I'm Sad for the Roanoke Victims but I'm Also Sad For Bryce Williams

It has been a long, exhausting and sad week for Roanoke, VA, to say the very least. I met my spouse in Roanoke. Our daughter was born in Roanoke. Most of my friends and news/advertising/marketing colleagues still live and work in the Roanoke Region. I lived there for eight years and when I think about my time in Roanoke, it holds so many beautiful and fun memories and despite the horror that has occurred there this week, that is the way I will choose to remember it.

I would be lying though if I said I haven’t been thinking about the events that took place there this week because I have. I know most people have, and for most of us living in our world today, I wonder if we haven’t become numb to these types of incidents: another day, another shooting and the world keeps spinning ‘round and ‘round. Are we sad? Yes. Do we mourn? Yes. Do we unite and pull together as a community and nation when these types of things happen? Yes.

But do we ever really, truly do anything about it to hopefully minimize the risk of it happening again? Do we ever address the true issues and problems that cause these types of horrific scenes? Do we ever learn and grow from our own man-made history of violence and recklessness?

No. Not at all. And this is what needs to change in order for our society to ever be able to move forward as a safer nation for everyone. We all mourn and grieve and say, “This is so senseless. These types of things have to stop!” but it seems like that’s as far as it goes in the conversation of guns, gun safety and mental health awareness in our country. For the most part we put our heads in the sand and foolishly think, “As long as it’s not happening to me, it’s not my problem.”
But it is.
Roanoke could easily be your town or city that becomes affected next. Then what do you do? How do you feel? It could easily be your son, daughter, mother, father, brother or sister. If we haven’t learned anything as a country shouldn’t we at least know by now that violence doesn’t discriminate?
We should, but we don’t. And we definitely do not address the real issue of why these types of shootings continue to take place: mental health, awareness and illness.
When I first heard the news of the shootings, I was so angered (mostly at Vester), sad and disappointed. My mind was reeling and all I could think was how horrible of a person Vester must have been to do such a horrible thing. Then his background information started to be revealed...
This was a man who by all accounts, was severely and uncontrollably mentally ill. So much so, that even his former employer, WDBJ, forced him to seek mental health counseling at one point as a part of his agreement to be employed by the station because they became witness to his illness and the potential for an unsafe working environment. In every conversation I've heard about Vester from current and previous co-workers, employers, friends and even some of his own family, Vester suffered from severe mental illness. It was a mental illness that unfortunately, was never diagnosed properly let alone treated. 

He's been called "nuts," a "piece of shit," a "loser" and so much more but really, what you should be calling him is an unfortunate product of the society we live in today. Don't be mad at Vester; be mad at the legislators and lobbyists who make it their job every day to fight against gun legislation. Don't be mad at Vester; be mad at the insurance companies who work hard every day to do the least amount possible in providing mental health coverage in their plans. Don't be mad at Vester; be mad at the glorification of guns and violence in our society. Don't be mad at Vester; be mad at the legislators and lobbyists who crawl in bed with the gun companies to help keep both their pockets fat and happy while people continue to die.
Does this excuse what Vester did? No. Not at all. Am I on his side? Absolutely not. But how can we post and talk about empathy, love and understanding on social media and in the news in the wake of this awful event and not try to understand the real reason why these shootings happened? When will society, legislators and gun owners STOP squabbling about gun rights and the issues that don't really matter and deal with the real issue at hand - mental illness and our societies and government's inability and position to not deal with it and do something to make it better. What is it really going to take for change to be made in our country where this issue is concerned??
Now is the time to start having these difficult conversations. Now is the time to start facing this uncomfortable topic and issue head on. Now is the time to finally bring mental illness and awareness to the forefront. We must force our government and local/state legislators to ACT NOW for the betterment of our society as a whole. We cannot continue to keep brushing this issue under the carpet. How many more people have to die for the right thing to be done?
I feel so much sadness for the victims. My heart aches for them but I too feel sadness for Vester. When I think about the victims, I say, "What could their lives have been?" and when I think about Vester, all I'm left thinking is, "Could this all have been avoided if he had gotten the help he needed?"



Working Mom, Interrupted. 4 Tips to Help You Keep Your Work Game on Point When You're Not Working (But Want to Be)

Working Mom, Interrupted. 4 Tips to Help You Keep Your Work Game on Point When You're Not Working (But Want to Be)

Up until the end of June this year, I’ve been a working mom since Madeline was born four years ago and that’s the way I love my life; unapologetically, confidentially, an enthusiastic working professional. However, with our move to Pittsburgh, my work mojo has been put on pause as I get used to a new city and look for a job. For now, I’m a SAHM until the right offer comes calling.

If I’m being honest, not being employed full time has been a hard transition. To be fair, I have enjoyed being home with my daughter. I’ve been able to experience all the wonderful and amazing things she learns, does, and discovers on a daily basis that I would have missed out on if I’d been in the workplace but still in the back of my mind, I long for the days of the 9 to 5, fast-paced work environment and outlets to use my creativity that I just don’t get being home all day with my child.

When you’re unemployed, whether it’s because of a move, unforeseen circumstances or the decision to make life changes, it can be challenging to break into a new work scene, especially when you’re new in a big city. I’ve been fortunate to be gainfully employed for the majority of my professional career but I’ve also been met with times of uncertainty and unemployment.

During these difficult times, it’s easy to become discouraged and lose hope but DON’T. Truly, every cycle of employment and unemployment is a season so today, I’m sharing four of my best kept secrets to help you keep your work game on point when you’re not working but want to be.

LinkedIn Should Be Your Best Friend.

This one should go without saying but it never ceases to amaze me how many professionals don’t have a LinkedIn profile. I know that not everyone is into the social media scene; if you don’t want to keep up with a Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook account, fine, I get it but if you are a working professional, especially one who is job hunting, you should have a LinkedIn account and here’s why…

LinkedIn is a robust social media tool that offers you free marketing and exposure of your resume, skills, background and experience. You have the opportunity to upload samples of the work you’ve done, accomplishments and most importantly, gives you the chance to receive written recommendations from peers and supervisors regarding your work prowess. This can be a huge plus when you’re job hunting and interviewing because you can direct any potential employers to your page for these recommendations and samples. The important thing to remember here is if you’re going to have a LinkedIn profile, you need to make sure it’s a complete profile. This is not something you can do halfway as it’s a reflection of your business acumen. As a hiring manager, there is nothing worse than finding your profile on LinkedIn only to see that’s it’s incomplete or missing information. To get an idea of how your LinkedIn profile should look, I invite you to take a look at mine here.

LinkedIn also offers the following programs for job hunters:

A.      LinkedIn Answers & Group Conversations. This is the perfect way to keep up with what’s going on in your industry while getting the 411 on who’s hiring, which companies are the best to work for and for purposes of networking.
B.      Recruiters. A large majority of LinkedIn’s membership is comprised of head hunters and job recruiters who do nothing but look for their next perfect addition to the workplace. I’ve been contacted several times from recruiters and while the positions haven’t worked out, I know that I’m being found.
C.     Job Search Function. Gone are the days of companies spending thousands to advertise their open positions in newspapers. Where are they posting? You guessed it – on LinkedIn. The job search function is amazing and for Premium members, you can refine your search to salary range, specific job titles, cities and even specific companies.
D.     LinkedIn InMail. For Premium members, you have the opportunity to contact the hiring manager directly regarding jobs you’ve applied for and to find out additional information on a specific position you’re interested in. I’ve done this numerous times and have even received a job interview from contacting the hiring manager directly. It does make a difference!

Wake Up, Get Up and Show Up.

Being unemployed does not mean you’re on vacation. I know it’s tempting to sleep in and enjoy a little leisurely time in bed but don’t. Set your alarm to wake up around the same time you would if you were waking up to go to work. This helps to keep your body in its routine but more importantly, helps you to stay focused for the day ahead.

Get up and get ready. Shower, dress, make your bed and coffee and do all the same things you would normally do in the morning if you were employed. Since I’ve been home with my daughter, I’ve found that if I get up and get going like I normally would if I were employed, I have a greater sense of accomplishment and drive for the day ahead.

Show up. Set a daily goal for yourself on how many jobs you’re going to apply for and follow through. For me, I make it a point to apply for 3 jobs per day. You may want to do more but try not to overload yourself. By the time you research a company, write cover letters and actually apply for each position, it can all be very time consuming and draining so make sure to set a daily goal that you can accomplish.

Clean Up Your Social Media Presence.

When you have a job and a steady paycheck it’s easy to become complacent with how you conduct yourself online but this can be to your detriment when you’re unemployed. It’s a 99.9% guarantee that any potential employer, boss or HR manager will be doing a Google search to find out who you are online. What will they find? You shouldn’t be posting these types of things anyway, but no potential employer wants to find pictures, tweets or status updates from you talking about how drunk you were at a party last weekend nor do they want to see your private domestic squabbles being played out in a public forum.

Clean up your act.

Choose profile pictures and cover photos for all of your accounts that are professional and friendly, and while you can never 100% delete anything from the Internet, go through the feeds of each account to see what things you may want to consider removing from your pages and profiles. These things may be found anyway through other sources but trying to minimize the risk is worth the work. Don’t be naïve in thinking that potential employers will not look you up online. This is a foolish and stupid mistake. As someone who has been a hiring manager, I can tell you that when I receive a resume, the very first thing I do is Google you to see what I find.

Think of it this way…

If you’re applying to be the social media manager for my company’s social media accounts, do you really think I’m going to hire you to be in charge of my company’s online presence and manage its online reputation if I see that you’re a hot mess online yourself?

Bottom line, grow up and clean up your act.

Network! Network! Network!

When I worked for the Chamber of Commerce, the one most important thing I learned about business was the power and influence of networking. This couldn’t be a more important tactic to utilize on a daily basis then when you’re unemployed and looking for your next opportunity.

Pull your contacts and resources to find out who you’re connected to and who may know someone in your industry that can help you get introduced to the decision makers for each position for which you’re interested. Again, this is where having a LinkedIn account becomes very beneficial. For each position listed on LinkedIn, there is a graph to the right side that shows how you may be connected to the company with either the hiring manager or other employees from the company through connections you already have. If you see that there is a potential connection, email the contact you already know to see if they will introduce you online. If I receive a message from someone I know and respect highly in my industry who wants to recommend someone they know for a position open within my company, I’m ten times more likely to listen and take notice. Never underestimate the power of your connections.

If you’re new to a city, visit your local Chamber website to find out what business networking events are going on in town that you are able to attend. Simply showing up to events, meeting new people, introducing yourself and making connections in person is a great way to get your foot in the door while cultivating business relationships. You never know who is looking to hire or if a company is in the middle of a reorganization and looking for new talent, you may be just what they’re looking for. Chance favors the prepared mind. Often times, many companies hire in this way before a job is even posted so stay connected and get out there!

Being unemployed and having your work game interrupted is never easy but with a few basic skills and resources as the ones mentioned above, you can be on your way to securing that next great gig. What tips and advice would you share for other working moms who are unemployed but looking for work?

Love and Hate

On Monday, my girl Stephanie from Wife Mommy Me talked a little bit about the things she loves and hates in life. As a result, she tagged a few of her blog friends to join in on the fun, one of them being yours truly. I always enjoy posts like these because you get to learn a little bit about the person behind the blog and so many times, I feel like I’m writing about a lot of heavy issues so it’s nice to lighten things up every now and again.

ONE // Clean bed sheets hot and fresh from the dryer. Is there anything better than sliding into bed on a set of warm, clean bed sheets? I don’t think so.

TWO // Christmas. Let me put it this way: this year when it came time to take down our tree, it made me so sad that I decided to leave ours up year round. I also play Christmas music when I’m working or cleaning and I further admit that you may see me pinning Christmas related things on Pinterest. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, y’all.

THREE // My relationship with Christ. In an older post from this year, I talked a little bit about religion and what we believe, and while my views may not resonate with most people, for me it works. I believe in Christ and the divine plan for all mankind. Many times throughout the day, I talk and commune with the Lord and share my concerns, my joys, my wants and my needs with Him. I listen quietly for His answers. Sometimes they come right away, other times they do not but regardless, I feel His spirit with me always. My personal and private relationship with my Heavenly Father is an important aspect of my life even though from the outward appearance, may not seem so.

My belief is simply this: I don’t think sitting in a building on a weekly basis makes anyone more Christian or holier than the person who chooses not to attend a worship service, and while reading the scriptures gives us an outline and foundation to guide our lives and choices, I believe that the actions and works of a person shows what they truly believe far more than reading pages in a book. Christ lived his life as a teacher but more so, put into action what He believed by living His life as an example to others through His works, deeds and interactions with His fellow man.

And this is the main principle I hope to instill in our daughter – that faith without works is dead.

FOUR // Tacos. Never, ever in the history of all food given to mankind was none better than the taco. Y’all know that scene in Forest Gump where he goes on and on about the different ways to prepare shrimp? Yep, that’s me with a taco. Chicken tacos, spicy shrimp tacos, street tacos, veggie tacos, pork tacos…

FIVE // The Tennessee Volunteers and All Things Tennessee. I was born in Nashville, lived in Chattanooga for a time and my alma mater is Middle Tennessee State University. Our family have been HUGE Vols fans since God was a child. Growing up, my grandparents’ home was orange with white trim, they had a white and orange checkerboard mailbox, a camper named Smokey to travel to all the home games in and both of their cars were white with an orange stripe decal down the side. I remember curling up in the floor and watching the Vols play with my PaPa when I was young. Like, really young. I think watching the Vols play for him was the closest thing to heaven. Now in my home, we yell “GO BIG ORANGE,” sing Rocky Top and yep, I normally get a little misty-eyed at the beginning of each home game during the running of the T.

SIX // Fall, Winter and Snow. Simply put, I don’t get down with summer, sweat, bugs and heat. No thank you. Give me a cozy sweater, a hot pumpkin spice latte, boots, a cute scarf and some snow fall any day of the week.

SEVEN // Paper Planners, Paper Books…Paper. Yes, I’m aware that we’re in the year 2015. I’m also aware that there are a gazillion electronic devices to help reduce the use of paper, but here’s the thing – some things should never cease to exist in paper. I get why people love their iPads, Kindles, blah blah blah but for me, holding and reading a paper book is the best feeling in the world. I love to snuggle up under a blanket or in bed with a great paper book and a glass of wine. To me, it’s just not the same feeling holding a cold machine in my hand (and yes, I’ve tried.) I love to see floor to ceiling bookshelves stuffed with paper books and as much as I’ve tried, I just can’t keep an electronic calendar. I love to have my old school paper book planner where I can take notes, plan and keep important documents in front of me.

EIGHT // My Family. They are crazy, unpredictable, annoying, fun, nosy and so much more but you know what? They are mine. Always have been and always will be. No matter who comes and goes in my life, they will always stay. They have always been there for me during my most trying times in life when no one else was and for them and their undying support, I am eternally grateful.

NINE // Going Out for Breakfast on Sunday Morning. Truthfully, I love breakfast food anytime of the day but there is something so soothing and relaxing about spending a morning out with a giant plate of pancakes, a full cup of coffee and the ones you love all around you. It’s even better when you just take the time to sit back and talk and fellowship.

TEN // Cooking. Confession: there was a time when I had zero clue what I was doing in the kitchen. I specifically remember the first time I tried to make spaghetti sauce from scratch. Long story short, I added so much garlic to the sauce that not even the dog would eat it. Nowadays, I throw down in the kitchen and have become quite an amazing cook. Getting in the kitchen, chopping, dicing, stirring and meal planning for me and my family is very therapeutic for me and brings a wonderful feeling of calm and peace into my day. I’ve really grown to love it.

ONE // When People Blow Their Nose at the Dinner Table. Ew, just ew. I know there are certain instances where it can’t be helped but really, get your ass up and leave the table.

TWO // Smoking. Want to wreck your body and temp the big “C” word? Go for it, just don’t bring that nasty habit around me or my child. NO.

THREE // All Things Alabama. If you’re confused by this, refer back up to number five in the “Love” set and you’ll know why.

FOUR // Mess, Disorganization and Clutter. True story: you can always tell I’m irritated by my surroundings if my left eye starts twitching. I have to have order and cleanliness otherwise, I look like I’m winking at everyone.

FIVE // Over Cooked Meat. There is only one way a fillet should ever be cooked: RARE. There is nothing worse than being served a nasty plate of shoe leather.

SIX // Tardiness. I mean, really. How hard is it to plan ahead accordingly??!! Okay, we all get stuck in the occasional traffic jam or something happens at home with the kids to prevent us from getting out of the door on time but if you’re habitually late or make it a point for your motto to be, “Better late than never” and I’m always sitting around wasting my time (which is just as valuable) then we can’t be friends. #sorrynotsorry

SEVEN // Poor Hygiene. If you’re a grown ass adult, then it’s very simple: brush your damn teeth. Bathe. Put on some type of deodorant. Clean out your damn ears once in a blue moon. Clip your toe nails so that it doesn’t look like you’re sporting two sets of eagle talons on your feet. Brush your hair instead of it looking like a bird perched on your head and made a nest. Regardless of what the Peanuts cartoon will tell you, one wants to hang with a pig pen.

Eight // Talking on the Phone. My parents will get a kick out of this one because growing up, my ears were permanently glued to the house phone. Nowadays? I can’t stand to talk on the phone, save, unless it’s a dear friend or relative that I’m talking to. I really dig snail mail and texting but talking on the phone? I’d rather scoop my eyes out with a spoon. #IKnowImWeird

NINE // Sunshine. It’s glaring and gives me a headache. Truly, my most favorite days are the ones where it’s overcast and cloudy – not raining. Just grey skies and cool breezes. Again, I realize how weird this sounds.

TEN // Math. I know enough to balance my checkbook and that’s about it. Math and I have always had a tenuous relationship. True story: I was so bad at Geometry, my father begged my 9th grade Geometry teacher to pass me so that he (my dad) wouldn’t have to suffer through another semester of helping me. I kid you not. My dad literally had a parent/teacher conference to beg my teacher to pass me. Fortunately, my teacher had mercy on me and passed me but needless to say, math and I have always been on bad terms.

So how about you? What are some things you love and hate?

Letters to Madeline: Happy 4th Birthday!

Dearest Madeline:

Here we are on your fourth Birthday. Can you explain to me how this happened?! When I close my eyes and think of you, most times I still see you as my little, precious baby…

But you’re not.

You have grown into a beautiful, tenacious, curious, funny and wickedly smart preschooler.

At four years old, you are a healthy, happy, super active, curious, observant, wide open, hysterically funny girl. You are wickedly smart {More so than your parents and most people to which your father and I are scared to death. Ay yi yi...} and you constantly amaze us with your quick wit. You have more sass and attitude than your little body can hold and the same qualities that drive us insane - your stubbornness, your defiance, and your passion are the very same things that will take you far in life. Your father and I are so very proud of you, my love. You are a headstrong little lady...I have a feeling this will be a challenge for your dad and I as you get older. It's okay, my Chickie. We'll get through the bumps together.

You have a few loves in your life, mostly food, bubbles, donuts and your best friend, our sheltie Henry. From the day we brought you home from the hospital, you and Henry have been BFF's. You play together and watch movies together but what really grabs at my heartstrings is how he sleeps with you in your room at night. You guys are so cute to watch together. You also love to watch movies with your favorites being Frozen, Monster's University and Toy Story. Your favorite shows to watch on TV are Curious George, Paw Patrol and Team Umi Zoomi. A big first for you this year was going to your very first movie in the theatre. Daddy and me took you to see Minions and you loved every second of it...especially the copious amounts of candy and popcorn.

At four, you have so many things in your life that you love and enjoy: playing kitchen, doing anything outdoors, tennis, baseball, swimming and anything having to do with the water and you LOVE airplanes. It's amazing to sit back and watch you play with your toys as you come up with stories and scenarios that usually, make absolutely no sense to your dad and me but hey - you're happy and that's all that matters. 

You are bossy, silly, and talkative like your mom yet observant, reserved, and particular like your daddy. You can be quick to explode but also oh so fast to dish out the snuggles, kisses and lovies. Even at the age of four, you have an amazing ability to sense the need for compassion and kindness as you are always quick to help clean up your messes, say "bless you" after sneezes and will rub our heads and ask "You okay mommy?" God, how that melts me. Literally overnight, you turned into a little adult talking in full sentences, asking questions, being able to discern situations and you’re always the first to scold daddy and I when we say bad words.

At four, you are truly the light of all our lives. You are completely and utterly adored by your grandparents and everyone you meet is instantly a friend. You have brought so much joy and happiness to so many people and in so many ways, you have made our family complete. You are the light of Poppy's life, the twinkle in Grandma's eye and the debate is still going strong between your Aunt Ashley and Aunt Jordan as to who the favorite aunt is. It's safe to say that you have us all smitten.

At four, you are imperfectly perfect my little Chickie. I gave you life but it is you who saved mine. Thank you for being my inspiration and motivation to be the best woman and mommy I can be. Thank you for showing me how to love your daddy in a whole new way I never thought possible. Thank you for showing me so many more lessons about myself than I've taught you up to this point. Your daddy and I are so proud of you and the little person you're becoming. You will always have our love, our support, and most importantly - our hearts. Thank you for being, well, you. Stay awesome, my love and continue to kick ass. Always, kick ass.

Happy Birthday and love forever and always,

Mommy and daddy

Whose to Say One and Done is Wrong?

It started around six months after Chickie was born.

I was frequently asked, “So – when are you guys going to have another?”

Truth be told, I was still struggling with becoming a new mother, returning to work full-time, coping with the sleepless nights but most of all, my body was still recovering from Chickie’s C–section. The thought of having another child with all those life adjustments going on was the furthest thing from my mind.

But the questions, assumptions and interrogations continued…

“You are still young! Have another one quickly before it’s too late!”
“You don’t have any fertility issues, do you? What’s the problem?”

Each time, my answer was simply “We do not want another child.”

By people’s reactions, you would have thought I magically sprouted six heads and blew fire.

Then would come the litany list of reasons Michael and I should have another child:

“You don’t want your daughter growing up and taking life on alone, do you?”
“Single children tend to be really spoiled. You need to have another one 
to balance it out.”
“Doesn’t Michael secretly really, really want a son?”
“You don’t think she’ll feel pressured to be perfect as an only child?”

Out of all these questions, my personal favorite would have to be: “But you and Michael make beautiful children. It’s your obligation to make more!!”

Um, okay.

Becoming a first-time mother at 35 I was even shocked that I had Chickie. I never thought I’d have the chance to become a mother coupled with the fact that I never had much of a mothering instinct growing up, I was perfectly fine and dandy with just one child. From the moment I met Chickie in the hospital, I knew instinctively that I only wanted one child. For me, our family felt complete. I had zero desire to have another child and Michael felt the same way.

With every year that passes, I am more and more convinced that our decision to be one and done is the right choice for us. And that’s the part I’d like to emphasize – the choice to have only one child is what works for us. If you want 20, by all means knock yourself out. Or up. Every couple has to determine what is right for them and them alone because at the end of the day, they are the ones left dealing with the ramifications of their choices. Having children is a deeply personal decision that should be understood and respected by all. In as much as you and your spouse may want 20 kids, some couples don’t, and when it’s all said and done, both sides should respect the other. As I said earlier, no one has to live your life but you.

Having said this, I understand where the questions and input comes from. With the average American household now holding at around 2.01 kids (How the heck is a number like that possible when you’re talking about people??) it’s easy to understand people’s confusion and hesitance when you say you only want one child. So to add a little balance to our more-than-one mentality in our culture, I offer my own personal reasons for being one and done:

1.    I Know My Limits and My Limitations. It basically boils down to this: I could be a great parent to one child or a mediocre parent to more. Pretty simple, huh. I know that my temperament and personality is suited for one child and that having more would put a huge strain on that. I’ve also discussed how I’m a mother who battles depression many times here on the blog. In order for me to be at my healthiest mentally and emotionally, I keep this in mind with regards to kids. Knowing this about myself, why would I want to have more children knowing I’d only be a sub-par parent at best?

2.    The Financial Aspect. I feel that when a couple starts discussing the topic of kids, it’s important to take into consideration what you’re financially able to afford and provide. Bringing a life into the world is a huge commitment and you never know what life will throw at you on any given day. If you’re not prepared to take on that commitment financially, it brings a whole new set of challenges into your family. For us at this specific time in our lives, even if we wanted more kids, it wouldn’t be prudent because we’re not in a position to do so financially. As it stands now, we are living within our means with one child and we are more than okay with that.

3.    Still Having Time for Personal Interests and “Freedoms.” I am a firm believer that while we as parents make a life-long commitment to our children, it by no means translates into “Give up everything that makes you happy as your own individual person.” I’ve come to find that the happiest I’ve been in parenting over the last three years has been when I felt like I was still able to have a sense of “me,” time to myself and the flexibility to have social time with friends and time with Michael. Being who I am as a person, and Michael as well, I don’t think if we had more children we would be able to handle the added stress of raising kids. I feel that now, we have the best of both worlds – we have the child we always wanted and we still have the ability to have a certain amount of freedom that we both enjoy and need as individuals. In my book, that’s a win-win.

I also truly believe that if you want your child to have a happy, fulfilled life, you have to model that. If this equates to having more than one child for you, great but if not, and all you’re doing is struggling to keep your head above water every day because you gave into societal, family or friend pressure to have more kids even when your gut told you not to, you’re not modeling that and your children will know it and feel it.

4.    Speaking of Freedoms & Finances, Let’s Talk About Being a Working Mom. I’ve discussed many times why I enjoy being a working mom. You can follow up on those thoughts here. If we were to have more children and were not in a place to do so comfortably with regards to finances, I would be forced to be a stay at home mom. While there is nothing wrong with being a SAHM, (I’ve done it!) it’s not what truly makes me happy. Again, it goes back to having the balance of individual wants and needs that translates over into a happy and healthy parent.

5.    The Plain Simple Fact that We Don’t Want Another Child. It’s fine for me to sit here and talk about 1-4 on this list and all of those reasons and explanations are true but really, the simple fact of the matter is that we don’t want any more children, period. Neither Michael nor I have any desire to do the baby days all over again, but it’s more than that. When we think of our family as a whole, we feel it is complete.

Is this choice always an easy one? Nope. I’ll be the first to admit that at times, I’ve questioned our decision to only have one child and not give Maddy a sibling. So many times Michael and I have both been stretched thin while trying to juggle a million different things at once and all the while, Maddy is begging for attention. Of course in situations like that it would be nice for her to have a sibling to play with to keep her company. I’ve felt the fear of, god forbid, something happening to me and Michael and she is left without us and a sibling. But then my reason kicks in and I’m reminded that I don’t believe in bringing children into this world just for the sake of having siblings and play mates. I feel very confident in the way that Maddy is being raised and along with her magnetic personality, that she will have no problem making and having life-long friends. She will also have her aunts who are seven and 15 years younger than myself along with any children they may have. I feel confident that she will never be left alone in this world.

Do I fear the day when Maddy comes to me and her father to ask us for a sibling or asks why she doesn’t have one? Sure, it hits me every so often but in the end, I hope we have the courage to be honest with her to tell her – she was enough for us, and not from the aspect of raising a child but more from the heart…that she was enough to fill our hearts and lives. She and she alone. From the moment we met, we knew our family was complete.

Happy are we, our family of three.

How Do You Know When You're Ready to Become a Parent?

Easy question, right? No pressure.

To be completely honest right off the bat, I was never really sure if I wanted a child or if I’d have the opportunity to be a parent. My pre-baby self would always joke with my girlfriends that already had kids about mommy things like lack of sleep, sore nipples and the downsides to labor and as a result of hearing their not so always rosy answers, I found myself asking,  "What made you decide to have kids??! Are you crazy??" In the back of my mind as they were laughing at the jokes, I was always thinking something along the lines of, "No really - I'm not kidding. What made you do it?"

Most people never know when they're really ready or prepared to have a baby but my story goes a little deeper than that plus, over the last few days, I've had a few different girlfriends ask me about how I knew I was ready to have a child so I thought I'd discuss it here. Let's gooooo!

Growing up I was never much into playing house, playing with baby dolls or anything close to resembling homemaking or taking care of a child. As a matter of fact, my Cabbage Patch doll was naked most of the time and most of my Barbies walked around without their heads as I had cut them off {Call child services!} I would have much rather been outside riding skate boards in the neighborhood with my boy friends, playing in the creek across the street from our house or reading. As I got older, I refined my femininity quite a bit but never my feelings towards having a family - the feeling just wasn't there.

I guess I could chalk half of it up to selfish feelings; I enjoyed my freedom, I liked not being responsible for anyone but me and liked knowing that my life was mine and mine alone but it was more than that looking back on it now. At the time, I questioned whether or not I really had what it takes to be a good mom. I loved kids but it concerned me that I didn't have a natural mothering instinct. Couple this with the fact that I was married to a man at the time who didn't want kids, so it was easy to not have to deal with my feelings about whether or not to have kids at all. Life for the most part was...simple.

Then things changed.

After 7 years of marriage, I got divorced.

I was on my own again to start life with a clean slate. A fresh start. Once again, I had my freedom. My life was mine to do with as I pleased. I was on the open road and nothing could stop me.

Then I met Michael.

Long story short, after a whirl-wind romance, we found out I was pregnant. I was shocked. Floored actually. I was on consistent birth control without missing a single dose so having a child was the furthest thing from my mind. For the first time in my life, I was forced to deal with the questions I had tried so hard to not deal with for the majority of my life...

Am I ready to have a child? What kind of mother would I be?

To answer this question, I refer to an IM conversation I had with a girlfriend of mine a while back. She is dating a man with kids and I asked her if being with his kids made her want to have kids of her own. She is still undecided but asked me how I knew I was ready to have Maddy. This was my honest reply:

"As for kids - I wish I had an answer there but I don't. I'm not even going to pretend that I do or blow sunshine up your butt about it. It sounds very cliché to say, but I don't know if anyone is ever *really* ready to have kids or knows when the time is just right to do it. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying, bottom line and you need to run away from them as fast as you can.  And if you've read any of my blog posts at all, you know it's not always bedtime stories and play dates at the park. Parenting can be a bitch and it can suck sometimes, honestly. It can also be *the* coolest thing you've ever experienced. It's a constant roller coaster of emotions and it's not always great - sometimes it's high and sometimes it's low. Not trying to be a downer, just being honest. In my case, you know I was always very uneasy with the thought of having kids, partially because I was with a man who didn't want any and it kind of marred my thinking and partially because I never really possessed a "motherly instinct.” As with most things in life, we can talk all day long about what we would or wouldn't do in certain situations but until we are forced to deal with them ourselves, we never really know how we feel or what we would do."

All of that to simply say this: Sometimes we never really know how we feel about a circumstance or situation until we are tested or challenged on it. Even when we doubt ourselves, the Lord knows exactly what we need, when we need it. Think about it. I could have easily gotten pregnant while I was married to my ex-husband but it wasn’t right. Becoming pregnant with Madeline after meeting Michael, though I wasn’t supposed to, was meant to be and what is always meant to be will be. Sometimes we just have to succumb to faith and trust that there is a purpose at play. While I was nervous and scarred shitless to find out I was pregnant, there was also something that just felt right about it and I knew in the end, everything would be okay.

Fast forward three and a half years later and I couldn't be happier. I have a beautiful baby girl, Michael is an amazing partner and I have a wonderful little family. My life is still mine but it's different - it's better. Madeline makes me want to be a better woman and person. She inspires me every day to new heights and even on the rough days of parenting, I know it's totally worth it. Having a child didn't destroy my life - my life began when I had Madeline. I get to experience so many wonderful things and see life as a child through her eyes all over again. I laugh, I cry, I marvel but most of all, I love. Madeline has taught me to love in a whole new way I never thought possible. Even on the bad days, it’s all totally worth it.  

If you're reading this and you’re on the fence about having kids my message to you is simple: walk your own path. Listen to your own heart. You may never know if you want kids and that's okay. You don't have to live up to anyone's expectations except your own and you don't always have to have the answers to everything. Enjoy the time you have with yourself now and relish in that. Life is always out there waiting and what is meant to be will always find its way to you - always. 

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