This space has gathered a fair amount of dust over the last few months. It would be easy to say that life is busy and I simply can’t find the time to write and share. Truth is, Happy by Design’s mantra hasn’t aligned with my life stage since midway through my second pregnancy. My son Louie just turned one so, yeah, that’s a lot of dust-gathering.

During intense seasons of motherhood, I essentially – and unintentionally – lean back, shut down and outsource. For me, it’s not the time to pursue passions or try something new. I attempted to get into weaving small wall hangings during pregnancy, in order to give my eyes a break from one of the multiple screens. Patience was thin, the DIY loom had issues and work always won.

Our family had to shift to make space for our son, Louie, and I unknowingly took a break maximizing, foraging ahead and trying anything new. Rather, I looked inward and focused on the essentials to keep the family afloat.

So, now what? It’s been a few months since the fog has lifted and, dare I say, it feels like there’s a regular cadence to our life.

My first pregnancy led me to create a personal blog where I tracked my daughter’s progress and confirmed that parenting cliches are indeed true. It was a space for me to share the “firsts” with family and friends and process my thoughts through writing.

Happy by Design was created because we had an itch we wanted to scratch, to explore other things that fill our hearts in addition to parenthood – our careers and health. But here’s the thing, those three topics: motherhood, career and health – they are not on the same playing field. Although training for a race, by nature, requires discipline, mental toughness and running shoes; motherhood is MOTHERHOOD and requires all of you. It’s an art, not science – and art gets messy. 

Today, Happy by Design means living an intentional life that includes big plans and mini-milestones: house projects, travel, community with a few personal and professional goals (vague enough?). What I’m getting at is this site will go on with thoughts on motherhood, wellness and DIY home improvements attempts.

Are you wondering, “What about Jamie?” We are fierce friends and our writing pursuits led us in different directions. Her space is about her thoughts and pursuits in writing, reading, career and life. I highly recommend checking it out and subscribing to her updates. I’m not just saying this because she’s one of my closest friends but her point of view is always spot-on, interesting and hilarious.

I’m thrilled to restart this little engine and refuel it regularly. However, if I need to hit the pause button and this space ends up in the repair shop, once again; thanks for understanding because, life!

The purple guppy


Connecting words with thoughts/wants/needs is a big thing in our house right now. For a while it seemed like just straight-up gibberish…a language we couldn’t actually decipher unless it was accompanied with an action or pointing. But now little man is at the point where he’s putting words together and figuring out names of things and really trying hard to articulate what he wants. It’s a fascinating time. And I already have a boat load of the “He said the CUTEST/FUNNIEST thing the other day.” (And in turn my responses seem equally silly…”No Jackson, we can’t have rabbits in the car. They don’t belong in our car.”)

So although we’re still working through it and he’s continually finding better ways to say what he means, there will be times where he’ll say something that knocks my socks off. It will be a statement where he’s made a connection that I didn’t even know he could make.

This week’s case-in-point was when he went #2 for the first time on the potty. I’m whooping it up (Jake was in spirit, but he was away on business when it happened), I’m praising him, I’m telling him what a good job he did. All of this he agrees with. He says “Yes!” and “I did it!” He totally gets it.

And then he looks at me and says, “I not a baby, mama.” And I almost fell over. I haven’t made a big deal of distinguishing what babies do and what big boys do, because we just started this process and I didn’t want to make him feel bad about doing what babies do before he even has a chance to try. So it came as a shock when he made that association all on his own.

Which is so great. And so bittersweet. Great because he gets it. Sad because….I finally get it. I was waiting for him to get here for so long. And now I just want to pause time. Don’t grow up so fast!

So that’s all I’ll say about the potty training business for now. This isn’t the post about that.

But let’s talk about this purple guppy.

Today was an example of me underestimating his language abilities and thinking, “He’s just mixed up,” when he totally wasn’t.

Before we leave for daycare/work, I ask him to go find a book to read in the car. He looks around his books, and then says to me, “No, I want the purple guppy, mama.” And then he points upstairs to his room. We were just reading a seek and find Bubble Guppy book last night, so I assumed that’s what he meant. See Exhibit A.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

I went upstairs, grabbed this off the night stand and returned to him in the living room. “Got it!” I held it in front of him. He looked up at me. “No mama, the PURPLE guppy.” I stared back at him, dumbfounded. “Jackson, this is the bubble guppy book. You want the bubble guppy book, right? We just read this one last night.” He looks back at me, “No mama, the PURPLE guppy.” He seemed very intent on this purple guppy. In my head, I recounted how we’d been talking about his “Purple turtle” i.e. Donatello, the teenage mutant ninja turtle toy and assumed he was confused. But still, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. “Okay, you come up and show me what you’re talking about.”

We both marched up the stairs, fully dressed for winter weather and approached his book shelf. “The purple guppy, mama!” I frantically shuffled through and tried to find a book that was something he expected. This was making no sense to me. Finally he reached down and grabbed a book. Sure as sh**…it was a completely different bubble guppy book that I’d forgotten about, but he had clearly remembered. He held it up and a smile spread across his face, “Yeah!!! Purple guppy!”

I looked at the book, and finally realized why the purple association was made. Molly’s hat and coat are purple. I mean, it wasn’t the clearest association to me at first, but I guess that’s an appropriate description of the book for a 2.5 year old. See Exhibit B.

Exhibit B

Exhibit B


In the end, he remained determined and I got there. It was a good lesson in not underestimating my little man, and also looking at things through the eyes of someone else.

Do you have any “purple guppy” moments? I find this all so interesting. Share away!

Learning to Be Grateful When You’re Stuck in the Middle


Enjoying the company of geese and chickens and bunnies at the WI state fair.

Enjoying the company of geese and chickens and bunnies at the WI state fair.

This post was originally going to be about how I’m in the middle of a lot of things, and it’s frustrating, slow moving and a lot of hard work. But I’ve been sitting on that post for about a week now. And to be honest, it’s not going to see the light of day. Why? Because I keep looking at it thinking that my frustrations all seem so petty and so insignificant compared to what others are dealing with around me.

And I don’t want to complain just for the sake of complaining, because I don’t think we need such pointless negativity in our lives. So instead, I’m going to put a positive spin on all of my “stuck in the middle” frustrations, because really, the tables could turn at any moment (We’ve all been there), and it’s better to give thanks for the things you cherish now, rather than wait until it’s too late.

I’m stuck in the middle of working out/running/trying to get fit. I’m grateful that I have the time to work out/run/get fit in a somewhat consistent manner. 

As I mentioned before, I’m on the “No event to train for” plan. It’s going okay. My goal was to workout 4 or 5 days a week, run 10-15 miles and do some other cross training. I’m mostly keeping up with it. I haven’t stepped on the scale in a while, but my clothes aren’t feeling any tighter so I’ll take that as a good sign.

I’m stuck in the middle of writing a book. I’m ACTUALLY writing a book.

I’m past the “I’m going to write a book” stage. Now I’m ACTUALLY writing a book (yes, that emphasis was needed).  I put words down on paper, and to date I’ve written 14,754 words over the past five weeks. I’ve hit, and surpassed, my weekly word goals every week and I’m making progress. Slow progress. But it’s progress. Woohoo!

I’m stuck in the middle of my current position. I have a full-time job. And a decent one, I might add. 

It seems like for the longest time I always had my eyes set on the next career milestone. At some point, there will be yet another milestone that I’d like to reach, but for right now, I’m content to just learn and embrace the challenges of my current role.

I’m stuck in the middle of saving for our next house. We’re making life work on a budget and saving for our dream house. 

First off, I’d like to give all credit to my dear husband for being the one that painstakingly tracks every little expense, each month, and helps keep the guardrails on our expenses (and my expenses, to be exact).  Since we started budgeting this spring, we’ve put a sizeable amount into savings and it’s nice to see that we’re in a place where we can save up for the things we really want. I’d love to not be on a budget, and have the opportunity to spend more money on clothes, hair, fun events, trips to the zoo/museums, or a puppy (yes, a puppy), but I also know that getting into a good neighborhood/school system and finding our “forever home” (I call it the “until our kids graduate high school” home) has been at the top of both of our lists, and I respect the work it takes to get there.

I’m stuck in the middle of this blog (gasp!). Lindsay and I have succesfully created a  platform to voice our opinions. 

Our intentions for this little blog, although well meaning, may have been a bit lofty and maybe a little too on the straight and narrow. Right now, we’re both in a spot where we’re working on what exactly this little place represents as we also try to figure out this stage in our lives. We love that we have a place to capture these thoughts and we’re working on making it a welcome sounding board for those in similar positions.

So I’m just thankful.

It’s easy to see how petty your issues are when you have people in your life dealing with seriously tough issues. So I’m just thankful to be in the spot I’m at right now. That’s all.

If you’re in a hard position, or dealing with the anxiety of starting something, or a place where you can see the light at the end of the tunnel – wherever you’re at – I hope you can find some peace of mind with what you’re currently dealing with. I also hope you can hold onto the things in your life for which you’re grateful.

5 Steps to Tackle Your Next Big Child-Rearing Challenge

Child-Rearing rears it's ugly head

“Some day they’ll figure out what they’re doing, little cuz…some day.”

Raising a child is fraught with many, many challenges. Some are big, some are small, but one common trait runs through all of them. They are all challenges that you HAVE to face. Not just challenges like, “Hey that looks fun, let’s go try that.” No, more like, “Our kid can’t eat table food without gagging and puking. What do we do?” or “This weird rash is not going away and I have no clue what’s causing it and no clue how to treat it. What do we do?” Okay, so those were more specific to my family, and some of the weird, unexpected things that we encountered. But a lot of parenting is just that – unexpected things you encounter.

Most of the advice you’ll get from friends/family/online forums is “Here’s what works for 85% of kids,” which may be fine for the majority of your child-rearing challenges. But at some point you will find yourself in an area (or many, in our case) where your kid is in the 15% and then you’re left wondering what you need to do.

So given that we’ve experienced our fair share of child-rearing challenges in just the two short years we’ve managed to keep our child alive (yay us!), I thought I’d share some helpful insight that might be useful for your next child-rearing challenge.  I’d say this system is 85% accurate. Take it with a grain of salt.

Step 1 –“Fake it till you make it”: Read one blog post about the particular topic, assume it’s going to be a breeze and that everything you’ve heard from others will not apply to you. Because your child is perfect and a genius and would never not do as instructed.

 Step 2 – Get pissed that this is not one of those times where you can “Fake it till you make it”: Spend a few weeks lamenting how you should have listened to your friends/family. Then, berate yourself for being a terrible parent who can’t raise a child as perfect and special as little Suzy down the street who mastered this specific task in about 3 hours.

Step 3 – Have a good cry: Pour a big glass of wine, forgive yourself for any wrong doing and move forward. Also important — forgive your kiddo who now refers to you as “Meany butt”… even though you both know it was an honest reflection of your current state.

Step 4 – Keep getting up after you fall down: Accept any help you can get, read more than one blog post on the subject and do not act like a know-it-all. Most importantly, be okay with the many (so many) mistakes that will happen along the way, all in the name of learning and improving and finally getting it right.

Step 5 – Get off your high horse (I mean it!): After all is right with the world and you have mastered the latest child-rearing challenge, do NOT be that parent that proclaims the one true way. Realize that your way was not what worked for others who tackled this before you, so don’t expect to be the one singular expert on navigating this tricky child-rearing challenge for those tackling it after you. If a friend seeks help, always be gracious and always preface your advice with, “Here’s what worked for me, but I know that other methods have worked for others, so take that with a grain of salt.” And then also point them to some helpful resources if you think of any.

I’m not just setting out this advice for you … selfishly it also serves as a reminder for me. It reminds me that things always get bad before they get better and that it’s important to stay the course and keep trying. So to show you I mean business, here’s how I’d like to apply it.

The next big child-rearing challenge: Potty Training

The plan of attack: I’ll skip right to number 3 because these things should always start with a big glass of wine and some acceptance for the challenges that lie ahead.“I’m learning. He’s learning. We’ll get through this. It will be messy. I will probably cry at some point. He will definitely cry at some point. Hubby will keep us on track. We will all be supportive and accepting of what may come.” And I’ll keep repeating that at every failure along the way.

The journey: We haven’t actually started yet, so I’m just now researching the many ways in which one could potty train their little one. Having said that, if you have any advice, I’d love to hear it. I’ll then let you know whether or not your advice was a load of crap (pun intended) or if it actually worked for my little one.

At some point I’ll check in and let you know how it went, most likely after we get through it as I probably won’t be in a good mind set when things get dirty (another pun intended).

Until then, keep your chin up. You’ll get through it.

The Best Interview Advice

Dorm front-desk worker: the first of many jobs scored by following this advice. There were vacuums to rent and frozen pizzas to heat - and I could work in my sweatpants. Dream job!

Dorm front-desk assistant: the first of many jobs scored by following this advice. There were vacuums to rent and frozen pizzas to heat and I could work in my sweatpants. Dream job!


When I registered for my first semester of college, I was certain that I’d graduate with an education degree and would be a high school English teacher. I know what you’re thinking, “But Lindsay, your sentence structure is wackadoodle.” You’re right, read on.

As I sat in my first class, surrounded by prospective educators, nothing felt right. My classmates would chime in during discussions and I often shook my head in disagreement, only to find I was the odd man out. Not only did I not belong but, I wasn’t passionate about the profession, only the subject matter.

A year later, I stumbled upon my first marketing class taught by Chuck Tomkovick. This man had energy, he commanded a room and had a sincere passion for helping students. Simply put, he was the best professor ever in the history of professors.

Chuck offered advice on how to ace interviews. All you need to do is make the interviewer think, “I gotta get me some more (fill in your name here).” Sometimes people laughed this off. But, years later when I switched gears into the land of advertising, this advice helped me to get past the initial interview. This mantra helped me to frame my answers and more importantly, helped me to stop rambling. To me, “I gotta get me some more Lindsay.” meant that I needed to:

  • Be myself
  • Be engaging
  • Be memorable

I’m not insanely smart or articulate. I’m a hard worker, a team player and really love to learn. So are a lot of people.
I like to do a good job and prefer to meet deadlines. So do a lot of people.

So, how to set myself  apart? I learned how to tell a good story and I stopped trying to be Perfect Lindsay. As soon as I stopped pretending to be someone I’m not, people started to perk up. I am honest about my experience and industry knowledge. I am sure to smile and crack a joke if one pops into my head. I dress like a fancier version of myself but, make sure that I’m comfortable. I ask questions and show enthusiasm (but not too much enthusiasm).

Sure, we all research the company, have our set of questions in-hand and send thank you letters. But, isn’t it liberating to think that by tucking in this little nugget of advice and acting like yourself you can get to the next step. One step closer to landing a great job.

This advice helped me tremendously. What about you? What’s the best interview advice you’ve ever received? What about the worst?

GIRLS: How being a hot mess can lead to amazing things




Can I be candid for a minute?

Don’t answer that. This is my blog post and I’ll say whatever I want!

I gushingly love the HBO show, GIRLS (and yes, I’m making “gushingly” a word). And it’s not just because I think its great entertainment. There are life lessons in there, too. I swear! Just hear me out.

What is this pile of…fertilizer?

My husband gives me a lot of crap for how much I like the show, GIRLS. I’ll admit, at first I was a little uncomfortable with the show. When you really break it down, it’s a show made up of a bunch of flailing, inept girls living off their parents’ money in Brooklyn, acting out every stereotype of East Coast girls I’ve ever encountered.

As much as I despise most of the characters, I don’t like to see them fail. But I also don’t like to see middle-aged parents that work hard getting taken advantage of by their whiny kids.

Keep that in mind when you come into your formidable years, little one.

But I kept watching for two reasons. 1) I wanted to see what stupid issues they’d come up with next and it was a train wreck that I couldn’t look away from.2) Well, let’s just say it made me feel safe and secure knowing that my life was MUCH more put together than theirs (sarcasm intended).

Seedlings rising up from a pile of…fertilizer

After a couple episodes of tolerating the characters and finding mild amusement, a funny thing started to happen. I actually started to empathize with their situations. Yes, they all look like a hot mess…but underneath it all, weren’t they just trying to figure out how to make a life for themselves?

Could I really judge them for all the times where they fell down and staggered back up to their feet? I couldn’t. Because I realized that I was witnessing them in the stage of their life where they were sorting out their shit.

And the show is still like that. Week after work, they’re sorting out their shit. They take one step forward and, seemingly, three steps back. They haven’t reached their happily ever after yet. And I love it. I love seeing their struggle because it feels so human to me. I love seeing their average, screwed up lives, and their really stupid mistakes, all in the name of learning what works for them.

We are all the pot and we are all the kettle

This isn’t just a post to tell you about other people being a hot mess. Obviously, I too was once in my twenties and I had plenty of my own hot mess moments.

And let’s be honest, I’m still just one incident away from being a hot mess, at any given time.

I have been floundering. I have been rude to people. I have had a huge ego and thought I had all the right answers only to be proved by higher ups that I, indeed, did not have all the right answers (or at least, the answers they were looking for).

I have made poor investments, both in money and in time. I have had ideas that I gave up on way too early. I have had ideas that I kept holding onto even when I knew in my heart it wasn’t the right path. I have struggled. Maybe not in the same way these girls have. And maybe at less of an expense to my parents (I hope). But I have struggled. We all have.

Is it worth it to fail nine times in order to succeed once?

“When I was young, I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures. So I did ten times more work.” –George Bernard Shaw

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about motivational quotes that show that the path to success is through a lot of failure. And if we’re talking about GIRLS, there is indeed a lot of failure going on. I won’t spoil anything but you start to see the glimmers of success towards the end of season three. And mathematically speaking, that makes sense.

A large part of me thinks, “Good for them!” They are taking risks. They are willing to fail in order to keep working towards their dream. They are groveling if it means getting back on the right path.

And then another part of me thinks, “That’s not fair!” Because I see that while they may appear to be a hot mess, they’re taking strides past where I am in my own professional and personal growth. And it feels like I’m being penalized for making safer choices and compromising, at times.

I know it’s my own fear of failure that’s holding me back, which is obviously something these characters lack. But there it is: I’m not a risk taker. I fear failure so greatly that I’m willing to never try. I’ve never said, “I’m going to take this dream job that pays a fraction of what I make now in order to get myself on a much more fulfilling path.” No.

My mission statement so far has been, “I’m going to carry my weight for my family. I’m not going to jeopardize the life that we’ve built. Seeking my passion is selfish if it means putting others in harm’s way (emotionally or financially).”

That’s where the characters on GIRLS have me beat. They’re at a luxurious time in their lives when they can make mistakes and fail, and the only ones that feel it are them.

They’re not tied to a mortgage. They’re not key providers helping to support a family. If they get fired, they can go sling lattes at Grumpy’s and make enough to cover rent until they can find a job that puts them back on their feet.

I don’t have the luxury of taking chances like that.

Embracing your hot messness (also making that a word)

Now when I watch GIRLS, I have a new appreciation for what is being portrayed through these characters. Sometimes, their mistakes feel all too real. Sometimes, they make the mistakes that even I was too scared to make back then. Either way, I still get to witness them living out this crazy stage in their life, which of course should be labeled, the “hot mess” stage. And just like all of us, they’ll look back and remember their 20s as a blurry, scary, screwed-up place. But really, it was all necessary to make them into the amazing people they will be…about ten years from now.

So this begs the questions: Did you fully lean into your hot mess years in order to get where you are now? Or, are you currently living in the hot mess stage…wondering when it will get better? I’d love to hear your horror stories and your success stories. And I’ll share one of mine soon. I promise!

Whatever stage of life you’re currently at, just remember that taking risks and being a hot mess for a short amount of time could lead to some REALLY big things down the road. I think it’s time we all stepped up our hot mess game in order to make some strides in our own lives.

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