Nomad

I think I've figured it out.  I'm not certain if it's 100% accurate, but I think it's pretty close.  It's that "why are you the way you are" question that I finally have an answer to.  I think I've got it.

All my life I've had this itch.  The urge to do bigger, to do better, to live fuller.  I want to do it all and I won't stop until I do.  Well, until life forces me to stop.  Until marriage and baby and bills find their way to make the train stop.  I stop.  But every few months that urge comes back.  That urge to do something great to take on something bigger.  And just this morning as I was scanning my morning emails, it hit me.

I get this urge every time I feel restless with where I'm at (physically) in the moment.  Every time I feel that I'm on the verge of something but maybe not quite where I want to be and maybe not as content as I wish I was.  It has nothing to do with the current happenings in my life, it's just this urge inside of me for more when I'm restless to see if that will fill up what it feels I am missing.

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I am a nomad.  I've been called that for most of my adult life because I do not like being in one place for too long.  It's been five (six?) years since we've lived near Pittsburgh and the urge has come back like an ocean wave cascading over me time and again until sometimes it feels as if I just won't breathe until I'm out of here.  It has nothing to do with the city, the house, the people.  It has to do with what is inside of me, this urge for more, this urge for different.

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Will I ever be satisfied with where I am?  Will I ever want to put down roots and see it as my forever city?  I've been asked that several times over the past year and the truth is, I don't know.  I'd like to think that if I found that city, that place that felt like home, I'd be set.  The closest I've ever felt to that feeling was Columbus, Ohio.  I loved it there.  I loved the city, the atmosphere, the people.  I loved it.  But did I love it because I was only there for a year and a half.  At five (six?) years, would I start to feel the urge again?  Would I want to move our family once again?

Or if we moved home to Toledo, would I be happy there?  Finally being surrounded by all of those that I love most - something I haven't had since I left home at 18?  Would that be the city that would finally quiet the urge?  Would my nomadic tendencies be shoved to the back and held down with the memories of life in other cities?

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I am happy.  I'm a happy person who is happy in her life with her husband and her son.  I could learn to be happy anywhere as long as they were in the same home as me.  But content, I believe, is something that is felt when everything feels as if it fits into place.  When you can look back at the end of the day and think that everything is as it should be.  I feel that on some days.  I feel content.  But then on those other days, those days like today, I can see the wave in the distance threatening its resurgence.  And my heart starts beating more rapidly and my urge to flee, to once again be nomadic, resurfaces.  But I am trying.  I'm trying to find the contentedness.

 

Us, At This Moment

The Little He: Talking in full sentences, saying words I didn't know he knew, jumping, running, swimming.  Playing until there is no ounce of energy left in his tiny body.  Reading to himself.  Playing trains over and over and over again.  Coloring and painting.  Creating worlds in his mind.  Pulling the cats tail and in the next second leaning on him telling the cat he loves him.  Free with hugs and kisses.  Shy around strangers.  Laughing the biggest, most fun laugh.  Showing interest in potty training and then changing his mind.  Temper tantrums here and there (thank you, terrible twos).  Kissing me on the forehead when I tell him my head hurts.  Being as sweet as can be.  Getting taller and thinner and looking less and less like a baby and more and more like a little boy.  Happy.

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The Big He: Happier, more content with a new job.  Wrestling on the ground with the little one.  Reading stories and making goofy voices.  Working out and being easily persuaded to eat terribly by me.  Calmer in life, taking pride in our house.  Taking us on trips with the top down on the Jeep and the wind in our hair.  Spoiling me, spoiling him.  Working out ways to allow me to be home with The Little He more often.  Counting down the days until we leave on our vacation (31).  Happy.

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The Me: Taking more time for myself, for my boys.  Enjoying the peacefulness of a workout a few times a week.  Fluctuating in weight and mood.  Forever trying to improve my magazine.  Feeling lost, finding myself, feeling lost again on repeat.  Reading and snuggling and playing trains until I can't play trains anymore.  Trying to eat better, spend less money, and enjoy the little things.  Sometimes with success, sometimes not.  Spending more time in the fresh air, saying yes to new things.  Continuing to feel the guilt over not being home with The Little He each day, but so enjoying the one day off a week that I get with him.  Picking up book after book and reading instead of working.  Enjoying the distraction from my own mind.  Ordering all of the helpful swim floaties to help The Little He learn to swim.  Happy.

Fathers

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There are days when I look at the two of you, laughing, joking, enjoying one another that I stop and think "How is this my life?  How did I get so lucky?"  The two of you are melting into one another with ease these days.  His smile is just like yours and as I sat and watched the two of you wrestle together on the floor, I could see those twinning grins you both had and it took everything in me not to get up and smother both of your faces in kisses.  These days, it's enough for me to just get to sit and watch you together.

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You have become the father that I always knew you would be.  When I had my doubts before Henry entered my life, I always centered myself on the fact that YOU would be there with me.  With your calm voice and playfulness.  That made it all easier and that made me think it was right.

He asks for you often when you're not there.  "Where Daddy go?"  "We see Daddy at gym?"  "I want my Daaaaaddy" (when things haven't gone quite his way).  And I know what he means, I want you to be there too, with us, so we can experience every moment together, just the three of us.  It's the way I think life is supposed to be.

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As we walk across the parking lot and he grabs your hand and then grabs my hand and says "I fly", I can feel his safety radiating through his body.  He's safe with us and that's all I've ever wanted since he came into our lives.  And when he sits on your shoulders as we walk and I look back to see that ease on both of your faces I can feel my heart pounding louder, because this is exactly what I wanted since the baby discussion began - you two.  You're who I wanted.

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There may be times that I don't say it as often as I should, but you are so appreciated.  You provide for us in every sense of the word - keeping a roof over our head, giving us the space to enjoy life and adventures, letting me work 4 days so that I can be home with him one day.  I never hesitated in knowing that marrying you was the right move for me.  And as it turns out, I felt the same about having a child with you.  YOU.  The man that quickly takes over when I'm having a bad day, who can build a train track with the best of 'em, who can conjure up the most ridiculous voices that never fail to make Henry laugh, who never shucks his responsibilities.

You are the reason that our life is so happy.

Thank you, Brandon.  Happy Father's Day.

Sunny

The weather has turned its nose towards summer this week.  The air is warm, but not quite "take your breath away" warm yet.  It's the perfect in between weather when you can have all of your windows down in your car and feel perfectly peaceful - all before it becomes REAL summer and you have to turn your air conditioning on the minute you get into your car.

The days are long.  The sun lights up the sky past eight o'clock and there is something about these long days that make you want to play just a little longer, get ice cream on a whim, go for walks hand in hand.

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It's 7:30 and he wants to go outside.  This is normally when we start our bedtime ritual but tonight, the sun is still shining and it feels warm on our faces.  We put flip flops on and head out the door.  He grabs his soccer ball and begins to kick it around the yard.  Soon, our neighbor joins us.  Her son and my son play together in the front yard, while she and I sit on the front stoop and talk.  The kids are giggling hysterically.  She and I are talking about weekend plans, relationships, vacations - the kind of brief conversations you have with your neighbors.

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And then the sun begins to sink down just a little lower and the warmth has left us just a bit.  So we gather up our kids and head inside where we give Henry a bath and then settle in to read books.  Three books is our ritual, but tonight he wants four.  I say yes because it feels like one of those days where you say yes to everything.  After I've finished reading, he gives kisses to Daddy and then kisses to Mommy and he snuggles in against my chest.

We shut the curtains because, though it's lower, the sun is still peeking through.  Shhhh, it's bedtime, I whisper.  And I run my fingers along his cheek and down to his back.  I rock him and stare into his eyes.  I kiss his nose.  I tell him I love him.  And he drifts off to sleep.  The excitement of the day having exhausted him, he's now snoring quietly in my arms.  But I don't want to move just yet because it is one of those days that you don't want to end too quickly.  You want to bask in the sun just a little longer.

Image by Kate Stutz Photography

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

Swallowing My Pride

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I've never been good at asking for help.  I blame my mom for that.  Being a single mom, I always saw how strong she was (and stubborn).  It seemed that she could do it all on her own, so in turn, I've always felt the same way.  I've always been very independent and very reluctant to ask for help- or even admit when I need it.  When Brandon and I first started dating and I was living on my own for the first time in years, I often ate a can of green beans for dinner because I couldn't afford much more.  But when he would ask if I needed help, I'd always brush it off and say that I was fine.

As I've gotten older, I've always been under the impression that I SHOULD do it all on my own BECAUSE I'm older.  No one wants to be 30 years old and have to ask for help, right?  Well, I've learned that's stupid.  When I started Holl & Lane last year, I realized just after the first issue launched that I needed help in running the show.  A magazine is a BIG job and if I wanted it to be good, I needed the help.  So I have this team of women now (who work for FREE!) who are AMAZING.  I cannot even begin to tell you the amount of work that they do for me, and help me with, and just generally be sounding boards.  They have become so much more than my team members, they are my family.  H&L would not be where it is without them, I'm certain of it.

Yesterday I swallowed my pride in the biggest way when I started a Go Fund Me account for the magazine.  The past year has been financially draining for me and it got to the point where it was either ask for help, or shut down the magazine.  And we're doing SO MUCH good with the magazine.  We're truly helping people.  The emails and messages we get from people about how much a story has helped them make my day.  It felt like shutting down the magazine was just not an option.  I know we have the power to do even more, and I wanted to keep going.  So I set up a Go Fund Me account and told the story of H&L and what we want to do.  And that's when people started giving and helping me to realize that not only do people appreciate what we're doing, but they are excited about it too.  These people are all investors in the magazine.  They are who are going to help more people feel less alone.  They are the ones that are giving us a shot to see where this goes.  And I couldn't be more grateful.  They made me feel like it was okay to ask for help.

So I thought I'd put it here, too.  And if you're interested, feel free to donate as well.  And if you can't, feel free to share so others can know about H&L as well.  And just know, like I do now, that it's OKAY to ask for help.  Admit that you need it.  You'll be surprised how much people want to help you.

Henry's 2nd Birthday Party

Over the weekend we held Henry's 2nd birthday party in Toledo at Maumee Bay State Park.  We rented a cabin for the weekend and hosted 40 of our closest friends and family.  Just like last year, I couldn't believe just how much our tiny family of three is loved.  When people give up a portion of their weekend just to celebrate a tiny person who will not even remember the party, you feel pretty darn loved.  This will probably be our last "big" party for a few years, but I'm so glad that we had it.  It isn't often that we get to have our family (and the friends who feel like family) all in one place.

After the party, B made the comment that it seems Henry has the same personality as me- overwhelmed by large groups, especially when the focus is on him.  He mostly stuck to hanging out with B's mom until the end when he finally decided that his cousins are pretty cool and wanted to run around with them.  But when 40+ people were singing happy birthday to him, the sheer confusion and panic on his face was fairly priceless.

He got far too many gifts, ate way too many cupcakes and cookies, and we all had a damn good time.  My favorite part?  When it was just the three of us in the cabin at the end of the night and I was sorting his toys on the floor while he sat in a chair nearby.  He looked to me and started saying "I love you, Mommy" over and over.  He's never said it unprompted before and my eyes immediately teared up.  What a beautiful little soul he is.

Feel free to enjoy the few pictures that I did get (mostly thanks to Sean and Anna!) and definitely head over to my Instagram to see a video of Henry's favorite part (the indoor swimming pool!)  Ps- His actual birthday is tomorrow!

This kid loves books, so any time he opened a book he had to "read" it before he'd move onto the next present.