What do I show you?  Our life is probably only interesting to us, and maybe my mom.  And that's only because she likes to see pictures of Henry.  Regardless, I thought I'd share a few things that have been taking up time in my life recently. A couple of weeks ago I went to Vegas with my siblings.  I have three brothers and one sister and we all went to celebrate my oldest brother's birthday.  I had never been to Vegas before (nor had my two youngest brothers) and what a weekend it was.  These are stories that we'll have forever.  The five of us didn't grow up together and over the last few years we've become closer and closer and taking a trip like this together was certainly a first.  I wouldn't have changed it for the world.  So many laughs, so many drinks, and one wheelchair.

Weather in PA has been like the weather I grew up with in Ohio and Michigan.  60's one day, snow on the ground the next.  We've had a VERY mild winter (as I'm sure most have) but we finally did get a good snow a couple weeks back.  I've been dying to take out Henry's snowsuit and introduce him to snow for the first time (he was too young last winter to care about playing in it).  He was a little cautious at first but after awhile he warmed up and then threw a temper tantrum when we made him go inside.

Now that it's stayed lighter out later in the day, Henry and I have made it a habit to play outside when we get home.  Swinging, soccer, racing up and down the driveway, it's all fair game.  (As proof of the weather thing mentioned previously, the above picture and the below pictures were taken within a week or so of each other.)

Now that I'm working four day weeks I relish those days that I get to have a whole day of just me and little man.  On this particular day we took my car for an oil change and inspection (thrilling!) and then had a breakfast date.  He's cuter than the average date, if you ask me.

These pictures have nothing to do with anything and are just random shots of our days but I love them anyway.

And finally the other big thing I've been working on is Holl & Lane- otherwise known as that thing that takes up all of my time.  Issue 6 launched this past week (please go read it!), and we have a bonus issue coming up for subscribers on April 1st followed by our 7th issue on May 1st.  Needless to say there's been a lot of designing happening for me lately which is my very favorite part anyway.  There are some BIG changes coming to H&L in the very near future and I'm so excited to see where this takes us.

Mom Guilt Hit Me Hard

This morning on my drive to daycare (at 7 am, which is way too early for a freak out), I got hit with a serious case of mom guilt.  It came out of nowhere but all of a sudden it was there, all consuming to the point where I could feel tears begin to prick my eyes.  Nothing was said or done to bring it on, but it hit me hard.

The women at daycare are the ones teaching my son all of the things that I should be teaching him.

He can count, he can say his ABC's, he knows shapes and is beginning to know colors, he knows sign language.  I didn't teach him any of these things.  I'm not the one that gets to sit with him all day and say to him "this is a circle, this is a square".  I'm not the one that gets to sing the Wheels on the Bus over and over until the starts to sing it on his own.  I'm not the one that gets to put him on the potty four times a day every day so that he begins to get comfortable enough to become potty trained.  I'm not the one that gets to read to him and introduce him to new stories.

Yes, I do all of these things with him at home on weekends or after work, but for 40+ hours a week, I'm not the one that gets to do this with him.  I can't take credit for the things that he's learned because I'm not the one who taught him.  And that thought is devastating to me.  I know that as he enters school, I won't be the one teaching him math and history (luckily for Henry), but I expected that.  I knew that would happen.  Somehow I didn't realize the same thing would happen at daycare.  I didn't realize that he would learn all of the basic life knowledge and I wouldn't have much to do with it.

How Do You Know?

A few days ago I watched a 20/20 special on Sue Klebold, the mother of Columbine shooter, Dylan Klebold.  I remember Columbine.  I remember watching in shocked horror that something like this could happen at a school- a place where people were just going to learn, that I had, up until that point, always assumed was one of the safer places for me to be.  I was two years from graduating high school when that innocence was taken away and I don't think the nation has been the same since.  We've come to the point now that school shootings are so common that they aren't as shocking as they once were.  And that in itself is truly terrifying.

But as I watched the 20/20 special, I realized that I now thought of this tragedy from her point of view- as a mother.  I'm the mother to a young child and I think I'm doing my best, and I think that he's loved, and I think that he will grow up to be a good person.  And I have no doubt that Sue Klebold thought the same thing.  From what I could tell, Dylan grew up in a good home with a good family- parents who loved him and treated him well.

But at some point, something in his brain switched and he became suicidal and his mother had no idea.  She had no idea the demons in his head, she had no idea that he was capable of killing people who were his peers and friends.  And she experienced backlash from the victim's parents, chastising her for not knowing.

But my question is- how do you know?  How can you really know what is happening in the mind of your teenager?  You can ask questions and you can dig and you can snoop, but if they don't want you to find something, they won't.  During the special it was said that 15-20% of kids consider suicide.  That is a huge number!  And it is my guess that a large percentage of those kids' parents think that their kids would talk to them if things got to that point.  But how many do?  How can you force your kids to talk to you?

It's a terrifying thought to think that Henry could grow up and feel these feelings and I would never have any idea.  That he could put on a brave face and a good show and I would be one of those parents who thought "He knows he can talk to me- he'll come to me if there is something wrong".  So how will you ever really know?  What can you do?